Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pumped! My Weight Lifting Workout

I've had some people ask questions about the weight lifting routine I've been doing so I wanted to write a post about it.  I've been weight lifting several days per week since I quit my full-time job in September. Right after I was done with my job, I signed up for the annual membership to the gym at the local rec center right near our house. For about a month I was exercising pretty much every single day but Sundays -- weight lifting (every weekday but Tuesday), Zumba on Tuesdays, and Core Fusion on Saturdays. But when we got a dog it changed things. He has to be locked in his crate if we're not home because he'll chew everything up, and I already lock him up in the crate on Thursday afternoons when I go to work, so I felt bad also locking him up in the morning so I could go workout. On Fridays I work most of the day so Zipper goes to hang out with grandpa so I adjusted my workout so I do both the Thursday and Friday exercises on Friday afternoon before picking up Zipper and then Sonny D.

The Nitty Gritty

My weight lifting plan is the female workout program on SimplyShredded.com.  I had to modify it because my gym doesn't have barbells, so I do everything on a machine or with dumbbells.  I set up the workout on the Gain Fitness app on my iPhone, so when I complete an exercise it tells me what the next one is and it does it all as a circuit, repeating each day's set of exercises three times.  I had to modify some of the exercises because I didn't have the same exact exercise names in my app.  Eh, close enough.

I start with a warmup of 7 minutes on the elliptical on the cross-coutry setting and the 5-minute "cool down".  Then I head over to the equipment to focus on whatever set of body parts I'm working for the day. I don't care for the squats or deadlifts, but I like the leg presses and the dumbbell shrugs (I've got super-powerful shoulders!).  The whole time at the gym takes me about 45 minutes. 

How Is It Going?

I'm supposed to be increasing the amount of weight and reducing the number of repetitions to gain more muscle, but since I'm still getting into this and I haven't been able to work out all the times per week as indicated, I'm still in the initial stage of doing 8-12 reps of each exercise.  I've been increasing the weight as I become more comfortable, so I'm generally doing what they recommend, but not quite.  My only disappointment is that my gym doesn't seem to have 12-pound dumbbells, so if I want to go over the 10 pounds I'm currently lifting for some of the exercises, I'll have to jump up to 15 pounds.  I don't know if I'm currently strong enough for that.

I'm definitely building muscle in my shoulders but I don't really feel like any other parts of my body are particularly different.  I probably still need to increase the amounts on some exercises but I like to make sure that I'm not rushing things and doing the exercise with proper form and technique.   Someday soon I might actually get enough guts to advance to the next stage where you increase the amount of weight so much that you can only do 6-8 repetitions.  But I still have days where it's the same exercise I've always done, but it's still quite hard.  It's a journey. 

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of November 24

Last Week

On Monday I went to Sonny D's preschool to read a book and share a treat with his room. After I dropped him off for the morning I hurriedly made apple oatmeal raisin cookies, they turned out great. Unfortunately the whole thing didn't go well for him, he cried. I think it totally throws him off any time I'm at school other than pick-up and drop-off times.

On Tuesday I took Zipper dog to the vet for a follow-up visit.  No more tapeworm, intestinal parasite, or fleas, so that's good.

On Wednesday Husband Jeff rode the Amtrak train up to Minneapolis to work from his company's headquarters up there.  He stayed with his brother and family, they live only a few minutes from the office. 

On Thursday I took Sonny D to his four-year pediatrician visit.  I knew he was going to get one shot (flu shot), so we had been talking about it beforehand so it wasn't a surprise.  It ended up that they gave him two shots so he's completely ready for kindergarten (which is two years away!) and a flu mist up each nostril.  Not a good time.  I had planned we would go out to lunch at Noodles & Co afterwards, but he wasn't in a good mood so I dropped him off with grandpa and went home and ate lunch by myself.  Nice and quiet.

Last week at my taste training we smelled and tasted pig's feet to understand the "barnyard" scent/flavor.  Surprisingly it wasn't bad at all, just really rich and fatty.   We also had Spam to get familiar with "piggy" scent/flavor.  I grew up eating Spam occasionally but haven't had it in a while.  It was interesting to be reminded that Spam isn't bad, but it isn't very good either.  We also tried low-quality lunch meat, yuck. 

On Saturday Sonny D and I drove up to Minneapolis to meet up with Husband Jeff.  Sonny D got to hang out with his cousins, they had a great time.  We ended up cutting our trip short by a day.   We were supposed to drive back down on Monday, but they were forecasting a lot of snow, so we all came back on Sunday.  All that time in the car made my lower back sore. 

This Week

  • Monday - cheesy gochujang (Korean pepper paste) spaghetti with chickpeas and roasted butternut squash with feta cheese.
  • Tuesday - no dinner planned because I've got Zumba class. Typically Grandma & Grandpa pick up Sonny D, but Grandma has a cold so they might skip it this week.  Don't know what we'll eat for dinner if Sonny D is here.  I'll probably suggest fried egg and cheese sandwiches since it's a set of ingredients we actually have in the house. 
  • Wednesday - My friend Renae's birthday!  Happy birthday, Ren!  Dinner is Italian chicken and tomato soup made in the slow cooker (a frozen meal my friend Heather and I put together) and maybe bagels.  Hopefully also hanging out with our friends Jim & Isabelle, they live in Seattle and are coming here to visit his family for Thanksgiving.
  • Thursday - Thanksgiving on Husband Jeff's side at Aunt Nancy's house.  It appears that we're not on the hook to bring anything, so we'll just sit back and coast.  I don't have a dinner planned so hopefully we're full enough from lunch that we don't really need much to eat later or that we bring leftovers home with us. 
  • Friday - Since Sonny D doesn't have school because of the holiday and I don't work this week, I'm hoping we can go grocery shopping during the day.  Not the most exciting thing for him, but I love grocery shopping.  Dinner is chicken and shrimp paella.
  • Saturday - Core Fusion class in the morning.  I'd love to go downtown and maybe see a kids' performance and then out to lunch, but maybe just out to lunch.  Dinner is Hungarian potato soup.
  • Sunday - We're getting together on Sunday morning to have Thanksgiving lunch at my mom's house.  Mom and I are completely un-traditional when we plan our holidays, this time we're having a taco bar! Once again, I hope we're really full from lunch so we don't need a real dinner.  My only thought was leftovers. 

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of November 17

Past Weeks


I've been too lazy to sit down at the computer and write up our menu plan, but don't worry, we have have still been eating.  :)  I've found it's hard to sit at the computer when I'm off doing other things around the house.  A lot of it is hanging out with our new dog Zipper.  We spend a lot of time gated into the kitchen to ensure there aren't any accidents or eating things he shouldn't.  I'm working on figuring out his potty schedule so I'm not taking him out every two hours, but we're still having accidents.   
Zipper modeling the latest winter jacket.

I've been continuing my taste training for work.  The lowest point has been the day we tasted liver, the highest day is any day we have bacon (has happened a couple times).  The whole thing is all about experiencing things, so it's neat to sit down and taste and smell things like "brown spice" (spices like cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg) or "sweet brown" (sweeteners like brown sugar, molasses, agave, honey, etc.)  And we're all doing better at narrowing our estimates of intensity of the basic tastes, which means we're getting closer answers in the same range.
My setup at the tasting panel.
I've also been doing weight lifting several times per week.  I was supposed to advance to the next level, which is all the same exercises but with a heavier weight where you can't do as many repetitions, but I've stuck with the same workout for a while since I'm still trying to figure out what my maximums are.  Plus I don't get to do my four days at the gym since I feel bad putting Zipper in his crate two times in one day (once for the gym and once for work that I've got work) so I skip it on Thursdays. 
My dinner last week had a head. And eyeballs, teeth, fins, etc. Whole fried tilapia Veracruz.

Sonny D's fourth birthday is on Monday and we've been celebrating all weekend.  This past Saturday we went to play time at a gymnastics place with some of his little friends and we all had a great time.  Several kids didn't want to leave, but that's understandable when you're having so much fun.  And on Sunday morning we went to JC Penney's for his birthday photos and hit McDonald's afterwards for a chocolate shake.  Then had a family birthday dinner on Sunday evening.  It has been several days straight of pizza and we're sick of it. 
Sonny D's birthday, construction dress-up clothes so he can be just like Daddy.

This Week

Our freezers are so full! I'm trying to plan that our dinners will come from the freezer, but I don't think we'll end up eating much of it because of other plans.  
  • Monday - Sonny D's birthday!  In the morning I'm going to visit his preschool and read a book and bring treats.  Dinner is tacos.   
  • Tuesday - Our little dog Zipper has a follow-up vet visit to ensure he's doing good after coming to us with fleas, tapeworm, and an intestinal parasite. He also needs his final distemper shot so he's all caught up on immunizations.  I wasn't planning dinner since Grandma & Grandpa pick him up and I've got Zumba class, but that might change.
  • Wednesday -  Husband Jeff is riding the train up to Minneapolis to visit his office up there so we'll be on our own for dinner of swai fish and broccoli bites.
  • Thursday - Sonny D has his four-year checkup visit at the pediatrician, he'll be getting a flu shot, so it's not going to be the most fun day of  newly-being 4.  Maybe we'll go out to lunch together afterwards.  I've got taste training in the afternoon.  We'll have home-frozen waffles and pancakes and chamchi kimbop (tuna Korean sushi rolls)
  • Friday - My big taste training day of 5 hours.  We'll have a quick dinner of meatballs or hot dogs along with gnocchi or wontons and then find something to do for Me & D night.
  • Saturday & Sunday - We're hanging out all weekend with Jeff's brother's family so we tend to go with the flow of whatever ends up happening. 

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of October 27

Last Week

Last week I went to Sujeo, a new pan-Asian restaurant.  Us three gals shared a hot pot, which is a big bowl of soup that cooks at your table.  So good.  We also had a variety of banchan, which are little Korean side dishes.  My favorite was some sort of seaweed/seaside plant that was marinated to taste like meat, so interesting. 

Sonny D got a very thorough haircut at the salon, she did a really good job.  And we went to a surprise birthday party for a friend, it was nice to make the moment special for him and sweet that his wife wanted to surprise him.  

On Saturday Sonny D and I drove two hours to the Dubuque area to hang out with my friend Renae.  We shopped at the farmers' market to buy vegetables to roast for dinner.  Then went to her house and made our plan of attack.  We cleaned out her fridge and roasted whatever she had hanging out too long in the crisper drawer.  I showed her how to make vegetable stock in the pressure cooker, rescued dinner by finishing the rice in the pressure cooker (rice cooker seemed to malfunction), and tried my hand at poaching eggs to go on top of our roasted dinner.  We also cleaned out and reorganized her closet, which I had a lot of fun doing.  

On Thursday and Friday I started training for my new job as a taste tester.  There were eight of us there this past week but one guy was missing because he was officiating a wedding.  The training is really neat, we are tasting the reference flavors like sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami to become familiar with them.  They come in different intensities ranging from nothing (0) all the way to the maximum (15).   In addition to picking out the flavors, we'll learn to quantify their intensity levels (a sour 2 versus a sour 12).  We also tasted examples of things like acidity and heat/burn.  I also had a lot of fun checking out the company store, one of the other taste panelists and I explored what was available -- from lunch meat to snack nuts, to drink mixes and cheese.  I bought an assortment of items including peanut butter, our favorite hot sauce, and lunch meat.  

I'm still showing up at the gym for my weight lifting workout four times per week.  In some ways I feel really weak with my 5 pound bicep curl, but also really proud that I have increased the amount of weight for my leg presses and shoulder shrugs.  

We also got a new member of the family this weekend, Zipper the dog.  We're still trying to determine if Zipper is actually house-trained since we discovered a couple accidents the first day, but they're also kind of a mystery since we don't know when they happened.
Our new doggie, Zipper.

This Week 

  • Monday - Kung Pao shrimp with green beans and rice
  • Tuesday - I forgot that grandma and grandpa are picking up Sonny D so on the menu I had a bag of frozen gnocchi and hot dogs, but I cant really think of anything better for just Jeff and I.  It'll likely be that we eat whatever on our own.  I've got Zumba class so I really don't eat much dinner on those nights since I don't want to be sick in the middle of class after all that jumping around.  I'll probably have a hard-boiled egg and a piece of peanut butter toast.  
  • Wednesday - tuna kim bop and breakfast stuff (probably pancakes).  Kim bop is the Korean version of sushi, last week my friend mentioned making it with canned tuna and I thought that might be something Sonny D might like.  
  • Thursday - Today is Sonny D's Halloween celebration at preschool and I'd love to see if I could make it there to help out but it's also my second week of work and the two times are pretty close to each other so I might have to skip the event and just go to training.  For dinner I planned tacos but I haven't actually figured out if we have all of the proper ingredients, but I'm sure we'll make it happen with whatever we've got in the kitchen.
  • Friday - Halloween and Sonny D's preschool has an inservice so he doesn't have school.  With me not working full time anymore we figured things like this would be easy to handle, but I have to go to work so Husband Jeff is taking the day off to watch Sonny D (and Zipper!).  Sonny D is going trick-or-treating with the family down the street and I need to have something yummy for dinner so he will actually eat it.  I was thinking either broiled marinated fish or Shanghai fish stew.  
  • Saturday - Core Fusion in the morning, maybe a visit to Costco in the mid-day, then a small potluck dinner with friends that are in town and a few other people.  I think I'm going to have hummus and crackers make creamy tomato-basil soup.
  • Sunday - the Northside farmers' market moves inside and I'm excited to see how it will be.  We'd really love it if the eggroll people came back since that was Sonny D's favorite thing at the market. In the afternoon I'm going to a friend's baby shower and so for dinner I figured I would go super-simple and reheat some 15-bean soup I stashed in the freezer. 

Wanna Chat?

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Makin' It At Home: Citrusy Kale-Quinoa Salad

This dish was inspired by a salad that my friend Chuck picked up at the deli for a party at his house.  I ended up eating a large portion of the salad (um, most of the container) and was determined to make my own since I enjoyed it so much.  At the party I snapped a photo of the ingredients list on the package so I could copy it, but of course now I can't find that photo.  Whatever, no biggie.  It was tasty, that's what really matters.  I love the crunchy nuts, the puckery citrus dressing, the earthy quinoa, the sweet fruit, savory onions, and tangy feta.  It all comes together in a great salad.

When I got home I did some searching online and found this recipe from The Kitchn that seemed really close, so I copied it and modified it to match the salad we had. So this recipe is for Chuck because he likes the salad too, and wouldn't it be nice to make it at home for less money?  Plus it's a flexible recipe, using what you might have on hand. 

This recipe comes together in four separate parts -- the onion, the quinoa, the kale & other stuff, plus the dressing. I made this two times, the first time I had walnuts and feta, the second time the feta was all gone so I added some additional lemon juice. Feel free to make it that way if you want a dairy-free/vegan version. 

Inspiration

The Kitchn kale quinoa salad with citrus dressing

Ingredients

Onion

  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
In a medium skillet saute the onion for 20 minutes on medium heat.
beautiful caramelized onions.

Quinoa

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried lemon peel (totally optional, I only added it because I had it)
In a small pot bring all of the ingredients to a boil, turn the head down to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Once 15 minutes is up, turn the heat off and let it sit 5 minutes to finish absorbing the liquid.
quinoa on to boil.

Kale & other stuff 

  • 1 bunch kale, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (I used raisins because that's what I had, but the original dish had craisins)
  • 1/2 cup nuts, chopped and toasted in dry skillet (I used walnuts the first time and sliced almonds the second)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta (optional if you want it vegan/dairy-free, but then add another 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice for tanginess)
To prep the kale, remove the leaves from the stems and toss the stems if they're really tough. Then roll the leaves up the long way and cut them into fine ribbons.
Final salad with the walnuts and feta. 

Dressing

  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper
In a large bowl mix the first three ingredients together and taste for salt & pepper. Then as the rest of the ingredients are ready, add them to the bowl as well. 
Final salad with sliced almonds and no feta.

Verdict 

I preferred the version with feta, but the version without it was fine too.

Wanna Chat?

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Southwestern Quinoa and Black Bean Soup

Another requested recipe from my birthday party on Saturday was my Southwestern quinoa and  black bean soup.  I used a few online recipes as inspiration, but the final result wasn't really based on any one particular source, so this recipe is what I wrote down as my final dish in my new recipe notebook.  The notebook is a nice way to keep all of my recipes together rather than the scraps of paper in the junk drawer in our kitchen. I can't believe it took me this long to realize I should write down all of my recipes in a notebook to keep them all together. 

This soup is similar to chili, so you might want to serve it with traditional chili accompaniments like saltine crackers, cornbread, cheese, etc. 

Southwestern soup

Ingredients

  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 42 oz water or tomato juice
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 14 oz petite diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, diced and sauteed
  • 1/2 each red, yellow, and orange bell peppers 
  • 2 cups black beans (or a 14oz can)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  •  1/2 cup quinoa

Directions

Put all of the ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tae's Peas and Potatoes

At the party on Saturday, our friend Tae brought an awesome dish in the slow cooker, peas and potatoes.  She says, "It's my bastardized version of methi matar malai.  I find that it tastes better the longer it cooks, which is why the crock pot method is so nice."  It seemed like everyone at the party asked who made it and if they could have the recipe.  I also wanted to share it with everyone who reads my blog because I figure most people could stand to have more awesome and effortless slow cooker recipes. It's dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegetarian. 

From my research, the name "methi matar malai" translates to "fenugreek peas cream" and is a Punjabi north Indian recipe.  Here's Tae's recipe!

Ingredients

  • Large potatoes - 2, cut into chunks
  • Frozen Peas – 16 oz (1/2 kg)
  • Coconut milk – 1 14oz can (don’t use lite, use the full fat stuff)
  • Tomato – 1 can diced 14oz
  • Salt – to taste
  • Oil – 1 Tbsp
  • Ginger – 1 Tbsp, minced
  • Onion – 1 medium, chopped
  • Cumin powder 1 tsp
  • Turmeric Powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
  • Garam Masala – 1 tsp
  • Red Chili Powder – 1 tsp
  • Optional: Add fresh cilantro on top before serving
  • **Optional: add chicken

Crock Pot Method

Put the oil in the bottom of the crock pot. Add the onions, potatoes, peas, and tomatoes. Throw
in all the spices and add the coconut milk. Set on low for 8 hours. Serve over rice.

Stovetop Method

  1. Heat Oil in a medium pan on medium heat.
  2. Add onions and cook until a light golden color
  3. Add ginger and cook for 2 minutes
  4. Add all spices, potatoes, and tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes
  5. Add peas and coconut milk and simmer for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are cooked all the way through.
  6. Serve over rice. 
********
From my research, this dish can also have spinach in it to replace the fresh methi (fenugreek) leaves.   I would also add garlic, because I think it pretty much belongs in every savory dish.  And since I can't leave well enough alone, I would probably see if it would be good with a can of chickpeas mixed in, cauliflower florets, or maybe some cubed tofu.  I would also love to add some sliced mushrooms, but that's not going to happen with my family! 

I love Indian food and this inspires me to want to make some. Thanks for the recipe, Tae!

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!