Self-Inflicted Food Challenge- Part III

Some people have warm, fuzzy dreams. Happy dreams with kittens, rainbows, fluffy clouds, etc. I, on the other hand, had much more intense, unhappy, frightening dreams right around food challenge #3. Tuesday night I dreamt that I had this incredible bond with my pet fish. It was a special fish because somehow I was able to hold it in my arms and it didn’t struggle to breathe. He enjoyed being held. Well, apparently a band of sharks found its way into his tank and ate him. I woke up gasping, and was unhappy for much of the morning. Wednesday night wasn’t much better. I had a dream about raging fires that I struggled to try and extinguish. According to the Dream Dictionary, to see a shark in your dream indicates feelings of anger, hostility, and fierceness. It said, and I’m not joking “you are undergoing a long and difficult emotional period and may be an emotional threat to yourself or to others…” Lovely.

Work towards the end of the week was very much like my dreams. It’s never a good sign when you get a work voicemail before you actually get into the office for the day. That happened on Thursday. And my poor Honda Civic was literally millimeters from being rear ended on the way to work because pedestrians failed to heed the “do not walk” sign and the car behind me didn’t notice that I (along with two cars in front of me) were slowing down to let the rule-breaking pedestrians cross. I heard his squeaky brakes, and luckily it wasn’t an icy day, otherwise my car would have been toast. I continued to put out fires at work on Thursday, and at one point I was so frustrated that I had a mandatory solo cool down session in the micro lab, so I wouldn’t do anything I regretted. I should have taken the bad day as a sign to stay out of the kitchen, take the easy way out and just eat leftovers. However, I didn’t heed the many warning signs and I went ahead and cooked anyways…

Before I describe my recipe, I just want to put it out there. I WAS NOT THINKING CLEARLY when devising this last recipe. As soon as I describe it, I know you’re going to think, “Wow, what a horrible combination of ingredients.” I blame my stupidity on my inability to think clearly. Luckily there’s a happy ending. But first, part 1 of the story.

Part I: Poopy, Mushy, Slimy Spring Rolls
Let me first start off by telling you how not to prepare this meal.

The ingredients in this round were Italian sausage, avocado, cilantro and quinoa. Although technically not an ingredient, taco salad (in some form) was also thrown into the challenge.

Italian sausage, avocado, cilantro, quinoa. And taco salad.

At the beginning of the week, I envisioned the outcome of this dish very differently. Like a traditional taco salad, I was planning on essentially throwing all the ingredients into one mixture and plopping it on a plate. Again, too easy. On car rides to and from work and during workouts, I began to dream of something a little different. Taco salad inspired spring rolls. From taco salad I was drawing inspiration on seasonings, ingredients (beans, red pepper, avocado, corn) and overall freshness.

FYI- this is what spring rolls are supposed to look like. At least my version… Pretty, right?

Nothing gets better than fresh spring rolls.

Instead of making my traditional soy-sauce based dipping sauce, I decided to make an avocado lime dipping sauce. It was sooooo good I would actually consider taking a bath in it or dunking my entire face in it, at the very least.

Avocado-Lime Dipping Sauce:
In a blender, add 1 ripe avocado (MUST be ripe), 1 T vinegar, 2 T lime juice, 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, 1/4 t garlic powder, 1/2 t chili garlic sauce, 1 t sugar and 1/8 t salt. Process until mixture is smooth and creamy.

This is where it went terribly wrong. I decided to make an unattractive black bean paste to blend with the spring roll ingredients.

Black Bean Sauce:
In a blender, add 1 can drained and rinsed black beans, 1/4 c water, 2 T fresh cilantro, 1 T lime juice, 1 t sugar, 1/2 t vinegar, 1/2 t chili garlic sauce, 1/4 t chili powder, 1/4 t cumin, 1/8 t paprika, 1/8 t garlic powder, 1/8 t onion powder, 1/8 t oregano. Process until smooth.

Additional Preparations:
In a small pot, bring 1/4 c quinoa and 1/2 c water to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes until all water is absorbed.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan cook 6 oz Italian sausage until browned and no longer pink. Add 1 chopped red pepper, 1/2 c corn and cook until the pepper is crisp tender.

Take off the heat and add in the quinoa and black bean sauce. You will now end up creating one frying pan of a mushy beany, unattractive, foul, UNfresh poopy looking mass. Sounds great, right?

Now it gets even better. Add this ugly foul mixture to a clear-ish spring roll wrapper (along with chopped lettuce), so you can see everything. I ended up making about 8 spring rolls.

Assembly.

The final product looked so unattractive I tried to add oranges to the plate for distraction…

Not my greatest piece of work…

Yeah, you don’t need to tell me. I’ve already been told by others who I daringly showed this picture to. It has been described as doggy doo doo. One coworker said that I might even be able to put it on the sidewalk and someone would mistake it as shit. Well, I would say the overall taste experience was 1,000,000,000 times worse than the appearance. Just imagine. Biting into a gummy, stretchy spring roll wrapper, and then having to bite through a warm, one-dimensional mushy inside. Oh, and pair it with some smooth, soft creamy avocado sauce to top it off. I wasn’t able to enjoy any of the flavors coming from each component of the dish OR enjoy the avocado dipping sauce at all because it was a texture nightmare. I was spent from the exhausting day though, so I ended up choking down the two spring rolls on my plate. In retrospect, I should have just grabbed some oatmeal, so I didn’t have to gag down that garbage.

FRIDAY. Another crazy day at work making a batch of yogurt. I got in at 6 AM and one step took lots of arm/hand power and about an hour and a half of my time/my team’s time. Just as I was going to add the cultures and ferment, the power in the building went off. Hence, the heat for our hot boxes went off. Grrrrrrr. In the end (an hour later), the power came back on. And most importantly, my yogurt survived. The batch was not scrapped.

And you know what? I was also determined not to scrap the bulk of my failure meal, but turn it into something delicious. I just had to make a comeback. In the end, I decided to make taco salad inspired egg rolls and still serve with the delicious avocado-lime dipping sauce.

Part II: Taco Salad Inspired Egg Rolls 
To begin with, I had to complete my second dissection of this food challenge. I ripped open the spring roll wrappers and scraped out the contents into a bowl.

Looks attractive, right? Bean, beans!

I also decided to add some butternut squash, so I chopped up about 1-2 cups of butternut squash, tossed it with olive oil, chili powder, cumin, and pepper and roasted at 400F until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Now for the assembly. I scooped some of the bean mixture and butternut squash onto the center of each egg roll wrapper, wrapped them up, and sealed it up with water

My faithful sous chef.

I lightly sprayed each wrapped egg roll with cooking spray (to promote crispness), and baked at 400F until brown and crisp. And ta da! Still not super fancy and attractive, but a step up from Thursday’s rotten meal…

Mmmmmmm.

I was able to salvage this recipe like I managed to salvage my week. I could taste each component because I was less distracted about the texture. The crunchy, baked egg roll wrapper created a more exciting textural eating experience. And the happy part is that I’ll most likely be making this again because it turned out yummy!

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