Joanna takes Rachel Ray’s challenge

After watching Rachael Ray’s new show, “Week in a Day,” I decided to take the challenge. The premise is to make five meals in one day. So I picked the weekend to compete.

First I decided on the menu. I took three of her ideas: roasted chicken with roasted veggies; broccoli de rape with sausage stoop (soup and stew); and vegetarian chicken cacciatore (mine was made with the meat). For the other two days I went to my own store of recipes and chose beef stir-fry and white beans with escarole. I was so impressed with myself that I even added stuffed peppers and homemade mac and cheese — you need lunches, too.

Since I was cooking in one day I also challenged myself not to use any short cuts. So instead of beans in the can I bought dried white beans and soaked and cooked them for two hours, the chicken stock was homemade, (from the previous week) and all the veggies were peeled, chopped and diced by my own little Ginsu (I have the cuts and scrapes to prove it).

I shopped on Saturday to have all the ingredients in the house and then got up early Sunday to begin the tournament. First I prepped all the veggies and meats, soaked the beans, and put the chicken in the oven to roast. Those two items took the longest. The next was to defrost the chicken soup, which I put on the back burner and left to heat on its own.

Now, any working mother knows, the weekend is also the day to play catch up, clean the house, do laundry, and pay the bills — all the things you are too exhausted to do Monday through Friday. In my case, all three, plus dropping Bri off to a game on Saturday and then work on Sunday and going to the bank because my branch has only one late night and I never make it.

OK, the marathon began. I chopped, prepped, sautéed and stirred like an Iron Chef. Unfortunately, unlike Rachel Ray, I don’t have an endless supply of cooking utensils and pots. Which meant every time I completed one meal I had to wash all the utensils and pots and pans before going on to the next one. No problem. I’ve lived without a dishwasher before. My hands were a little dishwater logged, but I slogged on.

I also used every available space on the stove going (I have six burners, 36,000 BTUs of heat), and the oven, which made the house unusually warm, and with all the boiling, simmering and steeping, very moist to boot. My little cottage in Staten Island felt like a bungalow in the Everglades in August. As my readers know, I don’t do heat or humidity well. So by the time my husband and daughter got home (I had to pick her up, too), they had a tasty meal, and a raving, sweating, iron cook to enjoy it with.

It’s a good thing that I now have six meals to come home to, because after this challenge, I don’t ever want to shop, look at or cook a meal again.

Not for nuthin™, but Rachel Ray should post warnings before every show: “Don’t attempt this at home, unless you have a full crew washing, prepping and cooking for you.”


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