Seattle is an active place to live. With all the hiking, biking, running, mountain climbing, kayaking, and rain-dodging, we are often on the go and in need of an easy, healthy snack. I have been shocked at how quickly we go through granola bars. And I have been equally shocked at how expensive (and full of sugar!) granola bars are. So granola bars seemed like a fitting challenge for this month. (Also, I didn’t feel like making a big meal after my Day 20 challenge).

granola bar

The recipe: I used this simple recipe as my base. It seemed quick and didn’t call for butter or oil. I added flax seeds, sweetened coconut flakes, and dried cranberries, reducing the amount of agave the recipe called for (because I barely had any left!).

Quick recap: Uh oh – I didn’t have enough batter to fill up my baking tray. Also, my batter seemed much dryer than the photos in the recipe (I had to press it into the cookie sheet). Even though I only left them in the oven for 15 minutes, I still managed to slightly burn the bottom of the bars (even though this is not the first time this has happened this week, I will blame this on my awful oven).

granola bar 3

The verdict: Luckily, despite all the mini disasters, they still seemed to come out okay. I’m not sure if they taste more like hardened cookies or like hardened oatmeal… but they are strangely addicting… even slightly burned!

Falafel is one of my go-to sandwiches when I eat out, but I wouldn’t have ever considered making it had it not been for this challenge.  Was there really any point to spending all that time putting together all the side dishes, sauces, and making pita when I could just buy a falafel sandwich down the street?

Believe it or not, this will turn into falafel balls

Believe it or not, this will turn into falafel balls

The recipes: I was inspired by this recipe posted yesterday from another blogger – I followed the recipes for pita and falafel almost exactly. I like adding pickled cabbage to my falafel sandwich so I found an easy recipe for it. I also made some hummus and spicy yogurt dip (adding cucumber).

Quick recap: I decided to skip the refrigeration part of the falafel recipe and bake them in an oiled muffin dish (40 minutes at 375 degrees). This sounds like a lot of work, but with the help of a super efficient kitchen helper (thank you, Mark), I think the cooking aspect only took about an hour. I was shocked at how easy it was to make pitas (mine were half whole wheat by the way) — and how much they actually looked like pitas!!!

pita

The verdict: This was worth the time and effort! Not only did it make TONS of falafel, but it was not hard and tasted shockingly authentic (and very delicious). (I would just use less salt in the falafel and fewer cloves in the cabbage). We both agreed that this was one of the best challenge meals so far. (And I honestly don’t think I will ever buy pitas again…)

falafel spread

Have you ever seen these red bags of red peppers and wondered what they are used for? So had I until a friend whipped up a batch of chile salsa using them and it was absolutely divine. I was interested in trying to make it myself and thought that it would go well on pulled pork for yesterday’s challenge.

chilis

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The recipes:

  • Chiles: I used this Epicurious “Toasted Guajillo Chile Salsa” recipe, but added a bit of sugar, cumin, a roasted tomato and half of a roasted onion. Oh, (going off memory from what my friend had done), I baked the chiles and other veggies at about 400 degrees for 5 minutes.
  • Pulled pork: I essentially used the ingredients from this recipe and plopped them in a crockpot, taking advantage of the keg of homebrewed black IPA we have in the fridge (yes, I’m bragging).
It takes up half the fridge but it's worth it.

It takes up half the fridge but it’s worth it.

Quick recap: Whoa – the roasted guajillo chiles really make the kitchen smell… pungent! You may have to open the window to avoid a serious coughing attack. Also, be careful not to overcook the chiles (cough cough… like I may have)… unless you like a slightly charred flavor. As for the pulled pork — it was in a crockpot and you really can’t mess up cooking stuff in a crockpot.

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The verdict: The chiles? As good as I remembered them! The pulled pork? I should have used pork shoulder instead of pork loin as it came out a tad tough (maybe you can mess up cooking stuff in a crockpot?). But nothing more chile sauce and spicy pear salsa couldn’t fix!

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Yesterday was a busy day followed by dinner at a friend’s house. I needed another quick recipe for my challenge. Luckily, the pears were starting to go bad! (I never thought I would rejoice in food going bad). You can never have too much fresh salsa lying around. Could pears be used in a salsa?

The recipe: Epicurious suggested that pears would be delicious in a salsa!

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Quick recap: I borrowed some tips from the reviewers and used red onion instead of white onion. I also added a wee bit of agave syrup instead of a full teaspoon of sugar and de-seeded the jalepeno after all.

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The verdict: Delicious! Why isn’t pear salsa more popular?

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I was going to make corned beef and cabbage. But then I ate too big of a breakfast and too big of a lunch, and thus couldn’t stomach eating a big dinner (let alone cooking it). So I dug around in the fridge for something else to make. I had zucchini. Zucchini is green. And therefore festive enough for a St. Patty’s Day challenge? Zucchini sticks? I’ve never made those before. St. Patrick’s Day crisis averted.

The recipe: I used a version of this recipe, which called for baking the zucchini sticks instead of frying them.

They may not look too appetizing, but they sure tasted good!

They may not look too appetizing, but they sure tasted good!

Quick recap: Since I didn’t have any eggs left after my Day 16 challenge, I coated the zucchini in a thin layer of olive oil. Tomato sauce = can of stewed tomatoes + lots of spices.

Green enough...

Green enough…

The verdict: So much for corned beef and cabbage – these guys really hit the spot after a big weekend!
 

Yes, I am over the halfway point of this challenge (seriously, is that it?!? It feels like it’s been much longer…). Anyway, to celebrate, I made assisted in making an angel food cake from scratch. You see, angel food cake is my favorite cake and I have always been so satisfied with the easy-to-make box version that I never even considered making it from scratch (too many egg whites). But it was time to find out whether the real version was better than the boxed version.

The recipe: We used this recipe, skipped the mango ginger part, and instead made up our own chocolate glaze (combining dark chocolate, sugar, and butter).

Quick recap: As expected, this process involved a lot of egg-cracking. And beating. And discussing what a “soft peak” looked like. Otherwise, the instructions were fairly simple to follow.

Soft peak?

Soft peak?

Looks just like the boxed versions do!

Looks just like the boxed versions do!

The verdict: It tasted just as good as the boxed kind! Maybe better since we made it all from scratch?

Everything is better with strawberries.

Everything is better with strawberries.

Chai is one of my favorite drinks, but something I had never even considered to make… until this challenge. It’s also the perfect thing to make when you need some caffeine for a weekend road trip (hence the blogging hiatus) and you just don’t feel like baking or cooking!

The recipe: This recipe looked authentic and didn’t call for condensed milk (which I didn’t have).

Quick recap: I got to take advantage of my close proximity to Pike’s Place Market and visit MarketSpice to pick up some cardamom pods (which I hadn’t ever used before Lentil Dahl day). I may have used black peppercorns, more water, and skim milk in my version of the recipe. So much for authenticity!

Some of the spices I used to make the chai.

Some of the spices I used to make the chai.

The verdict: The whole apartment (and car) smelled like a tea shop/foreign land. I like tea shops and foreign lands, so this was a good smell! Now that I have the proper spices, I’ll be making this more often.

I recently visited Kedai Makan, this “Malaysian-inspired” take-out place that had a line snaking around the corner. The daal I purchased was rich and delicious. But was it replicable? Of course not! But it inspired me to make a daal/dahl/dal.

The recipe: I went with a spicy, tomato-based dahl. I served it with a loaf of some easy whole wheat bread.

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Quick recap: Thank goodness I had all the spices called for. I followed the recipe exactly (except I used a mix of chicken broth and water)… and I added some cilantro and plain Greek yogurt as toppings at the end.

The verdict: It didn’t taste like the stuff I recently bought, but it was really flavorful and authentic-tasting. Just a wee bit too salty (and not spicy enough) for my tastes.

This recipe sounds waaaayyyy more complicated than it was, but it was definitely challenge worthy. See, my sister recently returned from a trip to Bali and proceeded to throw all kinds of spices and Balinese cooking items at me – with little instruction on what they were and how to cook with them (not that I wasn’t appreciative)! I was particularly intrigued by a block of “Blitar Mantep Sedang,” which she called “spicy peanut sauce” and said that the Balinese used in everything (but she had no idea what to do with it and Google couldn’t even help me out). Some leftover udon noodles packets from last week’s trip to Seattle’s Uwajimaya megastore seemed like an appropriate petri dish for this mystery peanut block.

What the heck do you do with something like this?

What the heck do you do with something like this?

The recipe: Uhhhhh… I kind of made this one up and kept it really basic.

Quick recap: I dry fried some tofu (before I read this Seattle Times article – uh oh), and then stir fried up some veggies (zucchini, mushrooms, red pepper, and scallions) in some sesame oil. I mixed half of the peanut block with some sesame oil and water for 5 minutes or so. Then I added them all together with some of the udon noodle packets and threw on some thai basil as a garnish.

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The verdict: It did taste like a spicy peanut sauce – with a hint of otherworldliness. I thought of adding sriracha or soy, but decided that the flavors were rich, spicy, and flavorful enough to eat on their own. I’m sure I did this all wrong, but I’m looking forward to eating leftovers for lunch today.

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Just like Edmond’s baba ghanoush, I have been known to finish a bucket of this dip in one sitting (another one of my Mediterranean Deli‘s specialties).

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The recipe: Epicurious is one of my go-to online recipe sites and this “Roasted Red Pepper, Almond, and Garlic Dip” earned rave reviews.

Quick recap: Easy is an understatement! I think the whole dip-making process took about 7 minutes start to finish – even with briefly roasting the almonds. It helped using canned roasted red peppers.

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The verdict: Wow – the next time you are thinking of what to bring to a bbq, bring this! It didn’t taste like my deli’s dip, but it was still delicious. Once we killed the bag of pita chips, we looked for other ways of using the dip. It turns out that this dip is also very tasty on Senegalese chicken yassa leftovers! But beware – the one clove of garlic really packs a punch!

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