1. Reboot your kitchen: Winter’s a great time to get organized and Life Hacker, in the original inspiration for this post, shows how to rethink your kitchen around the way you cook. Cheaper than a remodel and gets your kitchen ready for when you are. If you decide to tackle your kitchen clutter, donations of cooking equipment and cookbooks are accepted by the NH Food Bank at our Winter Farmers’ Markets in Exeter.
2. Cook with company: One of the pleasures of cooking is sharing the kitchen with others. This list of 10 Easy Tips to Get Kids Involved offers equally useful ways to involve family members and friends in the kitchen, from helping with the planning and shopping, through to prepping, cooking and, of course, tasting!
3. Learn a new technique or recipe: I always keep a running list of things I want to try. For those just beginning, Mark Bittman’s “Chop, Fry, Boil” is a good place to start — 3 recipes, 3 techniques, and you’ll be on your way. For the more advanced, this has been my latest obsession. Really, there’s an endless number of different recipes or techniques that can be found on the internet, and the quiet of winter is a great time to try them out.
4. Pass it on: A kind of culinary paying it forward, teach someone something you’ve just learned or already know how to do. I never fail to learn something new from or about the person I’m teaching. Invite them into your kitchen or ask your local adult education program, they’re always looking for people interested in sharing their knowledge of cooking.
5. Buy something different from the farmers’ market: This is an easy place to get into a rut and just as easy to get out of, given the variety of food to be found at this year’s Winter Farmers’ Markets. Try a new winter vegetable like scorzonera (black salsify), sunchoke or black radish; a different meat such as quail, goat, goose or elk; or maybe even a new kind of egg, such as duck, quail, or turkey. Ask the farmers, they’ll be happy to give advice on how to prepare it!
6. Buy from someone new at the farmers market: Next time you’re at the farmers’ market, buy from a new vendor. Spreading your purchases expands the community of people you know — meet a new vegetable farmer, meat producer or prepared foods vendor. A variation might be to visit a new farmers market, each has its own personality, specialties and mix of wares.
7. Replace something premade with homemade: Take stock of your pantry, is there something you’ve been meaning to try to make yourself? Canned stock, beans, and soup are all great candidates for making from local ingredients. For the hardcore locavores, try using something homemade in a new way. I have shelves full of preserves just waiting to be tried out as sweet or savory fillings for these.
8. Take a cooking class: Related to #3 but has the advantage of getting you out of the house. Check our wiki page for a list of places offering cooking classes, ranging from general cookery to more specific techniques such as baking and cheesemaking.
9. Grow something edible indoors: Growing herbs and microgreens, or starting seeds are all ways of getting a little dirt under you fingernails when the snow cover is impenetrable. This is also a popular time for gardening classes: Seacoast Permaculture is hosting “Seed Saving & Heirloom Plants“; Wentworth Greenhouses is offering one on seed starting; Kittery Adult Ed is holding a series on home vegetable gardening; classes on growing mushrooms and for beekeeping are other options.
10. Start a Food Club: This can take on many forms, either as a dining or as a buying club. My informal vegetable study group — one vegetable cooked many ways — has been a way of tasting different preparations of new ingredients. Or you might interpret this as a way to reboot your book club with a reading list focused on food-related topics or one of Granite Earth Institute‘s study guides, such as “Menu for the Future.”
11. Share your table with someone new: This could be filling your table with new friends, or attending a community potluck; Slow Food Seacoast, Slow Food UNH, Seacoast Permaculture are just some of the many local groups that hold regular gatherings.
12. Try a new restaurant that sources locally: Lastly, take a field trip to a restaurant that uses local food. It’s always inspiring to see how different chefs handle local ingredients, and Restaurant Weeks in Maine and Portsmouth are coming up soon!