Taking Stock in 2012

Did you make New Year’s resolutions last week? How are they working out so far? Not to put a damper on your plans but statistics say that nearly half of all North Americans make a list each year, while fewer than 10 percent are successful in completing their goals.

(Photo: msnbc.com)

I definitely fall into both of those categories and yet, year after year, I sit down after the holidays and dutifully jot down my standard list of vows: lose weight, exercise more, spend less money, etc. This year was the final straw; in packing for my move last week I found my 2003 list and it was an exact match to the resolutions that I had planned for 2012, right down to the order they were listed on the page. Had I really made NO personal progress in a decade? I felt like an even bigger failure than I do every February when the enthusiasm for self-improvement starts to wear off and I revert to my former bad habits.

(Photo: A Field Journal)

But then I realized that the inherent problem with resolutions is that they focus on the seemingly negative aspects of ourselves that we feel compelled to change. About the same time I came to this conclusion, I read Happy 12 Things Happy People Do Differently by Jacob Sokol on Marc and Angel Hack Life.

(Photo: Mixed Tapes and Cupcakes)

The major difference between this list and typical resolutions is that instead of focusing on perceived personal flaws, Sokol concentrates on our interactions with others, including expressing gratitude, practicing acts of kindness, and nurturing social relationships. Moreover, Sokol’s inclusions that focus on the self provide a positive spin. Doesn’t “take care of your body” sound more nurturing than “lose weight”?

(Photo: Pinterest)

Sokol’s actions can be accomplished every day and in a myriad of ways. But when trying to think how I could combine them, I decided that this year cooking will be the main medium in which I reconnect with loved ones and let them know that I care. After all, is there a better way to spend some quality time than around the dinner table with good food and good friends?

(Photo: The Kitchn)

In order to do this, I am planning to have regular, informal weekend suppers that will allow me to catch up with my friends and thank them for all they have done for me by serving them comforting meals. This will also allow me to indulge my passion for cooking, something I often abandon when living alone, and experiment with new healthy recipes.

(Photo: Vegan Yum Yum)

To express my gratitude to our readers, I’m giving you my recipe for vegetable stock. It’s an inexpensive, low fat flavour-booster that can be made with little effort when you have a quiet afternoon and some leftover vegetables. If you keep a batch in the freezer you will always have a quick, savory base for soups, stews, and other dishes without the additives and sodium that commercial stocks contain. I hope that you will be able to use it to nurture yourself and your loved ones throughout the year.

Vegetable Stock (makes 10-12 cups), adapted from Vegan Yum Yum

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

5 carrots, cleaned but unpeeled, chopped

1 bunch of celery, chopped

1 cup of mushrooms, chopped

Any other chopped vegetables or vegetable peels (get creative: root vegetables, peppers, zucchini, greens, etc.)- save them up in a container in the fridge as you prepare vegetables for other dishes

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tbsp. tomato paste (or you can add a chopped tomato)

1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley (you can also add a small handful of herbs if you like; rosemary, thyme, and chives work well)

2 bay leaves

6 whole black peppercorns

4 whole cloves

¼ cup low sodium tamari (you can substitute soy sauce but it lacks the rich flavor of tamari; if you do, reduce to 1/8 cup and add more to taste)

16 cups (2 liters or 1 gallon) of water

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot.
  2. Add the chopped vegetables and peels, except for the garlic. Stir over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Add garlic in the last few minutes to prevent burning.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about an hour and a half.
  5. Strain through a fine sieve or cheesecloth.
  6. Stock can be kept in the refrigerator for a week or poured into ice cube trays and frozen.
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