I set a goal to save $5,000 from cooking vs. eating out. When I get there, I’ll save half and use the rest to take the wifey on a trip to one of my bucket list restaurants.
I’m tracking my progress on this spreadsheet.
I’ve only cooked 2 things so far, but looking at my progress is already exciting. Seeing how much of a difference it makes to cook at home ($2.09 vs.$12.50 to eat out) is crazy.
What I Cooked This Week
I’m still in the first month of my 100-day challenge, trying to master pasta & meat sauce. My first attempt was good, but the tomato flavor was a bit strong for me, so I found a simplified version on Food52.
Note: I rewrote the recipe, hoping to make it easier to follow (for beginners like me, anyway):
- Cooking oil, 1 tablespoon
- Ground beef, 1 pound (450g)
- Pasta, 1 pound (450g)
- Salt, 1 pinch
- Garlic, 1 fat clove, peeled and smashed
- Can of peeled tomatoes (28 ounces / 800g)
- (I also kept stuff from the first recipe that they didn’t use here: a chopped onion, and pepper (1/2 tsp), oregano/basil (2 teaspoon each)
- Boil the water. When it’s ready (about 10 minutes), add the pasta and follow cooking instructions on package.
- Heat a pan over a medium-high flame.
- When the pan is hot, add the oil, then the onion. Cook for a minute or two, stirring often.
- Add the garlic and cook for another minute, stirring often.
- Add the ground beef and salt/pepper. Brown the meat well, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Once the meat is browned, drain the fat.
- Add the tomatoes and their juices and crush them gently with your wooden spoon. When the sauce starts to boil, turn the heat to low so it’s just simmering, and add the oregano & basil.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is very tender, the tomatoes have broken down, and the sauce has thickened.
This one turned out much better than the first meat sauce I made.
Tying In “Lessons Learned” from Day 10
Aside from the flavor adjustment, I made 2 other changes to my process based on the “lessons learned” from Day 10:
- Used a garbage bowl, which saved about 10 trips to the trash can.
- Started boiling the water right away, which helped cut my cooking time down from 51 to 25 minutes!
Other Things I Changed
I also tried doing 2 things:
- Added Parmesan Cheese at the end. This made the flavor much better for me.
- Mixed the pasta into the sauce before serving it. This helped incorporate the sauce into the pasta more fully, and I like how it turned out.
New Lessons Learned
Lastly, took note of some new details to keep in mind for next time:
- Make sure to peel enough layers off of the onion. This time I peeled off one too few, and bit into some tough onion pieces as as I was eating.
- Remember to taste the food as you’re cooking. I have a habit of following the recipe like a robot, and not tasting until the very end.
I’m feeling good about my overall progress so far. My slow and steady approach has been working well. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to make this without having to look at the recipe!
OTHER POSTS IN THE 100-DAY CHALLENGE SERIES
Day 1: Intro to Me & My Goal
Day 4: “Why Learn?” and My Cooking Background
Day 7: What Should I Learn to Cook FIRST?
Day 10: Pasta + Meat Sauce (Tomato Bolognese)
Day 21: Pasta + Meat Sauce (less Tomato)
Day 28: Pasta + Meat Sauce (Beef Stroganoff)
Day 35: Oven Roasted Chicken Thighs
Day 42: Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs
Day 49: Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs (coated with flour)
Day 56: Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts
Day 63: Miso Glazed Baked Salmon
Day 70: Miso Glazed Baked Salmon II
Day 77: Miso Glazed Baked Salmon III
Day 84: Final Exam
Day 95: What’s Next?
Day 100: Final Thoughts