My 2020 Cooking Challenge

Okay, so I should preface this entire thing by immediately stating that the word “challenge” is a gross exaggeration of what it is I’m actually doing.

Last year, I wrote three books (!!!) and while that’s a really good problem to have, my health took a bit of a hit. I still managed to stay relatively fit by going to the gym semi-regularly, but I had no energy whatsoever to put into much else like cooking or being mindful of what I was putting into my body.

Outside of cutting out alcohol from my life, I wasn’t really monitoring my food intake regularly, and it helped contribute to an overall sluggishness and sense of general blah. This isn’t any kind of post to try and make you feel like you need to change anything – we all have to do what’s right for us! But for me, I got to the end of 2019, and decided that I really wanted to make an effort to cook more, and stop buying so much takeout and easy foods.

I also realized that I may have some additional food intolerances (besides my lactose-intolerance) so the only way to really figure out if that was a contributing factor to my health was to be better about what it is I was eating. I’m currently in the midst of trying to permanently cut gluten out of my diet, which is so tricky because I love bread, and pancakes, and all the good things!

This is a very long-winded post to basically just share some of the things that I’ve been cooking this year, but here we are. PHEW.

  • Simple Crockpot Chili – I wanted to start things off, well, simple. This felt like a great way to start with my cooking journey. Throw everything into a Crockpot, stir, and wait. It turned out great, and I’m still going through leftovers.
  • Slow Cooker Jambalaya – Again, I was really going for the easy things, and trying to not overwhelm myself with anything too daunting right off the bat. This was a really great recipe, and it is also still in my freezer for quick dinners. I stretch it by throwing it on top of some rice to give a little bit more – which, to be fair, is what I think you’re supposed to be doing anyways.
  • Peanut Butter No Bake Energy Balls – I actually started making these last year as a snack for my co-workers at the office. They were the thing that turned me into a peanut butter lover, after 30+ years of not liking it. I needed some healthy snack alternatives that didn’t cost me a lot, so I started making these for home because they’re filling, tasty, and super duper easy to make.
  • Sun-Dried Tomato Bacon Mini Frittatas – Is there a word more fun to say than “frittata?” I think not! Breakfast is very possibly my favourite meal, and when I cut out gluten, I was missing pancakes very deeply (eventually I’ll try gluten-free pancakes). I also love bacon and eggs, but during the week, that’s not as easy for me to make when I’m trying to run out the door. I used this recipe to meal prep some breakfast for my week ahead, and it’s proven a really fantastic, and easy treat for myself!
  • Chicken Chorizo Casserole – My partner and I have been cooking together on the weekend to avoid ordering delivery constantly. This was the first thing we made, and aside from him cutting open his finger while chopping onions, it turned out wonderfully! There’s no seasoning involved, which initially worried us, but the sprinkled chorizo on the top of the casserole gives everything all the flavour it needs as it bakes. It was so good.
  • Harvest Chicken Casserole – I am truly terrible at keeping my ingredients down to the exact measurements and my only thing with this recipe is that once again I put way too much and had to split it up into two casserole dishes, which is realistically a Non-Problem for someone trying to meal prep. This was super tasty as someone who really loves sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
  • Korean Beef Bowl – This was the second dish that my partner and I made together, and was also very tasty. My one thing is that I wish I had drained the fat from the beef before we did anything else with the meal. The amount of fat liquid watered down the sauce and it didn’t stick as well to the beef as I probably would’ve liked. So if I make this again, I’ll be sure to do that.
  • Sausage and Cabbage Skillet – I made this on Monday this week in an effort to start off the week strong for my cooking vibes. I’m trying to be better about spending less money overall, but BOY HOWDY will I ever go for that bag of pre-chopped veggies or whatever to help minimize the amount of time I have to put into prepping the ingredients. So with this recipe, it actually just called for you to buy pre-shredded cabbage, and I searched and searched for it to no avail. I wound up picking up a thing of red cabbage, carrots, and broccoli. HOWEVER, I did not read the package properly, and HA HA HA, it actually turned out to be mostly broccoli, with some carrots and cabbage. WHOOPS. So despite the fact that I managed to completely take out one of the key ingredients of this recipe, it was still really tasty.

Honestly, writing everything out like this has me SHOOK. I hadn’t realized how much I’d actually cooked this year already? Considering that last year I cooked very little and only made the same 2-3 things over and over again, I’m already pretty proud of myself here.

I’ll maybe try to keep updating this blog with some new things that I try over the next little while and give little bits of information on them. I’m going to buy myself an Instant Pot soon too, and I think that’ll wind up opening some more doors to the things I can try to make… like ramen!

What are some recipes that you’re into that are gluten-free, and dairy-free? Send me your recommendations!