2015 Cookbook Challenge – Part 1

Welcome to the first instalment of the 2015 Cookbook Challenge. You may remember that back on January 17th I announced that I was going to undertake a cookbook challenge this year, to get myself using my vast collection of culinary inspiration more, and to try out some new recipes and techniques. And of course, to keep myself accountable (and because I think it will be interesting), I’m documenting it here on the blog.

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The plan I had laid out was that I needed to cook about 6 recipes per month to meet my goal of finishing this challenge in a year’s time. And so far – I’m not quite on track. I’m not doing too bad – I managed to make recipes from 5 different cookbooks. But I will need to do some more planning to actually accomplish my goal. But it’s all good – we learn as we go along, right? And it has been fun so far, with some pretty good results. Let’s see what I’ve made so far!


Cookbook 1: Eat, Shrink & Be Merry by Janet & Greta Podleski

(with some input from The Essential Asian Cookbook)

Recipe: The Better Butter Chicken

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Someone at work had been talking about butter chicken, and I thought I should make some for dinner one night. I knew there was a “lightened up” butter chicken recipe in Eat, Shrink & Be Merry, so I pulled that cookbook out. After looking it over, I wanted to see how the recipe compared to a traditional recipe, so I consulted my go to Asian cookbook – The Essential Asian Cookbook. I stayed pretty true to the lightened up recipe, using less butter, light cream and yogurt instead of the traditional heavy cream/lots of butter combo. But I did tweak the spices to be a bit more traditional, and stuck with chicken thighs instead of using a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken like the Podleski sisters recommend. Oh yeah, and I added frozen peas for some colour and to make it more of a whole meal.


Not exactly the prettiest looking dish, but it was really tasty. It had a nice creamy mouthfeel, balanced spices, and tasted great with some brown rice. I feel like I want to continue to combine the two recipes to make my own signature butter chicken style dish. Stay tuned for that!


Cookbook 2: The Essential Asian Cookbook

Recipe: Beef Pho

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If you read my 2015 Cookbook Challenge post, you would know that pho was on my list of things I wanted to try making during the challenge. I love pho – it’s so simple and yet so complex. When I was living in Vancouver, you could get good pho pretty much anywhere. Alas, Prince George isn’t quite the same. There are 2 Vietnamese restaurants, but I would say their pho is just okay. Which means if I want to have good pho, I’m going to have to learn how to make it.


The key to good pho is a slow simmered beef bone broth (how trendy – bone broth seems to be all over the place these days). I did my best to get authentic ingredients without running all over the city, and I would say it turned out awesome. The broth was a little light, but had good flavour. I used thin rice vermicelli noodles instead of the thicker rice noodles because it was what I had on hand. And I could not find any basil in the grocery store – I knew Thai basil would probably be out, but there was no regular basil either. I think that was really the only thing missing that would have taken it to the next level. It was super easy to make though – you basically just simmer your broth for a few hours, and then serve it with all the goodies. What I learned from the cookbook is that the broth freezes well (duh – most broth does), so me thinks I will make a big batch next time, and freeze it for future pho cravings. Say that 5 times fast!


Cookbook 3: I Love Ramen by Toni Patrick

Recipe: Hot & Sour Ramen


This was a new cookbook that I reviewed last month on the blog, but I figure I should include it in this recap, because it also technically counts towards my cookbook challenge, right? You can check out that post for all my thoughts on the cookbook, and even the recipe!



Cookbook 4: Vegetables From An Italian Garden

Recipe: Cream and Leek Risotto


I picked up this cookbook a while ago from Old Faithful Shop because it looked amazing – recipes featuring vegetables, separated by season. Not only does it encourage you to eat your veggies, but it can help you eat local and in season as well. The recipes are straightforward, often with only a few ingredients, and I would say there is a recipe to suit everyone’s tastes.

I decided to pull this one out when I was planning dinner for mine and my boyfriend’s 3rd anniversary. I wanted to pick something that would be fancy but easy to make, because (little did he know) we were going to cook dinner together! I went with the Cream and Leek Risotto to pair with some simple lemon dill salmon.


The risotto was a little different than any I had made before, as it didn’t use wine, and included cream. But I must say, it still turned out amazingly – rich, creamy, full of flavour. We added peas to the risotto, as they are one of the boyfriend’s favourite vegetables. Props to him – he did an amazing job of stirring and taste testing and giving feedback as we went along. It was a fun night and a fun dish to cook together!

PS – check out my Instagram account for a photo of the chef in action!


Cookbook 5: Peas and Thank You by Sarah Matheny

Recipe: Green and Red Lentil Enchiladas


Back in the day, there was a blog called Peas and Thank You. It was a great blog – I followed it regularly. And then the author wrote a cookbook. And I think a second one. But she no longer blogs, which is sad. And the site doesn’t seem to be active anymore, which is even sadder. But at least I have the cookbook with it’s great photos and stories and recipes still.

I turned to this cookbook when I had the most random desire to make enchiladas, which all stemmed from the Kickstarter campaign for a card game called Exploding Kittens (which yes, I have backed – if you follow The Oatmeal, you’ll understand). How are kittens and enchiladas related? You’ll just have to go over to the campaign and figure that out on your own. I’m here to tell you about a great vegetarian enchilada recipe.


I like to try out new vegetarian recipes, to see what passes the boyfriend test. I find that Mexican recipes often turn out great when you make them meatless, so it only made sense to make these enchiladas. Because they use lentils, they cook up in a snap, perfect for even a busy weeknight. And while they don’t quite photograph well, they do taste good. One thing to note – the recipe calls for jarred green enchilada sauce, which I just assumed came in one size (the small 225 ml/8oz jars we have in our grocery store). I guess in the US, they have big jars of enchilada sauce, because I realized after I had already started cooking that I did not have enough sauce. I freestyled a bit with some extra salsa, and made a quick run to the store for some more sauce, and it all turned out well. For colour, I threw some corn into the filling, and left out the olives. It was a spicy filling meal that made for great (but even uglier) leftovers.


So there you have it – Part 1 of the 2015 Cookbook Challenge. I would say I’ve done pretty well, but I need to step up my planning in order to keep on top of it throughout the next few months. While I go to to search out new recipes to make, share with me the best thing you made this past month in the comments below!

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Categories: Books/Cookbooks, Challenge, Cookbook, Dairy Free, Dinner, Gluten Free, Meatless Monday, Nut Free, Vegetarian


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  1. 2015 Cookbook Challenge – Part 2 | french fries to flax seeds - May 22, 2015

    […] was going to challenge myself to cook from all of my cookbooks throughout 2015? And I was going to post monthly updates on how that was going? Yeah…seems that I’ve kind of fallen off the wagon. Or more that the wagon has slowed down. I […]

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