I'm something of an industrial-size resolution creator. I love the huge, sweeping type of resolutions that involve dismantling my normal way of thinking or operating in the world — and I don't reserve them for New Years, although that's a traditionally fun kickoff for some of them.
Even though there are approximately 5,000 blog posts out there right now about how resolutions don't work, I think the inclination to make these simple vows is tempting for a reason. Who doesn't love a fresh start, a sense of improvement, a brighter way forward instead of gloomy regrets? I do agree that some types of goals seem almost thwarted from the start, particularly those that are too vague — "I'm going to be a better person this year!" — or perhaps too ambitious or restrictive.
Having plenty of resolution experience, I know what tends to work best: setting goals that are exciting, and that offer a sense of adventure. For me, my annual resolutions to learn new cooking and food skills are easy to keep, because the end results are delicious. Over the past few years, I've resolved to cut down more and more on processed food, and now I'm at the point where I make my own mayonnaise, homemade stocks, crackers, and other staples.
I don't get dramatic about it, saying that I'll never eat anything from a box or bag again (although that's certainly something of a larger mission), but I do love the adventure of seeing how close I can get. Michael Pollan's insightful advice, "Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food," pretty much sums up my yearly resolution list, but I'll settle for cooking like my great aunt Alice, pictured above. Because that was a woman who would have raised her eyebrows to see an ingredient list with locust bean gum, that's for sure.
With that in mind, here are some posts from the past year that highlight the joy of kitchen DIY. If your resolutions also involve making room for homemade creations in your own fridge or cupboard, then it's great to meet you, fellow resolution maker. Let's make this the best year yet!
Homemade broth/stock: The difference between store-bought stock and homemade is so stark that it's like talking about two different foods. Ridiculously easy, whipping up homemade broth or stock can yield deeper flavors and, of course, you know exactly what's in it. No weird stuff that your great-grandma would question. Plus, it freezes really well. Check out this post on beef broth and this post about bone broth.
Ghee: One of my top resolutions this year is to make ghee and use it liberally. I'm a huge fan of natural fats and one of my resolutions last year to render my own lard turned out beautifully. Making ghee will be in keeping with my love for grass-fed butter, without the really low smoke point usually found with butter. Also, because the milk solids are gone, the fat is shelf stable. Winner! Check out this post for a great step-by-step on the process.
Cheese: This is totally my year to master cheese making. I think the main reason I couldn't pull off being a vegan, despite a very passionate effort, is cheese (also: bacon). Like bread baking, cheese making is an art and I'm ready to bring that level of creativity to my kitchen, starting with this beautifully simple ricotta recipe.
Condiments: Once I started making my own mayonnaise, it was a bit of a revelation. Basically, it takes only a few seconds with an immersion blender, and the first time I made a batch, my thinking was along these lines: "Wait a minute. What else can I make that's this easy? Why am I buying this stuff?" The answer is, basically, most condiments. Check out this post on homemade mustard, this one on rhubarb ketchup, and this one on harissa, for a glimpse of why condiments should be in your wheelhouse.
For more kitchen DIY, you can also consider taking some cooking classes, where you'll be shoulder-to-shoulder with other resolution setters — plus, there are always some tasty results as well as new skills.
What are you looking forward to mastering this year? Let me know in the comments, and have a wonderful 2015!
Elizabeth Millard is the editor of Simple, Good and Tasty and has worked as a freelance journalist in the Twin Cities for 15 years. In addition to farming with her partner, Karla Pankow, she enjoys searching for the best pasture-raised bacon in the state. Got a lead on some exemplary pork products or have an idea for what you'd like to see in Simple, Good and Tasty? Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org