Food Network Staffer Diary: I Ate Only Foods I Discovered on Instagram
1: AvoEgg Breakfast
Photo courtesy of @remixt
I could have included avocado toast, but I needed to up the ante. After all, avocado toast is a staple for me and I’ve pretty much mastered that skill (NBD). I’ve seen so many ‘grams of bright-green avocados with pops of yellow yolks in the center, and I have always wanted to bake this for breakfast; alas, I’ve never had the time. And when I did have the time, this idea would escape me. This time there was no escaping.
The instructions were pretty simple, as were the ingredients. I cut my ripe avocado in half, took out the pit and spooned in one egg in one half. This is where I made oops No. 1: I didn’t scoop out enough avocado, and the egg whites started to slip out of the avocado!
Frustrated, I tried again with my other half, this time carving out even more avocado. I spooned in the egg yet again, and the same thing happened. I decided to shrug it off and top my concoction with salt, pepper, chives and shredded mozzarella. (You can totally toss in paprika, onions, cheddar Jack — you name it.) I baked the eggs for 15 minutes at 425 degrees F, and to my delight, they were good to go! However, they were not as beautiful as the next one.
So, would I do this again? If I had more time in my mornings, yes. The avocado was creamy and the egg was baked perfectly. However, you can easily achieve a similar taste with avocado toast if you’re pro-carbs. This was probably the easiest of the Insta foods that anyone can try at home.
Photo courtesy of @johnnycarter4
Tell me you’ve seen this monstrosity before. This thing is a 20-ounce burger stuffed between two 8-inch pizzas disguised as buns. Oh, yeah, and five slices of cheddar cheese and maybe some bacon piled high. This Frankenstein of a dish made quite a commotion this spring when the Atlanta Braves decided to up their baseball game concession food to a concerning level and debut the Burgerizza for $26. Obviously, it was my turn to try this artery-clogging Burgerizza, and of course, as terrible as it is, it tasted amazing.
Surprisingly, all of the ingredients totaled $20 (these are New York City prices), which didn’t seem terrible, considering this is supposed to feed a family of four — or in my case, all of my roommates. I started by making the two 8-inch pizzas from scratch. If you’re in a rush, you could buy frozen pizzas and bake them, but the entire process was so quick that you really shouldn’t need to buy the pizzas.
After baking the pizzas, I sizzled my bacon to perfection. So far, so good. Next, I started seasoning my 20-ounce burger patty. This mass of raw beef was intimidating, and I was so thankful I agreed to take my mom’s ridiculously large pan just a month before. I turned up the heat on my massive pan that had the bacon fat left in it, then tossed the patty in. My roommates came over to check on me — and stared in horror.
“Are we seriously eating all of this?” one asked. Yes, my dear friend, yes.
Next, I had to flip the patty. I used nearly every piece of equipment in my kitchen to help flip the burger, channeling the look of Edward Scissorhands, and proceeded to flip the gigantic patty, getting bacon and burger grease all over my arms. Mmm. Just what I wanted out of this experiment: meat burns.
I then added thick slices of cheddar cheese when there was a minute left on the burger, while also positioning one of the pizzas on a plate — carefully and nervously, I used two spatulas to hoist my 20-ounce mega burger to a wooden cutting board to rest. (I think Bobby Flay told me to do this one time on one of his shows?)
Then began the piling. First went one of the pizzas, then the burger. Then I artfully placed the crispy pieces of bacon on the top, followed by another pizza. I stepped back in awe. This monstrosity was beautiful!
It would make any vegetarian or vegan puke on the spot, but since my roommates and I are neither, we wept at the sight of the beauty. Slicing into the Burgerizza, we marveled at the layers of pizza, burger, melted cheese, crispy bacon and pizza, again. I cut it into quarters and took a large chomp. The result?
This was possibly the most disgustingly delicious burger I’ve had in months. I desperately did not want to like this, but — dangit — the Burgerizza stole my heart. If you need a new tailgate dish to impress your friends, seriously, just make this.
Photo courtesy of @alfredandconstance
Every summer there’s the new “it” drink, but this year everyone freaked out over these boozy rosé slushies. Rolling my eyes at the basic-ness, I pretty much refused to make this pink frosty. But for the sake of food journalism, I decided I could swallow my pride — and rosé — and try this fad out. And it was actually delicious.
The ingredients vary based on your palate, but I chose the most-simplified recipe: strawberries, rosé, sugar and lemon (not pictured).
If you can, grab a bottle of rosé that has a stronger, full-bodied flavor — otherwise the flavor of the rosé can get lost in the mix. Next, pop open that bottle and pour it into a few ice trays. Instead of pouring the rosé right into the blender and adding ice cubes, just freeze the rosé itself into ice cubes! It keeps that flavor in the forefront (and keeps your drink boozy). While you put your rosé ice cubes in the freezer, toss in your strawberries too.
Next, I made a simple syrup out of the leftover rosé and my pure cane sugar, making a thick sugary liquid to sweeten my pretty drink. Fast-forward a few hours. Once I had rosé ice cubes, I tossed them into the blender with the strawberries and simple syrup.
Y’all, this was so quick — and the result was the right level of sweet and boozy. However, I forgot to add my lemon to the first mix, so I obviously made a second batch. The second batch with the lemon juice was even better; it had more complexity with some tart notes, and the simple syrup rounded out the bold rosé.
So would I make this again? Perhaps for a bridal shower, but in everyday life, not so much. It was a little out of my price range ($22) for a go-to frosty, but the drink is definitely worth the price for a special occasion.
4: Spaghetti Grilled Cheese
Photo courtesy of @spoon_bing
The gooey, beyond melty foodgasm here is called Spaghetti Grilled Cheese. And it is the most-popular girl in school right now. Everywhere I turn on my explore page, this sandwich pops up, and I had to figure out what the fuss was all about.
The ingredients are pretty simple: garlic toast, mozzarella, and spaghetti with red sauce. These are staples in my fridge — and probably most college kids’ fridges — so the combination of spaghetti and grilled cheese seemed foolproof. Seemed.
I made my spaghetti and swirled in standard red sauce, piled it onto my garlic toast, then added thick slabs of mozzarella followed by shredded mozzarella. (You know, just in case the first pound wasn’t enough.) I closed it with my other piece of garlic toast and put it in my panini maker. The garlic aroma wafted through my apartment and smelled lovely, making my excitement levels hit an all-time high.
Once the sandwich was golden, I placed it on a table and then realized I had no idea how to cut this. If you cut it straight in half, the spaghetti wouldn’t pull. But if you didn’t cut it at all, the bread would break and it could look messy. Puzzled, I decided to do a half-cut, as in, slice the bread just enough to break the bread, but not the noodles. This is where I made oops No. 2. You shouldn’t cut it at all.
Excited, I started pulling my sandwich apart waiting to see all of the mozzarella stretch out and the noodles seemingly fall every which direction. None of this happened. There was no cheese pull. There was no bright-red spaghetti oozing out of the sides. Even worse, it didn’t taste that great. It tasted like a one-note spaghetti sandwich that I would drunkenly make at 2 in the morning. Disappointment level: realizing the truth behind Santa.
Even though my sandwich looked bland and ugly, I’d like to pass on some words of encouragement for all of you out there who still want to try this: Use a red sauce that has a bold, strong flavor. And use A LOT of it. I used the amount of sauce I would as if I were eating the spaghetti on its own, but for the bright red contrast with the golden garlic bread, you need to add loads of red sauce. And you need a red sauce that can hold its own. Also, throw in some shredded Parm with your mozzarella — otherwise you’ll get stuck in bland town like me.
5: Sushi Burger
Photo courtesy of @nybucketlist
This is the one and only sushi burger, aka two patties of sticky sushi rice with sashimi, spicy mayo, nori and sesame seeds inside. I had fallen in lust with this creation, and when I heard I was writing this story, this was the first menu item to pop into my head.
Now let me tell you, this was no easy feat. The ingredients were hard to find in NYC, and it led me on a wild hunt to three separate markets. First, I had to find sushi rice, also considered short-grain rice. Then came the hopeless search for rice vinegar, sesame oil and sashimi-grade seafood. Once I found all the ingredients and laid them on my kitchen counter, I realized this was not going to be a simple three-step process.
First, you have to cook the rice, then you have to season your sashimi. Combine these two steps and you’re already hitting the one-hour mark. Yikes. Once the rice was seasoned and sticky, I stuck it in the freezer to cool down so it would mold into a burger bun easily.
Fast-forward another 30 minutes of waiting for the rice to cool. I found my egg-poaching cups actually resembled a mini burger slider — perfect for a sushi burger.
I patted the rice firmly into each egg poacher pod, then popped them out to reveal the cutest lil’ rice bun you ever did see. Next, I assembled my sushi burger: spicy mayo, seasoned fish, nori and ginger. Then I added the other half of the rice bun and seasoned it with sesame seeds. I have to say these looked nearly identical to the Instagrams.
I started snapping away until one of my buns fell apart and I realized that these suckers were very temperamental. They broke apart within minutes of my food photoshoot and so did my ego. But I wouldn’t go down without a fight. I made more rice buns in the poacher, then put them in the freezer so they’d keep their shape.
I reassembled, and much to my delight, these remade frozen rice patties stayed perfectly. However, there is no easy way to eat a sushi burger. Rice is simply not meant to stay in this shape. After one bite and the burger’s collapse, I decided that these burgers were made only for the ‘gram and then should be tossed into a bowl for a much-easier-to-eat poke bowl.
6: Sweet Potato Toast
Photo courtesy of @anniskk
Possibly the only healthy meal I made this entire time was the sweet potato toast. Earlier in the summer, health bloggers were going crazy over this simple swap for avocado toast and I had to find out why. Turns out, this toast was nutritious, delicious and beyond easy to make for any meal in my day. This Insta meal is definitely here to stay.
All you have to do is take a sweet potato and cut it into quarter-inch slices and toss it in your toaster.
Once it’s been toasted twice on a medium setting, your entire kitchen will smell like fall. No, seriously, the smell is addicting and warms your soul. Now that you’re listening, take that sweet potato slice and add some ripe avocado with salt and pepper. It’s weird it took someone this long to discover such a simple way to eat a sweet potato, but I’m not complaining.
So what was the verdict on this one? Overall, it was a great substitute for carb-loaded bread, and the sweet potato kept its firmness, so it didn’t flop with the toppings. You can even go wild and make a sweet version with crunchy peanut butter, cinnamon, banana and honey. (I did, and it’s now my new breakfast staple.)
So after trying each twice (OK, three times, but it’s healthy!) I have come to a few conclusions:
1: Unless you’re eating the end piece of the sweet potato, you’ll want to shave off the skin so you don’t have a long stringy piece hanging from your first bite.
2: The thickness of the cut matters. Too thick and the sweet potato can come off rubbery, and too thin with the same toasting settings can burn it.
3: Toasting sweet potato is possibly the cleverest idea out there. You will get addicted to trying new mash-ups.
7: S’mores Skillet
Photo courtesy of @madebyablonde
Some people claim they love s’mores — and I’m sure they do — but they don’t understand how deep my love for s’mores goes. When the s’mores skillet started hitting Instagram, I knew this was my match. The ingredients list for this one is really quite simple: butter, chocolate chips, graham crackers and marshmallows (shocker). I went with mini marshmallows, but the original big ones will look just as fluffy and picture-worthy.
Using a small skillet, I rubbed butter all around the edges in hopes of making the cleanup a little easier. Next, I lined the buttered skillet with chocolate chips. Then it hit me: Thanks to my Reese’s-obsessed roommate, I should add dollops of peanut butter to this. And so I did. I threw in globs of crunchy peanut butter on top of the chips, then sprinkled marshmallows on top. It already looked dreamy, but I knew I needed to be patient.
I threw the skillet into the oven on broil and impatiently waited — possibly checking on the s’mores five times in one minute. Once the marshmallows had bubbled up and their tops turned gold, I moved the skillet from the oven to my countertop and gasped. It was even more beautiful than I imagined.
I called my roommate over, and we ogled at the s’mores skillet, wondering if anything will ever make us feel more complete. Using chocolate chip cookies for dipping (my market was out of graham crackers, so I improvised) I achieved the slow-mo marshmallow stringy pull every foodie dreams of. I was in foodie Instagram heaven. Oh, and the taste? Fantastic. Pure, chocolatey, sweet and fantastic.
So, would I make this again? Yes. Yes x39038509. It was cheap ($8), quick and easy on the eyes. This one is here to stay.