Happy New Year to you all - this is always probably my favourite day of the whole year. A day when I look back over the previous year with gratitude for all the good things that happened; acknowledge and surrender the not so good things that happened; and look towards the future with hope in my heart. This year I feel this more keenly than ever. Set against the backdrop of a year which was both tumultuous and challenging at times, especially financially (we are still in the depths of a recession after all), great things nevertheless happened in my life in 2010 and I have much to be grateful for - I'm grateful of course for the good health that I continue to enjoy, but mostly I am grateful for some truly wonderful people in my life - I don't need to say more, you know who you are.
Of course it goes without saying that I'm also incredibly grateful for all of you, my readers, for without you this blog wouldn't exist. I'm so grateful for your support, your readership, your comments (every single one of them), and for the friendship with many of you which has grown from that - I even, over Christmas, got to meet one of my "bloggie friends". The lovely Sasa of Sasasunakku was the second person to ever leave me a comment on one of my posts, and I was so excited to meet her when I went up to Auckland for Christmas, and she was visiting her family there at the same time. Now you might expect that two bloggers, drawn together across the continents by a common love for blogging and food, and who don't know each other very well, might while away the time by talking about ... well, food. Nope. Although we are almost 25 years apart in age, we chatted away as comfortably as old friends, talking about family, travel, boyfriends, husbands, relationships, religion, politics, work, study, the future - food and blogging scarcely rated a mention. Sasa is beautiful, talented, witty, interesting, engaging, intelligent, well-travelled, thoughtful, and definitely someone I would like to get to know better, oh and did I mention beautiful (okay, maybe that makes me sound like a stalker now). Anyway, she creates a wonderful blog - if you haven't visited her before please go and check it out - you won't be disappointed.
As the year drew to its close, the winds of change began to blow - this seemed to begin as a subtle shift in energy a couple of months ago, and gathered momentum over the last few weeks, steering me towards a shift in course on many levels. Where will that lead? Who can say, but keep watching this space to see how things unfold - I feel certain that there are exciting things ahead.
In the meantime, while I've been absent from my blog over the last few weeks I've spent much time reflecting on where my blog has come to and where I want it to go from here. When I first started my blog some 18 months ago, I had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted it to deliver. I wanted to learn and explore my ideas about making good ethical choices about the food that I consume - such choices are not always easy or convenient, and the solutions are not always as simple as they may at first seem. Getting all the facts about what we eat is never easy, and we don't always make the right choices, but we cannot live more consciously without having the dialogue, investigating, asking the questions - we then at least make a conscious decision about our consumption (on many levels). Even if we don't get it right, I believe that is better than acting thoughtlessly, unconsciously, without care for the consequences. I also wanted to share with you something of the importance that my yoga practice plays in my life, and how my constantly evolving practice also influences more conscious behaviours and decisions. I also wanted to explore and share with you interesting and more unusual ingredients and ways in which they might be used. I wanted to encourage you to make food from scratch and discover the joys and rewards of nurturing your families with food prepared with love.
Although many of my early posts may have been a little "rough around the edges" (okay so they've still got a long way to go, but I think they've improved a little) in terms of style and execution, I think the content was definitely true to my message. As the months went on, I feel as though I've drifted off course somewhat (seduced by page views, SEOs, and craving comments), resorting to just recipe-swapping instead of expressing my point of view, indulging in quantity rather than quality. Time to get back on track I feel. As a way of doing that I have decided that each week I will choose a particular ingredient, write a post about it and use it in a recipe, and I will also put up a "linky" so that if you'd like to cook along with me using the week's chosen ingredient then you can join in too. I hope that this will be both fun and informative, and give you all the opportunity to perhaps try an ingredient you haven't used before or don't use too often. I'll be kicking this off this coming Monday, and the event will be called "Make it with ...... Mondays".
Of course, I hope that you'll come back on Monday to read more and join in the fun, but by way of sneak preview I can tell you that the first ingredient will be saffron. So get that little box of saffron out of the back of the pantry, dust off a few cookbooks, and "Make it with ... Saffron". What's more, to celebrate this new event, I have a give-away, so keep reading - I'll explain more about that at the end of this post.
Another event I want to remind you all about is the monthly Tackling Bittman Recipe Hop. A month flashes by very quickly and it's that time again - we're Tackling Bittman again this coming Thursday 6 January. So get out one of your Bittman books, get cooking, and link up with us on Thursday - remember that linking up old posts is fine.
Now about that give-away. If you've been following this blog for a while then you know that, not only am I big Bittman fan, but I also regularly use and swear by the How to Cook Everything iPhone Application.
This application works on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, and provides every one of the recipes and variations that are contained in the big book, as well as how-to illustrations, ability to cross-reference recipes with shopping lists, built-in timers and more. In short I love it, so when Mark from Culinate, Inc contacted me and said he would like to offer me a few free copies of the application to give away to my readers I was pretty excited. Now I could go to great lengths at this stage to do a full review of the application, but my friends Alex at A Moderate Life and Pam at Sidewalk Shoes have recently reviewed this product, so "why invent the wheel?" is my motto. I'm just going to tell you how you can win one of these applications and then you can go and visit Alex and Pam if you would like more information about it.
Firstly, in order to win you need to have either a US-based iTunes account (in which case the appropriate code enabling you to download the application will be sent to you), or if you live outside the US then you need to have a PayPal account (in which case the value of the purchase price of the application in your country will be sent to you).
So now, getting your first entry to win this application is as simple as leaving me a comment below telling me some of those more unusual ingredients that you'd like me to feature on "Make it with ..... Mondays". Maybe you already have some of them in your pantry and are not sure what to do with them.
For a further entry, come back during the week and link up a post to "Make it with ..... Mondays". Older posts are welcome, and you can link as many posts as you like as long as the featured ingredient is used, and each one will get an entry. If your post also happens to be a Bittman recipe then it will score an extra entry.
And for a further entry still, come back on Thursday and link up an appropriate post to the Tackling Bittman Recipe Hop.
Entries will close midnight Thursday 13 January (NZ time) and the winner will be chosen by random number generator and announced on Monday 17 January.
I hope you all enjoy what remains of your New Year's Day, wherever you are in the world, and that you'll come back tomorrow for Cranberry & Pomegranate Bellinis to welcome in the new year.