Offbeat Home Cooking Challenge, Day 1 recipes: Bagels, curried egg salad, and spaghetti

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Today is Day 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.

For me, the hardest part of learning to cook was learning to get all the timing right. When do I do what? How do I get all the pieces of a meal ready at the same time? I’ve tried to write these recipes in ways that make linear sense — and I’d advise Megan (and YOU!) to start each meal by prepping the ingredients list: washing, chopping, and measuring.

Now, let’s do this…

Breakfast: Bagel with goat cheese, apple, and honey

Bagel Beanery Bagel 2-18-09 2 © by stevendepolo, used under Creative Commons license.
I am starting you off easy with an easily-doubled breakfast, in case Aaron wants in.

  • 1 bagel
  • 1 apple
  • goat cheese
  • honey
  1. Prep! Slice your bagel, pop it in the toaster. Wash and slice the apple in half, then slice one half into smaller slivers. Remove the core bits. Open the goat cheese!
  2. Retrieve the bagel. Spread on goat cheese, assemble with apple slices, dribble honey on top. Consider whether you want this to be a full bagel sandwich or more of an open-face style.
  3. Eat. And afterwards, wrap up the remaining goat cheese and apple half to save for future use.

Lunch: Curried egg salad sandwich

A little more difficult than a bagel, but not much. Sorry for two sandwiches in one day. :p This recipe will teach you how to make hard boiled eggs, too! The recipe is for two sandwiches. Divide if you’d like, otherwise plan to save some egg salad for future snacks and lunches.

  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup mayonaise
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ tablespoon chives or green onion tops, finely chopped
  • Bread
  • Lettuce, washed
  • Potato chips for eating on the side
  1. Boil eggs. Place eggs in saucepan and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, cover, remove from heat, and let sit for 12 minutes. Rinse the eggs with cold water, peel, and chop.
  2. In a bowl, combine eggs, mayo, curry, chives, and mix. Add salt to taste.
  3. Make a sandwich! Lay a leaf of lettuce on a slice of bread, spoon on egg salad. Potato chips on top are optional, but I toooootally recommend it.

Dinner: Spaghetti with red sauce and parmesan-roasted broccoli

You have a choice with this dinner. Technically making red sauce takes more than 30 minutes, but it’s only 15 minutes of work followed by 45 minutes of passive stewing. I’ll forgive you if you want to use a ready-made pasta sauce instead, but I will give you a disappointed face like this :-[

Red sauce is SO MUCH TASTIER than jarred stuff, and easily freezable for later.

Red sauce (yields 4 cups sauce. Have enough storage on hand to freeze three cups for future use, or divide into a smaller recipe)

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed (don’t peel it first! SO much easier after it’s smashed)
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • ½ carrot, finely sliced
  • 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • Salt


  • Noodles!
  • Parmesan


  • ½ head broccoli, or 2 cups frozen broc
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Sliced almonds

Making red sauce

  1. In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat for about three minutes. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft and browned, stirring occasionally, about eight minutes.
  2. Add thyme and carrot, cook five minutes more.
  3. Add the tomatoes, squooshing them into goosh with your hands over the pot.
  4. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Then reduce heat and let simmer — just a few bubbles popping to the surface fairly regularly — for 30 minutes. Stir in ½ tablespoon salt and transfer to another bowl (or directly to storage).

Spaghetti time!

  1. Fill saucepot with water and ½ tablespoon salt. Cover and bring to a boil.
  2. Add spaghetti noodles — about a quarter of a package for one person is a hearty serving. I hate estimating how much pasta to cook. It gives me anxiety. Break the noodles in half and stir continuously for first 45 seconds.
  3. Reduce heat to about a seven out of ten, set timer for eight minutes. Begin work on broccoli.

Cooking broccoli

  1. Wash and chop broccoli. Unless frozen, then skip this step. Chop head from most of stem, discard stem (bummmmmer.) Cut broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Put broccoli in a ceramic bowl with 2-3 tablespoons water. Cover with a plate and microwave three minutes. Test a floret. If needed, cook one more minute.
  3. At this point, it would be easy to get super fancy and lay the broc on a platter to broil in the oven for a few minutes to make it crispy and carmelize it a little. But I’m not gonna make you do it. I’m just going to plant the idea in your head.
  4. Top broc with grated cheese and a small handful sliced almonds.

Back to the spaghet!
When time is up, remove pot from heat. Drain water over strainer and free your noodles!
Dish up, cover with sauce and some more parm. Add a side of broccoli and enjoy your dinner!

For those of you who want to cook along with Megan, we’ll be posting recipes for tomorrow later today. Tomorrow, Megan will be sharing her notes about how Day 1 cooking went.

Comments on Offbeat Home Cooking Challenge, Day 1 recipes: Bagels, curried egg salad, and spaghetti

  1. For red sauce, I find it’s much easier to just pour a can of tomato sauce (just straight sauce, not a jar of Prego) in a bowl, dump some brown sugar, chives, and garlic powder in, and then microwave it 😛

    This tomato sqooshing, olive oil madness would drive me crazyyyy 😡

    • For the purposes of this challenge, Cat’s provided the recipes and instructions for Megan’s week. If I can, I’d love to discourage “backseat cooking” in the comments.

      As a crappy cook myself, I can say that there’s nothing more confidence-crushing and confusing for me than other people hovering in the kitchen, offering shortcuts and their personal tips about how I should be cooking. Sometimes, you just need a little room to work through a recipe and see how it goes.

      I’d LOVE y’all to cook along with Megan if you like, but I’m not sure quibbling over the recipes Cat has prepared is going to be helpful.

      • I think this should be mentioned somewhere in the posts. Because I find it’s everyone’s first instinct when a recipe appears.
        Alternately, I think the little blurb that wraps up the post should have a direction to steer the comments. Asking us to share certain cooking experiences or something.
        Hoping this is helpful!

        • I agree that it should maybe get a mention in the post. I didn’t realize it’s bothersome for people who don’t cook. I think for people who do cook, it’s just a way to talk about the shared experiences of cooking and “oh you do that? I do this!” I find it really interesting to hear how other people do things and it didn’t occur to me that it would bother someone until Ariel said something and I went “oh. right, that might be bad for someone who doesn’t have the experience to sort the information out”

          • Oh totally this. It’s very overwhelming already, and then throw in ALTERNATE directions and then I (as someone who knows shit all about cooking) am now faced with choices … and then the idea that one might be better than the other … and then I’m frozen again and I have no idea which advice to take … cue the tears. No beuno.

            I am a delicate baby bird. 😉

          • Yes, this! I was totally not trying to be mean at all. Just offering up an easier, yet not totally pre-made alternative, as I also have zero experience cooking. My cooking experience is boxed pasta and…boxed pasta.

            And that recipe freaked ME out, so I thought sharing my limited experience would be helpful ^.^

  2. This is Awesome, Cat, AWESOME. I need this so much, and I really appreciate the handholding for dummies – particularly on the timing issue. Time scares me out of the kitchen, often. Oh and loves me some simple ingredient lists.
    Can’t wait to hear Meagan’s experience.

      • I saw on twitter the onions were getting to you. If you don’t mind looking a little silly…swimming goggles while you cut work wonders! Safety glasses decrease the fumes a bit too. Thats what I do when I get an especially cry inducing onion 🙂

        • swimming goggles are totally awesome for onions, it’s true.

          a few other onion-cry-reduction tips (if it’s not too pushy to add them =):
          the sharper your knife, the less juice, and so the less crying. i was gifted a ceramic knife, and it is epic for cry-free onion cutting. this is more of a long-term kitchen stocking kind of tip – not really recommending buying new kitchen stuff for a single dinner!
          leaving the skin on as you cut can help keep in the juices as well – but then you’re stuck picking the skins out afterwards, so it’s kind of up to you what you think is worse.
          and i’ve read that submerging the onion in water totally contains the nastiness, but i haven’t quite worked out the logistics of cutting underwater.

          so goggles are probably the easiest way to go =)

          • If you can stand the cold, freezing the onion for a bit also helps. And weirdly enough, those wooden kitchen matches? Hold one in your mouth (like a cigarette) while you chop. For some reason, it helps some.

          • I am certain that the kitchen match in my mouth would result in me having no more eyebrows and/or the kitchen on fire.
            I have a huge problem cutting onions, I’m super sensitive to them. I don’t know if it’ll help Megan, but the ceramic knife tip is awesome for me, so THANKS!

          • HAHAHA, I think Nikki meant to hold the UNLIT match in your mouth…. that would be some pretty fast choppin’… Although now I kind of want to invent extreme kitchen sports: “CAN SHE CHOP THE ONION BEFORE THE FLAME REACHES HER MOUTH!? Find out after this word from our sponsors!” (Cue insurance agency ad)

        • OMG! That was a nightmare! I had no idea that onions didn’t “make you cry.” NO. They sting the very core of your eye ball sockets until your eyes submit to it’s stingy will and leak tears as offerings to the onion gods to make the pain stop.

          My buddy told me to hold piece of bread on the roof of my mouth. It KIND of helped. I’ll have more on that story tomorrow!

          • Another onion idea, you can bake whole entire onions at 425 for an hour, in the skin, on a cookie sheet. It smells good. When they are squishy, they slide out of the skins and are just like sautéed onions. Hope that’s not too much advising, the only problem with it is the planning. You could do several at once.

        • Cold onions make you cry less (or not at all). I store all my onions in the fridge. I also buy only sweet onions, and I haven’t cried over an onion in years. I had honestly forgotten they can make you cry!

  3. Garlic tip! If your garlic has a greenish bit in the middle, cut that out and discard it before using – it can make your garlic taste bitter. Garlic cloves where it has grown into a shoot can be planted and grown into more garlic 🙂

    • Garlic tip on the garlic tip! If you want to remove the greenish bit, you can slice the clove in half length-ways and then peel/pop the green bit out with your fingernail or the tip of a knife (it’s kinda fun.)

  4. Awesome recipes, though I am sad for the unloved broccoli stem. 🙁

    I will love you, broccoli stem. You can come to my house and jump in my tummy.

    • Oh! Then you and Cat will be happy to know that the broccoli stem IS being used by my friends who are making, I don’t know … soup? with it, or something?

    • I love the broccoli stem too. My husband sheepishly asked once, when we first moved in together “is it okay if I just chop up the stem and throw it in the stir fry? I know some people don’t like it…” to which I replied that yes, it would be quite fine. Delicious delicious.

  5. Great meal options! I’m hankering for a goat cheese and apple bagel now. Also the egg salad. Also the broccoli.
    Re:spaghetti anxiety, there are little measurers where you put the spaghetti noodles through a hole that indicates how many servings that amount will feed. Or, you can do like we do and cook all of it and have it available for leftovers for lunches, etc. But I understand not everyone is okay with spaghetti 3 days a week.

  6. I also am super glad for the timing issues! When I do manage to make a good meal 1/2 of it always seems to be cold, or I’m a stressed out mess because everything needs attention all at once!

    • Ooo, yes! I’m always uncertain on quantities to buy. I’ve finally figured out I need three bananas per week (no more, no less), but everything else stumps me. Should I buy two potatoes or four? Will I run out, or run over?

  7. Two words. GARLIC. PRESS. Yup, it’s a “one use” item, but saves me from smelling like garlic all day. Plus, my knife skills aren’t the best. Smashing the garlic (even with the flat side of the blade) would probably end in a trip to the ER. LOVE curried egg salad!

  8. Just a suggestion- while I’m someone who can cook, I’m following this for quick,simple meal ideas. Any way at the end of the week (or beginning if overly ambitious) we could get a grocery list option of some sort. Would be easier for some of us to “play along at home”. Specifically for the lunch options (where I need the most encouragement, not to just buy something quick).

  9. I’m not cooking along this week, but this post was a reminder to check the number of ingredients on my pre-prepared stuff (ready-made croutons I’m having in my salad… exactly five ingredients. Score). So I’m trying to join in too, on a much lower level!

    Also, Megan… loving the Twitter feed. Just classic.

  10. I used to be terrified of cooking as well! What really got me into it was my passion for baking cupcakes – once I got comfortable with putting all the ingredients together and baking them up, I realized that cooking uses many of the same skills I’d already been cultivating – only it’s actually way more forgiving than baking! I don’t cook all the time now, but when I do, I really enjoy it. I also highly highly suggest soups for the beginning cook – they’re generally pretty easy and tasty!

  11. Maybe I’m a Dirty Hippie (TM) but the step “wash the apple” made me laugh because I never even would have thought about it. Confession time: I do not wash most of my produce because I am a lazy asshole. I’m not dead yet- not that I’m saying you should do the same.

    • I actually don’t wash mine either, but I think I should wash the stuff I buy — I don’t give a shit about germs, but I do worry about residuals of whatever produce gest sprayed with…even though just washing also probably doesn’t remove that, but again. I don’t actually wash!

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