Gosh. How is it that this will be the last post of December? The last post of the year? And what better way to celebrate than to raise a glass to the amazing gals at The Kitchn for hosting me as a guest writer today. I’ve been a big fan of the site for some time, but even cooler is the fact that some of my favorite bloggers like her and her and him were featured as guest writers this holiday and I’m honored to be in their company. So head on over to check out the post there. And I thought I’d re-post it for you here. Cheers to a full, dynamic, and inspiring 2010 with many new recipes, friends, stories, and travels. And in other A Sweet Spoonful news, the site redesign is almost done and should be up soon, soon, soon. I’m so excited to share it with you. Happy, happy New Year! See you in 2010.
Well folks, it’s over. The hustle is no longer hustling and the stockings are waiting to be packed up for the next go ‘around. An ungodly amount of See’s Candy has been consumed, and we’re slowly making our way through leftovers and the last dregs of eggnog. Now if you’re anything like me (read: efficient first child), you’ve broken down boxes, recycled wrapping paper, and put your new gifts away. Heck, maybe you’ve even got your thank you notes ready to roll.
Yes, it’s true: I’ve put Christmas behind me and I’m looking ahead to the next big thing. So I’ve started to think about the New Year with mixed emotions of excitement and hesitation. During the weeks following New Years Day, people are resolution-happy, vowing to finally lose those pesky five pounds and get organized. It becomes very hard to park at the gym, and families race to the mall to return gifts that weren’t quite right. The bustle starts up again. However, with it comes a few good things, too. It’s a symbolic fresh start, a do-over, a ‘if this year didn’t go quite as planned, you’ve got another shot.’ While I’m not one for resolutions, I am one for taking stock, being thankful for what I have, and thinking about where I’d like to see myself in the coming year ahead.
When I was in college, I worked at a sweet little paper store in Boulder, CO and the owner would always ride her bike up Left Hand Canyon and just sit with herself on New Years Day. At the time, I found it equally puzzling and intriguing. A part of me thought it was a good idea to force yourself into some quiet time and another part of me felt the antsiness ensue. While you won’t find me climbing any steep grades this year, I am making a list of things I’m thankful for that happened this year, and goals or wishes I have for the year ahead. So far it looks a little something like this: get to really know my new San Francisco neighborhood by foot; get in touch with Sara and Alice, my two childhood friends; learn to poach a perfect egg; plan a big trip that involves lots of eating, flip-flops and very little luggage; try and figure out what I want to be when I grow up; not stress about the fact that I’m 30 and have no idea about the aforementioned; start rock climbing at the gym in the Marina; learn more about vintage cocktails. What’s on your list this year? Resolutions or wishes?
While you ponder that, I want to leave you with a simple New Years Day recipe for black-eyed peas. There are a number of foods that are traditionally thought to bring luck and good fortune and are, thus, eaten at the start of a new year. Black-eyed peas are really more of a Southern tradition; friends I have that hail from the South wouldn’t dream of having a New Years Day without them—with a little okra and pink rice on the side, of course.
Someone once told me that black-eyed peas symbolize good fortune because they grow and swell when you cook them. Who couldn’t use a little good fortune and luck this year? So here’s hoping the start of your New Year is more humble than harried, and that luck and good fortune find their way over to your place.
This recipe is originally from famed Southern cook, Eula Mae Dore’s cookbook, Eula Mae’s Cajun Kitchen. Saveur republished it on their website. One quick note: although the recipe dictates a cooking time of two hours, my peas cooked in a little over an hour and were delicious.
Combine the peas, onion, garlic, water, salt, black pepper, Tabasco, and sausage in a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the peas are tender and creamy, 45 minutes for fresh peas and about 2 hours for dried peas.
Stir in the parsley and green onions and cook for about 2 minutes longer. Serve either over hot cooked rice or mixed together with it.
Glimpses of Spring
We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine). Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).
It turns out shopping for wedding dresses is nothing like they make it appear in the movies. Or at least it hasn't been for me. Angels don't sing. Stars don't explode. Relatives don't cry. There isn't a sudden heart-stopping moment that this is, in fact, "the one." To be honest, I always knew that I wasn't the kind of gal for whom angels would sing or stars would explode but I did think I'd have some kind of moment where I could tell I'd found the best dress. Instead, my mom flew into town and we spent three (yes, three!!) days shopping for dresses, and since then I've been back to the stores we visited -- and I'm more undecided than ever. Tomorrow morning I'll return with my friend Keena to try and tie this business up once and for all. Cross your fingers.
When I was single and living alone in the Bay Area, I made virtually the same thing for dinner each night. I ate meals quickly while in front of the computer. Or even worse: the television. This most often included what I call "Mexican Pizzas" which were basically glorified quesadillas baked in the oven until crispy. Sometimes, if I was really feeling like cooking, I'd whip up a quick stir-fry with frozen vegetables from Trader Joe's or a mushroom frittata using pre-sliced mushrooms. Mostly, though, it was Mexican Pizzas -- a good four or five nights a week. Today, thankfully, dinner looks a lot different. Meals in general look a lot different. How would I explain that difference? I think that ultimately how we feel about our life colors how we choose to feed ourselves and the importance that we place on preparing our own meals.
Today was 75 degrees in Seattle and it seemed the whole city was out and about drinking iced coffee in tank tops and perhaps not working all that hard. When we have a hit of sunshine like this in April (or, really, any time of the year), we're all really good at making excuses to leave the office early -- or, simply, to "work from home." I just got back from LA last night, unpacked in a whirlwind this morning, and took Oliver to meet up with three friends from our parents group at the zoo. The only other time I'd been to the Seattle zoo was once with Sam a few years ago when we arrived thirty minutes before closing and ended up doing a whirlwind tour -- sprinting from the giraffes to the massive brown bear to the meerkat. The visit today was much different: we strolled slowly trying to avoid the spring break crowds and beating sun. I managed to only get one of Oliver's cheeks sunburned, and he even got in a decent nap. A success of an afternoon, I'd say. Coming home I realized we didn't have much in the fridge for lunch -- but thankfully there was a respectable stash of Le Croix (Le Croix season is back!) and a small bowl of this whole grain salad I made right before I left town. It's the kind of salad that's meant for this time of year: it pulls off colorful and fresh despite the fact that much of the true spring and summer produce isn't yet available. And for that reason, I make a few versions of it in early spring, often doubling the recipe so there's always the possibility of having a small bowl at 1 p.m. while the baby naps in the car seat, one cheek sunburned, windows and back door open -- a warm breeze creeping into the kitchen.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.