Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Decade of Cooking

In the fall of 2004 I couldn't help but notice the vast disparity between my microwaved Ramen noodles and my roommates tasty meals.  I dug around my room and came up with a Betty Crocker cookbook my mom had stuffed in my luggage.  Being the prudent and cautious thinker that I am, I took about 10 seconds to decide on the brilliant solution to all my problems: I would cook every recipe in the book.

Disclaimers:  (1) Word of Wisdom breakers will be excluded 
(2) This goal was set before the 2009 movie Julie & Julia . . . just sayin'

Scope and Progress

This September is the ten year anniversary of my goal.  One decade ago Jennifer and I made Super Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (a delicious meal it has tomato, avocado, and bacon on it). Initially I tried to move every category along at the same pace but at some point I switched to one category at a time.  I found I learned how to do things better by sticking to one category at a time . . . and it felt more rewarding to see focused progress.  I knocked out Poultry and will soon finish Stews, Soups, and Sandwiches.


As of 9/1/2014 I completed 298 of 558 recipes, only 260 to go.  My progress has varied greatly during the years following my goal.  Progress was notably slower during grad school and after each baby. 


I've never really set a time limit on this goal; I knew it would be a long one but I have slowed considerably.  If I continued at the pace I set last year it would take me another 37 years to finish.   If I just made two recipes every month I could knock this out in the next 11 years.  The primary point is to learn some new skills and to have a good time.  If it begins to feel like it's more work than fun I take a break.  For the next few years, however, I think it will be fun bonding with the kids.  Scarlett has really been getting into it.

Future: One Year at a Time

Lately I have been setting goals and in various aspects of my life.  I've found a solution that works for me.  I set target rates ranging from barely acceptable to possibly achievable and try to do as well as I can within those bands.  It's been pretty useful so far so I'm going to apply it to my cooking.  I'm sure this will help me be more consistent.

As I go into this decade I will try to take a few more pictures.  It's a little easier now with a smart phone handy.  We've had a lot of fun with a lot of people making these.  Thanks to the many people that have been willing to come to dinner to eat something that I had never cooked before.  I've had a lot of success and some epic flops, it's been a lot of fun.  Despite Jen's serious concerns about the logic of making every recipe (including ones that sound, well, gross) she has always supported me.

Here are a few of the pictures I have on hand:

Nana & Scarlett making Double Chocolate Snack Cake (probably our most frequent recipe after Sweetened Vanilla Whipped Cream)

Mexican Dip

Quick Jambalaya . . . maybe

Jen decided we would make these for a bunch of people she cared about.

It was a lot of work but fun.

Ted and Shelby got some good recipes and they are good enough friends to not hold back on the bad ones.  This was supposed to be flan . . . it didn't turn out.
Jen: "This tastes like microwaved egg." 
  Shelby: "It's egg? How much egg is in here?" 
Ted: "This is like the breakfast from #@&!!"

Note: Trey is to-scale

As I mentioned having someone over is a good excuse for making another recipe.  We met a nice couple at the apartment pool that lived in our complex.  They had a little daughter Scarlett's age and we all hit it off so well that we invited them to dinner.  So far so good.  Unfortunately, I just happened to be making the final recipe in the poultry section: Roast Goose with Apple Stuffing.  It was a little over the top for a casual first dinner.  The lady was clearly intimidated and talked a lot about the big Mexican spread she was going to have to put on for us to match.  The gentleman had very thoughtfully brought a bottle of alcohol labeled Casa del Diablo (House of the Devil) as a gift.  The lady knew we were Mormons and didn't drink; she brought a tres leches cake and had tried to explain to him that we really weren't going to drink it.  Despite our being very polite and not bothered at all she seemed irreparably uncomfortable.  The follow up invite to their house fell through for some strange reason.  We still shake our heads and laugh about it.

Spicy Jamaican Chicken and Potatoes

Shrimp Scampi

Cream Puffs

Can't remember but it looks good

Applesauce Cake

Chicken-Rice Casserole

Creme Brûlée

Chocolate Mousse and Cups

Apple-Hazelnut Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Chicken Pot Pie

Turkey Tenderloins with Caramelized Onions

Turkey with Creamy Salsa

Everyday Cassoulet

Chicken and Broth


Lemon-Roasted Turkey Breast with Couscous Stuffing

Lemon-Basil Chicken

The following were not from the cookbook but fun things we made at the same time.

Mmmm Fondue

Results of our Wilton class: Jen could rock the clowns and I could through down a pretty sweet rose (all the ladies in the class were impressed, it was hard for them to squeeze out the stiff frosting, rock climbing hands put to good use.)

Beesley's getting into it!

I had a book with yummy fruit and vegetable recipes in it. I ended up getting rid of it.  I need to focus on my Betty Crocker before branching out.