Taking a step back...

.. and looking around.

There were so many things happening in 2010 that sometimes it becomes hard to wrap my head around it all.  It's hard to believe, really, the changes that have come in so many areas of my life.  The stress was, at times, oppressing.  The blissful moments were uplifting.  And it was everything in between tied it all together.  There are always rough times, there are always joyful times, but the key is to take each for what it is worth and move on because time always will.  One of my favorite poems ("If" by Rudyard Kipling) highlights this motivation quite well "If you can meet with triumph and disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same."  Challenging to do, no doubt, but it is still something to strive for as it is a goal that can rarely be met with any consistency without a concerted effort.  I will keep trying...

Keeping in the spirit of cooking and growth, I thought I'd share with you a few of the new things that have come my way in 2010 that have shaped my world of food, with a simple recipe tossed in for good measure:

  • I began taking cooking classes each month at Filippa's Wine Barrel with their head chef.  It is a wonderful program that both inspires my cooking and relaxes my mind.  What better way to spend a Monday evening after work then enjoying a drink and a delicious meal while learning via demonstration and recipe guides how to make all kinds of new foods?
  • I went on a culinary adventure with one of my good friends to the West side of the state to enjoy a "Cooking Weekend" through Learning Great Foods.  We spent the weekend with a small group (6-8 people) and went on tours of local farms, took classes from area chefs, visited a co-op market, and enjoyed wonderful food grown locally paired with wine/beer and prepared at a fantastic restaurant.  The entire weekend was inspiring and the immersion in the locally grown food movement was amazing.  After harvesting the ingredients for a meal that we helped to prepare at one of the small farms I found my palette expanding greatly as I enjoyed many foods at their peak of freshness that I normally would dislike.  Definitely an experience that I hope to have the opportunity to repeat soon.

After the cooking weekend, I grew to love Swiss Chard.  This past Summer was the first time I ever really got into sauteing any type of leafy greens, and I have to tell you - I am hooked! 

Here's a quick recipe that is so simple it can hardly be structured:

Saute diced bacon and sliced onions in a heavy skillet.  Once the bacon is crisp and the onions are translucent add some fresh minced garlic and stir to combine.  Let sizzle for a minute or so, continuously stirring.  Toss in some oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced, and asparagus and saute for a few minutes.  Add the freshly rinsed, and shaken dry, Swiss Chard (sliced into strips before adding).  Continue to saute until the greens become brighter and slightly wilted.  Top with grated Parmesan Romano and serve hot alongside broiled fish or a nice steak.

  • I dove head first into home canning.  I had played around with it before, and always did some canning of jam with my mom growing up, but this year it really took off.  Making everything from marinara sauce to pickles to salsa, my passion continued to grow.  Now with my new pressure canner that I received for Christmas I only see good things in the future for home preserving in my life.
  • I spent almost every Sunday at the local Farmers' Market searching for new foods to try and buying about half our groceries at the same time.  As a result we have now had successful encounters with: patty pan squash, brussel sprouts, zucchini, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash.  Many of these recipes will be coming to the blog in the upcoming months.
  • I joined the start up board for Warren Community Gardens and now serve as the board Secretary.  We successfully set up our first site and had an amazing season.  The bountiful harvest contributed food to many in the community, both those who worked it and those in need.  A wonderful movement that I am happy to be a part of as it grows into a full non-profit this year.
  • I more boldly entered into the realm of baking, an area that had for a long time intimidated me.  I found ways to play with the ingredients without destroying the results and learned through trial and error how to balance baking powder and baking soda, though my first attempt during this process of apple brownies turned into more of an apple coffee cake (delicious none the less).
  • I successfully began this blog and kept it moving for 6 months!  It was a rocky start at the inception, but once I got moving I could hardly stop.  I hope that you are enjoying my adventures here as much as I am, and that these recipes have helped to bring a bit of peace of mind to your days as they have to mine.
With so many things that have come and gone, and so many that grew with me over the year, I'm sure there are quite a few that have not made it into this post.  It is not intentional neglect, and it does not mean they were any less influential in my life, but my memory tests me at times and stress during various periods can cloud the events that surround it.  I hope that you have enjoyed the journey that my food has taken in 2010 and will stick with me as it continues to grow in upcoming year.  I certainly look forward to your visits and can't wait to share more delicious foods that hopefully help to in some way bring you even a touch of peace of mind, whether it's through preparation or flavors.  Never stop being inspired and I'll be there right alongside you.  So let's raise a glass to 2010 and drink to the year to come *clink, clink*

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