Christmas Gifts & 2014 Resolutions

I know, January 2014 is just about half over and I’m just now getting around to telling you about my resolutions and all the cool stuff I got for Christmas. What can I say? I didn’t resolve to get things done in a timely manner!

My family knows I’m a kitchen/food nut and that I’m a new few blogger, so many of the gifts this year were food-related. Here’s a selection of some things I’m excited about.

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My brother Jeremy gave me a cheesemaking kit and some spicy treats! He moved to Arizona about the same time we made the move to Maine, so he has access to some pretty interesting Southwestern items like Devil Salt, New Mexico chili powder, cactus jelly and prickly pear syrup. I’m looking forward to trying these out! I’ve never *gasp* made cheese before, so the cheesemaking kit promises to be a lot of fun.

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My sister-in-law Ellie gifted this really geeky-cool cookbook to Karl, Karl’s brother & sister-in-law, and me. We don’t live in the same area, so I claimed first posssession! This is “Wood for Sheep: The Unauthorized Settlers Cookbook.” If you’ve ever played the board game Settlers of Catan, those hexagonal dishes should look familiar to you. This cookbook takes playing with your food to a whole new level. I’m planning to make some of the recipes and feature them on the blog! The picture above right is the Indian Inspired Map. It looks pretty delicious!


My mom and dad gave me a giant (GIANT) cast-iron pan. The apple and pencil are an attempt to show to scale how large this baby is! It has a 17 inch diameter! This was an item on my wish list. I knew it was big, but in person, it is awe-inspiring. It complements my giant mortar and pestle! I’m tempted to make a giant apple crisp or pot pie or something then invite 10 people over to try to eat it all.

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My mother- and father-in-law gave me the Oxford Companion to Italian Food, which I’ve already enjoyed thumbing through for bedtime reading. They gave Karl a Scandinavian cookbook that I promptly requisitioned for my own purposes. Let’s be honest – who is more likely to cook a Scandinavian inspired meal?

Thank you to all my wonderful family who gave me gifts for Christmas this year. I am so blessed! I hope you’ll enjoy seeing some of your gifts in action on the blog this year.

That brings me to my food-related resolutions for 2014. I don’t normally make serious resolutions. I used to make the common “Lose 10/20 pounds before summer” kind of resolutions until I finally learned that weight isn’t the best measurement of health and fitness.  My lifestyle has evolved to a point where I don’t feel the need to make big changes to my eating or exercise habits. Sure, I could always be doing a little bit more here and there, but I don’t need a resolution to make me do it.

This year, I’m making one practical resolution, and one slightly-silly-but-I’m-kind-of-serious-about-it resolution.

Practical Resolution

I’m resolving to finish using or consuming things. I have a habit of drinking two-thirds of a cup of coffee then leaving it sitting out until the next day when I brew a new pot. I’m planning to start finishing that cup of coffee. This habit extends to other food products. I seem always to have half a can of tomato paste left or half a can of beans, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, yogurt, cream, herbs…I too often end up throwing things out when they go bad. I’m resolving to cut down on waste and find ways to use up these leftovers! I think this mostly will just be a matter of cooking with what I have instead of cooking what’s on my list of new and exciting recipes to try.

Do you have any tips to share for keeping track of and using leftovers? I know the coffee thing is all on me, but surely I am not the only one who needs to use up tomato paste!

Silly-but-I’m-kind-of-serious-about-it resolution

Y’all – I am going to bring back the congealed salad. Gelatin and I are going to get well-acquainted this year. The idea first came to me while paging through a family cookbook of my mother-in-law’s. There are plenty of aspics and molded salads in there. I’m wondering what happened to this particular food item? I’m not talking about that lime-green jell-O dessert that you see at potlucks. Or jell-O shots. Maybe you don’t even know what I’m talking about! But you will. Oh yes.

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The initial idea was reinforced by a gift from Iowa City friends Brian and Sue, who know about my interest in cooking. Sue had found this old 1933 Chicago Daily News cookbook with collected recipes and let me tell you, there are plenty of congealed salads to be found in its pages! She kindly gave it me.

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In the spirit of this resolution, I picked up one mold at an Iowa City thrift store while we were out there (I paid $0.25 for it. I also purchased a cheap brain mold to tack onto an order – I think it’s hilarious, although maybe not the classiest mold you can think of. I’m thinking about investing in something like this mini-bundt pan also once I get an idea of how these congealed salads work.

I’m not sure exactly how this resolution is going to go, but you can bet I’ll be chatting about it on the blog this year. What do you think?




9 Thoughts on “Christmas Gifts & 2014 Resolutions

  1. Carly,
    For tomato paste, you can measure out by tablespoons and freeze it in ice cube trays. once frozen, store them in a ziplock bag in the freezer til you need them!

  2. I love your resolution, Carly. I do the same, especially with herbs.
    Most things you can still use the day after. Tomato paste keeps well if you transfer it to a clean
    glass jar and top it w salt to keep it from molding.
    I’m going to work on this resolution w you!
    Whatever is left over, I’m going to make myself use in a dish the next day.
    And pour only 1/2 a cup of coffee tomorrow morning. :)

    PS-Thanks for your comment. You’re in for the drawing to win that Maille gift box!

    • I didn’t know about using salt to keep tomato paste from molding. Do you have to use a lot of salt or just a light sprinkling across the top?

      Thanks for entering me into the drawing!

  3. Carolyn Beans on January 15, 2014 at 1:53 pm said:

    Both good resolutions! I recently started buying tomato paste in a tube so I only ever squeeze out as much as I need. Whole Foods sells it that way. I’m not sure it’s the most economical option, but it keeps me from wasting. I still use a can if I’m making something like a lasagna and I know I need a lot of tomato paste.

    One thing I am always wasting is fresh herbs. A recipe will call for a couple of tablespoons of fresh cilantro and the rest of the bunch will just wilt in my refrigerator. Do you have any advice for that?

    I’m excited to see the congealed salads resurrected. If I’m thinking of the right thing, my grandmother was a master at those and I loved them as a kid.

    • I will let you know when I find a perfect solution for fresh herbs. I have had some success making them last a little longer with various techniques, but I too have cilantro and parsley wilting away in my fridge practically every week! I’ll probably feature a solution on the blog if I find one that works for me.

  4. I love these ideas! I am not big on jello so any reinvention is welcome!!!

  5. Looks like you got some great stuff! I just found your website and am looking forward to following along.

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