For those of you following me on Instagram, you will be well aware that I am completing a challenge right now using the Oh She Glows cookbook (the first one). For this challenge, I am preparing 20 recipes from the book in one month’s time–enough to build a sense of urgency, but not enough that I can’t skip a day or two.
I made this challenge up (it’s not a “thing,” haha), but I have found it’s a great way to force myself out of my comfort zone and to branch out from my usual routine. I love my Happy Herbivore mac and cheese, and I love avocado toast, but I know there are other recipes out there that I’m missing.
And furthermore, how many of you buy cookbooks and then let them collect dust on your shelf??? This is a struggle of mine. Everyone was going crazy for the OSG cookbook when it first released, so I gave in to peer pressure and bought it myself. However, after flipping through the pages and admiring the pretty pictures, I never got around to making any of the recipes. Why? Because avocado toast is so much easier. 😉
Knowing well that I was missing out on some fantastic recipes–and also thinking about the $25 I spent on the book–I decided enough was enough. Having previously done a similar challenge using the Happy Herbivore cookbook, I knew this would be the kick in the pants I needed.
Recipe 1: Walnut, Pear, & Avocado Salad
Confession: that’s not even a pear. It’s a golden delicious apple. My neighborhood produce shop didn’t have any pears that day, so I decided a golden delicious apple was the next best thing (and as you all know, I don’t even like pears, so I wasn’t even upset about it). The recipe is meant to be served as a full meal, but I reduced the portion and ate it as a side with some avocado toast because I’m me and I wasn’t quite ready to abandon my old habits. ^_^
I chose this recipe first because I love salad and find them easy to prepare (and it was also 90 degrees out). However, this still forced me to experience a different type of salad since I wouldn’t normally go through the effort of marinated and cooking mushrooms, especially for a salad. This was delicious!! Probably because of the golden delicious apple. 😉
Recipe 2: Pan-Seared Garlic Tofu
A photo posted by Lauren Smith (@oatmealartist) on
Alright. What you see here is actually the second batch of tofu. Another confession: I hate garlic. At least, I hate large amounts of garlic, and I find most recipes include more garlic (and onion) than I prefer. I usually half or quarter the amount a recipe suggests, but since I was new to OSG, I decided to try it out as written as a test.
Nope, still too much garlic. The moment my little tofu nuggets hit the pan, my apartment became a death trap of garlic stench (which I not-so-fondly compare to skunk), and I knew I didn’t want that in my mouth. So I started over, this time not adding any garlic to my tofu and just letting it absorb the garlic that had gotten on the pan from the previous batch. Success.
There is nothing wrong with Angela’s recipe, FYI. I’m just weird and hate garlic.
Recipe 3: Lemon-Tahini Dressing
I was low on groceries, but also starting to panic that I wouldn’t be able to do 20 recipes in one month. (It was only August 3, mind you. That’s how general anxiety works, I guess.) Thus, I flipped through the cookbook until I found something I could make with only the items in my pantry. Bingo!
Lemon-Tahini dressing is actually my favorite to order in restaurants, so I was eager to make this myself. Not surprisingly, I reduced the amount of garlic 😉 and it came out great.
My photos on this day turned out terribly. It was this meal that I decided I would not post every single recipe onto my Instagram. I’m pretty sure that would just annoy people anyway. So only the best. 🙂
Recipe 4: Cheerful Chocolate Smoothie
AKA icy chocolate milk. Angela and I clearly have different smoothie preferences; hers are thin like a drink, and mine are thick like a milkshake. Mine always include frozen fruit like bananas to sweeten and thicken it, but hers often use ice. I’m not a big fan of that, truthfully, but all things considered, this was delicious and a great addition to my lunch (once again salad and avocado toast–do you see why I’m doing this challenge now??). Plus, since it was so thin, it didn’t give me as much of a stomach ache as most smoothies do. It also made me excited to try more of her smoothie recipes, so I guess overall it was a positive experience!
Recipe 5 & 6: Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes with Easy Mushroom Gravy
Well this was certainly delightful. I’ve made similar versions of these recipes before, but I think I liked Angela’s version better. Of course, I did alter the recipe slightly by reducing the amount of onion and garlic. Shocking, right? If you thought I was intense about garlic, you should see how I feel about onion. I used an 8th of the amount of onion the recipe called for and I was still like, “Eek, that’s so much onion…” 🙂 That’s probably why I have such a love-hate relationship with Thai food.
BUT this was my favorite recipe(s) of the challenge so far, which was promising because I was venturing into the more complicated recipes and it was paying off.
What made this extra special for me is that I rarely eat mashed potatoes–only because I’m too impatient to boil potatoes. You do not want to know how many undercooked potatoes I ate before I finally just gave up. 🙂 Thankfully, I cooked these potatoes (and cauliflower florets) perfectly, and eating it reminded me of my childhood since mashed potatoes was a frequent side dish at my family’s dinner table.
Recipe 7: Glowing Strawberry-Mango Guacamole
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Truthfully, my guacamole is famous–within my own social circle, at least. (It doesn’t take much to have a famous guacamole. Just make homemade guac and people will be impressed. Use fresh ingredients–nothing dried or bottled–dice the onion finely, and don’t skip the cilantro.) Thus, my decision to try this recipe was a little scary because it meant risking my hard-earned guac title by temporarily abandoning my go-to recipe.
So was it worth it? Absolutely. I’ve wanted to try fruit in guacamole for ages, and this particular recipe did not disappoint me. While it may seem like mango and strawberry have no business being in a savory guacamole, the lime, onion, and cilantro soak into the fruits and help them blend beautifully into the dip, and the the final product, surprisingly, does not actually taste that far off from a traditional guacamole. Of course, the mango and strawberry do add depth and inspired a “…woah!” from both me and my roommate.
Would I make this for a party instead of my famous, go-to guacamole? I’m not sure–only because it’s sometimes safer to stick to crowd favorites for una fiesta (picky eaters rule the world, right?). I could see myself bringing a half batch of each so my friends and co-partiers could sample and choose both depending on how adventurous they’re feeling!
Recipe 8: Empowered Noodle Bowl with Thai Peanut Dressing
Truthfully, this is the recipe I’d been looking forward to ever since I decided to embark on this challenge. There was something about that picture–the pop of green edamame and red peppers, the sprinkling of sesame seeds–that just called to me.
The recipe looks insanely intimidating, but in fact it took me 30 minutes from start to finish. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as it looked since you essentially just chop vegetables and then toss them together in a bowl.
Although I looked forward to this recipe in the beginning, I soon realized it wasn’t really my style. I’m not a huge fan of cucumbers, and cold food for dinner has never spoken to my soul. This was also my first experience with soba noodles, and while I loved how fast they cooked, the flavor may need to grow on me. Honestly, I think I’d like this dish if I made a hot version of it. 😉 And no cucumbers.
Recipe 9: Magical Chia Seed Jam
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I admit to feeling guilty making this. ¿Por qué? Because I already have–and I’m not exaggerating–close to ten jars of jam in my kitchen. I
hoard collect them. When I visit new cities, I always go to a farmers’ market and seek out the most unique flavor I can find (RIP to the blackberry thyme jam from Seattle’s Pike Place Market that TSA robbed from my carry-on bag ??). Friends and family caught on, and now buying me unique jams is everyone’s go-to gift, and I’m not complaining. Mi novio even brought several jars of jam home for me both times he went to Europe recently! ?
So yeah, part of me was like, “Are you really going to waste more fridge space on jam?” But then I realized I could easily personalize this jam recipe with anything I wanted, and then I couldn’t resist. I followed the recipe in the beginning, using mostly fresh raspberries with a few frozen wild blueberries. Then I added grated fresh ginger, and at the end, I stirred in a little cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. AKA my jam was berry chai-flavored. ?
Considering I just guessed on all the spice measurements, it turned out great. It made me want to make my own jam on a regular basis (because not enough companies are putting ginger in their jam. Or basil. Or rosemary. Or cardamom. Or cayenne. I’m just saying).
Recipe 10: Orange-Miso Dressing (Empowered Noodle Bowl, take 2)
Having all the ingredients remaining for this recipe, I made it again, this time with the Orange-Miso Dressing instead of the Thai Peanut. Game changer. This citrusy dressing was delightfully refreshing during this insane heat wave in New York. I also found it to have a more balanced and pleasant flavor (the Thai Peanut was a little too strong on the sesame oil, methinks). I also omitted the cucumber, mainly because I hate cucumbers, but also because the cucumber I bought got moldy like, a day after I made the Thai Peanut version (WTH??). I replaced it with avocado, which was a golden choice.
In summary, the Orange-Miso Dressing + no cucumbers + avocado + red pepper flakes = a happy Lauren.
- Not everything is photogenic, and that’s okay. On my second day, when I made the Lemon-Tahini Dressing and Cheerful Chocolate Smoothie, I labored over the dishes for nearly 15 minutes trying to capture a quality photo. However, the lighting was poor, the dressing didn’t appear attractive on camera, and the smoothie was in an ugly glass that cast a gross shadow on the rest of the photo. But I was determined: I wanted everyone to know that I had, in fact, made Recipe No. 3 & 4. But then I realized: it doesn’t matter. I know I made it. This challenge is for me. I made a dish and couldn’t get a nice photo. That’s fine. Enjoy the food and move on. 🙂 This gave me another lesson in acceptance, which–as a recovering perfectionist–I am constantly working on.
- Plan ahead. Recipe No. 1 (the walnut/pear salad) actually called for a portobello cap. However, I was already stocked in baby bellas, so I just used those instead. Then, realizing I would have mushrooms, I decided that would also be a good time to make the Easy Mushroom Gravy, so I made sure to have the ingredients for that as well. Cooking food from scratch with fresh ingredients can be really wasteful if you don’t plan out meals like this in advance. Know what items you’ll have that you will have trouble finishing, and base your meal plan around that item. Yes, you’ll be eating mushrooms all week, but isn’t that better than throwing away half a carton of mushrooms??
Stay tuned for the second half of this challenge, coming at the end of the month!