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52 Things I Learned In One Year – Part 1 of 3

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Photo by Stephanie Bartz Photography

Some people have mentioned to me that planning all of my cooking and baking must have been the hardest part about committing to a one-year project. I confess however, that it was actually the blogging that was most difficult. While I truly love to cook and bake and take on “never made before in my kitchen” kinda projects, prior to this I had never kept any kind of diary, especially not about my life in the kitchen. You see I’m not really the “journaling type” so accounting for the highlights or lowlights of each week and sharing it with friends and strangers, and stranger friends, was quite difficult for me at times. Putting it all out there to the world without knowing what kind of response I would get was rather intimidating. Before I started the project I read the many “snarky” comments people would make on various blogs and I was a bit apprehensive about the first one I might receive. But the snarky never came. In fact I was surprised at how the positive responses really encouraged me and kept me going when I felt like quitting. Thank you all so much for that!

SO… that brings me to write about what I learned over this past year. This comes in no particular order, mostly from the ramblings in my head, however it leaves me a little surprised at the impact this has had on me, as well as the lives of others I now know through this experience.

A Year Of Learning, Inconveniently

52 – Convenience foods are packed, I mean PACKED, with sodium. Start to cook it all from scratch and your taste buds will notice the difference in a few short months.

51 – When making pasta, make sure you locate your flour well in which you will add the eggs, AWAY from the edge of the table. Cautious as you may be with stirring it together, the egg will break the wall and you will have to keep it from running onto the floor.

50 – I love bread and nothing compares to bread fresh from the oven.

49 – You can bake bread with a crusty, artisan-like texture by adding moisture to the oven. Keep a spray bottle with filtered water on hand to mist the top of the loaf. When using a baking stone, set a cast iron pan in the oven when heating, and add 2-3 ice cubes to the pan to create steam as you slide the loaf on the stone.

48 – When making mozzarella cheese remember one thing: kneading and stretching curds hot out of the microwave are quite honestly like touching the sun.

47 – I really, really, really hate cooking beans from scratch. Really.

46 – Someone in your life (aka: Mom) will try to feed you salty snack foods at every opportunity when she knows you are seriously trying to avoid them.

45 – A good stock (chicken or beef) takes 3-5 hours of slow simmer to give it a rich flavor. And a little fresh thyme is the secret ingredient.

44 – No one should have to buy chicken stock from the grocery store. It’s so economical to make, you can freeze it in whatever portion you like, it thaws in the microwave in no time, and it makes your house smell great while you’re making it.

43 – The secret is in the sponge, or in the starter. All great bread begins with a sponge or starter.

42 – The freezer is your best friend. You need a full upright or chest freezer to take on this type of cooking, without a doubt.

41 – Cooking from scratch requires a commitment to a production day once a week, if you have a busy work schedule and plan on eating a variety of foods.

40 – There aren’t many reasons to buy salad dressing when you can make great dressing yourself. You control the fat, the flavor, the salt, and the quality of ingredients. And there are plenty of good recipes out there.

39 – Mustard is one of the easiest condiments to make.

38 – Some of the best “foodies” live in Milwaukee and they have a great passion for sharing recipes. Check out many of them listed in my links of favorite food blogs, such as BURP, CakeWalk, Eating Milwaukee, and Good Graces!

To Be Continued…


About outpostcoop

I also live in another world of creativity. Visit my art blog here:

12 responses »

  1. Good tips. I recently graduated from thinking good stock takes 3-5 hours to make to realizing it takes 24 or more hours. It also depends on the meat you make it with. The more organic, grass fed and truly pastured the better the stock. I am on a path of embracing more Weston Price philosophy – using the whole animal if I eat an animal, good fats. Plus we are off gluten over here and feeling better with each step. I find the Sally Fallon cookbook Nourishing Traditions to be really helpful.

  2. You probably covered this earlier in the year, but did you try crock-pot cooking the beans? I’ve lost my hatred of cooking beans from scratch since discovering this method!

  3. I feel bad that you hate the bean cooking so much, too! A tip I swiped from you actually: whatever type of bean can benefit from a t. of baking soda in the pot after cooking is mostly done (and if the beans still have that ‘mealy’ texture). It’s amazing how many times I’ve done that for bean salads and other non-mashed bean applications, and I’m always shocked at how great it works! It may add a bit of sodium, but like you say, it’s far less than purchasing a can!

  4. Wow, I find this post so informative! You have done all the things I want to eventually do. Do you still make your own mustard?

  5. Not sure how else to reach you directly but wanted to let you know we featured your post on

  6. Amazing…wonderful…daring…. You’ve taken cooking to a level above just simplicity. Almost anything homemade is superior to store-bought. Thank you for sharing your adventure!


  7. Wow! I started making much of our food from scratch about a year ago, as part of an effort to reduce our environmental impact. It has been so time consuming, often frustrating, and such a learning experience. As we get busier, some convenience foods are back to stay. (I don’t have the patience for making pasta. I bow to your resolve!), but I don’t think we’ll ever buy canned beans or canned tomatoes again. And fresh stock? Ohmygod, it just makes everything better. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  8. So glad that you got positive feedback. Your certainly deserve it and encouragement should be given to anyone trying this life style. Great Job.

  9. What a great challenge. I use very little pre-made anything, but it would be a greater challenge to make everything. I must give this some thought. Thanks for your challenge and for sharing.


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