A Year in Food

Santa and his elves are hard at work trying to wrap up all the gifts they will be delivering to the good (and, yes, maybe even the bad) little boys and girls all over the world. And while everyone else is out frantically fighting for parking spaces, grabbing the last "whatever" on the shelf, searching for the perfect gift for that special someone, consuming way too many holiday cookies, waiting in line and then waiting in line some more, I am enjoying a little quiet time.

I have been reminiscing and thinking about what a marvelous year 2011 was (thank you, Quarry Farmers & Ranchers Market), delving into a good book (The Angel's Game), enjoying some wet and cold weather for a change, hanging with friends as well as David, Nacho and Guero and thinking about what will be on our holiday menus this year.

Decisions, decisions. Because I am always in need of inspiration, I took a walk down memory lane and reviewed the dishes we whipped up in 2011. And what a rich and rewarding ride it was.

We started the year off with two dishes I continue to make regularly--cauliflower rice and braised cabbage with bacon and onions (faux kraut). Then we moved on to classics like meatloaf and pasta al vongole (spaghetti and clams).

Then we went Cubano with the quadruple Cuban Grand Slam series, Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV. Not to be outdone by uncovering the city's best tacos, Chela's Tacos, which faced a major bump in the fall and were forced to move locations. They have happily resettled in the Medical Center at the corner of Floyd Curl and Huebner where they continue to feed throngs of hungry and devoted customers.

After a boiling hot summer that never seemed to wane, we challenged everyone in mid-July with no-cook foods. Then I made an unbelievable vegetarian burger that Duff told me about. Keeping on the vegetarian trail, as I often do, we stumbled across Mario Batali's zucchini-ricotta fritters that we simply could not get enough of. Naturally, these fritters are even better with homemade ricotta.

We then happily concluded the dog days of summer with Labor Day and a magnificent seafood boil and lemon fool with berries. Next we spent much of fall cookin' with Lou. Lou Lambert, that is. Texas chef and author of Big Ranch, Big City. We have made five recipes so far and each one is phenomenal. Some of you have already purchased this cookbook (he was at the farmers market and then made an appearance at Sunset Ridge Home & Hardware) as a holiday gift for yourself or for your friends, and I can assure you--no one will want to regift this one. It's a winner! (Stay tuned for some exciting news from Lou Lambert and my husband, David!)

The holidays are a great time to be with family and friends, but also an opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen making a few things that may have been waiting patiently on your "to-do" list. So as you ponder what to cook during the free time you might have, here are a few things I made this year that I think would be festive, fun and fabulous recipes to consider over the holidays. Some would even make a wonderful gift for neighbors or that friend who has everything. (Those of you who know me should not be surprised that the items I chose all are either desserts--and mostly chocolate--or soups...I did not realize this until after the selections had been made. Though there really are no coincidences now, are there?)

As always, I wish you and your family the brightest holiday season filled with peace, love, joy and lots of great food. Handcrafted and local, of course.

Buen provecho!
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