Monday, February 23, 2015

Menu Plan: Week of February 23

Last Week

I cleaned the oven. Um, I have to admit, I don't think I've ever cleaned my oven in the 10 years we've lived here. I tried a method I found online - put ammonia and boiling water in the oven and let it sit for several hours.  I don't know if it really did anything because it didn't seem any easier to clean, but it looks much better!
My friend Heather and I made lunch together on Monday.  I made us cran-walnut balls for dessert, they turned out great!  I love the tart-sweetness of the cranberries along with the bitterness of the walnuts.  
cran-walnut balls. 
I made potato and veggie curry chowder for dinner on Monday and it turned out great.  With the Indian dishes Heather and I made for lunch and this curry chowder for dinner, our house smelled like Indian food until Thursday. 
potato curry chowder
Sauteed banana for porridge, it really improved the flavor but made it stringy.
pressure cooker pesto risotto with Italian chicken sausage

Morning porridge - the lentils with red rice wasn't that great, too earthy and savory.

This Week

  • Monday - tacos with corn and black beans.  I'm going to make the black beans from scratch in the pressure cooker.  The corn will be home-frozen from this summer. 
  • Tuesday - no dinner because Sonny D is hanging out with grandma and grandpa and Husband Jeff and I are going to Zumba.  
  • Wednesday - pan-fried fish with Sonny D's requested red pepper and tomato soup.
  • Thursday - chicken pesto lasagna 
  • Friday - I bought a Groupon deal for Buck's Pizza, so we're going to over to our friend Chuck's house to eat pizza with him and our other friend Buddha.  
  • Saturday - Core Fusion in the morning and later my friend Renae is coming to visit for the day with her friends.  No plans figured out yet, but I'm sure we'll have fun.  I'm planning Sonny D and Husband Jeff will have hot dogs for dinner if I'm away. 
  • Sunday - the Northside farmers' market is going on in the morning.  We'll have coconut chicken curry soup made in the pressure cooker, this is the last prepped dish I've got in the freezer.    

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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Putting Stuff Where It Belongs: Making Drawer Organizers

This post is for my best friend Kate. We were talking about organizing yesterday and it inspired me to figure out a solution for the drawer in my bedside table.  It's been a really minor annoyance and I never really cared enough to put forth more effort than looking for a little tray at the dollar store. 

Husband Jeff built us an awesome pair of bedside tables.  In my top drawer I've got the usual stuff like hand lotion, lip balm, pen to write in my journal, earplugs, and headphones for when watch movies in bed on the iPad. It's enough stuff where you want to keep it a little corralled, so my initial solution was to grab a fancy little spiral dish from my collection of serving ware. It worked fine, but the stuff rattled around when you opened the drawer and it was annoying.  And really loud in the middle of the night. The worst item is the little glass bottle sitting next to my purple lip balm, glass rattling on glass is really bothersome.   Yes, I could have removed it and easily solved that problem, but ya never know when you might need cuticle oil!
Before: drawer setup is only ok.  Blah.
My solution idea came from Pinterest, people use the bottom of boxes they would normally toss in the recycling and cut them down to be the right height and tuck them in the drawer. Here's an example from I Heart Organizing, DIY Cereal Box Drawer Dividers.
http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.com/2013/01/diy-cereal-box-drawer-dividers.html


My resources from the recycling bin.
I rescued this morning's cereal box and two sparkling water boxes from the recycling bin.  I measured the height of the drawer (2.75 inches) and made my cut mark at 2.5 inches.  

I loved noticing the "please recycle" statement on the sparkling water packaging while I was measuring for the cut line.  I'm definitely recycling/reusing, they're going on to live more useful lives in my bedroom. 
"Please Recycle".  Is reusing better?
Cut, cut, cut.  I only ended up needing two of the three boxes.
Cut down to the right size.
Then I removed everything from the drawer and reorganized. Love it!
After: better organization!
And the best part is that it doesn't rattle around!  I could get fancy and cover them with Contact paper or wrapping paper, but I am terrible at wrapping gifts and my crafts don't really turn out either, so these might just look better plain than with my decorating. 

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Menu Plan: Week of February 16

I am still in love with Indian food. I've got more cookbooks from from the library, my favorite one right now is called "5 Spices, 50 Dishes". It uses only five main spices and the recipes seem easier than the dishes that use about 10 spices.  I went to the Indian market on Sunday and spent the last of my money to buy more ingredients like mustard seeds, asafetida, and moong dal (yellow mung beans).

I didn't pass my acuity exam for Oscar Mayer taste testing, so now I'm all done working there.  I ended up coming down with a cold the day before the big exam, so I couldn't smell anything. The only good part about not getting it is the job was mainly tasting expired meat, which doesn't sound great. And I was hoping that this job was going to be able to get me another job related to food, but it seems like it was pretty much a dead-end position.  Oh well, it was a neat experience. Do you know of any food related jobs in the Madison area? I'm not looking for food service but just about anything else would be awesome.

I was happy that Sunny D was actually pretty cool with eating stuffed lamb burgers, he ate most of his. Right now I've got a book from the library about how to encourage children to try new foods and so maybe will do more experimenting with that it helps to broaden his horizons.

Last week I made one of our freezer slow cooker dishes, this one was peas and greens. The mustard greens were really pungent and it and we didn't like it very much. I finished off all of the leftovers anyway, it wasn't so terrible that I couldn't eat it but I certainly wouldn't make it again.

On Friday we had fun at family fun night at the local community center, lots of Sunny D's friends showed up so it ended up being pretty wild, kids running around everywhere.

For Valentine's Day we ended up not having a dinner picnic because we realize the dog would try to eat all of our food. I got Jeff a T-shirt for the local Ale Asylum brewery and he got me a gorgeous watch. During the day on Saturday, Sunny D and I went to Half-Price Books bookstore and picked him up five Maisy books for his valentine's present.  He's really into Maisy mouse right now and likes to point out all of the ones that he wants, which is all of them. 

Monday - my friend Heather came over for lunch because she lives nearby and had the day off for Presidents' Day. We made Indian food together, a mushroom and peas curry and a homey rice-and-lentil dish called kichri. We also opened a jar of tomato pickle, it is really pungent, very similar to a green olive paste. We also tried some chickpea snacks, they looked like Fritos but were a little spicy.

For dinner will have a curried potato chowder because I thought the concept sounded neat. I also plan to make rice with it and Parmesan cauliflower tots.

Tuesday - I'm going to spend the day visiting my friend Kate. Grandma and grandpa will pick up Sunny D.  Jeff has a meeting at night and might be done in time to join me for Zumba again. We didn't go last week because I was sick, but he liked it when he went the first time and he said he might keep going with me even after the month is over.

Wednesday - We're going out because a local pizza place is having a fundraising night where 10% of their sales will go towards the Humane Society. Husband Jeff doesn't hardly need a reason to get pizza so it was easy to talk my family into this idea.

Thursday - I think we're finally going to have the dish of shrimp and white beans and feta. Jeff pointed out we have a lot of carrots in the fridge so I'm going to roast them. And I want to try out a recipe for a gluten-free focaccia made out of flax seed meal.

Friday - Sunny D and Zipper dog are going to have a sleepover at grandma and grandpa's while Jeff and I go out dancing with friends. We might go out for dinner beforehand, we came up with a lot of possible restaurants to eat at so it would be pretty easy to find a place that we would like to go to.

Saturday - Husband Jeff is going ice fishing with friends, and I think Sunny D and I are going to go to the international festival downtown. I haven't been to it to know what it's like but it sounds interesting and I'm sure we can find something to eat there or out at any of the many restaurants. For dinner I want to eat the waffles we froze a couple weeks ago and have chicken breakfast sausage with it.

Sunday - I want to experiment by making italian sausage and pesto risotto. I like to make pesto using spinach and basil, Sunny D helps me make it and he doesn't seem to mind that there's a lot of spinach in it.  Nnormally would discard any green bits in his food, but he loves pesto. 



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Monday, February 9, 2015

Menu Plan: Week of February 9

I should have planned a lot of egg recipes this week because I picked up two dozen eggs from our egg  supplier from the farmers' market. It felt like some shady dealings, we met in a parking lot, they handed me the stuff and I gave them money. 

I'm totally obsessed with Indian food right now, I've got a couple books from the library and I keep looking things up online.  I've found a few Indian food blogs to follow and I've been pinning a lot of recipes on Pinterest. The dish that interests me the most is khichidi, a porridge-like blend of rice and lentils. I think it's mainly done savory but it can also be a sweetened version. Sounds like heaven either way!


Monday - feta-stuffed lamb burgers with salad. These were supposed to be dinner last night, but we were feeling lazy and didn't want to go through all the work to make them. We have to make this tonight though, the meat is fully defrosted. 

Tuesday - Big day #1, the first half of my acuity exam. It's split over two days because it's so much stuff, plus it gets tiring to taste for several hours. Last week we did a mini practice exam and it was actually not too scary, so I feel ok for the big test. No dinner, Zumba class tonight.  Husband Jeff came with me last week and he really seemed to like the workout. I glad he enjoyed it. He's going to attend with me the entire month of February. 

Wednesday - Big day #2, the second half of the exam. Afterwards, all of us trainees and the veteran panel are invited out for a happy hour with our trainer. Then for dinner it's my mother-in-law's birthday and she wanted to cook, so the family is going over there.

Thursday - Sonny D's Valentine's Day party at preschool, I hope it isn't too much chaos and sugar. For dinner Husband Jeff might be a little late after a meeting, so I'm going super simple with hot dogs and sweet potato fries. 

Friday - another one of our premade meals from the freezer, this time slow cooker peas and greens along with quesadillas. Then Sonny D and I are off for another monthly family fun night at Warner park. 

Saturday - we're having our traditional Valentine's Day meal of sandwiches from the Italian deli as a picnic in the living room. Jeff and I have been doing that ever since we were dating.  

Sunday - we're going to go to the farmers' market in the morning, Sonny D wants to buy a bath fizzy.  For dinner shrimp with white beans and feta. 

Wanna Chat?

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Photo Update of Kitchen Happenings

I've been terrible about posting on my blog lately, it just seems really hard to find a time to sit down and focus on it. So here is a bunch of pictures of what I've been doing the last few weeks.
I made a chai-spiced pear oatmeal recipe that didn't use cloves.  That's the reason I picked it, I don't like cloves because they're very intense. But it wasn't very 'chai', it was just nicely spiced, so it ended up not being worth the time it took to put it together. 

We made a great waffle recipe that used yogurt. I used Greek vanilla yogurt. I can't even say what made the waffles so good, there was a little bit of crispness, the right amount of breadiness, etc. 

We have a Korean children's book that refers to samgak kimbop, seasoned rice formed into shapes. The Korean version is seasoned with sesame oil, sesame seeds, and salt. We really liked them, Sonny D exclaimed how pretty they were on the multicolored plate. We found that they don't freeze well, they fall apart after they thaw. Lesson learned. 

I'm still going to the gym to lift weights three times a week. Here I am on my way to the gym. 

Made an awesome fennel salad which I would totally make again, I really love fennel.   I had a single large fennel bulb so I only made half the recipe. The dressing made more than enough, next time I would add shredded cabbage. 

My friend went to the winter farmers' market and pick up organic local rolled oats for me. So awesome!  I finally made them last night, they are more like a steel cut oats or a whole oat groat rather than standard rolled oats, very thick.

I made mini pizzas for dinner one night, here's mine made on slices of eggplant. I loved them, I think eggplant is excellent. 

I shredded zucchini to make noodles, "zoodles". I sautéed them with a little garlic powder and onion powder in olive oil for just 30 seconds, and then tossed them with marinara sauce.  They were a pretty good substitute, way better than spaghetti squash. 

I had leftover mixed nuts from Christmas, and I figured I had to do something with them soon, so I made sugared cinnamon  roasted nuts for my friend Heather and I. Half the batch I tossed with cocoa powder afterward baking to see how a cocoa-dusted version would be. The cocoa dusted version was okay, but I preferred the regular sugared cinnamon more. 

I finally made my Rodrigo fish. I panfried tilapia fillets and then you could add the sauce on top if you wanted. Sonny D passed on the sauce but loved the fish.  The sauce was onion, jalapeno, olive oil, cilantro, and lime juice. Apparently I'm the only one of the family that will eat cilantro and I shouldn't have bought it. I will turn the remaining huge bunch cilantro into pesto and freeze for later.

This week I cleaned out my pantry, which always makes a bigger mess while you're in progress.  The pantry ended up looking about the same when I was done, but I knew it was better organized and cleaned. 

For Sonny D's preschool they request  the parents provide food for a meal for the occasional teacher meetings.  I signed up to make a dessert. Usually dessert is really simple to throw something together but since it had to be gluten-free, it was a lot harder than just opening up a box of brownie mix. So I made toasted almond and apricot balls, similar to Larabars. I liked them, but I really think they could've used more lemon zest.

Wanna Chat?

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Menu Plan: Week of February 2

Monday - Mexican Rodrigo-style fish that I've been planning for a week and leftover lentil soup I made in the pressure cooker on Sunday night. I think I screwed the soup up a bit by adding the acidic tomatoes at the beginning, which can make is to the beans don't soften. I cooked them the stated length of time, tasted and added a few more minutes. They were still a little firm, but good enough to eat. They continued to soften as they sat.  Husband Jeff was a sweetheart about it, saying that he thought they were good and that he wants them to have some texture. We'll also have the leftover popovers I made, they turned out pretty good even though I used white whole wheat flour (it can be a little more dense).

Tuesday - As usual, Sonny D get picked up by grandma and grandpa and I've got Zumba in the evening so no dinner planned other than my toast with almond butter. I convinced Husband Jeff to come with me to Zumba every Tuesday in February, so we'll be working out together for the next couple of weeks. I hope he likes it, I totally love it. 

Wednesday - My friend Heather and I prepped some freezer meals a couple weeks ago. Last week I made my first one, a slow cooker Moroccan squash dish. Today I'll cook another one, this time it's  pressure cooker chicken ratatouille. I'll probably make some plain pasta to go with it. I have to admit, I've never had ratatouille before, this will be my first time. 

Thursday - This is my last week of taste training at Oscar Mayer/Kraft, next week we'll take the big acuity exam.  It's so big they split it over two days. Cross your fingers for me!  For dinner we'll have shrimp with beans and feta. It's supposed to be made with white/northern beans but I've only got a can of garbanzos in the pantry, so that's what I'm going to use. 

Friday - my last day of taste training before the big test. Eek!  I saw in the Northside newspaper event calendar that there is a church chili supper going on tonight, so that's where're headed. For some reason I love church meals like this. I also love to support the community. 

Saturday - my usual core fusion exercise class in the morning. In the afternoon I'm setting up for our Korean adoption group's Korean New Year event (called Seollal). We'll have Korean food for dinner there at the event. 

Sunday - Greek feta-stuffed lamb burgers with yogurt sauce. 

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!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Back to White-ish: Soaking My Cutting Boards

Lately I've noticed that my white polyethelene cutting boards were looking pretty gross. Food stains made them look dingy. This morning I cut blackberries in half for my oatmeal and the berries left the purple stain you see on the board on the left, so I finally decided to do something about it.
Before. Not appealing!

I went online and researched ways to clean white cutting boards and found that pretty much the only way is to use bleach. I filled up both sides of my kitchen sink with enough hot tap water to cover the boards and about a half cup of bleach along with each of my cutting boards. I soaked them for about 25 minutes and then took them out and rinsed them. 

In progress. Soaking in stinky bleach. 


After soaking 25 minutes, looking much better!

You can see my results in the last picture, the smaller board on the left is definitely much whiter and almost all the stains are gone. The larger cutting board still has a little bit of stains, but it still looks way better than it did before. I'm glad I finally tried this. 

For maximum cleaning and to ensure all the bleach is gone, I put them in the dishwasher. We recently switched to the fancy Cascade complete platinum pacs, they're supposed to be the best rated dishwasher detergent, I think that's according to Consumer Reports magazine. They've been great for getting rid of old hard water deposits on the dog's water bowl and so I've got high hopes for the boards to be a touch whiter/cleaner when they get done. 

Hopefully you find this useful and maybe inspiring enough to clean your own cutting boards. Or maybe yours weren't as gross-looking as mine!   


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!