Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

Archive for the day “February 19, 2013”

31-recipe challenge: Where we are and what I’ve learned so far

I’m at the halfway point of my 31-recipe challenge right now. (OK, technically I’m past it, but as far as posting goes, I’m halfway done. So don’t panic, I’m not THAT far behind!) That being said, I think it’s a good time to recap what I’ve done so far and, more importantly, some observations I’ve had along the way.

1. My knife skills are atrocious. Seriously, I’d make a dismal showing in a professional kitchen, and I’d be kicked right off any kind of cooking show. Robert Irvine would kick my ass.

2. Mandolins are dangerous. And now I’m officially scared of them. They seem nifty and convenient, saving you so much time, effort and onion-induced tears…til they slice your thumb open. Yeah, that happened. Granted, it took me 17 days to get any kind of notable injury, so that’s worth something.

3. I’m finally getting opportunities to wear my Wizard of Oz apron! And yet, I’m not taking them nearly often enough. I need to learn to cover up, especially when oil or butter is cooking, or risk my clothes.

4. I need to get a Dutch oven or a similar stove-to-oven vessel. There’s nothing more frustrating than making a one-pot wonder dish only to realize you actually need to use (and wash) two pots.

5. On that note…I’m already sick of doing dishes. I’ve seriously done more dishes in the last few weeks than I have since I moved in.

6. I also never want to see the inside of a supermarket again. I think I’ve spent more time in the supermarket than I have in my own home.  And yet, despite how much time I’ve spent in Wegmans and my (new) local ShopRite, I still don’t know my way around them.

7. I’m going broke. I’m spending easily $100 a week on this, often more. (I know many people will say that’s not much, but I’m not feeding a family of 4 every week. Just me, Kevin, sometimes my mom, occasionally a group. And that’s including very few regular groceries. Usually I’m just buying ingredients and a few staples, like Greek yogurt, apples and face wash.) My credit card’s pretty much ready for this challenge to be over. (So is Kevin, truthfully, especially because we’re looking to move within the next two months.)

8. I need more tupperware. I’m running out of containers (and fridge space) to keep all my leftovers.

9. Nonetheless, there IS a great bright side to all of this! I’m learning so much, cooking things I never thought I would (and more often than not, they’re way easier than I expected) and eating new things I didn’t think I’d like (and sometimes still don’t.) It’s branching me out, and I’m developing a great working repertoire of recipes. There are already multiple things I’ve said I have to cook again.

And now, some housekeeping:

Well, as is life (especially mine), things come up when you don’t expect them. In this case, those “things” would be my wisdom teeth, and they have to come out. On Friday. So, I’m having oral surgery to get all four wisdom teeth out on Friday morning. Obviously, that’s going to leave me out of commission for a few days, so I’m making an executive decision: I’m cutting one recipe from the challenge to make up for lost time. And, if you’ve been following the challenge from the beginning, I bet you know which one it is. Yup, the duck confit is out. (Because that also saves me about $80. Yes, $80 on one meal. I had to be peeled off the floor.) But, in all honesty, losing those few days would make it really, really hard to finish. So I came to this decision.

Luckily, there are quite a few soup recipes in the list, and an AMAZING sounding pudding recipe, so I’ve been prepping some of those this week to carry me through the post-surgery weekend ahead. I have a feeling I’ll be surviving on soup, smoothies and pudding for at least the weekend.

Where we are so far, aka what I’ve made so far:

Sausage and pepper pizza
Pomegranate, apple and kale salad
Sweet potato tacos with avocado
Beer and bacon butterbeans
Five-cheese baked rigatoni
Pumpkin pie bread pudding
Butternut squash and kale salad
Butternut panzanella salad
Vegetarian chili
Apricot and pistachio granola
Sweet potato risotto
Banana bread oatmeal
Gluten-free eggplant parmesan
Chicken rosemary lasagna
Cauliflower curry
Swedish meatballs
Soba noodles

Well, that’s where we are so far. I’ll do another roundup at the end of the challenge to recap the whole ordeal and look at how it all went. what I learned, how I did. For now…more recipes.


31-recipe challenge Day 13: Soba Noodles

Well, folks, this is pretty much the halfway point! And what better way to commemorate than soba noodles?

Why soba? Well, because who doesn’t love a steaming hot bowl of noodles?

Soba noodles

These soba noodles from Pickled Plum were probably my most “exotic” recipe yet. I mean that in the sense of the ingredients. I spent more time in the international aisle for this recipe than for any other, and, in the end, some adjustments had to be made. I couldn’t find certain things on the list, like fish cakes (okay, not that I really looked that hard…) and ichimi pepper. But luckily, I found out ichimi is basically just a hot Japanese chili pepper, so I used a little chili powder instead.  I almost couldn’t find the dried fish flake (katsuo bushi) for the sauce, but I found an unfortunately large package of it at the last minute.

I ended up halving the amount of fish flake in the sauce because I was afraid it would impart too much of a fishy flavor, because when I opened that package, whoa baby was it fishy! But I think the full two tablespoons actually would’ve been fine. The flavor seems way milder than the smell.

To be completely honest, I don’t think what I bought were truly soba noodles. I bought rice flour and buckwheat vermicelli (soba are buckwheat), but I don’t think that’s actually the same thing. Close enough though, right? These were great gluten-free noodles, though. I gave the rest to my mom to try because I liked them better than most gluten-free pasta substitutes I’ve tried (like brown rice pasta), and they were cheap. I have a bunch of sauce and toppings left, so I’ll probably go buy actual soba noodles and make it again.

Soba bowls

This dish was an unbridled success. It took only as long as it took to heat up the sauce and boil the noodles, so basically no longer than any other pasta. Plus, it’s warm and cozy and totally customizable–add pretty much whatever you want with as much or as little sauce as you want. You could totally add chicken, pork, shrimp or fish to this and make it a more filling meal. We went with grated ginger, grated daikon (a large, white, Asian radish), chopped scallions and cilantro. I also spent way too much time in the international aisle at Wegmans hunting down nori, found some, and then forgot to add it to the soba. Oops. It’s there for next time. (Confession: I ate this along with pizza. Not traditional and very weird, but it was there and I love pizza. Sue me.)

Truth be told, I’m leaving the wasabi out next time. I thought I just put the smallest bit in, but holy cow! I couldn’t finish my bowl–I gave it to Kevin. It was SO spicy. (To me, anyway, but we all know I’m a spice wimp.) Anyway, next time I’m just saying “no” to wasabi.

Wasabi or no wasabi, soba is a great cold winter day meal or home sick meal, because it’s so cozy and warming and a fun alternative to the usual pasta or soup. And it’s quick! (And if you have a cold or sinus infection, just mix a little extra wasabi in there and BAM! Sinuses cleared.)

So go cozy up with a bowl of soba…what are you waiting for??

Soba noodles 2

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