Monday, December 15, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of December 15

Last Week

Soaked cashews.
My friend Heather is dairy-free and so when I saw a few recipes to make "cheese" using nuts, I sent her the link.  And then I totally became interested in trying it myself.  They had good reviews so I would make a couple.  So I picked up cashews and almonds to give it a shot.  I've got cashews soaking in water overnight to make the first recipe, pepper-crusted cashew goat cheese.
Processing the  soaked cashews with lemon juice, salt, oil,
and a touch of peanut butter (I'm out of tahini).

This is the year of booze for me.  

On Saturday at Core Fusion class our talk was of Christmas cookies and someone mentioned rum balls.  I've never tried them before (that I know of), so after class i looked them up.  Then we went out to run errands and I picked up the ingredients that I needed to make them (Nilla wafers and spiced rum).   Sonny D and I mixed up the "batter" tonight and it needs to rest for a few days to fully saturate. I had to taste it right away to see how it progresses, I can see how they will be really good.  On Tuesday we'll scoop them up into balls and roll them in something to finish them off.  Right now I'm leaning towards chocolate sprinkles, but we might also try a blend of cocoa powder and sugar.  Or maybe just powdered sugar for a "snowball" look.

So these plus the brandy-soaked cherries still hanging out in my pantry, the jalapeno-infused tequila, spearmint vodka, and chocolate-mint vodka makes this year very liquor/booze-filled.  
Making rum balls.  Tasty!

I'm still working out most days of the week.  I lift weights on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; Zumba on Tuesday; elliptical workout at home on Thursday, and Core Fusion on Saturday morning.  The only day I don't work out is Sunday.
Flexing at the top of the chin-up/dip machine. 

On Sunday my friend Heather and I went to a gluten-free (and dairy-free) holiday baking class at Willy St Co-op. Everything we had was so good!  We were both impressed.  And it wasn't just "good for gluten-free", they were good desserts without any qualifiers.  My favorite part might have been the sweet potato frosting on a cupcake or the peppermint chocolate truffles. 
Heather with her apple cupcake, a peppermint chocolate truffle, and granola balls.

This Week

  • Monday - baked potato soup with salads.  The soup is going to have hidden cauliflower pureed in it for creaminess. 
  • Tuesday - leftover baked potato soup with salads then Zumba
  • Wednesday - dinner at Graze with one of Husband Jeff's colleagues and his wife
  • Thursday - going to our friends' house and I'm bringing a slow cooker dinner, sage & onion chicken with cranberry rice. 
  • Friday - going out to dinner with our Breakfast Club at Short Stack, a breakfast place that is only open on the weekends.
  • Saturday - I've got Core Fusion class in the morning, maybe we'll go to the Kids in the Rotunda performance to see a drumming group.  In the evening we're going to a friend's holiday open house.  For dinner we'll have BBQ pork sandwiches with a veggie
  • Sunday - enchilada skillet with homemade black beans.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of December 8

Last Week

Last week's menu was changed almost as soon as I came up with it, so that's why I didn't blog about it. so here's a rundown of things that have happened recently. 

I'm loving Swad Indian restaurant.  We went to their buffet last Saturday and I totally loved it.  I'm trying to see if we can go again this week and have recommended it a few times.  A coworker says her family goes pretty much every weekend since they live nearby. 

I'm glad I tried O'Keefe's Working Hands hand cream.  I saw it promoted at Bed, Bath & Beyond and they almost talked me into getting it but I've already got three lotions on my nightstand.  Then I went home and looked it up and saw the 2,000+ positive reviews on Amazon and realized it was a good product to try. I've tried tons of hand lotions for my dry hands and this one is great.  We both put it on every night. 

I got obsessed with trying fruitcake and found Clasen's European Bakery in town that makes them.  I had Husband Jeff pick up a 1 pound loaf and I found that I really like it.  I was a bit disappointed to see that they use neon candied fruit in it, but it's still tasty.

At taste training last week we learned about herbs and spices -- black pepper, garlic, fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage, etc.

We went out for a Breakfast Club "meeting" at the Mermaid Cafe and we all got great breakfast sandwiches.  Their mermaid tail logo is really cute, I would love one of their mugs. 

My Japanese fried Chie and I went shopping at Viet Hoa Asian market.  She lives on the same side of town but has never been there.  She found loads of great things and we spent over 1.5 hours chatting about products.  I'm glad I showed it to her.  She said she has gone all the way to Chicago to get some of the ingredients we were finding right here.

This Week

  • Monday -  completely homemade black bean soup.  I made the stock this morning from leftover pork bones and veggies, started with dried beans, and put it all together in the slow cooker.  I made rice in the rice cooker and picked up some "take and bake" bread (you're not really baking it, you're just heating it up) to go with it.
  • Tuesday - leftover black bean soup.  We're going to watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer since Sonny D loves the song. 
  • Wednesday - Grandma & Grandpa are going to pick up Sonny D from preschool but then we're going to have dinner together.  I'd like to have dinner at the Indian place Swad, but I am open to other options. 
  • Thursday - I work in the afternoon so I figuring a slow cooker meal would be good.  I picked out Moroccan chicken tagine that my friend Heather and I prepped a few weeks ago. 
  • Friday - I work most of the day and figured an easy dinner would be good, so we're having Italian sausage, gnocchi, and a can of tomatoes, corn, and okra.  Then we're going out for family fun night at the local rec center. 
  • Saturday - I've got Core Fusion in the morning but we don't really have any other plans for the day other than my step-brother and his wife taking Sonny D out somewhere fun for his birthday present and out to dinner.  Maybe Husband Jeff and I will go out to dinner or stay home and relax in the quiet. 
  • Sunday - My friend Heather and I are going to a gluten-free baking class at the co-op in the afternoon and for dinner I'm going to make baked potato soup.

Wanna Chat?

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

What's Cooking In My Kitchen

Here's an update on some of the things I've been cooking lately. 

The neighbors gave us some apples so I made baked apple doughnuts and cooked down the apple peels and cores to make apple-cinnamon pancake syrup. I gave both items back to them as gifts.  

The baked apple doughnuts turned out so great that I made them again a few days later for my nephews. One of them said it was be best doughnuts he had ever eaten. Nice!

Sonny D and I made crispy sweet potato chips in the microwave. He took the leftovers to lunch the next day, a nice way to trick him into eating veggies. 

Great idea from my friend Heather, roast a butternut squash whole in the oven. No peeling, no cutting, just toss it in there for an hour at 350 degrees. Came out so great without all the dangerous cutting and peeling. It was a bit too soft, so next time I'd do it a little less. 

Next up was a Pinterest pin that I actually made (as opposed to all those other the things I pin and then never go back to), gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) sauce on pasta. I used a little less of the hot pepper sauce to ensure it wouldn't be too spicy for Sonny D. He liked it. I ate the leftovers with sriracha to get it nice and spicy. 

Made my first dish that my friend Heather and I prepped for frozen slow cooker meals. This is creamy Italian chicken and tomato soup. We modified it a bit, I added 2 cans of cannellini beans and it could use even more tomatoes and less chicken. 

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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  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?

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!