Day 3 Cooking Challenge report: Megan gets her groove back

Today is Day 4 of Offbeat Home's Cooking Challenge, wherein we see if Offbeat Bride's Managing Editor Megan, a complete non-cook who lives off of cereal and frozen meals, can go an entire week preparing her own meals.

Each day, Megan will recount how yesterday's cooking went, and we'll share the next day's recipes prepared by Cat Rocketship (who SWEARS you can afford better food!). Feel free to cook along with Megan, if you'd like!


I'm smiling because I don't have to make a quiche.
Cat, in her infinite kindness, gave me a lighter cooking day for Day 3 of the Offbeat Home cooking challenge.

That bagel, goat cheese, and apple breakfast that took me an hour to make on Sunday, took me about 30 minutes to make this time. I'm getting better!

Most of the difficulty is because my knives are really dull. Thankfully part of my homework yesterday was to learn how to sharpen knives. I do not have a whetstone or a sharpening steel, but my neighbor, who's a professional chef de cuisine, DOES. He's bringing home his materials tonight and is going to give me an in-person lesson. I'm spoiled, I know.

But even though it's dull, check out how cute my paring knife is!:

But look how cute my paring knife is! He's smiling. :)

Since you already saw me go through making the goat cheese and apple bagel (complete with apple slicing anxiety), let's jump ahead to lunch, shall we?

Lunch Day 3: Asian turkey sandwich with hoisin sauce

My turkey & hoisin sandwich. I learned that hoisin sauce will leak thru bread. #obhfood

I had NO IDEA what hoisin sauce was until I went shopping for it three days ago. Fortunately my buddy Alex knew exactly what it was, or I'd probably STILL be roaming the aisles of the grocery store asking Siri "where can I find the hoisin sauce in the West Hollywood Ralph's?"

I have a turkey sandwich almost every day with lettuce, cheese, and mustard, so I was not too sure about ditching my beloved mustard and bringing in this Asian saucy interloper. I seriously knew so little about it that I actually asked Cat where I should put the sauce. She recommended on the turkey. What she didn't warn me was that there should be some kind of barrier between the hoisin and the bread. That shit leaks. I had soggy sticky bread, until I created a nifty cheese barrier.

And how did I like my mustard switcheroo? I LOVED IT! And that's a good thing, because I was forced to buy a pretty big bottle of hoisin sauce.

Anyone else try that sandwich? OR have any more ideas on what I can use the sauce in? Because seriously, I have a LOT of it.

Dinner Day 3: Parm-mushroom-spinach risotto with a salad

This is what my husband had for lunch… and dinner last night… and lunch and dinner the day before:

For comparison, this is my husband's lunch!

It's what he would have had on Day 3, if he hadn't come home in time for my risotto dinner. And it went a little something like this:

Oh! And I forgot to include the salad in that vid. I made the salad AND the salad dressing (since Cat didn't put salad dressing on the shopping list and OF COURSE I didn't have any). Thankfully Offbeat Home reader Lady Brett left a super helpful comment about how to easily make your own. So I did it, and it was one of the best salad dressings ever. So thanks for that Lady B!

Now I have a TON of risotto left over. Anyone have any ideas if there's some kind of crazy good risotto and hoisin sauce recipe? Because I totally have an influx of both. ;)

Hell yeah, risotto dinner! #obhfood #soproud

All in all, Day 3 was a success. But it was, admittedly, an easy day. Day 4 brings with it all new challenges, PLUS something I've always wanted to learn how to make on my own — macaroni and cheese!

So, who's been virtually dining with me? What did you think of day 3?

While Megan will do full posts each day, you can see photos and follow her Offbeat Home cooking challenge adventures real-time, too: @meganfinley #obhfood

  1. You did risotto! And it turned out nice! Actually I think that risotto is quite complicated (having burned a few myself :)), so WOW! I really like this series. You rock, Megan!

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  2. That risotto looks totally delicious, Megan! And I'm glad that you got something out of some of the wacky comments that are being posted. I'm going to save my "delicious and simple" recipes/tips for after the challenge, cause THAT will really be when you need them most, and because that way I won't be derailing you with all that stuff! Good job, and keep on going!

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      • Ariel, I've got some good easy recipes that I use pretty much weekly (me and my partner are both college students living on our own for the first time, so we really like easy cheap meals!), and I want to submit them. Do you want just the recipe, or would photo steps be better?

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        • Photo steps are always better, as Megan's apple slicing incident is evidence of.

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  3. Congrats on the successful day! I'm very impressed that your risotto went well. I only tried making risotto once and it was like something Oliver Twist wouldn't even eat.

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  4. Your hubby is so cute :DD

    And I also have no idea what risotto is xD I always thought it was soup! So it's rice…soup?

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    • It's super-creamy rice – it looks soupy while it's cooking, but the rice absorbs all the liquid.

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  5. arancini is a popular dish for risotto leftovers, and if you believe the italians, it's molto facile (very easy). i made it last weekend for a dinner party and it was a royal pain in the ass, but perhaps you will have better luck.

    you essentially roll the risotto into 1-inch balls, roll each ball in flour, then in a bowl of beaten egg, then in bread crumbs, and fry or bake it for 20 minutes at 425-450 degrees.

    an "easy" baked arancini recipe can be found at http://ohmyveggies.com/recipe-easy-baked-arancini . why simply eat risotto when you can spend hours rolling it into bite sized pieces first? (i know, i'm really selling it to you right now.) good luck!

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    • "why simply eat risotto when you can spend hours rolling it into bite sized pieces first?"
      That made me gaffaw. I just might try it. Probably will be easier than the egg over easy I attempted this morning.

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      • You can make 'em a bit bigger and pop a filling inside, which would cut down on prep time AND you could incorporate the hoisin if you really wanted! Roll a handful into a ball, jam your thumb in deep (heh heh) and hide your filling inside. Then flour, egg, crumb and fry. Sort of like a jam donut, but really not. :)

        Honestly, left over red sauce would make and AWESOME filling for your risotto balls. But who knows, hoisin might too!

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        • THE filling for risotto balls is mozarella, bite in and get stringy goey cheese… nom nom

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    • something similarish for the lazy (like myself):

      we tend to make veggie burgers out of any stickyish grain-type leftovers. you may want to stir an egg into the risottos to increase it's ability to stick together, then squish it into patties and fry it (low heat – and a bit of oil – so it cooks through without burning the outside). sometimes it works better than others, but if it doesn't burger up nicely, you can always just call it sandwich spread and it still tastes fine! it's all about framing =)

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  6. Major props on the risotto! I love risotto, but I often can't bring myself to spend that much time on something. I've made it with mushrooms and bacon, which was tres yummy. You can mix peas in there too, and really anything else you can imagine. It's very versatile. Also, I dig your videos. And your method for measuring wine :)

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    • I usually bake my risottos- just add all the liquid at once and pop it in the oven. Lots of recipes online. Super easy.

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  7. The knife…the fork! Your CUTLERY! Where does one buy such orgasmic-ly swanky tablewear??! Agh!

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    • Ah yes, all my kitchen gadgets are shaped like animals! I wrote about them a year ago! You can find a link to my shark paring knife in that post.

      And my flatware, omg, my amazing flatware that I love so much!!! That's Yamazaki's Gone Fishin' silverware. I registered for only two place settings of those because they were 'spensive but I couldn't resist. LOVE. THEM.

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      • I totally bookmarked that post because I need to get the Shark knife for the boyfriend. He has a thing for Sharks and to have it turn up in the kitchen? Best girlfriend ever points!

        Glad you had a great day 3! Keep it up! *cheerleads*

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        • Oh then may I recommend ALSO getting the shark bottle opener on that post. SO useful and people LOVE it.

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  8. For the hoisin sauce, stirfries are a serious must. Chop up, or use leftover veg, pretty much anything works. Throw in a wok or frypan with a teaspoon of sesame oil. Sautee for a few minutes, add hoisin sauce (1-2 tablespoons depending on how much veg). Mix it up, let it simmer in the pan for a couple of minutes. EAT. Bout as easy as it gets.

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    • That sounds AMAZING. i might actually do this WITHOUT Ariel and Cat forcing me. ;)

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      • late to the party here but there are also these AWESOME noodles you can get (yakisoba i think) where you just heat them in the microwave for a minute to loosen and then throw them in with your stir fried veggies for a few minutes to heat through, them ta-da! you have stir fry with veggies and awesome noodles :)

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        • Yes, Yakisoba noodles are phenomenal (buckwheat noodles). I don't have a microwave, so I just boil them for a couple minutes in a pot and then put them into the stir fry pan.

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    • Stir fries are great for both using up whatever's in the fridge AND definitely for hoisin sauce. If you want to get adventurous you can add a little bit of garlic or ginger to hoisin in a stir fry to get even moar flavours.

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  9. Your cooking looks pretty good already. (I'd have taken a swig from the bottle instead of the measuring thingy – less spillage! You live, you learn… ^^ ) And that risotto looks fantastic. Actually, you might just try heating it with a bit of hoisin sauce (never had any of that, so I am guessing) and see how it turns out. That's the way really great recipes are invented. ^^

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  10. First off, congrats on your success!

    Now a question what does hoisin sauce taste like? Is it spicy? I define spicy as Ortega hot sauce. But I'll power through curry if I have to.

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    • Hmm, it's a sweet Asian sauce. Thicker than soy sauce, like a syrup. It's tastes like a stir fry sauce really. I'm pretty shite at describing how food tastes though. Anyone else with a better palate wanna weigh in?

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      • Honestly, Megan I like your description. I spend a lot of time with stir fry sauce. But I'm down with more detailed descriptions from others.

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  11. Two spoons of hoisin + 2 spoons of peanut butter + a few shakes of rice vinegar + a few shakes of soy sauce — stir it all up, & you have a faux Thai peanut sauce. Cook up some chopped veggies & chicken (optional) & pour this sauce over them during the last minute of cooking. Serve with noodles or rice. It's my husband's fave dish.

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  12. Hoisin is like bbq sauce, only more asian. We use it in meatloaf, bbq chicken, stirfry (duh), or pretty much anything that could use some tangy sauce. Meatloaf is killer with it, just throw 2 Tablespoons into your mix, and top with tomato basil soup in a can, and cook for 60 minutes at 350.

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  13. For me, cooking is all about the leftovers, so I'd keep eating the risotto for lunch or next day dinner, if you weren't on the challenge. Or, send it off to your husband to eat for lunch. It will also likely freeze ok, so portion it off, label it, then chuck it in the freezer, and you have your very first homemade frozen meals!

    FYI, you can make your own french toast pizzas with a loaf of french bread/sub rolls, your leftover pasta sauce, and some mozzerella cheese. Or mix it up and try swiss or cheddar! It may take 15 more minutes than opening a package, but at least you know where the ingredients came from, and it will definitely be more fresh.

    Also, if you think you're making too much food for dinner, try halving Cat's recipe for the mac n cheese. If it isn't enough, just eat more risotto!

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    • I have to say, I have never found red sauce to be an acceptable substitute for pizza sauce. Until I discovered the trick of adding sugar to it; apparently pizza sauce is basically just sweetened (not too much obviously) red sauce.

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  14. Congratulations — you have a risotto knack! It's very, very handy to have a couple things in one's cooking repertoire that mysteriously come easy when other people struggle with them. You are now equipped to impress guests without breaking a sweat.

    I second Parasaur's suggestion of treating the risotto as leftovers that you just reheat and eat when convenient. However, arancini are delightful things, and if you turn out to have a knack for breading, I shall applaud loudly. Breading defeats me.

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    • I've been breading things since I was about 8 years old. I definitely have a knack for that. Just don't ask me to bake cookies!

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  15. " Because I totally have an influx of both"

    Send the risotto to MEEEEE! And the starving children in Africa.

    But me first. :)

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  16. I use hoisen sauce to flavor my Pho. Which can be made broke-student style by making ramen to package directions and adding chopped green onions, chicken, and any other vegetable you like. Hen, just add a dollop of hoisen to taste. (side note: my phone thinks "hoisen" should be "houseboy" o.O?)

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    • Oh man, we TOTALLY make "faux pho" in a pinch! Top your ramen with cilantro & scallions, squeeze in some lime & a squirt of sriracha…. FAUX!

      That said, I love a good authentic pho. MMMM

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    • "houseboy sauce"! oh, dear. hilarious.

      megan – glad the "recipe" was helpful! your risotto looks totally nom-ful, also.

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  17. This sticky pork is delicious and uses hoisin sauce: http://www.maillardvillemanor.com/2011/09/meal-plan-monday-sticky-pork.html

    I have to warn you though, shallots are the devil. Think of the tears that chopping onions brings and then MULTIPLY IT BY 10!

    Sometimes I do them in the food processor then hold my breath while I open it and tip them all into the pan to start cooking and quickly rinse any leftover bits out of the bowl.

    Once you get past that though, it is really, really good!

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  18. Congratulations on doing so well thus far! I made my first quiche for dinner tonight. It was sort of a coincidence, as I'd already planned my weekly menu before I saw what Cat had planned for you, and it was amazing despite my spilling egg underneath the crust. (Good thing, too – I'll be eating it for dinner tomorrow and lunch the next day.) I made the curry egg salad sandwich for lunch, and it was okay. I only had small eggs, so it was a bit too mayo-y, but I'll cut back on that next time and it shall be delish.

    Here's a really nice recipe for hoisin: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/hoisin_beef_edamame_noodles.html (I'd love a post where people can share where they find recipes online. I'm a huge fan of Mayo Clinic recipes, myself: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-recipes/RecipeIndex I've tried at least a dozen off that site, and not had a bad one yet.)

    Good luck with the rest of the week!

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  19. That's fantastic! A lot of people seem to really struggle with risotto but you look like you did a really good job on your first try so go you :) congrats! It's one of our favourite standbys now, one thing my bf has found he really likes to do is use dry vermouth instead of wine – it's quite good. Keep up the good work, you're doing awesome :)

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  20. I think my favorite part of the video was the look on your face when you took your first bite of risotto – "It's…delicious! Something I made is delicious!!" You also made me want risotto.

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    • RIGHT!? That was EXACTLY what I was thinking! Total excited disbelief of unexpected yumminess. That's what happens when these challenges go well. :)

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  21. Megan, if you had a cooking show I would watch it religiously.

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    • THAT made me bust out laughing. I couldn't imagine a WORSE person to have a cooking show… which is why I'd probably watch that dang show as well!

      Hey Food Network! *call me!* ;)

      1 agrees

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