Offbeat Home Food Challenge: Recipes for Day 6

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Learning to Cook © by creating in the dark, used under Creative Commons license.

Doing this food challenge has been really interesting for me, too! I've learned things, also!

  • Seems like the dishes relying on spices for variety are going over really well — the sandwiches and curries.
  • The recipes you've had trouble with are similar to my kitchen disasters. I can't tell you how many baked dishes I've failed disastrously. And subtly: it seems like these sorts of recipes are so much more likely to be inexplicably, unfixably bland sometimes. (But I totally threw Megan under the bus with the mac and cheese!)
  • I greatly overestimated Megan's cooking knowledge. Having spent three days with her just last month I don't know how this escaped me so utterly.
  • When in doubt, I should be as specific as possible in describing everything.

SO WE SET UPON DAY 6 of the Offbeat Home Food Challenge with vigor!

We're now into the fog of fading food item inventory. I've had you cook a LOT of eggs, and I'm sure you used up most of your greens already, too. With that in mind, I'm going to give you a fast breakfast, an easy lunch, a trip to the supermarket, and some supplies that will last you for a couple more meals.

Breakfast: Do you still have bagels?


  • Bagels, if you still have them
  • Bread, if you don't have bagels
  • Toaster!
  • Butter
  • Honey
  • Tea

Make yourself a bagel! Smear it with a glob of butter. Dribble on honey, and slam in your mouth. Tea is optional. (Do you know how to make tea? Ariel lives on black tea and honey.)

Lunch: Eat some more turkey sandwich!

You said a lunchmeat sandwich is a pretty typical lunch for you, and that doesn't really need to change. This is a good place to keep improvising on the basic meal until you get bored — preparing for good lunches will keep you visiting the produce aisle once in a while, too.

Lunch — and sandwiches especially — is good for using up some produce that might be on a downhill slide. Take stock of your ingredients. What have you got in the way of:

  • Bread
  • Turkey
  • Mayo
  • Mustard
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Cheese
  • Chips
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Eggs?

Mix and match with whatever you've got. Consume with a bubbly drink.

New grocery list!

You may already have some of these. Replenish if needed!

  • Lettuce
  • 1 jalepeño (in the refrigerated produce section. Pick a tiny pepper if you can't figure out which to get: tiny ones are gonna by spicy.)
  • 1 fresh tomato
  • Carrots
  • 1 onion
  • 1 apple
  • 1 bunch spinach (also available frozen)
  • Corn tortillas
  • 1 can black beans
  • Salsa
  • Salt
  • Cumin
  • Bread
  • 2 bags frozen broccoli
  • 1 8oz cheddar cheese
  • 1 tube goat cheese
  • milk
  • cereal
  • ice cream

Dinner: Fried bean tacos


  • Corn tortillas
  • Lettuce
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 clove garlic, smushed
  • 1 quarter onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 jalenpeño, finely minced
  • salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 potato, diced finely (like, cubes the size of the tip of your pinky?)
  • olive oil
  • yogurt
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salsa

  1. Preheat the oven and do this with your taco shells.
  2. Heat a frying pan to medium and drizzle in a spoonful of olive oil.
  3. Fry onions, garlic, salt, cumin, paprika, together for several minutes — say, five minutes!
  4. Add potatoes, jalpeño and fry for three more minutes.
  5. Drain can of beans, add to frying pan.
  6. Let everything simmer lightly for about 10 minutes.
  7. Dish into awaiting taco shells. Top with lettuce, cheese, yogurt, put salsa on the side, and nom.

Comments on Offbeat Home Food Challenge: Recipes for Day 6

  1. So you can confirm that the Lifehacker method does work on corn tortillas? They said do that with flour, and the commenters were all wondering if it worked with corn.
    Also, I feel like this experiment gets at part of my trouble with cooking. Learning techniques or doing recipes with a large number of ingredients gets overwhelming for me. I’m really JUST learning to do well the techniques that I CAN do, but I need to be introduced slowly to new ingredient combinations and spices. A recipe that’s full of things I’m unfamiliar with almost always ends in BLECH!

  2. I am slowly realizing that I must eat too much meat. So many of your recipes are vegetarian, and I am thinking “Some lunchmeat is all you had today!? What is wrong with the world?!” But when I think about it, I feel like I probably wouldn’t even miss a meat with this taco recipe, and maybe I could start enjoying my food without the mindset of MEAT + SIDE (or at least my “protein must be in everything, ever” idea I got from somewhere). It will probably be a lot healthier and better for the world. So thanks for helping me realize that full meals can be vegetarian!

    • hey, “protein must be in everything, ever” is actually a pretty good way to approach eating healthily (keeps you from the thing i used to do where you think just pasta is actually a meal).

      the trick you need to learn (if you in fact want to start eating less meat) is that protein doesn’t have to be meat. the beans in this recipe are high in protein – as is any legume (beans, peas, peanuts, lentils, etc.). some legumes (like soy, and so tofu) are much higher in protein than meats are, actually. cheese is also high-protein, as are heavy greens like kale and mustard (and spinach, but less so).

      hope that helps! you may want to do some research if you’re really interested, because there are differences between the types of protein you get from animals and plants as well.

    • Ha! I was a vegetarian for six years, and now I’m a sometimes-itarian. I know Megan doesn’t eat all meats, so I just went for veg.

      I still only eat meat maybe once every 36 hours. And then it’s usually bacon. But YES: Thanks to Lady Brett for pointing out protein is also cheese and eggs and beans and even some veggies.

      • Also, truthfully: I don’t have any idea how to cook meat that isn’t A: Bacon or B: in a tube oe other meat. I couldn’t inflict my meat knowledge on Megan.

        • You just changed my world. My husband eats fish/poultry and I’m a vegetarian… and we usually end up cooking separately since he accuses me of eating and cooking weird things.

          This could change everything. Thanks!

        • No, I haven’t! It sounds good, though! I don’t do well with adding meat to meals, but subtracting is easy: pretty much all meat can either be removed, or replaced with beans or tofu or eggs or more cheese or…

          • This cookbook has SAVED MY (well my households) kitchen!! I am mostly vegetarian, though my body hates taking in iron from vegetarian sources, and my fiance would best be described as a vegan-plus-local-tarian. (Having been a farm boy growing up he understands the importance of using local cattle, eggs, milk and more, but prefers to eat vegan when those aren’t an option.) I am (if possible) less of a cook than Megan (needed to ask for further directions on making a sandwich, which comes a little with being a vegetarian)but was very excited to see that most of these recipes were vegetarian.

    • Yeah, instead of Cat working around my strange meat-eating tastes (No: chicken, pig, fish — Yes: cow, turkey) I just requested mostly vegetarian for her sanity. 😉

  3. When you pick up the groceries, GET SOME PLASTIC GLOVES! I found a pack of food service style plastic gloves for $1 at my grocery store, and they have been a lifesaver when cutting peppers. Do not chop the spicy peppers with the bare hands. You will inevitably scratch your eye, or something else inappropriate, and it will BURN.

    • Yes! I was a tad alarmed when there was no instruction on how to chop spicy peppers without injury or burny-ness.

      The main point: remove the stem, seeds (!), and whitish membranes inside carefully (use your cute paring knife, if it’s been sharpened). Use gloves if you like. Do not, under any circumstances touch your face after handling the pepper without washing your hands thoroughly. When in doubt, take to youtube or Godspeed!

    • So glad people brought this up! It cannot be emphasized enough. You don’t know the true extent of eye pain until you’ve touched a hot pepper and immediately rubbed your eye. And trust me, YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW. (OK, it would probably feel worse to be stabbed in the eye. But not by that much.)

      If you don’t have rubber gloves, you can use plastic wrap (a little more awkward but works in a pinch). Just put some barrier between your bare fingers and the pepper!

      And you can also control the hotness of the pepper– if you like your food hot, throw the seeds in too, since that’s where a lot of the heat is. If you like it not so hot (but still a bit spicy), then discard the seeds.

    • Yes, good advice! If you happen to get some of the pepper juice on your hands (reusing the cutting board, knife, forgetting to avoid it, etc.) you can get it off by soaking your fingers in water with a few tablespoons of lemon juice. Go forth and conquer the peppah!

  4. What I have learned from this challenge: Homies will start to gather with pitchforks and torches if they feel that Cat has made things too hard for Megan.


    • Hehehe 🙂

      Actually, I left a comment about milk amounts yesterday and then later on I was thinking that I hope I’m not sounding too critical. I’m totally impressed with Cat for doing this. I cook all the time but menu planning more than a day in advance completely escapes me. Good thing I live next door to a grocery store.

      So, in summary: Yay for Cat! Cat is awesome!

        • Oh, totally yay for you!! This is awesome that you’re doing this for Megan; I’m pretty sure we all wish we had someone to do this kind of thing for us… OH WAIT! You do it for us too! YAYYYYY! 🙂

          Thanks, Cat!

        • Another yay for Cat!

          Every cook has some recipes or techniques that work for her but totally bork for pretty much everybody else, in the manner of the mac-and-cheese. Despite all the talk of chemistry from some cooking experts, there’s still an element of knack and “feel” and how your particular ingredients, techniques, climate, and stove interact. You’re doin’ great.

    • Well it certainly has made it a challenge to post comments! I want to encourage Megan but I do also think Cat has done a good job with menu planning.

      I’m really really loving this series but sometimes I comment with my heart in my throat, especially since I appear to be in the “these recipes are easy” minority.

      The best and most unexpected pleasure I’ve had from all this is that it’s been a real education watching a truly novice cook go through what I think are easy recipes. (I know, I know — you can firebomb my house right after you torch Cat’s.)

      So far I’ve learned:

      1) I may have better-than-average cooking skills.

      2) If you do offer a recipe to a new cook, make sure to take into consideration what tools she/he has on hand and what kind of experience is necessary to wield them.

      3) Writing a cookbook might be harder than I thought.

      4) Both Megan and Cat have vast tracts of patience.

  5. I greatly overestimated Megan’s cooking knowledge. Having spent three days with her just last month I don’t know how this escaped me so utterly.

    No, seriously. How did you not realize this!? Ariel had to talk me through cutting strawberries one morning. Oh wait — you were sleeping! Bwahahaha. You slept through my incompetence.

    But seriously, when I said I was an idiot in the kitchen, I wasn’t being humble. I really am that clueless. NOW YOU ALL KNOW! 🙂

  6. Can I suggest washing the black beans after draining them? (And then draining again.) It’ll help get rid of the salt they stick in while processing or whatever.

    • I have always wondered about this, actually. Sometimes the can says to drain them, but I find that when I do (and use them raw in a salad, for instance) they don’t have that awesome texture – they’re just plain beans. Is it safe to eat the stuff they come in? Does it matter either way? AND, do they include that in the nutrition information, or not?

    • Also, a lot of the starch from the beans is in that can-juice. You reduce the carb-count on them by about 1/3 by draining the juice off. If you need the liquid, you can always add broth of some kind (or just straight water).

  7. Hmm… Apparently I have to come up with a side dish for white-castle-style homemade sliders for dinner tonight (3 hours from now). I am going to make a quick grocery store run…. Any suggestions for really fast, really easy side dishes? It can’t be spicy at all (our guests don’t do well with spice), and it should go with beef that tastes like onions… HALP!

    (Sorry, I hope this doesn’t derail the conversation from how awesome Cat is or how important it is to wear gloves while chopping peppers… because those are Very Important Things!)

  8. I really have loved everything about this food challenge because more than any other post, these posts have helped draw people together. I feel like I actually know Cat and Megan as more than just blog authors. And I am starting to recognize and piece together the personalities of many of the regular commentators.

  9. I have learned that I am much more used to vegetarian food than I thought. I didn’t notice at all that Cat’s recipes contained little meat. That feel yay, because I have been working towards eating (mostly) vegetarian and sometimes I have severe meat cravings ;).

  10. Damn you OBH! I am pregnant and now, instead of going back to bed at 5am, I am starving after reading that last recipe. I think it is pretty safe to say I’ll be making those tacos for dinner tonight. Is it weird that I am going to be thinking about them all day? 🙂

  11. I know lots of people have said it already but I do love this challenge for all the reasons already listed… togetherness, learning, blah blah blah.

    I just wanted to show my input as well! You guys rock!

    • well, I forgot to report back on his cooking skills.

      baking soft wraps into hard shells = fail
      first he forgot to oil them, then he burnt them

      the beaney potatoey taco stuff = B-
      it tasted good apart from he cut the potatoes too big so they were still a bit hard
      and when he crushed the garlic he left it in a big chunk then surprised himself when he ate a whole clove of garlic in one mouthful!!

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