What I Learned By Cooking All New Meals For a Month

What I Learned By Cooking All New Meals For a Month

Bok Choy with Sesame and Garlic Tofu

My month long challenge to cook all new meals ended late last week. The grand finale was sweet and sour chicken, requested by my daughter. It is absolutely her favorite treat for us to take her to out for Chinese and to order that. She kindly stated that “since you can make restaurant meals now, can you make those for me?” I say this not to pat myself on the back to claim the most magnificent culinary skills, but to tell you that we enjoyed it – it was worth it, and indeed it often seemed like we were eating restaurant meals, not home meals. Maybe this is all just to say that maybe I was just really not a great cook before. I mean, I made whole, good, healthy foods for my family often, but the number one thing that I discovered over the past month was that everything I cooked before was relatively tasteless. I couldn’t believe the spices almost every meal I made called for! I used spices that until now have done nothing but sit in my pantry. It’s not that I didn’t have them, I didn’t know how to use them. I was so afraid of using too much and instead I was using not enough.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

When the month started and I printed out recipes and scoured websites to try to find foods we’d all enjoy that would be challenging, but not so much so that it was a bust, I was very nervous. As it turns out, never once did we have to go out to eat and only twice did my kids decide that they’d rather have yogurt and bananas for dinner instead of what I made. The first few meals, I’m not going to lie, took a long time. I wasn’t used to reading recipes and so much planning in the kitchen. I usually just pull out something, decide it’s going to be the basis of our meal and concoct something relatively simple from that. It was challenging, but rewarding to use some things I hadn’t thought of and to make things that often until the last minute of cooking I was sure I had ruined.

Tuscan-Style Chicken with Italian Sauteed Beans

I discovered that my hubby and I love Thai food (I think he already knew that about himself, but I didn’t know it about him and I certainly didn’t know it about myself). I discovered that there is more to dinner than meat and potatoes. I learned that I go through a lot of garlic and olive oil. And I learned that homemade mozzarella sticks are seriously insanely delicious, although not even remotely healthy. The goal was not to be really healthy, and I think I did a nice mix of meals that ranged from entirely deep-fried fat filled to uber healthy tofu and vegetables. I am all about moderation around here and the challenge of new meals for 30 days was long enough for me to really spread out a wide variety of foods and experiment with a lot of new things.

Some other recipes I tried and loved but didn’t take pictures of (I am not a food photog!) are:

Cheese Tortellini Soup
Curried Cod Filet
Shrimp and Zucchini with Bowties in Light Tomato Sauce

Hopefully you can find some cooking inspiration from some of this, since I know all about how discouraging a rut in the kitchen can feel and how unmotivated I can get when it’s time to make dinner and I’m uninspired.

Happy cooking!

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  1. Wahoo! Great job! You have inspired me to do the same thing for my family sometime in the months ahead! Thank you!

  2. This all looks wonderful!! So inspiring! For some reason, I’ve had really bad cooking juju lately. Nothing has turned out right – but I think that’s about to change! Thanks for the ideas and yummy photos!

  3. Great inspiration. I MUST broaden my culinary horizons. A challenge like this might be what I need.

  4. This is very inspiring for me! I am in a food rut right now and stumped. I’m jumping on board the make-a-new-meal-each-night-for-30-days wagon. Thanks! Any sites that you really liked for recipes?

  5. Wow, congratulations! I feel like I have been on a similar journey for YEARS! I’m just beginning to notice how much easier and enjoyable cooking is with so much practice… I never made concrete meal plans though. Maybe this would be a good idea to get focused!

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