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Adventures in food for curious cooks.

#Cook90 Week 1: Getting Started

Blog: Random Acts of Deliciousness

Recipes and other delicious discoveries, served randomly.

#Cook90 Week 1: Getting Started

Lynley Jones

Sunday, 12/31 - 3:30pm

I've just finished my work for the day. (Yes, it's Sunday afternoon. And yes, it's New Year's Eve. Ugh.) And now, I'm turning my attention to #cook90 planning. 

And, um, New Year's Eve.

First thought: I should do some grocery shopping. Today, since the stores will be closed tomorrow. But I haven't yet created any meal plans, or even taken inventory of what I already have on hand.


So here's my strategy:

I know there are things I'm going to want to cook early on - things that will set me up for the week ahead. Like chicken parts (so versatile). And beans (ditto). I know I'm going to want some eggs on hand (easy and versatile). And going to need some sort of veggies. Salad greens will make life easier. So I'll pick those things up.

Our schedule for tomorrow, New Year's Day is:

Light breakfast at home - oatmeal with fruit. (Options here and here, but I might make mine with Mexican Sweet Blend spice I have on hand...)

Brunch at a friend's open house - if all goes according to plan, I'll bring a savory bread pudding ("strata") recipe I've been developing, with Swiss chard, mushrooms, garlic and sumac. (Will let you know how it goes.)

Lunch - I'm assuming we won't need anything! But I'll have some fruit and cheese on hand for anyone who needs a snack.

Early dinner - the next day is back to school and work! I'm going to make an enchilada-style burrito recipe I've been creating. (The trick is to have it made in time to photograph it while it's still light out....) Will serve it with a salad.

My grocery list

My grocery list

So I'll run to the store for all of those things, plus booze and hors d'oeuvres for a friend's party tonight, and will be sure I have enough for Tuesday breakfast and lunch. Then will take stock on Tuesday and probably do a more thorough shop that day.

See ya tomorrow!

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Monday 1/1

Welp, just about nothing went according to plan today! (I guess that's to be expected on New Year's Day.) Here's how it went down:


After a very late night at our neighbor's New Year's Eve party, no one was in the mood for breakfast today. But my daughter and I each ate one fried egg anyway. (To be honest, I talked her into it. I really didn't want to use any of my 3 passes on the very first day!)

Then we headed over to my other friends' open house for brunch. You may recall I had planned to bake a strata to bring, but - what was I thinking?!? My friend was kind enough to tell me the night before that it wasn't necessary to bring anything, and my bleary-eyed self was grateful to take her up on it this morning. I brought a basket of oranges.

She had made some really great quiches and other things, and I for one happily ate a little of everything. But somehow when we got home later...


Grilled cheese sandwiches for 5 on my big cast iron griddle.

Grilled cheese sandwiches for 5 on my big cast iron griddle.

Everyone was hungry for lunch by 2:30. (Didn't they eat at brunch? How does this happen?) I had hoped to get away with feeding snacks prior to an early dinner, but it turned out that wasn't going to fly. So we had grilled cheese sandwiches with mild cheddar and gruyere, along with some tomato soup I had made and frozen a few months ago (whew!). I made an extra sandwich for a neighbor boy who was playing over here, and was definitely grateful to have my big griddle to cook all the sandwiches at once.


Was hoping for an early dinner, but since I ended up making such a late lunch, everything was pushed back. But I was still able to make the enchilada-style burritos I had planned, and they were great! I made 6 burritos and served them with salad. We ate 4, so had 2 left over that I can give the kids for lunch later this week.

Today's Batch Cooking

I poached 6 chicken thighs and used the meat from 4 of them for the burritos (for the other 2, I used up leftover chicken I had in the fridge). So that leaves me with 2 extra poached chicken thighs for something later this week.

Also, the recipe yields about 1.5 quarts of really flavorful broth that I can use later this week for something else (haven't decided what yet).

Poaching chicken thighs for burritos. I'll use the broth for something else later this week.

Poaching chicken thighs for burritos. I'll use the broth for something else later this week.

Tomorrow, I'll make a big pot of beans that I can use for our dinner and also for other dishes later in the week.

Meals cooked this month: 3

Tuesday 1/2

First day back to work and school after the break - and I overslept! But because I work from home, I was still able to pull together a quick breakfast and make the kids' lunches, then drive them to school (since we missed the bus).


Smoothies (grass-fed plain yogurt, frozen berries, bananas and milk) and toast.


"Miracle Tuna" sandwiches for the kids, with an apple on the side. For my son (who's older and has a longer school day), I also cut up carrot sticks and gave him a hefty dollop of store-bought ranch dressing (left over from a bottle someone brought to a party sometime ago).

For my own lunch later, I had apple slices with peanut butter.


Beans and quesadillas for dinner.

Beans and quesadillas for dinner.

As planned, I made a pot of pinto beans today. I quadrupled the recipe (!) in my biggest stock pot so we would have plenty for dinner tonight plus a couple meals later this week, and more to freeze for later. 

For dinner, we each had a bowl of beans and a spinach quesadilla (spinach sauteed with onions and garlic, combined with colby cheese and baked in a folded flour tortilla.) 

Today's Batch Cooking

Big pot of Mexican-style pinto beans (aka, Frijoles de la Olla). 

Meals cooked this month: 6

Wednesday 1/3


Steel-cut oatmeal like this, but with Mexican Sweet Blend stirred in (instead of the cinnamon sticks and maple syrup), and raisins. Made extra so its easy to reheat for a quick breakfast on another day.


For the kids: leftover burritos, carrot sticks and ranch dressing.

For me: leftover beans with a small piece of leftover quesadilla from last night. (My lunch usually consists of random scraps of things left over from everyone else's meals. I can't decide if this is a bad thing or my secret guilty pleasure.)


Tostadas! If you have beans on hand, it's easy to smash them into refried beans, fry up some tostadas and put some simple toppings on with salsa from a jar. I had less than an hour to have dinner on the table and have my son fed before time to drive the carpool to soccer, and we made it with some time to spare. (See How to Make Tostadas for everything you need to know.)

Today's Batch Cooking

Made double the oatmeal we needed for breakfast, so that will be easy to reheat later on.

Made more refried beans than we needed, so the leftovers are awaiting their cameo at a later date.

Still have gobs of non-refried beans (remember, I quadrupled the recipe!). For now, they're hanging out in the fridge. If I don't use them within a few days I'll transfer them to the freezer.

Meals cooked this month: 9 

Thursday 1/4

Snow day today! Some sort of huge snow storm they're calling a "bomb cyclone" (yowza!), so school was canceled, hubby worked from home and I spent most of the day cooking.


We got a very slow and lazy start to the day, but when I finally got myself geared up to make breakfast, I made pancakes. (It's been quite awhile since I've made them, and this was the perfect day. They really hit the spot.) Had them with maple syrup from a local farm (I buy it once a year in bulk!), Applegate frozen breakfast sausages and a couple clementines for each of us.


I made a quick pasta dish with some leftover spaghetti noodles we had in the fridge. I warmed olive oil in a saute pan, then added the noodles with some salt to taste. Added some finely grated Parmigiano-reggiano and a few ladles of the chicken broth left over from cooking those chicken thighs on Day 1 (I told you that broth would come in handy!). Threw in a handful of minced parsley, then served with a salad. Really great.


Snapped a quick pic (in really bad light!) of my portion of the casserole. I'll make it again for photography in the next couple of days so I can get a nicer pic up for you! :)

Snapped a quick pic (in really bad light!) of my portion of the casserole. I'll make it again for photography in the next couple of days so I can get a nicer pic up for you! :)

Boy. Oh. BOY! I made the most delicious casserole with ground beef, onions, garlic, Swiss chard, beer and Gruyere cheese, all mixed up with pasta and baked with buttered toasted breadcrumbs on top. A one-dish meal, and unbeLIEVably tasty.

I started out planning to make a basic pasta-with-meat-and-tomato-sauce thing, but after I already had the ground beef cooking in the pan I realized I was out of red wine, which I would usually use to deglaze the pan. Since we're in the middle of a major snowstorm around here, I certainly wasn't going to drive to the liquor store to replenish my supply. I thought about skipping the deglazing and just making the recipe anyway, but then remembered I had a few bottles of Victoria in the fridge (a light lager that was everywhere when I was recently in Mexico). So I used the beer instead of wine for deglazing, and one thing led to another, and we ended up with a whole 'nuther dish that was super yummy.

(Love it when that happens!)

And then - my husband drove through the snow to get some wine anyway! ;)

And then - the power went out on half our street from the snowstorm! Right as I was making dinner. BUT not at our house! These outages happen a lot on our street during severe storms, and usually affect one part of the street at a time (more often than not, our across-the-street neighbors). Fortunately there was plenty of casserole! So we had the pleasure of having Asher (my son's same-age neighbor friend) join us for dinner and to stay warm. And he loved the casserole (I told you it was good!). Then his mom, Deb, and another neighbor, Sarah, came over a bit later and polished off the leftovers (so good!) with some wine. 

And, remember all those beans I made the other day? I sent a container full of them home with Sarah, to feed her hungry husband when the power finally went back on at their house. (And I still have more in the fridge. I told you I made a lot.)

Meals cooked this month: 12

Friday, 1/5


The kids' schools had a 2-hour delayed opening due to the storm, which as every parent knows, can totally mess up your day. (But as every kid knows, is totally awesome.)

Both kids had Wednesday's leftover Mexican Sweet Blend oatmeal with raisins for breakfast. And, I made a batch of Warm Cinnamon Honey Milk to drink along with it. So good!

My own breakfast was more of a brunch - eaten at around noon after the kids were gone and things had settled down. I made myself a little huevos rancheros-type thing, with a dollop of my leftover beans and a fried egg on a lightly fried tortilla, with my friend Diana's tomatillo salsa on top. Yum.


Lucky for my #cook90 self, I made lunches for the kids. I say lucky, because our 2-hour delayed schedule meant that by the time I ate breakfast it was lunchtime, so there was no way I was going to end up with 3 meals for myself today. 

I offered my kids a couple of options and they each chose differently:

My daughter Quinn chose leftover beans with Monday's leftover chicken shredded and mixed in, along with tortillas she could spoon it all into for tacos.

My son chose peanut butter and jelly. (And truth be told, I later discovered we didn't have any jelly so he actually got peanut butter and honey, which I have very fond memories of from my own childhood.) *Sighs and goes back to typing.*

Both kids got an apple to eat with their lunch.


Just as I was trying to figure out what to cook, we found out we had some friends coming over for a drink after dinner! So we ordered Chinese takeout for ourselves, so we could spend time before they got here running around tidying up all the soccer shin guards, random hair bands, art and craft supplies, piles of newspapers, mail, boxes of Adventure Kitchen spices, etc. so our friends could have a nice place to sit and have a drink with us.

Which was lovely.

So -

Passes used: 1

Meals cooked this month: 14 

Saturday, 1/6 - 9:55pm


Leftover pancakes, warm maple syrup, smoothies and clementines.

Here is how I reheat leftover pancakes:

Put them in a dry, cold nonstick skillet on the stove, then turn the heat to medium-low. Once the pan begins to warm up, cover and let the pancakes warm for about 3 minutes. Flip the pancakes, cover the pan and remove it from heat. Let the pancakes sit for another 3-5 minutes, to fully steam through and soften until they're ready to eat.


Kids and hubby had last night's leftover Chinese food. I made myself a bowl of shredded chicken (the last of the chicken from Monday) and beans (leftover from Tuesday), mixed together and warmed in the microwave. Ate it with some tortilla chips. 


Hubby was jonesin' for some junk food to eat while watching football, so he ran out for some sort of chicken nuggets, potato chips and onion dip. He and the kids ate that and weren't hungry for anything else for dinner.

As for me, I wasn't that hungry either (I may or may not have eaten several large handfuls of potato chips), but I had a salad with red onions and fresh mozzarella. (Sometimes the simplest things are just perfect.) Yum. 

Today's Prep Cooking

I prepped the custard and bread for a savory bread pudding (called strata, I think?) that I've been working on: 5 eggs whisked with 2 cups whole milk, with sauteed greens and Parmesan cheese mixed in, poured over some really stale baguette bread. I put this whole mixture in a baking dish covered with plastic wrap, and slid it into the fridge to keep overnight. Plan is to bake it for breakfast in the am.

Passes used: 1

Meals cooked this month: 17 

Sunday, 1/7


Made the strata and it was GREAT! Was able to photograph it too, so will write it up and post the recipe on the website later this week. Served it with some frozen Whole Foods chicken-maple sausages, and my son also had some grapefruit (he's a big fan).


Grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade Miso Tomato Soup. I know that's the second time I made that this week, but a) we were all in the mood for it again today, so why the heck not? And b) I served an old batch of tomato soup from my freezer last time, and was low on cheese and didn't have any good bread in the house, and truth be told, the whole thing was just so-so. (No one else seemed to mind, but that's what I thought.) So when everyone said they wanted grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, I jumped at the chance to make it again - and way more delicious this time. 

So I did, and it totally was! (Recipe for grilled cheese coming soon.)

Wait, did I just say I plan to write a recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches? Why yes, I did. That's because the grilled cheese we had this time was SO good, I just have to share it. (Secrets: really good bread and Gruyere cheese.) Wait, if that's all there is to it, why do I need to write a recipe? Hmm, good question. I think the answer is that there are simply too many mediocre grilled cheese sandwiches in this topsy-turvy world, and I, for one, am going to do something about it.

So stay tuned.

And the tomato soup was da bomb, too! (Secret: white miso). Wait, here I go again. If I'm telling you the secret now, why do I need to write a recipe? Just go with it.


Leftovers. Hubby and kids had the last of the leftover Chinese food. I nibbled on leftover grilled cheese sandwiches from earlier in the day (so good!).

Passes used: 1

Meals cooked this month: 20

Recipes This Week:

Tools and special ingredients used this week:

A heavy-duty cast iron griddle like this one makes it possible to do big batch cooking, which is a lifesaver. 

A big stock pot like this one makes it possible to cook a really big batch of beans or stock all at once (and makes your life easier).

Mexican-style cinnamon sugar, made right here in the Adventure Kitchen (!) from grated piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) and canela (Ceyon cinnamon).

Mexican Sweet Blend
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#cook90 is the brainchild of David Tamarkin at (I'm a fan.)