Search the Site Navigation

My hope is to inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, to try new things, to take the time to make things the homemade way and most importantly, to have fun doing it!

On Resolutions and Expanding Your Comfort Zone in the Kitchen

I’ve never been one for new year’s resolutions, mainly because I make (probably far too many) goals and plans all throughout the year.  However, I know many people do enjoy making them, and I totally get it.  It’s a fresh start, a time to regroup and set your sights on a new goal.  In case you are still considering yours, I thought I’d offer up a few suggestions of kitchen-related resolutions.

It’s not a resolution of mine but more like a lifestyle change we’ve been working on over time, making as much from scratch as possible and relying less on pre-made, processed items.  To me, this is a excellent goal for many reasons (health, cost, the environment) as well as a very satisfying accomplishment.  Last year I made a lot of progress in that department, adding homemade yogurt complete with fruit mix-ins, cooking with dried beans, frozen chopped spinach, croutons, veggie stock, chicken stock, and canned tomatoes to my list.  Any staples you would like to see added to that list this year?

If you struggle with getting dinner on the table and resort to takeout or PB&J too often, maybe resolve to make a weekly menu plan and stick to it.  I really believe that planning is more than half the battle.  (Also, I really think that posting the menu on a chalkboard or something similar makes you stick to it more.  It definitely does for me.)  With that in hand, maybe start with some quick weeknight meals to get you started

If you’re a beginning baker looking to expand your skills in the kitchen, try to step out of your comfort zone.  If you normally bake from boxed mixes, try baking a cake from scratch.  I promise, it is not hard at all (and the more times you do it, it’s nearly as fast as a box – really!), not to mention it definitely tastes better.  If you have made mainly cookies, consider trying some recipes that involve techniques you haven’t tried yet.  Perhaps decorate with royal icing, play around with filled cupcakes, make pastry cream (always a good idea), or conquer pie crust.

Are you scared of baking with yeast?  Kick that fear to the curb!  Too many people are afraid of baking with yeast, or think you need a special bread maker to do it.  Forget that!  Make some bread this year, and get good at it.  Homemade bread will take you to new levels of awesome in the kitchen, and it is truly one of my favorite things to make!

Maybe you’re already a good baker and looking for more of a challenge.  Have you tried your hand at croissants?  French macarons? Cream puffs?  Worked with fondant?  Homemade puff pastry?

I hope whatever stage you are at in your culinary journey, this list might inspire you to push yourself a little bit further this year.  There is always room for improvement in the kitchen, and the results are so worth the effort.  If you have any specific goals you are looking to achieve that aren’t covered elsewhere on the site, please send me suggestions in a comment or an email so I might be able to post recipes or tips to help you along the way.

  • Elizabeth Ann

    I feel so inspired! :-) Thank you for this list! :-)

  • http://www.2sisters2cities.com/ 2 Sisters 2 Cities

    This year I’m looking to expand my pantry by putting in an on-line order of hard to find ingredients so I can try recipes I usually skip over. I have my eye on the vanilla beans in your Amazon store, but are there any other types of ingredients (spices, baking supplies, etc.) you usually source on-line? Any favorite sources?

    -m

  • Evelyn Leong

    Just this morning before reading your post I decided to cook more from scratch this year! Great minds think alike. Happy new year!!

  • Patti T.

    I think along the same lines as you, my cupboard does not contain many prepared items. I do confess to having a box of Bisquick, though it really doesn’t deserve a place in my cupboard either. We love vacationing in South Carolina also, there is so much to do and see and you really can’t beat being ocean front. I realized how much I have missed on your site, since I just started subscribing since your yogurt post. I am so glad that you linked your pastry cream recipe on this post, it has just been printed out. It is so hard to explain to a noncook how awesome pastry cream is, and how it is nothing like whipped cream or the dreaded Cool Whip. Thanks again for sharing all your cooking with us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=578321995 Tara Trapasso Liptak

    I love this post, Annie! It’s certainly one of the reasons why we’re friends. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/ludivine.morrison Ludivine Marie Coudiere Morris

    Hi Annie, I want to thank you for the gret inspiration in the kitchen you have been! I have started making a lot more things home made especially bread, beans, stock and a couple other things. Not only do I feel more green and healthy I have some girlfriends that are intreagued and I can share my accomplishments with them! I am definitely having lots of fun in my kitchen! I thank you for that!!
    I hope you will have a few more lunch ideas in the near future.

  • Diana

    Making more from scratch actually is one of my resolutions, thanks in part to you. My oven is preheating for your baguettes as I type this. Thank you for all your posts, you are my go-to for recipes!! =)

  • Steph in Lex

    I’m with you on making a menu! One of the best things I ever started doing, especially when I work a long day and get home and the last thing I want to do is put thought into what to make for dinner. Also helps with my husband making dinner when we already have the ingredients around and all I have to do is tell him what we’re having and point him toward the recipe!

    I also totally agree on baking a cake from scratch. I never make from boxes. It adds about 5 minutes (if that) to the time and is so much more delicious.

    I’m definitely going to try my hand at homemade Greek yogurt. We love some Chobani in our house (only our 3-month-old who’s breastfeeding doesn’t eat it) and it will be a great way to save money and packaging!

  • http://www.facebook.com/anna.friguglietti Anna Friguglietti

    very inspiring post! thanky you for sharing :)

  • beekerzeeker

    Annie, last year I could barely manage to microwave a can of soup. Your blog inspired me to learn how to cook and bake. I tried sooo many of your recipes and even chronicled my journey on my own little blog. After a year, I am shocked and thrilled to see that I absolutely adore being in the kitchen. I’ve made everything from breads to cakes to cookies to main courses to appetizers, and loved every second of it. I never would have guessed that I would end up loving the most difficult of recipes! Thank you so much for inspiring me to be a cook.

  • Tasha Fontenot

    I overcame my fear of yeast last year thanks to you and your amazing blog!!! Although I did not make as bread as I wanted to I did find myself in kitchen more and making more things homemade. And our family now has homemade pizza every Friday night. Yeast does not scare me anymore!!! Hoping to try the soft pretzels tomorrow for our Season 3 Downton Abbey watch party!! Can you tell me if instant yeast is the same as active dry??

  • Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe

    These are great suggestions Annie. I’ve been trying to make more items from scratch too, and definitely want to challenge myself more in the baking department. Hello croissants!

  • Ally’s Sweet & Savory Eats

    I have not tried my hand at crossiants….thought a lot about it….but am still scared! Yours look insane:)

  • Kayla W

    Thanks for such an inspiring post, Annie! My goal is to make even more items from scratch and stop buying them – that way I know exactly what it is we are eating and cut down on waste. I will definitely be coming back to this post for inspiration. Happy new year to you and your family!

  • Rossi @ A Baking Girl

    You’re so right on the yeast bread. I’ve only just recently begun using yeast in baking, and this year I want to boost my confidence in that technique even more!

  • lisa pelosi

    Thanks Annie! You inspired me to try many new things over the past year, You’re blog is a favorite and always my first to go to when I am looking to try something new. I can’t wait to see what you share with us this year.

  • http://twitter.com/JenatPBandP PB and Peppers

    Wonderful post! I plan on trying more yeast breads, not simple breads, but ones a little more difficult, you know ones that turn out light and kind of fluffy not so dense!! Your an inspiration!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mariam.metwally.9 Mariam Metwally

    Speaking of DIY-ing yesterday I tried my luck with almond butter (but I only used 1 C because I wasn’t sure if my blender could handle anymore) and it was a success! I also soaked dried chickpeas to make hummus instead of using canned and it’s now boiling away on the stove!
    I can’t wait to work more with breads and pastries, they normally scare me, especially dough because it takes ages to prove! I am 15 going on 16 but I am inspired to achieve great things in the kitchen! I love your blog and your recipes always turn out wonderfully :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1454704411 Kendra Bradley

    I was wondering if you would begin sharing gluten free recipes or baked good?

  • http://www.facebook.com/breyerchic04 Sarah Townsend

    I’m not really comfortable making loaves of bread, but I’m confortable with rolls and other small breads.

    I really would like to try making macarons and my own pasta this year. Also I’m making an effort to use a few simpler ingredients instead of processed ones. Not necessarily as complicated as making everything but at least avoiding packaged sauces.

  • annieseats

    I’m so glad to hear you are making progress in the kitchen. Good for you! The different types of yeast are covered on the FAQ page. Hope that helps!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nancy.long.543 Nancy Long

    love to see the young getting interested in real cooking

  • Lindsey

    I love this! I cook a lot from scratch, but I am trying to get away even more from processed foods this year. We are even getting milk delivery from a local dairy. Bread is first on my list, thanks for the link!

  • annieseats

    I am certainly not opposed to gluten free foods, but I don’t go out of my way to make them since our family does not need that. If I make something that happens to be gluten free, great, but it’s not something I plan to emphasize.

  • Jessica

    Hello Annie! First, I just want to say I am truly awed by your prowess in the kitchen. I have been following your blog for several years now and have learned so much through your willingness to try new things in the kitchen. I am striving to do more DIY in my kitchen and get rid of the processed foods we eat, but I am very curious about cost differences. Have you or would you ever consider posting about the differences in cost between store bought and homemade such as those listed in your post above? I realize this is not what your blog’s focus is, but I certainly would be interested to know. Also, I understand this is a personal question, but what kind of budget do you allow for groceries? I want to head down the DIY path. but I am afraid that once I do, I will only find that, financially I cannot maintain this goal due to costs. Thank you so much for all your advice!

  • annieseats

    Thank you Jessica! I am so glad my blog has been helpful to you! I do occasionally calculate the cost differences in homemade versus store bought items, but you are right, this isn’t a focus of mine because cost is not the reason I do these things. I also think cost can be difficult to evaluate sometimes because if I bought all the ingredients to make veggie stock, it would cost more than if I waited until I have enough leftover veggies (what I actually do). You know?

    Our grocery budget is probably around $700 per month for our family of four. We buy almost everything organic, and local when possible (meat, poultry and eggs). Some of those items can be more expensive but my best advice if you are looking to go that route is to make the transition gradually.

    I’ll definitely keep the financial points in mind for future DIY posts. I’m fairly certain most of the DIY items are money savers, but again I’m just doing what I can to feed my family better meals and that is worth it to me.

  • http://www.solanoskitchen.com/ Ali

    Annie, I just wanted to let you know how much I love your blog. My kitchen skills have really come a long way as a direct result of reading your blog and others like it. You’ve inspired me to give the blogging thing a shot myself, as well. As far as my goals in the kitchen, I’ve tried a handful of yeast bread recipes, and I can’t wait to keep going and getting better at them. Same thing with macarons! I finally tried my first fondant cake last weekend, and while it wasn’t perfect, I’m glad I gave it a go. Cream puffs sound like they may be up next! Thanks again for sharing all that you do with us!

  • http://www.facebook.com/amanda.mahon.988 Amanda Mahon

    DYI – Flavored coffee creamers…without all the bad stuff.

  • http://fritesandfries.com/ Annie Wang

    I don’t make resolutions but I definitely need to polish my macaron skills…

  • annieseats
  • SK

    It was around the first week of Jan last year when I came across your blog. I must say you have inspired me to try daring things that I perhaps wouldn’t have and then one thing lead to the other and I just kept going.. to the point that I started my own food blog in December. It has been fun. Thank you for your inspiration.

  • Loretta E

    I love doing DIY stuff in the kitchen! It’s probably one of the most satisfying things that I do. So, keep it up! I love those posts. As a matter of fact, there’s chicken stock brewing in my crock pot right now :)

    Thanks for the reminder to keep stretching and growing!

  • Sheila

    Annie you are truly an amazing woman! Thank you for this post! One thing that I would like to learn how to make from scratch is cream of mushroom soup or cream of whatever soup. So if you could add this to the DIY list for this year that would be really cool.