35-for-35 Progress Report

It’s now been two months since my birthday (seriously – what the hell?!), so I thought I’d check in with where I am, what I’ve done and what’s left to go.

The Books challenge is going the best at the moment. With two weeks off at the holidays and less stress at work, it’s been easier to stay ahead on this challenge. I figured this part would be the easiest for me to accomplish, which is why it’s here. I want to feel like I’m making some progress in this ridiculous challenge!

The Recipes challenge isn’t going as well as I thought it might. Turns out, when I get home at night (or when it’s time to cook on the weekend), I’d much rather make something that I know I like rather than experimenting with something that might not turn out well and then having to eat it for a week. And since I’m not much of a cook, a lot of even the “simple” recipes call for ingredients that I just don’t keep in the house, making this a bit more expensive than I had anticipated. But I’m hoping I can branch out into some new and different recipes (mug cakes or other microwave-related things), instead of just concentrating on dinner things.

The Places challenge, well, it really hasn’t started yet. Due to family things, I wasn’t able to travel during the holidays and it now seems like I probably won’t be going to Oregon for Spring Break like I had originally planned. So I’m going to have to get more creative during the weekends (which are already filled with errands, chores and other local stuff) to take day trips within California. I still hope to go on my summer vacation, but that will only knock off a couple of new cities, so I’ve got my work cut out for me. I need to visit 3.5 new places a month from now on to stay on track. Yikes!

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35-for-35: Copycat Chik-Fil-A Nuggets

I had very high hopes for this recipe, since I can no longer eat at Chik-Fil-A (for moral reasons), but miss their nuggets VERY much. I was intrigued by the recipe‘s call for pickle juice in the marinade and my mom was game enough to buy a jar of dill pickles just for the juice.

The recipe recommends marinating the chicken in the mixture for 2 – 4 hours, but trying to complete two recipes in one evening, we didn’t have time to leave it for 4 hours. Coating the chicken with the breading mixture was my favorite part because it’s just fun to shake stuff in a ziploc bag!

I’ve never fried anything before (have I mentioned that I’m generally afraid of my kitchen?), so I was a bit apprehensive about throwing these bites on my mom’s skillet and letting them sizzle in oil. It was also RIDICULOUS trying to flip each little chicken over to fry on the other side. But I managed to accomplish this without burning myself or the chicken, so I’m counting it as a win.

The final result was tastier than the pretzel chicken bites, but I didn’t really think they tasted like Chik-Fil-A. Perhaps marinating it longer would help and we used vegetable oil instead of peanut oil, which may also have contributed to the difference in taste. I’d definitely eat this recipe again, but only if someone else wants to do the frying!

Copy Cat Chik-Fil-A

35-for-35: Pretzel Crusted Chicken Bites

Pretzel Crusted Chicken Bites ready for the ovenLast month, I realized I probably should have made this challenge to try 35 new restaurants, given my fear of my own kitchen appliances and my basic lack of patience and counter space. But when I realized I was going to be at my parents’ house for two weeks over Christmas, I figured I’d spend some time cooking to catch up on the first month of this part of the challenge. Well, God laughs when you make plans, so it wasn’t until the last night of my break that I finally made it into the kitchen.

Though I have a very diverse and delicious-looking Pinterest board, I asked my mom to help me narrow down what would actually be possible for me to complete without burning the house down. I settled on Pretzel Crusted Chicken Bites to start. Mom helped me cut up the chicken pieces, while I got all the bowls of ingredients ready for dipping. This was WAY messier than the blog post makes it out to be, and I could only dip about three pieces before I needed to rinse the flour/egg/pretzel gunk off my fingers. It was also WAY harder to crush the pretzels than I expected.

The dish turned out fine, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. It tasted best with barbecue sauce, though ranch dressing was also good. Using regular pretzels instead of the pretzel thins the recipes recommends probably contributed to the difficulty I had with getting the pretzels to actually stick to the chicken (my mom reports that by the second day, all the pretzels fell off). Additionally, plain chicken breast and plain pretzels are pretty bland, so using a flavored pretzel would probably kick this up a notch.

Final product - Preztel Crusted Chicken Bites

All in all, it wasn’t a disaster, but it wasn’t a revelation either. Thanks to my parents for being my guinea pigs as I started this adventure!

35-for-35 Begins Now!

With my birthday approaching on Wednesday, I’ve been thinking about my NEXT birthday, which is a bit of a milestone. And while that milestone could be a downer, I’ve decided to make it a challenge instead. I had originally thought about making a list of thirty-five things to do (like this one), but it turns out, I’m just not that creative on short notice. So, I’m challenging myself to complete the following before my next birthday:

1. Read 35 Books
Every calendar year, I try to read 50 books and I’ve failed miserably every year since I’ve been keeping track. So in 2014, I decided to try for 25 books, and I think I might actually get there. In 2015, I’m planning to up this to 30. So, I think this is a pretty doable goal, while still being a challenge.

2. Visit 35 New Cities
I was inspired by this post to expand my horizons with travel in the next year. My upcoming road trip to Oregon should help knock off a few spots, but I hope this will get me out of my comfort zone without breaking the bank.

3. Make 35 New Recipes
I know, I know! I’m afraid of my oven and I haven’t turned my stove on since I moved in, but I do have a slow cooker and a microwave. Between the cookbooks my mom has given me and Pinterest, I feel like I can add some variety to my diet without getting too crazy.

I’ll be documenting my progress on these challenges here on the blog as a way to stay motivated and accountable. Here we go!