Friday, January 4, 2013

Country Cooking's Favorite Things: 2012 Edition

Last year, in the absence of Oprah's Favorite Things, I decided to post a short list of some of my favorite things in 2011. No giveaways, just ideas for your own kitchen.

Of course, Oprah brought back her favorite things in 2012, and nothing on my list really compares. But let's face, the majority of us weren't going to run out and buy anything on that list anyway. But my list? Something for every budget. See? I'm thinking of you.

And yeah, sure, these lists are supposed to be posted at the close of the year. But really, what's the fun in that? I'm rushed to compose it, you're too rushed to read it, and we both lose out. So here's my list to start 2013. If you see something on here you don't have, well, you can quickly change that and get 2013 off to a new start.

  1. KitchenAid Tilt-Head Stand Mixer Definitely the most expensive item on this list, and for years I would state how I didn't need a stand mixer. I don't do enough baking to warrant it I would explain. I don't have room for one I would state while surveying my lack of counter space. My $10 hand mixer gets the job done just fine I would insist. Then one October afternoon baking session with my son, I could hear the motor on my trusty hand mixer grinding, and I worried my trusty hand mixer wouldn't be able to complete the job. My repertoire in the kitchen was expanding, and maybe, just maybe, I needed a heavier piece of equipment. So for my birthday, my husband was generous enough to get the stand mixer, and my life hasn't been the same since. It made a world of difference this holiday season, as I baked batch after batch of cookies. I've had this mixer a little over 2 months, but I honestly can't imagine life without it now.
  2. Keurig Mini Brewing System I'm not really a coffee person. I know, I know. What am I doing with a Keurig then? Well, it all started with a NKOTBSB concert June of 2011. It was a late Sunday night, and I actually went to work the next day. In desperate need of caffeine, I became a coffee person that morning. We had Keurig at the office. I brewed 4 oz. of french vanilla coffee, mixed it with 4 oz. of hot chocolate for a homemade mochachino, and a coffee lover was born! In March of 2012, I learned I was granted the opportunity to work from home 5 days a week starting in September. While I was thankful to be rid of my long commute, I was going to miss that Keurig. So for Mother's Day my husband gave me my own Keurig Mini. I spent the summer delighting in iced coffees and iced sweet tea. And then the warmed up with pumpkin spice coffee on cool autumn mornings. I'll curl up with a book and a hot cup of tea the coming winter evenings. I know what you're thinking. I thought you had limited counter space? I do. But the great thing about the mini is that it's small, and because it doesn't have a waterline, you can put it anywhere. And now there are reusable K-cups. So you can brew your favorite blend in the Keurig without buying those expensive packs. What will they think of next?
  3. Lodge cast iron skillet Growing up my grandmother cooked only in cast iron. I remember when my parents brought home their first teflon pan, but my grandmother stuck with her cast iron skillets that gave us so much delicious food over the years. I really only started cooking -- if you can even call some of my early dishes 'cooking' -- when I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband) in 2002, and like my parents I used teflon. But for years and years I would tell my husband how great my grandmother's food was, and how I thought the cast iron skillet played a role in that. So this summer I bought my first cast iron skillet. And I love it! Last year my enamel-coated cast iron dutch oven made my favorite things list. And now this skillet by Lodge, I am well on my way to becoming a cast iron kitchen.
  4. Mountain View Vineyard & Winery If you've read any of my Facebook posts over the summer, you know I'm in love with my local farmers market. One of the things I love about it so much is the variety it offers: baked goods, jams and jellies, produce, fresh eggs, honey, flowers. And in 2012 they added wine to this list. I had the good fortune to discover Mountain View Vineyard & Winery at the 2012 market. I love supporting local businesses, and finding this one was a real boon. They also opened a second location this year, one close to my home. So now I can get their wine during the market's off season.
  5. Steaz It all started so innocently. It was a Saturday morning and I was doing my weekly shopping. As I pushed my cart down the organic aisle I realized I was thirty. And there was a row of Steaz cans in the refrigerated case, all on sale. So I picked one up. What a find! I've been drinking iced tea for as long as I can remember, but this was different. Many bottles and cans say they are "fresh brewed," but this iced tea truly was. I could taste the difference. So much so, that I now brew my own iced tea at home. No more powdered mix for me! Maybe one day I'll graduate from tea bags to loose leaves.
  6. Fairway Market The sign for Fairway Market says "Like No Other Market." Talk about truth in advertising! I've never seen anything like it! You could easily get lost in that store; aisle after aisle contains a treasure trove of wonderful goodies. The fusilli pasta I've been searching for? They have it. The carnaroli rice a colleague suggested I make risotto with? They have it. Basically you name it, they have it. It's a culinary shopping haven. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this store you must do so. Add it to your list: the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, and Fairway Market.
  7. Fresh Ricotta. Before I started working from home, I would have lunch at the office with Donna, a colleague of mine. I enjoyed lunches with her because we would discuss books and food. Donna is quite the foodie, and takes her food very seriously. So when she told me that the fresh ricotta from Fairway Market was so good she could eat it with a spoon I knew I had to give it a try. And let me tell you, it did not disappoint! I ate it with a spoon. I ate it with peaches drizzled with honey. I ate it with pancakes, berries, and honey. I use ricotta from the dairy section of my supermarket. There's nothing wrong with it. But there's something special about fresh ricotta, and I now firmly believe everyone should try it at least once.
  8. Instagram Here's the thing about food blogs: it doesn't matter how good your recipes are. You need photos of that delectable food to pique readers interest, and entice new readers. But what do you do if you're like me, and are a far, far cry from a professional photographer? You download Instagram on your phone. With all the filtering options, it can turn almost any photo into a masterpiece. For me, and my blog, it's a lifesaver.
  9. Facebook Yeah, yeah, I know. Who isn't on facebook? Well, until the spring of 2012, Country Cooking wasn't on facebook. But exploring this bit of social media for my blog has been a wonderful experience. I was pretty sure the only people who would like the page were my personal friends, but 70-plus likes later, I think I can say my blog has a fan base. And at the same time, I have discovered many wonderful blogs that I wouldn't have found with a simple Google search. It's been a wonderful experience.
  10. Fifty Shades of Chicken by E.L. Fowler Okay, so I only acquired this book recently. Very recently. For Christmas, as a matter of fact. (From my sister, who has a gift for giving me the "anything but run-of-the-mill" cookbooks.) But it's worth checking out for the cheeky, yet sexy, recipe titles, and the pictures. A must for fans of both cooking, poultry, and pop culture.

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