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 55: 10 Years of Adulting

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Travis and I at our college Graduation. We look the same, right? 

It has been 10 years since Travis and I graduated from college. Crazy! Where has the time gone!?! Well, as it turns out, one of us has been in school for half of that time so there’s 5 years down. We’ve lived in 4 states, moving from Washington to Colorado to Vermont to Minnesota and back to Colorado again. Traveled to 18 countries for a total of 8 months, oh, and had a few jobs here and there. It’s hard to remember what life was like right after college as 22 year olds but I think I can safely say I’m happy to be (almost) 32 instead. A very unique decade to say the least and surely, or hopefully, no decade to come will be quite so full of uncertainty, change and excitement as this last one. Last weekend I got together with my four best friends from college to celebrate our 10 years of adulting, reminisce and catch-up. We were all on the crew team together waking up at 4:40 every morning for 4-years and going to sleep at 10pm. Wild and crazy college kids, I know. We spent the weekend relaxing in Point Reyes, just outside San Francisco, cooking and eating good food, sitting on the porch sipping coffee, staying up late (for me at least), walking along the beach, and eating dinner past 5:30 (the best!). We drank classy wine and good quality gin & tonics, a far cry from the PBR and Seagram’s gin of our college days. My how far we’ve come in 10 years! I will say all five of us got some sort of a sunburn, so clearly we are not all grown up quite yet. Always a work in progress, though I’m still not sure when I’ll feel fully grown up…maybe when my kid goes off to college? Who knows? But it was literally the most relaxing weekend I’ve had in two years which makes total sense since it was my first solo weekend away from Stella. I loved every second of it and appreciated the well-earned time away from the three loves of my life. Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: 30 Minute Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken with Sesame Ginger Broccoli with Brown Rice

  • I did the one-pot version of this dish and added the broccoli to the chicken and pineapple before tossing it in the oven.
  • For once there was plenty of sauce, so no need to double like I usually do.

Tuesday: Crockpot Moroccan Lentil and Chickpea Soup

  • I say I don’t eat things just because they are healthy and only because I like them, but I think lentils may be my exception. I try to add them into our menu every now and again for variety and because I honestly have trouble thinking up vegetarian dishes that will be filling, but I’ve never had a lentil dish and thought, wow, I need to have that again. That was amazing! This dish was perfectly acceptable, tasty, flavorful, but still just meh in my book.
  • I used half green and half red lentils and would probably use 1 tsp each of cinnamon and cumin.

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Jambalaya

  • The prep for this dish does take some time, certainly more than 10 minutes as the recipe suggests, but it’s totally worth it and makes a ton so you can freeze a large container for dinner another time.
  • I’ve been buying sliced chicken breast when I see it for dishes like this to help cut down my prep time. Every shortcut counts!
  • I added a few chopped celery stalks too since I think of that as being in jambalaya.
  • Since cajun spice mix is mostly salt, I make my own with this recipe as my guide. I skip the salt in the mix and just add salt to the recipe itself, ½ – 1 tsp depending on if I get low-sodium stock and canned tomatoes or not.
  • I used 2 jalapenos and ½ tsp of cayenne and it had a little heat but not much for those of you who are as cautious with their spice as I am.

Thursday: Spring Vegetable Grain Bowl with Grilled Meat (optional)

  • This bowl is the kind of a kitchen sink recipe you need every once in a while to clean out your fridge.
  • I used chard instead of beets since I wanted this to be a quick meal and added a bell pepper for more color.
  • This can be a stand alone meal or a side with a grilled meat. I bet you can guess which direction this family went;)

Friday: BBQ Baked Beans & Sausage and Collards and Corn Bread

  • A very easy way to use collards and not feeling super greasy.
  • I added some corn bread to round out our plates.

Week 54: The Shoe Battle

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Her shirt says it all, c’est la vie! 

Stella has quite a shoe collection thanks to her Aunt Rebecca and Cousin Layla who are the source of her shoe amazingness. Just to give you an idea she has around 15 pairs of shoes that fit her right now, and about 5 pairs of fashionable boots not to mention winter and rain boots. So this girl is set. Her shoe collection would make you drool. From her practical hot pink sneakers and keens to her gold Converse, we have shoes for any occasion. More recently Stella has gotten into picking out her shoes and having big opinions about it. Not a huge shock if I’m being honest. I still pick out her daily outfit but she accessorizes and gets to pick her shoes. We went to dance class on Friday in a tank top and capris with a furry hooded white vest, pink sunglasses that she refused to take off inside, her favorite baseball hat and her glittery gold Toms. She looked like a total rock star. Though she loves her shoes she also LOVES taking them off. Always her right one. So if we go run 5 errands, I have to put her right shoe and sock back on five times. A lot of time I hear a big struggle and grunt and find the shoe and sock landing quite close to me on the console or passengers seat. Girl has got aim! A frustrating habit to say the least, but I will always be able to find her shoe in the car (so long as I don’t open any back windows). This habit has also extended to our daily walk/run with Tazzie. For months now she has been taking off her right shoe and sock at some point during our outing and discarding them. For a while I would consistently find it in the stroller tucked behind her or in the foot well, but now she takes great pleasure in throwing both her shoe and sock overboard. Drives me crazy! We hit our low/my tipping point a few weeks back when she threw a shoe that I didn’t discover was missing until we got home. Travis went on his bike later that afternoon and retraced our steps but to no avail. I was pissed. I posted on Nextdoor, a neighborhood app, asking if by some small chance someone had seen a right toddler shoe. It must have been my lucky day because at 9pm I headed out with my flashlight to follow a tip from a neighbor and found the missing shoe. Whew. You would think I would just not put shoes on her by now. Fool me once, twice, how ever many times, but some mornings it is really cold, others I don’t want her feet getting sunburnt so I keep at it. After another few weeks of daily shoe and sock throwing and many a retraced steps I’d finally had it. On Monday morning I caught Stella in the act as she threw her favorite hot pink Nike sneaker. I took her sock away and told her the shoe was gone, we’d lost it and would never see it again. Well she burst into tears and was devastated. I tried to explain to her what had happened but she was inconsolable. Five minutes later, still sobbing, 10 minutes later this has turned into the most stressful run of my life. I finally caved and showed her the shoe, told her we’d found it, but didn’t give it back. She was still beside herself with salt stained cheeks from all the tears. I felt awful but also completely justified. Yesterday we went on a run and for the 5th day in a row with no shoe or sock removed. So either I am a complete genius and outsmarted a toddler (for now) or I have deeply traumatized my sweet little girl. Only time will tell but for now I will continue my feeling of satisfaction and smugness while she schemes up a new way to make things interesting again. It’s never really over with toddlers, but I think I earned my break this week. Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: White Turkey Chili

  • Since this recipe takes longer because of the bulgur I cooked the bulgur ahead of time to make this a quick meal. All you have to do is soak it in hot water for an hour and it is done. No boiling or pot watching required.
  • I added more zucchini and a bell pepper for color but any veggie would enhance the dish.
  • I didn’t realize our oregano bottle was nearly empty when I went to the store so instead of 2 Tbsp I had about 1 tsp. Oops. So I added chili powder instead. Different flavors than the recipe intended, but better than no flavor.
  • With dishes like this we usually pick out the big chunks of meat for Stella our carnivore and give her offerings of the rest that she completely ignores. But, she actually ate the bulgur too this time around so long as there were no beans mixed in.

Tuesday: Bangkok Coconut Curry Noodle Bowls

  • I used whole wheat noodles instead or rice noodles which are a little slipperier and don’t soak up the sauce as well but I’ve become less enamored with rice noodles recently and am taking a break. They taste like nothing which is great for soaking up a nice curry sauce, but also seem to lack any substance and leave Travis and I hungry. Not a good scene, let me tell you.
  • I opted for the saucier version and added a little water. Since it reduces for a while it was still nice and flavorful rather than watered down.
  • I cooked the veggies in a pan to brown them but added them to the sauce to finish cooking the broccoli and carrots.

Wednesday: Everything Greek Pork Pitas with Green Salad

  • We had the same oregano problem with this dish as we did earlier in the week. Like I said, oops. Instead I used an Italian Herb blend that has oregano as its first ingredient. Close enough. I used 1 ½ Tbsp instead.
  • I also added ½ cup of water so it didn’t burn to the bottom.
  • All the of the crockpot recipes I’ve done this winter have worked pretty well by cooking them on high for 4 hours instead of low for 6-8 as many recipes have called for. This one however didn’t. After 4 hours I was able to get the meat off the bone but it still needed more time to fall apart. We at it after 4 hours but the leftovers were way better.
  • I made a quick tzatziki sauce with cucumber, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and served the pork with feta stuffed in a pita pocket.

Thursday: Sesame-Ginger-Chickpea-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Green Beans

  • I cooked the sweet potatoes in a glass microwave covered dish with a Tbsp of water for 10 minutes flipping them halfway. Add a few minutes at the end if they aren’t quite done but it sure beats cooking them for an hour.
  • I used two cans of chickpeas and doubled the spices and oil. It seemed like an awful lot of garlic powder but it worked. Trust me.
  • I used a little more ginger and vinegar in the tahini sauce and skipped the garlic assuming the chickpeas had enough already. I would probably have wanted it with a bit more punch, either spice or acid.
  • I thought it was a pretty delicious combo. Stella respectfully disagrees.

Friday: Chipotle Mahi Mahi Bowls with Coconut Cilantro Lime Rice, Spicy Strawberry-Mango Salsa, and Grilled Corn

  • We didn’t include a burrito in the bowl since it had rice already, but the coconut rice was tasty and unique. I’ve never added coconut milk to rice before, but I’m a fan. We don’t do a lot of white rice since it isn’t very filling, but the full fat coconut milk helps with that and is definitely a welcome addition.
  • Our salsa had a few strawberries, some canned pineapple, cucumber and mango.
  • I didn’t include black beans, just too many things going on already so I completely forgot, but the bowls were plenty tasty without it. Lots of cilantro, feta, lime, sour cream, avocado and cilantro. What’s not to love. A very summery meal with the grilled corn.

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

Spring '07 227

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.