My annual list of best things I discovered in 2019 that have anything to do with cooking or baking, including cookbooks. Affiliate links have been used to link to items I am discussing.
View from outside of Lovell, WY, home of the Burger Barn
I have had a bulleted list for this post for forever and yet turning them into sentences has eluded me. There has been some news on the thyroid cancer front, which if I am being honest has me not sleeping well. Which is stupid because first of all none of it is panic inducing, and second none of it is worth losing sleep over. But between struggling with anxiety in the first place and having stuff hanging over my head, I am definitely still in a rut. The short version of the news though is that I learned my type of cancer definitely has a high risk of recurrence, my thyroid ultrasound was negative and looked great (yay!) but the blood test for cancer markers was…. neutral? The numbers are not where they want them but combined with the negative ultrasound they are also not concerned right now. They are hopeful that adjusting my meds will fix that, so we have adjusted and I will retest in 8 weeks.
So I apologize for the extremely late best of list. But I still have one!
- About fifteen years ago I bought a lot of kitchen towels and determined to reduce my paper towel usage. But other than that my kitchen was not particularly sustainable (not counting also increasing our vegetarian days, which we did about ten years ago). 2019 was the year The Spiced Life started thinking harder about these things. For example, I had a terrible addiction to plastic Ziploc bags, especially the thicker freezer ones. And I never remembered reuseable grocery bags. Here are some of the items that we have switched to using and loving (these are affiliate links):
- I love these Reusable Foldable Totes so much I bought two sets. They are perfect for the beach, because sand comes out of and off of them easily, and they can all be packed together inside of one and scrunched down into a small ball that now lives in my van. Best of all they hold a ton of weight. I don’t think twice about packing at least 4 half gallons of milk into one of them.
- After trying several different reuseable bags to replace my horrible Ziploc bag habit, I settled on these Stasher 100% Silicone Reusable Food Bags as being the best. My favorite is the largest 10-inch size, but I also love this medium and small sizes. There is some sticker shock, but guys I have not bought Ziploc bags since I bought these so I know the price is worth it.
- Plastic wrap is another habit that is hard to break. Much like paper towels, I doubt I will ever kick the habit completely, there are too many times when that is just what you need. But I have massively reduced my use with these Orblue Reusable Silicone Stretch Lids.
- Amazon no longer sells the stainless steel straws with silicone tip covers that I settled on as liking best. I won’t say I never use plastic straws anymore (I am a complete straw addict and must have a straw) but I do my best now to stick to the re-useable ones.
- I also purchased some large linen bags to use for bread–not the sliced sandwich bread that already comes in a plastic bag, but for the artisanal loves that often come in paper bags. Amazon is currently out of my favorite ones so I am also without a link for those.
- I discovered this last item in 2018 in the Strip District and have been addicted ever since. Not only does it replace using plastic bags for opened cheese, but it keeps the cheese fresher for much longer. I cannot emphasize how much I recommend these Formaticum Cheese Storage Bags.
- OK this one is kinda silly, but it is my list so I am including it. 2019 is the year I cried “uncle!” and got progressive glasses (similar to but superior in my opinion to bifocals). And hey guys I can actually glance down and read the recipe now without hunting for readers! You can file this one under “Getting old sucks.”
- This is another silly but oh-so-happy one. I bought Dermrelief Cotton Gloves to wear after lotioning my hands at night. I don’t know about the rest of you but my hands are scary all winter long because I wash them so often while cooking and baking. On the advice of my allergist I also switched my hand soap to a moisturizing one (in the warmer months I use a foaming one), and now every night I get my hands seriously slicked up with varying types of moisturizers and then wear these for a while.
- 2019 was the year of the hamburger for me. This is another weird one no doubt. But the truth is while I always liked hamburgers ok, I never loved them or got why people got so excited about them. And if we are talking about your basic hamburger with raw tomatoes, lettuce, onions on it, I still don’t get it. Or even cheddar cheese for that matter. But we live near a local restaurant chain, Burgatory, that allows you to put together your own hamburger from lots of choices of gourmet ingredients, like onion marmalade, sautéed mushrooms and bacon jam. Arugala. Blue cheese. Even different rubs and sauces. Heaven. And then while we were driving through Wyoming in the middle of nowhere we stopped at this amazing little hole in the wall (in the best way possible) called The Burger Barn. Burger pictured above and menu below. And when I say middle of nowhere, the picture at the top of this post is from outside the little town we found it in.
Continuing with this theme, then my sister and her husband made a gourmet burger bar at the beach and basically I realized that what burgers have really been missing for me all these years is caramelized onions. I ate that night until I couldn’t move. And then came home to review The Peached Tortilla cookbook, where I made and fell in love with the Social Burger. And discovered that I love pickles on hamburgers–when they aren’t warm, limp, fast food dill ones. I predict the burger trend will continue into 2020!
As is often the case in the end of year best of lists, cookbooks get their own section. Also as always, they were not necessarily published in 2019, but 2019 is when I discovered them. Links are either to a review on this site or an affiliate link to Amazon. In no particular order….
- The Peached Tortilla: Modern Asian Comfort Food from Tokyo to Texas by Eric Silverstein
- Milk Street: Tuesday Nights: More than 200 Simple Weeknight Suppers that Deliver Bold Flavor, Fast
- Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden
- Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family by Priya Krishna
- Zaitoun: Recipes from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan
- Simple Cake: All You Need to Keep Your Friends and Family in Cake by Odette Williams
- My Mexico City Kitchen: Recipes and Convictions by Gabriela Camara
I always like to include some Christmas cookbook goodies, i.e., cookbooks that I have not yet cooked from but am super excited about:
- Milk Street: The New Rules: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook
- Ama: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen by Josef Centeno
- Pasta Grannies: The Official Cookbook: The Secrets of Italy’s Best Home Cooks by Vicky Bennison
- Shuk: From Market to Table, the Heart of Israeli Home Cooking by Einat Admony
- Cooking for Good Times: Super Delicious, Super Simple by Paul Kahan
- The Cookie Collection: Artisan Baking for the Cookie Enthusiast (The Bake Feed)