Welcome to the Cookery Calendar Challenge for January, and Happy New Year! I hope that 2017 is joyful, peaceful, and healthy for you.
If you would like to know more about Cookery Calendar Challenge project, or would like to join me, please pop over to the Cookery Calendar Challenge page where you will find all the details.
As I mentioned in my last Cookery Calendar Challenge post, I did not try any new recipes in December; instead this post will be a reflection on the project, and the changes it has brought to my planning, shopping, cooking, and family meal times since I started back in January 2016.
Selecting two new recipes every month from a chosen recipe book and blogging about them is of course only a small part of the challenge for me. My original goals were to take control of meal planning, and food shopping, and to guarantee my family at least two new recipes every month. I also wanted to reconnect with my large collection of recipe books, some of which had never been used.
In terms of planning, I have realised that I actually only need to plan four or five evening meals per week. Friday night is often a ready-made meal, or occasionally a take-away (everyone deserves one night a week where they don't have to cook and clean up, right?), and usually I whisk something (home made) out of the freezer if the evening is going to be a busy one, or I am going to be out, thus providing a home made meal with little stress.
I use a diary to note the planned meals, with each entry identifying the planned meal, and the recipe book (and page) it is from. I have a basic key for variations, where a planned meal doesn't come from a specific book.
N/R - no recipe (I can make spag bol in my sleep)
F/F - from freezer
L/O - left overs
R/M- ready made
I sometimes struggle to make time to sit down and plan the meals for the week ahead. It can feel a bit like homework, sitting with a blank piece of paper in front of me, and my recipe books piled around; however it is an essential component of the challenge. This year I should further improve the process by identifying a specific day and time to do my meal planning.
Food shopping is, of course, infinitely easier and quicker with a detailed list, and the challenge has considerably reduced the amount of time I spend in the supermarket every week for the main shop, and has all but obliterated the 5 o'clock dash to our local Marks and Spencer 'Simply Food' which was such a frequent and stressful component of my food shopping before this year. My aim for the challenge was to have one supermarket shop every week with only an occasional top up, and this has largely been the case.
Family meal times have improved, with less moaning about the (ahem) over-familiarity of certain dishes which were produced on an all too regular basis, and the family have been willing, and indeed eager, to express their approval, or otherwise, of any new dishes. In the diary mentioned above, we have a tick system: a green tick for 'Ok, would eat again', and a double green tick for 'Yum, new favourite', and of course a big red cross for 'Epic Fail'.
Personally, my stress levels regarding family meal planning, shopping and cooking, have reduced hugely, and the daily relief of knowing what I am going to cook for dinner never gets old. I am cooking more interesting dishes, using more herbs and spices, and my cookery books now work hard for me. I feel more in control, and generally more capable (at least where family meals are concerned!). I am also using, and improving, my cookery skills on a daily basis, which feels good.
After a year of improved family meal planning, shopping and cooking, I would like to announce my favourite author, book, and recipe for 2016.
My author of the year is Mary Berry. Her recipes are so reliable, tasty, and family friendly, without being boring, and they are often quick to make.
My recipe book of the year is 'Stirring Slowly' by Georgina Hayden. The recipes are wonderful, and Georgina's writing style is delightful.
My recipe of the year is Mary Berry's Malay Fried Rice which has become a firm family favourite (double green tick); not too spicey, quick to make, and delicious. I remove one portion of the rice and veg before adding the chicken, thus pleasing the vegetarian (me) and leave the button mushrooms whole, so that Isaac can eat round them, thus pleasing the mushroom hater (Isaac), and make the dish with plenty of chicken pieces, thus pleasing the carnivores (Derek and Jacob). A meal our whole family can enjoy with no long faces; thank you Mary!
My chosen recipe book for January is 'The Oxo Cookbook'. This was given to me by Jacob for Christmas, and looks so homely and comforting, just the sort of food I always want to cook in January after the excesses of the festive season.
I intend to continue the Cookery Calendar Challenge in 2017. There will be a Linky at the end of every monthly Cookery Calendar Challenge post, to make it easy to add your blog, however a link back to my my post in your post is also appreciated. I will be delighted to pop over and read about your recipes and adventures in the kitchen.
The Cookery Challenge badge will remain on my sidebar, to be used as wished by anyone participating, and my Cookery Calendar Challenge post will continue to be scheduled for the 1st of every month.
If you joined in any month of the Cookery Calendar Challenge in 2016, thank you, I really appreciate it. If you would like to join me at any time this year, please do. This is an ongoing challenge, it is never too late to get involved, and everybody is very welcome.