Week 58: IKEA Relationship Test Results

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Stella Mabel for the style points: on a 95 degree day she decided rubber rain boots would be the best choice. 

We redid our office the other week, which explains my absence, and I love it. I have so much storage and desk space it is amazing. The organizational freak in me is having the time of her life figuring out where everything should go. My desk before was the side piece to an “L” shaped desk with no drawer and little space in general. Travis had the big piece of the L but overall our office was failing us. After a little Pinterest research I found our solution and was geeking out on all the ideas. It took us about 6-months to actually get around to doing it, but boy does it feel good. Since we did the whole thing ourselves, it involved a trip to IKEA. Get your snacks and walking shoes ready! Anyone who has been to IKEA and assembled their purchase has probably heard and/or noticed that it is a pretty good relationship test. Stressful at best for most people. Travis and I had never been to IKEA until we moved to Minneapolis about 1 week after we got married. Swedish furniture in the land of Swedes seemed like the right thing to do. The store was far more stressful than any actual furniture assembly, which either speaks to my lack of desire to be in big crowded places while being forced to move very slowly, or our super awesome week old-marriage. You pick. Walking through IKEA feels like herding turtles, moving slowly through their maze-like walkway with no possible escape. It took us about 6 years to return to an IKEA which we wisely did without Stella. Twelve plus boxes later we were on our way home for a world of hurt. But I discovered something this past week. I actually enjoy the process of assembling IKEA furniture. It was what I did during Stella’s naps and after bedtime for a whole week but since it felt in stark contrast to my day it was almost completely enjoyable. Toddlers are crazy, erratic and unpredictable and IKEA furniture is 100% organized, predictable and logical. Call me crazy, but I think it’s my cup of tea. Plus I knew the end results would be so worth it and I was right. You would think my IKEA assembly skills would translate well to baking and other meticulous things but I think it pretty much starts and stops here. And solo assembly is definitely the key to passing this relationship test. We’ve assembled a few things together and did just fine but not with a toddler around to “help”. Any sucker who hasn’t figured out your partners strengths and how to use those to their fullest potential would definitely fail the IKEA test. It would be like me asking Travis to clean the house while I set up our computers and modem. HA! So we passed the IKEA test with flying colors because we, for the most part, worked separately on the things to we do best. Kind of like our kitchen game. One of us is good at grilling while the other is better at prep work. And in typical blog fashion my picture will have nothing to do with the post because we still have a little work to do on the office but a picture will be forthcoming. Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Turkey Sliders with Crunchy Green Apple Slaw

  • We did these on the grill which made it a bit more challenging since I bought lean ground chicken that wouldn’t quite stick together. Travis added some breadcrumbs and oil to fix the situation and it worked just fine.
  • The green apple slaw was tasty and tart, a perfect combo in my opinion but I also love Granny Smiths.

Tuesday: Zippy Orzo Summer Salad

  • I did my own take on this salad since we had lots of greens last week in our CSA. I sautéed garlic scapes, kale, mustard greens, and added some fresh peas for good measure. Basically any veggie you have around would do the trick as well as any herbs.
  • I did include some grilled chicken and goat cheese, but a can of beans would be a good vegetarian substitute.

Wednesday: Korean BBQ Steak Bowls with Spicy Sesame Dressing

  • I went light on the garlic and chili paste for the dressing and used 1/3 cup soy sauce instead, but I actually marinated the meat for a change.
  • Travis grilled the steak and I lightly sautéed the peppers and scallions.
  • I served it over brown rice instead of spinach and it was plenty tasty with the extra dressing.

Thursday: Creamy Avocado & White Bean Wraps

  • This is one of my easy go-to recipes that does not involve cooking. Because it involves avocado it is definitely best when eaten fresh though spoken by someone who forgot about it and tried to eat it two days later.
  • I used a shredded carrot and a combo of red and green cabbage for the slaw.
  • My “wraps” end up being a lot less pretty than the ones in the picture with too much slaw to close the tortilla, but it was equally tasty I assure you.

Friday: Pork and Beans with Garlic and Greens and Garlic Bread

  • I think of crock pots as being very wintery but that is mostly because the recipes I do in my crock pot are wintery. They don’t heat up the house quite like an oven so it seemed like a good way to use up a bunch more greens and not have to cook.
  • I soaked the beans overnight and put everything in the crock pot on high for 5 hours. The beans weren’t super soft so longer would have been better but the pork was fall-apart delicious.
  • I used a can of died tomatoes and a lot of greens.

Week 57: The VERY Hungry Caterpillar

Fireplace Reno

As you’ve hopefully figured out my pictures have nothing to do with my blog posts. But here is our new family room. It’s the best!

I feel like the very hungry caterpillar but in the version where I don’t turn into a beautiful butterfly. On Monday she ate half a stale Luna bar from the diaper bag, but she was still hungry. On Tuesday, she ate a piece of pretzel from Stella’s car seat (without giving it a second thought), but she was still hungry and a bit horrified. By Wednesday she’d just given up. The shame was just too much. But seriously, Stella eats very well yet I find myself eating old crumbs from her car seat, what gives? Stella is not an amazing eater so she gets breakfast, lunch, a snack after nap, and dinner. None of this grazing all the time business because she simply doesn’t need it as is demonstrated by her lack of interest in meals, particularly after too much snacking. And no one is permitted to snack in front of her, heaven forbid. It is truly not worth it, particularly if it’s anything she likes. So for someone who is used to eating every 2 hours it kind of feels like I’ve been put on snack probation. I’m stuck eating three square meal a day plus all the snacks I want after 8pm once Stella is in bed, which can be significant given that we eat dinner at 5:30. Whew. Living the dream here. Stella eats so well why don’t I grab one of her snacks you might ask? A homemade banana muffin, sunflower seed butter oat balls, all homemade by yours truly. Well to be honest every time I think about eating one, and let’s be honest I’d need about 5 for it to be a proper snack, I see my free time after her 8pm bedtime floating by. Because that is when I have time to make all of these delicious home made snacks. Not a good enough reason to deprive myself, but it feels pretty real to me. So I eat crap or go hungry while my daughter eats like a queen. Sometime if I’m lucky I can shovel food into my mouth while driving so long as the little lady isn’t privy to it. But on the road away from a sink it has to be nut-free. I bet if you list your top five go-to grab-and-go filling snacks they’d all include nuts. Mine sure would, so out of laziness I’ve sort of given up. So this little caterpillar needs to figure a few things out before she perishes from hunger. Healthy and filling nut free snacks that are easy to grab-and-go and making time to sit down and eat these delicious snacks. Ready, set, go.

Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Spiced Lamb Burgers with Whole Wheat Pita, Tzatziki Sauce and Green Salad

  • Real shocker, but I didn’t mix the lamb and let it sit for an hour because I failed to read the recipe ahead of time. It was still delicious. I also only used 1 lb of lamb and adjusted everything accordingly.
  • I also did not do any fancy pita bread stuffing, we just stuffed the burgers and sauce in the pita and used it like a bun.

Tuesday: Simple Buttery Spring Pea Pasta with Prosciutto

  • This is my perfect once a week big one-pot meal that gives us tons of leftovers. And while the pasta water is boiling I can get everything else ready so it is also a very simple dinner.
  • Any veggie would work here, just add it to the water a little before cooking if you use asparagus, broccoli or something else with a little more substance. I added some arugula at the end which was very tasty.
  • I didn’t add the extra eggs since I was in a rush, but I am sure it would have been delicious. And skipped on most of the butter. A few Tbsp seemed to work just fine for me.
  • I am also super nervous about raw eggs, says the lady who shovels raw cookie dough into her mouth like it’s no big deal, so I kept the stove on low for those few minutes while I was mixing the eggs into the pasta.

Wednesday: Vegetarian Spring Rolls with Crispy Tofu

  • I love spring rolls and after my friend Thoa’s visit I have a little more spring roll making confidence.
  • To simplify this recipe I skipped the tofu glaze part and just brown them.
  • The key to rolling a good spring roll is to not overfill it. A problem I have with everything I make and eat so the first few may be a learning process.
  • If you make the rice paper water too hot the paper will fall apart, so I’d go with warm to start and see how you do.
  • The dipping sauce can be made with peanut butter for a more traditional taste.

Thursday: Lemon Herb Salmon Burgers with Green Salad

  • Travis was out mountain biking and I had forgotten to do any dinner prep during Stella’s all too short nap that day so our evening was a hot mess.
  • I cooked the quinoa while I prepped everything else which worked out just fine in the end since it was already hot.
  • I ended up using 2 small cans of canned salmon and a small packet of smoked salmon. The smoked salmon was a nice accident though since it added some good flavor but wasn’t overpowering.
  • Since Stella was hysterical and Tazzie was in a constant flow of stealing toys I skipped the food processor part and mixed it all by hand and ended up with a slightly scrambled salmon burger. Rustic if you will.
  • I mixed some Greek yogurt and sour cream with the herb shallot mixture to top the burgers with and served them on a bed of dressed greens with some extra quinoa.

Friday: Curried Chicken Salad

  • We brought a giant bowl of this to a pot-luck on Friday night and took home about 1 Tbsp. It’d say it was a hit. And since everyone asked for the recipe, here it is.
  • I used ¼ cup each of light sour cream and mayo with about 2 Tbsp of curry powder, a drizzle of olive oil and a splash of lemon juice. I didn’t have any Major Grey’s chutney this time around but have made it both ways and think it is equally tasty.
  • To make this more of a meal serve it as a wrap with lettuce or spinach.

Bonus Recipe: 7 Ingredient Vegan Key Lime Pies

  • I made this dessert a while back for book group and keep forgetting to post it. They are totally delicious and, as I learned, my style of baking because there is actually no baking involved thus they are foolproof.
  • The crusts have to be baked but that is super simple. The rest just gets blended and chilled.
  • I am not a believer that all healthier faux desserts taste like the real thing but because this didn’t remove fat, a key component to good taste and texture, it was still very creamy and rich and tasted similar enough to a key lime pie for me to enjoy it.
  • They are very limey and tart which I enjoy, so go heavier on the sugar and lighter on the lime if you don’t love a tart key lime pie.

Week 56: Birthday Shenanigans

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Birthday weekend fun

We had a very fun and friend filled weekend celebrating my birthday so I was just too darn busy to post! I have a feeling that will happen a lot this summer. You’ve been warned! Last week our house exterior got painted which has been 2 years of HOA rejections in the making. The good news is that we LOVE it. I have a pretty serious crush on our house right now and can’t stop grinning every time I look at it. Especially those red doors. We also finished up our big family room project that I posted about so long ago most of you have probably forgotten about it. It is killer! I’ll post a before and after picture next week after we get a few more finishing touches done. But needless to say Stella and Tazzie are super excited to have their play room back as is evidence by the picture of Tazzie above.

For my birthday Travis and I went out for dinner on Saturday night and stopped at J&L Distilling in Boulder to grab a drink. Super disappointed by the way that both at dinner and the tasting room I wasn’t carded. Sigh. I blame it on my company. He must look wise beyond his years because on our first date the waitress carded me but didn’t card Travis, we were 21 and 22 respectively. I blame Stella for helping me look my age. But anyways, I digress. There are tons of distilleries in Colorado, but gin seems to be less common. I love gin but am a bit of a snob when it comes down to it. I’ve definitely found a few CO gins I can’t drink. If they stray too far from the delicious juniper in Bombay I’m out. But I’d heard good things about J&L and was excited to try it. My gin drink was a Beet Down and it was delicious. It was “Gin infused with fresh beets, ginger simple syrup, tarragon honey, and freshly squeezed lemon juice”. I mean. The owner warmed me that it wouldn’t be the best showcase of his gin because the beets were so strong and he was totally right but I loved it anyway! And look at it. Stunning too, right? We got to enjoy their amazing view of the flatirons and sip our drinks like real adults. It was pretty nice. We topped the weekend off with Stella’s first strawberry shortcake. She was pretty taken with it but didn’t throw a fit at the end like she’s has in the past with ice cream which was a relief. Maybe it was because she knew it was my birthday but I’m skeptical. Meal Plan & Grocery List 

Monday: Thai Grilled Corn and Peach Quinoa Salad with Grilled Meat

  • Travis made this one, groaning the whole time about the quinoa, but it was delicious and so summery.
  • We of course added a grilled meat to round out the meal but beans, feta and other goodies served on a bed of greens could make this a whole meal on its own for most people.

Tuesday: One-Pot Italian Sausage & Kale Pasta

  • I love giant one-pot meals like this that last for days and keep getting better and better.
  • I doubled the recipe for 1 lb of whole wheat pasta and pretty consistently doubled all the ingredients. The water takes a bit of time to soak up so maybe 1 cup less would work too. You can always add more to the leftovers if they get too dry.

Wednesday: Chipotle-Lime Cauliflower Tacos

  • I opted for a very small amount of chipotles so it wasn’t spicy at all, but there was still plenty of flavor with the honey-lime sauce.
  • Foil is key!! I added a little oil to the veggie mix because I was nervous but I don’t think they needed it.
  • If you garnish this with lots of veggies as the recipe suggests this can be a stand-alone meal with plenty of color. Otherwise it might look a little blah but will still taste perfectly delicious. Your choice!

Thursday: Grilled Chicken & Nectarine Chopped Salad

  • This is the perfect summer meal! All cooking is done on the grill, and it involves peaches (in my version).
  • This salad has a good backbone with peaches and chicken but anything and everything can be added to it.
  • Romaine is not my go-to lettuce, we typically use red leaf for salads, but there is something satisfying about the crunch in a salad like this. It also holds up better to the heat if you don’t allow enough time for your ingredients to cool.

Friday: Blackberry BBQ Pork Chops with Corn and Grilled Asparagus

  • Since this week felt green and salad heavy I opted to skip the collards and just grill some asparagus with the corn instead. I also like to save my bacon eating for the weekend with pancakes. But to each their own.
  • I used frozen blackberries for the sauce since fresh fruit gets eaten pretty quickly in this house. The frozen berries mashed into a sauce very easily which was another plus but it ended up being super crunchy from all the seeds which definitely detracted from the experience. So maybe fresh would be better next time.