I’ve learned a lot from consciously trying to improve my cooking and try new recipes this year. There have been ups and downs… recipes that were so forgettable I didn’t even blog about them, epic failures that we threw out, and huge wins that we will keep cooking again for years.
The biggest win from the year by far was discovering how much we can save using a CSA and learning to plan meals around the fresh ingredients we got or had on hand vs. meal planning ahead of time and then going out and buying a bunch of stuff we didn’t have (though I still intend to try new recipes with stuff we don’t have on hand in a quest to keep some variety in our lives!) I think these skills will be so valuable as we begin to plan freezer meals to prepare for the new baby and as we keep trying to budget to adjust to these new expenses.
As a side note to learning to use what we have, I’m grateful that I’ve learned to go with the flow and improv a bit more when it comes to cooking. I no longer panic if I don’t have the exact amount or ingredients in a recipe (usually) and have started being able to think on my feet to substitute. Something you have a hard time doing with baking.
Speaking of baking… I’ve learned that for however grateful I am to be able to cook nutritious, homemade meals… it just can’t replace my love of baking. There’s something calming about the science of it… the magic of rising bread and the perfection of homemade frosting. My smell aversions this pregnancy probably also played into my lack of enthusiasm for cooking while baking always smelled good to me (probably helped that carbs were a great way to fend off the nausea…). I hope one day I get the same joy from cooking as I do from baking!
Finally, I’ve learned that sometimes the most simple recipes are the most rewarding. The fewer ingredients and the easier the prep the more likely I was to actually follow through with cooking the recipe and often those were just as tasty as the recipes with a crazy number of ingredients or detailed preparation requirements.
I still have a few more recipes I want to try this month, but for the most part I plan to make and bake some traditional Christmas recipes. Cookies, treats, and my grandmother’s recipe for homemade ravioli (complete with homemade sauce!) are all on the docket in the next few weeks. I’d love to hear about your family meals and traditions- what foods symbolize the holidays for you? I’ve learned this year it’s less about the food (though I definitely prefer when the food turns out well too) and more about the memories associated with it and coming together to eat around a shared table and give thanks- present over perfect.
Next year my 42 projects in 52 weeks will focus on DRINKS! Partially because this mama has missed drinking, partially because a friend of mine had a cocktail of the month last year which I thought was brilliant and made me want to try more specialty drinks, and partially because I have a lot of drinks without alcohol I want to try too and in Arizona you need to stay hydrated! So get excited for homemade lemonade, signature cocktails, coffee drinks, power smoothies, and more!