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.
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Week 29: Breakfast Vows

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One of our more colorful dinners from last week.

When Travis and I got married we wrote our own vows. About half of his promises to me involved food; clearly he knows me well! One of the things he promised was to make me breakfast on the weekends and so far he hasn’t broken it despite the arrival of a baby. And we are not just talking a bowl of oatmeal, weekends are for pancakes, waffles, French toast, breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros, etc. on both Saturday and Sunday. I know, high expectations, but I think his breakfast vow was fairly self-serving. It’s not like he doesn’t get to eat it too. Some chocolate chips might find their way into our pancakes every once in a while but generally “we” make both delicious and pretty healthy meals. French toast is usually with whole wheat bread, pancakes we use some or all white whole-wheat flour which is just a more palatable version of whole wheat flour, and we try to add some veggies and other goodies to our eggs. An excellent way to start the day! Being from Vermont maple syrup is a non-negotiable but starting the day with loads and loads of syrup isn’t always amazing. I’ve converted Travis and the rest of my family to eating pancakes and French toast with plain yogurt and syrup which means you don’t have to soak your food in quite as much syrup. The pumpkin pancake recipe at the end is a fall favorite of ours. I LOVE anything pumpkin and think these are delicious. We usually double them and freeze some for Stella to have for breakfast later in the week. I like to think/hope we are instilling in Stella a love and appreciation of breakfast and someday some poor sorry fool will be making her breakfast every weekend too. Sorry in advance! Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash with Green Salad

  • This is a fall classic for us and doesn’t take as long as it says if you make the filling while the squash is cooking. Towards the end of our CSA we get loads of winter squash that we store in our basement and use throughout the fall.
  • Be very careful when cutting the squash in half. I don’t have a magic trick for acorn squash but with others I cut off an end to make a flat side to help balance while cutting it in half.
  • I usually use more sausage since I like leftover filling.
  • I use canned tomatoes for the filling to help cut down on prep (and because I don’t like tomatoes).
  • Any kind of cheese you like works for the topping.

Tuesday: Smoky Ham & Split Pea Soup with Seeded Whole-Grain Quick Bread

  • You can easily leave out the potatoes in the recipe and it will be just fine.
  • I usually add more carrots, onion and celery since I love my veggies.
  • If you can’t find a smoked ham hock any old ham will due. If I get one without a bone I just dice it up and put it in the crockpot like that.
  • I was dubious of how this quick bread would turn out since it uses 100% whole wheat flour but it was so moist and delicious. The buttermilk and olive oil must contribute a lot to that. It was way quicker than the recipe says and will be a new regular for us.

Wednesday: Garlic Shrimp with Cilantro Spaghetti Squash and Green Salad

  • The spaghetti squash I got was too big to go cut-side down in a microwave safe dish so I put both halves in a microwave dish with a tiny bit of water and covered it which worked fine too. Basically it just needs to steam.
  • After I scraped the squash from its shell I put it in a colander to drain off all the excess liquid.
  • To make this meal more filling I cook a half pound of whole wheat pasta and mix it in with the spaghetti squash. That also gives us more leftovers.
  • A substitute for cooking with wine would be chicken stock or white grape juice and a splash of lemon juice.

Thursday: Calabacitas with Brown Rice

  • I usually add either a can of black beans or diced chicken to fill out the meal and serve it with rice or whole wheat tortillas and lots of garnishes.
  • I also do more squash and zucchini to substitute for the mushrooms.

Friday: Moroccan-Spiced Pork Chops with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Lemony Green Beans

  • I do this dish without the red pepper sauce mostly because I am lazy but also because everything has enough flavor that it doesn’t need it.

Bonus Recipe: Pumpkin-Oat Pancakes, From The Best of Simply Colorado Cookbook

  • These are delicious if you like pumpkin, which I do.
  • I keep powdered buttermilk on hand for baking. You can find it in the baking aisle. You just add the powder to the dry and water to the wet and use it like buttermilk.
  • This recipe is a bit too runny so we leave out the egg white and the skim

Week 28: Mamas on a Mission

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-9-28-40-pmBoth science and common sense tell us that diets don’t work. Not for the long term at least. But what has been show to work in many instances are socially supported efforts between friends or communities. Eating Well (magazine) has featured healthy weight loss and exercise challenges between friends as well as those across entire communities that have been hugely successful due to the community of support among participants. Nichelle, a mom I was lucky enough to meet through a local mom’s group, is a chiropractor, teaches a new moms’ fitness class, and just started her own business focusing on Womens’ health (Gaia Health). She also created Mamas on a Mission, a health and fitness challenge for moms. It is NOT a diet. It supports good healthy eating habits and encourages physical activity through a daily point system. I’ve been so excited to challenge myself to come up with new, healthy, well-rounded meals to add to the challenge and hopefully inspire some of the moms to try new dishes and maybe even some new foods. So starting tomorrow 24 mamas will be setting goals, taking pictures, cleaning out their pantries, meal planning and kicking butt. My most recent Eating Well (magazine) mentions new research supporting before and after pictures helping people stick to their goals, so think of that when you take your picture tomorrow and good luck!! Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Beef & Black Bean Nachos with Green Salad

  • In step 2 if you are anti-food processor for small tasks like this or don’t have a mini one, you can use a fork or potato masher with a little water and add more as you are mash the beans. Too much water at the beginning will just be a mess.
  • Watch the tortilla chips closely while they are broiling so they don’t burn!
  • I like the idea of their cheese sauce but think it is a bit too healthy. I would use a low or full fat evaporated milk and a full fat cheese. I like the concept of making a healthier queso but taking all the fat out will taste like you took all the fat out. Not very good.
  • I would also add avocado as another healthy topping.
  • I made this into a taco salad-esque meal by serving it on/with a bed of lightly dressed greens. Romaine is a typical choice but I prefer red leaf lettuce and think it works just fine too.

Tuesday: Butternut Cauliflower Coconut Curry with Cilantro-Chile Whole Wheat Couscous

  • We still have half a giant cauliflower head to use up in addition to a new one we got this week so I think you will see it again on next week’s menu.
  • I borrowed from this recipe and spiced my chickpeas before roasting them to add a little more flavor. I used 1 ½ tsp each of paprika and cumin, 1 tsp garlic powder and a pinch of salt and pepper. I also added more peas (around 1 cup).
  • I used a ton more cauliflower than the recipe called for and more squash too so I left out the potatoes. Because there was so much volume in the pot I covered it and let it steam for 15-20 minutes rather than cooking it uncovered as the recipe says.
  • I added another cup of frozen peas to the dish towards the end for more color as well as extra curry powder for flavor.
  • With the quantity of veggies I should have added a second can of garbanzo beans to even out the veggie ratio. Next time!
  • Whenever a dish calls for flour as a thickener, it is always possible to substitute white whole wheat flour instead. You won’t notice the difference.
  • I can’t say I would know what a Fresno chile looks like and since it is probably too hot for me anyway I used a jalapeno instead.

Wednesday: Grilled Chicken & Kale Salad with Tahini Lemon Dressing

  • An alternative to grilled kale would be to chop it up, dress it and “massage” it. It should shrink down and become more tender similar to cooking it.
  • If you don’t have tahini you can use any other nut butter for the dressing it will just taste different.

Thursday: Indonesian Pilaf with Greens

  • This was a kitchen sink recipe for me. I used farro instead of the pilaf they suggest but any whole grain would due.
  • I added a can of great northern beans, beets, and substituted sunflower seeds for the peanuts.
  • For some reason a meal like this feels more complete being served with or on a bed of greens or salad. But maybe it’s just me.

Friday: Sautéed Salmon with Citrus Salsa and Cilantro Quinoa with Nuts

  • If you don’t like cooking fish indoors because of the smell, grilling works just fine too.
  • Any herb and nut combo would work in the quinoa.

Week 22: Eat Local

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My less than successful garden harvest from earlier this summer. But it’s better than nothing!

On Sunday night we are going to a Colorado local foods pot-luck hosted by my friend Andy. We’ve each been asked to bring a dish that contains all local ingredients allowing for one non-local ingredient exception. This is in celebration of Slow Food Denver’s 30-day Eat Local Challenge in which they asked Coloradans to get as much of their diet from Colorado as they could. Andy accepted the challenge and ate 100% local from Monday August 29-Friday September 15. Impressive and resourceful! This of course has made me take stock of our pantry, fridge and freezer thinking about what percent of our diet is local at any given time. In the summer we get our weekly supply of fruits and vegetables from our CSA but of course always supplement with bananas for Stella and a few other odds and ends. We are lucky enough to be part of several meat CSAs that Andy organizes where we get ½ a lamb, ¼ of a pig and an 1/8 of a bison, all raised, butchered and processed in Colorado. But grains, beans, and most of our staples do not come from anywhere even close to local. And come fall and winter most of our local produce will disappear. So coming up with a multi-ingredient dish for the pot-luck was a challenge! I went to the store and was inspired to make a green salad with beets and goat cheese though there were so many veggies to choose from. Thankfully Andy has Colorado sunflower seed oil and local apple cider vinegar for the dressing along with some Colorado peach juice for a little extra flavor. Other additions to the feast that I know of include a chilled cantaloupe soup, roasted potatoes, burgers, sausage, grilled peaches with goat cheese and honey, and a lemon verbena ice cream. Yum! Although it is a huge effort to eat 100% local 100% of the time, I enjoyed the exercise of evaluating my pantry and taking stock of the choices I make while trying to think of little things I can change. Baby steps. Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Sautéed Cabbage with Bacon and Soba Noodles

  • As you can see we’ve been getting a good bit of cabbage from our CSA. We’ve gone through at least 5 heads in the last few weeks. And once you get sick of raw cabbage, it’s time to start cooking it.
  • This was a pretty simple way to use up a head of cabbage. Nothing earthshattering but still tasty. The Worcestershire sauce was key to give it a bit of salt.
  • If it is still too bland with the noodles I found adding feta was a good addition when I ate it leftover.

Tuesday: Indian Spiced Eggplant & Cauliflower with Brown Rice

  • Travis was gone a few dinners this week so there was a bit of a vegetarian theme going on. Cooking bacon is about as far as I got.
  • This dish is plenty flavorful with all of the spices but it didn’t knock my sox off. I think roasting the veggies tossed with the spices and some oil would have put this dish over the edge and added enough flavor to make it memorable.

Wednesday: Corn & Basil Cakes with Grilled Chicken and Broccoli

  • I’ve always been curious to try these corn and basil cakes and since I have more basil than I know what to do with I figured why not. They are super quick and a unique side dish. I topped them with sour cream to go with our chicken and broccoli.

Thursday: Beet & Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Lime Crema and Green Salad

  • Goat cheese and beets is one of my all time favorite combos which is why this recipe sung out to me.
  • This was another meal that was just Stella and I, hence the vegetarian theme. The ultimate irony of the summer is that every week we’ve had more greens than we knew what to do with and of course this week there were none to be found. So I made this dish without beet greens.

Friday: Hawaiian Fish Kebabs with Whole Wheat Couscous

  • We used Halibut instead of catfish but I think most white fish would work.
  • Travis grilled the fish as whole filets and I put the peppers, onion and pineapple on the kebabs.
  • I don’t love raw onions so I steamed them in the microwave for 1 minute before putting them on the skewers so they were cooked rather than just charred.
  • I also made a little extra marinade and set it aside to serve as a sauce for the fish, veggies and couscous.

Bonus: I made these Bacon Wrapped Peppers for a pot luck this weekend and they were delicious so I thought I’d share. What wrapped in bacon isn’t delicious.

Week 18: Creemees

We are flying back east on Saturday to visit my family for a week. I grew up in Vermont and make a yearly pilgrimage every August, the nicest time of year, to see friends and family. Most trips are highly food focused as there are many specialty food items that I can only get when I am home. Not surprisingly, many of them have to do with maple syrup. I LOVE maple syrup. Some of these include maple milk (it’s as amazing as it sounds), maple goat cheese (yes that exists too), Citizen Cider, Barr Hill Gin, and the list goes on. And then there are maple creemees. No, I am not so excited I added a few extra “e”s in there, that is just how it is spelled (and spell check does not like it one bit!). Maple creemees and creemees in general are a Vermont summertime tradition. After a day at the lake, a little league soccer game, or anything outside really, a creemee has been earned. What, you might ask is a creemee? It’s VT’s soft serve that traditionally comes in vanilla, chocolate or swirl but has been adapted in the last decade or so to come in (real) maple as well. Fitting for a VT treat. One thing they never tell you growing up is that creemees are an exclusively VT term, so when you talk about them outside of the bubble no one has a dang clue of what you are talking about. Good to know! But a tasty treat they are nonetheless. Since we had a puppy and a baby on the way last August and didn’t get to go home I have two summer’s worth of creemees to eat this week! Ready or not…Meal Plan & Grocery List

Monday: Lemon Chicken & Veggie Stir-Fry with Brown Rice

  • Since we are still trying to make it through the deluge of vegetables from our CSA I figured a stir-fry was a great option. I used the sauce and followed the general steps of the recipe, but used my own veggie combination.
  • After cooking the chicken I stir-fried the onion, yellow squash and red bell pepper together since they take a similar amount of time to cook. Then added some broccoli that I had pre-steamed since I find broccoli doesn’t stir-fry well otherwise.
  • I removed those veggies and added some green cabbage and mustard greens and then tossed everything back in together. If there are too many veggies in the pot they don’t really stir-fry so doing it in batches is quicker and gets things more browned.

Tuesday: Swiss Chard, Onion & Cheese Frittata and Garlic Bread

  • This is another great way to use up some veggies and make dinner in a hurry! And it is the only way I will eat eggs leftover.
  • Since we had a large bunch of chard and I wanted leftovers I used 8 eggs instead. I didn’t squeeze the liquid from the chard and all turned out well. I also completely forgot to re-oil the pan before adding the eggs but surprisingly that too turned out fine. Thank goodness for Teflon!

Wednesday: Zucchini Cakes with Lemon Sour Cream and Grilled Meatzucchini cakes

  • To give credit where credit is due, Travis made the zucchini cakes and they were delicious! We used yellow squash and doubled the recipe keeping them warm on a cookie rack, rather than a cookie sheet, in the oven so they didn’t get soggy.

 

Thursday: Red Rice Salad with Peaches & Cucumbers and a Green Salad

  • I did not bother salting the cucumbers to remove moisture since I like my cucumbers just the way they are.
  • I added a can of white beans to make this more of a meal and served it all on a bed of lettuce rather than mixing in the lettuce/arugula since I find it to be better leftover without soggy lettuce.

Friday: Sausage & Kale Sauté with Polenta

  • We needed a super quick dinner one night and this fit the bill. Quick and flavorful.
  • I forgot to get pre-cooked polenta at the store so instead made grits which only take 5 minutes and worked well with the dish.

No post next week as we will be enjoying our summer vacation!!