I hate that I am saying this but I have been counting down the days to April 1 — aka the end of my #cook90 challenge. The cooking part hasn’t been too bad but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience it’s that my next kitchen needs to have a dishwasher. Who knew one person could create so many dirty dishes? I want to say I’ve spent at least a half an hour every single day in March washing dishes, and I’m #overit.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed #cook90. I tried my best to cook things that were outside of my comfort zone and I’m excited that I’ve added a few more recipes to my repertoire. I’ve learned that making pasta from scratch isn’t really all that hard, but you do need a decent amount of counter space. And apparently, I like baking a lot less than I thought I did — probably because I don’t have a stand mixer or a normal sized food processor. Sadly, I’ll never make it as a baker on The Great British Baking Show, in fact, I cracked under pressure when my store bought pie crust wouldn’t cooperate.
I’ve had a bunch of people ask me if this challenge helped me save money on food and the answer is a resounding… no. I found myself more willing to splurge on higher quality ingredients from the grocery store to replace the instant gratification that I typically get from going out to eat. I think you could easily save money doing this challenge if you stuck to more budget friendly recipes than I did, but my goal wasn’t to save money, it was to learn more about cooking. And I don’t think anyone wants to read a blog post with 10 different ways to make chicken sausage pasta.
I missed last week’s recap— I was busy cooking my little heart out— so this post is on the longer side, but hopefully that means you’ll find at least one recipe to try! I’ll also be sharing a recipe next week for a mostly homemade roasted vegetable and sausage tart with an everything bagel crust, so stay tuned.
#cook90 Breakfast Recipes
Smoothies // I’ve been drinking a whole lot of smoothies lately and my current favorite is this Almond Brothers Carrot Cake Smoothie from RVA Fit Foodie, it legit tastes like carrot cake in a cup and it has been a nice change of pace from my berry filled smoothies. The hardest ingredient to find was carrot juice that didn’t contain anything other than carrots juice and lemon juice, but I found an affordable option in the natural foods section of Kroger.
Lecker Baking Company // Knowing the limitations of my kitchen and available kitchen tools, I did not attempt to make any bread on my own — I’ll save that for my next #cook90 challenge. With that said, I did come across a gem of a bakery when I was looking for new bread options to try in Richmond. Lecker Baking Company is conveniently located in the Fan and if you are looking to pick up a loaf or two on your commute home, I highly recommend making a stop there. This month I stuck to the tried and true Billy Bread to step up my toast and breakfast sandwich game, but I’m pumped to try more of Lecker’s offerings.
Overnight Oats // I mentioned my love of overnight oats in my last #cook90 post and the prospect of warmer weather means I’ll be eating my oatmeal cold for the foreseeable future. I keep my recipe simple using a 1 to 1 to 1 ratio of oats, yogurt and milk (I use unsweetened coconut milk) and then I add in a scoop of protein powder and a shake of cinnamon. Recently I’ve been adding “fried” banana slices to jazz things up — heat a small amount of coconut oil or ghee in a small pan and add your banana slices, flip them once they’re golden brown and finish with a drizzle of honey.
Sinless Samoas // If you follow Let’s Share a Dish on Instagram you might’ve seen my Instagram Story making these delicious sweet treats. They aren’t really for breakfast but could work as a small snack between breakfast and lunch. The recipe from Eating Bird Food is super simple and in total takes less than 30 minutes to make. My tip: add the toasted coconut to your food processor before it has completely cooled and it will melt the chocolate chips a little bit.
#cook90 Lunch Recipes
Chicken Salad // I only recently started eating chicken salad and I love it as an easy and satisfying topping for salads. I found this easy chicken salad recipe by Ina Garten and it turned out wonderfully. My old modification was replacing half of the mayo the recipe called for with Greek yogurt to try and make it a little more healthy. This super simple recipe contains just six ingredients: chicken, olive oil, mayo, green grapes, celery and tarragon (not including salt and pepper).
Sweet Potato Bowls // These colorful bowls are super easy to throw together during the week. My bases for my bowls this month included roasted sweet potato, a tomato, cucumber and pickled onion salad, rice, tzatziki sauce and Cava Harissa. For proteins, I used Trader Joe’s Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage and shrimp sauteed in ghee and garlic. Throw all the components in a bowl and you’re good to go.
Mumbai Toastie // A Lodge Cast Iron Skillet wasn’t the only “kitchen tool” I bought during #cook90, I also purchased a new cookbook — Simple by Diana Henry. The key feature of this cookbook is that all recipes must fit onto one page. Some are easy, some might take you all day and all sound delicious. The Mumbai Toastie is the first thing I’ve made from my new cookbook and grilled cheese may never be the same. Indian spices and a fresh mint and garlic chutney give this simple meal a big flavor upgrade. And it didn’t hurt that I used Billy Bread for this recipe too.
#cook90 Dinner Recipes
Pierogies // The most challenging (re: annoying) recipe that I made during this entire experience were these potato and cheese pierogies *RIP Lucky Peach*. I naively tried to take on this feat on a weeknight, #neveragain. In the first five minutes of peeling potatoes I sliced my thumb which almost derailed me completely; nevertheless, I persisted and four hours later these pillows of doughy, cheesy, starchy goodness were ready. If you pack your patience for this adventure you’ll be handsomely rewarded with a comforting and delicious meal. I recommend serving these with some fancy sausage from Stock Provisions.
Egg Roll in a Bowl // There really was only one point during the challenge where I almost gave up. After a long and stressful week, including a 24 hour period with no water in my apartment, I was craving Chinese take out. With no food in my fridge, the prospect of ordering in was sounding more and more appealing but I took a deep breath and searched the internet for an easy recipe that would satisfy my craving. I came across this beef and cabbage stir fry recipe on Budget Bytes and was sold. I used pork instead of beef, and whipped together this dish in less than an hour, including time spent driving to and from the grocery store. To make it more filling, I served the stir fry over rice.
I feel like I learned a lot from the challenge and it really forced me to meal plan a little bit more than I typically do. #cook90 also reinforced my love for grocery shopping, and I’ll be a little sad that I won’t be spending as much time in the grocery store in April as I did in March. If you want to do your own #cook90 challenge, sign up for the newsletter and they’ll send you weekly updates based on how far along you are. And if you’re wondering what my first not home cooked meal will be tomorrow, its a toss up between a Stroops backdoor dog and Peter Chang’s Noodle and Dumpling!