Thursday, January 30, 2014

Relax, We'll Eat Again

The Inspiration

Husband Jeff and I were out for a date night right before Christmas and we were browsing a second-hand bookstore.  I was in the clearance cookbook section, because of course I'm going to look at the food books!  But I was mainly just browsing the titles because our bookshelves are quite full already and I tend to use online recipe resources since they're easier to bookmark and search.  As I was scanning through everything, I saw a book with the title, "We'll Eat Again".  I didn't actually take the book down so I have no idea what it really referred to, but I interpreted it and turned it into an idea that really resonated with me.  To just relax around food, don't worry about it, there will be more food in the future.  I don't need to stuff myself at every meal.

I had been over-indulging over the Thanksgiving holiday and the next few weeks after, eating so much food I was uncomfortable later.  Lately it takes my body a long time to realize it's full, more than the 20 minutes or whatever it is.  So I end up still feeling hungry after a meal and eat more food, but it takes over an hour before my body says "Now I'm satisfied".  So by the time I finally feel it, I've eaten WAY too much. 

Plus I need smaller amounts of food these days.  Previously I wasn't satisfied by smaller amounts of food so I would aim for things that filled you up without many calories (Volumetrics diet concept), but now I find if I eat my typical amounts for a meal, I end up too full. I don't know if it's the weather, my body getting older, or what, but I need to dial down my portion sizes. 

I'm also preoccupied about food because I can have trouble managing my blood sugar.  For years I would end up sweaty, shaking, and crabby by mid-morning because my blood sugar had dropped.  Since I switched to oatmeal and ensuring I eat enough fiber and protein in the mornings, it hasn't been an issue, but my attitude stuck around about ensuring I always had healthy food around for my mid-morning snack. 
 

Holiday Plan, and the Future

I needed to have a plan for dealing with these food issues over the holidays so I wasn't physically uncomfortable after every single meal.  I need to remember this meal will not be the last time I'll eat, there will be many more meals in my future. The holidays are special, but they aren't the end of the road where you need to pull out all the stops.  There is no need to go overboard and pig out for every meal.  The holidays shouldn't really revolve solely around food or gifts, but remember to enjoy being with friends and family and spending time with them.

I did pretty good at Christmas time.  I tried to limit the amount I ate so I wouldn't feel sick later.  I also tried to focus on only eating the food items I really enjoyed and skipped the ones that didn't really thrill me.  I did end up eating too much a couple times, but did stop eating something if I wasn't totally in love with it. 

Everyday Changes

Which leads me to little things I'd like to try to focus on for our regular family meals.  On weekdays our family eats breakfast and dinner together every day and on the weekend we eat every meal together.  Sonny D doesn't eat separately, we all eat at the same time and generally the same thing.  I want to focus on talking more, really have a conversation at dinner. Ask how the day went for each person. What they learned. Talk about three best things about their day.  Limit the amount of complaints.  This last one is important for me, it seems I only have pessimistic or negative things to say so I'm trying to be more upbeat, but it's hard!    

As part of a healthier eating plan, I also need to focus on drinking more liquids since I know it's not a priority for me.  I love hot tea, so I need to make it a habit to have a mug or two while I'm at work.  I even bought ginger and ginger-cinnamon teas while I was in Jamaica.  Plus we recently decided to try out flavored sparkling water, so we've been buying a variety of flavors to try them all out.  My mom recommended the La Croix coconut-flavored sparkling water and I agree that it's the best I've found so far.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dishes I Want To Make Right Now

Here is a list of recipes I saw today that I would like to make right now.
  • Farro porridge for breakfast. Farro is a grain, looks similar to barley.  I bought a bag of it at Trader Joe's a couple trips ago and it's been sitting in my cupboard ever since.  It originally intimidated me, but lately I've just forgotten about it. Seeing this recipe today re-inspired me.   
  • Twice-baked black bean-stuffed sweet potatoes. You could make this as a side dish or as a main course.  And it would be a great way to use up leftover taco fixings, a little seasoned meat, some salsa, a bit of black olives, etc.  Plus I've heard that sweet potatoes don't spike your blood sugar the way standard potatoes do, so that's my rationale for always picking them over standard white potatoes. 
  • Mexican-style waffle omelets.  This is a totally neat idea, making omelets/scrambled eggs in a waffle iron.  I've used my waffle iron to make french toast and it turned out great, so this would be another good way to use it for more than just straight waffles.
  •   Chewy oatmeal cookies.  I'm always drawn to things made with oats, and these cookies look to be on the plain side, which is totally what I go for in a cookie. 

I've also wanted to make to make Leanne's pumpkin spice latte quinoa breakfast casserole for a long time.  When I realize I'm out of my pre-made steel-cut oats and need to make another batch, it's usually bedtime and I'm on auto-pilot and too lazy to pull up the recipe.  Plus my leftover pumpkin puree is in the freezer and would need to be defrosted first. 

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of January 27

Whew, I'm back home!  My vacation of six nights in Jamaica with my best friend Kate was wonderful.  The days were mostly sunny and we sat by the beach and occasionally went in the ocean.  The food at the resort was quite good, definitely better than the food I've had at a resort in Mexico & the Dominican Republic. And lots of great evening entertainment, like usual.   
What I saw from the beach chair last week.  It was about 80 degrees.

Menu Plan

  • Monday - This afternoon is Sonny D's first dentist appointment!  I hope it goes well.  He has great looking teeth and we brush them with the SoniCare electric toothbrush, so it should hopefully be a breeze.  For dinner I'm making Middle Eastern red lentil soup in the slow cooker, along with raw veggies & hummus and a leftover loaf of English muffin bread from the freezer.
  • Tuesday - I've got cardio dance fitness class after dinner, so I'm making another quick dinner in the slow cooker.  This time I'm aiming for a traditional dinner of a roast, instant mashed potatoes & gravy (gravy is frozen from a previous dinner), home-frozen corn from this summer, and heat-and-serve dinner rolls.
  • Wednesday - I'm aiming for another easy dinner of pancakes and waffles from the freezer along with either sliced apples or mandarin oranges
  • Thursday - I want to make mini cheeseburger pies to use up the box of Bisquick we've got and a bit of pre-cooked ground beef.  I'm also going to open one the unlabeled and unknown containers from the freezer.  I'm going to open the one that seems vaguely Mexican and hope for the best.  This will be a great lesson in why you should always label everything you put in the freezer.
  • Friday - Husband Jeff and I are going out to lunch with our friend John at Layla's Persian Food, which is right next to John's office.  I can't wait to try Persian food!  I have no idea what to expect.  For dinner I'm making another "mini" dish, this time mini pizzas on pita bread with a veggie.  Usually I decide the veggie at the last minute based on what we feel like having.  
  • Saturday - We've got a Korean adoption group event for the New Year so that's our dinner plans.  I really enjoy getting together with all of other families to see how everybody is doing.
  • Sunday -  Sonny D and are going to Milwaukee to visit my friend Jessica for the afternoon.  For dinner I want to make broiled walleye with Korean sauce and the awesome frozen Hmong egg rolls from our friend John's church.

Wanna Chat?

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Meal Plan: Week of January 13

I'm posting this a day late, which is ironic because I had it ready at the end of last week since I was anticipating us being in Chicago for the weekend without much time to complete it over the weekend. 

  • Monday - fish tacos using Trader Joe's fish nuggets, homemade lime slaw (lime juice, olive oil, celery seed, and Mrs. Dash fiesta lime seasoning), and a frozen bag of Trader Joe's soycutash (soybeans, corn, and bell peppers).
  • Tuesday -  I've got cardio dance fitness class at 6:30, so we're having a quick dinner of homemade frozen creamy tomato-basil soup and smoked turkey sausages.
  • Wednesday - chicken with tarragon cream sauce and peas, served on egg noodles.
  • Thursday - slow cooker Mongolian beef with a frozen bag of broccoli stir-fry vegetables, rice, and egg rolls.  
  • Friday - I leave early in the morning for the sunny northwest coast of Jamaica with my best friend Kate!  While I'm gone, the guys are on their own for all their meals, but we all went grocery shopping together last weekend so they are set up with a lot of food.  And of course the planner side of me has a list of dinner and snack ideas for them to hopefully avoid pizza for dinner every night. 
  • Saturday - I'm gone.
  • Sunday - I'm gone. 


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Monday, January 6, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of January 6

Unfortunately there are no holidays until Memorial Day in May, so it would seem that it would be a long haul until another day off, but I'm looking forward to my vacation in Jamaica in a couple weeks.  If you know Husband Jeff, you should offer to hang out with him and Sonny D while I'm gone. 
  • Monday - we're having leftover sweet potato & chipotle soup I made for the Packer game on Sunday. I also found a recipe for glazed carrots that I had saved, so I think I'll try that out with the frozen baby carrots I've had stashed in the chest freezer in the basement.  
  •  Tuesday - I'm making Indian chicken with spinach in the slow cooker and serving it with rice and naan
  • Wednesday - We're attending a birthday party, so we're having dinner out.
  • Thursday - I've got a meeting after dinner, so hopefully we can have our polenta pizza rounds and vegetable ready quickly. 
  • Friday - Husband Jeff and I are attending my team holiday dinner for work, so another dinner out
  • Saturday - I'm going to hopefully hit my cardio dance fitness class at 8 a.m., and then we're talking about visiting with friends.  Not sure that is still on, need to check.  We'll have dinner out with them.
  • Sunday - Another day to plan to have bacon & butternut squash pasta.  I aimed for this last Sunday, but then the Packers had a playoff game so we had a taco feast at a friend's house instead. 

Wanna Chat?

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cocoa Popcorn for Sonny D

Chocolatey popcorn.
One day Sonny D and I were out downtown and he was interested in getting popcorn at one of the popcorn vendors on State Street (pedestrian mall area here in Madison). I was willing to buy some popcorn (Mama loves popcorn a lot!) but I also offered him the option to go home and make it ourselves. He said he wanted chocolate popcorn, which I told him we couldn't buy at the store, but we could make at home.  Chocolate won his vote, so we popped up this version. 

Inspiration

Martha Stewart cocoa popcorn

To make this dairy-free, pop your popcorn in coconut oil on the stove or use a non-dairy spray or spread instead of butter.  

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar 
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder

Directions

Pop the popcorn in your favorite manner and put it into a large, wide container such as a cake carrier.  I use a hot-air popper but someday I'll pull out my stovetop popper since that is a wonderful way to have popcorn.

Cocoa powder plus sugar. 
While the popcorn is popping, melt the butter to drizzle on top of your popcorn.  Also mix together the sugar and cocoa powder. 
Coated popcorn. 

When your popcorn is done, drizzle on the butter while shaking the popcorn.  Then gently shake-tap approximately one-fourth of the sugar-cocoa powder mixture over your buttered popcorn a few times, shake it up, add some more of the mixture, and keep repeating until it's generally covered. 


Verdict

This made Sonny D a happy little boy!

This has a slightly bitter edge to it from the raw cocoa powder, so I would consider it something adults would generally appreciate more, but Sonny D seems to really like it.  I've made it two times for him in the last couple of weeks. I like it just as it's written, but have thought that possibly using powdered sugar might disburse across the popped kernels better, similar popcorn salt's super-fine texture so it can get into every nook and cranny.  Maybe we'll try that next time. 

I'm more a fan of savory popcorn (I like brewer's yeast or nutritional yeast) but this is fun for some variation. 

Wanna Chat?

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Little Dessert: A Sixer of Cupcakes

All that stands between you and a small batch of cupcakes is a few minutes and some simple ingredients. It's quick and easy.  Throw some together when you've got some dinner guests coming over, or a small reason to celebrate, like "hey, it's Friday!" 

I finally got around to making these cupcakes for Sonny D after seeing an image of a birthday cupcake.  I even served him the first one with a candle in it.  :) 

As a warning, I really don't recommend whole wheat flour for these cupcakes, mine ended up too dry. Definitely still edible and quite good, but just not as moist and light as they could have been. We still gobbled them down, even without frosting.

Inspiration 

The Girl Tastes vanilla cupcakes (small batch)

I wanted to try out my new peanut butter extract, so I added a teaspoon to this mixture.  Otherwise I didn't change much else since working with such small amounts of ingredients could have a large effect in the end product.  Oh, I was planning on substituting non-dairy creamer for the cream in the original recipe, that's why you'll see it in the picture, but as I was making them I changed it to all milk. 

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2/3 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  •  1/8 tsp salt
  • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar 
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp peanut butter extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put 6 cupcake liners in your muffin pan or 7 liners if you were like me and had enough batter to make another.  

Mix the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, salt.

With a blender, beat the butter thoroughly.  The recipe I followed said you can't over mix it, so I went mixed it for quite a while.  
Fluffy butter.

Then add sugar and blend thoroughly.  The texture of the sugar helps beat the butter even more. 

Add milk and blend until light and fluffy.  

Add egg and vanilla and blend.  Add flour mixture and gently combine.

Batter
Pour into the cupcake liners and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Finished cupcake

Light texture.

Verdict

They were missing that peanut butter flavor I was hoping for, I don't know if they needed more peanut better extract or if it was the heavy wheat flour that covered it.  But as a general cupcake, they were quite good.  And it was nice to have a small batch so we didn't have 12+ cupcakes staring at us.  I don't know if it was all the beating or what, but I ended up having to add another cupcake liner so we actually had 7 cupcakes, which was a nice bonus.  We definitely ended up eating them for the next couple meals. 

I do have to say that they're not the sweetest cupcakes, so if you prefer a more sugary treat, you'll want to whip up a glaze or frosting to go on top.  I prefer not-too-sweet desserts, so I thought they were great without anything else needed.  Sonny D liked them and so did Husband Jeff. 

Wanna Chat?

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Friday, January 3, 2014

Making It My Own: Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Glossy marinated sprouts.

Inspiration

This recipe is inspired by an old issue of Cook's Illustrated magazine from a couple years ago. I've made the recipe a few times pretty much as it's written, but this time I wanted to try some new flavors with it. I used my Flavor Bible guide to determine what flavors would go well with Brussels sprouts and came up with vermouth. 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts
  • 2 Tablespoons vermouth
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds, ground (or 1/4 teaspoon celery salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder 
  • Black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.

Wash the sprouts, cut off the stems, and cut them in half.  Put the sprouts in a bowl and add all of the other ingredients and toss to coat.

Sprouts on their way into the oven.
Pour the sprouts into a foil-lined sheet pan.  The recipe tells you to put all the cut sides down and I finally did that this time. I don't know if it was really worth it since it turned out exactly the same as the many previous times I've made this recipe.

Tightly cover the pan with foil and roast for 13 minutes.  Then remove the foil and roast for an additional 8 minutes uncovered.
Sprouts after their time in the oven.

Verdict

I really liked the flavor of the vermouth along with the Brussels sprouts, it really worked.  I used a dry white vermouth (fortified white wine), to me it tastes like a mild version of gin, slightly herbal.  Next time I would like to figure out a way to get the sprouts to absorb more flavor.  It always seems that whatever I toss it with only stays on top and doesn't really permeate the sprout.  Maybe mix them up in the morning and let them soak all day before baking.

Wanna Chat?

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

Decadent Greek Yogurt Souffl├ęs

I started out planning to make this in a lemon-lime flavor, but the jar of fruit dip seasoning I had was much older than I thought and the contents were as hard as a rock.  I hate it when I buy things and then essentially forget I've got them, or attempt to save them for "something special" and then that "something special" never happens. 

Lightly foamy egg whites with beautiful flecks of vanilla bean.

Inspiration

Jules Food Greek Yogurt Souffle


My only real change was to add some almond extract, which makes it similar to a cheesecake Husband Jeff likes to make with a sour cream-almond topping.

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 lg egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/8 two salt 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 3 lg egg whites 
  • 1/8 tsp cream or tartar
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Directions

Heat your oven to 375 degrees.

Butter 6 ramekins/custard cups/Pyrex cups and coat the insides with sugar. (I had to butter and coat a 7th ramekin because I had so much filling.)   Put them on a rimmed baking sheet so you can put them in the oven.  If you don't have a rimmed baking sheet, just use a standard cookie sheet, but be very careful when you're putting them in and taking them out of the oven so they don't slide off.
Closeup of a sugared ramekin.
In a medium bowl, mix the yogurt, egg yolks, flour, salt, and vanilla.
In a large bowl, mix the egg whites and cream of tartar, beat until foamy.

that's actually a hard peak, it stands up on it's own. 
I beat it a little too long, but it was fine.
Then gradually pour in sugar and whisk until firm-but-soft-peaks form.


Fold in the yogurt mixture and divide the batter evenly into the prepared ramekins.

Bake on the tray for 15 minutes until risen and lightly brown. 

Verdict

Light-but-decadent out of the oven.  Cheesecake-like after chilling. 
I might have baked mine too long because they were dried out a bit, but they seemed too wet when I checked them at the 15-minute mark and weren't even slightly brown.  I only added a few minutes, but it had a big effect. 

It probably also didn't help that I used whole wheat flour, which soaks up more liquid than standard white flour, so the end result was a little drier.  I'm adding white wheat flour to my grocery list for dishes like this where you need the delicacy of white flour.  I've made too many things lately that were too heavy from the whole wheat flour.

Sonny D wouldn't try it, but that was his loss.  Husband Jeff was glad I used the almond flavor so they reminded him of his cheesecake.  I liked that they weren't real yogurt-y since I don't like the tang of yogurt. 

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!