Day 3 of the Offbeat Home Food Challenge: In which I give Megan a chance to catch her breath

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SUCCESS!These are the recipes for Day 3 (Tuesday, May 1) of Offbeat Home’s Cooking Challenge, wherein we see if Offbeat Bride’s Managing Editor Megan, a complete non-cook who lives off of frozen pizza and cereal, can go an entire week of preparing her own meals.

Each day, Cat Rocketship (who SWEARS you can afford better food!) will be sharing the recipes that Megan will be preparing — feel free to play along at home! If Megan, a pizza-loving non-cooking cereal-for-dinner web dork can feed herself healthy, home-cooked meals for a week — YOU CAN TOO.

Aiight, dude, I’ve worked you pretty hard for two days. You have been a good sport, so let’s look at a couple of simpler meals which won’t take you so much time.

Bagels and goat cheese, plus fruit of your choice and honey!

We’re going back to Day 1 for a bagel sandwich redux. Slice and toast bagels, smear them with goat cheese, and top them with a fruit of your choice — apples again, strawberries, or something else. Drizzle with honey and high five yourself and your breakfast mates.

The first #OBHfood challenge: bagels with goat cheese, apples & honey -- success!

In exchange for not having to cook anything, though, I want to encourage you to learn about sharpening your knife. Read this how-to about using a sharpening steel, and if you have the tools, give it a try. Keeping a sharp knife makes a big difference in kitchen efficiency and SAFETY! You’re much more likely to slip and cut yourself with a dull knife than with a sharp one.

Lunch: Asian turkey sandwich with hoisin sauce

You get an easy lunch, too. SEE HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU?


  • Sliced turkey
  • Lettuce leaf, washed
  • Bread
  • A pinch of onion: thinly slice a couple of rings to dress your sammie with
  • Hoisin sauce
  • A slice of cheese: whichever you’d like.

  1. Lay out two slices of bread on a plate.
  2. Assemble sandwich. Lettuce, turkey, cheese, onion, hoisin, MM!
  3. Eat. Relax. Get some non-cooking-related work done!

Dinner: Parm-mushroom-spinach risotto with a salad

This is one of my favorite dishes to make: it’s simple — though it does take babysitting — and it tastes like something amazing. I like to serve this to guests and make them think I’m much more talented than I am. It’s just the cheese talking, guys.

Really, the key to risotto is patience. The ingredient amounts needn’t be exactly measured, as long as you have enough parm and salt and time for your rice to cream up, it’s gonna taste so good.

This is a recipe that invites experimentation. Though really, I think all recipes are open to interpretation — I do lots of substituting, adding, substracting, and swapping. It doesn’t always go well, but as I’ve gotten better at cooking the success rate’s shot up. Since risotto isn’t very exact, this is a good place to try feeling comfortable with using terms like "handful" and "about half".

SOME PREP NOTES: I’d use a pot with high sides for this dish. Ideally, you’d have a really big-bottomed saucepot (YEAH YOU WOULD!) but I don’t have one, and this is too much food for my large, flatter pan. So I make this is in a stew pot, because that rice will double in size as it cooks.

This recipe serves 2ish.


  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Onion, chopped (get used to chopping onions. Sorry brosef.)
  • 1-2 cups chopped mushrooms — whatever small ones you bought. You can use any type of mushroom for this recipe.
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and then lightly chopped
  • 1.5 cups rice
  • 3/4 cup white whine
  • Tomatoes! Whatever you’ve got is fine: another can of whole peeled, a fresh tomato diced up. If you haven’t got any, it’s fine to skip this.
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1-2 cups parmasan, grated
  • 1-2 cups spinach, washed and roughly chopped
  • A book to read
  • Leaf lettuce, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 apple, diced
  • goat cheese
  • Sliced almonds for everything!

1. Fill a smaller pot with 4 cups hot water and the appropriate amount of veg stock — the cubes or jar you bought will have instructions on how much to use!
2. Cover pot, set to medium-high heat, and let boil. After it’s fully mixed, just shut off the heat. While you’re waiting, get started on the rice.
1. Coat bottom of a large pan or pot with oil, add 2 tablespoons butter. Heat to just over medium heat.
2. Add onion and cook five minutes, stirring often.
3. Add mushrooms and garlic, cook for another 2-3 minutes. Watch the garlic carfeully — when garlic burns it turns bitter, so you want to keep it soft and golden, not hard dark and crispy.
4. Stir in uncooked rice and let roast for about 3 minutes. Keep stirring!
5. Pour in wine, cook about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Reduce heat to medium-low, add tomatoes if you got ’em, and about a cup of vegetable stock. Stir fairly constantly until liquid is mostly absorbed — about 5 minutes. This is when I grab a book and read it next to the stove, stirring gently while I read. As liquid is absorbed, keep stirring and adding about a cup at a time, stirring and adding until about 30 minutes have passed (set a timer!), and your rice is creamy and cooked.
7. Stir in half a tablespoon of salt, spinach, and half your parmasan. Cover, reduce heat to low and let cook for 4-5 minutes, until spinach is wilty.
8. While spinach is wilting, prepare salads: cut and rinse lettuce, serve into bowls, top with crumbled goat cheese, diced apples, a handful of almonds, and salad dressing…which I hope you have because I didn’t put it on your list.
8. Sprinkle remaining parm on top of the risotto, along with a good handful of almonds and serve. OM NOM.

While Megan is doing full cooking reports the following day, you can see photos and follow her Offbeat Home cooking challenge adventures real-time, too: @meganfinley #obhfood

Comments on Day 3 of the Offbeat Home Food Challenge: In which I give Megan a chance to catch her breath

  1. The risotto instructions confused me a bit. You’ve called for four cups of water/veg stock, but at the end, you use just a cup of it. Just making sure I didn’t miss somethin’, as I so often do.
    I’ve wanted to tackle risotto for a while! Encouraging!

  2. What kind of rice do you use? I’ve only ever used arborio for risotto, but it’s so expensive… so I like the idea of using something else… but it’s got to be short-grain, no?

  3. a note on salad dressing, in case you *haven’t* got any –
    a simple, tasty alternative to actually having or making salad dressing is to splash:
    a small amount of oil (i prefer olive), which is in all these recipes, so i’m sure it was on the list,
    a small amount of something tasty and acidic: vinegar is typical, but lemon juice is great…in fact, i bet orange juice would be very tasty…heck, with the sweetness of the apples in this salad, you can probably even skip this ingredient if you haven’t got anything appropriate,
    and sprinkle some salt and pepper
    easiest salad dressing ever (i mean, not easier than having a bottle around, but…), and totally tasty (just remember that you can always add more, but you can’t add *less*, so be gentle).

    • Yes, totally. Olive oil+acid+herb or spice= tasty dressing.
      I’ve done olive oil, orange juice, and powdered ginger with great success.

    • Yes. Also:
      Honey + Brown Mustard + Apple cider vin
      EVOO + 1/2 acid 1/2 POM juice + honey
      Flax oil + Lime juice + S&P

      I love Bragg Liquid Aminos to add to all my dressings. Here is one great one:
      French Dressing with Onion Sauce

      1/2 cup EVOO
      1/4 cup lemon juice
      1/2 teaspoon French herbs
      1-1/3 teaspoon Bragg Liquid Aminos
      1/2 teaspoon onion, minced
      1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar

      Blend ingredients vigorously. Allow to stand one hour before serving. Makes 3/4 cup.

  4. I hope this isn’t considered backseat cooking, but it helped me understand what all that stirring was accomplishing when I first made risotto: when you add the wine and stir the rice around, you’re agitating and drawing out the natural starches in the rice, which are what enable risotto to get that creamy texture without using any actual cream! Fun fact!

  5. This sounds delicious! Here’s my tip: I hate chopping garlic and cloves never seem to get used up before they sprout, so we bout a jar of pre-minced garlic. Seriously, that stuff is fantastic. Hubby just doesn’t cook with garlic often enough for us to buy bulbs of it but if I’m cooking, it’s quite possible I’ll want garlic. All this despite having an awesome garlic crusher which I do enjoy using.

    And @lady brett is totally right about salad dressing. Straight out concentrated orange juice works (my parents tended to stock that in the fridge). I like oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.

  6. Hey Megan, I just wanted to mention that if you want to keep up the homemade meals trend after this challenge is over, you might find it easier to just make enough dinner to eat as leftovers for lunch the next day. I don’t know how you’re finding the time to cook up something new for every meal of the day! Mad props!

      • Totally know how you feel. I love cooking, but it seems to take forever. ~_~

        Have you tried a crock pot (place ingredients in, turn on low and nom on later after like 6-8 hours) or a simple marinade + grill method yet (place meat of choice in ziplock bag with a bottle of salad dressing in the morning, put back in fridge, take out and grill come dinner time)?

        Both are very easy and basically cook on their own.

    • Werd, I would hate for you to think that home-cooking has to be all or nothing. My boyfriend and I cook enough for at least four servings at dinner every night so that we can take it for lunch the next day. I eat oatmeal for breakfast most mornings. Bulk rolled oats + raisins + cinnamon + water + microwave = hot breakfast that does not technically involve any cooking.

      So although all of my meals are “homemade” I only cook once a day. Cooking for yourself also save so much money.

  7. Am loving these recipes *drool* just wondered if it’s possible to get my hands on the shopping list. I’m an ok cook, but seem to have lost my way along the line and would love to give the challenge a go myself. Its probably somewhere real obvious, but I haven’t slept in a bit, so im blaming all current flaws on that

  8. Okay, I’m going to be the dick that brings this up: snack? Since I feel like a jerk for bringing it up, I’ll even give myself a snarky response “Peel an orange.” Your meal recipes are just so creative that I want MOAR! But I don’t want Megan’s head to explode.

    • Ha! Good response. :p I checked with Megan about this last night — she said she’s been so busy with recipes she hasn’t really needed a snack. Today, ORANGE IT IS!

      • Cat, another thing is that if Megan isn’t used to eating good quality food, she’s probably feeling pretty full most of the time about now, because quality food KEEPS you full. You aren’t hungry an hour later. Unless you’re my Intended, but that’s his issue….

        • OMG yes! This! I’m known for being a HUGE eater — entire large pizzas, 2 or 3 helpings of any dish, etc. But all of a sudden, I’m feeling so full. Last night, I entirely skipped dinner. I didn’t realize it was because I’m changing the food I’m eating! Fascinating.

  9. I cook a few nights a week, usually making a bunch of things on Sunday for the week. I have a banging Chili recipe if anyone wants. I also cook mostly without added salts and fats when I can, this way it is more healthy. I am a big baker, cooker, and eater, in the kitchen it all works out.

  10. I swear by this onion-cutting technique. By not cutting the root right away I have a little handle to hold everything still and I don’t cry anywhere near as much.

  11. Just wanted to pop in to publicly thank Cat for making this day easier. OMG, I needed a bit of a food prep break. This has been difficult but SO awesome at the same time.

    Now to go back to my Offbeat Bride home and do some work! 🙂

  12. Two things- Cat loves her some onions, apparently (said with love by somebody who can’t get within 25 feet of onion without choking. Very allergic, here!) and risotto sounds terrifying and I skipped reading that part. I didn’t think of myself as *that* cooking challenge, but maybe I should play along if I get a mild panic attack just at the word risotto.

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