When I started this blog a little over three years ago, I was an enthusiastic baker (and cook), but not a very experienced one. I wanted to broaden my horizons, but was nervous to try new recipes, reluctant to stray from recipes as written, and quick to panic when anything didn't go as planned. I eagerly joined challenges (the BBA followed by the Modern Bakers and the Mellow Bakers), hoping to learn more.
This Christmas, I really felt the difference the past few years have made. For one thing, I made everything - Christmas Eve dinner (chicken wild rice soup in bread bowls, salad with poppyseed dressing, doughnuts), Christmas morning breakfast (BBA cinnamon rolls), and Christmas dinner (glazed ham, mashed potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole, sugared cranberries, rustic apple pie, and vanilla bean ice cream) completely from scratch, and without asking our guests to bring anything.
Recipes that just a couple of years ago gave me fits - Maida's big apple pie, which I swore I would never make again - came together without a hitch.
Mishaps were easily dealt with: when the roll dough I was working with (a new recipe that I'd altered slightly - still not sure what went wrong) just would not behave normally, even after an hour of doctoring/waiting, I tossed it and was still able to have fresh rolls on the table at 6:00.
I was able to add two new recipes: these sugared cranberries which looked beautiful and were a good way to use up part of a leftover bag of berries, and this from-scratch green bean casserole which I absolutely loved (but I'm glad I didn't try it for Thanksgiving because I don't think it would've gone over well with the traditionalists).
When I realized in the midst of getting ready to put the ham in the oven that I'd forgotten to buy apple cider, I confidently subbed in chicken broth, and wasn't upset when it meant that the final product wasn't quite as good as last year's.
I'm so happy that even though everything in my kitchen doesn't turn out perfectly every time, I now have the experience and confidence not to panic, or get frustrated and give up, or even worse, let it ruin the celebration. Because a happy, healthy family, gathered together around the table, laughing and eating, is of course what the holidays are really about.