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!

Week 47: Life on the Mekong

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10 years ago this week Travis and I went on our first date:) 

Today an old friend of mine is coming to visit us for a few days. We met 11 years ago on my semester abroad in Vietnam. She was the host sister to one of my good friends and we quickly became friends too. One of my favorite weekends that semester was a Sunday excursion four of us took to visit another local friend’s family in the country. We biked there like you do in Vietnam, around 20 km, stopping along the way to rest in hammocks in the shade and cool off with a drinks since as usual, it was hot. Our two local friends wore long sleeves or long gloves, long pants, and hats to shade their skin from the sun while we two Westerners wore t-shirts and helmets to be stay cool and protect our heads if we got hit. Different priorities and cultures for sure. Our journey wouldn’t have been complete without a flat tire, so with that out of the way we continued onto the market to buy ingredients for lunch. We decided to make sweet and sour soup, a classic and very delicious soup I ate often. We bough tomatoes, sprouts, pineapple, greens, chilies, okra and a fish that was alive when we chose it and very shortly afterwards not. Can’t get anymore fresh than that. Despite the heat, eating hot foods both spicy and temperature, is what you do in hot places to sweat and “cool” off. This of course wouldn’t be our only lunch. Every relatives house we went to we were fed more fresh mango, fried bananas, a sweet coconut soup with thick tapioca noodles, and more fruit, hence the 20 lbs I gained that semester. Yikes! We spent the afternoon talking with her relatives, picking and eating fruit from their trees, feeding their pigs, and enjoying our little slice of normal everyday life in Vietnam. Everywhere we went with our group we were a bit of a spectacle and it would quickly change the atmosphere as soon as we walked into a room. People would literally wake up their sleeping children to point at us walking by. So spending the day with a friend’s family “blending” in, cooking food, eating of course, and just enjoying the day with our new friends made this a very memorable day. I will spare you the pictures of me during my chunky phase abroad and instead give you a picture from when Travis and I had muscles and were young pups back in our rowing days.

 

I’m not going to lie. I’m pretty pleased with myself for this week’s menu. Each meal was super delicious on its own, but all of the leftovers were really tasty together, which was a stroke of genius luck. All these meals would have been far more appropriate had it not been in the 70s all week, but I can’t say it bothered me that much. Good food is always welcome. Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Chicken and Waffles with Kicky Syrup

  • I actually don’t think I’ve ever had chicken and waffles, so I figured it was high time.
  • We used leftover buttermilk waffles from Sunday breakfast instead of frozen waffles.
  • This is at least the second time I’ve made this mistake in recent history, so shame on me, but I keep buying chicken breast instead of a thinner cut like cutlets or tenders. I’ve tried pounding them flat and failed miserably each time. I think the best solution would be to cut them in half instead. Next time! Chicken breast just take a lot longer to cook and are an uneven thickness of course, but fortunately the outside breading didn’t burn so no harm done.
  • Although I am sure adding Sriracha and soy sauce to my syrup would have been delicious, I am a purist and love my Vermont maple syrup as is.

Tuesday: Four-Bean and Pumpkin Chili

  • Since I still had some frozen chopped butternut squash this was a pretty quick meal. The squash also didn’t take the whole 30 minutes of cooking time the recipe suggests which helped speed things along.
  • I loved the cinnamon in the chili and as usual the flavors were better leftover the next day.
  • We used pepitas, cilantro, sour cream, avocado and cheddar cheese to garnish it.

Wednesday: BBQ Stuffed Potatoes and Green Salad

  • Our roast was a 2.5 lb arm roast instead of a smaller chuck roast. I used the same amount of spice rub and although there wasn’t a ton of sauce at the end it had plenty of flavor.
  • I also love the idea that the potatoes would cook in the crockpot so it truly was a dump and go meal ready to eat anytime. And unlike a lot of baked potatoes it was not at all dry.
  • This was killer left over with the extra chili by the way! Super tasty combo.

Thursday: Swiss-Fondue Mac and Cheese with Peas and Broccoli

  • No surprise here, but this was of course amazing. Enough good cheese could probably make a hotdog taste amazing, but it really did remind me of fondue.
  • While the pasta was cooking I chopped and steamed two small crowns of broccoli. I added them in at the end and tossed in half a bag of frozen peas (thawed) as well. One pot meal.
  • I didn’t have dry vermouth so I used dry sherry instead. I think white wine works too.
  • I couldn’t find Raclette so I added more Gruyere which was not a problem at all.
  • The leftover breaded chicken, chili and meat were all really good with this the next day for lunch.

Friday: Spicy Fish Taco Bowl with Cilantro Lime Slaw

  • Travis gets full credit for this meal. I usually make most of or a lot of dinner while Stella is napping but she had a shorter than anticipated nap this day so I got nothing done. And since we always get out and do something in the afternoon so we don’t go stir crazy, we didn’t get home until late. I think Tazzie was the most disappointed by this. She moped the whole time Travis cooked, devastated that her playmate was neglecting her. She is very emotional.
  • And of course dinner was super good! I’ve been on a bowl kick recently since there are so many new ideas to try and this made eating fish tacos so much easier! I love to pile on so much slaw that I can’t even pick up my taco. Problem solved!
  • Travis hand chopped the cabbage which I prefer since it gives it more texture than shredding.
  • I can’t say much of this was good mixed with other leftovers, but I did enjoy the extra slaw and quinoa the next day with some avocado for lunch.

Week 46: Hotdish

 

This has been a big week! I finally trimmed Stella’s mullet. It took me a while to get the right scissors but thanks to another mom’s advice I got short scissors with rounded ends which were exactly what I needed. I also delved into a recipe organizational upgrade which is huge and long overdue. I’ve started using Paprika per my brother-in-law’s suggestion and so far I think it’s pretty fabulous. I can upload recipes from any website, categorize them, make menus, grocery lists, and multiply recipes without messing up. I someday hope to get the contents of my recipe binder in here, but that will be a very slow process. Baby steps, but for now I’ve got a platform that is super user friendly and a place to put all the new recipes I cook each week. Now that the updates are over, we can talk about other things.

I’ve learned over the years that Travis and I tend to go big. We don’t test the waters and take baby steps; we usually jump in head-first and hope we remember how to swim. Hence the puppy, house and baby thing we chose to do in rapid succession. Ill advised by most, but somehow we survived and mostly enjoyed it. Back in early 2011 we decided to move to Minneapolis so I could go to grad school at the U of M, sight unseen. We packed up all our belongings two days after getting married, drove from Vermont to Minneapolis, found a place to live, and I started school a few days later. And as always we were so happy we took the risk. We loved our two years in Minneapolis. I know this is a huge stereotype, but people from the mid-west are SO nice! We met great people, biked a lot, ice-skated, cross-country skied, played ice golf, camped in the Boundary Waters, and enjoyed life surrounded by lakes and the Mississippi River. Plus my people, Swedes, are there in droves so there was no shortage of blonds. But in the end we missed the mountains and decided to come back to CO. However, along the way we learned a few things about the regional cuisine. There are several specialty dishes including cheese curds, anything fried and on a stick, and hotdish. What, you might ask, is hotdish? Hotdish is “a casserole which typically contains a starch, a meat, and a canned or frozen vegetable mixed with canned soup.” There is tater tot, green bean, taco, and tuna noodle hotdish to name a few. We just about never ate casseroles growing up, and I don’t think I’d ever heard of cream of anything soup until my post-college years, but for many people this is comfort food and I can see why. I really enjoyed Monday night’s Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole, a dish most Minnesotans would proudly call hotdish given that wild rice is a locally grown crop. It had a starch, vegetable, meat, creamy component though not from a can, and was baked in the oven. Since everything was from scratch it took a heck of a lot longer, but the enjoyment I get out of eating a dish I make far exceeds any I would get from a casserole with tater tots and cream of mushroom soup. Though hotdish is not that dissimilar from your classic casserole, there is much more pride and creativity that comes with it. And do take the time to study the map I posted. It is completely amusing and of course comes with its own Paul Bunyan and Babe. Meal Plan & Grocery List

hotdish

Monday: Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole with Green Salad

  • Casseroles are pretty much the opposite crock pot recipes, my favorite kind of cooking, but I am a sucker for trying new things. And since it was a casserole without a cream of something soup I thought it sounded pretty good.
  • Since you have to pre-cook everything it is pretty unavoidably time consuming, but it was great to get home at 5pm, pop it in the oven and be ready to eat at 5:30.
  • And we had tons of leftovers so I could have theoretically frozen half for another time, but alas we ate it all.
  • Since we can’t top our meals with crunchy almonds, I used some panko breadcrumbs and a little parmesan cheese instead. I also used more carrots in place of the mushrooms, and dried thyme instead of fresh.
  • Future goal is to find quicker meals that don’t take up my entire break during Stella’s nap!

Tuesday: Simple Coconut Quinoa and Lentil Curry with Lime Mango

  • I added a red onion that I bought for a recipe last week and forgot to use, and white quinoa instead of a mix.
  • This fits more into my simple meals goal.
  • Since I used water instead of coconut water or stock the dish needed some salt which I didn’t notice until we sat down to eat. Note to self: I should taste my food while cooking.
  • We served it with a splash of apple cider vinegar, yogurt and mango.

Wednesday: Spicy Roasted Ratatouille with Spaghetti

  • This dish can be as spicy or mild as you want it to be since red pepper flakes are the only spicy ingredient, but the roasted veggies are super tasty no matter what.
  • I used two zucchini and squash each along with a red onion and eggplant to have a little more vegetables for a pound of pasta.
  • I used some frozen basil from my garden last year but dried or fresh are both an option. Just add the dried to the oil and vinegar mix before roasting.

Thursday: Cumin Pork Tenderloin with Dried-Apricot Chutney, Green Beans & Couscous

  • These are pretty straight forward recipes that didn’t take all that long. I put the marinade on the pork during Stella’s nap but since it was pretty thick you can just toss it on before cooking and the flavors will still be very enjoyable.
  • Stella loved the chutney and ate that and only that for dinner which was a surprise given her usual love of meat. But I think her love of being unpredictable won out this time around.

Friday: Teriyaki Salmon and Brown Rice Bowl with Veggies

  • I always appreciate making something as simple as teriyaki from scratch. And since bowls seem to be in I served the salmon over brown rice in a bowl with a mix of veggies including scallions, shredded carrots, cucumber, and some roasted broccoli.

Week 45: Recipes, Recipes, Recipes

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Tazzie on the day we picked her out back when she was the size of a small stuffed animal.

You can probably guess how nice it is each weekend by how late in the weekend I post my blog. This weekend has been super nice I haven’t even wanted to sit down at my computer! And since yesterday was Tazzie’s 2nd birthday, she’s Stella’s Irish twin after all, we spent most of the weekend outside finding places for her to swim, run and play. But I digress. Onto more important things: recipe organization. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I organize my recipes and sort through them each week to pick out our menu. Right now I am working with a super old-school system that includes a giant stainless steel 3-ring binder with recipes I’ve torn out of magazines over the years. I also have a 13-page recipe index I created over the years of all the Eating Well recipes I’ve made or ever wanted to make. Instead of keeping all the magazines, which I did for a while until they took over our cookbook bookshelf, I just type them into a super organized list, shocker I know, and flip through it to find recipes for the week. This confession should give you a full picture into my super organization/ODC tendencies. But as ridiculous as it is to have such a cumbersome and old-fashion system there are a few things that I like about it that I am not sure how to duplicate if I were to switch to an electronic system. I obviously have the recipes organized by type of dish (i.e. chicken, fish, vegetarian, soups, etc.) but I also have the month, or issue, the recipe came from which helps me pick more seasonal recipes. So in March I scan through and find all the recipes from the Feb/March issues and can easily make a menu that feels more appropriate to the weather and is easier to shop for seasonally. Even though I know transferring all of my recipes to an electronic system would take a lot of work, I think it would be worth it in the long run since I use my computer to menu plan, make a list, and as my cookbook when I am making dinner. So if anyone has a suggestion or recommendation for online recipe organization systems that would be a step-up from my current system, not super hard to do, please pass them on! This lady needs some help. Meal Plan & Grocery List

 

Monday: Beef Tacos with Green Salad

  • It has taken me longer than I’d like to admit to figure this out, but I need quick meals for Monday night. Stella and I go to the grocery store Monday afternoon so by the time we get home and unload everything I usually have a hangry toddler on my hands and no dinner. This week’s meal was perfect for that.
  • I browned 2 onions and added a lot more seasoning (1 Tbsp chili powder, 1 tsp each of cumin and paprika).
  • I skipped the step where you add water and wait 15 minutes and just browned the meat more.
  • Since I never put enough lettuce on my tacos to count as any sort of vegetable I just skipped it and made a side salad, serving our tacos with salsa and avocado instead.

Tuesday: Roasted Carrots with Farro, Chickepeas & Crème Fraiche and Green Salad

  • I never thought I would hear Travis, or myself for that matter, rave about roasted carrots but seriously. These were delicious. They take a lot longer than I would expect, but it was totally worth it.
  • I also roasted some asparagus (10-15 minutes) as well and served everything with a green salad.
  • I did not add anything to my crème fraiche since it is already completely delicious on its own.
  • I wish I had doubled everything so we’d had leftovers for lunch, but that is always a good problem to have.

Wednesday: Creamy Chicken, Brussels Sprouts One-Pot Pasta

  • I used 1 lb of penne and doubled all the seasonings and water.
  • Instead of mushrooms I used frozen peas that I added towards the end.
  • Kind of like the broccoli and quinoa casserole last week I roasted the Brussels sprouts and added them at the end to keep everything from feeling too mushy.
  • Since I wasn’t sure if things would thicken up enough I mixed a heaping tablespoon of flour with some water towards the end and added it to the pot.
  • I love this kind of dish and am always impressed when we have more than enough for the two of us for dinner and lunch the next day. Success!

Thursday: Shrimp Curry with Chickepea & Cauliflower and Brown Rice

  • I never would have thought to add fennel to this but since I found it at the store I took a chance. I am not always wild about fennel so I was a little nervous, but it was not too overpowering and was super tasty.
  • I unfortunately couldn’t find shrimp paste so I added more curry paste to make sure the sauce would have enough flavor.
  • I added the cauliflower once the sauce came to a boil and let it cook while the sauce thickened.
  • I also added some bok choy with the shrimp and chickpeas for more color and flavor. Most of the steps I took were to shortened the cooking time so I don’t think we got as much flavor out of the lemongrass, but it was totally worth it.

Friday: Veggie Chili with Cornbread

  • I prepped all the veggies during Stella’s nap so I could just toss them into the pan to brown while I whipped up the cornbread and then let everything cook. Pretty quick and easy.
  • I used the other half of the fennel bulb from Thursday nights dinner and kidney beans instead of the second can of black beans.
  • Stella can pound some cornbread so I used half white whole-wheat flour and half all purpose. Along with the whole grain cornmeal I feel better about her eating that and only that for dinner.

 

Week 44: Baking With Miss Vicki

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My baking assistant/future chaperone

Travis always says that he wishes he could set up hidden cameras and watch me bake. There would probably be a lot of swearing, back steps, and “problem solving”. He’d call it “Baking with Miss Vicki,” a name very few people are allowed to call me, and it would likely be hilarious for anyone who is not me. This week I baked a birthday cake for Travis and it went pretty darn well. It definitely meant giving up Stella’s nap, but it was for a good cause. Travis gets to pick out his birthday cake and this year he picked a gingerbread cake with a lemon-rum sauce from my favorite Colorado baking cookbook, Pie in the Sky. The woman who wrote the book tested every recipe in Colorado and made adaptations for 3k, 5k, 7k, and 10k feet above sea level. Totally fool proof. My absolute favorite brownies come from this cookbook. I used to love box brownies but now that I’ve gotten used to these I am truly a from scratch brownie snob. I taste the vegetable oil from the box brownies rather than the generous stick of butter in the scratch version and it’s just not the same. Travis and I can demolish a pan in just a few short days before they even start to think about drying out. The freezer would probably be another storage option, but we’ll enjoy our young metabolisms while they last thank you very much. And they are almost as easy as boxed brownies if you follow the directions. No good baking story ever starts with, “so, I was in a hurry…”, but seriously, I was in a big rush and thought I could whip up a double batch of brownies. As you can imagine things did not go as planned. I was 38+ weeks pregnant and one of Travis’s coworkers volunteered to take a work trip for him so he could stay home incase Stella decided to arrive early. I mean there was no way I was letting him go on a trip at that point but it was very nice of someone to step in like that so I thought I could make him thank you brownies. Who doesn’t like brownies after all. Since I was making them anyway this preggo lady figured she’d make a batch for Trav’s coworker and one for herself, naturally. Well the recipe calls for 3 eggs, so a double batch needs a whole half-dozen. I did not say these were healthy! Instead of putting in 6 eggs or forgetting to double them and adding 3, I used one egg. That’s it. Just one single egg. You would think the texture would have been like cement and given my mistake away but nope, I popped them in the oven and set the timer. When I when to check on them they looked like boiling lava. Something was not right. So I baked them a little more, flipping through the recipe to figure out my mistake, and admitted defeat as I took them out to cool. I am sure there was lots of swearing but after burning my mouth a few times I determined that the center was oddly eatable despite the outside edges being hard as a rock. Oops. I think Travis brought a bag of brownie crumble to his coworker; they tasted pretty delicious but were more of an ice cream topping than something you could hold onto and sink your teeth into. The good news about making such a big mistake on a recipe is that I won’t make the same mistake again. Every time I make these brownies I am keenly aware of the 3 eggs I add and pay very close attention to every ingredient. But there will be plenty of future recipes I will make in a hurry and destroy beyond belief. Thankfully I got my casual baking genes from my mom who famously put a pan of Palm Beach Brownies (i.e. heaven) into the oven, realized she hadn’t added the flour, pulled them out, dumped them back into the bowl, added flour, and continued on baking them. Totally salvageable. My brownies obviously weren’t but it is with this attitude that I do most of my cooking and baking. Forge on and make them most of it. Fortunately this came in handy this week with Wednesday night’s dinner plan when things did not go as planned…Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Garlic Roasted Salmon & Brussels Sprouts with Brown Rice

  • Stella, Tazzie and I were flying solo a few nights this week so this seemed like a super manageable dinner for me to tackle during crappy hour with two little monkeys. Stella ate approximately none of it so maybe she doesn’t like my cooking, but I thought it was pretty darn good and very straightforward.

Tuesday: Better Broccoli Casserole with Chicken

  • A friend made this for Stella and I and it was delicious. With whole milk and shredded chicken it was a very filling and a well-balanced meal.
  • Casseroles can definitely get a bad rap, but with crunchy roasted broccoli rather than soggy steamed broccoli and the crispy topping the texture of this was exactly what a casserole should be.
  • And Stella ate a bit of quinoa and didn’t spit it out which I consider to be a victory.

Wednesday: Spaghetti & Vodka Sauce with Smoked Sausage and Green Salad

  • This was an emergency weeknight meal that I flung into action at 5:15pm when I realized that what I thought was going to be dinner was not going to happen. Funny story…Stella unplugged the crockpot right before we left for the park so my super awesome dinner plans fell through. Good thing she’s cute! So I plugged the crockpot back in, out of reach of little hands, finished cooking it minus the broccoli rabe and roasted red pepper, and served it reheated another night. I had already thrown the beans in before I realized what had happened so they were mushy but not too bad.

Thursday: Bison Filet with Red Wine Sauce, Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Asparagus and Gingerbread Cake with Warm Rum-Lemon Sauce

  • Thursday was Travis’s birthday so I tried to make a dinner full of things he loves. He picked the cake out himself but I am proud to say I sous vide (under vacuum) the bison filets and pan finished them all by myself and they were darn good. Sous vide is great because you can set the exact temperature you want your meat cooked to and it will be cooked perfectly in a water bath to rare or medium-rare which allows you to finish it off in a pan or on the grill but not have to worry about it being over done.
  • I roasted the asparagus with salt, pepper and oil for 15ish minutes at 425. They were perfect.
  • I boiled some potatoes with a few garlic cloves and mashed them up with salt, butter and half and half. Only the best for Travis so none of that low-fat stuff.

Friday: Crockpot Italian Chicken & Broccoli Rabe Chili with Garlic Bread

  • So this was an easy dinner since we had it left over:)
  • I couldn’t find broccoli rabe and Travis is not wild about it so I used kale instead which is a perfectly acceptable substitute.
  • I only used 1 ¼ lbs of chicken breast so I cut the liquid and spices in half too which worked out well.