Day 6 & 7 Cooking Challenge report: off-roading and Star Wars picnics

I bought a spatula!
But it's not animal shaped :(

Over the weekend my cooking challenge came to an end. Here's a quick rundown of my experiences from Day 6, with a menu all planned out, and Day 7 with no menu and the instructions to, as Ariel put it, "go off-roading."

Day 6 Lunch: Eat some more turkey sandwich!

Sandwich
And I did! I had the smoked turkey sandwich with paprika mayo that I didn't get to attempt on Day 5. Guys, it was SO good. I'm NOT a fan of mayo. But, again, in the spirit of the challenge, I tried it anyway. Mayo + paprika = DELICIOUS! That is all I have to say about that.

Day 6 Dinner: Fried black bean tacos

Black bean tacos
I'd like to point out a few things about these:

  1. There was some question as to whether this Lifehacker method of making taco shells would work. It does! It totally does. But…
  2. Make sure you have cooking spray. I didn't have any, so I quickly Googled an alternative and used margarine applied with a paper towel. It worked just fine and I TOTALLY made my own taco shells!
  3. The mixture of black beans and diced potatoes is a REALLY good option for vegetarian tacos. Sometimes the potatoes even fooled me into thinking that they were ground beef chunks.
  4. This was one of the easiest things Cat had me make and one of the most delicious.

Day 7: Breakfast

As you may or may not have noticed, the seventh menu hadn't been posted. So I backslid! I had my beloved sourdough toast. After chowing down on my favorite easy breakfast, I checked in with the Home team, and Ariel informed me that she'd like to see me go off-roading — feed myself — and see what I come up with.

Day 7 Lunch: Picnic time!

Star Wars picnic lunch
I, Megan Finley, made a freaking picnic meal from scratch… after Googling "easy picnic meals" for a couple of hours straight. But I finally came up with something on my own. Here's what I whipped up:

  • Cheese sandwich (shaped like the Millenium Falcon optional)
  • Panzanella Bread Salad using this recipe. I didn't even know that this was a thing! I realized that I had a LOT of tomatoes and cucumbers that hadn't been used, so I looked up "tomato and cucumber salad" and found this panzanella recipe that includes bread. I love bread!
  • Strawberries with sugar and mint for dessert.

Day 8 Dinner: Quesadillas and margaritas

My spinach tacos from day 6

It was Cinco de Mayo, so I thought, since I made tacos the night before, I'd make quesadillas. Cat's original recipe called for mushrooms, but, as someone who also hates mushrooms, I've been getting really sick over EVERYTHING having mushrooms in it. So I begged her for a mushroom-less evening. She suggested adding spinach. Which I did! And it was delicious. I served up a quesadilla to my girl Coco, who didn't really want spinach in hers, but decided to give it a go. She commented that she couldn't taste the spinach at all. So it seems that this is a good option for those of you who want to sneak in a little healthy into your cheese-y meal.

And OF COURSE they were good! It's kind of hard to fuck up quesadillas. I'm not saying that I haven't, though. ;) Oh and I also got to use my brand new spatula to flip 'em on the skillet. I = totally professional chef now… right?

So there ya go. I successfully navigated the last day of the challenge ON MY OWN and, except for the sourdough toast, I kicked some ass. I'm particularly proud of my picnic.

Tomorrow, I will have the update on how the entire experience was for me, and the answer to the question that EVERYONE has been asking: Do you think you will keep this up?

In the mean time, do YOU have any specific questions you'd like me to also answer in my results post?

  1. Megan you rock for sticking with this and Cat deserves major kudos too! I have to say this has been one of my favorite segments on Offbeat Home. I am an avid cook so it was really fun to see a non-cook learn (I loved your videos), especially since I am helping my husband expand his cooking skills. I realized that so many things I take for granted knowing he may not know and hopefully that helps me be better at helping him. Plus, I have some yummy new recipes to try out!

    3 agree
    • And I enjoyed being the spokeswoman to bring awareness to the non-cooks cause. I do believe it's hard for people who know how to cook to realize exactly HOW daunting it is for those of us with no skillz.

      7 agree
  2. I've fucked up quesadillas. Not enough cheese+too much non-melty filling=me slamming things in frustration.

    1 agrees
    • Me too. I like to think I'm a very proficient cook, but I STILL cannot flip quesadillas without the insides making an escape attempt. To which my husband hears me yell at the frying pan, "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!"

      • Here's a tip… use the cheese as glue. Put enough of the cheese on the lower side that as it melts the non-sticky items will get "glued" to the bottom tortilla. then, when you flip. they all stay inside.

        2 agree
      • Another tip- when you first start, you can always pop a lid over top of that baby for a few minutes to help it melt quicker…

  3. Megan and Cat, you both rock! It's been super-fun to follow along with you. Congrats on the spatula purchase. May it serve you well!

    1 agrees
    • NO way! I'm so glad that panzanella is a thing — it's delicious! Mind could have used more salt and pepper though.

  4. i'm totally cheering for you – your off-roading was awesome!

    i am inclined to view utensil-buying as an indicator that you are leaning towards at least a bit of keeping this up. and even if it isn't *shaped* like an animal, you can anthropomorphize *anything* =) but i think the spatula kind of looks like a beaver tail…which makes me want to thwack things with it…

    2 agree
  5. Woo Hoo! You made it to the end! You can do this, and it will get better and better. I'm going to get to submitting some recipes for other easy to make noms very soon for alla ya'll who cannot cook!

  6. Well done Megan, that picnic is inspired! Spatula just needs some eyebombing and he'll be cool :)

    Do you feel better/more energised from eating better this week?

  7. Great work! You made it out alive AND prepared your own damn menu! I would suggest that makes you a self sufficient feeder of ones self! Go you and also go you for getting Coco to try spinach! Did NOT see that coming! Looking forward tot he round up of the whole crazy experience! Xxx

  8. great work! i tried the lifehacker taco shell thing with small corn tortillas, and they all fell off the rack and/or broke. it was okay though, because i made some kickass tostadas instead. i'll have to learn what you learned. (to follow directions!)

    i love cooking too, so i hope to see more food-related posts on here. i can only do so much ogling of furniture/decor that i can't tackle just yet, but we do have to eat. daily.

  9. Way to rock!!

    This project has definitely inspired me to start cooking more. If for no other reason than the fact that if I were to detail my weekly food intake, I'd receive the same friendtervention.

    1 agrees
    • lol, Dootsiebug! I eat a frozen processed microwave meal every day for lunch. My Intended and I discovered that making enough food at dinner time to bring leftovers for lunch was resulting in us eating extra helpings of dinner deliciousness! NO good! So frozen dinners for lunch, but home cooked dinner every night. Cold cereal for breakfast during the week, but eggs or hot cereal on the weekends. I need to cook more, but we need to eat less, if that makes any sense!

      2 agree
      • Yessss! That's a challenge for us as well. We've figured out most things, but the problem is wanting the leftovers for dinner the next day or even the next. We either have a surplus of leftovers that we forget about, or we have no food by Friday and Saturday we're sitting around wondering "what are we going to EAT today?!"

        2 agree
        • We make one night a week leftover night. Works great for eating the leftovers from the week that might get forgotten about, PLUS no cooking that night, yay! And leftover nights with no leftovers (a rarity, but it happens)… automatic "let's order pizza night", which is also fun!

        • I recommend a marker board on the fridge. Write out what's in the fridge. Write the day you put it in. That way, you'll know FOR SURE how old it is, and before you even LOOK in the fridge for food, you're reminded "Hey, there's leftovers in here. Dontcha want some?"
          I find that another KEY thing is to evaluate how much you're making while you're cooking. Whenever possible, separate out some of the un-spiced food and put that in the fridge for leftovers. This is handy when you're making Mexican food, especially. Before you add all the spices to, say, your chicken, pull a third of it out and save THAT for leftovers. I usually don't want fajitas the next night, but I COULD use some pre-cooked chicken for something.

          2 agree
    • I had a similar problem, my lunch was ending up in hubs tummy before I'd finished my dinner! So I started dishing up my lunch into its container along with our plates. When its in the fridge already by the time he's ready to go nomming on it its started cooling and 'off-limits'. Works a treat!

  10. Potatoes go so well with so many things. Potatoes in curry absolutely rock.

  11. OMG R2-D2 LUNCHBOX!! I am so jealous!!! I want!!

    1 agrees
  12. Hooray! It sounds like although you had some tough times, once you felt more comfortable, you completely rocked it! I totally get your excitement over creating an awesome day of meals BY YOURSELF!

    So, you inspired me to finally get around to cooking this week (after, oh, 12 months of not), and GUESS WHAT!! I rocked it too! I have never made anything LIKE a risotto before (I didn't actually used Cat's recipe but I was inspired by it and it helped me when I lost the other one) and I made it and it was delicious! And I made more things and froze them for dinners later in the week (because of homework I don't usually have time to cook during the week at all) and and and…. you guys inspired me to be healthier and happier! Thanks, y'all! You're awesome!

    1 agrees
  13. Yes I agree. Mushrooms are totally gross. I wish I liked them because apparently they're a good source of umami.

    But I can't even stand the smell.

    Kudos to you for eating food with mushrooms in!

  14. It's over already? *sob*

    You did great, particularly in finding and tackling the panzanella.

    Also: it is totally possible to fuck up quesadillas. There's the "my filling was too damp" fuck-up (usually involving canned shrimp in my home, and the cheese then gets weird) and the "oops, I left it on high heat too long and have blackened tortillas" method.

    YOU did not fuck up quesadillas!

    Your spatula is also potentially useful if you want to bake something on a pan (most cookie and biscuit recipes are a small number of ingredients in the same order, so if you once get it right, it'll usually keep working adequately) or make pancakes. Pancakes are a "knack" food, but if you have the knack (or can tolerate mediocre pancakes, since I don't have the knack), they're fast and straightforward.

  15. Wooohoo! Great job! I have been lurking through this experiment and I have really enjoyed it. I just got married and decided that it was time to learn to cook. I come from a hardcore microwave dinner/PB&J home. The first meal I "cooked" for my husband was pasta with two kinds of jar sauce mixed. I have learned A TON over the past few months. I have also stood in the kitchen crying because the entire food world is stacked against me.
    In short, good job! I know how hard this is and you did great!

    • "… entire food world is stacked against me."

      LOL! Yeah, I've been there…

  16. Wow, look how far you've come in a week! You're already figuring out your own menus and it's easy to see your confidence has increased about 1000%!!

    If you keep this up you'll be president by 2016.

    My question to you is : how far do you feel you've come in the last week?

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