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What's for dinner tonight?

Do you ever look back at the previous year and journal or note the things the highlights or challenges? Some people journal every day. My stepdad does this. He is actually in the process of digitizing them all manually. I have one high school friend that writes a note to herself at the end of the year and packs it along with the Christmas tree so she can read it when she goes to put the tree back up again in the coming year.

I took some time to review the photos taken last year, which often serves as the best way to recall what was significant. I had created an entire album of photos that reflected COVID-19 related protocols and shortages like toilet paper and coins. Honestly, there are over 100 photos in this album, and I continue to add to it.

Another trend that I saw in the photos that I took were the foods that I tried to make for the first time. I’ve never “enjoyed” cooking. Baking is ok, but only on special occasions. This year we were intentional about ordering food from local restaurants and bringing it home. It’s really never as good when you take it home and plop it on a plate then eating it fresh at the restaurant. While gathering with very small groups of close family and friends, I learned how to make some foods that I would have never tackled on my own. Having their support and being able to ask them questions about the process made it more comforting to be more than the prep cook in the kitchen.

A few of the items I learned how to make included a main dish, a Mediterranean side dish, a camping dish, and a dessert that I thought could only be made from a box.

The main dish was chicken enchiladas. This isn’t something I would typically make because in my soul I believe that all Mexican food is spicy. (I have a very low tolerance for spicy food) This dish proved that belief wrong! It was easy to make this without too much spice, but with lots of flavor, textures and color! We used green enchilada sauce and a mammoth amount of cheese!

The Mediterranean side dish was introduced to me by a friend who is vegetarian. She is a better cook than I am, and I always learn something from her when we cook together. This dish is called Buttery Cumin Tomato & Rice. It delights the senses even as you’re preparing it with heated cherry tomatoes, butter, cinnamon and cumin and basmati rice.

The camping dish I had witnessed from another camping friend but had never actually prepared was breakfast burritos. Just think, all of the wonderful breakfast foods, hash browns, eggs, cheese, and sausage wrapped into a flour tortilla. We wrapped these in foil and froze them in preparation for a week-long camping trip. By the 3rd day I was ready to have something different for breakfast, but the burritos with some salsa or sour cream were quite tasty and easy to heat up over the campfire.

As New Year’s Eve approached, we made plans with a couple close friends for a game night. We gathered well after dinner time, but desserts were a must! My friend requested lemon bars. Typically, this is something that I buy a box of and make during the summer, but who was I to say no? After going to my nearby grocer and learning that they didn’t have any boxed mixes for lemon bars I did what anyone would do. I looked up a recipe for them on Google! I learned that I actually only needed to buy four large lemons. I had the rest of the ingredients at home already. The cost of the lemons was probably a bit more than the boxed ingredients but the lemon bars got rave reviews and I had plenty to send home with my friend.

Now I’m looking forward to a new year of learning to cook and bake with my friends and loving every moment. Cooking and baking together brings a sense of community that had been previously lost in the rushed and hurried lifestyle.

If you tried a new recipe last year or plan to this year, leave it in the comment section so we can learn from each other.

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