Jess prepping dinner

Jess prepping dinner in her Boulder kitchen

I’m a Virgo so I jump at any opportunity to make lists, goals and plans. New Year’s Resolutions and I have a tumultuous relationship, so I often lean towards making Intentions… Intentions leave the door open for “later” and “almost.” I’m sure my therapist would have a lot to say about this, but I sincerely believe the relief from the black and white nature of resolutions is what has helped me stay motivated all year long. Before I look forward, here’s my look back:

Reflecting on 2020

2020 served up a whole lot, but in the foodie world, it was a more constricting year: closing doors and making dining with your favorite chefs all that more difficult. The window that opened was the opportunity to cook new dishes, improve your cooking skills and perhaps buy a new cookbook *wink wink* *nudge nudge*. I certainly embraced the moment by following foodies and new chefs on Instagram, buying a handful of new cookbooks, and trying to stay dedicated to my 2020 intention of wasting less food and using what I had on hand.

 Foodies to Follow on Instagram

  • @thefreebake – Kat Lewis is the carb fairy! A Texas-born, Ukrainian cottage baker living in Denver who will deliver carb goodness to your doorstep. She’s also partnering with Rebel Bread in Denver to host an online baking classes this winter and I’m excited to be in her pudahe class. Watch her Insta carefully, menus drop Saturdays and Boulder orders must be in by Monday at 10 AM for Thursday delivery. Pro Tip: Jump on those sourdough biscuits, if you can beat me to them.
  • @sheisstocked – Kate Lacroix graced a few pages of our cookbook with her pantry tips, but her Insta is where she really kicks down the door. Recently she’s been showcasing the BVSD food pickups in menus and cook-alongs each week. Follow her for inspiration on weeknight meals and how to use every last drop of your pantry.
  • @alisonroman – Alison Roman is a New York Times author of Nothing Fancy (one of my 2020 cookbook purchases) and author of my favorite weekly newsletter (Black Cat Farm and Cured newsletters take a close 2nd & 3rd). Her writing is stream of consciousness and blunt. She’s not perfect, or fancy – but she shows you how to brighten up ingredients just so to the point that you feel like you’re eating them for the first time.
  • @gg30000 – Gregory Gourdet is a chef who was on Top Chef (and Top Chef Allstars) and has opened his own pop-up restaurant Kann in Portland with his Haitian and Global BIPOC Cuisine. I will weep the first time I can dine at Kann. His food makes me miss travel, and his Insta reminds me of all the diversity my cooking needs to explore.

Cookbooks I Discovered in 2020

2020 Intention of Wasting Less Food

Honestly reflecting on this I am proud that I moved the needle forward in really working hard to waste less food last year. With two small kids, some food waste is inevitable, so we weren’t perfect by any means. The pandemic quickly had my brain in survival mode, saving and reusing everything I could, so I could avoid participating in the carnal hunt for groceries.

  • One of the first things I started doing per the advice of my friend Megan Buchoulz of Local Table Tours was to save veggie scraps in a bag in the freezer to make vegetable stock. Two, gallon bags of scraps and the odds and ends of some spices in my drawer made hands down the best vegetable stock I’ve ever tasted.
  • Homemade Veggie Stock

    Homemade Veggie Stock

    2020 could be the year of the quart container. Between all the takeout from local restaurants, to-go margaritas from Verde and Pica’s, and heaps of Sweet Cow Ice Cream I am now swimming in quart containers (to the chagrin of my husband). These bad boys are perfect for everything: sourdough starter, stock, breadcrumbs, fresh herbs in water, leftover soups and sauces. Keep every quart container you can. Pro Tip: A roll of painters tape goes a long way in the kitchen. Label EVERYTHING and date it so you know what’s what in your freezer and fridge.

  • Playing Top Chef used to be one of my favorite at-home date nights pre-kid. My hubs and I would open the pantry, give ourselves a challenging ingredient, and see what we could whip up. We certainly created some awful combinations, but practicing this skill proved extremely helpful during the pandemic when we tried to stretch 10 days or two weeks between grocery shops. (I can hear my privilege here. It is a heartbreaking time knowing so many families are food insecure and the thought of even shopping twice a month would be a luxury. It’s something I think of often, and I try to constantly support groups like Boulder Food Rescue, Community Food Share and Conscious Alliance who are fighting food insecurity in our community.) The skills from “at home Top Chef” made me get out of my cooking bubble and spice up our cooking routine. Be it using leftovers as breakfast, swapping in an odd ingredient, or making my own breadcrumbs, it was fun to be resourceful with whatever the pantry had in the moment. 

So, what’s next? Of all my 35 New Year’s, this one seems… not new. I’m an optimist, don’t get me wrong, but the reality is that the first half of 2021 is going to look a whole lot like 2020. A majority of us won’t see a vaccine until summer, and dining rooms won’t be busting at capacity until it’s safe to do so. This means that most of our dining will be our home cooking. Hell yes there will be takeout and you better believe I’m looking forward to some après ski-style outdoor dining. But, in this upcoming year, I’m hoping to keep expanding on my 2020 intentions, adding in some places to challenge my palate and my cooking skills.

2021 Foodie Intentions

  1. Eat all the things. Just kidding, but I do want to keep expanding on wasting less food. John Lehndorff is a great resource for this, writing about unique ways to use that last bit of milk, bread or apples in his blog Nibbles).
  2. Sourdough Chocolate Chip Scones

    Sourdough Chocolate Chip Scones

    Bake more casually. I love a good pastry in the morning. I’m not exactly a morning person, so often I feel like I’m rushing to bake something or doing it in the afternoon, losing that whole “warm carbs with coffee” moment. I was roused early this AM by my kids and motivated by the bubbles in my new/old starter I made the most amazing Sourdough Chocolate Chip Scones. If I can commit to remembering that it’s not that hard, and to take the pressure off, I know I can enjoy more mornings like today.

  3. Cook a new recipe once a month. From one of my cookbooks. I am a serial cookbook collector, and new cookbook author (still weird to say that), so I really should improve my use of these gorgeous collections. Of course, my Virgo self wants a way to track this, so maybe I’ll blog about each one… stay tuned.
  4. Takeout from a new restaurant each month. We do a fair amount of takeout, at least once a week, and even more when we got busy last fall. Finding and supporting a variety of local restaurants is top of my intentions for 2021. Let me know in the comments your favorite local takeout so I can mix it up!
  5. Cooking classes. I used to be an extrovert (haha 2020 vibes), so I do miss the connection that being around people provides. I also love to learn new cooking techniques and recipes, so this year I’ll be trying to do a handful of cooking classes. I am already signed up for a Pudahe class with Kat from Free Bake, I’m tracking the Food Lab class schedule and I hope to be cooking along with you all from A Bite of Boulder (Details Coming Soon!)
  6. Sharpen my knives. This may seem like a silly intention, but if I don’t say it out loud, I’ll get to next fall wondering why my knives are still shit. I also want to own a really exquisite knife like these from Element Knife Company, but I know that owning nicer equipment means I have to take care of it. So, I should start by taking care of the ones I have.
  7. Eat more veggies. I’m sure this is on most everyone’s intention list (a.k.a. eat healthy), but in reality I need to refocus my attention on eating more greens. We’ve heard it all until we’re blue in the face about which are the best, how to eat them, yada yada (can you tell I heart carbs?), but I did get swooned by some turnips from Chef Eric Lee in early December, so I know the potential is there for some room in my heart for more veggies.

Lucky 7. There they are… I’ll be keeping these in mind, and I’m sure I’ll find inspiration from some of you on how to keep my menus fresh all year long. What are some of your foodie intentions? Happy cooking, happy eating – and remember, Food is Love.

Happy New Year!

Author : Jessica Benjamin

Jessica Benjamin

Jessica Benjamin is the fearless leader behind Savor Productions. With her unmatched dedication to the local community, and her more than 20 years of experience in event production and marketing, Jess guides the Savor team with heart and passion. Tacos are the way to her soul, and when she's not working, you'll find her in her garden and kitchen with her family.

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