This week marked the end of the first 100 days of our challenge and gave me pause to reflect on our collective stick-to-it-iveness in continuing with this journey, despite our various ups and downs since we began in January. As Carole, Jen and I have all noted at different times, this can be a frustrating individual struggle, and a family one, but none of us has thrown in the towel (but nor have we decided to continue this forever either!). Like parenting advice I once received, "The days are long but the years are short," the same concept applies here. Some days can be busy and a real struggle to think of something new, but most of the time I can honestly say that I still enjoy exploring the endless culinary possibilities out there.
In retrospect, my family agrees that the challenge has provided us with significantly more positives than negatives, and we've officially stopped mourning the "too bad we can't have..." and open-heartedly embraced the "so, what's new tonight?" Granted, spring also arrived at the perfect time since the change in season has provided renewed interest in eating lighter, checking out different BBQ cookbooks and websites, and dusting the cobwebs off the outdoor grill.
The past 100 days have taught me a few critical lessons:
- the importance of having a well-stocked pantry, freezer and spice rack. This has meant having oodles of good chicken and vegetable stock handy, as well as fresh and frozen veggies so I could easily pull together a variety of soups. I also found that having great marinara sauce available as well as lots of different pastas provided the base for lots of last-minute meals. I've gradually assembled a more extensive selection of spices so I wouldn't be tempted to rule out trying different recipes or skip including them in my dishes. Although I ended up throwing out a lot of fresh herbs that had gone bad, when they were needed they delivered a big punch of flavour.
- cooking inspiration is everywhere. Granted, I still browse through cookbooks, websites and food blogs, but sometimes it's just a brightly coloured vegetable in the produce aisle that sparks an idea. Tonight's pesto creation came from Corbin coming home the other day with a bag of pistachios to munch on. Or, a few weeks ago, seeing the host of French Food at Home on the yoga mat next to me prompted me to check out some francais fare. Or today I almost made dessert since apparently it's National Peach Cobbler Day (who knew!?).
- this blog provides the perfect justification for buying tons of new food magazines and books "for purely professional reasons."
- my family can be surprisingly open-minded about the experience and haven't been my worst critics but are generally my biggest promoters. The kids also haven't stopped bringing their friends for dinner so I'm accepting that as ongoing support.
- and finally, it is more than great timing and coincidence that Carole and I have embarked on daily training to walk a half-marathon in May (and hopefully again in October) to counteract some of the added caloric benefits of this tempting, delicious, yummy year-long experience. So, continuing the seasonal theme, today's meal looks, tastes and smells like spring. I don't know that I've ever seen a greener pesto than this one and although we tossed it on some pasta tonight, I'm also looking forward to using it on fish, chicken and even sandwiches over the next few days. The arugula added more zing than the traditional basil and the pistachios were a nice change from pine nuts. If you have a food processor, it took just minutes to pull together.
1 garlic clove, peeled
3/4 cup finely grated Asiago or Parmigiano cheese
1/3 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
4 cups (packed) baby arugula
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice and 2 tsp finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup olive oil
Finely chop garlic in food processor. Add cheese and nuts. Process until nuts are finely chopped. Add arugula, 1 tbsp lemon juice and lemon peel. Blend to coarse paste. Blend in oil. Season pesto with salt and pepper and more lemon juice, if desired. Transfer to bowl; cover and chill up to 3 days.
Rest of the week April 12 Paninis with turkey, pancetta and cheese, and salad April 13 Western omelettes April 14 Penne tossed with Arugula-Pistachio Pesto