Why I do this
It started as a newlywed project to get better at meal planning for my new family, and as a gateway to start blogging about other things besides food. Here's a tour down memory lane:
Why do I keep doing it?
Because it's fun! And to keep myself honest about keeping us on track with our meals.
What's Changed Since Last Year
Um 2020 much? The biggest change besides the fact that we spend more time at home these days (lol)...is that we are busier than ever. There was a golden period at the start of quarantine where I had hours back in my day from not having to commute and the kids' extra curriculars stopped. Ah that was nice while it lasted...these days my work tends to carry over into dinner time and the kids' night time activities start earlier and their schedules are less predictable. Some days it feels like dinner happens in 5 minutes from start to finish.
I kind of had a cooking meltdown
I've lowered my dinner expectations
I started writing this series to try to get us away from eating mac n'chesese every night...and now we're full circle because some nights we're lucky to get mac n'cheese on the table. I can't do it all and some days I can't even do any of it. Work is going incredibly well and the kids are off doing neat things, so rushed dinners are a "problem" that we are more than happy to have.
Eating out used to be a "treat yo'self" thing that my husband and I did occasionally on our non-kid date nights. We both have respect for a dollar, er ok, we both have a cheap streak and would rather hang out over a home cooked meal than paint the town. To our minds all of our nights at home paid for our getaways like this and this.
Early in quarantine we decided to always get takeout on Fridays to support our local restaurants. Now granted, our local Chipotle and our local Papa John's are probably doing just fine, but that's what my family wants to eat...and it just makes sense for us right now. You can buy a heck of a lot of takeout when you cut your travel budget to $0. On a related note, we also made Saturday a dedicated hamburger night, so my meal planning has been cut from 7 days a week to 5.
The Little People in our house are much bigger now and (gasp) much more open to trying new foods and much less likely to pull the picky eating card. Recipes that used to feed us for days now barely cover us for one meal.
Air Fryer vs Instant Pot
In the War of the Gadgets, it's air fryer 1 and Instant Pot 0. By far my best purchase thus year was a bigger air fryer. I think an Instant Pot is worth having, but barely. My main beef is how long the "instant" pot takes to come up to pressure.
We use the air fryer nearly every day and the Instant Pot less than once a month.
The Best New Recipe that I Tried This Year
I don't think this is going to come as a surprise to anyone...by a landslide the winner of Best New Recipe of the Year is Pinch of Yum's Spicy Sofritas Tofu Bowls. I can't begin to count the number of times that I've made this and don't see myself stopping anytime soon.
Best New Family Dinner that We Tried This Year
Julia's Album Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes. Special shout out that the kids love it, but heads up that for a family of four you should plan on doubling the recipe.
Biggest Family Dinner Triumph of the Year
Everyone likes salmon! My husband is on record as being a die hard fish hater but our pediatrician recommended fish and suddenly one of my favorite single girl dinners became a favorite family dinner. Our standard salmon bowl is: rice, Costco stir fry veggies, air fried salmon filet, avocado, sushi ginger, and the dressing from Skinny Taste (without the wasabi).
Runners Up for Best New Recipe that I Tried This Year
Laura Norris's Curried Beans, Greens, and Rice Bowl. A trifecta of dead easy, nutritional powerhouse, and off the charts delicious.
Gimme Some Oven Instant Pot Barboaca Beef. It's no secret that I struggle with What The Heck to Do with My Instant Pot but this recipe 100% justifies the purchase. Special shout out that the kids adored this.
The Girl Who Ate Everything Chicken Fajita Rice...apologies that my picture does not do this one justice.
Gimme Some Oven Fried Rice...every time that we have leftover rice I find myself heading back to this one.
And finally, the award for Best Dessert of the Year goes to the brownies from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. What I love most about these brownies is that I've never made them...stepson #2 is our dedicated Brownie Chef. The kids are pretty busy nowadays, so it says a lot that he gives up his limited free time to make these for us once in a while.
Enough about food, let's talk TV and books!
Best TV Shows that I Watched on My Own
Line of Duty (used to be on Hulu, looks like it's now on Amazon Prime and Hoopla)
Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime)
Doctor Foster (Netflix), disclaimer that the first episode of season 2 was a miss for me so I stopped watching at that point. But oh man season 1 was really that good....
Best Date Night TV Shows and Movies
Stan Against Evil (Hulu)
Taxi Driver (Netflix). I never saw it before this year, I'd been put off because I heard it was really violent. Gotta say that was greatly exaggerated and I was blown away by how good this movie was.
Best Family Movies
Looking back over my recaps, it seems that we didn't watch any TV shows together, but we sure hit up the movies. My stepsons are just old enough to start watching more adult movies, and we had a blast with:
North by Northwest (our family's first Hitchcock!)
The History of the World Part I (though the boys were both very disappointed that there is no Part II)
This is Spinal Tap (the boys literally grew up hearing about the band with the drummer that spontaneously combusted...oh sorry for the spoiler)
The Dirty Harry movies
Kentucky Fried Movie
Amazon Women on the Moon
Best Books (it seems like I have a thing for author names that start with L)
Best Audio Books
It looks like I have a meal plan for next week because I'm craving all of my top pick recipes from this year. THANK YOU for reading my ramblings and in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, I'll be back...next week and the week after that to talk food.