Week 52: Classics

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Stella helped me pick flowers in anticipation of some cold weather this weekend. Can you guess which one she picked? (hint: it has no petals)

I know some people have a pretty regular rotation of their favorite, or go-to, recipes that they make every couple of weeks or a typical menu that gets them through the week. It is definitely easier and works for a lot of people, but not us, or at least not us yet. I try to do a chicken dish, pasta, vegetarian, seafood, and meat dish each week with some longer more complicated recipes reserved for the weekend. Since we eat fairly seasonally, there are certain recipes I get excited to make (total nerd, I know) ever winter or summer. But in general my recipes take us all over the place. A little case of recipe ADD. I am constantly looking for new recipes to try and make dozens of different chilis, curries, meatloaves, and soup recipes all winter long never settling for just one. In the summer it is burger, dinner salads, and anything on the grill but again, something different every week. This week however, we managed to fit in three favorites, Cherry Burgers, Sopa Seca and Black Bean & Salmon Tostadas. We both really like these recipes but I was realizing that this is only the first or second time I’ve posted each of these recipes on the blog which means despite their status as some of our favorites, we only make them once a year. How do we have so many recipes we like that we only make the ones we really like once a year? Not a bad problem to have at all since we have a whole lifetime of food and cooking and we don’t want to get sick of them, but kind of crazy. This is coming from a person related to both my dad and brother who could and do eat the same thing every day for YEARS! I remember being absolutely shocked and astounded when after Thanksgiving one year, my dad chose to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich rather than leftovers. He hadn’t had one “in a while” (likely a week) and was genuinely excited about the prospect. I hadn’t had Thanksgiving leftovers in oh, let’s say a year, and was completely and utterly thrilled at the prospect and here was someone I share 50% of my genes with passing up on the opportunity. Well trust me, there were words. In the end, it seems that most of our favorite recipes end up being like Thanksgiving, something you make once a year, enjoy the heck out of, and then leave behind. Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Moroccan-Spiced Chickpea Glow Bowl with Bulgur

  • I really liked the spice combination in this recipe and would totally use it in other dishes too. Big hit.
  • I made some bulgur to do a lazy version of tabbouleh. I added olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, salt, cucumber and mint.
  • We served our bowls with yogurt and hummus. Feta would have been good too had we had it on hand.

Tuesday: Cherry Burgers with Grilled Asparagus

  • If we are doing this as a quick weeknight dinner I skip the cherry ketchup, but on a weekend it is totally worth it if you love cherries as much as I do. But feel free to throw a few of those spices into the burgers instead.
  • The burgers are so straight forward even I can make them. They do fall apart a little on the grill, but are still perfectly eatable. So eatable that Stella ate two! Yes, two whole real adult sized burgers. She’s pretty into meat.

Wednesday: Soap Seca and Green Salad

  • I really like this dish for no other reason than I think it is unique. You can make it as spicy as you want it by adding more or less of the chipotles peppers but overall the flavors are pretty simple.
  • I always double the pasta and use a pound of whole-wheat spaghetti with 4 cups of broth. I don’t double everything but do use a large onion and more cumin and salt. It takes longer to cook than the original Cook’s Illustrated recipe because of the whole-wheat noodles but I’ve adapted the recipe accordingly.
  • And for the second time in her life Stella ate noodles. Winning!

Thursday: Chicken Curry Bar with Brown Rice and Broccoli

  • I love garnishes, so this dish really floats my boat. There were lots of unique one too, so that was fun.
  • I steamed some broccoli to serve with it since my pan wasn’t big enough to fit everything while it was simmering, but that would have been the smart money. I tell you, it pays to read a recipe before starting.
  • I think it goes without saying that I used full-fat coconut milk. I also added the raisins when I added the coconut milk so they could soften a bit more.
  • We used lime juice, green onion and cilantro as our garnishes and it was perfect. More is always better but we didn’t have banana chips and almonds aren’t featured in our cooking anymore:(

Friday: Black Bean & Salmon Tostadas

  • Depending on time and motivation I either make or buy the tostadas. Yes making them from scratch is healthier, but since we eat them about once a year it doesn’t keep me up at nights. So do as you wish.
  • We use two cans of salmon and make a bit more coleslaw since it is good leftover the next day for lunch.
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Week 51: A Soupcess

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My little kitchen helper. Yes she can reach into ALL of our drawers now and help herself to all of the things. 

It’s only taken me 10 years, but I think I’ve finally convinced Travis that a soup can be a meal. They say determination runs in my genes, so I guess they’re right. I too have always been dubious of soups. Travis just straight up doesn’t like brothy soups, so I tend to skip the chicken noodle or minestrone soups that have protein, veggies and a grain all in one bowl and have the potential to work as a meal. There are certainly plenty of lentil soups but if you saw the silent groan and momentary disappointment on Travis’s face when I tell him we are having lentils for dinner you probably wouldn’t put them on the menu that often either. If and when we do a soup for dinner Travis usually ends up grilling a meat to have on the side which kind of defeats the point of making a meal when you have to make a second one to supplement. But the Thai Coconut-Pumpkin Soup from a few week’s ago and this week’s Roasted Cauliflower and Potato Curry Soup have proven me wrong. They have been hearty, filling and satisfying as a full meal themselves that aside from a piece of garlic bread and/or a salad have successfully been a complete meal. I love a good creamy potato-leek soup but seemed to be lacking imagination for how I could make other hearty soups that don’t all involve heavy cream and have different flavors. A straight vegetable soup as a meal is a novelty to me. Aside from the coconut milk in those two soups they were all vegetables with no real protein. And we still liked them! It’s nice to know that I have a new simple meal in our repertoire that I can work in every few weeks. I definitely need to find more unique and interesting hearty soup recipes, since as of now my repertoire is pretty small. Meal Plan & Grocery List

 

Monday: Roasted Cauliflower & Potato Curry Soup with Green Salad

  • I was really convinced I’d made this soup before but my blog tells me otherwise so I trust it. I think it’s because I’ve wanted to make it for so long but for some reason it just hasn’t gotten on the menu. Totally worth the wait though, this soup was delicious! I think it has a lot to do with the full-fat coconut milk I used and the flavors from the roasted cauliflower.
  • I followed the directions for this soup pretty well, actually. The one thing I’ve been doing more often than not is setting my oven to convect. The oven automatically adjust the temperature 25 degrees lower, but it cooks faster which is the advantage.
  • I left the skin on both potatoes and was worried the skin would be too tough on the russets but I pureed most of them so it worked out just fine.
  • At the end I used my immersion blender to puree some of it to get a thicker textures. That is the part of the soup Stella ate, so I am glad I did.

Tuesday: One-Pot Cheesy Pasta Bake

  • I doubled this recipe for 1 lb of pasta so we’d have lots of leftovers.
  • We’ve been having some epic hangry meltdowns this week, Stella’s not mine for a change, so this was a very simple and quick meal to help speed dinner time along. Since a lot of recipes aren’t easy to make in advance while Stella is napping, super quick is the alternative. I had to dice 1 onion and open a few cans, so not much prep work involved.
  • I used a mix of mozzarella and parmesan cheese for a bit more flavor.

Wednesday: Leftovers!!!

  • This literally never happens in our house but between the soup which I made a ton of and the pasta, we got a night free of cooking. So great! Why don’t we do this more often I ask? Because we eat a TON.

Thursday: Grilled Chicken Ratatouille with Farro

  • Ratatouille is such an easy way to get a nice variety of veggies in one meal. I happen to love all these veggies so it is makes me pretty happy. I also added yellow squash and another zucchini in place of the tomatoes.
  • I cut the onions into rounds and put them in a foil packet. With all the veggies and chicken there are plenty of things to oil and flip, so this was an easy way to simplify things for my grill master.
  • The splash of red wine vinegar is surprisingly delicious, so don’t skip that step.
  • We ate it in a bowl with farro but any whole-grain would work just fine.

Friday: Cedar-Planked Halibut Tacos with Citrus Slaw

  • A new twist on a taco by adding the cedar plank flavor. And a very easy addition or thing to leave out if you forget to soak the cedar plank.
  • As you may have guessed, we still have cabbage left over from last week so I was trying to use it up in this meal. So instead of the napa cabbage I used purple and green cabbage.
  • The grilling takes longer because of the plank, but everything else for this meal is pretty quick and straight forward.
  • We garnished our tacos with a little cilantro and avocado. A very fresh and simple meal.

Week 50: Under Construction

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Teaming up to figure out how to get into the forbidden room…

This is what our family room looked like as of last Monday afternoon. Kind of a disaster which is why my post is a bit tardy this week. The project will be totally worth it, but being kicked out of our play room, a.k.a. Stella’s room, is kind of tricky. We are redoing our fireplace and adding built-ins which Travis made, so all of my free time during Stella’s naps last week was devoted to painting. I spent about 15 or so hours painting during Stella’s naps, at night after she went to bed, and on the weekend. I’m not going to lie, despite my relative youth I was totally exhausted! And in super lame news I was also SO sore. I thought I needed a new pillow or a new bed, but I think it was from bending down with a paint sprayer for all of those hours. Not proud of it, but it’s the truth. In my defense though, the paint sprayer was super heavy when it was full. So that’s what’s cooking here and will be for the next few weeks. Turns out projects like this that involve lots of different steps take a bit of work and time. I’ll post a final picture when it is done but don’t hold your breath. It could be a while.

Monday: Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean Soup with Garlic Bread

  • On Monday we had to be out of the house all day starting at 8:30 so this was a super easy meal to prep the night before, dump into the crockpot and walk away from for the day.
  • When I got home I added chunks, not nicely rolled meatballs, of Italian sausage and kale to finish it off while I sliced and toasted some garlic bread.

Tuesday: Lighter Shrimp Po Boys with Avocado Mango Slaw

  • Well this was a total score! Delicious and super quick.
  • Since Creole seasoning is basically salt with all the spices the recipe called for to begin with, I just added a little salt to the spice mixture they recommended and called it a day. We only used a 12oz bag of shrimp since I don’t love leftover shrimp dishes so it was just the right amount of spices.
  • I couldn’t find a good hoagie roll so I just used whole-wheat hamburger buns. Since I wanted a 12:1 ratio of slaw to shrimp I ended up piling everything onto the bun and eating it with a fork and knife instead. It’s pretty much how all my burritos and burgers end up anyway, completely overstuffed and impossible to eat, so I just gave up from the beginning and things went much more smoothly. Note to future self!
  • For the slaw I used a bag of coleslaw mix, which is just green cabbage and carrots, and chopped up some purple cabbage to add to it. I tossed it with the yogurt mixture, using half sour cream half yogurt, instead of serving them separately.

Wednesday: Charred Corn and Zucchini Enchilada Salad

  • I replaced the pasta with quinoa since we’d had a lot of pasta dishes recently and added more veggies.
  • In writing this I realize I totally forgot the corn, oops, but instead sautéed 3 zucchini that I sliced into thin rounds, and a bell pepper and onion both sliced into strips. I also steamed some beets and tossed those in as well, making it a very colorful salad!
  • I didn’t use the whole can of enchilada sauce, just enough to lightly “dress” it. A pretty quick and simple way to dress a salad. Since enchilada sauce is loaded with salt I didn’t add any extra salt to anything.
  • I am not a fan of chunks of cheddar in my salads but am wild about goat cheese, so I used more goat cheese in place of the cheddar.
  • Any herbs you have in your fridge will work just fine. No need to go buy anything specifically for this since the flavors will be masked by the enchilada sauce. I froze some chopped basil at the end of last summer in ice cube trays so I added two cubes of basil.

Thursday: Hawaiian BBQ Skewers with Sriracha Honey Butter

  • Usually my inability to read direction doesn’t cause me more work, but this time around it did. I of course made the marinade and put it all in with the chicken meaning that I later had to bring it to a boil to kill the raw chicken germs. Not the worst thing in the world, but also not amazing.
  • As usual I skipped out on the extra work that is involved in kebab making and left the chicken breast whole, cut the pineapple into rings and the peppers in half to grill them.
  • Instead of dumping butter on at the end which feels a little gluttonous, we used the honey lime butter to baste the veggies and chicken while they grilled so they wouldn’t stick. I didn’t add any Sriracha to the butter since I didn’t suspect Stella would be a fan.

Friday: Harissa Broccoli, Spinach and Wild Rice Casserole with Crispy Prosciutto

  • This recipe is an excellent use of frozen vegetables. It saves you lots of prep work but doesn’t suffer in quality. Rather than thawing and squeezing out the frozen spinach I added it to the pan with the cooked onions to cook off the moisture, along with the broccoli.
  • Since wild rice takes FOREVER to cook, I just tossed it in a pot of water and cooked it the night before while I was working on diner and let it sit in the fridge overnight.
  • I didn’t make harissa but instead used a tablespoon or so of chili paste to add a little heat. Travis isn’t wild about dill or cilantro so I added dried thyme to the veggies instead.
  • I’ll be honest. I was surprised at how good this was since it used frozen veggies, and not a ton of seasoning, but the cheese and prosciutto were the starts of this show. Otherwise it would just be another bland casserole. Good cheese is essential and any combo would do but I loved the gruyere and smoked gouda we used.

Week 49: Blogiversary

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Food has clearly been a passion of mine for many, many years. 

One year ago I started Dinner Plans. I didn’t have a lot of ideas as to what I would do with it and what I would write about each week and I still don’t, but somehow a year has already gone. Thanks to my amazingly flexible boss, I’ve taken weeks off here and there when we’ve gone on vacation to keep it fun rather than feeling like “work”. Some weeks I feel like I can crank out a super diverse menu that sounds and tastes delicious, has a variety of foods and flavors and is put together with great ease. Other weeks it feels like it takes forever to come up with a menu that is just fine, but nothing special. I’ve found new food blogs to get weekly inspiration from, Half Baked Harvest and Pinch of Yum being two of my new favorites, in addition to my go-to cooking magazines Eating Well and Cooking Light. In the last year Stella has gone from playing with and exploring food to eating or at least having the potential to eat everything we do. I’ve tried not to change the way we eat to cater to her in any way and to expose her to a variety of flavors and food. It’s a long game so we will see how that plays out. More and more though I am looking for quick meals, like 20-30 minutes, that I can prep during her nap and execute in 10-15 minutes when we get home from the park or an afternoon play date. I obviously am a fan of crockpot meals, but as summer approaches those are likely to get fewer and far between. Cooking and picking out what to cook is an always evolving process that changes with season, times in your life (i.e. life with a toddler), and as your skill-set and food preferences grow and change. I was talking to a friend the other day about the early days of cooking and learning to cook when we weren’t as adept at deciphering recipes and made some questionable meals. Thankfully I’ve learned a ton over the years and can pick recipes out better and change them as I go to make meals that are always eatable and can be rescued or given a pop of flavor if needed. Just because someone puts a recipe out there doesn’t mean anything anymore, so the ability to pick, choose and adapt is even more important. Two weeks ago was the closest I’ve come to not publishing a recipe. The Quinoa Chicken Curry Bowl wasn’t bad it just wasn’t anything like it was described and clearly my recipe reading (and following) skills failed me to have not been able to see this. It would be like if someone handed you a spring roll and called it a burrito. Both good, but very different. Who knows where this next year will lead me food-wise and what new challenges will come along. Having dinner ready at 5:30 was this year’s challenge for sure! So thank you all for hanging in there with me in this first year of Dinner Plans, trying my recipes, giving me feedback, and following along! It’s been fun. Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Thai Coconut-Pumpkin Soup with Green Salad and Garlic Bread

  • This soup was delicious and brace yourselves…Stella tried it and potentially enjoyed it. I almost died but tried to keep my poker face on.
  • I used a large butternut squash but hadn’t planned on doubling it, so I just increased a few things to compensate and figured it out from there. I added more ground ginger (1 tsp), more curry paste (2 Tbsp and a whole can of coconut milk.
  • I always worry that soups like this won’t be enough for dinner for us so I used a can of full-fat coconut milk along with a whole grain bread as a side. It was really thick so we both felt unexpectedly satisfied with it as our dinner.

Tuesday: Crockpot Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Bolognese with Green Salad

  • This crockpot recipe breaks my rule of having to cook, but since there wasn’t much prep otherwise, it didn’t offend me too much.
  • Unfortunately my spaghetti squash did not fit in my crockpot so I had to cook it separately. I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, and put it in a 9×13” glass dish with a half-inch of water and microwaved it for around 20 minutes, turning it half-way through.
  • I added an extra 15 oz can of diced tomatoes for a little extra sauce. In the future I would probably use all diced tomatoes since I don’t love big chunks of tomatoes and the whole tomatoes stayed pretty whole, but that is just a personal preference.
  • And reading through the recipe now I realize I forgot to add the mozzarella cheese I was so looking forward to when I bought it. Bummer! We used parmesan cheese instead, but I fear it would have be seriously tasty with the mozzarella. Next time…

Wednesday: Yellowfin Tuna with Scallions and Ginger, Baby Bok Choy and Brown Rice

  • I reversed their directions doing the scallions and ginger first. I added my baby bok choy to the pan as well and put the lid on for a few minutes to steam them. When they were done I added the rest of the ingredients and removed everything from the pan.
  • Next I cooked the tuna, but not in 1½ cups of olive oil. I seared them on both sides in the pan then added the bok choy mixture with all the liquid to cook the tuna in and not dry it out. It worked pretty darn well I thought. I served it all over brown rice.

Thursday: Lemony Spinach and Artichoke Brie Penne Pasta

  • Travis doesn’t love or really even like artichokes from a jar or cooked spinach, but I hoped enough brie could win him over and fortunately it seemed to work.
  • This was really simple but very tasty. I of course used whole wheat pasta which I think adds to a dish like this.
  • I also added a sliced onion to the garlic and artichoke mixture for more flavor.

Friday: Banh Mi Bowls with Lemongrass Meatballs and Forbidden Black Rice

  • Delicious!! And so simple.
  • This was an easy dish for me to prep in advance during Stella’s nap so all I had to do at dinnertime was cook the meatballs and plate everything up with some fun garnishes. The pickles are key so if you don’t have time to make them an hour before dinner just make them the night before and they will be more pickled.
  • I used regular sugar instead of coconut palm and only added 2 Tbsp to the pickles which I thought was a good ratio.
  • I served ours over black rice just to try something different but all of her suggestions would be equally quick and tasty and used cilantro, mint, avocado, and cucumber as garnishes. So fresh and flavorful. Seriously.

Week 48: Toddlermoon

VBYS5103Travis and I never took a babymoon because we chose to get a puppy instead. Not quite the same thing, but in our case they ended up being mutually exclusive. We also had a new house we were madly working on so the babymoon just never happened. And we haven’t exactly lacked for travel in our life so I certainly don’t feel bad for us, but the idea of taking a weekend to relax and remove yourself from real life is exactly what every couple needs before having a kid whether they know it or not. So instead of a babymoon we did a toddlermoon and took a much-needed break from our sweet darling Stella Mabel. Love that girl, but after 551 days (who’s counting?!?) of being around Stella with only a few hours of separation it was time for a break. Travis’s parents bravely took her on for 3 ½ days and we farmed Tazzie out to a friend. One toddler is big plenty! So we hopped in the car, headed to DIA, zipped through security and started our vacation off right with a sit-down meal and cocktails at Root Down before taking off for New Orleans. Neither Travis nor I have ever been to New Orleans but fortunately got lots of excellent ideas from friends who have. Most of them involved food, which means they know me well. We did plenty of other things besides eat, but when your guidebook (yes we got a guide book from the library) has a local food dictionary you know you are going to do well. Denver and Colorado have a big food scene but there is little besides Colorado lamb that I think of as our “local” or signature cuisine. New Orleans has gumbo, po boys, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, muffulettas, beignets, and plenty more to fill you up and put you into a full-blown food coma. We of course tried to fit it all in which was a rigorous eating schedule, but we take our food pretty seriously here. The muffuletta, a local sandwich 3 meats and 2 cheese, was recommended by a friend as something Travis would love and I would be slightly disgusted by. That pretty much sums it up. My ¼ of it was a perfect late afternoon snack to fuel us through a rainy day visit of the WWII museum. We of course enjoyed a bag of beignets coated with a very generous pile of powdered sugar. Fried green tomatoes, an exception to my fresh tomato rule, fried chicken, collard greens, as much seafood as we could get our hands on, and of course plenty of delicious cocktails with brunch, lunch, dinner and to-go…because we could. I had been looking forward to our trip for a lot of reasons, but the food was a big one and it didn’t disappoint. Our Bloody Mary was total perfection with bacon and pickled okra, two huge favorites in this house. I could go on and on but suffice it to say we had a great time and didn’t even talk about Stella that much! We also got to stay out late and sleep in which was awesome, sleep and read on the plane (what!), and not have to worry about any kind of schedule (I am sure my mom friends are drooling right now, and not about the food). All in all it was a super successful weekend that we certainly earned more than any babymoon we wished we had gotten to take. And now back to reality. Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Stir Fried Singapore Noodles with Garlic Ginger Sauce

  • I used soba, or buckwheat noodles, instead of rice noodles. I’ve been enjoying rice noodles less and less and find them to not be very filling. Soba noodles have a more similar texture to regular wheat noodles and cook in 3 minutes. For the first time since I can remember, Stella ate noodles. Not just one, but a bunch. I am sure she won’t do it again for quite some time but I’ll take my food victories where I can get them.
  • In addition to the veggies they suggest I added some chopped cabbage and carrots.
  • I didn’t have mirin so I used white wine with a splash of honey per my google search’s suggestion.
  • I thought the curry powder was a really tasty addition to an otherwise pretty simple sauce.

Tuesday: Meatloaf Sandwiches with Roasted Green Beans

  • I used 3 lbs of meat to make two large meatloaves and tried to tweak the recipe accordingly. Since it’s hard to split eggs I used two whole eggs.
  • Instead of croutons I put 2 pieces of whole-wheat bread in the food processor to make bread crumbs
  • I just sprayed two loaf pans with oil and baked them in there. I could only cover them with the ketchup mixture on top, but it seemed easier. One problem I always have with meatloaf is that I end up dumping a ton of liquid out of the pan. Maybe I would avoid this if I put them on a sheet pan because it would run out and steam off, but that is the one downside to using a loaf pan. They always taste delicious so I don’t see it as too much of a problem just a quirk.
  • And for once in my life I made it far enough in advance that I could let it cool and slice it properly. We ate it as a sandwich on buns served with roasted green beans.
  • I just turned the oven up to 425 while the meat loaf was cooling and popped them in with some salt, pepper and oil. They cook super quickly so the timing worked well.

Wednesday: Quinoa Chicken Curry Bowls with Green Salad

  • This was not at all what I was expecting. Tasty, but more along the lines of a tomato sauce with eggplant and chicken than a curry bowl. I did not get any curry flavors, but the garam masala and ginger came through nicely.
  • I of course did this in the crockpot and didn’t follow the directions amazingly well, which may also be why it came out differently, but I still think curry bowl is a total misnomer.
  • I used a can of diced tomatoes instead of fresh, and a full 28oz can of tomato puree to add more liquid since I used more eggplant.
  • In the future I would make this again with just the tomato and eggplant and chicken with dried oregano and basil instead and serve it over pasta, or I would skip the tomato puree and add more curry paste and serve it over quinoa. Two good options that would give you two very different meals.

Thursday: Potato, Bean & Kale Burritos

  • This is a super quick way to get dinner on the table and have a bunch of leftovers if you use more potatoes and veggies.
  • I diced the potatoes and steamed them in a microwave dish for 5 minutes.
  • I also (have Travis) fry up some eggs to add to our burritos.
  • It is also excellent leftover with scrambled eggs for breakfast another day.

Friday: 30-Minute Spicy Ancho Turkey Chili

  • In addition to the onion, I used a whole one, and jalapeno I added some bell pepper.
  • Since we had black beans the previous night, I used pinto and kidney beans instead.
  • I didn’t have ancho chili powder so I used 2 Tbsp of chili powder and 1 Tbsp cumin. I’ve never regretted more seasoning in a chili and this was no exception.
  • I added a little extra water rather than the salsa since I used more spices and didn’t think it needed the extra tomatoes.
  • I really enjoyed the farro with the chili. I usually use grains that soak up the chili like corn bread but though this added a nice texture. And Stella sort of tried it, only spitting it out if a bean dared get onto her spoon. How does she know?!? Seriously!