Week 40: Titus Tuna

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This looks like a club I need to join

I believe I’ve shared my feelings on mayonnaise before but I will reiterate it since it won’t take long. I do not enjoy it. It offends me deeply on sandwiches, I am a mustard only gal like my dad, though I can tolerate it in modest quantities in a tuna, chicken or waldorf salad if it is mixed with equal (or greater) parts sour cream. One food “issue” Travis and I have and will not resolve is our difference on tuna salad. Last weekend we had nothing for lunch so we both cracked open a can of tuna. I add a dash of mayo, lemon juice, carrots, celery, cucumber and some ground pepper to make my tuna salad before piling it on a slice of bread with my homemade bread and butter pickles. This is how my mom made our tuna sandwiches growing up so it is of course what I do. Travis makes what is called Titus Tuna, a very different animal. It has nearly as much mayo as it does tuna along with a splash of Worcestershire sauce, sweet relish and ground pepper. If he was making true Titus Tuna he would also hard-boil an egg or two, dice them up and add them to the salad. This is the second strike for Titus Tuna in my book. I grew up in a house where eggs were rarely cooked because my mom can hardly stand the smell. I have overcome most of that part of my upbringing with the exception of hard boiled eggs. I think they smell so foul while cooking and being prepared not to mention the actual eating of them. I am ever so grateful that Travis doesn’t have the time or foresight to make hardboiled eggs for his Titus Tuna. It truly is a game changer. So we each make our own tuna salad sandwiches for lunch, and thanks to the hardboiled egg omission, enjoy eating them together. Now Stella of course has a big decision to make in life, no pressure of course. On Monday I gave her her usual mix of things for lunch along with a tiny, tiny bowl of Titus Tuna. She nibbled away at a muffin and a few other things before discovering her tuna and boy was she a fan. I gave her 3rds, it was a tiny bowl after all, which she went nuts dipping her muffin in and eating with her applesauce and yogurt (disgusting, I know). She loved it. I was of course thrilled that she actually ate anything. It could have been a bowl of mayonnaise itself and I probably still would have been happy that she ate something. Someday when vegetables come back into vogue with the little lady she might like my tuna more, but I am very happy making my tuna for myself so long as we can keep hard boiled eggs out of our house. Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Spaghetti with Quick Meat Sauce and Salad

  • This can easily be done with or without meat. To me a meal of pasta and homemade spaghetti sauce is classic comfort food. Ideally this would be “Grandma’s Spaghetti Sauce” from my “Italian” grandmother, but that takes a little more time than a typical weeknight meal can afford. I do always steal from that recipe and add red wine though.
  • I usually add another small can of crushed tomatoes.

Tuesday: Lentil Soup with Garlic Bread

  • I found peeled and diced organic butternut squash at Costco which made this dish beyond simple. All I had to do was dice up carrots, celery, onion and peel some garlic.
  • I skipped the potatoes since we’d had them the day before and used red lentils instead of green and yellow. I would recommend using 6 cups of stock. I used 8 and it was a little too much.
  • The splash of vinegar that this recipe called for was genius and just what this soup needed. I also added the kale at the end but skipped the oil and parsley.

Wednesday: Lemongrass Pork Burgers with Asian Green Salad

  • We have several pounds of ground pork in our freezer from our ¼ share of pig we got last year and I have had to be very intentional about finding recipes to use it up. You don’t just stumble upon ground pork recipes it seems, or at least I don’t.
  • This was a different and pretty easy way to use some of the meat. Flavorful and with the additions of buns, a pretty hearty meal.
  • I used regular lettuce and no chiles but added cucumber, shredded carrot and avocado to the salad. I tried to pile some of the salad onto the burger too to add some more flavor and moisture instead of ketchup.

Thursday: Crock-Pot Quinoa Chicken Primavera

  • I think I might be addicted to these no-cook crock-pot meals. Until I run out of original ideas that is. If it were chili every time I wouldn’t be quite as excited but there is such variety out there with lasagna, soup, chili, and now this. I will just keep trying until I run out of new ideas.
  • The meal was delicious and there is tons, so I might freeze half for another day which is amazing.
  • I of course put the chicken in whole and shredded it later. The chicken didn’t shred very easily so I would either recommend putting everything in from step one but the quinoa, cooking it on low for 4 hours, adding the quinoa and remaining liquid and cooking it for 3-4 more hours. Or, cooking it with all the liquid at the beginning on high for 4 hours.

Friday: Salmon with Celery Bulgur Salad and Roasted Broccolini

  • My dinner looked nothing like their picture but was a perfectly acceptable meal.
  • I would recommend making the bulgur salad in advance so the flavors have more time to blend. As usual, these sorts of dishes are always better the next day!
  • I skipped the turnip step all together and instead roasted broccolini to have as a side.
  • I salted and put a tiny bit of oil on the salmon and that was all it needed.

Week 39: Dates

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Exploring a fruit market in Vietnam

Dates. Both kinds involve eating and are delicious, but I am currently referring to the kind of date that grow on trees. My parents have been on an epic road trip since early December from Vermont, all the way across the country to California for Christmas, back to Colorado where we saw them last week in Steamboat, and now onto other adventures in Yellowstone. But during their time in California they stopped at a date farm and learned about and sampled dates. Fortunately for us they also bought quite a number of dates that sat in the fridge in Steamboat for 4 days before I had the good sense to try them. My mom offered me some and I thought, nah, I only like them wrapped in bacon. Which is honestly true. They are way too sweet for me so I generally don’t eat them on their own. Well, I think I have now met my new favorite food. The barhi date. It is my perfect food. A fruit that tastes like maple syrup. Seriously. Here is how it is described, “syrupy rich soft date, the softest and most fragile.” I love maple syrup and to feel like I can just eat maple syrup but count it as a fruit is genius. I’m a fan! I shouldn’t be surprised. There are so many varieties of fruits and vegetables that we rarely see in our stores. We primarily find and eat one maybe two kinds of banana, eggplant, mango, and dates among others yet there are dozens of tasty and unique “specialty” varieties grown around the world that we can hardly get our hands on. Traveling gives you a fun insight into this world, as well as trips to specialty markets. This week I managed to get to the store 5 times because of little things I forgot here and there, yet none of those trips were to “fun” markets to find exciting ingredients. And of all times of year to need more inspiration in the fruit and vegetable department this is certainly it. The middle of winter in a state that doesn’t grow much winter produce. This week’s goal is to go to the store less, and make it to a fun market for new produce. Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Maple-Mustard Chicken with Squash & Brussels Sprouts with Farro

  • I burnt my baking sheet so badly with this recipe I am still a little cross with the instructions or my lack of instincts for actually following them, but that aside the recipe itself is great.
  • Step #1: put foil, parchment or grease on the pan!
  • I think there was just too much sauce on the chicken, which ran onto the pan and burned. I would recommend putting a little on the chicken and saving the rest for the veggies.
  • I really enjoy this kind of recipe that cooks while I prep the veggies.
  • I served it with farro, which worked well with the extra sauce and roasted veggies.

Tuesday: Smokey Black Eyed Peas with Collards and Cornbread

  • So good! We’ve had a smoked ham hock in our freezer for almost a year now (yikes!) and I didn’t know what to do with it. This was completely delicious.
  • I made it while Stella was napping but accidentally left the lid on while the beans were cooking so it looked like a soup. When I went to heat it back up for dinner I boiled off a lot of the liquid so the beans were extra soft which turned out to be an excellent mistake.
  • I added a few carrots to the pot as well.
  • For the collards I sautéed an onion, added the collards, some salt, red pepper flakes and wine, and cooked it all down with a lid on until they were nice and soft. This recipe was my inspiration but I didn’t have time to follow it completely.
  • I upped my cornbread game this week by finding Colorado whole grain yellow cornmeal from Ute Mountain Tribe, Bow & Arrow Brand. The skillet cornbread recipe on the back was great.

Wednesday: Pumpkin Alfredo with Roasted Parmesan Zucchini

  • This recipe was more of an idea since I didn’t want a super heavy dinner with 2 1/2 cups heavy cream, but I loved the idea of a pumpkin alfredo. I ended up mixing together a few recipes on the spot and I think it worked pretty darn well!
  • I sautéed the garlic with the butter and added 2 Tbsp of flour to brown a little. I slowly added 2 cups of whole milk along with 1 cup of vegetable broth. Once it was bubbling I added a little cream cheese to thicken it some more, I’m telling you this was a total hodge-podge of my favorite recipes, and then finally the pumpkin. I probably used 1¼ -1½ cups of pumpkin for 1 lb of pasta. Served with lots of Parmesan cheese it was delicious!
  • For the zucchini I sliced them lengthwise, put them on a sheet pan with parchment paper, sprinkled them with parmesan cheese, and roasted them at 425 for as long as it took me to make dinner (20 or so minutes).

Thursday: Crock-Pot Beef & Bean Chili with Green Salad

  • I find it more and more of a challenge to get dinner on the table by 5:30. Stella has a fussy/crappy hour around then so dinner is a nice distraction and reset. But since we are usually out and about until 4:30 or 5 so it can be hard to get dinner ready fast enough.
  • Every week I try to do at least one dump and go crock-pot meal that I set up at lunchtime during her nap.
  • This one needed a little more spice and was way better the next day for lunch, but a very tasty and super easy dinner.
  • I served it with shredded cheddar, lime, avocado and sour cream.

Friday: Baked Fish Curry with Brown Rice and Green Beans

  • This recipe didn’t wow me, and that may be because I failed to measure a single ingredient (oops), but it was easy and that is exactly what I needed on a Friday night.
  • I used one bell pepper and added green beans to get more color and veggies.
  • I’ve never found yellow curry paste so I used red instead and served it over brown rice.
  • I used lite coconut milk but I think whole coconut milk might have added more flavor and richness that this dish was lacking with such a light fish.

Week 38: Rinse and Repeat

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Stella stretching her legs in Steamboat

This is the first week, that I know of, in which I’ve repeated recipes on my blog. It happens in real life so it is happening here too. I love finding new recipes and trying new ideas but some weeks that just doesn’t work. We headed out of town this week to meet my parents in Steamboat for a long weekend. Tons of snow, a visit with the grandparents for Stella, and lots of fun outdoor time makes for the perfect winter getaway for this family! Since it is much easier to eat in after a day out in the snow with a 16-month old we planned ahead and brought some easy meals. Travis and I try to get up to the mountains a few times a year and have some tried and true recipes that seem to work well in a new kitchen and assume only the basic pots and pans. In the summer we usually grill, but since Steamboat is buried under feet of snow right now I had to be a little more creative. Unlike our usual menu, I try to plan meals with minimal ingredients and limited fresh ingredients so we can fit everything in one cooler. Spending time at an unfamiliar grocery store on vacation is not my idea of fun so I try to bring up everything we need for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tortilla soup is one of our favorite portable recipes along with a pasta, pesto and veggie combo and both are excellent for lunch leftovers. Vacationing with kids is a whole different game, but by making the food piece as easy as possible it helps make a long weekend getaway feel a little less like everyday life and maybe just a tiny bit more relaxing. That’s the goal at least! Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Crock-Pot Green Chili Enchilada Soup with Green Salad

  • This recipe is a perfect winter meal and my kind of low-effort dinner.
  • I dumped the chicken into the crock-pot raw with all the other ingredients in step one and took it out to shred before adding the rice. No need to make extra work for yourself by cooking it first when that is what a crock-pot is for!
  • I added 1 ¼ cups of regular (not instant) rice to thicken the soup and stretch out the meal.
  • I served it with corn tortillas that we tore up and tossed into our bowls along with some cilantro.

Tuesday: Pasta with Pesto, Sautéed Zucchini & Onions and Salmon

  • This is a classic travel meal for us. I always have tons of pesto in the freezer and just about every VRBO has a pan to sauté zucchini and onions in and a pot to boil some pasta.
  • The salmon is flexible and can be grilled or baked. We also do chicken sausage if salmon doesn’t work with where we are staying. But always a very easy meal with great leftovers for lunch.

Wednesday: Mustard-Maple Pork Tenderloin with Brown Rice and Veggie

  • Give or take a few ingredients or steps depending on your kitchen, this is another pretty simple dish to make away from home. Served with a grain and veggie on the side it is a well rounded meal.

Thursday: Sheet Pan Sweet Potato & Black Bean Hash with Eggs

  • This is a new dish for us but doesn’t require much work and the veggies are flexible.
  • I would either slice the zucchini thinner or cut them in half and then slice them. They didn’t quite cook as well as the other veggies and since we used zucchini earlier in the week I used yellow squash here instead.

Friday: Tortilla Soup

  • This is another super easy travel meal since it involves very little cooking and a lot of opening of cans. We either buy a rotisserie chicken once we get there or grill chicken in advance and bring it along pre-shredded.
  • Garnishes like avocado, sour cream, cilantro, tortilla chips, lime and shredded cheese are excellent additions.
  • The key is to make it early enough to eat the leftovers or bring a Tupperware and take it home for and easy dinner the night we get home.

Week 37: Tea Parties

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The ladies enjoying their tea party

Tea parties were a regular part of my childhood. With friends, pets, dolls, or anything that would sit long enough to be considered good company. My long-time childhood friend Caroline and I loved to have real tea parties with our moms’ and favorite teachers. It was an excellent excuse to have chocolate covered strawberries, but we loved dressing up, eating delicious finger sandwiches and acting grown up. There were also many more childhood tea parties that were far less civilized with anyone who would join in. Dogs, cats, donkeys, stuffed animals and siblings were all fair game. So it seems only fitting that Stella got her first tea set from my childhood tea party partner Caroline. This week was a little brutal with cold, cold weather and lots of snow. Thursday was the worst. Our usual daily routine gets us out every morning for a very mandatory walk or run with Tazzie and again in the afternoon after Stella’s nap we head out for either a play date or errands. Anything, really, to get out of the house. On Thursday in the single digits I bundled Stella up to go outside for a quick sled with Tazzie, but it was too cold for much else. By 9:30am Tazzie had already destroyed one of Stella’s toys so I knew I was in for a treat. Despite all the fun toys, 16-month olds have a very short attention span so our day of house arrest was a struggle. We colored with crayons, we played in the teepee, we read books, ate, played all of her musical instruments, looked out the window, played dress up, ate snow, pulled toys around the house and despite all that we were still struggling. So I unfolded our outdoor picnic blanket, set out the tea set and we had a tea party. Despite never having had a real tea party Stella knew just what to do and sipped away at her teacup. It was adorable. Tazzie of course was game. She thinks that every blanket, towel or rag that falls on the floor is her personal bed. Little did she know she would soon be fed “cakes” and tea but she made for a surprisingly well-behaved tea party mate. Despite the challenging day my memory will be of the tea party between my two sweet (sometimes) little ladies. Love them! Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Veggie Sausage Skillet

  • I pre-cooked 1 cup of brown rice to use in this dish. Instant/dehydrated rice doesn’t do it for me.
  • I tweaked the quantities and used more sausage, zucchini, and a lot more seasoning (1 Tbsp each of cumin and oregano).
  • Once it is all mixed up I served it with every garnish I could think of: shredded cheese, cilantro, salsa, sour cream and avocado. And it was delicious.

Tuesday: Thai Coconut Curry Soup with Chicken

  • I did actually try to find dried mushrooms because I appreciate the flavor they were trying to get from them for the broth, but since I couldn’t find them I started with step two and borrowed a few ingredients from this more traditional recipe for extra flavor.
  • I added fish sauce and lemon grass to the broth using the quantities from the Bon Appetite recipe. The broth was so flavorful and delicious I could have drank the whole pot!
  • We used chicken instead of tofu and didn’t use the fresh mushrooms or the spinach, going again for the more traditional Tom Kha Gai soup but with the more unique addition of curry paste and a few less hard to find ingredients. A good combo.

Wednesday: Lemony Asparagus Pasta

  • I quadrupled this recipe to used 1 lb of penne. I’m not sure who makes 4 oz of pasta for dinner but that definitely does not cut it in this household.
  • I thought the whole-grain mustard and lemon zest and juice were a nice addition to the sauce.
  • I used green beans instead of asparagus, but there are plenty of other substitutes that would also work depending on what looks good at the store.

Thursday: Roasted Winter Squash with Seared Cod and Roasted Broccoli

  • I used the concept of this recipe but most certainly did not roast my winter squash and fish in a stick of butter. My goodness!
  • My winter squash of choice was red kuri and delicata. I tossed them with a little olive oil, butter, salt and pepper and roasted them stirring occasionally.
  • I also roasted some broccoli at the same time.
  • The rich winter squash was an excellent pairing with the cod, so the New York Times did have a good idea with this recipe, just a little rich for my taste.

Friday: Chili Topped Sweet Potatoes, Corn Bread and Green Salad

  • I like this super simple chili recipe with a slightly different presentation. In the magazine they give you three different dinner ideas for the same chili. Chili-topped sweet potatoes, nachos, and Cincinnati style served over spaghetti, all of which would make a pretty easy dinner.
  • I added a can of beans to the chili as well.

Week 36: 2017

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Stella ringing in 2016 and 2017

When I think of this year I mostly think of it in terms of Stella’s milestones. She was 4 months old as of last New Year so a lot has happened! There will never be a year full of more changes starting as a little chunker who couldn’t yet sit on her own to a sitting, crawling, walking and now running little lady. Stella also grew 8 teeth and 4 molars, took 7 trips in 10 months involving 20 flights, and got 3 stitches to round out the year. It’s hard to remember all the other things we did this year but we certainly ate a lot. Probably more than ever before with a new “eater” and an always famished breastfeeding mom. I baked surprisingly little this year, mostly muffins to have as “emergency” hangry snacks as well as some cookies and brownies. My baking window each day was too small to get too involved in any project, but I am certainly not complaining about cookies and brownies! We did however try a lot of new dishes. Even last winter when sleep was short and naps were only 30 minutes long we always ate well. I’ve realized that our world could be on fire and food/our next meal would still be a very high priority. My food resolutions for this year are to try and cook more ethnic cuisine and branch out from basic curries to other more exciting dishes, bake at least one cake, improve my fish and meat cooking skills (and confidence), and work on my side dishes. I usually just toss a grain and veggie together and call it a meal but I know I can make things a little more exciting every once in a while. So we will see how I do! I still think having a home cooked meal on the table 7 nights a week is already a victory, so I’ll take my resolutions one day at a time. Happy New Year everyone!! Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Lamb, Fig & Olive Stew with Garlic Bread and Green Salad

  • This is a super easy hearty winter stew. I usually think that stews take a long time but this has plenty of flavor and only takes 30 or so minutes.
  • I used diced tomatoes instead of fresh, but otherwise followed the recipe serving it with garlic bread and a green salad to ground it off.

Tuesday: Chicken Quinoa Fried Rice

  • I’m still not wild about plain quinoa so this was a great dish to use it in.
  • I used chicken breast and for veggies included some red and green cabbage too.
  • We fried our eggs and served them on top instead of the traditional scrambled eggs in fried rice. I thought it was an excellent adaptation!

Wednesday: Coconut Crusted Swordfish with Kumquat Sauce, Broccoli and Brown Rice

  • I’ve had this dish on my radar for several years now but have never gotten around to making it. On a fortuitous trip to the store this week I found both kumquats and swordfish so clearly it was meant to be.
  • I had trouble cutting both steaks in half so that made cooking a bit of a challenge. I also found that without a wet layer the coconut didn’t stick to the swordfish very well.
  • I would at least double the orange juice to get more sauce for the rice since it boils down quite a bit while cooking.
  • I certainly enjoyed the dish but I wasn’t blown away. More sauce would have made a big difference though. Next time!

Thursday: Curried Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash & Lentil Soup with Green Salad

  • This recipe came from my friend Paige’s awesome blog, Mama Steps. And it was delicious. I love anything with curry, but the roasted veggies put this dish above and beyond.
  • I tossed the spice mixture with some olive oil in a large bowl and coated all the veggies in the paste.
  • While the veggies were roasting I cooked 1 cup of red lentils in the vegetable broth, removed them from the pot before pureeing since I used an immersion blender, and served them all mixed together. I ended up adding 3 extra cups of liquid to compensate.
  • As much as I like veggie soups Travis and I both need some sort of protein to fill us up and the lentils worked really well.
  • I garnished the soup with cilantro and plain yogurt.

Friday: Chicken Fajitas with Red Grapefruit Salsa

  • You should know how I feel about marinating meat by now: optional/do what you can. So that’s pretty much what I did. Since the meat didn’t take long to cook it was easy to let the meat marinade while I prepped the salsa.
  • Once all the prep is done the meal is essentially ready aside from cooking the meat, which is nice.