Archives for posts with tag: cooking

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?

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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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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This challenge has motivated me to go through all of those dusty cookbooks that have been sitting on my bookshelf since I moved in. I found a recipe that was a little bit of a mystery: I couldn’t figure out if it would come out like a quiche, bread-covered artichoke, or some mix of the two. Sounded like a challenge-worthy, low-key dinner alternative.

The recipe: Listed under the “hot appetizers” section of a community cookbook:

The "artichoke squares" recipe

The “artichoke squares” recipe

Quick recap: I picked up some 99-cent parsley at Pike’s Place Market on the way home. I used parmesan and mozzarella instead of cheddar and added some garlic. I only had one jar of artichokes so I only used three eggs.

Pike's Place Market is not just for tourists

Pike’s Place Market is not just for tourists

The verdict: The nice thing about this recipe is that is is very versatile. Not only can you throw in just about anything you want into the batter, but you can eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner – or serve it as an appetizer (as the recipe recommends). And the taste verdict is… it tastes like a mix of quiche and bread-covered artichoke!

It looks like a quiche...

It looks like a quiche…

But once I scooped it onto a plate, it seemed more like bread-covered artichoke...

But once I scooped it onto a plate, it seemed more like bread-covered artichoke…

You might have noticed during the past week that I tend to base a lot of what I cook on what I have in the fridge or cupboard. For yesterday’s recipe challenge, I decided to get creative with stuff that I already had at home (due to laziness): parsnips and shallots. I thought a parsnip pancake sounded brilliant and not too difficult… but I still ended up needing to run to the store to get a sweet potato and leeks. Oh well.

The recipe: This recipe for Sweet Potato Parsnip Latkes with Feta and Leeks was the model I used for my pancakes. I made a few alterations, mostly because I don’t like feta (I know I know…)… but I really liked the idea of using nutmeg! Besides skipping the feta, I only used the veggies shown below, added a fried shallot, and used regular white flour.

These ingredients made about 15 pancakes!

These ingredients made about 15 pancakes!

Quick recap:  I was excited to give leeks a shot once again, although I needed a reminder of how to prepare them. Potato pancakes are very tasty, but I always forget how much grating is involved. Even with just one sweet potato and three parsnips, I was about to give up and rest. (And is it bad that I can’t get this song out of my head every time I make potato pancakes?)

Parsnip potato pancakes in the making

Parsnip potato pancakes in the making

The verdict: Very tasty, but they probably would have been better with some flavor to balance out all the natural sweetness (like feta? whoops…). I used a bit of horseradish. But I loved the parsnip flavor! Mine could have also used another egg to keep them from falling apart. I will make them again if someone will help out with the grating…

Pancakes? Or a plate of parsnip/potato mush?

Pancakes? Or a plate of parsnip/potato mush?

Yesterday was one of those, “I don’t have time to think, let alone cook!” kind of days. But a challenge is a challenge, so I decided to whip out one of my “emergency” recipes – something that I have wanted to make that doesn’t take too much time or effort. Like, “three ingredient cookies.” My friend swears by this family recipe, and offered the disclaimer that these cookies are “different” and not for those who have a major sweet tooth.

The recipe: An undisclosed mix of oats, whole wheat flour, and apple juice (heavy on the oats). Mix them together until you have a mushy consistency. Add whatever additional ingredients you have on hand. I added cinnamon, chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and dried cranberries. Shape into flat cookie shapes. Bake 10-12 minutes on a greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees.

On their way into the oven...

On their way into the oven…

Quick recap: I only had “quick” Quaker Oats on hand (my friend had warned me against using these), but alas, it didn’t seem to affect my cookies all that much!

The verdict: Surprisingly sweet (thanks to my extra ingredients, perhaps?) and tasty. Even my usual “healthy dessert skeptic” ate three in one sitting. These are a great, easy, healthy snack to make!

They even resemble 'more-than-3-ingredient' cookies

They even resemble ‘more-than-3-ingredient’ cookies