"It was like cooking with Hilary Duff and Oprah, which sounded like way more fun than cooking alone"
Eating Like a Celeb
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You know that toddler who's freaking out her parents because she only eats string cheese and dinosaur chicken nuggets? I'm basically that toddler, only at 26, no one is chasing me around with a bottle of PediaSure. I'm free to live off a strict diet of produce, salmon, baked goods, and frozen yogurt, not because I'm on some diet, but because everything else seems completely unappetizing to me. The extent of my cooking involves bimonthly ambitious Sunday nights when I throw some carrot sticks in the oven with a coating of Pam. Dinner-party prep has been usurped by my roommate, for the health and safety of my friends.
That said, I like to jump into new challenges. And, I wanted to cook more. Cereal, even fortified cereal, can only sustain you for so long. So, instead of mastering a single dish or learning to fricassee (that's a cooking term, I'm pretty sure), I decided to find a month's worth of dishes featured on celebrity Instagram feeds. Somehow it felt comforting to know that celebs had succeeded at creating these meals. It was like cooking with Hilary Duff and Oprah, which sounded like way more fun than cooking alone.
The plan was to make a different meal every night in February, but—full disclosure—I missed three days. I learned, I ate, and I bought more spices than I will use in this lifetime. This is my eat-like-the-other-half experiment, copycatting everyone from Aziz Ansari to Taylor Swift.
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Dish: Roasted cauliflower
Difficulty: Super easy
The Results: I really needed to ease myself into cooking, so smothering a head of cauliflower in olive oil and letting the oven take care of the rest seemed like the best place to start. It tasted like a vaguely olive-y vegetable, so overall, success!
Links to the recipes I used can be found on the dish's names. If there's no link, then I just kind of guessed.
Celebrity: Hilary Duff
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Dish: Sweet-potato fries
The Results: This was one of the only dishes I had made before. Even with my limited culinary skills, I can turn a peeled sweet potato into several long, skinny pieces of sweet potato. And even if they were a little soggier than I would have liked, anything can be fixed with ketchup.
Celebrity: Lena Dunham
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Celebrity: Ali Larter
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Difficulty: Medium to hard, depending on whether you can find your beaters
The Results: I had high hopes for these muffins, hopes that were only briefly dampened by the realization that a past roommate might have taken the beaters, and I would have to mix the butter by hand. They were pretty tasty, even without the vanilla paste (I was met with blank stares when I asked for this in the supermarket).
Celebrity: Mandy Moore
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Dish: Blackberry compote
Difficulty: Simple, but when attempted early on a Sunday morning, a bit dangerous
The Results: It wasn't bad? I mean, it made a very pretty Instagram photo, and I think my efforts resulted in what the recipe said would happen. But in the end, I decided I'd rather have my berries cold and unsugared. And, actually, to skip berries altogether in favor of Mrs. Butterworth's on my waffles. Oops.
Celebrity: Drew Barrymore
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Dish: Parchment fish
Difficulty: Depends mostly on your paper-folding skills
The Results: Cod with lemon and tomato baked in parchment paper turned out to be pretty delicious. That said, even with years of origami practice (I have made a lot of paper cra nes), folding and sealing the paper with the melted butter proved to be very challenging.
Celebrity: Sarah Michelle Gellar
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Dish: Almond-butter bear toast
Difficulty: The easiest
The Results: Yes, Gellar probably created this whimsical treat for her kids. But adults can enjoy food with chocolate chips (or sprinkles, which is what I used) for eyes, too. And the mix of almond butter and bananas was delicious.
Celebrity: Aziz Ansari
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Dish: Pasta and shrimp
Difficulty: Fairly simple once you figure out the parsley grater
The Results: I made this one with my soybean pasta, and decided the powdered green stuff in Ansari's photo was probably parsley. This is one dish that was easy and tasty enough for me to see myself making it once in a while for a simple dinner.
Celebrity: Taylor Swift
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Dish: Chocolate-chip cookies
Difficulty: Medium to hard, depending on the state of your brown sugar
The Results: My otherwise relaxing evening of getting one step closer to being in Taylor Swift's squad was interrupted by the rock-solid lump my brown sugar had become. To make it into a usable powder, a quick trick is to microwave it with a damp paper towel. An even quicker trick is to hack at it maniacally with a fork. The cookies were tasty, though a bit burnt.
Celebrity: Lindsay Lohan
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Dish: Shrimp scampi
Difficulty: Surprisingly simple
The Results: As someone who normally warms her seafood in a pan until it's no longer raw, without adding anything, I found it a pleasant change to enjoy shrimp with a secondary flavor. This was definitely one of my most successful dishes.
Celebrity: Julianne Hough
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Dish: Watermelon lemonade
Difficulty: Not too hard
The Results: I decided it was a good idea to make a beverage I had never quite mastered in my younger lemonade-stand days — now, with a twist. I squeezed, I blended, I mixed, and what I created could best be described as "watermelon tears."
Celebrity: Lauren Conrad
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Dish: Apple tarts
Difficulty: Hard — this is part recipe, part art project
The Results: This was so successful that I might be able to convince myself to try to re-create it at a later date. The pastry was flaky, the cinnamon and sugar baked into the apples beautifully, and each tart was just so pretty. I would definitely recommend this.
Celebrity: Kourtney Kardashian
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Celebrity: Tia Mowry
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Dish: Heart-shaped watermelon pieces
Difficulty: Simple, as long as you have a steady hand
The Results: Trolling Instagram for recipes, I saw this artful take on cutting up fruit and thought, This is what I'm about. This dish had exactly the prep time and taste I'm looking for in a dinner.
Celebrity: Karlie Kloss
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Dish: Pumpkin bread
I have watched my mother make dozens of loaves of pumpkin bread, which made me think I could make pumpkin bread. But I've watched Meredith Grey stitch up dozens of people's insides, and I don't think I could do that. My bread was dry, tough, and burnt. My roommate and I still polished off half the loaf, though. [For the full story, head over to Refinery29!]