Cooking Challenge Day 3 results: Blessed breakfast relief, and a lunch fail

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heaven in a bowlOh. My. Gawd. How amazing was it to wake up this morning and be able to eat immediately? It was MEGA amazing. I’m telling you, eating that bowl of granola cereal felt like a fucking vacation. Not because it was zomgtastey, or anything. I mean, it was — that granola is good. But it was just easy, and it gave me some time to relax in the morning, and even get a bunch of work done. (You know it’s bad when working is less stressful than feeding yourself.)

But lunch was a different story — actually, lunch was a similar story…

After working for several hours, then going to my therapy appointment, I had to head back to the grocery story (trip five in three days!) to get the rest of the ingredients for the next day. The moment I got into my local Ralph’s, I made a bee-line for the frozen pizza section, because that’s what I do first every time. Grab cart. Insert pizza.

i miss you pizza

Then I just stood there, staring longingly at all that easy-to-make deliciousness, and realized, “holy crap, I’m starving!” Like, getting dizzy, stomach growling, hungry. But I pressed on! I Charlie Brown walked out of the pizza section and entered the terra incognita of the produce section.

Then I searched for basmati rice for a while. Did you know that there’s a thing called Texmati? It’s “American basmati.” That’s all I could find at first. No worries, just had to look on a lower shelf to find the real stuff.

Then I fumbled around the spice section for what felt like half an hour. Spices are expensive! Holy crap.

Anyway, it was at this point that I realized that my hunger had gone from gnawing to full-blown hangry. I realized, “Crap. I’m not going to make Kellbot’s sauce thing for lunch.”

Yup, I failed on day three. I went home and re-made breakfast.

cereal for lunch

Coming soon… the video from last night’s dinner, featuring a drinking game, and several appearances by that guy I married!

Comments on Cooking Challenge Day 3 results: Blessed breakfast relief, and a lunch fail

  1. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. There’s no way I’d be able to play along with the full-blown cooking challenge without a fuckton of planning (and possibly taking the week off from work), so I salute you hard. Last night I got hungry for dinner and my boyfriend wasn’t so I ate most of a bag of Pirate Booty, and I’m not sorry.

    Let me know if you need help with lasagna! I’m away from email 6:30-7, but outside of that I can answer quick questions if you want. Or provide moral support and prayers to the kitchen deities on your behalf.

  2. Guuuurl… you need to get your hands on a Crockpot. They are the cooking skill-less busy person’s DREAM!

    My favourite fool-proof omnomnom worthy crockpot recipe:

    1 15 oz can of chick peas
    Bunch of fresh spinach with the stems roughly hacked off
    Large sweet potato cut into 1 inch cubes
    14 oz can of coconut milk (I use light)
    2 tblspns red curry paste
    2 tspns salt
    1 package paneer (or firm tofu to make it vegan) cut into 1 inch cubes

    Stick all of that (including the juice from the chickpeas) in the crockpot on low and then walk away from it for 6-8 hours (aka about the amount of time you’ll be at work). Stir it up and serve it over rice.
    I also like to make up a giganto batch of rice once every week or so and then I’ll freeze the cooked rice in 2 serving sizes in ziploc bags and then you can just zap them for a minute and boom! Cooked rice!

  3. For cheap(er) spices try ethnic grocery stores. Doesn’t matter what ethnicity, although I find Indian and Middle Eastern ones have the best variety. The Indian grocery I go to sells a pound of curry powder for a dollar more than what the regular grocery store sells the little container for. Ethnic groceries can have better prices on things like rice, lentils and cous cous too.
    Dollar stores occasionally sell spices too but I worry that they are old which can make them taste very weak or musty and weird.

    • Or bulk stores! We have Bulk Barn here and you just measure out what you want into a bag (or buy jars from them or cannisters). It’s significantly cheaper although @alice’s concern about age is valid. But you can sniff them right there. It also means that if you aren’t sure if you’ll like a spice, you can invest in a small amount and not waste a big bag or container if it turns out you don’t like it. The nice thing is that you rarely need a whole lot of a spice so that expense is spread out!

      Also, being able to shop for a whole week at once makes a big difference. I still suck at it as I never manage to plan meals ahead of time but I do make major grocery purchases and limit the small ones which does help.

      • Bulk spices are also seriously, seriously cheaper. I use a ton of spices and probably spend $5/month on them all. The baggies are somewhat annoying but if you have the jars from other things you can simply put them there.

  4. I don’t think of this as failure. If it is, this challenge is kind of setting you up to fail.

    I don’t know if you are supposed to be learning HOW to cook or if you are supposed to be learning TO cook. If the point is to learn how, this seems like a great immersion crash course on cooking skills. But if it is supposed to be helping you learn TO cook (ie: incorporate it into your regular life more often), I think this is not a good way to make that lifestyle change. It’s too much at once, and it makes cooking seem like a chore. Why wouldn’t you go back to frozen pizzas as soon as it is done??? I know the feeling of feeding myself being so stressful and SO much work but needing to eat more “real” food. My compromise is to eat the same, quick breakfast every day (fry 2 eggs and toast), cook just one big thing (like a soup) on the weekend and eat it every day for lunches–or make a simple smoothie + protein for lunches; and then dinner is a simple meal (such as meat+microwaved yam+steamed broccoli). Then I am only usually doing one big involved recipe thing a week, and my daily life is easy.

    I say this not to criticize the challenge but to offer my support if you’re feeling frustrated/overwhelmed. Eating well doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. This challenge would be very challenging for many of us!

    • It seems like good exposure therapy for someone with cooking/food anxiety. But I agree with a lot of others, that it’s OK to listen to your body and just fucking eat something without spending an hour to cook it.
      If you do another cooking challenge, I think there should be more emphasis on “quick” meals, not just meals that are simple to cook.

      • There was at one point a cooking show where the lady made something and then used the leftovers to make something different. I think that might be a good way to go.

        Also, it might be a nice idea in the future (since you have all the recipes in advance) to make a master shopping list at the beginning of the week. My least favorite part of cooking is going to the grocery store, so the thought of a 5th trip in a week is just debilitating. Like I feel like I’d just be slumped over the cart listlessly a it somehow dragged me from aisle to aisle.

        • So… I did all the grocery shopping at once on the last challenge and it was a fucking gawdamned nightfuckingmare. It was only slightly less nightmarish because I had a buddy to hold my hand and to take a page and a half of the three page-long grocery list. It also took two hours.

          So instead of taking FOUR hours shopping for that much stuff on my lonesome (seriously, I’m REEEEALLY BAD at grocery shopping), I thought I’d just tackle two or three recipes at a time. Which IS tiring, but better than the large shopping trip anxiety freakout.

          • What I do for my fiance (who is fairly chore-challenged) is write out the grocery list by department in clockwise order. So all he has to do is go department by department and check off each thing in that department and then rotate his way around the store. No running back and forth, no forgetting something four aisles back… It’s more work in the beginning, but it makes things a bajillion times easier for him.

          • saves my arse and my grocery shopping aversion. I still mostly make my husband go, because taking toddlers is a whole ‘nother nightmare, but this website makes it stupid easy to load with recipes (bookmarklet!), stupid easy to drag the recipes to the planner, and then wraps it all up in a printable list organized by department. It’s site you pay for, about $35??, but it’s been hugely worth it to me.

          • @koalaem: that’s awesome! I do that too!

            Lately my hubby has been doing the shopping and luckily we have a very small grocery store (Germany – land of discount groceries) so I literally write the list in the order you walk through the store in. He loves it and I like it too because I mentally go through the store and it helps me keep from forgetting those things that I would normally pick up automatically (eggs, butter, etc.) but I might not think of for a shopping list.

            The only tricky thing is produce, because it’s kind of a “buy what they have” principle. I would normally get what looks good or what gives me an idea for a meal, but that’s not much direction for him, so I try to request something they usually have or that I think should be good right now – or just the standards (like tomato, bell pepper and zuccini in our house – add Italian-seasoned canned tomatoes and you’ve got a meal!).

            Best part: I don’t have to resist the cookie and candy areas! Sure, I could put cookies on the list, but there’s no excuse for that (not like those well-founded reasons in the store like “it was calling to me” or “it was on sale”).

    • This challenge could also be made less frustrating by focusing on cooking basic things first, then combining two or more of those things to create a meal. How do you cook a chicken breast in a skillet/oven? How do you cook a potato? How do you steam broccoli? For me, once I learned how to cook separate, very basic things, I was ready to tackle full on recipes. But that’s me. MMMV (Megan’s Mileage May Vary)

  5. The spice area is definitely overwhelming. If I’m stocking up on something we’re out of, I try not to look at the prices. If I’m getting something for a specific recipe, I’ve been known not to make it because I’m not spending $4 on a tiny ass thing of ____. Assuming I can find it on the shelf – luckily my grocery store has most of them alphabetically, but even then some of them are hiding in the ethnic sections.

  6. So I’ve been reading these entries about the cooking challenge but I feel like I missed what the GOAL is.

    Is it to not eat anything processed/pre-made for a month? Or are you supposed to cook three meals from scratch, every day?

  7. Megan, can I please beg for a once a month youtube cooking show from you? The frittata video was the best thing I’ve seen in a long time… Actually all of them are (and as a side note, your boobs always look incredible, I don’t know how you do it!… Is that weird?: girl code?). Doesn’t have to be anything complicated, just watching you sing and cook is fun… And having your clothes match your cooking utensils is bonus cool

    • You know, I was just thinking about maybe doing a video every now and then. I enjoy making them and sharing them (and mah boobs) with all y’all. So, yeah, I think I can do that!

      As far as my boobs… the first two videos where all about the sports bra! 😉 The next one I’m going to be featuring, sadly does not show off that tatas.

    • I second this!
      You could calling it “Baking and Boobies”
      Or “Cooking with Cha-chas”
      Or “In the Kitchen with Cleavage”
      Or my new favorite euphemism:
      “Mixing and Milkers”!

  8. Don’t worry Megan. Most people don’t cook every day. But look, you’re already reaping the benefits. The granola you ate? Twice? Is still something YOU made!

  9. Almost forgot : I *did* make Kelbot’s sauce and it was as yummy as advertised. It really dressed up the leftover chicken, rice and broccoli ( yes the same chicken that doomed my taco salad.. gotta move that chicken! ). In fact, I’m going to make a bigger batch this weekend and just keep it in my frig… next to the simple syrup for making …VODKA LEMONADE … WHAT?!? How did I miss that in the instructions the first time! Another awesome idea.

    I departed from the recipe though. Again. ( I never noticed how much I do that until I tried following along this week. ) I decreased the amount of ginger and I grated both it and the garlic on my microplane grater then just whisked everything together. Too fucking lazy to drag monster food processor out. This weekend though I will.

    • I’m so glad someone tried it! We’re in full on CSA mode and lunch 3-4 days a week is “steamed CSA veggies, reheated quinoa, bunch o’ ginger sauce.” Although I’m getting realllllllllly tired of cleaning out my giant metal steamer pot so I might invest in one of the plastic microwave steamer doohickys. Technical term.

      • I have thought about getting a CSA subscription (share?) but I live alone and I’m daunted by the prospect of eating a crate of vegetables by myself.

  10. Little secret – Texmati – is Basmati rice, it’s just grown in Texas and isn’t deemed quite as aromatic as Basmati (they’ve got some sort of IP on the variety as well since it’s a trademarked brand – it’s a total marketing deal but it’s pretty much the same thing just grown in Texas so do not fear it next time you are searching!) And spices are CRAZY expensive, which is why I try and grow as many of the live “basics” as possible to cut down costs. I think the only things that I’ve ever used a full jar of before expiring is garlic powder (I mix it in burgers), cumin (because tacos obviously), and fennel. I keep on average 20 different spices on hand though. It’s a total racket.

    Anyways, keep calm and carry on! I hope today went better for you!!!

    • Yeah! Of course YOU would have the answers for me! 😉 It was just odd, the way they marketed it was like “it’s like that ethnic rice, but ‘Merican.” I was VERY thrown off. Good to know, though! It’s just an aromatic deal? No prob with ME, my nose barely works on most days. 😉

  11. Lunch tomorrow… Take a can of creamed corn, add a can of water and a stock cube (or use chicken stock) and bring to boil. If you do it on a stove top turn off the heat, break an egg into it and whip it up. The egg will cook as you stir it. If using a microwave break an egg into the bowl, stir vigorously with a fork then nuke for another minute. Enjoy. Add a little grated ginger if you like a zing.

    • Hmmm.. intriguing. I can see a lot of “using up leftovers” possibilities here.
      What’s the consistency like when you’re done? Is it smooth and fairly solid like polenta or is it more soupy like egg-drop soup?

  12. Soupy like the Cien soup you get at Chinese take aways. You can add cooked rice, leftover cooked meat (chicken works best, but pork is Ok), leftover cooked veg. It works as a leftover soup, but doesn’t taste like one.

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