We’re entering the 23rd week of the year, and June seems like a natural time to pause and take stock of how my New Year’s resolution is going. This year, I resolved to make 52 new recipes (I’ve made some of these dishes before, but not in these ways with these ingredients). In short, I’m doing pretty well. From a numbers perspective, I’ve made 34 different things. I could talk about how that’s 65% of the way to my goal or how I’m 11 dishes ahead of schedule, or how I’m making approximately 1.48 new dishes each week. I could also talk about how 56% were entrees, 26% were side dishes, 3% were desserts, and 15% were breakfasts. While some of those numbers are intriguing (especially that low percentage of desserts), as is often the case, numbers don’t tell the whole story. Here's a fuller picture:
Rice pilaf Cider-mustard chicken Chicken pot pie Salsa chicken Chicken paprikash Polenta Skillet chicken Chocolate covered strawberries Beef tacos Corn muffins Spaghetti squash with sausage Cauliflower soup Boneless buffalo wings Vegetable samosas Ballpark pretzels Italian vegetable stew Sourdough starter Tortillas Tortilla chips Sourdough bread Popovers Saffron rice Croissants
Chicken dry rub (for the grill) Baba ghanoush Chicken parmesan (in the skillet) Strata Chicken tikka masala Naan Pizza sauce Blueberry muffins Cast iron steak with homemade herb butter Chocolate chip banana bread Oven-fried fish
I’m really proud of that list. It probably won’t surprise those close to me to know that corn muffins make an appearance; I genuinely love them, and they aren’t really a thing here in Pittsburgh. Beef tacos might, at first blush, seem too simple, but I put together the spices from scratch and followed a delightful recipe that gave us some of the best homemade taco filling I’ve eaten. Other dishes were more complicated. The croissants were the hardest thing I’ve tackled (read my earlier blog here about that), but the cast iron steak was also a hefty challenge that required me to time a lot of steps. Far and away, the worst thing I’ve made was the Italian Vegetable Stew. It was supposed to be done in the crockpot, but the vegetables weren’t done at the end of the cooking time (I was thankful for my Instant Pot that night), and the flavor was totally lacking. That’s one of only two recipes I’ve been truly disappointed by (read our blog post on popovers for the other one). And on the other end of the spectrum, the chicken tikka masala was amazing. The combination of ingredients (especially spices) was interesting, and it was insanely good. I could eat that dish once a week for the rest of my life and still be happy about it. But I would be lying if I said it was easy to keep up with making something new each week; it would also be a lie to say I had made something new every week. Instead I’m finding that my passion is coming in fits and starts. There are weeks when I’m eager to make three or four new dishes and weeks when I need to rely on the easy and familiar. Here are the things that keep me inspired when my headspace is more of the latter.
-Opening up cookbooks: When I’m left in my own head, I cook what I know. I need to expose myself to different ideas if I’m going to really be successful with this. Exposure to ideas, new ways of thinking about ingredients, and interesting combinations has helped me out so much. -Reading through what I’ve made: When I stop to appreciate the culinary challenges I’ve taken on in 2019, I feel really good about it. I also love that I’m expanding my palette (and my son’s). I’m creating foods that look beautiful and can sometimes be made ahead (excellent for entertaining). This list makes me wonder what other breakfasts and desserts I can attempt and makes me want to experiment even more. Success breeds success. -Seeing prepared foods: The prepared foods section of our grocery store has given me a lot of great ideas. And, if I want to bring up my dessert percentage, those raspberry-filled short-bread cookies over in the bakery might be a great place to start. This summer, I’m looking forward to preparing some summer picnics with ideas I glean from the prepared salads in the deli. Surrounding myself with quality examples of what I can create keeps me wondering what I should try next. My learning continues to grow each time I make something new. I love seeing the incremental progress in my skill level (and my repertoire), and that progress propels me onward. Though it’s the end of the school year, it’s an important thing to keep in mind: Seeing your competence grow and feeling successful are motivating. How can we foster those feelings, even in June? Images courtesy of Sara Bailey