New Year's Resolutions For Home Cooks: From Mastering Yeast To Reducing Kitchen Waste

We all know that when the new year comes around, people feel the need to come up with resolutions to better themselves. Sure, you can try a new fad diet or attempt to save more money. But the best New Year's resolutions are ones that don't take away from your life but add to it. And what can add more joy to your life than resolving to be a better home cook? Whether your aim is learning to make Instagram-worthy desserts or you just want to pick up basic cooking skills, these are the best kitchen resolutions (and how to get them started).

If you want to get over that fear of yeast

True, yeast is an actual living organism and you may have visions of it turning into something out of "Little Shop of Horrors." But the truth is, there's nothing scary about working with yeast (even feeding a sourdough starter isn't as big of a commitment as it sounds). If you're ready to jump on the breadmaking bandwagon, we are here to support you. Start simple with challah dough (then turn it into creamy stuffed French toast) or by making your own pizza dough, and experiment with crafting different topping combinations for a dose of weekend fun. From there you can move on to something slightly more advanced, like no-knead sourdough

If you want to make your own pasta

When you hear about making your own pasta, you probably think about having to use really fancy, expensive equipment. But that isn't always the case. You can start with things you likely already have in your kitchen. Pasta uses basic ingredients, so try a simple rolling pin egg noodle recipe that you can put in your soups or casseroles. Next, you can try making gnudi or even homemade ricotta ravioli. If you find you enjoy the process, then consider investing in pasta making.

If you want to improve your knife skills

There's a reason why knife skills are one of the first things tackled in culinary school. Once you know how to safely and efficiently slice and dice, you will be faster and your food will even cook more evenly. Put your kitchen knife skills to the test by peeling carrots with a knife, cutting vegetables for this Indian-spiced Brussels sprouts dish or by chopping up produce for a refreshing fruit salad.

If you want to preserve your own foods

Whether you want to process preserved foods in a hot water bath to last you through the year or you just want to quick pickle something and store it in your fridge, preserving your own foods is a great way to reduce food waste, save money and add flavor to your meals. You can crush up fruits and cook them in a saucepan to make a mixed berry jam or simply let your Instant Pot do all of the work like in this strawberry jam recipe. Preserving isn't just for jams, though. Take the harvest from your garden and spice up your favorite food with some pickled jalapeños.

If you want to cook with the seasons

When you can walk into a grocery store and can buy tomatoes in the dead of winter and squash at the height of summer, it can be hard to think seasonally — or even understand why it matters. Fruits and vegetables taste best in-season because they are freshest and because they embody what you are craving in any given season. You can use this seasonal produce guide to help you while shopping at your local farmers market.

If you want to shake up better cocktails

Sometimes a frozen strawberry daiquiri just hits the spot, and we won't judge you for wanting to mentally escape to a tropical paradise. But if you want to up your cocktail game and turn your home bar into a veritable speakeasy in the new year, it doesn't take much. With simple tools to measure, shake and stir, you can make yourself one mean Manhattan for an after-dinner digestif or the perfect rosemary pear mimosa for brunch at home.

If you want to master meal planning and prep

Instead of stressing and thinking about what to cook every single night, commit to learning the best meal prep hacks, tips and tricks. For instance, take your Sundays to plan your meals for the week, grocery shop and prepare as much for the coming days as you can. You can make an extra batch of roasted vegetables to pack for lunches with your leftovers or to toss in a salad. If your weeknights are busy, busy, busy, then go the extra mile and make your meals ahead of time and freeze them until you're ready to chow down.

If you want to adopt a more plant-based diet

If one of your goals for the new year is to add more veggies to your diet, then there are a few ways you can make that happen without completely giving up meat or becoming a vegetarian. Consider starting with meatless dishes a few times a week by incorporating more vegetarian and pescatarian meal ideas into your weekly menus. Try making this easy spinach lasagna recipe for Sunday dinner or making a big batch of black bean soup for your workday lunches.

If you want to expand your culinary horizons

It's probably been a while since you were able to travel, but fortunately, food has the power to transport us. Which is why it's as good a time as any to expand your culinary horizons beyond your region and country. Your taste buds can explore the flavors of Mexico through the warm comfort food of pozole verde. Or you can make flavorful Middle Eastern shakshuka that the whole family will enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can also start simply by adding Moroccan-inspired spices to grilled chicken and serving it with simple couscous.

If you want to take better care of your kitchen tools

While whipping up steaks in a cast-iron skillet or mixing smoothies in your blender, it's easy to forget that your kitchen tools need tender loving care. For example, make sure you know how to take care of a cast iron pan and don't put it in the dishwasher. It's also important to not overlook how to care for all your kitchen tools, even down to your dish sponges, which you should change out every week.

If you want to tackle more complex desserts

Once you're an expert at baking easy desserts that use fewer than five ingredients, it's time to kick things up a notch. Sure, you can always rely on boxed cake mix, but what's the fun in that? Though it may seem intimidating at first, you can start off with baking a traditional Southern lane cake or classic New York-style cheesecake (complete with a water bath) to get the hang of things. After mastering those, you can move on to something slightly more time-consuming like making your own marshmallows that will be perfect to add to your hot chocolate.

If you want to decorate sweets like your favorite Instagrammer

If you're scrolling through Instagram and getting stunned by the amazing gingerbread house decorations on your timeline, there are ways you can work yourself up to that level by the time Christmas comes around again. You don't need to invest in fancy decorating tips and bags, you easily can make DIY piping bags to decorate your sweets. Use those piping bags to add some beautiful royal icing work onto your sugar cookies. Just remember: practice makes perfect.

If you want to reduce kitchen waste

Do you notice that you tend to have some ingredients that you end up throwing away more than actually, you know, cooking with? We're talking about half onions, chicken scraps and bones, vegetable tops, peels and the sort. Find ways to make use of those pieces instead of throwing them away to save money and the planet. If you're chopping up some vegetables, save the scraps and freeze them to use another time. Add stalks of celery, bones and cheese rinds to an Instant Pot to create stock. You can also make tasty condiments like chimichurri and pico de gallo using herb stems. And leftovers are the perfect ingredients to just toss in fried rice if you're looking for a simple weeknight dinner.

If you want to put your kitchen gadgets to good use

Few things look prettier on a kitchen counter than a gleaming stand mixer, but new kitchen gadgets are not meant to be decorations. A new year is the perfect time to dust off those blenders, unbox those Instant Pots and plug in those air fryers. There are plenty of recipes that will make sure you get the best use out of each kitchen gadget. Cook up some crispy chicken wings with an air fryer or let the slow cooker do the work for you in making a hearty beef stew for dinner.

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