This month, I'm going to cook every meal for my family - breakfast, lunch and dinner - every single day. Ninety meals in one month.
And YOU should do it with me! (If you already think it sounds like too much for you, keep reading for options.) ;)
Sign up to #cook90 with me! You'll get special emails from me with recipes and ideas for you, and updates from my #cook90 adventure.
(As I write this, we're 2 days away from the start of 2018, and this year, in particular, I am aching for a fresh start. You?)
Why do #cook90?
The idea is to become a better, more intuitive cook; smarter about using what we have, more comfortable putting meals together, and with maybe some sharper kitchen skills. Although #cook90 is not about healthy eating, cooking is good for mind, body and soul, so it's a very nourishing thing to master. And cooking is almost always cheaper than eating out, so good for the pocketbook, too. You can read more about the original idea here.
For me this year, it's also about restoring some household balance. I normally cook most of my family's meals, but I've been insanely busy these past few months (I launched these new spices and took a trip to Mexico, not to mention the usual holiday madness and general chaotic state of my cooking life prior to all of that).
And to be honest, my kids and hubby need a more normal routine. We all do. With all the craziness of these last few months, we've gotten away from dinners around the table together. We've relied on school lunches and cold cereal more often than I'd like to admit. I need to be more centered on my own home and family.
And we all need to eat better.
So, How Does It Work?
It's pretty simple: the original #cook90 concept means you cook breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for a month. You get 3 passes - three meals during the month that you can eat at a restaurant, or order in, or let someone else cook. But other than that, it's you doing all the cooking.
There are also a few additional rules (never cook the same thing more than twice, limits on using leftovers), but I'm going to keep it simple for me: cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for my family every day this month.
The phrase "for my family" in that last sentence is part of the challenge, of course: I'm usually cooking for four people, not just for myself. (I will definitely make the kids the same sandwich more than twice this month. And that will be just fine.)
For me, the goal this month is not experimentation as much as it is peace and order. (This is Adventure Kitchen, after all - we already do a lot of experimentation around here!).
If you want to #cook90 with me, you can choose what it will mean for you:
- Go for the full #cook90: If you already cook quite often, or you're up for the challenge, this might be the right goal for you.
- Make it "cook30" or "cook60": If you're newer to cooking, then cooking one meal, or two meals, every single day might be enough of a challenge. If this is you, I say go for it!
- Couple this with an additional challenge or resolution: In the original #cook90, one of David Tamarkin's goals was to experiment with different cuisines and ingredients. Some might want to use #cook90 in support of a health goal, like limiting certain foods or eating more plants. #Cook90 also dovetails nicely with financial goals, like spending less on restaurant food and takeout.
As far as I'm concerned, you should make #cook90 your own. Anything that helps us cook more is great, right? So go for it!
What Counts as Cooking?
Some meals are clear-cut, but other things can get murky. Some examples:
Does a sandwich count as cooking? Some might say no. Others might say it counts only if it's made from homemade ingredients. But does that mean we're baking our own bread? Most would say no. But then it's not completely homemade, right?
Here's another one:
Does microwaving last night's home-cooked meal count as cooking? Many would say no. But others (myself included) would say yes, because you cooked it last night! But if yes, then how many times can you eat reheated food? The original #cook90 limits you to 2 times, which seems reasonable. But occasionally, there's a meal that only one of us (ahem, me) enjoyed. I may need to reheat that for my own lunch multiple times (rather than throw it out!), while making something else for everyone else. (Fortunately that doesn't happen very often!)
Can we use pre-made sauces and other ingredients? Many would say no, you should make your own salad dressing, salsa and tomato sauce. But with canned tomatoes? And does that also mean we're making our own ketchup? Mayonnaise? Pickles? Should we make our own tortillas? Then what about pasta and bread?
You see how this can get a little crazy.
How I'll Do #cook90
There are some "official" rules at Epicurious to answer these questions, and you can follow them to a T if you'd like. For me, here's what #cook90 will look like this month:
I'll cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for my family of four every day. (Exceptions: my husband usually eats lunch out during his workdays, so for the most part, I'll make lunches just for me and my kids. And, my kids - ages 11 and 13 - sometimes eat at their friends' houses, which of course will be fine.)
Snacks are outside the scope of my #cook90. I might go out for coffee with a friend, or get popcorn at the movie theater. All fine.
I'll cook and bring something to parties. (In case there are more than the 3 passes I get.) I'll count bringing home-cooked food to a party as cooking. Because it is! :)
"Cooking" for me will mean combining ingredients to make something new (and delicious!). It may not involve heat (eg, salads, smoothies, sandwiches and ceviche count). For the most part, I'll use homemade ingredients.
I'll make liberal use of "nextovers" - this is David Tamarkin's brilliant term for the leftovers from batch cooking that you strategically plan ahead to use for other dishes. (A classic example: roast 2 chickens and eat one of them for dinner. Shred the meat from chicken #2 for tomorrow's enchiladas. Then use the leftover skin and bones to make broth, which becomes chicken soup on another day, along with whatever meat remains.) I do this all the time, and am already scheming my nextover strategy for this month.
We'll occasionally reheat and eat straight-up leftovers. I'm not going to put a strict limit on this for my family, because we honestly just don't do it very often. But for the record, I frankly see nothing wrong with eating leftovers. If you make a meal that is so delicious it can be enjoyed again as-is, then kudos to you, and go for it!! Usually, I decide my leftovers will be more delicious when made into something else, so they end up as nextovers (see above). But again, I don't see eating leftovers as "cheating" so I don't want to put a limit on this.
Here's a partial list of things I won't be making myself: bread, cheese, sour cream, tortillas, pasta, condiments. (I'm sure I'll think of others.) Also, I'm starting the month with some perfectly good food in my fridge that is not homemade (eg, deli meat), and I won't be throwing it away! I'll use it up in the first few days, then move on from there.
One of my goals is to cook out of my own pantry and freezer. My basement freezer is full to the brim with food from this summer, so I hope to cook that surplus down as much as possible, and may also need to combine some pre-made ingredients with others in order to use things up.
So C'mon, Do It With Me!
Let's do it together!
I'll blog about my experience with a new post at the beginning of each week, and update the website each evening with that day's cooking experiences. I'll include all my recipes (some new, some from the archives), although I'm sure I'll also do a lot of cooking without recipes (which I'll also share with you).
I'll also be posting pics and cooking status on social media each day, so follow Adventure Kitchen on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to get those updates. And if you want special #cook90 emails from me each week during January with recipes and status, you can sign up right on this page.
Do you plan to do the full #cook90 with me this month? Or maybe you plan to "cook30" or "cook60" instead (making 1 or 2 meals each day instead of all three)?
Here's what you do:
1) Sign up here to #cook90 with Adventure Kitchen this month, and get special #cook90 emails from me!
2) Share your cooking plans in the comments below! Will you do the full #cook90, or modify it? What counts as cooking for you? Are you planning to combine this with any other goals or resolutions? Share your plans in the comments!
3) Tag #cook90 and #adventurekitchen in social media all month with pics of your cooking adventures!