Tag Archives: challenge

Cookbook challenge

16 Jun

Thanks to my vegan diet challenge, my Challenge #25 of cooking every recipe from one cookbook is going well because I chose a vegan cookbook!

Here are the latest recipes I have made:

Almond and Cinnamon Drink

This was basically a smoothie and easy to make. It wasn’t all that special and I didn’t include the star anise in the recipe because I don’t like the flavour of aniseed.

Little Potato Cakes with Yogurt Dip

This was so easy to make and so tasty. I somehow managed to make about 3 times as many as the recipe said it would make and I though that we might be able to freeze some for another day. But nope, we ate them all in one sitting!

Roasted Chickpeas

This was a spicy snack and only took 20 minutes to bake in the oven. It was my idea to take these into work as a alternative to snacking on fruit and nuts in the office. However, they were so moreish that I ate them all soon after they had cooled down in the oven.

Soba Noodle Summer Rolls with Tofu and Coriander

I have only made spring noodles once before and that was on a Vietnamese cooking course that I went on last year. These are called summer rolls and not spring rolls because they are not deep-fried so they are a bit healthier. They were easy to make but a bit fiddly to get all of the ingredients in the wraps and wrap them up neatly. The recipe also suggested making a peanut butter dip made with soya sauce and agave syrup and was a nice accompaniment to the summer rolls.

Asian Noodle Salad

Making good on my promise to make and bring more of my lunches into work with me to save money, I made this Asian Noodle Salad. I didn’t use the specific noodles that the recipe stated. I used the soba noddles that I used for the summer rolls above. Our cupboards are so full of ingredients that I have had to buy to make one dish from this book that I am running out of space to put things. The salad itself was a nice alternative to a salad with lettuce and tomato and didn’t take long at all to make. The peanut butter dressing was ok but it turned a bit solid by the time I was able to pour it over the salad. I would definitely make this again.

Mexican Pepper Salad

Another lunchtime option (and we also had a portion of it with dinner one evening as well) that was very easy to make. Because the weather has been recently good in the last few weeks I was able to eat this outside in the sunshine. I’m not sure why this was a Mexican salad because I always associate Mexican food with spicy, hot food.

Quick Ajvar

This a Serbian roasted red pepper and aubergine relish. It’s really nice and spicy and goes well with toast or just on the side with vegetables. It really was quick to make – the vegetables are roasted and then puréed with oil and seasoning.

Colourful Little Toast Spirals

The quick ajvar was a main component of these. The ajvar is spread onto wholemeal bread that has been squashed flat by a rolling pin. The bread is then rolled up and baked in the oven for 15 minutes. It was a quick and easy snack to make and delicious too.

Sandwich spread

I was slightly nervous about this recipe. The ingredients (vegetable stock, rice cakes, onions and tomato purée) seemed a bit unusual to put together to make anything that would taste nice. However, I made some sandwiches with this spread and grilled vegetables. The mixture also kept well in the fridge so I could have it a few days later on bread or with vegan crackers.

Little Quinoa Balls with Mint Sauce

Like many of the things that I have made from this book, my creation looks nothing like the pictures in the book. In this case, I used multi-coloured quinoa whereas the book used the normal variety. The next problem with this recipe was that it said that the quinoa needed to be made into balls the size of tennis balls – I’m not sure then were the “little” part comes from. When I tried to move the balls around in the pan while frying them, they are started to disintegrate. I decided to make small burger-like patties so that they would definitely be cooked in the middle. It meant that I ended up with about 20 of these quinoa “burgers” which didn’t last for very long!

That’s 34 recipes out of a total of 100 already finished!

Rubik’s Cube

6 Jun

Number 30 on my #40Before40 list is to complete a Rubik’s Cube. There were a number of reasons why I decided to do this.

  1. I have never properly attempted it before. As kids, my brother and I used to peel the stickers off the cube and rearrange them which ironically means that there is no way you can solve it.
  2. I do not know anyone personally who has completed it before
  3. It could be an interesting party trick
  4. I saw a TV programme where kids manage to do it in a few minutes –  so hard could it be?

The answer is, of course, very hard. These small kids on the TV made it look deciptively easy: just a few twists and turns and they were done. The reality is that it’s not so straight forward.

I learnt that it took Rubik’s himself more than a month to solve it after he had invented it and that the chances of just playing with the cube and being able to solve it are probably lower than you winning the next Euromillions jackpot. I am now thinking that it would have been better to have chosen something else easier to do. But if it’s on the list I have to do it.

When I started the challenge, I didn’t own a Rubik’s cube. It was when we were in Bolivia and I saw them on a market stall that I decided to take the plunge and buy one.

As evidence, I took a photo after I had bought it to show that it is possible to solve.

Here is the evidence that the cube was mixed up. I did it and then my boyfriend mixed it as well so that there was no way that I could remember how I had mixed it up myself.

What I didn’t realise is that there is a set of specific instructions that you need to do in order to solve the puzzle and the solution of the puzzle is based on algorithms.

The first thing that you need to do is to solve the white cross on the top of the cube. I didn’t realise that the middle square of the cube doesn’t move so if you try to solve the white cross on the side where a green square is in the middle, you will be doomed to fail.

Solving the cross was relatively easy and the thought crossed my mind that I would be finished within ten minutes. I was so wrong.

The next task is to put the white edge pieces in to complete the white face. Again I managed to do this without too much difficulty. This was turning out to be a walk in the park. It was only when I then tried to complete the next stage that I realised that the white corner pieces have to be solved in a particular order. You can’t just put the corners in wherever they will go because the colours on the other two sides have to correspond to the right face of the cube.

I then left this for a few weeks because I was a bit frustrated by the whole thing and it seemed impossible to put the corners in a specific order. I have now finally managed to solve the white cross and put the corners in the correct order.

Then next thing to do is to solve the middle layer. Now I am stuck. It seems that everything that I try to do ends up un-solving the white layer. In this stage you need to use more complex algorithms to solve it. Just twisting and turning won’t help solve anything unless you have the best luck in the world. And if you do have the best luck in the world, why aren’t you in a casino instead of playing with a Rubik’s cube?

So the current status is that the Rubik’s Cube is gathering dust on the coffee table, while I consider my next move, with a Post-It note attached to it saying “If you even thinkabout touching this, I will kill you.” My other half thinks I am joking but I don’t think I have ever been more serious about anything in my life.

Cookbook challenge

27 May

I have been busying myself with cooking in recent weeks in order to get nearer to my goal of cooking every recipe from one cookbook. There have been some interesting and surprising results. Here are the latest dishes to be ticked off my list.

Museli bars

These were surprisingly easy to make but I had to find some vegan butter to add to the recipe which wasn’t hard to find at all. I would definitely make these again and the boyfriend also approved! Next time I will make them a bit fatter because they ended up being really crumbly because they were a bit too thin.

Pesto and “Ricotta” Balls

When it come to eating, beware of anything in quotation marks. It normally means that the substitute that you are making is a poor substitute for the thing you are trying to replicate. The recipe was easy enough to make and the consistency was similar to ricotta cheese in fairness. But it just wasn’t *quite* the same.

Spicy Oven-Roasted Cauliflower

This was another super easy recipe. I added some vegan Thai curry paste as well to the spicy mixture to give it a bit more of a kick. And kick it did!

Aubergine Rollmops

For this recipe I needed to find juniper berries. I thought that in Switzerland that this would be a mission impossible but, as ever, an expensive department came to my rescue. I should have sliced the rollmops a bit thicker because during boiling they did become quite flimsy and it was difficult to put the onions, gherkins and mustard inside and roll them up before they disintegrated. It looked a bit like a (vegan) dog’s dinner but it tasted great.

Greek Farmer’s Salad

The idea of this recipe is that the feta cheese is replaced with marinated tofu. It was absolutely delicious and we ate it with some grilled vegetables from the grill. I also made extra so I could take a portion into work for my lunch. I would happy eat this again and again.

Andalucian Asparagus Salad

At the moment in German-speaking countries, it is Sparagelzeit (Asparagus time) everywhere. You can’t move in the supermarkets without bumping into asparagus and there are lots of stalls on the side of the road selling them, so this recipe is perfectly seasonal. It needed white and green asparagus and also some dates. I was skeptical about the using the dates but it worked well with the other flavours.

Courgette “Spaghetti” with Wild Garlic Pesto

There is also a lot of wild garlic around at the moment as well. This was another easy-to-make recipe and another one that I took into work for lunch. The main problem was that the garlic is so strong that my breath smelt for the rest of the day. Plus, as I said before, courgette made out of spaghetti isn’t like the real thing.

Cauliflower and Potato Salad

This is one of my favourite dishes that I have made so far. It was delicious and served warm. It had a spicy flavour and was filling.

Spicy Tomato Tartare on Ciabatta 

I am not sure why it was called spicy as there was no chilli in it but I have no complains on the taste side. It is very similar to a dish that we normally make anyway but with olives and onion added. When I toasted the bread I also rubbed garlic onto it to keep the vampires away.

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Spi

cy red lentil spread

The final product, after cooking the lentils and adding the spices, was too wet so I tried to reduce it in the pan to thicken it up. I was able to keep in the fridge for a few days and then use it as a substitute for butter with bread and also on crackers. I need to make this again and again because we bulk-bought a huge 5 kilo bag of lentils and they need to be eaten.

Aubergine Schnitzel with Garlic Cream

Although I can’t deny that this was delicious, I made a horrendous mess in the kitchen. What didn’t help was that I think I bought the “wrong” vegan cream. The recipe said you needed to “draw the aubergine through the cream” but the cream was too thick and I ended up having to paste the cream on with a pastry brush.

The result was tasty but if I was to do it again I would make sure I bought the right cream and do it in a bigger kitchen because ours was too small for all the different “stations” that you need to construct this – flouring station, breadcrumb-ing station etc.

And that is 24 of the recipes completed! I’m off to get started on my next batch of cooking now!

One month down…

13 May

It has already been one month since I started my vegan challenge. The past four weeks have flown by (while I have mainly been in the kitchen preparing things to eat) As I predicted last week, I have now hit a plateau with my enthusiasm of trying new recipes. So, this week I haven’t many any new or exciting things to eat. Here is what my week was like…

Eating Out

I didn’t eat out at all this week because our day to go for a team lunch fell on a bank holiday. I was quite glad of this because we have already exhausted a hefty chunk of the restaurants that are within walking distance of the office.

Supermarket-bought sandwiches

I found myself getting really annoyed this week when the choice of sandwiches in the local supermarket was virtually zero at 12.10pm. I am pretty convinced that the meat-eating population are taking a few vegan sandwiches on the sly and leaving very little choice for vegans. Luckily, I spotted right at the back of the chiller a falafel burger, which I took with me to the park to eat. I like falafel. I like burgers. But I wasn’t convinced it was relatively dry, despite the huge serving of beetroot on the top of it, and took quite a bit of chewing. The weather outside in a little garden that I discovered last week made it palatable.

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BBQ

Our BBQ game is still going strong and I think it will stay that way until the weather decides to change. Along with the usual suspects this week we have also grilled sweet potato. My boyfriend surprised me on Friday when I came home to homemade vegan spring rolls. He did confess that he hadn’t made these but that they were gifted to us by a friend of the family who owns and runs a Thai food stand. We didn’t cook the spring rolls on the grill but ate them outside with grilled vegetables and salad as the sun was setting.

Family celebration

My boyfriend’s dad had a birthday this weekend so the whole family went round for a dinner on Saturday afternoon. I was worried about how I was going to manage with the food aspect and offered to bring my own food with me. Apart from missing out on having a slice of birthday cake, I didn’t feel I was missing out at all. I actually felt really full by the end of the evening.

Weight loss

I had the feeling that I have lost a bit of weight. My boyfriend bought some scales because we didn’t have any. It turns out that I have lost more than a bit of weight – more than 5 kilos or 11 pounds (if you are imperially inclined). It was a bit of a shock, especially as I haven’t feel hungry or as though I have been denying myself for the last four week. And I have been out of action in a sporty sense because of a knee injury. So all of that weight loss has purely come from eating better. I have been trying for at least the last couple of years to lose some weight and it looks like I have managed it without even realising.

Just two more months to go!

40 Before 40: Challenge #8

25 Apr

I am now starting to get a bit panicked about completing this challenge, which is to watch the Top 250 Films on iMDB. And I have another four and a half years to complete it. The problem is that I need to watch another 160 films, which works out at about one film per week on average. That sounds manageable, right? In actual fact, there are quite a lot of films on the list that I know are going to be emotionally painful for me to sit through because I have no interest in watching them; for example, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which someone once lent me on DVD but I actually fell asleep during them so I can’t honestly say that I have watched them from start to finish.

Also I know that if I don’t religiously watch one film a week, I will end up having to watch films around the clock in order to be able to achieve it.

There is no point in complaining. I set these challenge myself. Here is what I have recently ticked off the list!

24. It’s a Wonderful Life

This was a beautiful and romantic film. I can’t believe I haven’t seen it before. I think this film is on TV every year at Christmas but I never had any interest to watch it. It’s an old film from the 1920s and it reminded me a bit of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Although it was made years and years ago, the themes of the film (corruption, betrayal and economic difficulties) are still relevant today. It was a bit odd to watch this in March when there is so much snow and Christmas trees in the snow but I am now wishing it was Christmas so that I can watch it again.

70. Citizen Kane

This is one of the most critically acclaimed films of all times. It’s the mystery story of a newspaper mogul whose dying word is “rosebud”. The story flips back and forth between different periods of time as a reporter sets about to investigate the meaning of his dying word. He uncovers the truth about the humble beginnings of the wealthy newspaper publisher and his earlier life. The meaning of the word “rosebud” remains elusive but is revealed to the audience at the end of the film.

I feel like I should have enjoyed this film a lot more than I thought I should have. I’m glad that I watched it because of how highly it is regarded and because it was Orson Welles’ first film (who I only thought was an author) but I am not sure that I would make a beeline to watch it again.

99. 3 Idiots

This was a hard film to find with English subtitles. The film is a Bollywood film and most of the speech is in Hindi but it does occasionally switch to English mid-sentence. I thought that all Bollywood films were just about dancing and having fun but there is a suicide in this one, which I wasn’t expecting. The story is about 3 friends who meet in engineering college. The inevitable boy meets girl, boy rebels against the norms of the college and a twist about the identity of one of the friends feature heavily through the film. Some parts of the film had me laughing out loud. Very clever and funny.

214. The Princess Bride

This is a film from the 80s that I have never heard of before but I recognised most of the cast from other 80s films and TV series. My main issue with this film was that I wasn’t sure what the films audience was. It was like a cross between a kids film, a romance and a slapstick. The story itself wasn’t bad per se but some parts of it, especially the animation of animals was really dated. I’m not sure why this film managed to get to this high a position in the list. I personally think that it is taking the place of a much more deserving film.

242. The Help

This was a great film and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was about the story of a small town in Mississippi and the ambitions of a young writer, who exposed the racism experienced by ‘the help’ at the hands of affluent white families. Some of the film was tragic and other bits had me laughing out loud. It was based on a true stories and I always find films based on true stories more interesting.

I have now watched 94 out of the 250 films. Slowly but surely I will get there…

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#40Before40: Challenge #14

18 Apr

By the time you are reading this, I will have hopefully survived three days on a vegan diet with about another 87 days to go. As a quick recap, I decided that this would be a good challenge for me to undertake because I have previously tried a vegetarian diet for three months and I didn’t find it too difficult. It seemed logical that a vegan diet would be the next challenge.

Also, I read a lot of information saying that a vegan diet is very beneficial not just for animals and the environment, but also for anyone who follows a vegan diet. I’ve been quite surprised by the number of international athletes who are vegan and the number of athletes who are becoming vegan and reporting big gains. Of course, there are lots of Hollywood actors who are also vegan but they try out some weird stuff, so they haven’t  been a source of inspiration.

In essence, the challenge is to eat a vegan diet for three months. A vegan diet means not consuming animal products: no meat, eggs, milk, honey or anything else that was produced by an animal. I have had a long hard think about whether it is cheating to eat product that says, for example, “May contain milk” because it was made in factory that produces milk and this could mean that cross contamination has occurred. As I am not 100% motivated to ban animal products from my diet because of the traditional reasons that vegans do, I don’t class this as cheating. However, wherever possible I will avoid eating the products.

As I have maintained from the beginning, I think this is doable if the right planning and preparation has been made. I have no hope of succeeding this challenge if I decide a lunchtime that I will pop into the nearest supermarket and pick something up for lunch. As a result, I am planning meals one week in advance. I am not so optimistic that I will be able to keep this up for the whole challenge but I will try.

I will be researching new recipes online and in a vegan cookery book that I bought in preparation for this challenge at the end of last year. There should definitely be enough recipes and food ideas that I don’t get too bored or starve.

I started the challenge on 16th April 2018 and I am due to finish it on 15th July 2018. I will be blogging about my experience and how I am getting on with the challenge as I go. I know that a lot of people roll their eyes and groan when someone declares (and it is always a declaration isn’t it?) that they are vegan. So if that sort of thing offends you look away now! Or, you could read on as I complain and squirm about my self-imposed veganism. Whatever you are eating: Bon Appetit!

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40 Before 40: Challenge #29

21 Mar

My 29th Challenge is to read the complete list of the 40 Books Every Woman Should Read. 

Being on holiday for five weeks has given me the time to read another three books from the list. Here is what I have recently read.

Runaway by Alice Munro

Alice Munro is a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature but, like so many of the authors on the list, I had never heard of her. She specialises in writing short stories and many of the stories flip back and forth in time. I don’t read a lot of short stories but it is nice to be able sit down and read a whole story in one sitting.

One of the stories, in particular, I thought was incredible. It was about a woman, who met a man after she had lost her purse. They have a spend a night together talking and getting to know each other. He asks that she comes to see him in a year’s time. She does this but when she goes to see him, he is incredibly rude to her and she feels that he has made a fool out of her. It is only years and years later, when she is working as a nurse, that she thinks he has been admitted to the ward where she was working. The man is not the man she met, but his twin, who has learning disabilities. This was the man who was rude to her and sent her away the second time. The man she actually met had passed away a few years earlier. It was heartbreaking to hear that arriving at slightly the wrong time left her embarrassed and affected the rest of her life without her realising it. I guess this kind of things happens all the time in real life, which makes it even more sad.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I don’t know how I have managed to make it to my age and to have not read this book. It was never an option for our GCSE set and so it was just back luck that I’ve managed to miss it. Of course, I have seen some of the many screen adaptations that have been made, especially the version with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy.

Even though I know what happens in the book, I was still completely surprised when Darcy announces his love for Elizabeth Bennett. When you know the thoughts of the characters, it’s a far more shocking revelation than watching in on TV.

Although the book was first published in 1813, there are quite a lot of issues and problems that we still have today. For example, people judge others and form opinions about them far too quickly. It’s then very difficult to be persuaded otherwise. I was thinking about a person recently, who when I first met them, I was convinced that I would never be able to get along with them and didn’t want to have that much to do with them. It’s only as time has moved on that I have changed my opinion of them and actually don’t might spending time with them at all. The last time I met them, it was no effort to see them for a few hours and get along well with one another.

Also, there is a lot of talk about marriage and Lizzy is worried that her family will not approve of her engagement to Mr Darcy. This, I am sure, still happens all the time. It doesn’t really matter how old you get or what walk of life you come from, everyone still want to have approval from the actions that they take – despite what some people might claim.

I wonder how much forcing schoolchildren to read classics at the age of 13 to 16-years-old actually puts people off reading these books for the rest of their life. If this book hasn’t been on the list, there is no way I would have read it. But I am glad I did.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I have seen the film of the book and I was a bit nervous about reading it. In case you don’t know the book is about a young girl who has been murdered by a man in her local community. The story is told from her perspective as she looks down on earth from heaven and watches her family and friends come to terms with her death and what happened to her.

As is normally the case, the book is far better than the film and is beautiful written and thought-provoking.

I’m not sure if I liked this book so much because in a lot of respects it corresponds to what I think heaven would be like: that our loved ones never leave us but watch over us from afar.

If you haven’t read this book, I really think that you should. The subject matter seems morbid but the story itself is more about hope and the connections that we have with one another.