I’ll admit that I felt pretty smug going into this week’s challenge. I felt smug for a number of reasons, and upon hearing said reasons, I am confident you will understand where I was coming from. First, some background. This challenge isn’t exactly new to T and I. In fact, I proposed this “make a different recipe every day for a week” challenge nearly two years ago. When T and I first talked about blog, we kept a running list of possible challenges. This very challenge is an OG contender, on the books since the dawn of Cynics Tub time. I mention this for one very important reason…
A lot has changed in two years. As it pertains to this cooking challenge, two years ago I was a married Food Network addict who cooked six days a week and had a meal repetoire that would put Giada Whatshernamerentis to shame. Menus were laid out a week in advance, shopping was done at a leisurely pace early Saturday morning with iced coffee in hand. I conducted Chopped challenges in my sleep and absolutely crushed holiday meals for my family. Cooking was an escape from the monotony that was my suburban life and the escape was good. I talked about cooking a lot and T was subjected to a fair amount of culinary chats. I would like to think that my fervor for flavor sparked an interest in T, but it is also very likely that he agreed to add this challenge to list just to appease me. Either way, onto the challenge list it went.
Fast forward to today. I am no longer married, I don’t have cable, and I haven’t looked at my Pinterest recipe boards since sometime in early 2016. I work A LOT, travel when I have a second and a penny to spare, and spend my “weekends” working on side projects (like 10-12 hour shift side projects). Meals now are usually prepped on a Sunday and are made to get me through Thursday or Friday. Where I used to love grocery shopping in my suburban life, getting to my urban HEB now is more painful than a root canal and I’ve developed such a disdain for most of the general public that working my way through the store with my cart results in white knuckles and an overwhelming urge to just LOSE IT on people. I have honestly seen red and blacked out from rage in the middle of the bulk bins because the culmination of people leaving their carts all willy-nilly paired with people just STANDING IN THE CENTER OF THE FUCKING AISLE LIKE THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES SHOPPING would make anyone homicidal. RIGHT? RIGHT?!
Whew. I apologize.
Let’s just say I no longer find cooking to be the relaxing escape of years gone by.
Back to V feeling smug. Look. I figured cooking was like riding a bike. I did it for something like a decade like a champ and loved it. Surely, I would fall right back into it and that would be a good thing. My most recent staples of “Chicken and Veggies”, “Taco Bowls” and “Shrimp and Veggies” are tired. Just because I no longer have another palette to please does not mean that I should ignore my own – right? Right! Time to release the Culinary Kraken!
Day 1: Egg White Frittata “Muffins”
These bad boys served as breakfast for part of the week. Easy cheesy stuff, Tubbers! 6 eggs, A LOT of egg whites (I didn’t measure, I just eyeballed what I thought would go in six large muffin tins with other ingredients without cooking over. I’d say 3 egg whites per tin probably), turkey bacon (pre-cooked in a pan with onion), spinach, more onion, a bit of cheese, a bit of coconut milk, salt, pepper, garlic, some italian seasoning, some hot sauce, and a small amount of breadcrumbs. Mix it all up, pour into greased tins, and bake at 350 until done. Voila!
Rank 1: You guys… SO GOOD. 7.8 pinecones (I am implementing T’s Pinecones of Truth scale in SO many areas of my life now, with one adjustment. I firmly believe scales should be no smaller than 1-10, so 1-10 Pinecones and it is.).
Song 1: I had no agenda with the music for this challenge. Whatever song is on when I start the recipe is what is going on blog. You’ve been warned. Song 1 – Ween, Bananas & Blow.
Day 2: Spam & Kimchi Fried Rice
Are words even necessary right now? LOOK AT THAT EGG. I nailed that egg. I used this recipe as a starting point. I added diced carrots, a metric fuckton of chili garlic paste, and cooked mine longer to really get it to a consistency I adored. And then I got fancy with the sriracha on top.
Rank 2: ALL THE PINECONES. I recommend you make this NOW. This was dinner for me for a few days and I was legitimately sad when I scraped the last few morsels from the bowl. If ever there were a Form Pinecone of Truth meal, it would be this. Oedipus good, indeed, T.
Song 2: Throwing down in the kitchen without music is a no-go. I just had no idea how perfect Acid Bath was for the task. Acid Bath, Finger Paintings of the Insane. How long should I cook the garlic and onion? Just headbang it out and when the song takes a turn, stir and repeat. Too harsh for your mellow? This song came on when I was frying the egg. Consider it a consolation prize….
Day 3: Greek Chicken & Sad (but sweet) Potato
Lunch for a few days came in the form of a makeshift meal I pulled out of thin air. I had chicken breasts, feta cheese, spinach, and some sweet potatoes. The feta and spinach went into the chicken, along with some seasonings. That baked at 350 until done. The sweet potatoes were baked and served plain. Not every meal can be Kimchi and Spam Fried Rice.
Rank 3: 2 Pinecones. The feta/spinach combo was tasty, but didn’t carry the otherwise boring chicken. I love sweet potatoes, but I overcooked these and they were just sort of mushy and… meh. The whole meal was about as awesome as the paper plate it was served on at my desk at work.
Song 3: It’s hard to stuff chicken breasts when you’re having a dance party to Phantogram.
Day 4: Cinnamon Apple Cookies
I figured I should stretch my foodie chops and attempt to bake something as well this week. I took my trusty Pumpkin Cookie recipe and tweaked it with applesauce instead of Pumpkin and threw my cinnamon cream cheese icing on top. Baking recipes are long, but here’s a similar one (of the pumpkin variety) that will get you pretty close!
Rank 4: 7.999 Pinecones. I prefer the pumpkin ones (solid 8.8 Pinecone cookie), but they did the trick for a late night sweet tooth craving.
Song 4: Fun Fact: Baking makes me feel thug AF. If you see the flour, sugar and baking powder coming out, you best believe UGK isn’t far behind. UGK, Pocket Full of Stones.
Day 5: Jame-O & Water (a Mixed Drink Tecnically IS a recipe)
Listen. Today was hard and I ate leftover Greek Chicken and Sad (but sweet) Potato. I worked late, I was tired, I yada yada yada. A full four days of full kitchen immersion had caught up to me and if I had to wash another dish in my dollhouse-sized kitchen, I was gonna snap. So, I stopped into my local watering hole, asked my fav bartender if he’d be so kind as to let me tip the bottle into the cup so that I could say I made it “myself”, and accepted defeat. I did make a protein shake for breakfast (chocolate meat powder, almond milk, ice, and a scoop of peanut butter), but it was pre-coffee and I didn’t snap a photo. Between my two half-assed smoothie and cocktail attempts, can we call them a whole and move onto Day 5? Super.
Rank 4: 3.5 Pinecones. That smoothie was pretty darn tasty (Dymatize Protein Powder doesn’t suck!) and that Jameson and Water was well-earned and tasted like victory.
Song 4: Want a good album to sit in the dark and contemplate life to? That’s what I did the evening of Day 5. Thanks, Drudkh, Autumn Aurora.
Day 6: New Dawn Benedicts
Breakfast is my fav. I’ll eat it for any meal. Which is why Day 6 breakfast was New Dawn Benedicts. After a rough Day 5, I opted to doctor up one of my favorite brunch recipes to turn my frown upside down. 1 Ezekiel English Muffin, some lox, two fried eggs, two slices cooked bacon, some sliced up avocado, season it up with S&P, and a liberal helping of horseradish greek yogurt (1 part horseradish to 2 parts plain greek yogurt, add salt and pepper and wee tad of garlic powder) – easy! I paired mine with some classic OJ, because YUM.
Rank 6: One less Pinecone than the Kimchi and Spam Fried Rice, and only because the KC/S FR is the ULTIMATE comfort meal. I could eat the horseradish sauce with a spoon by itself and be happy. This has all the good flavors in one bite… I’m craving it again just looking at the picture.
Song 6: Clutch, Ship of Gold. Which then made me listen to Elephant Riders in it’s entirety.
Day 7: I Ain’t No Girl Scout
Adulting is hard. I worked 12.5 hours on a side job on Day 7. They pay me and feed me, but when I got home, I was EXHAUSTED. I couldn’t even muster up the strength to put peanut butter on a banana and dunk it in caramel and call it a Chunky Monkey. So, instead, I created this bite-sized dessert. It’s a play on a dessert my mom made when I was a kid. She would crush up a bag of Oreo cookies, layer the bottom of a casserole dish with them, then layer coffee ice cream on top, then whip cream, then more Oreos, more ice cream, more whip cream, and top with Oreos. She would then freeze it and pray it actually froze before I would start to devour it. I had no whip cream, but I had a few spoonfuls of coffee ice cream and two Oreos left! I call this the I Ain’t No Girl Scout, and I’m also calling it my “cooking” for the day. Fight me.
Rank 7: How good do you think Oreos and ice cream taste after working 12+ hours? Yeah. Fucking delicious. 3,000 Pinecones.
Song 7: I inhaled this bad boy, took a nanosecond of a shower, scrubbed my face and was in bed within 10 minutes of getting home. Harley, my cat was understandably upset that we did not have our standard 5+ hours of play time. She sang me the lullaby of her people, inches from my face for what seemed like forever until I fell asleep. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the tune, here’s a fairly accurate reenactment.
The Wrap and The Take: I have fallen from Food Network grace. Can you imagine if I presented the I Ain’t No Girl Scout to the Chopped panel? I’d be shamed, disgraced. I use to whip up strawberry shortcakes with fresh whipped cream with a hint of mint from SCRATCH on random Thursday nights because I was bored.
This is the most cooking I have done in a solid year and a half. It felt AWESOME to be creative in the kitchen again and to taste delicious things that I prepared myself. I didn’t even know I missed it! Can I commit to doing it every night? Hell no. Can I commit to getting my gastro grub groove back one meal a week at a time? No doubt! A solid thanks to T for going above and beyond in his food challenge (you KILLED it and I need to know more recipes you’ve got up your sleeve!) and to you Tubbers (if you exist) for sticking with us for another week!