I have a little dining nook in my house. For the longest time, I had this table from Ikea in it it, but it didn’t really allow for 4 chairs around the table due to the way the table legs were positioned and I really wanted to have 4 chairs around it. I searched four a rectangular 4 seat table but didn’t really find anything I liked. Most stores sell square tables or circular tables for 4 seats, but none that were rectangles. A square or circle would not fit in my dining nook. I did find one regular table at Ikea for $100, but I’d have to spend a lot of time sanding it down so I could stain it the way I wanted. Or there was one at Crate & Barrel, but to get the design I wanted it would have been at least $700 which I wasn’t interested in spending for this little table.
I had already seen some plans on ana-white.com and decided to see if there was a table plan that I liked for my table. I found this plan that I really liked for a farmhouse style table. I love the natural look of farmhouse tables so I decided try it. I had never built anything before, but it seemed pretty straight forward. I liked that this plan had no special notches that needed to be cut out. The plan just required a bunch of straight cuts of wood to be put together. I had never built anything before so I had no idea what I was doing. I think it turned out well!
I had to change the dimensions of the plan since the plan was for a 6 person table. I still basically used the dimensions of 2x6s and 2x4s to figure out what would fit in my space. I ended up making the table with 5 2x6s for the table top, and with the 2×4 borders, the dimensions of the table top ended up being 30.5in x 48in. The height is a little more than 30in. I didn’t have a kreg jig, so you can see all the screws I used. I like it, I think it gives it more of a rustic look. I used a dark walnut stain and used a matte finish. I didn’t want a shiny table, I wanted to try to keep it natural-looking. I’m not sure if the matte finish is the best for a kitchen table, I worry that if I were to spill something it wouldn’t be protective enough, but I love the way it turned out.
The total cost of the project was about $70. For $70 and a weekend, I have this beautiful custom made table that fits my space perfectly.
Well, I did it. I cooked 52 (and more) things this year. Sort of.
I cooked at least 52 things, I include baking as a part of this. I also even had some bonus items cooked/baked this year. And there were even a couple that I didn’t post about. Part of the goal was that I wanted to use my kitchen more, so cooking or baking accomplished that. I also wanted to eat in more, and when I would eat in, I wanted to not have it be a frozen pizza or pizza rolls.
One thing I learned is that it’s hard to cook once a week in the summer. There are so many things going on, especially in the Pacific Northwest during the summer that being inside, in the kitchen, is not high enough on the list. So, in the aspect of actually using the kitchen once a week, I failed. But I’m ok with that. The whole idea of doing something 52 times was to get more practice. Saying once a week was a way to track it.
There were some neat things I learned about cooking and being efficient by getting all this practice.
Read the recipe ahead of time. I learned how important it can be to read the recipe first. You can figure out what tasks can be parallelized. You can figure out if something needs to be cooled 2 hours, or marinade overnight, or set to room temperature before you’re ready to start cooking.
I prefer to measure out and prepare all the ingredients first. When I first started this challenge, I would measure, chop, etc as items were needed in the recipe. But that was very time-consuming. It also didn’t help in cases where you needed to heat something and add an ingredient right away. I would spend too much time preparing the next ingredient and end up over-cooking something, or having to turn off the burner, and then wait around for the item to heat up again. By measuring and preparing all the ingredients first, you can just move through the recipe by adding the items when needed.
By cooking/baking often, you end up accumulating the items you need. When I started this challenge, I usually had to buy everything from the store for the whole recipe, because I didn’t have anything myself. But as time has gone on, the number of items I need to buy has lessened. There have even been times where I’ve already had everything I needed! In general now, the only things I buy are produce and meat. But I already have spices and such. It’s great. It makes cooking more enjoyable when you already have everything.
Cooking for one person is tough. I ended up with a lot of leftovers. And even then, I wouldn’t eat enough of it all the time, and some of would end up going bad. Near the end, I started cutting recipes in half so that I wouldn’t make 4, 6, 8+ servings and I’d be able to eat it all within the first couple days.
I’m looking forward to making some of the recipes from this past year. As part of the challenge, I wanted to make something different every time, so I wouldn’t remake things. Now that the challenge is done, I’m looking forward to making some of the recipes that I found this last year that I really enjoyed.
Overall, it was a great experience. I learned a lot. I got to taste of a bunch of interesting things. I’m looking forward to using my new skills and cooking more in the future. I really excited about getting to a point where I can make up my own recipes or start altering them because I just know what tastes good together.
Week 52 – December 24, 2014 – December 30, 2014
Made on December 26, 2014
Well, here we are. The last week of the year. One more recipe to make. This week I wanted to make something simple. I decided to try this recipe from Food & Wine. I wasn’t sure what to think about the Pizzaiola. I’ve never had it before. I wasn’t sure how well a tomato sauce was going to go with a steak, but I wanted to try it anyway.
I love how simple this recipe is. It reminds me of the recipes we made on the cooking tour in Italy; the “fanciest” ingredient was oregano. I have never peeled a tomato before. It was a little time consuming to peel and then chop 1.5 lbs of tomatoes, but that was the most complicated part of this recipe. Cooking the tomatoes with salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil made it taste amazing. It’s so simple, but it tastes so good.
Cooking the steak on the stove took a little time. The steak I had gotten was thicker than one inch so I had to spend more than the 10 minutes the recipe recommends to cook them. I think this recipe would be good with lots of different kinds of steaks though. Next time, I’ll probably look for a thinner steak so I can cook it faster. But in general, I would definitely make this recipe again.
Week 51 – December 17, 2014 – December 23, 2014
Made on December 18, 2014
This week I wanted to make cookies to give to the folks in my Tae Kwon Do class. Every year, people bring something for everyone, right before the holidays and I never do. Well, this year, I wanted to change that. I looked for a bunch of holiday cookie recipes and this one for Hot Chocolate Cookies with Marshmallows looked interesting. It helped that I had all of the ingredients, except for the baking chocolate.
The steps were easy to follow, but yet again, my cookies didn’t remain fluffy like they look in the instructions. When I placed the chocolate block on them, they deflated. I also had to keep the cookies in the oven longer than the recipe recommends to melt the marshmallows properly. Finally, I decided to make them a little more s’more like by toasting the tops of the marshmallows. They seemed very s’more like anyway with the chocolate block and the marshmallow. I wonder if there’s something you can do with the cookie, to add graham crackers in the batter?
The cookies were good. I would have liked it more if they stayed fluffy. I recommend putting them in the microwave for about if you want to eat one after they’ve cooled. The microwave makes them warm and gooey again.
Week 50 – December 10, 2014 – December 16, 2014
Made on December 14, 2014
I forgot to take a picture of this one, but a friend was coming over to watch the Seahawks game, so I was looking for something quick I could make for lunch. I wanted to make something with the slow-cooker but another friend was borrowing it so I was looking for something else. I decided to try this recipe for grilled steak with a salsa from Food & Wine.
Sometimes, I forget I should read a recipe a day early because while the active time on this recipe is short, you still need time to marinate the steak. I was only able to marinade it for 3 hours, instead of the needed 4, at least. I also decided to eliminate the anchovies. I didn’t know where to find them in the store, and I have never used them before so I didn’t want to spend time figuring it out now. One of my favorite things about salsas is that I get to use my food processor to do all the chopping. All I need to do is measure out the ingredients. So I did that, and let the food processor do all the work (without the anchovies). The salsa was more a like a paste, and looked like a pesto. Even with the ingredients (garlic, basil, olive oil) it tasted pesto-like. I wonder if the anchovies would have made it taste more like a salsa or less paste-like.
The food still tasted good though. I would make this again, but probably play around with the salsa ingredients and amounts.
Week 50 – December 10, 2014 – December 16, 2014
Made on December 13, 2014
This week we were having a potluck at my Tae Kwon Do instructor’s house. I wanted to make something vegetarian since there wouldbe folks in attendance that are vegetarian. I had this salad pinned from the Food & Wine and decided to try it.
I thought it was delicious. For the most part it was pretty staright-forward. I highly recommend reading the entire recipe first and coming up with an order to make things because there are lots of parts that can be done at the same time. This recipe probably doesn’t need the raisins. When I ate this, I never found or tasted the raisins at all. The pickled shallots were neat. I think one shallot would be enough though. Two shallots makes it as though the whole salad is actually shallots. Then I didn’t end up using all the bread the recipe recommended. I think I used about two-thirds. Since I made the what the recipe recommended though, the bread with the dressing, toasted, was delicious on it’s own. I would make toast like that again, without the rest of the salad.
Week 49 – December 3, 2014 – December 9, 2014
Made on December 6, 2014
I’ve been wanting to make some sort of cream puff/profiterole for a long time now. Basically since making them in Italy. I decided to try making these ones from Food & Wine. I mainly wanted to try the cream puff part and I was going to figure out my own filling.
The recipe for the cream puffs were easy to follow. I even had all the ingredients already, so I didn’t have to go out to buy anything. I may have added a little bit too much butter though. Or perhaps I accidentally used salted butter instead of unsalted because they seemed like they would go better with a savory filling than with a sweet one. I ended up filling them with some caramel sauce I had and drizzling a little on top. Since the original recipe talked about salted caramel, I even sprinkled some salt on it. But all I could taste was the butter. I feel like these cream puffs would go well with a ham and cheese filling, or something like that. Still, it was pretty cool to put the dough on the baking sheet. I was sure there was no way they would rise/puff up, but they did! That was cool.
Week 48 – November 26, 2014 – December 2, 2014
Made on November 27, 2014
For Thanksgiving, I made a Quinoa Salad I had seen on Food & Wine to bring a potluck/Friends-giving dinner. I pretty much followed this recipe as is. I was actually able to find all of the ingredients, so I didn’t have to make any substitutions. The instructions were easy to follow. I thought this recipe turned out great. There were interesting ingredients. The dish tasted great. It even looked interested too, with all the colors from the red onion, to the orange of the sweet potatoes, and even the quinoa. I used rainbow quinoa since the recipe didn’t specify a certain kind. I don’t know if I changed the flavor at all, but it was great! I would definitely make this recipe again.
Week 47 – November 19, 2014 – November 25, 2014
Made on November 19, 2014
This week I made meatballs in the slow cooker using a recipe I found on Allrecipes.com. I had been wanting to try and make meatballs since I had these amazing ones during one of the Woodinville wine tasting events years ago. I don’t know if it’s possible to recreate meatballs as good as were at that event, but I’ll try. And the first step to that is learning how to make them in the first place.
I pretty much followed the recipe as is, except I used panko breadcrumbs instead of Italian breadcrumbs. I imagine that I changed the flavor a bit by using panko… but that’s what I had at home. The comments recommend baking the meatballs before putting them in slow-cooker, to help keep them together. I didn’t, but I did do all the prep Tuesday night and left the meatballs in the fridge overnight. Perhaps chilling them like that helped them stay together because I didn’t have too much of a problem with them falling apart. Additionally, the comments say that you can add cheese to the meatballs to make cheesy ones. I would have totally done that if I had read the comments first. I also recommend paying attention to how large/small you’re chopping the onion. A large chop will make it easy for the meatballs to fall apart. I chopped the onions up pretty small to help them stay together.
Overall the meatballs were good. I should have used more parsley. I think as I cook more, I’ll learn the right amount of herbs and spices to make things taste good for me.
Week 46 – November 12, 2014 – November 18, 2014
Made on November 15, 2014
I actually made this before the biscuits, but I’m counting this one as the bonus because it just seemed too simple to count. Also, I didn’t get a picture of it.
I made it for a pre-Thanksgiving potluck a friend was having. I originally wanted to make the biscuits for it, but someone had already claimed biscuits so I was trying to think of something to bring that was Thanksgiving-y and wasn’t taken. I used this recipe from Allrecipes.com. I had frozen cranberries in the freezer. So I left them out to thaw for a few hours. Then I already had sugar and orange juice in the fridge. I didn’t squeeze orange juice fresh from oranges, I just used orange juice from a carton. I’m not sure if that’s what you’re supposed to do… but that’s what I did. I also put in a few drops of vanilla extract. I don’t know if the vanilla made a difference but people seemed to like it just fine. If you’re ever in the need for a last minute cranberry sauce recipe, this one works well.