Sunday, January 24, 2016
100 Hours in the Kitchen Project
As I mentioned in my blog post about my new year's resolutions, I'm trying out a new project this year that's meant to reignite my passion for cooking (which has severely petered down the last several months due to all the dietary changes I've been making).
There's a theory that says that you need to spend 10,000 focused hours on something in order to become a master, but another, more recent theory speculates that it only really takes 100 focused hours of doing something in order to become much more advanced than a beginner. So although I'm no beginner in the kitchen, I sometimes feel like I am a beginner lately because of all my dietary restrictions (which luckily just mainly include staying off gluten and going easy on the red meat and greasy foods right now).
But here's the project:
Each quarter, I will focus on a different cooking "genre" and try out 12 new recipes under that genre during those three months. My goal is for each of the recipes to challenge me in some way, whether that's because they consist of foods I normally don't cook with or eat or that they require some more advanced knowledge of cooking than I currently have. If the recipe doesn't fit either of those requirements, I have to at least make a few adjustments to it so that I can get more comfortable with the idea of making recipes "my own" instead of following them to the letter, like I often do.
My focus for the first quarter of the year is SOUPS, CHOWDERS, and CHILIS.
My reasons behind this first choice of category were three-fold:
1 - There's nothing so great as a hot soup on a cold day, so if I'm going to focus on soups, chilis, and chowders, now is the time.
2 - I'm terrible at making anything besides just a "main dish" most of the time, so making soups frequently will hopefully force me to actually think about having side dishes since they naturally lend themselves to pairs (like soup and salad or soup and a sandwich).
3 - It's hard to go wrong with a soup, so it's the perfect place to start branching out with my experimentation (plus, you can apparently make soup out of almost everything, which is an important bonus as I haven't been too great at going to the grocery store lately). Oh, and because you can make soup out of almost everything, it's really helping me to clear random stuff from my freezer, fridge, and pantry.
As far as my progress with this project, I'm right on track with my goal since I've already made four new soup/chili recipes and it's not even February yet. I've already noticed that this project coupled with our new habit of eating at the table every night with no distractions has naturally lent itself to getting more enjoyment out of meals and in making it much more natural to add in side dishes and other courses (like dessert!). I'm still not as good as I used to be at cooking every night, but I'm much better than I was even a month ago.
And now, to end the post, I'll share an elimination-diet friendly (no gluten, corn, soy, or dairy) chili recipe that I heavily modified from the Internet in order to make it my own:
Ground Turkey Chili
1/2 can tomato paste
red or green pepper (or a few mini sweet peppers), diced
small onion (red or yellow), diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. ground turkey
1 can kidney beans
2 cans stewed tomatoes + 1 can water
2 small zucchinis, grated (with peel is fine--just make sure you wash them first)
2 carrots, grated
cayenne pepper (pinch)
chopped cilantro and avocado, for garnish
dairy-free "cheese" crumbles (optional)
1. Heat olive oil in large pot.
2. Saute peppers, onion, garlic, and ground turkey until onions are soft and turkey is cooked through.
3. Add the other ingredients (minus the garnishes) and add spices to taste (about a teaspoon of the first four, with about a tablespoon of cumin).
4. When the chili is heated through, garnish with the chopped cilantro, avocado, and cheese shreds.
If you've got any great soup recipes, send them my way, please! (Bonus points if they're already gluten-free!)