Writer’s Block: Baking, frying and grilling our way through 100 recipes

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

I love to eat out, but my husband, Matt, and I have been on a gourmet home cooking kick thanks to my mom.

Olivia Alveshere
Olivia Alveshere

For Christmas, she gave him the America’s Test Kitchen “100 Recipes” cookbook, which details the “absolute best ways to make the true essentials.”

The cookbook includes absolute, surprising and global essentials.

The gift came with marching orders, too. My mom wanted all of us to make the same recipe each week for 100 weeks, alternating who chooses which recipe to tackle.

We live about four hours away from my parents, so comparing notes each week over the phone has been a wonderful bonding experience.

In the beginning, I was a bit overwhelmed by the premise.

Some of these recipes are all-day affairs, and our first-choice recipe did nothing to inspire confidence in this project.

We chose to make chicken stew, and it promised big flavor, but also involved purchasing chicken wings, halving them at the joint, transferring them between pots and eventually throwing them away. That had us scratching our heads, but it’s all about the collagen lending flavor, I’m told.

Matt had to ask a Cub Foods employee where to find anchovy paste, and I blanched at the thought of squirting that in my stew.

But it was heavenly.

It was highly labor intensive, not something you could whip up after work, but my taste buds were tingling.

Next up was banana bread, and we rolled our eyes when we read that we were to microwave five bananas, strain them and further reduce that liquid.

But again, we were dazzled.

Over the next month, Matt concocted risotto, skillet lasagna, vegetarian chili and pan-seared chicken breasts.

All were scrumptious.

My husband is the chef in charge of this operation – I’m mostly on dish duty.

It’s a similar arrangement at my parents’ house, but reversed.

I think my father and I are the clear winners of this experiment. We get to eat top-notch meals with little labor.

“Master 20 recipes in this book, and you will have earned the right to call yourself a great cook,” the cookbook promises.

Matt is well on his way.

What we’re calling the 100 Recipe Challenge has come up a lot in conversation with friends and family, and we’ve invited many to dine with us, as most recipes feed more than two.

Entertaining at home opens up opportunities dining out does not. Instead of splitting when dinner is gone and the bill comes, we can invite friends to join us in a board game for continued quality time together.

The 100 Recipe Challenge is not a cheap undertaking, but neither is eating out, so we haven’t felt our pocketbook hurting too much, though we haven’t prepared some of the more expensive cuts of meat, like beef tenderloin, just yet.

Always on the go, I appreciate quick eats. Leeann Chin is my absolutely favorite. My husband and I are attempting to eat at all of their locations, and we’ve determined that the Baltimore Airport restaurant will be the toughest to get to.

But in today’s fast-paced society, I think there is tremendous value in slowing down, making meals from scratch and sitting down together for the evening.

When Matt and I were married, a family friend made us some embroidered dish towels, and one reads, “Families are built in the kitchen.”

This experiment has solidified that sentiment for me, and I look forward to cooking for and with my husband, parents and other friends and family for many years to come.

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  • Buckarooblues

    I think I’ve seen this movie… = )