I don't have a lot in common with Gwyneth Paltrow. I'm a stereotypical college student who survives on Jimmy John's; she's an actress and renowned lifestyle blogger.
Nevertheless, when I saw she released a new cookbook — It's All Easy: Delicious Weekday Recipes for the Super-Busy Home Cook — I viewed it as a chance for me to be a little healthier despite my busy schedule.
Could eating like Paltrow for one week be enough to change me? I decided to find out:
Day 1: Carbonara
I started off with a pasta dish because I thought it would be the easiest. I was wrong.
I immediately had to make substitutions for some of the ingredients the recipe called for. I couldn't find bucatini or pancetta at any of the local grocery stores so I settled for linguine and bacon, respectively.
I cooked the pasta and bacon simultaneously, which was simple enough. I then made the mixture of egg, egg yolks, Parmesan cheese and pepper in a bowl, which also turned out fine.
Unfortunately, after throwing the cooked pasta and bacon in with the mixture, I also added one cup of hot water from the pot in which I cooked the pasta. While the recipe did say to save one cup of the water, I was only supposed to add it one tablespoon at a time and expected to only need about one-fourth of a cup total. As a result, the sauce was soupy rather than creamy. In spite of its consistency, the carbonara tasted good enough that my roommates also ate it for dinner and even saved some of the leftovers for later in the week.
Day 2: Black bean taquitos
I love Mexican cuisine and chose the simplest Mexican dish in Paltrow's book: taquitos. I swapped the called-for corn tortillas for flour ones (the only kind available at Target Express when I did my last-minute ingredients run), but luckily found the rest of the ingredients — black beans, Mexican shredded cheese, cilantro, ground cumin, white onion and salt — without issue.
I fried the tortillas in olive oil like the recipe said to, rolled a mixture of the rest of the ingredients inside them and then popped the uncooked taquitos in the oven for the designated 20 minutes.
I took them out of the oven and was pleasantly shocked to see I hadn't messed them up. The taquitos looked and tasted great, and were surprisingly hearty, too. I'll definitely be making these again.
Day 3: Migas
I'd never heard of migas — more or less Tex-Mex breakfast nachos — before stumbling upon a recipe for it in the "First Thing" breakfast section of Paltrow's cookbook. I'm a huge fan of breakfast for dinner, so it seemed like a good idea that required minimal effort.
I ended up reusing a lot of the same ingredients from the taquitos recipe. I cut tortillas into wedges and sautéed them in a pan with diced white onion. Once they got crispy and brown, I cracked in two eggs, sprinkled some salt and pepper and stirred everything together with a spatula. I removed the pan from heat after about five minutes, tossed in some salsa, avocado and Mexican shredded cheese (the recipe called for crumbled queso fresco or graded Cheddar, but I didn't feel like taking yet another trip to the grocery store), then I was done.
I liked migas, but probably wouldn't want to eat it for breakfast. The egg tasted a little out of place in a nacho dish. Still, I might end up cooking it again on busy nights, if only because it is so easy and fast to make.
Day 4: Pita bread pizzas
I chose this recipe because Paltrow writes about cooking pita bread pizzas on nights when "even the thought of picking up Chinese food makes you tired." I figured that meant it would be among the easiest, plus I actually had all of the ingredients in my kitchen for once.
The best thing about this recipe is that it's relatively self-explanatory. I popped the pitas in the oven for a few minutes to crisp, then took them out to add the sauce and shredded mozzarella (the recipe called for one cup of each, but I eyeballed it) and put them back in to finish cooking.
The worst thing is that the pitas burn very quickly. Paltrow writes to put them in the oven for 10 minutes before adding ingredients and another 10 minutes following that, but both times my fire alarm went off only seven minutes in. I took mine out early and still found the pita hard to bite into. It wasn't wholly bad, but I think I'll stick to making pizza bagels in the future.
Day 5: Coffee granita
I decided to finish off my week with a dessert instead of dinner. Sifting through the "Something Sweet" section of the cookbook, I was limited by my budget and access to specialty ingredients. I finally settled on coffee granita, which seemed pretty simple.
I made the coffee/maple syrup/vanilla extract mixture in a glass pan and stuck it in the freezer, but then added a few alterations to the rest of the original recipe. While it called for taking the frozen mixture out of the freezer and scraping at it five times over the course of two and a half hours, I lazily left it in overnight and scraped it the following morning instead. And while it also called for making coconut whipped cream, I couldn't find the necessary condensed coconut milk in any nearby grocery stores and used Cool Whip instead.
The crystalized coffee mixture and dollop of cream together turned out to be tasty, but it definitely involved too much work. As far as coffee-flavored desserts go, I'd prefer a tiramisu or even a Starbucks Frappuccino.
The recipes in It's All Easy are really only easy if you have Paltrow's kitchen. The recipes I attempted required a significant amount of grocery shopping and even then I often had to settle for substitute ingredients. And while the dishes I tried did turn out OK, the majority of those in the book call for expensive equipment and specialty ingredients, both of which were impossible for me to afford or even find (I am still not sure what a spiralizer is, or where I can buy kimchi in College Park).
If you do have the access and money, Paltrow's recipes are admittedly quick and easy. As a college student, though, it's an impractical alternative to a meal plan.