Rice-A-Roni is still delicious and 14 other lessons I learned during the #30atHome cooking challenge

Today marks the end of my month-long #30atHome cooking challenge.

Sure, there were a few exceptions, but for the most part, I ate home-cooked food for the entire month of January. In today’s food section, I shared my favorite recipes and some thoughts on why a challenge like this is perfect for getting reacquainted with your kitchen and your inner Julia Child.

The only way to reduce your food waste is to eat what you cook. In this case, that meant a leftover ham sandwich with carrot top pesto, which I had made earlier in the month, and spring greens that I almost let get too wilted to use. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

To round things up on the blog, I’m going to round up 30 things I learned this month. If you’re finishing a Dryuary or Whole30, I’d love to hear your highs/lows/lessons in the comments below.

  1. Cooking at home means doing more dishes, too. Podcasts make it better. Here are some that I recommend.

    Dishes. The not-so-sexy side of cooking. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

  2. Don’t be afraid to share food with your friends. That can mean a full-on food swap, which we had earlier this month, or a random call to your neighbor friend to see if she wants a jar of the hot soup you just made.
  3. Finding a reliable homemade bread recipe was one of the best things I did as a younger cook.
  4. In a house with young boys, you can never have enough bagels and cream cheese.
  5. Lists and sticky notes are your friends. I made lots of recipe lists, ingredient lists, even lists of leftovers and frozen meals in the fridge. That helped me stay focused on the food already in the house and prioritize which items should be used first.RELATED: Find more #30atHome blog posts, recipes and cooking tips
    Strained relations with your kitchen? Try a cooking challenge
  6. Shop at a different store at least once a month to keep your pantry, fridge and creative culinary mind feeling fresh.
  7. We waste a lot of food. Even with a close watch on leftovers, quantity of food, etc, I sent at least three large bowls full of compost to the bin every week. That includes coffee grounds and onion peels, but also that last bit of chicken I couldn’t use up and at least a few servings of pasta I left on the stove overnight.

    The bulk spice section at Central Market. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

  8. Take yourself on a take to the bulk spice section at least once a year. Stocking up on new-to-you spices will reinvigorate your creativity and even the most boring dishes you already make.
  9. Eating out is a recreational activity for many of us, especially on the weekends or weeknight. We had to come up with other ways to fill up our downtime, so we did some cooking projects, including melting Starbusts to make a fun edible putty.

    Edible putty, made with Starbursts. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

  10. For lunch, your leftovers might be a homemade meal but it’s never going to be as appealing as eating out. You can either fight it by investing more time in spiffing up your leftovers or you can simply accept it with a heft dose of humility. I found that eating a boring lunch just made me enthusiastic to cook something fresh for dinner.
  11. The internet makes it too easy for your cookbooks to collect dust. I say: Use them or get rid of them. Check out Eat Your Books if you have a large collection and want an easy way to search all of them at once.
  12. Don’t have any cookbooks? Go to the library.

    Food coloring and a little patience turns regular pancakes into rainbow pancakes. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

  13. Rainbow pancakes are so fun.
  14. Don’t be afraid to ask friends for recipes, and then actually make the recipes they give you. I loved that chorizo chili from my friend Beverly, and I’ll be making Hema’s pongal later this week.
  15. Rice-A-Roni is still delicious. I ate myself sick on Rice-A-Roni when I was a teenager and didn’t know how to make much else. Until this month, I had not made a box in at least 15 years. Now I remember why I ate so much of it when I was a kid. It’s a total processed food shortcut, but it’s a nice change of pace from regular rice or other carbs.

 


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