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. 

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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. 

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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. 


The Kitchn kale quinoa salad with citrus dressing



  • 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.


  • 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. 


  • 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.


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

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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


  • 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


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

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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!


  • 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!

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of October 13

Last Week 

Last week was really quiet, I didn't have much for planned activities but I was preparing and cooking for my Crocktoberfest birthday party on Saturday.  A huge "thank you" to everyone who came over to celebrate. We had 25 adults and 17 children in our house.  It was crazy-busy but definitely fun.  Husband Jeff and I spend so much time playing the hosts that we don't ever get to spend much time actually catching up with our friends. I think we need to have follow-up hanging out sessions with everyone so we can actually talk to them!  I didn't take a single picture during the party, but here's picture of the tag on the bottle of wine some friends gave me.  So very sweet. 
Happy birthday to me!

This Week

This week will be even quieter than last week since I don't have any upcoming deadlines or anything planned.
  • Monday -This is my actual birthday and I'm taking the whole day off to go to Ikea with my mom.  I don't know if I'll be home to make dinner, but I planned that we'll have cheesy polenta with roasted veggies (roasted on Sunday afternoon) and frozen meatballs. Easy for Husband Jeff to throw together without me and have ready. 
  • Tuesday - I'm going to watch a friend's baby for a bit in the morning and then I've got Zumba class at night.  For dinner we'll have spinach-basil pesto pasta, steam-in-the-bag corn, and chile-lime chicken burgers from Trader Joe's.  
  • Wednesday - We'll eat veggie fried rice, Hmong egg rolls made by people at our friend's church, and frozen Trader Joe's pork buns.
  • Thursday - I'm going out for a duo birthday night with my friend Heather since her birthday is next week.  We're going to the Green Owl Cafe for dinner and then to the chocolate tasting at Gail Ambrosius.  Yep, this will be my third time at the chocolate tasting, but it's so delicious!
  • Friday - We're going out for dinner with Jeff's parents for another duo birthday event because Jeff's dad's birthday was Tuesday.  No idea where we're going, but I want to suggest either Roman Candle for pizza or Dobhan for awesome Indian/Moroccan-inspired cuisine.
  • Saturday - I've got Core Fusion class in the morning and then either to the apple orchard or out to Costco with a friend.  We don't have a Costco membership but these friends have talked about it so much and invited me to join them, that I decided to take them up on it.  We haven't planned which day we're going this weekend, but we'll do Costco one day and the apple orchard the other.  For dinner we'll have something easy, like packaged soup and sandwiches
  • Sunday - I wanted breakfast for dinner with pancakes, banana bites (like a muffin with banana chunks), and chicken breakfast sausage

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Friday, October 10, 2014

How I Spend My Days

My last day as a web designer was September 23rd and my new job hasn't started yet.  You might be wondering what I've been doing since I haven't been working. Here's an assortment of photos that will show you how I've kept busy.  I start most days with a weight lifting workout at the community center and then do random chores/errands for the rest of the day.  Last week's focus was getting the dining room painted and redecorated.  This week has been lots of preparing and cooking for my party on Saturday.   I actually end up with not a lot of time to be online. 

Previous incarnation of the dining room.  Two colors, no coordination, no banquette.
What the dining room looks like now. Walls are a pretty teal-grey color.

Walking out of the community center after a workout last week.

Monday's workout.  I like that shirt a lot, it's really lightweight.
Cutting out the letters for my party banner.  Had them printed at Kinko's, super convenient.

Making sugared nuts for the party. It's only sugar, water, nuts and cinnamon.

Planning the layout of the party banner on the kitchen floor.  It's a slow cooker/Crockpot themed party.
Post-workout shot from this morning. I do them surreptitiously so the old folks don't think I'm a weirdo.

Making vegan caramel sauce this afternoon using coconut milk. The secret ingredient is lemon juice.

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) It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!