Archives for posts with tag: 30 day challenge

Uh oh, I am almost afraid to admit this, but I took Monday off from my cooking challenge. It was my birthday, so I decided to spend the day hiking and sight-seeing instead of cooking.  I was going to end the day with a dessert or cocktail challenge, but birthday beers took over my evening and depleted my energy. Oh well – there are 31 days in March and I am attempting a 30-day challenge… so I think that I can let myself off the hook… hopefully?!

Not the kitchen

Not the kitchen

Instead of cooking...

Instead of cooking…


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!

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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Imagine you have just arrived in the Peruvian Amazon. It is late at night and you are tired, overwhelmed, dripping with sweat, and faced with a sea of mosquitoes and mototaxi drivers all too eager to take you anywhere you want. You have a guesthouse reservation but no mototaxi driver will take you there because it is too “dangerous” – and you don’t know if they are referencing poor road conditions or Amazonian jungle thieves.  You eventually find one brave soul who will take you most of the way and catch yourself clutching your passport and wallet as you round each treacherous, muddy bend in the road. After pushing the mototaxi on multiple occasions through three-feet of mud, the driver gives up, turns around, and leaves you in the “dangerous” darkness. After wandering around aimlessly in a less-than-hospitable-looking area, you finally find the guesthouse. The French (?) owners welcome you, make you sit down in their wonderful tropical-island-like oasis, and hand you a piping hot bowl of Senegalese chicken. You suddenly are aware of just how hungry you are and decide on the spot that this chicken is just about the most delicious thing you have ever eaten!

I have had dreams of this meal ever since and have always wanted to make it. This challenge finally provided me with the motivation!

From what I recall - my version of Senegalese chicken resembles the dish I had in Peru

From what I recall – my version of Senegalese chicken resembles the dish I had in Peru

The recipe: The guesthouse owners told me the ingredients, but alas, I have since forgotten the details so I decided to go with this recipe from the Washington Post.

Quick recap: I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts and a jalepeno, but I otherwise followed the recipe for the most part.

On their way into the oven (alas, in retrospect, I should have moved them closer to the broiler!)

On their way into the oven (alas, in retrospect, I should have moved them closer to the broiler!)

The verdict: I knew I wouldn’t be able to replicate the amazingness of that meal that I had in the Peruvian jungle. But it was worth a shot. I shouldn’t have used chicken breasts – too lean. And the rich flavor and spice was just missing. I still may make it again, but I will try out a different recipe (or worst case, hop on a plane back to the jungle)!

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My first official 30-day challenge* is an ambitious one: I need to try out a new recipe or use a new ingredient every day for 30 days. 

Before giving up on me, note that I really enjoy cooking and trying out new ingredients. This challenge will only force me to continue expanding my cooking repertoire, finally cook those dishes I have been forever putting off (Senegalese chicken? Mustard! Perhaps a Malaysian daal) and to make sure I do something new every day (not just occasionally). And anyway, it’s better to start off ambitiously, right?

I plan to post the recipe and a picture of the dish/ingredient/meal each day and my comments on how it turned out, so please feel free to send me ideas or favorite recipes.

March challenge ON!

*Disclaimer: I only decided to make this ’30-day challenge thing’ official after achieving my February 30-day challenge of writing in my journal every day, which I easily mostly accomplished. So yes, my March challenge is already too ambitious…