2020: The Year that Was

Honestly, I thought I might skip the “year in review” post this year. I mean, I certainly wasn’t ready to write it while it was still 2020.

Normally these “year in review” posts go something like: here’s how many posts I wrote this year, this is what I learned, here are my most popular posts of the year.

I will still do some of that. But when it comes to learning lessons from 2020, what can you even say? It was the craziest, most unpredictable year of my life, and I know I’m not alone when I say that. It was for most of us, I’m sure.

The last time I set foot in my workplace was March 12. Since then, I have been teaching all of my classes on online. Let me just say first of all, that I am super grateful to have a job, and a job that was not affected by the pandemic. Affected yes, but not in the way that would have made it go away. My job is, thankfully, one I’m able to still do from my living room.

Easy transition, though? Nope. Not at all. In fact, it’s been hard. I put in many many many unpaid hours trying to figure out how to deliver my course content in a way that was going to be impactful and engaging. It’s been stressful. And I genuinely enjoy teaching face-to-face classes, so transitioning to teaching online hasn’t been my favourite thing.

Having said all that, I never had to go on CERB, and in fact, finished the year with extra money in the bank, probably because I had nowhere to spend it.

2020 also, much to my excitement, brought a new cookbook contract. This, however, did end up being another victim of coronavirus. From the time I signed the contract (which was very early in the pandemic) to the end of the year (which was when the book was meant to be published) things changed so dramatically that the publisher decided to cut their losses and not publish the book, despite the fact that I delivered the full manuscript on time, and they liked it.

So yeah, for me, this was 2020’s greatest personal loss (even though I did get paid to write the book). I was really looking forward to having another cookbook out there with my name on it, and I was very excited by and passionate about the subject.

Other things I’m super grateful for during this very challenging year include the health of my family and friends (I didn’t lose anyone close to me during the pandemic), and just my friends in general, who really helped to keep me sane. Having Michael at home during the pandemic was both good and challenging, but I am super proud of how hard he worked and how well he’s adapted.

I also bought an Apple Watch for my birthday in August, and that’s been a great incentive (as well as my mental health) to get out and walk almost every day.

Okay, enough about me. Let’s talk about food.

One thing that I think was really positive about the pandemic is how people started to cook again. And bake. I mean, here we all were stuck at home all the time, anyway, right? Might as well make something. To be fair, this is my world all the time, but having more people in it was awesome. To see the world embracing sourdough made me really, really happy.

I really noticed a sense of community this year, too. Like my neighbours especially have been really great with exchanging food and baking and offering to pick stuff up if they are making a trip to the store. That can only be a good thing.

2020 Statistics:

  • Blog posts written: 50
  • Total number of words written: 28,238
  • Average words per post: 565

And here are a few of my favourite posts I wrote this year: 

Sugar-Free Aquafaba Meringue: Three years since the publication of my cookbook and I’m still talking about and learning new things about aquafaba!

Wacky Cake: In 2019 I came into possession of my mom’s recipe box, and this year I really got into it, making many of the recipes I grew up with, all written in my mother’s handwriting (and a few in 12-year-old Becky’s). This accidentally vegan chocolate cake is one of my absolute favorites.

Sourdough Bread for the Apocalypse: I couldn’t resist doing a post on the pandemic and sourdough.

No Bake Peanut Butter Bars: one of my very favourite recipes of 2020. So good!

Okay, that’s it! And here’s to a much, much better 2021. Fingers crossed, knock wood, rub your lucky rabbit’s foot….

Adaptation. Resilience. These are the words we need to take with us into 2021.

Happy New Year, friends. I wish you all the best, and may your sourdough crumb be perfect.

Roasted Celeriac with Mushroom Gravy

It’s Christmas later this week, and when you don’t eat meat, there’s always a question: what do you eat? What’s the centrepiece of your meal?

Growing up, it was always a turkey or a ham. In my younger days on my own, it was cornish game hen, and one time, a duck.

Over the past years since I’ve stopped eating meat again, I’ve mostly spend Christmas with friends or family, and that’s meant I mostly just eat everything else other than the turkey, and I’m 100% okay with that. This year, however, I’m likely to be eating alone.

Roasted Celeriac with Mushroom Gravy

Of course, you could always try one of the three or four “holiday roast” products available on the market. They’re mostly made of soy or seitan and are usually stuffed with some kind of stuffing so that they look like a turkey breast roulade. My experiences with these have been mostly disappointing (dry), though I’m told the Very Good Butchers do a good one.

So what does that leave? Some kind of centrepiece vegetable. A roasted cauliflower would probably do nicely. But sometime around American Thanksgiving, I was watching Jamie Oliver and he did a whole roasted celeriac.

I was curious. It certainly looks good; it has that showstopping look you want when you’re bringing it to the table.

Though clearly, if you are not a fan of celery, this is not for you.

I set about to try it, and completely veganize it while I was at it (Jamie’s recipe is vegetarian). The mushroom gravy is really, really good, and the roasted celeriac needs it, so don’t skip it. Jamie serves his with pearl barley, but honestly, I might just go a more traditional route and serve it with mashed potatoes or yams.

Be warned–just like your turkey which you have to start three days in advance, this takes time. Not three days, but it’s a big, tough vegetable, and it needs a full two hours in the oven. And like your turkey, your house will smell delicious and Christmassy before it is done.

whole roasted celeriac

Whole Roasted Celeriac with Mushroom Gravy

(recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver)

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole celeriac, about 1 kg or a little more
  • fresh thyme
  • 6 bay leaves (fresh if possible)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp white wine
  • 1-2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1 cup chopped greens: kale or spinach

Method

  1. Scrub the celeriac well with a brush to get any dirt out of all the nooks and crannies. Line an 8″ square pan with two overlapping sheets of aluminum foil and place the celeriac in the middle. Rub it all over with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bash up the garlic, and throw it into the foil packet with the thyme and 4 bay leaves. Top the celeriac with the miso paste and more olive oil, then wrap the entire thing up tight. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for two hours. If you like, you can peel back the foil 15 minutes before you take it out of the oven, to get some colour on the top. The sauce/gravy will take about 15 to minutes to make.
  2. Start by chopping the onion and mincing the final two cloves of garlic. Place a large pan over medium heat and heat up a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant.
  3. Slice the mushrooms and add them to the pan, adding additional olive oil if needed. Let them cook down about 5 minutes, then deglaze the pan with a little white wine. Add 1 cup of stock, the remaining bay leaves, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow the whole thing to reduce for about 5-10 minutes, until thickened.
  4. Now add the coconut milk, the mustard and stir it in, as well as the greens. Allow the whole thing to cook down together for another few minutes, adding additional stock if it gets too thick. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  5. Remove the celeriac from the oven and place it on a pretty plate. Pour the gravy over top and around the celeriac. Slice the celeriac at the table and serve with the mushroom gravy.
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