Things don’t always work out the way you plan. When you don’t plan at all, things can go to hell really quick.
I volunteered to do this week’s shopping with a little help from Nicole. She listed what basic meals she wanted; I was in charge of finding a recipe, buying the groceries, and cooking the meal. To provide a sufficient challenge, I had to follow the C.H.E.a.T guidelines—cheap, healthy, easy, and tasty.
At first this challenge was going so poorly that I was tempted to not even write about it and try again tomorrow, but then the failure became so spectacular that I couldn’t avoid an opportunity to immortalize the attempt.
How Not to Find a Recipe
I ran through the list of possible meals I had been given and landed on spaghetti. Simple enough! Let’s find a recipe online.
search: healthy spaghetti recipes
• Healthy Spaghetti Recipes – EatingWell
• Healthy Pasta Dinners – Food Network
• Spaghetti with Sausage and Simple Tomato Sauce …
• Healthy Spaghetti and Meatballs with Tomato Sauce Recipe
• 20 Healthy Ways to Eat More Spaghetti | Muscle For Life
• 19 Classic Pasta Dishes Made Healthier | Greatist
Whoa, uh… let’s open this one… this one… is this even a recipe site? Hmm. Ooh, carbonara. I like that!
search: cheap healthy carbonara
“…favorite comfort food…” “…when I need a break from my diet…” “…SO MUCH BACON…”
Oh man, this was already getting out of control. I wondered if there’s a way to scale back on the pasta. I don’t actually know how I found it, but somewhere in the depths of a little-used Google server was this recipe for Low-Carb Cabbage Carbonara.
The recipe was simple enough, and I had made carbonara once before with some amount of success. I was on my way to a nice dinner. I jotted down the ingredients I knew we didn’t have and made my run to the store.
How Not To Shop
We are lucky enough in Texas to have about as many HEB grocery stores as Mexican food restaurants. On top of that HEB has an amazing app that let’s you make your list from the actual SKUs in the store, get an estimate of the price (exact if you don’t have variable weight/price items), and it will even tell you what aisle the item is on!
Piece of cake.
With such a short list everything was rather smooth, until I got to the last item. I double-checked to make sure I was on the right aisle… #12. But instead of various breakfast options, I was presented with a wall of wine. A few laps around the store later I realized we had set our “home store” to one closer to our house, but it was all the way across town from the one I stopped at after work.
No worries. Update the location… get the correct aisle (#3)… grab the last item and go.
Okay the shopping wasn’t so bad. I’m normally terrible without a list. I used to be so bad about impulse buys that even with a list I could nearly double it. It wasn’t necessarily junk food either. Between in season produce and “amazing deals” on various cuts of meat, I’d walk out of the store with enough food to feed a rural South Texas school district.
Today I kept it between the lines.
How Not to Cook a Meal
Ambition can get the best of us, and even though I was starting my prep work plenty early, I knew this wouldn’t be quick because I’d be muddling my way thorough figuring out what would make a quality entry here. What information would I want to record? Which pictures I would want to take? Did I really care about lighting and staging the ingredients? Is it really necessary to capture an action shot of the raw bacon falling into the skillet?
Somewhere in between all of that and none of that I managed to cook the meal. I weighed out the ingredients. I pre-measured my spices. I laid everything out in the order it would be needed and read through the recipe three more times, just to be sure.
The cooking process was borderline flawless. The bacon was crisped to perfection. The cabbage was sauteed nicely. The cream didn’t get scorched. The egg, parmesan and parsley combined flawlessly.
But when I went to plate it up, I got the sneaking suspicion one of us was going to be hungry. I hadn’t prepared sides on purpose because this seemed like one of the those meals where everything I needed was right there in the pan. Still, I was forced to grab two saucers because there wasn’t enough to even fill up one dinner plate.
I whipped around to my phone on the counter, scrolled through the recipe, and discovered my error:
Yield: 1 serving
Mother. Of. GOD!
HOW IN THE WORLD DOES THREE PIECES OF BACON MAKE IT INTO A SINGLE SERVING?!
I love bacon. A LOT! The prospect of sitting down to eat a half pound by myself doesn’t concern me at all—especially since somewhere in the past three decades of my life I lost the taste for eggs and bacon is one of my only breakfast solutions that doesn’t include a full-stack of pancakes.
Faced with the prospect of starting the process all over for one more serving or walking into Nicole’s studio, hat in hand, to say “sorry, we’ll just have to have a big salad” I chose to cut my losses in the kitchen.
Of course the hour and a half I spent dividing my time between faux journalism and faux cuisine was a little more than I had planned, but we weren’t on a tight schedule. The salad I envisioned us eating afterward was not as fresh as I had thought, so that made filling in our nutritional gaps a little more haphazard.
I’m not a food blogger. Not a mommy blogger. Not an industry, lifestyle, or self-help blogger.
I really just want to explore the possibility that there exists a collection of meal plans that are optimal for strict budgets and healthy lifestyles, but don’t taste like dirt (unless that’s your acquired taste) and require half your evening in the kitchen.
With that said, there’s always tomorrow.
Do you have a kitchen horror story? Tell us about it in the comments below.
After meticulously detailing the pitfalls of this recipe, I feel it’s appropriate that I should explain how it should have been done. I’ve adjusted Lowcarb-ology’s details to fit a family. I trust their nutrition information is accurate, but we will independently verify the numbers at a later date.