Happy New Year! 🎇🎆 Have you made any resolutions or goals for 2022? I love taking some time to review the past year and plan the unwritten year ahead. And in 2021, I made a “kitchen bucket list” for the first time. This was comprised of a list of recipes that I wanted to try, most of them for the first time ever. Some recipes were to stretch and challenge my culinary skills. Other items on the bucket list were added purely out of curiosity, to find out how something is made. Here is my kitchen bucket list – 2021 review, as well as a look into 2022’s goals.
Review of My 2021 Kitchen Bucket List
1. French Macarons
I first attempted French macarons in March of 2021. There were a few test batches that turned out… edible but not quite right. Since that first attempt, I have made pistachio macarons, strawberry pop tart macarons, and vegan cookie dough macarons. These are now some of my new favorite desserts to make! They are sweet, light, airy and incredibly versatile.
2. Cookies Decorated with Royal Icing
I held royal icing in a similar high regard to French macarons at the beginning of 2021. Royal icing was this elusive way to decorate desserts that I’ve drooled over at confectionaries. They are so detailed and beautiful. I just had to give it a try. I first made Harry Potter-themed cookies in January, and it was so fun! We even watched Harry Potter while decorating the cookies. And then in April, I decorated Spring-themed cookies. Royal icing requires a steady hand and concentration, but you can really get creative with this edible decoration.
3. DIY Gingerbread House
Carrying on with the Harry Potter theme, I embarked at the end of 2021 to construct Hagrid’s Hut as a gingerbread house from scratch. After a lot of math and cardboard templates, I figured out the rough dimensions for Hagrid’s home, which was not easy. It’s composed of two hexagon shapes that are connected at an angle. I used gray royal icing to make the walls and roofs look like they were made of stone. I think it turned out quite well, and I can’t wait to make a new Harry Potter-themed gingerbread house in 2022!
4. Heritage Recipes
I recently posted an accumulation of “heritage recipes” that I made throughout 2021. This past year, I made at least one recipe from each country that my family is descended from. And this project has taught me a lot about my roots. From Korean beef bulgogi to Slovenian Easter buns, we can learn a lot about culture and history through food. It was also fun to learn about my family’s past from my own family’s stories as I shared the food with them, like this loaf of Irish soda bread.
5. Braided Lattice Pie
Prior to 2021, I had made a few dessert pies. But I had never been able to master a homemade pie crust, let alone an intricate design like a lattice! I have so many saved photos of “pie-spiration” – gorgeous pies decorated with exquisite detail. So, I took a whack at braiding pie crust and latticing it in 2021. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a challenge I rose to conquer. And the blueberry lattice pie was delicious. 🥧
6. Homemade Bread
Back in 2020, I attempted to bake sourdough bread and it was an epic fail… But I didn’t want to accept defeat, so I added it to my 2021 bucket list. And boy oh boy, did I make bread this year! I started out with simple classics, like banana bread and pumpkin bread. I ventured out a bit and made Irish soda bread and chocolate zucchini banana bread. And then after I got a sourdough cookbook from my cousin this year, I stepped up to attempt sourdough bread again. After more diligence in reading the instructions and caring for my sourdough starter, I made delicious sourdough recipes! Everything from sourdough cinnamon rolls to sourdough baguettes have come out of my oven this year!
7. Homemade Vegan Butter
Homemade vegan butter was added to my 2021 kitchen bucket list out of pure curiosity. How is vegan butter made? What is it made from? The best way to find out, was to make it myself at home! It is surprisingly easy to make homemade vegan butter. It’s not as cheap as conventional dairy butter, but the taste is so worth it. And the main fat in this vegan butter is refined coconut oil, which has a great texture and zero coconut flavor. It melts and even browns in a pan on the stove.
8. Homemade Nut Butter
Similar to sourdough bread, I had attempted to make nut butter back in 2020, but failed miserably. After I received a new food processor at my bridal shower this summer, I decided to take it for a spin and make delicious savory chocolate almond butter. And better yet, I figured out that you can use pre-seasoned nuts to make homemade nut butter. Score! Homemade nut butter is great, since you can control the amount of salt, sugar and extra oil that goes into your spread. This particular nut butter only requires two things – seasoned almonds and chocolate chips!
9. Homemade Oat Milk
This year was full of homemade staples. I was really curious about how items like vegan butter, nut butter and oat milk were made, since we buy these from the grocery store every week. And I was pleasantly surprised at how simple these are to make at home. You can cut down your grocery budget while also eliminating preservatives and fillers if you make a few dietary staples at home. This homemade oat milk was no different. It was creamy, flavorful and so simple! All it required was oats and water, plus a little salt, maple syrup and cinnamon to flavor it.
10. Homemade Apple Sauce
After our annual apple picking trip this Fall, I had twenty pounds of apples to turn into delicious treats! I made a big batch of homemade spiced apple sauce to enjoy throughout the winter – although there’s only one jar left. It’s just so tasty! It’s great when warmed up and slathered on pancakes, toast and oatmeal. Or enjoy it cold on yogurt or ice cream.
11. Homemade Pop Tarts
These homemade lucky charms pop tarts are healthier and way tastier than store-bought pop tarts. Yes, they take more time to prepare. But just look at how cute they are! I wanted to learn how pop tarts could be made completely from scratch. So the dough isn’t store-bought puff pasty – it’s homemade pastry dough. And the marshmallow strawberry filling is homemade too, along with the glaze! The only thing that isn’t homemade is the lucky charms – now that would be hard!
I had so much fun making these that I made strawberry pop tart macarons too!
12. Dairy Free Cheesecake
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a dangerous sugar addiction. I love sweets. And cheesecake is one of my favorite desserts to indulge in. But while my heart says yes, my lactose-sensitive tummy say no! So I set out in 2021 to make a decadent, dense and delicious cheesecake that just so happened to be dairy free. And this, my friends, is the answer. With a hint of lemon and a crumbly graham cracker crust, this creamy dairy free cheesecake is even better than its dairy-ridden cousin.
13. Baked Mochi Donuts
I first fell in love with mochi donuts on the island of Oahu in 2020. And Liliha Bakery makes the BEST mochi donuts ever! Their poi mochi donuts are covered in a sticky sugary glaze, and once you take a bite, the inside is bright purple! When I came home, I knew I wanted to try making them in my own kitchen. I added matcha powder for a natural green dye and a sweet, grassy flavor. I also baked these matcha mochi donuts, because quite honestly, I am deathly afraid of frying in oil. Maybe that’ll be added to my 2022 kitchen bucket list? 😝
14. Holiday Treat Boxes
My mom has been making Christmas treat packages that include toffee bark and peanut brittle for as long as I can remember. So I figured that it was about time I take on the baton and bake some fun Christmas treat boxes of my own. This was probably one of the most time-consuming things in this Kitchen Bucket List – 2021 Review. It took me days to make all the cookies. But will I do it again next year? Probably. 🎄 This Christmas cookie box included double chocolate peppermint cookies, hot chocolate macarons, lemon shortbread cookies and candy cane cookies.
I also made a Halloween treat box for my sister, since her birthday is right around Halloween. I decorated the box with DIY yarn ghosts and pumpkins! This treat box is full of soft maple pumpkin cookies, cream cheese pumpkin brownies, and baked pumpkin sourdough donuts.
15. Yule Log Cake
Finally, to end 2021 and ring in 2022, I made this gorgeous Bûche de Noël, which is also known as a yule log cake. I decorated it with chocolate buttercream frosting and used a fork and a pairing knife to make it look like tree bark. Candied cranberries and meringue mushrooms add pops of color and lifelike elements to the cake. And finally, a few evergreen sprigs and pinecones spruce up this seasonal, festive cake. The roulade sponge cake inside was challenging to make, but the decorations were so fun!
Conclusion and Looking Forward to 2022
There you have it my friends – a Kitchen Bucket List – 2021 Review complete. Fifteen recipes, driven by curiosity, hunger and excitement. Looking back, I feel like I have grown my baking skills immensely by pushing myself outside my comfort zone and attempting challenging dishes. But 2021 has shown me that while I love to bake sweets and bread, I have a ton of room to grow in the savory cooking arena. If only I could live off carbs, I’d be a happy camper. But alas, our bodies need vegetables, fruit and protein along with the grains. So in 2022, I’ll still be focusing on challenging baking recipes, but I’ll also extend my repertoire to new savory dishes. Stay tuned for more on this kitchen bucket list journey! And Happy New Year! 💚🎆