Category Archives: Challenges

April 2010 Challenge – No Repeats! (Week 1)

At the beginning of this year, I found myself in a rut. I realized that I, by default, would make slight variations on the same few meals every single week. Cooking became a chore, as much as I enjoy eating and (usually) enjoy cooking, in general.

That realization was one of the main things that drove me to start this blog, and I believe that blogging has been the driving force that pulled me out of cooking boredom.

This month, I am challenging myself to not make the same dinner twice.


Obviously, I can’t avoid using some of the same ingredients but I have to focus on making things in different ways. That doesn’t mean I have to cook every day… but when I do, it has to be something I haven’t made this month. I won’t post recipes for every meal I make, but I’ll try to list the dishes (and include links if I got the recipes online).

This first week (and a bit) was a good start, although we weren’t home to cook for the first weekend.

Daring Risotto

Risotto Ingredients

Some of the main ingredients: Butter, powdered sage and Arborio rice.

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

The thing about challenges… oh wait, I’ve already done that one. Heh. This is my first Daring Cooks challenge, and its poking me right where it hurts. After seeing the previous challenges, and even trying one as a test, I was really hoping to try making some new crazy cuisine. Instead, I’ve been put face to face with my nemesis: risotto.

I’m not hating on risotto, but I really haven’t had much success making it. Honestly, I sometimes think it’s O.K. the day I make it, and then HATE it for leftovers and never want to see it again. I’ve tried it a few times, and have hated it every time.

This is the perfect thing for me to start with.

I’m supposed to be challenged, right? It’s supposed to be at least a little bit hard, and sometimes frustrating. It’s supposed to be a learning experience. So I have jumped into it wholeheartedly. What did I learn? That my old risotto recipe sucks (yup), but that I am still not excited to make risotto (fair enough). My attempt came out pretty good, and I chose some accompaniments that nicely brought out the flavour and accented the texture of the dish. Not bad! That said, I wasn’t brimming with the same pride I had after trying the salmon en croute, or the indian or ethiopian feasts.

A great learning experience, indeed, and definitely a successful meal.


Squash risotto topped with garlic mushrooms, sage butter and arugula.

Part of the challenge was to make the stock from scratch, and while the recommended stock was made with a whole chicken, that would not be the route I would take. Not being a real meat person, I opted to make a mushroom stock, which turned out really tasty! It added a nice woody flavour to the dish. I got inspiration from this recipe, but ended up choosing my own adventure for most of it.

So there is the result of my first challenge. It was a good learning experience, which is what I am looking for with the challenges, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we do next month!

Recipe for the base risotto after the jump…

Continue reading Daring Risotto

Monthly Mélange: February 2010


February was my first full month of blogging about food, and I packed it full of new cooking experiences. This has really helped to battle my usual winter blahs. I hope to keep things coming at the same frequency.

Here’s a rundown of some of my culinary highlights of February 2010. If there’s anyone out there reading my blog, feel free to comment with your own rundown of the month!

How did February 2010 taste?

Wrapping up the Waste
The 2010 Food Waste Reduction Challenge is now over, and I can say that it was interesting to see just how much edible stuff we throw out every month. I suppose it’s less of a wake-up call for me, because I’ve always tried to use up everything I can. There are still a few weak spots – frozen items moreso than fresh foods. I can do better there. Planning meals helps with this, and only buying the items you really need for the meals you have planned.

Monthly Spice
I would probably say Berbere, because it probably was my favourite of the month, but it already got its own post. While making a Cajun-inspired shrimp dish the other night, I realized I had misplaced my Cajun mixed spices and had to make some up on the fly! Seriously, I realized I couldn’t find it RIGHT when I needed to add it in. Internet to the rescue, I found a couple of recipes that outlined the herbs and spices to use, and the proportions, and I was all set. The dish turned out great, by the way.

Mystery Ingredient
Leafy, leafy greens. I’m usually pretty good about eating my spinach (bought into the whole Lie of Popeye), but I never knew what to do with things like kale. This month, I chose some recipes that not only used lots of spinach, but also kale and collard greens. Sometimes referred to as a ‘superfood’, leafy greens contain many important nutrients, such as vitamin C, iron, potassium, magnesium, lutein, beta-carotene, folic acid and are high in dietary fiber (among other things). They’re pretty tasty, too!

I Made This!
Hubs says the best stuff I made this month was my Indian assortment, which I should be posting soon. I made three really yummy dishes, and overall we were more satisfied with these three than the Ethiopian three dishes (the closest competition – I wasn’t as impressed with the yellow lentil dish, so it lost some points there!). My favourite of the three Indian dishes was definitely the Saag Paneer – this is one of my all-time favourite Indian dishes, and it came out just the way I like it!! Joe’s favourite was a chick pea dish. Yum.

Shameful Secrets
I am happy to say that I haven’t had any Skittles since my last post, and have limited my Jelly Belly intake to 10 beans per sitting. My stomach has been doing much better, which is important since I’ve been cooking so much

On to March, and hopefully some longer days so my food pics turn out better!!


Food Waste Reduction Challenge 2010: Week 3

Food Waste Reduction Challenge - February 2010

Week 3 is done!!

Week 3 was clouded by my cold, but I still managed to cook a bunch. Not much tossing of food happened here… mostly shoveling.

We’re now in the home stretch, and I think this has been a great test. I’ll post the wrap-up for the month next week in my Monthly Mélange!

This week’s wins:

  • Gooooooaaaaaal!!! I finally started a freezer bag of veggie ends for making broth – and then I used it up to make broth! Didn’t take me long, and that’s just fine, because it’s better to use it up!
  • I also managed to use up one of the four types of squash I had in the freezer.

This week’s casualties:

  • A sadly rotten jalapeno. All of the other jalapenos were fine… but one decided to depart early.