Monday, May 7, 2018

196 Weeks

The title of this post when I originally started it was going to be 208 Weeks, because I never had any intention of quitting the 52 week challenge, especially not mid-year. I'm a completionist by nature, and the idea of stopping, even if I was finding some of the challenges more of a chore than fun, in the middle of my fourth year wasn't really on my radar. But with all the craziness happening at the end of last year (getting a new place, doing renovations, trying to start clearing out our pantry, etc), I just never seemed to find the time to fit in some of the challenge meals, and started to find myself really uninspired to make the time. After hopelessly falling weeks behind, I decided to just call it. There was no way I'd finish before 2018 rolled around, and I hadn't even finished all the posts for the ones I did do. I was a little disappointed since I only had 12 weeks to go to make it to 208 (there's that completionist side of me), but 12 weeks is a whole quarter of the year, so it really wouldn't have been a small thing.

Week 22's Thai challenge where I just remade larb because I wanted it and wasn't really inspired at the time to make something new instead

So, why was I increasingly uninspired? A bunch of reasons, and I don't think it was any one thing in particular. Some of the themes were starting to feel a little broad/vague. They could literally be anything, not really much of a challenge. (For example, one of the ones I never got to in 2017 was meal prep. How is that any different from a normal day/week?) Other themes seemed to repeat things from previous years, and sure, I could make something different, but I felt bored. I wasn't inspired by some of the other themes and just couldn't find anything I wanted to make. Eventually, it just felt more like a chore, and I felt like I was trying to manipulate anything into the themes just to check them off, kind of the opposite of the spirit of the challenge.

Week 6's Italian challenge, one of my favorite new recipes of the year

I considered just stopping 2017 since I was so far behind, and starting clean in 2018, but by the time I looked at 2018's themes a few weeks in, I saw a bunch of repeats (like inspired by books, which was 2015, week 10 and hard enough to figure out the first time) or things I didn't really care to do (like new to you, which considering my 1000+ recipe collection could be basically ... anything). My current plan, now that we're finally getting settled in our new place, is to try to use the challenge list for periodic inspiration - maybe do something new, explore some new area, develop some new skill, all the reasons I started doing the challenge in the first place. Basically, skipping themes like "showing off" but maybe checking back in for something like Portuguese or Balkan.

Week 32's salad challenge, which could have been almost anything, but which I used as the start to a new challenge, cooking from the Jerusalem cookbook

At the end of every challenge year, I usually posted a recap of the challenges for the year, so here they are for 2017, the last time I'll do this (at least for now). For the ones I never got around to posting about, I added a photo since I don't think I'll ever get to those posts unless I remake something. And yes, I skipped around. Those aren't typos.

Week 1 - screw-ups revisited (baked mozzarella sticks)
Week 2 - rice (shiitake fried rice)
Week 3 - made healthy (sweet potato shepherd's pie)
Week 4 - chowder (sweet potato chowder)
Week 5 - Tex-Mex (sweet potato Tex-Mex skillet)
Week 6 - Italian (sausage and chestnut pasta)
Week 7 - black and white (oden with black rice)
Week 8 - spice blends (doro wat)
Week 9 - one pot (sausage and vegetable pasta)
Week 10 - Middle East (Iraqi eggs in meat sauce with quinoa salad and rice)
Week 11 - pies (leek, bacon, and cheese tart)
Week 12 - dorm food (ramen)
Week 13 - Escoffier (chicken and green beans with mustard sauce)
Week 14 - Southern (salmon, grits, and collards)
Week 15 - British (baked Scotch eggs)
Week 16 - vacation food (peri peri chicken with peas and cole slaw)
Week 17 - cafeteria food (pepper jack grilled cheese with tots and salad)
Week 18 - stir fry (black bean chicken)
Week 19 - tea (ochazuke)
Week 20 - 5 ingredients or less (bacon, leeks, mushrooms and cheese scramble)
Week 21 - presentation (cloud eggs with roasted potato salad and hash)
Week 22 - Thai (larb gai)
Week 23 - on a stick (chicken satay)
Week 24 - baking (smoked salmon and tots casserole)
Week 25 - California cuisine (braised corn)
Week 26 - berries (tomato salad)
Week 27 - garlic (cheesy garlic bread)
Week 28 - vanilla (banana bread)
Week 29 - dim sum (dumplings)
Week 30 - charcuterie (summer sausage, cheese, and jam board)
Week 31 - inspired by magic (Mexican bean salad)
Week 32 - salad (roasted sweet potatoes and fresh figs salad)
Week 33 - midnight snacks (quesadillas)
Week 34 - batter (almond cake)
Week 35 - American Midwest (tot hot dish)
Week 36 - stacked (zucchini pancakes)
Week 37 - tailgating (chicken chili)

Week 40 - Oktoberfest (bratwurst with German-style potatoes and cucumber salad)

Week 41 - salt (winter melon soup)
Week 42 - casseroles (chicken enchiladas with hatch chile cream sauce)

Looking forward to new challenges in the kitchen, from Reddit or elsewhere!

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