Cooking Challenge Wrap Up

by - Friday, December 31, 2010

After 52 weeks, several fabulous recipes and a few kitchen failures, it's time to wrap up my 2010 cooking challenge.

Last January, one of my goals was to cook something every week. I wanted to challenge myself to get out of my lazy rut and stop falling back on PBJ and oatmeal when I didn't want to make a real dinner or lunch.

I'll admit, coming up with a new recipe or cooking idea every week wasn't easy. I admire all the food bloggers who are so creative in the kitchen and constantly come up with new healthy recipes. Many of the dishes I tried were recommended by other bloggers.

After my 52-week experiment in the kitchen, here's what I'm taking away from this challenge:

1. You don't need fancy kitchen supplies to whip up a good meal. The kitchen in my townhouse is old and tiny. My oven is so small, I can't fit a traditional size cookie sheet in it. I have to use the mini-sized ones. I also have tons of pots with lids that don't match and a mishmash of random plates and bowls that previous roommates have left behind. But despite my kitchen shortcomings, I was still able to make good food.

2. Trying new foods is fun. Before this challenge, I had never tried couscous, quinoa, spaghetti squash or many of the other ingredients I used over the past year. This challenge really expanded my horizons when it came to food choices, and I know I'll be open to trying new or odd ingredients in the future.

3. The farmer's market is amazing.
I spent most of my summer and early fall picking up fresh ingredients from the farmer's market and I miss those things immensely now that winter is here. I was able to get the most fresh apples this fall and really tasty veggies all summer long. The farmer's market blows my grocery store selection out of the water.

3. You will have some major kitchen fails.
Not everything you try will come out perfect. There were some recipes I tried that were just disasters. Nothing about them tasted good and I wouldn't even bother going back to make changes. You might also end up getting jalapeno juice in your eyes. Stuff happens, and a bad recipe won't kill you, so don't be afraid to experiment.

4. I learned I like cooking for groups. When I would have people over for dinner, I loved whipping up something new and I didn't mind spending a few hours in the kitchen getting something ready. When I'm just cooking for myself, I don't find it nearly as enjoyable. In this same vein, I learned Matt's a pretty willing test subject and would try just about everything I made, even if it wasn't up his alley.

Moving in to the New Year, I plan to keep up my cooking, but I won't force myself to try something new every week. After a while, it got really hard and there were just some weeks when I had zero motivation to spend any time in the kitchen. I may still share the occasional recipe if I have a moment of brilliance, but my Friday Cooking Challenge posts will go away and be replaced by something new. I'll keep the Cooking Challenge page live, so you can easily find the recipes I tried this year all in one place.

Thanks for following along with this challenge. I hope you found at least one recipe you enjoyed sometime during the year.

On that note, I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

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