Cooking My Way Through a Cook Book

Hey guys! Today, I'm kicking off a fun project I've been thinking about since last year. Two quick stories and then I'll quit procrastinating.

Cooking My Way Through a Cook Book |

The first is an oft told family tale at this point that takes place roughly 15 years ago. I was attending my new boyfriend's family Christmas (to be clear, the new boyfriend was Ryan) and we had just moved into together. I can't remember the exact question, but his mom asked me something about cooking, and I immediately and earnestly answered "I have a mom for that!" Oh boy. 

Since then, I've progressed into my 30's, had a baby and made a home. I cook every day, but I still get pegged to bring the veggie platter or drinks, because first impressions are real, baby. 

Now for the second, much shorter story. Last year, I read Julie & Julia, a book about the former cooking her way through the latter's masterpiece, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It's hilarious and also poignant, and ultimately it inspired me to take up a cooking project of my own. I've saved this project for the winter months because I quickly become miserable in January and I needed something to look forward to. 

And so, here we are. This fall, I picked up Half-baked Harvest's Every Day (that's an affiliate link!). She writes a beautiful website and I've had good luck making her recipes before, so I am optimistic that this will make for a perfect project blueprint. 

My big audacious goal is to cook everything in this book between now and the end of March + report out on it once a week. I'm a gal who loves to lean into the "I'm sooOOo busy" excuse, but I'm also one who chants regularly "I am a woman who does what she says she will do" so I'm letting those two things fight for my time this quarter. Wish me luck!


Week 1: Spiced Paprika Chicken

Saturday night. I'm already behind. I still haven't counted how many recipes are in this book, but I know it's a lot and I need to throw down more than one a week. At this point, it's January 6 and I've had a hell of a week, which feels unkind because it's the first week of the year. I came in so optimistic and hopeful! I remind myself that there are 52 weeks in a year and if one of them is hard, that's a small ratio. I put my faith in the remaining weeks. Be good, gd-it, be gooooood. 

So now you know my mindset. On this particular Saturday night, Ryan's working late-ish and Duke and I have spent the day mostly home alone together. It's 4:30 and it's dark like nighttime. I put on an Adamms Family cartoon, mostly for myself, but he is engaged, so I set up shop in the kitchen, pulling out ingredients and lighting candles and looking up every once in a while to take in the movie. 

Cooking My Way Through a Cook Book |

Also, it's 6 days into Dry January. So I pour a bit of PomWonderful in a wine glass and top it off with sparkling water. I also toss in a slice of orange, because I believe in the power of zjush.

Lesson number 1: read the entire recipe and make sure you have all the ingredients before you embark on such a project. It's fine, it's really fine. I'm missing arugula for the salad, but I have fresh spinach, so I swap. I'm missing hummus, without any plans for a substitute, but that looks like an accessory, so I pretend I don't see it and my family doesn't notice either. 

There are three parts to this recipe: sweet potatoes, chicken, and a salad. 

Sweet potatoes: A+. I feel like the sweet potato was born to be delicious, and the recipe calls for them to be cooked long enough to just crisp around the edges, but are still soft and sweet in the center. It occurs to me that a sweet potato is basically a cookie in that respect. The ratio of crisp to soft, I mean. 

Chicken: I'm giving it a C, because it's average. Not bad, not great, just fine. The paprika lends a lovely color to the finished product, but not enough flavor imo. If I did it again, I'd double up on the measurements of each spice. I do think the chicken is key to the sweet potatoes being so good though. the recipe calls for the chicken to be nestled among the potatoes, and the flavor it adds is top freaking tier. 

Spinach, but supposed to be arugula salad: A good B+. The recipe called for sundried tomatoes in oil, which I had to run out for, and now I know they are a staple in my refrigerator inventory. What a delight! I pour a 1 to 1 ratio of their oil with red wine vinegar and give it a whisk, before dropping in the chopped up tomatoes, and mixing in the spinach. Very simple, but wow - it has wonderful flavor!

Cooking My Way Through a Cook Book |

Ryan walks in the door just as I'm pulling things out of the oven, which is stunning timing, but very on brand for him. He just can sense when the dinner is done, you know? 

Duke flatly refuses to eat any of it, which is also the norm. Instead he eats a bowl of peeled oranges and I honestly don't care. Fed is best, as they say. Even at 7 years old? IDK. 

The verdict: On a scale of 1-5, I give it 3.5 Delicious Sweet Potatoes. We're spicy, so I wanted a little more flavor from the chicken, but what do I know? Maybe the hummus was an integral piece of the flavor profile. 


And so, we begin! I have a lot of catching up to do, but on we get. 

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