I tried making 3-course meals for a week, and learned a lot of lessons

I tried making 3-course meals for a week, and learned a lot of lessons

I prepared three-course vegetarian meals every day for a week.
Paige Bennett

  • I challenged myself to prepare three-course meals for seven days in a row.
  • I prepared complex and simple meals throughout the week, even though I had to go grocery shopping twice.
  • Some days I was inspired by my creativity, but mostly the cooking and dishes left me exhausted.

I’ve loved cooking and baking for a long time but lately, spending time in the kitchen has become more like a chore.

I decided to challenge myself by preparing three-course meals in hopes of breaking out of my cooking rut. I prepared appetizers, mains, and desserts every day for a week.

Here’s how the challenge went.

I spent a lot of time brainstorming and planning the menu.

Planning the simple yet elaborate dishes took some time.
Paige Bennett

Before I started cooking, I planned a dinner menu and went grocery shopping. I wanted a mix of meals I’d made in the past and some new recipes that called for the same ingredients I’d been using in other dishes.

I’m a vegetarian so none of my meals included meat.

I was anticipating a busy work week, so I tried to plan less time-consuming recipes during the weekdays. In the end, I chose simple appetizers, main courses, and more complex desserts.

I went grocery shopping on the first day of the experiment and on the fifth day to make sure some fresh items wouldn’t spoil before I could use them.

In total, I spent $115 on groceries, not including the pantry and refrigerator staples I already had on hand.

I had to start my experiment with two desserts, as one of them took a lot of time to cool.

The first day’s meal consisted of salad skewers, macaroni and cheese, and pumpkin streusel.
Paige Bennett

My menu for day two included a tres leche cake that needed to chill overnight, so I started on that in the early afternoon of day one.

I kept the first day’s meal fairly simple because I was making desserts that same day.

I went with an appetizer of salad skewers made with pear, arugula, and brie plus a sprinkle of pecans and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

I complemented the appetizer flavors with cheddar, white pear, and cheese, inspired by a restaurant meal I had in Lake Tahoe last year. I roasted the pears with the spices, made a white cheddar sauce, and combined the ingredients with the cooked pasta.

For dessert, I kept the fall theme with pumpkin streusel.

The first day left me feeling creative and inspired for the week ahead, but I was already tired from doing so many dishes.

Fortunately, the weekend prep work means I don’t have to make dessert on the second day.

Day 2’s meal includes guacamole, chips, veggie nachos, and tres leche cake.
Paige Bennett

On day two, I was relieved that the tres leches cake was already ready in the fridge.

I went with a simple appetizer of fresh guacamole and tortilla chips and a veggie-packed dinner of sweet potato “nachos.”

I don’t feel like making a big dinner when it’s time to cook, which is usually when I make something quick, like a grilled cheese, or order something from a restaurant.

But I went ahead and was glad I did because the entire meal tasted great.

Once again, I had a lot of dishes to clean at the end of the day, but I tried to find some gratitude that I was able to prepare such a delicious, veggie-packed meal on a busy Monday.

I was impressed with my meal on day 3 from start to finish.

I made vegan chili, buttered cornbread, and pear and apple pastries on day three.
Paige Bennett

The third day of the experiment fell on a day I was going to a concert, so I opted for a quicker three-course meal filled with comforting fall flavors.

I went with the non-recipe chili, which I made with onions, peppers, beans, pumpkin, tomato paste, lots of spices, and vegetable stock.

For an appetizer, I made cornbread and easy butter with honey and sea salt.

For dessert, I placed the apple and pear filling on top of the puff pastry so I didn’t have to break out the blender or any measuring cups.

Even though the meal was full of shortcuts, it was still delicious and seemed better than eating fast food or having an expensive dinner at a concert venue.

The easy meal also meant I finally felt some relief from doing the dishes.

By the fourth day, I was exhausted, and my lack of enthusiasm was very evident in my cooking.

Day 4’s dinner consists of a salad, a jalapeno popper burger with fries, and ice cream with fruit.
Paige Bennett

I expected to be a little exhausted by midweek, so I planned a very simple dinner: a salad with honey mustard dressing, a veggie cheeseburger stuffed jalapeno-style with baked potatoes on the side, and ice cream for dessert.

Wednesday was a long and hard day, so I was looking forward to some comfort foods that still provided plenty of nutrients.

But I can say that I rushed the food preparation, because this meal did not taste as good as the other meal. The hot strawberry compote and vanilla ice cream that I finished the meal with was the best part.

My partner kindly helped me clean my dishes on this day despite having dinner and different dishes for himself.

At this point, I was just hoping I had a new boost of energy to get through the last few days of cooking and baking.

On day five, I felt creative and replaced the simple appetizer I had planned with a fall soup.

On day five, I made pumpkin and pear soup, a vegetable dish with ricotta cheese, and lemon mousse.
Paige Bennett

Day 5 started with another grocery run, as I was running low on some fresh ingredients and needed a few extras to make the night’s meal.

I decided at the last minute to change my entree from cucumber chunks to pumpkin and pear soup to use up some of the leftover produce.

The soup was easier to make than I expected, and so delicious, that I was glad I decided to change tack.

For dinner, I made a meal of roasted chickpeas, peppers, zucchini, and carrots, and paired them with whipped lemon ricotta. The vegetables tasted delicious with a hint of cold, lemony ricotta.

The lemon flavors continued with this easy mousse dessert, which only took about five minutes to prepare and a few hours to chill in the refrigerator. The lemon mousse was a huge hit for me and my partner.

I was glad I got to explore some new things because it kept me excited for the final days of the experience.

Day 6 fell on a Friday, so I scheduled a date night.

Day 6’s dinner included bruschetta, meatless carbonara, and crème brûlée.
Paige Bennett

I was very excited about Friday’s dinner, which consisted of bruschetta, meatless carbonara, and a more challenging, fancy dish. Kesterd sweetened caramelized.

Although I wanted some challenge, I was surprised at how easy it was to make creme brûlée. Preparation only takes about 15 minutes, and then the rest of the time is spent baking, cooling or grilling.

The creme brûlée turned out almost perfect, with a slightly exaggerated surface. I knew right away that this would become a staple dessert recipe for our family, and I was glad I decided to try something that seemed so daunting to me.

My success with the crème brûlée reignited my enthusiasm heading into the final day.

With the exception of the appetizer, my last meal and dessert ended the week well.

On day 7, I made stuffed peppers with cream cheese, buffalo cauliflower, tofu with zucchini, and chocolate chip cookies.
Paige Bennett

On day 7, I had plans with a friend, so my final three-course meal was a little early.

I went with a game day theme of cream cheese stuffed bell peppers, buffalo cauliflower, and tofu with a side of blue cheese sauce and zucchini. Favorite chocolate chip cookies Sweetener.

I winged the stuffed peppers with cream cheese but realized I should have followed the recipe, as they turned out so bland.

Fortunately, the input made up for the lackluster application.

Of course, chocolate chip cookies were a hit too, but that’s a dessert I make more often. I knew I could count on them to have a good weekend.

I’ve learned a lot in this short week, including how to tap into my inspiration and excitement for cooking.

It can be difficult to find the energy to prepare simple dishes some days.
Paige Bennett

Overall, this challenge made me more excited to get back into the kitchen, at least at first. I loved planning my menu, and my first day of cooking and baking was really fun and inspiring.

In the end, I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of time I had to spend preparing each meal, the amount of money I was spending on groceries, and the significant amount of time I spent cleaning up afterward.

I can tell a huge difference between meals that I put very little thought or energy into and meals that I’m actually excited to make.

But upon reflection, I finished this experiment feeling inspired to try making a three-course dinner a week as a reward for myself and my partner moving forward.

I don’t plan on forcing myself to make something so elaborate when I’m not in the mood, but this experience has inspired me to reclaim my joy in cooking.

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