Week 55: 10 Years of Adulting

Travis&me

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.
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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 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 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.