February: Coconut Shrimp Curry

In a Sunset Magazine that I picked up somewhere, I found this coconut curry recipe that is easy to make, and easy to customize with whatever ingredients that are handy. You could even make it vegan by substituting the shrimp with potatoes and other vegetables. This recipe is a good introduction to basic curry, and it’s great to build and learn from.

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January: Lentil Soup with Cumin and Lemon

I have a huge 3-ring binder filled with recipes that I collect: magazine pages from the doctor’s waiting room, labels torn from a can of beans, online articles and printed for inspiration or written down on scraps of paper. Some I have already tried and loved, but the rest I keep “just in case” of… what? The next time someone asks me, “Can you please bring this very specific dish that you’ve never made before?” That’s never going to happen. So in 2019, I’m going to dig through my binder and finally try all the recipes that I’ve been saving up.

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December: Shrimp and Grits

I wanted to explore Southern cooking, but I’ve never actually spent time in the region. With the help of my sister-in-law who was raised in Alabama, I’ve been learning the finer points of how to cook foods that you’d find in kitchens from Texas to Virginia. In fact, that area is referred to as the “grits belt” of the United States because the food has become such a vital part of the region’s cultural identity, and Georgia has even named it the official “prepared food” of the state. Grits are typically a breakfast food, although shrimp and grits became popular for dinner sometime in the 1980’s.

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November: Pan de Muerto

Pan de muerto, or bread of the dead, is traditionally made during the Dia de Muertos holiday celebrated in Spanish-speaking communities. Families make offerings of food, marigolds, calavera sugar skulls and pan de muerto to their deceased loved ones and eat their favorite foods to honor and remember them. The sweet bread differs slightly by region and is often shaped to look like a skull and crossbones, and is believed to help give the spirits strength after their journey back to the world.

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November: Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna

I don’t have a love affair with cheese. I use it in cooking sometimes and I love cheese pizza, but up until a few years ago, you would never see me add more than one kind to a dish. I’ve only recently started exploring blending cheeses and using them more frequently, so I figured it’s about time for me to dive in and use all the cheese as I can get my hands on to make this hearty lasagna!

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September: Tolkien Lembas Bread

The best part about fantasy and science fiction writing is that the details don’t have to be tethered to reality – and nobody creates a more detailed world than J.R.R. Tolkien. As an avid student of mythology, language structures and etymology, Tolkien was adept at weaving these themes throughout his works, especially in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lembas bread, or waybread, is created by the elves of Middle Earth and used for long journeys because they will stay fresh for months. It is said that one small bite of lembas is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man. The bread is first mentioned in The Fellowship of the Ring, which was published in 1954, so enthusiastic fans have had plenty of time to come up with a real-life recipe for this fictional food.

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September: Barley Soup and Brussels Sprouts with Béchamel

It’s 11 AM on the morning of September 1, which means that the Hogwarts Express is leaving Kings Cross station right now, bringing eager young witches and wizards to another year of school. One of the ways J.K. Rowling is able to paint such a rich, detailed picture of this fictitious universe is by using food – Harry, who has never known an abundance of food, suddenly experiences sumptuous feasts, holiday treats and hearty meals. I love this cookbook because it emphasizes how intertwined food and literature are, and the best meals are made with love and shared with others.

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