Day 1 Cooking Challenge report: the terror of slicing an apple

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Today is Day 2 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!

Report from Day 1 (Sunday)

(Click here for Megan’s meal plan)

Where I hit the wall

See those apple slices on the right? That sight alone was enough to completely freak me out, just MINUTES into my first Offbeat Home food challenge. That cut in half apple was far as I got on this challenge before running into a problem.

Cat wants me to cut those pieces into flat thin slices. HOW THE FUCK DO I DO THAT!? Googling “how to cut an apple into thin slices” is seriously not helping me. I’m running into the same thing that stumps me every time I try to cook: reading directions that are making my eyes blur over and giving me Derp face by step number three.

See, THIS is why the Offbeat Home food challenge was invented: to help me and all of us that are cooking inept. SOLIDARITY!

Thankfully, I have a great team behind me — Cat, who is making up all the recipes and then running them by her user experience-writer husband to dumb it way down. Ariel who is cheerleading all the way and giving advice on how to ignore the “backseat cookers.” My mom who came in clutch this morning with apple cutting instructions. And a good group of friends, who are doing things like helping me shop, teaching me how to not chop my fingers off, and my neighbors, who are professional chefs, hooking me up with fresh farm eggs.

Join me on the beginning of my cooking journey and together we can learn how to cut a fucking apple.

The preparation

The grocery list
Yes, that is three pages worth of food and items I’d need for this week. A lot of it was things like milk, butter, spices, bread, eggs, etc. All of the things that most people buy and/or just always have on hand. But since this is Megan-the-anti-cook, and my fridge looks like this, I had to BUY ALL THE THINGS!

Along with being unable to make food, I also experience anxiety when I go grocery shopping. I have actually got my shopping for the week down to what I’d compare to a finely choreographed dance routine — hitting the same spots of the same aisles in the same order at a fast pace — in order to get in and get out ASAP. So THIS was going to be more than a challenge, it was going to be a learning experience. Of course, the essential for ANY learning experience is someone to help teach you. I asked my buddy Alex (who’s in town from traveling around the world getting married over and over again) to come with me on my shopping trip.

I believe this is Alex's "are you fucking kidding me?" face.

If it weren’t for Alex, I’d probably STILL be at the grocery store looking for hoisin sauce (turns out it’s a sweet Asian sauce), and looking for chick peas when they’re apparently also called garbanzo beans. Then after all that I would have brought home broken eggs — turns out, you have to check the carton before putting it in your cart! We’re learning here folks.

The food prep
Two hours and $200 worth of groceries, a strainer, and a mini crock pot later I was prepared.

Breakfast Day 1: Bagels with goat cheese, apples, and honey

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

Like I said, I hit a wall TWO steps into making breakfast. Cat told me to “thinly chop apple slices,” and I just froze. (I know, that’s pretty lame, but remember: SOLIDARITY here, Homies.) How-what-which-what angle from which to attack this half an apple?

Thankfully my mother hit me up on video chat right as I was almost 15 minutes into a freak out and she walked me through the steps. I didn’t record it, unfortunately but I took some screen shots. If anyone out there hits this same roadblock just let me know and I’ll help you out.

But in the end, after learning how to thinly slice an apple, I had four gorgeous goat cheese, apple and honey bagels. And they were DELICIOUS!


Now lunch was a different story…

Lunch Day 2: Curried egg salad sandwich aka. the sandwich that took me two hours to make

The curried egg salad sandwich that took me two hours to make. #obhfood  (photo taken before remembering to add the lettuce)Here. Here is a stupid shitty picture of the fucking sandwich that took me two hours to make. Fuck you sandwich. You were tasty, but by the time I was ready to eat you I was shaking and exhausted. I was bested by a damn egg salad sandwich.

Why does anyone ever make egg salad sandwiches? It took FOREVER to boil the eggs, than let them cool, then peel them, then learn how to chop them, then realize oh crap, four eggs won’t be enough, boil more eggs, chop all the other ingredients, realize I don’t have table or teaspoon measuring thingies, chop the second batch of hard boiled eggs, then mix all the ingredients, then put the egg salad between two things of bread, remember about the lettuce, add lettuce, then eat.

The best part of making this lunch was that my neighbor, Ari Kolender, who is a professional chef de cuisine gave me colorful farm fresh eggs with which to make my sandwich. Look at how cute they are!:

Got some colored eggs for my next #OBHfood meal! It's nice having chefs as neighbors.

Also, if weren’t for Ari, I would have had to run out and buy more measuring spoons. Fortunately Ari, getting hungry enough, just eye-balled a tablespoon of curry pepper for me. (Ssh, don’t tell Cat!)

When it was all said and done, after two hours, I served myself and a professional chef my curried egg salad sandwich. I wolfed it down hungrily, Ari ate half, then wrapped the second half up in a napkin and told me that he was going to take it with him to his apartment and “save it for later.” Mmm hmm.

I’m telling you, if this is what cooking is like, I know now why Cat takes so many baths. This shit is STRESSFUL. And I still have to make dinner tonight. Sigh.

So tell me: is anyone else doing this along with me? If so, how was YOUR experience? I encourage all my other non-cooks to play along and feel my pain and my joys and tomorrow we’ll talk about how today’s meals went! I only just got done with Day 1 lunch and I’ve already learned so much.

The recipes for Day 2

If you want to cook along with Megan, here are the recipes she’ll be working from on Day 2. They’ve got loads of cheese, strawberries, and dark chocolate!

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

Comments on Day 1 Cooking Challenge report: the terror of slicing an apple

  1. I love this idea, and loved reading this post! Cooking skills are so much like other skills we take for granted once we’ve learned how–reading, riding a bike, driving a car… While learning it feels like the hardest. Effing. Thing. Ever, but once you’ve mastered certain skills you won’t even think about how to carry them out, they’ll just be a part of you.

    I don’t even remember learning the basics of cooking I was so young. This series is so refreshing! A great reminder that everyone’s realities are different. 🙂

  2. Oh Megan, I’m so in your boat here. Maybe I’ll try this experiment next week and learn to love curry. Then make comments on your posts and be the girl that makes comments a week late.

    I had to learn about the cracked eggs at the grocery store the hard way. Shouldn’t they pay someone to check the eggs for you? How’d that become the consumer’s responsibility? I thought this was America!

    P.S. – Totally jealous of how clean your fridge is and that you live near an In-N-Out Burger.

    • HA! I love that you noticed the In & Out cup! 🙂

      And NEVER worry about being the person who comments a week late — the posts stay up forever for a reason.

  3. You’re doing an amazing job! I’m so happy we have been here to cheer you on in your first coupla days of hellish cooking but heavenly eating! Your freezer will be bursting with amazing foodie goodness before you know it and you will have a fave recipe…shock horror I know but we know you can do it! Big love dude x

  4. Hah, I love this post. Megan, you are adorable.

    I used to be really intimidated by cooking, too. But now I’m good at it and I LOVE cooking. That’s all it is – if you love cooking, you don’t mind waiting for the eggs to boil and peeling them and chopping them because it’s just what you do. Once you’ve got the hang of cooking it becomes fun, I promise.

  5. I loved this post! Your derp face was adorable and it looks like you had a lot of fun shopping – thanks for sharing with us 🙂

  6. Those eggs are beautiful!!

    And it’s so true that sometimes the “simple” things are the hardest, until you do them several times (like me trying to cook rice *shudder*).

    • kiki, I’ve got 4 words for you. Boil in bag rice!! I never screw up rice anymore!! And, no annoyingly big single use gadget (rice cooker) to store.

  7. I am LOVING this challange! It’s very eye opening, especially when something like curried egg sanga is my idea of something quick and easy when I can’t be bothered! haha!
    Just a heads up on boiling an egg, everyone has their own opinion.
    For me, easy peasy is pop the pot on the hot plate with a splash of water in it, boil the kettle and add boiled water to pot. Put your egg on/in a spaghetti server or slotted spoon and hold over the boiling water for 10 seconds, then lower in (this speeds up the boiling stage, but prevents cracked egg shells by plunging cold eggs in boiling water). Repeat until all eggs are in the water.

    Leave for 5 minutes for a soft-boiled egg (good with soldiers!) or 10 for hard. If you want your egg hot (for soldiers!), scoop out of the pot with the slotted spoon and pop into an egg cup. If you want them cold (for peeling) poor the water out of the pot and cover the eggs with cold water. Dump the water and re-cover with cold again a few times to speed up the cooling.
    I could lecture you about easy peeling techniques (my parents have hens, and this works on their eggs) but I’ll cut the backseat cooking short here. 🙂

  8. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who panics about slicing apples! The first time I made apple pie, it took me FIVE HOURS. Granted, I was drinking wine while I was preparing the pie and that might have had something to do with it but the apple slicing was such a PAIN IN THE ASS.

  9. Just remember, the apple is more scared of you, than you are of the apple! Truly! 🙂

    Anyway, loving reading these!

  10. Uhm… when you need to measure one tablespoon of something, you could just use a tablespoon, right? (I always do that – German recipes do not call for a spoon of anything, we do not have these measuring thingies, and I always use a real spoon. Honestly, most of the time it tastes great.)

    Apart from that – the best thing about cooking is that you cannot do much wrong. Trust me. My sisters and I argue all the time: How thin to cut the carrots, whether to slice or dice the mushrooms – but no matter what we do, the outcome usually tastes great.

    It seems you were doing great for your first day of cooking. It’s a learning experience, so don’t worry.

    By the way: You could always just boil a whole bunch of eggs and store them in the fridge, they make fantastic snacks.

  11. I had a big ol thing written out, but stupidly went to page 2 and lost it, short n sweet: I LURVE THIS THINGAMAJIG!!!!! Got it to slice stuff for the dehydrator, use it for a shit ton of meals, (perfectly sliced carrots in soup anyone??? Onions/Bell peppers so thin you don’t realize the pasta isn’t 100% pasta? FRENCH FRIES???) and I love love love it!!! I’ve been cooking since toddlerhood and I will never get rid of this thingy… its that good… PS your post rocks!!! Keep Calm and Slice On!!!

  12. This is one of those sandwiches that you would typically only make if you already had hard-boiled eggs on hand (I typically make a batch every week and eat them as a quick snack), otherwise I would agree that it’s just not worth the effort!

  13. Ugh, fuck chopping apples correctly. Fuck chopping anything correctly actually. No matter which way you chop it, you aren’t going to damage the flavor so why bother worrying about it? The food will taste fine either way.

    • This is a great point and speaks to the fear that many non-cooks have… rather than dive in and hack up an apple, Megan got so freaked about “doing it right” that she froze. I went through similar terror this weekend with an apple dutch baby, but ultimately if the flavors are there, it’s all gonna be ok…..

  14. I hate boiling eggs, but here is some advice if you would like to make hard cooked eggs in the future: You don’t have to boil them. You can pop them in the oven, leave them there until you hear the timer, dump them in ice water, and it peels so much easier. It also makes the yolks creamier.

    Just place eggs on baking sheet, set oven to 325, cook eggs for 30 minutes or so, dump eggs in ice water, peel the eggs when they get cool, then you can return them to the ice water to thoroughly chill (or go ahead and eat them warm)! That way you focus on chopping the other ingredients without worrying the eggs might boil over.

    Hope it helps.

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