Friday, November 6, 2020

So I've Been Posting My Meals on the Internet for Three Years...


Today is the three year anniversary of the first weekly eats post.  That's right, Weekly Eats is a threenager!  As I've done every year around this time, it's time to take a look back and reflect on the "best of the best".

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) 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

Spending 24/7 at home with my family is a dream come true.  But for some reason it sucked the joy out of meal planning and cooking.  I went through a phase where I couldn't for the life of me decide what I wanted to eat let alone what my family wanted to eat.  On top of the many days when I would start to cook dinner and my watch would buzz with an insane work request that stopped my dinner plans cold. After a few weeks of telling my husband "tag you're it" at dinner time, I've had a bit of a reset and am back on the cooking train.

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.

More Takeout

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.

More Food

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 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.

Pinch of Yum's Tortellini Soup

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)
Unorthodox (Netflix)
Shtisel (Netflix)
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
The Producers
Kentucky Fried Movie
Amazon Women on the Moon

Best Books (it seems like I have a thing for author names that start with L)

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Long Bright River Liz Moore
Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
The Janes by Louisa Luna

Best Audio Books

Unorthodox and Exodus by Deborah Feldman...yes the books behind the TV show

What's Next

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 week and the week after that to talk food.


  1. taco bowls and all things tacos are always some of my favorite meals as well. I love posting recipes too and it forces me to be more creative w my eating. The lockdown had us ordering in more at first and did take some of the fun away from cooking. I am back on track happily now though

    1. It comes and goes. Maybe my real problem is that I'm not eating tacos for every meal;-)

  2. Many of my homeworking colleagues complain about the same phenonema: the line between work and private life has become fuzzy, and they find themselves working a lot more than before. I guess it will take time to balance itself out again.
    I need to bookmark this post. So many good watch and read recommendations!

    1. Thanks Catrina! Work is good right now, it's just not very compatible with dinner. At least it's an improvement over being stuck in the office and eating potato chips for dinner...oh wait I did that at home one night this week.

  3. Your chicken and sun-dried tomato pasta dish reminds me of one I used to make after eating something very similar at a local Italian restaurant. I'm going to try this recipe! Thanks!

  4. Cheers to 3 years! Thing 2 just told me the other day that she's sick of taco night. Really? I'm going to change up the tacos a bit but I refuse to cancel completely. And now I'm wondering if I need an air fryer...

    1. Those darn kids! They really know how to get us where it hurts. Long live taco night!

      But seriously, I love the air fryer. It's really good for fish if you're looking for a reason to get one.

  5. I tried that Sofritos bowl after you posted it and it is as good as advertised! Since we are empty nesters, I have been making some new things. Sheet pain baked chicken thighs over potatoes and onions has been a hit. I also made Mapo Ragu from the NYT Food which was AMAZING! It's fun to try new things!

    PS I make a great homemade 4 cheese Mac nCheese. My boys have never had it from the box. Powdered cheese just seems wrong.

    1. Ooh bookmarking the Mapo Ragu...I hear you on the mac n'cheese but it's been a part of my stepkids' life longer than I have so it's sticking around.

  6. Happy blogiversary! I purchased an air fryer earlier this year and I always say it's one of the best appliances I've ever purchased. It's amazing how many things you can use it for and how fast it cooks everything!

    1. Exactly. I feel like it's rare to go longer than 2 days without using ours.

  7. What a fun look back. Being at home really sapped my cooking mojo too. I’ve also struggled to deal with my loss of interest in cooking meat and my husband’s dietary restrictions that affect most healthy alternatives. I don’t have an air fryer, but I agree with you about the non-instant pot! I received one as a gift and have 2 recipies we love, but they are not quick! We eat salmon every week - I just sprinkle with pepper, baste with BBQ sauce and bake at 425 for 15-20 min. Yum!

    1. I feel you! While I don't think I will ever go vegetarian, I also go through phases where I really dislike meat. I need to make salmon for us more often. #goals

  8. Your meals always look so good! I can't stand cooking but its mainly because I feel its so time consuming. I usually find I don't mind it when it doesn't take too long or when I get home early from work and have more time in the evenings.

    I'm an intsant pot kind of girl but I don't have an air fryer yet.

    1. That's the thing, I like cooking but not "cooking while being pulled in a thousand other directions". If you see this tell me what you make in the Instant Pot!

  9. Well now I have a few more recipe ideas to Pin. Thanks!! I'm with ya - I can't seem to plan a weeks worth of dinners to save my life these days. I have no idea why. I was way busier when my kids were smaller it seems. It's so frustrating! But now that it's Crockpot soup season again, I might be saved :)

    1. Agree, it's messed up to plan for food more than a few days in advance. My Monday self has no business telling my Thursday self what to eat! Or my Thursday family what to eat!

  10. How did I miss this????? Gosh, you have come full circle ;-) This is such a neat wrap-up/review of everything. Still no Instant Pot or air fryer in my house....I need to change that.

  11. I loved reading this post. It's awesome that it started out as a way to help meal planning and turned into something you enjoy doing. Clearly many of your readers are benefitting from what you share. Good movie choices, too.