Category Archives: Challenges

Monthly Mélange: April 2010


Just to sum up my last week of the April challenge, “No Repeats” — LAME! Ahahaha, not the food, just me. I really only had two nights where I could cook this last week, and we opted for a ‘spread’ meal on Thursday. You’ll learn more about “spread” meals soon, but let’s just say that it doesn’t necessarily involve any cooking… The other meal I made was pretty darn good – Miso Vegetables & Tofu (from 101 Cookbooks).

To sum up the whole month, this has been a great challenge. I wanted variety in my cooking, and I got it!! I took the opportunity to dig into my cookbooks a little more, and made peace with the fact that they aren’t the kind of cookbooks I need (so I don’t feel bad not reaching for them all the time). Seriously, how many vegetarians actually make all of the “loaves” that are in some of these books? Argh!!

Just say ‘No’ to Food Waste!
I think I’m going to make this a regular entry in my rundown. Just because the official challenge is over doesn’t mean it isn’t still a part of my life! After collecting cutoffs from my veggies for over a month (think mushroom stems, herb stems, onion ends, other veggie ends that you don’t feel like eating but aren’t gross), I used my bag of frozen bits and bobs to make broth. I didn’t follow a long recipe, just sautéed some onions first, then the frozen stuff, topped it off with a ton of water and simmered for a nice long time. The broth was fantastic!! Who says veggie broth has to be watery… 🙂 I have continued to collect the ‘veg bits’, as well as shrimp shells, and have used both (and another special ingredient) to make an incredible broth for an upcoming post… tee hee hee.

One small ‘boo’ to add to this… I lost a half a bag of frozen veg bits to my own exuberance. I had added some new bits to the bag, had zipped it closed, and shook it a little bit too hard… the zipper popped open and my bits got strewn across the floor. 🙁 Le sigh. Let’s take a minute of silence for the poor lost bits.

I Made This!
The (New) Brunswick Stew was a huge success. Technically, I made it at the end of March, but I wasn’t allowed to post about it until April because it was the Daring Cooks challenge for April. I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this stew, because I wasn’t really in the mood for stew when the challenge was first posted. Once I finished all of the leftovers, however, I kinda wished I had made the batch for 12 instead of cutting it down to 4. Next time.

Party in My Mouth
Aww, come on! You know what this is about — cupcakes! April was an amazing month for the sweet treats… On the other hand, I picked up a Jelly Belly “problem” and am now self-rehabilitating. I’m trying to cut down on sugar, in general, so that’s new…

Monthly Spice
Paprika. I put that s**t on everything! Seriously, I think I pick recipes just because they call for a buttload of paprika. Sweet paprika, smoked paprika… and the other day I ventured into the spice store in Kensington Market and found their stash of around 20 different kinds of paprika. I feel a blog post coming on!! First, I need to research the difference between Spanish and Hungarian paprika.

Mystery Ingredient

Shameful Secrets
No secret. I have now become a cupcake.

I’ve started to collect some herb plants for my balcony forest.  I really like the idea that I can just pop out there to grab some fresh herbs, green onion and eventually some tomatoes and salad greens. I am a little concerned that they will all die when I go on vacation, but what can I do?


April 2010 Challenge – No Repeats! (Week 3)

201004 Challenge - No Repeats

Week 3 has finished, and I took the opportunity to dig through my cookbooks and magazines again. I found some good dishes… some of which I may even make again! 🙂

  • Soba Noodle Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing (p.29, Vegetarian Times Magazine Sept2009) – This one tasted a bit like a combo of some other things we make. The peanut sauce was yummy, and went well with the taste of the soba noodles. I added some Nanami Togarashi and sesame seeds to my bowl, just because I felt like it!

  • Leeky Pasta – This is one of my old favourites, and I’ll be posting the recipe later in the week. It’s a simple dish, but feels kind of special and is sure to impress your guests (unless they don’t like leeks, rosemary and tomatoes!)

  • Deep South Spiced Rice & Beans (p.137, Classic Vegetarian Recipes) – Being “mostly vegetarian”, I try to find recipes that include legumes of some kind. This sounded like a good dish to try, as it incorporates beans and some fresh veggies. It’s a good one for the spring, because it isn’t heavy and saucey.

  • Aviyal (p.45, Simple Vegetarian Recipes) – An Indian vegetable dish. This dish sounded interesting because it called for coconut, an ingredient I don’t often use. I will be posting about this dish soon!

April 2010 Challenge – No Repeats! (Week 2)

201004 Challenge - No Repeats

Week 2 has finished, and I made a few new dishes that turned out pretty good!

  • Vegetable Toad-in-the-Hole (p.186, Classic Vegetarian Recipes) – this one was different from the kind of dishes I usually make, with the bready component to it. I would definitely make this again. It was a little involved, but not too much trouble, and kind of fun and cute (as far as dinner goes). Click the title to view my full post on the dish.

  • Mashup Pasta – this was one of those dishes with two steps: 1. make pasta, and 2. open the fridge door and throw everything you want to finish up into the sauce. This particular one included some pesto, tapenade, lots of mushrooms, some canned tomatoes, etc.

  • Indonesian Hot Rice Salad (p.142, Classic Vegetarian Recipes) – this dish sounded pretty interesting, because the rice is hot but the rest of the ingredients are cold. The problem is that there were just too many green onions in it. Also, I’m not too sure just how authentic of a dish it is – I thought Indonesian food was spicy!! I’ll have to ask…

  • Rice Noodles with Shrimp and Cilantro (p.47 Fine Cooking magazine, April/May 2010) – I’m going to post about this one later on this week, but I’ll just say that this dish was really really good. This is going into our pile of ‘usual’ dishes that we might change up every once in a while. This recipe was simple enough that it leaves room to make changes – maybe add a bit more spice, if anything. After this week, you will be able to click the title to view my full post on the dish.

  • Birthday Lasagna – I wanted to post about this one, but gobbled it up before I could take photos. I made a really yummy lasagna for my hubby’s birthday this week. I even made the sauce from scratch. Lasagna is a bit of work, but always impresses and makes great leftovers! I made this one off the top of my head – I don’t think I’ve ever had any kind of recipe for it, it’s just something I make.

Until next week…

Daring (New) Brunswick Stew

(New) Brunswick Stew

The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

I opted to make a variation on the first recipe given. I usually don’t eat meat, so this dish posed quite a challenge for me. I think there were three or four different kinds of meat in the recipe… I replaced all of the meat with shrimps and seitan, the broth with a vegetable/shrimp broth. Since this likely changed the flavour quite a bit, I’ve jokingly labelled my variation of the recipe (New) Brunswick Stew. Any Canadians reading this will get the New Brunswick/seafood reference… right? (I’m sure there is nothing specifically New Brunswick about it. I just wanted a cute title).

I started by making a broth, which I based on one I got from a Seafood Gumbo recipe I plan to try eventually. I also had to make some seitan, a vegetarian meat substitute made with wheat gluten (sorry, GF folks!). Both of these things added to the cooking time, since I had to make them from scratch.

Next, I fried up some chile peppers. I got some fun dried chiles called Chilhuacle Negro that have a medium heat (5/10). I’m pretty new to chiles, so I didn’t want to get any that were too hot. That said, I should have kept some of the seeds in for a little more heat. This was where the excitement starts – the smell of the peppers and the oil in the pan are heavenly!

Chilhuacle Negro

Chilhuacle Negro

Here is what the stew looked like in the early stages – the seitan is still in large chunks (to be sliced into thin strips in a later stage). While the broth started off looking quite red (from the chile peppers and the smoked paprika), it mellowed into a nice warm golden colour by the end.

(New) Brunswick Stew - in progress

(New) Brunswick Stew – in progress

Here is the final product, and the shot that everyone on Daring Cooks seems to be doing – the standing spoon shot. This came from the original recipe. To describe the texture of the finished stew, they said that Brunswick stew is not done properly “until the paddle stands up in the middle.”. Everyone has been doing their version of this shot, so I felt obliged to do the same. It was a hearty hearty stew, but the broth was not too thick and gloopy.

(New) Brunswick Stew - Standing Spoon

(New) Brunswick Stew – Standing Spoon

In the end, the stew turned out great! It was a bit of a challenge deciding what to use instead of meat, but I think the seitan worked wonderfully! This is definitely something I wouldn’t have known to seek out, and there’s no doubt I’ll be making this again.

Recipe after the jump.

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