Monday, April 28, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of April 28

Wow, it's already the end of April this week! Like everyone else in the upper Midwest, I'm really ready for spring to be here. The temperatures are a bit warmer, but lately it's been kind overcast and not that nice. But I need to remember that spring in Wisconsin is never that great.

Last Week in Review

Husband Jeff's birthday dinner on Wednesday turned out perfect.  I surprised him with jangjorim, a Korean dish of beef braised in soy sauce with hard-boiled eggs.  And I had been worried about not having enough food, so I added another dish, and then we ended up with tons of leftovers.  Much better than not having enough for guests to eat.  

On Friday we had a lovely dinner out at Dobhan Kitchen and used up my last discounted restaurant gift certificate.  Now I can lift my self-imposed ban and buy more!

Sonny D and I went shopping at Trader Joe's on Saturday and he was so excited to push around a kid cart!  I told him he had to listen to me and behave with his cart otherwise he would have to ride in my cart.  He did great!  As we went through we found that if we needed to stop that he needed to park his cart directly behind mine so we weren't in anyone's way, and he was so good at remembering that!  And he was incredibly patient while the gal went in the back and got us three fresh boxes of his favorite cereal.  And I totally fell in love with the Trader Joe's sweet Italian style chicken sausage that Sonny D and I picked up there on Saturday.   They have an awesome fennel taste, really delicious.  I would love to put some on a homemade pizza.

We had our friends Chuck & Buddha over for a burrito bowl brunch on Sunday.  The food was all excellent, Mexican food is always so easy and tasty.  And perfect bloody marys.  And the guys were total champs, they quietly swapped out some furniture for us while Husband Jeff took Sonny D in for his afternoon nap.

Our friends Daisy & Jocelyn surprised us on Sunday by stopping over with some awesome chocolate pumpkin hot chocolate cake they made for their younger son's second birthday.  In return I packaged up some truffle brownies (made with black beans, seriously so good!) and savory quick bread for them.  They're such cool ladies, we love hanging out with them!

You are probably getting bored with me documenting my sourdough starter un-adventures.  If I have progress from now on I'll share it, but not the daily feeding updates since not much is happening. It's so disappointing.


This Week

It's a pretty quiet week, we've got the usual exercise classes and Sonny D's swimming lessons.
  • Monday - We've got leftover Mexican ingredients from Sunday's brunch, so we'll have taco salads
  • Tuesday - I'm finally going to make porcupine meatballs in the slow cooker with a bag of frozen veggies. I've been dragging my feet on the meatballs, I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer a few days ago so I knew that wasn't going to happen.  I've got cardio dance fitness in the evening.
  • Wednesday - I'm going super-easy with Applegate hot dogs, sweet potato fries, and another bag of frozen veggies
  • Thursday - Tonight we're providing part of the teacher's (monthly?) meeting meal for Sonny D's school.  Since I love making food I figured I would sign up, but I had a lot of trouble coming up with an idea for what to make.  It has to be gluten-free and no shellfish, which isn't difficult since Asian or Mexican food pretty easily fits the bill, but I couldn't settle on anything.  It wasn't until we were at Trader Joe's that I finally decided to buy two extra boxes of their roasted red pepper and tomato soup for the teachers.  It's Sonny D's favorite, so hopefully they love it too.  And the weather is going to be cold and rainy on Thursday (like it is all week) so hopefully this will warm them up.  Maybe we should have soup with cheese quesadillas or pesto grilled cheese sandwiches.  I've got another cardio dance fitness class, this one is right after work so Husband Jeff will make dinner for him and Sonny D before heading off to swim lessons.
  • Friday - home-frozen Asian meatballs, a bag of frozen brown and wild rice served with Trader Joe's soycutash. And this is Me & D night, I don't have any ideas for what to do, maybe we'll have a playdate with friends.
  • Saturday - I don't have any exercise classes in the morning so I really want to go to the downtown farmers' market.  I rarely get to go since I usually have Core Fusion or cardio dance fitness, but both are cancelled this week.  Later we're celebrating my friend Jessica's birthday with a Mexican feast of fajitas, black beans, guacamole, shrimp and avocado salad, some sort of dip, grilled pineapple, etc. Can't wait!
  • Sunday - This is the first of the northside outdoors farmers' markets of the season, so I'd like to support the smaller northside market rather than the huge downtown market.  Maybe Sonny D and I will just do a lot of browsing on Saturday and save all our money for Sunday.  I really hope the egg roll stand and the smoothie cart lady with spring rolls will be there, Sonny D and I look forward to that every week during the summer.  It's very sad, we have another funeral to attend, this one is for Husband Jeff's uncle Terry.  For dinner I really want to make roasted tofu with noodles in peanut sauce. I've wanted to make it for a couple weeks now.

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!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Days 6 & 7 - Sourdough Tang!

Day 6

At lunch on Friday I moved my sourdough starter culture to an upper cabinet, turned the light on below, and added a thermometer to track the temperature. When I moved it, the house was at 68 degrees since it was a sunny day.  But at night the house could get down to 64 degrees before the furnace would kick on and I wanted my starter to be warmer than that, and the top of the fridge certainly wasn't warm. By the end of lunch (about an hour later), the temperature in the cupboard was already at 70 degrees.
After about an hour in the cupboard with the light on, up 2 degrees!
I figured someone would accidentally turn the light switch off, so I came up with a classy and sophisticated solution I hoped would prevent that. I taped the switch in the 'on' position and added a piece of tape with a quick reminder written on it, "Leave on -- life support switch".
My makeshift notice, "Leave on -- life support switch"
Husband Jeff came home in the afternoon and sent me a text, "life support switch?" He later said he figured it was for my sourdough starter in some way, but he had no idea it was in the cupboard.

After sitting in the cupboard for the afternoon and evening, I checked on my starter when it was time to feed it and found the temperature at 72.  Not as warm as the yeast would probably prefer, but much better than the mid 60s like it would be in our house otherwise.
A balmy 72 degrees.  The starter is hanging out next to wheat bran on the left and salted dried edamame behind it.
There wasn't a whole lot of activity, the same little bit of bubbles on the top like the last couple of days. If you remember, it went from a pretty stiff dough the night before when I first fed it the proper ratios and relaxed into what you see here by the next night.  I guess I was adding too much water.  Apparently it needs time to hydrate properly since this ended up like really thick pancake batter, which I was trying to achieve right away.  I am always in a hurry. 
Lightly bubbly.
The most glorious thing was the smell!  It had the pleasant tangy scent you would expect from sourdough bread!  I had husband Jeff come over to confirm, and he agreed it smelled like real sourdough.  So exciting! 
Back to stiff dough again.

I followed the same precise procedure as the night before, dump out the extra starter until you get to 113 grams of starter, add 113 grams of flour and 113 grams of warm water.

With a warmer spot for it to hang out now, I'm really hoping there will be at least some noticeable activity.

Day 7

A bit of bubbling action on the side, but not a lot and nothing on top.  The smell seems milder, less like sourdough and more like plain flour and water.  Bland and boring. 
More bubbles than the last few days, but still not the amount of progress I'd like to see.
The temperatures in the spawning cupboard have been warm since I've been roasting and baking in the oven below for the last couple of days, hanging around 75 degrees during the day.  I was hoping to see more going on than this. 

It's definitely discouraging, not sure how much longer I want to keep this up if I'm not really getting anywhere. I think I've got the sourdough part down, so I might start over with a new sourdough starter but with commercial yeast since I'm failing with the wild yeast.  I don't really want to give up, but I have no idea if I'm just wasting my time or if I should keep going.  I read you can add a tiny bit of apple cider vinegar to lower the pH and kick start the yeast a bit.  I don't know if I want to mess with it if things are going fine enough.  I'd prefer to give it a little boost with some rye flour, but we didn't find any at Trader Joe's over the weekend.  I'm going to need to make a quick stop at the grocery store sometime during the week for some fresh items we need next weekend, so maybe mid-week I'll head to a full grocery store that hopefully has rye flour.  Maybe that will be my next move and if that doesn't get me any further, I'll add some apple cider vinegar. 

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!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Sourdough Starter: Day 5

I almost forgot to maintain my sourdough starter yesterday.  I was just finishing up in the kitchen and on my way to go get ready for bed when I saw the red rubber lid of its container peeking out from the top of the fridge. I really wanted to go to bed, but I felt guilty so I grabbed Sonny D's stepstool to get it. 

There was definitely no doubling action going on since it hadn't risen above the mark on the side but the top showed a bit of bubbling. There wasn't any smell other than flour and water.
Day 5 initial view, a little activity.
It seems to be doing fine enough, but I got worried things weren't going right for my wild yeast sourdough starter since I wasn't seeing much going on.  It seems like most people who are new to sourdough starters seem to over-react this way, some toss it out because they think it's dead or try to change the pH by adding other ingredients like pineapple juice or lemon juice.  I decided I wouldn't do anything rash, just be patient and proceed with the plan, hopefully it'll get active enough to be considered a true starter.

I decided to be more precise in my measurements rather than my previous casual "dump out some of the goop, ah, that looks about like half" approach. I was measuring the amounts of flour and water that went into it, but not how much I was getting rid of.  I got out a similar container, measured it in grams (easier to deal with since my scale combines pounds and ounces) and did the math and conversions to determine the weight of my stuff inside, how much to dump out, and how much flour and water to add.
Day 5 with a precise 1:1:1 ratio - much thicker.
In the background you can see my notepad and pencil
for figuring out the measurements.
Earlier in the day I was reading about maintaining a 1:1:1 weight ratio (one part existing starter, one part flour, and one part water), so that's what I was aiming for.  I got the measurements exactly (down to the gram, while dripping goop on the floor), so we'll see how it proceeds from here.  The end result is much thicker than the 'pancake batter' viscosity I was making before, but I'll follow the directions and keep going.

And I realized that the top of our refrigerator isn't really a warm location.  The yeast need a warm environment to encourage them to grow. Cool temperatures means they are less active, possibly too slow to really take hold at this point. I think I'm going to clear out space for it in an upper cabinet that gets warm from the attached under-cabinet lighting. 

It seems like most people who have sourdough starters give it a name.  I don't know if that's because it's a living entity that you take care of and maintain, like a pet.  Maybe it's easier to relate to if it has a name.  Or maybe it feels like one of the family since you spend a lot of time with it.  If mine makes it through to become a full-fledged starter that I can use to make bread, I'll give it a name and introduce it to everyone. 

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!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Am I Responsible Enough To Take Care Of A Sourdough Starter?

After attending the Fermented Breakfast Cereal session at Food Camp, I decided to grow a wild yeast sourdough starter from scratch.  I'll use a couple tablespoons of it to ferment my oats for oatmeal/porridge because fermenting supposedly reduces the phytic acid that prevents your body from absorbing the vitamins and minerals that are naturally in the grains.  I figure if I'm eating all these good healthy foods that I'd like to help my body get the most out of them.  You can also use cultured dairy products (whey, yogurt, kefir, etc.) to ferment grains, but I prefer to not use dairy products, plus I don't like the flavor of them.  I figure why not give it a shot with a sourdough starter instead. It's only a bit of work and a small commitment to try it out. Plus the starter can be used in place of commercial yeast to make awesome things like sourdough bread, pancakes, waffles, brownies, cakes, etc.  And fermented foods have probiotics, which are good for your digestion, and since I don't like yogurt, this is a good way to get them.  Plus it's just plain neat to gather wild yeast and make sourdough bread completely from scratch!

Inspiration

  • I looked up some recipes but the easiest to follow was TheKitchn How to make your own sourdough starter but it's missing the step of ditching out half of your starter each day, otherwise it's going to be way too much yeasty glop in the container after feeding it for at least 7+ days in a row.  I don't know if she missed that step or doesn't do it. But the basic concept is there.
  • And the King Arthur Flour website has good sourdough starter instructions.
  • And the reader comments for the Wild Yeast flour + water = starter blog post are great because everybody else's issues/problems/worries help you figure out if you're on the right track.

And of course now that I'm onto this sourdough starter kick, I'm reading all sorts of other websites for tips, tricks, and troubleshooting since I have no idea what I'm doing.

From what I've read it would be good to get some rye flour since the yeast like that food the best, but I don't have any and don't have time to go to a store that would have it.  Sonny D and I are going to Trader Joe's this weekend, so if we can find it there I'll buy some.   But I do have a food scale, that's the most important thing with baking bread.  Ratios really matter. 

The Process

Day 1

The recipe is equal parts BY WEIGHT of water and whole wheat flour.  I even wrote that down in my notes at the Fermented Cereal class on Saturday, but you'll see in my picture here that I've got my measuring cup out with 4 ounces of water next to the scale with 4 ounces of whole wheat flour.  It's not the same!  I realized after I mixed it together that the texture shouldn't be like thick bread dough but rather thinner like pancake batter, so I pulled the scale out and added more water until I had 8 total ounces in my container. 

A lot of people use big jars for their starters, but I didn't have one tall enough.  And I didn't want to use a plastic container, so I used a big 1.75 qt Pyrex glass bowl, the same type Jeff did when he made his sourdough starter a couple years ago. I guess eventually it should triple in size, so you've got to give it a lot of room to grow. 
Water in the beaker and flour on the scale.
See that blue on my scale?  That's the protective film that you're supposed to take off once you start using the item.  Is anybody else a weirdo/superstitious/overprotective like me and leave the coating on their devices?  My mom's stove still has the plastic on the digital display and buttons for the oven controls and they've had the stove for years.  I was tempted to rip it off when we were there for Easter because it's totally separating from the display and gets in the way when you set the oven temperature, but I didn't want her to freak out.  :)
Day 1 top view. The bubbles are only from my vigorous stirring.
Day 1 side view.  Not a lot in this container.
I mixed it up and lightly set the lid on top and put it on top of the fridge since that's a pretty warm spot without any drafts.  Hopefully it'll develop and also hopefully I don't forget it up there since I'm so short I can't see it!  According to the directions, I've got to feed and maintain it every day for at least seven days until the yeast are truly maintained. I found out that while you're starting out in these intro days it's called a "culture", it won't be a true starter until at the end of that process, then it's ready to use.  

Day 2

I checked on it and it looked like some of the water had separated out.  It was so boring I didn't even take a picture.  But I dumped out approximately half of the mixture into the sink to make room for the new batch of flour and water to feed the yeast I'm trying to cultivate.

I added another 4 ounces of flour and 4 ounces of water, but this time I figured the water from our refrigerator water dispenser is probably too cold, so I heated it up a tiny bit in the microwave so it wasn't so chilled, felt a little less than body temperature.  Makes sense that cold wouldn't create a hospitable environment for the yeast.  

The end result again is a goopy, floury mixture with the texture of pancake batter.  Back on top of the fridge it goes. 

Day 3

Wow!  Lots of bubbly action and a sticky texture like the inside of a a toasted marshmallow (gluten maybe?).  From what I understand, the activity I'm seeing right now is not the yeast that I'm looking for, but a harmless bacteria called leuconostoc.  But we're on the right path.  I guess these bacteria are short-lived or weak, because I'm supposed to keep feeding and the good yeast will eventually take over. 
Top view of day 3.
Side view of day 3.

Day 4

Not much activity today but I expected that.  I think the really-active leuconostoc bacteria are dying off since not much is going on.  If the mixture smells like alcohol or acetone I'm supposed to feed more (increase the amounts but keep the equal weights) because that means the yeast don't have enough to eat and they're feeding on their dead siblings.  Sounds so very primal.  My starter culture didn't smell.

After scooping off some spoonfuls into the compost bin, I proceeded with adding equal parts flour and water.  My hand wasn't too steady and I accidentally poured in 5 ounces of water instead of 4, so I accordingly bumped up the amount of flour to match.  Hopefully the yeast are hungry today!It also seemed too thick (really stiff to stir) so I added an extra splash of water.  I know, I know, that's not keeping equal weights!  I'll try better tonight. 

At the previous feeding I put a piece of tape to mark the top of the mixture so I can gauge how much it had risen.  As you can see, there wasn't a whole lot going on.  When it's a full-running starter, it's eventually supposed to double or triple in size a bit after feeding.  And when it gets to the maximum size but right before it falls (when the yeast run out of food), that's when you're supposed to use it in recipes. 
 Day 4. Not much rising activity, maybe 1/4 inch over the tape.
Day 4 top view, a few bubbles.

Some Interesting Bits 

  • It's not really the wild yeast sourdough starter that will make bread sour, but rather the flour you use and how you manipulate the dough with time and temperature. A long rise is one way for your dough to develop a sour flavor.
  • Whole wheat sourdough starters are more sour than those maintained with white flour.  That's nice to know, I want a sour bread.
  • Some people think the yeast is coming in from the air, but actually it's already in the flour.  Neat! So each time to add more flour, you're adding more yeasty beasties and at the same time giving them food to eat.  
After reading more materials, I'm worried about what I need to do to properly feed the starter so it's ready to make bread.  I completely admit I have no idea what I'm doing!   But I'm going to keep going and see if I can figure it out. I'll give more progress in a second post. 

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, April 23, 2014

Savory Flavor Enhancer: Miso Butter

I've read about miso butter a few times and originally thought it was some sort of special sauce, but I got really curious so I researched it and found it's literally just miso and butter mixed together.  Miso is salty fermented soybean paste, it's usually made into miso soup that you might have at a sushi restaurant or it's mixed into Asian dishes.  I finally decided to try it by having toast with butter and smear of miso paste. 

When I went to get my miso it was all dried out after sitting in the fridge with the lid off.  Oops.  Totally not my fault, the lid was really flimsy and I thought it was covered.  I still scraped some out of the least dried-up area and tried it.  Wow!  It's an amazing savory taste that I found myself really enjoying.  Actually, a few days later my mouth was watering over the idea of more miso butter on a crumpet for lunch.  So good!

Last week Sonny D and I went grocery shopping and I decided to buy a new container of miso.  I picked up a 13-ounce tub of Westbrae Natural unpasteurized white miso.
The tub of miso I bought.

Then I figured I should probably look up a more official recipe than just "a bit of miso with some butter".  I found a recipe that gave a ratio of 2 parts butter to 1 part miso, so I grabbed a small Tupperware container and combined 2 tablespoons butter with 1 tablespoon miso since I figured that amount would probably last me quite a while but wouldn't stick around so long it would go bad.  The only thing is that I keep it in the refrigerator, which means the butter is pretty much unspreadable.  I need to remember to pull it out of the fridge a little early to give it time to soften.
Easy recipe.  Miso + butter = miso butter.

Verdict 

I love this and it's nice to have a pre-made batch so I can quickly spread it on my morning toast or throw some on veggies.  But this probably isn't for everyone since miso is salty with  'umami' (savory) flavor.  It kind of reminds me of fish without being fishy; that's probably the fermentation.  If you're interested in trying a new neat flavor, I recommend giving it a shot.  I want to try it on corn, seems like it would be a great combo.  Can't wait to see what else I can add it to.

The neat thing is that since my miso is unpasteurized, I'm also getting the benefits of probiotics.   Yay, happy digestion!

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!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of April 21

Last week 

Last week Sonny D was on spring break and he spend most of the time with husband Jeff's parents. The weather was kinda cool and rainy, but they had a good time.
 
And he had another successful swimming lesson.  It worked out well that I took Sonny D after his lesson and washed him up in the larger women's changing room, so we'll continue that. 

Friday was Me & D night, instead of going out to do something, we stayed home and baked. We modified a pumpkin cookie recipe I've made before to make pillowy banana cookies with chocolate chips. They turned out great but I should have let them sit to cool a bit longer.  I wanted to go to bed so I put them away a bit earlier than I should have so they ended up the tiniest bit soggy. They still taste really good though.  And they're actually really low in calories.  I didn't calculate the calories for this new version, but the original pumpkin recipe is about 45 calories per cookie. 
Banana cookies with chocolate chips and icing

Saturday was Food Camp, I completely loved it.  This was my second year attending. The organization that puts it on is dedicated to food for everyone that is good, clean, and fair; their objective counters fast food and a fast life. Food camp is an all-day set of hour-long food seminars on various topics, what you might call "homesteader" topics like making your own bacon, foraging for mushrooms, raising chickens in your backyard, or composting. 

I went to the following seminars
  • fermented breakfast cereal
  • mindful eating
  • fermented vegetables: pickles, kraut, and kimchi
  • shrubs and other drinking vinegars (infused vinegars to use as flavored mixers)
  • preserving the bounty (dehydrating, freezing, and canning)
  • beekeeping for bees
The fermented cereal class was cool.  It focuses on fermenting grains to neutralize the phytic acid in them.  Phytic acid locks up the vitamins and minerals in the grains and prevents you from absorbing them, so by removing it, you'll get those vitamins and minerals.  And the fermentation helps you digest the grains better.  It inspired me to mix up a sourdough starter to use to ferment my oatmeal. I'm bummed that it takes about four days to get your starter really going so I won't be able to use it for a while, but I'm curious to see if it'll feel different after eating my morning bowl of oatmeal.
Food Camp seminar about fermented vegetables by Dan O'Brien.
I've wanted to make quick pickles for several so it was good to check out the pickle class.  I really want to make sauerkraut since homemade is a thousand times better than store-bought, but that's the most advanced of the simple fermented vegetables since it takes much longer, so I think I'll start with the quick pickles and once I get comfortable with them I'll work my way up.

Sunday was Easter, we had beautiful weather for an Easter egg hunt and great meal at my Mom's house. I brought home lots of leftovers, check the photo -- starting at 1 o'clock we've got green bean casserole, ham juice, orange-tarragon carrots, French onion bread, Mexican cornbread (has woven bacon on top!), and beef gravy.  I had already planned our meals for the week by the time I got these, but I figured out ways to incorporate them.
Easter leftovers  

On Sunday afternoon I raked in the yard while Husband Jeff worked on a second hoop house for his garden and Sonny D helped both of us.  Later we cleaned out part of our home office after being inspired by the decluttering article I posted about the other day.  We actually got rid of quite a few things and put a bunch of stuff in piles for Goodwill and Sonny D's preschool.
Original hoop house raised garden bed on the left, new hoop house framework on the right.

This Week

  • Monday - coconut-curry noodle soup served with leftover Easter green bean casserole and orange-tarragon carrots. I will probably be the only one eating the green bean casserole and carrots. 
  • Tuesday - Canadian bacon and egg sandwiches with fruit and then I've got cardio dance fitness class in the evening. 
  • Wednesday - Today is Husband Jeff's birthday so I invited his parents over and we're having a special Asian-Korean birthday dinner, finished off with an utterly American dessert of Dairy Queen ice cream cake since it's Husband Jeff's favorite. 
  • Thursday - I've got cardio dance fitness right after work so I'm leaving the guys to fend for dinner by themselves.  My only idea is cheese quesadillas using the awesome big tomato-basil wraps I bought a while ago, but there will probably be a bunch of leftovers from the birthday dinner, so maybe they'll have that instead. 
  • Friday - I'm planning we'll go to Dobhan (Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Tibetan) for dinner to use my last discounted restaurant gift certificate.  Then we'll be all out and I can lift my self-imposed ban and finally buy more!
  • Saturday - Parent work day at Sonny D's preschool.  Since we're new there, I have no idea what that means, but I'm imagining doing cleanup of the play yards, maybe some painting and fixing inside.  For dinner I'm going to use the leftover Easter ham juice and beef gravy to make porcupine meatballs and sweet potato-chickpea salad. I've never had porcupine meatballs (meatballs baked with rice inside) so I'm interested to try them out.  I've got a recipe that uses brown rice and they cook in the slow cooker, so hopefully that works out.  
  • Sunday - We're having our friends Chuck and Buddha (the other two members of our Breakfast Club) over for brunch for burrito breakfast bowls, fruit, savory quick bread, bloody marys, and truffle brownies.  For dinner I want to make roasted tofu with noodles in peanut sauce since I figure Sonny D will really like the peanut sauce.  He typically really likes dry-roasted tofu too.

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!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Decluttering Your Space & Sonny D's New Bookshelves

I loved this article, Decluttering – Are You Making These 3 Mistakes When Purging Your Stuff?   I've read a lot of sorting, organizing, and decluttering information, I've even got a couple books, but I keep coming back to this article and re-reading it because it's fresh information for me to think about. I love it because it brings up something different than the standard questions you might ask yourself when cleaning out a space.  I've even shared this article with several friends because I liked it so much.  

I like mistake #1 (thinking that space is the only cost to keeping something) because it forces you to think deeper.  You need to analyze whether you should ditch things even if you have space for them in your house.  Just because you have the room for it doesn't mean you should keep it.  Do you actually use and need it?  If you don't use it currently, do you see needing it in the actual future, not some possibly-maybe-someday future? 

Be reasonable.  Do you need 15 different sets of towels?  Are you ever going to use that old camera now that you've got your fancy new digital SLR and you've already got a camera on your smartphone that you carry everywhere? 

Be honest with yourself.  If there's no real, valid reason to hold on to it, get rid of it.  You'll likely not miss it.  And if you don't love it but you hang on to it for some reason like it was a gift or you got it as a hand-me-down, you need to just let it go.

And if you do keep some things, make sure that you use them and enjoy them.  Like those fancy dishes from Grandma that she only used once a year for Christmas.  Go ahead, pull them out to serve cake at a your next couple parties to share them with your friends. Or eat on them every day!

Other Inspiration on Decluttering: Clean House

I've recently started watching episodes of the TV show Clean House on Netflix, which isn't very realistic but I enjoy it.  What can I say, I like renovation/makeover shows.  The show focuses on a single family that lives in an extremely cluttered house (not messy like hoarders though).  The team of experts comes in, assesses the family's style and needs, holds a garage sale to get rid of their extra stuff, and then the organizer and interior designer make a lot of changes to update about three rooms.  It feels scripted and artificial, but whatever, it's entertainment.

In the few episodes I've watched so far, every single garage sale they host has trouble making enough money, getting people to come to the sale, etc.  Just once I want to see them easily sell most of the stuff!  And the show's cast always offers the families new furniture in exchange for getting rid of specific items but the people are stubborn and unwilling to compromise. The disagreements feel very fake because the professionals somehow always end up winning them over after the mild back-and-forth.  Granted, holding on to all their junk is what got them into trouble in the first place so I can understand their trouble letting go, but they've gone so far as to contact someone to help get things in order so you'd think maybe they'd be a bit more open. 

Another thing I've seen on the Clean House show is people who hold on to things for flawed reasons.  One guy was collecting Beanie Babies because he thought they would be worth something some day, but they were all dusty from sitting in his bedroom for years.  Plus they were just a fad, not an actual collectible.  Or one lady had some fancy dolls, but she took them out of the packaging and played with them, so they weren't worth anything.  One divorced gal was engaged to a new guy was but still holding on to her poufy-shoulders 1980s wedding dress from her first marriage because she thought someday her daughter would want it.  Yes, styles come back around, but not in the exact same way, so her daughter didn't want anything to do with it.   I'm guessing a lot of these people have psychological issues about being too connected with their stuff.  Let go of the stuff, it's just things.  It doesn't get rid of your memories or the good times you had. 

The finished rooms they show off at the end of the program look so nice, it makes me want to hire an interior designer to finish off the decorating in our house.  I think we generally have good looking basic stuff, but I have no idea how to add accessories to our living spaces to truly complete the look. 

New Furniture

And on a related note about getting organized, Husband Jeff made a set of bookshelves for Sonny D's room.   I saw this concept on Pinterest where the narrow bookshelves were placed behind the bedroom door so they didn't take up any extra space. I liked how the front of the books were visible so the child can see all of the covers since it'll probably still be a while before he's able to read the names along the spine.
Our inspiration bookshelves
Here's Husband Jeff's version.  He's been working on them for the last few weeks down in his woodshop in the basement.  I suggested painting them white, but he did some research on the Sherwin-Williams paint site to see what colors coordinated with the existing wall colors of light tan and green and we ended up with this great charcoal grey.  He installed them on Monday night and Sonny D and I immediately filled them with books. 
Sonny D's new bookshelf.
We filled them up with a little over one basket of books.  He's also got a second basket plus a small bedside table of books that don't fit in the bookshelves.  Not sure what we should do with all the rest!  We considered another bookshelf along the wall to the left, but we felt like it might be a bit too overwhelming for a small bedroom. 
Filled with books.
I don't want to get rid of any books because eventually he's going to learn to read, so even those baby books will hopefully be useful when he's starting to sound out words.    

Wanna Chat?

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Superstar Pepperoni Pizza Skillet

Here's a quick recipe write-up of the pepperoni pizza skillet I made last week. This is mainly a concept so you can customize it with your favorite pizza toppings.  The only measurements are the 8 ounce can of pizza sauce and the amount of rice (approximately 1.5 cups cooked). 

Inspiration

Green Lite Bites pepperoni pizza rice

As written the recipe isn't dairy free or vegetarian, but you could easily skip the cheese or use a non-dairy version.  And of course for a vegetarian version use whatever your favorite pizza toppings are - faux sausage crumbles, artichoke hearts, black olives, jalapenos, etc.  And it's easy to add extra toppings to your own serving if your family doesn't agree on the ideal pizza. 

Directions

Cook 1 cup brown rice or you can do like I did and mix half brown rice and half quinoa.  I did this in my rice cooker and I added a packet of onion soup mix to the water to give it flavor.  I also started the rice cooker in the morning and let it sit on the 'keep warm' setting until it was time to cook dinner so we didn't have to wait for the rice to cook since brown rice can take close to an hour.

When you're ready to cook dinner, over medium-high heat saute some chopped peppers and onions.  Mine come frozen in a bag, it's called "pepper stir fry mix", totally love it.
A little extra chopping of the peppers and onions.

Add some chopped spinach and minced garlic (from a jar) and cook a couple minutes until the spinach is wilted.

Then add some diced tomatoes, a pinch of oregano, and chopped pepperoni.  Add an 8 oz can of pizza sauce.   The add some of the rice, only as much as you think looks right.  I used about half of the rice-quinoa mix and saved the rest for fish dinner a couple nights later.  I added shredded mozzarella cheese on top and covered to let it melt over low heat, but if you want more cheese, stir some in and add more on top. 
Not beautiful, but tasty. 
After this photo I added shredded cheese and covered to melt it.

Verdict 

Like most skillet/casserole dishes this wasn't good looking but it sure was delicious.  I completely loved it and wanted to eat more, but I had cardio dance fitness class after dinner and with all the bouncing and jumping I was afraid if I ate more than I would be sick on the floor.  I sauteed a bunch of mushrooms and added that to my bowl since I'm the only one in the family that likes mushrooms. And I chopped up green olives for Husband Jeff and I to add to ours. 

It was good as leftovers too.  I will definitely make this again.  I'd like to figure out how to include more veggies though. Maybe I'll substitute part of the rice mixture with cauliflower "rice" (granules of cauliflower that mimic rice). 

Sonny D likes pizza well enough, but he doesn't LOVE it.  He ate a little bit of this, but wanted just the plain rice-quinoa with soy sauce. 

Wanna Chat?

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Better the Second Day: Roasted Broccoli

This is a recipe that I made for dinner in February but am now just getting around to posting.  Broccoli is Husband Jeff's favorite veggie and I think it's ok but I don't want it all the time.  It's always fun to see how I can change it up to be even better.

Even if you really don't like fish I think you should try this recipe.  But if you're allergic, of course skip it!  You could probably substitute a bit of miso for the anchovy though, maybe a teaspoon or two.   And I don't remember it being spicy, so I probably either substituted Korean pepper flakes (gochujaru) which is not spicy at all, or I skipped the red pepper all together.

This roasting method is one I use often, you start with a foil-covered dish/container/baking sheet to let the veggies steam themselves at a high heat and then remove the foil for the rest of the roasting so the moisture evaporates and get the veggies browned a bit. 

Inspiration 

Cooking Light roasted broccoli with garlic and anchovy

You could easily make this dairy-free by switching out the butter with coconut oil or olive oil. I don't recommend skipping the anchovies though, they're going to add a savory saltiness. 

Ingredients

  • 6 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme (it called for 2 tsp fresh thyme, but who has that?)
  • 2 tsp lemon peel (I used dried from Penzey's)
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 anchovy filets (I used a couple squirts of anchovy paste in a tube)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Directions

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  

Toss the broccoli florets with the tablespoon of olive oil and pour out onto a sheet pan and cover tightly with foil.  Bake for 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the rest of the ingredients for the sauce except the garlic.
Anchovy sauce.
Remove the foil, add the garlic to the broccoli and cook uncovered for an additional 6 minutes.
Broccoli and garlic

When the broccoli is tender, remove from the oven and toss with the anchovy sauce. Serve.
All tossed together.

Verdict

Roasting your veggies is pretty much always the way to go, it might take a little longer than steaming or the microwave, but it produces much better flavors.  This was pretty good at dinner the first night, but totally amazing the next day after it soaked up the sauce.  The flavor was a lot more buttery and rich tasting as leftovers. And if I remember right, I chowed all of the leftovers by myself since I come home for lunch pretty much every day. 

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of April 14

Week in Review 

The pizza superstar skillet made with brown rice and quinoa was great. Like most casserole type dishes, it's not the prettiest, but it tasted really good.  The recipe will be coming soon. 
Pizza Superstar Skillet

On Wednesday my friend Renae drove up from Dubuque, Iowa, and we had I had lunch at my favorite sushi place, Restaurant Muramoto. I love sushi at this place so much that I've already asked Husband Jeff and our friend Buddha if they'll meet me for lunch there either this week or next.  Husband Jeff doesn't like sushi, but I've heard their entrees are great.
Me and Renae.
On Wednesday night my brother-in-law Scott was in town so we had dinner with him at Husband Jeff's parents' house. I made green beans with fennel and feta cheese, I liked it a lot but wish I had bought a bigger fennel bulb since I've found I really like fennel. Mother-in-law Cathy made an awesome chicken pot pie.
Green beans with fennel and feta
Sonny D's swimming lessons are going great.  He does pretty much everything except put his face in the water to blow bubbles, but I think that's because he forgets to blow and always ends up sucking up a bunch of water.  This week at Chocolate Shoppe Sonny D had a junior scoop of chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream and I ordered a monkey tail (banana dipped in chocolate and then frozen).  We ended up sharing the monkey tail since Sonny D really likes chocolate.

I had a really busy Friday.  After dropping off Sonny D at preschool, I got a pedicure, browsed exercise clothes at Old Navy, ate leftover pizza superstar skillet in the car, went to the volunteer sale at the Half-Pint resale event, went shopping at Marshall's (new exercise clothes!), headed back to the sale to work my volunteer shift, and then went to Husband Jeff's parents to pick up Sonny D.  I got some great stuff at the sale, Sonny D requested a lawn mower, so I had to get one of those.  I also bought him a Sit-n-Spin, a kid-sized camp chair (with a cup holder!), a plastic pizza set, a couple pairs of leggings (he prefers them over regular pants since they're super comfy), a pair of sandals, and a pair of aqua socks/water shoes.  The lawnmower was definitely a great purchase for $5, he absolutely loves it.  He insisted on going outside to "mow" in the back yard even though it was rainy and cold all weekend.  But the sleeper hit is the aqua socks!  He put them on, wore them to bed that night and constantly for the next couple of days. I had never imagined he would love them so much. 

This Week

This week isn't busy at all.  Sunny D doesn't have preschool for the week because it's spring break. Luckily Husband Jeff's parents live nearby and will watch him.

I need advice!  This is the first year we're going to do an Easter basket and I don't know what to do in reference to the Easter Bunny!  What are everybody's traditions?  What did you grow up with?   All I remember is that the Easter Bunny hides a basket of awesome stuff for you.  Any suggestions for what to do for a three-year-old?  Sonny D liked finding candy canes hidden around the house in the days leading up to Christmas, so I'll probably hide plastic eggs around the house for Easter morning.  
  • Monday - We opened a jar of marinara sauce on Saturday so we're using the rest of the jar for pasta with red sauce for dinner.  Over lunch I prepped carrots, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts and we're going to roast them when I get home.
  • Tuesday - Another quick meal of pancakes, Canadian bacon, and scrambled eggs before I head out for cardio dance fitness class.
  • Wednesday - Premade chicken cordon bleu from our local meat market along with a bag of frozen Tuscan veggies with marinara.
  • Thursday - Husband Jeff will feed Sonny D chile-lime chicken burgers from Trader Joe's along with a a frozen bag of mac and cheese with broccoli since I've got  Zumba right after work.  After exercising, I'll meet up with them at the pool so I can help with the after-pool showering.  The men's locker room at the elementary school pool is super tiny and the women's is larger, so I'm going to clean up Sonny D while Husband Jeff maneuvers around all the other dads in the miniscule men's room.  And we'll go out for ice cream afterwards, like usual. 
  • Friday - hot dogs, corn, Trader Joe's frozen superfood pilaf (blend of quinoa, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale).  This is "Me & D" night.  Not sure what we'll do for entertainment, but I've heard the newly renovated downtown library is a lot of fun, so I might see if he wants to go there. 
  • Saturday - I'm going to be at Food Camp all day.  It's already sold out, so glad I bought my ticket early!  I'm most interested in the classes about the pressure cooker, canning, mindful eating, and fermented breakfast cereal (what is that??).  For dinner we're going to Glass Nickel Pizza to celebrate our friend Buddha's birthday (last Friday) and Husband Jeff's (next Wednesday).  
  • Sunday - My Mom invited us and Husband Jeff's parents over for Easter luncheon.  I haven't decided what to bring for a dish to pass, but right now I'm thinking glazed carrots.  For dinner we're having spring rolls, a few leftover home-frozen Asian meatballs, and a frozen bag of brown and wild rice with broccoli and carrots (might turn it into quickie fried rice). 

Wanna Chat?

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Recipe Win: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars

I know a pumpkin recipe is out of season for spring, but I made this recipe back in January and then was so busy that I couldn't finish writing it up. I think I made these as the dessert to our intimidating but fabulously successful beef tenderloin meal.

Inspiration

Cookies and Cups lightened up pumpkin cream cheese swirl bars

Ingredients

Cream cheese swirl
  • 1 (8 oz) block 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp water (I used French vanilla creamer because our milk was frozen (arg!) and I wanted to add more flavor)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (adding more flavor, no reason to leave it as plain cream cheese!)
cake 
  • 16 oz package angel food cake mix
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon ( my cinnamon is strong so I only used 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp butter extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray.

With a mixer, combine the swirl ingredients -- cream cheese, sugar, non-dairy creamer, and vanilla extract.  Beat until smooth and creamy.
Fluffy cream cheese mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry angel food cake mix, pumpkin puree, water, pumpkin pie spice,  cinnamon, butter extract, and vanilla extract.  Mix until smooth.  

Pumpkin-y batter
You're going to make two layers of batter to ensure you get a good blend.  Pour half of the pumpkin mixture into the pan and add dollops of half the cream cheese mixture. Swirl gently with a knife a couple times to combine. 
Swirled first layer.
Do the same with the remaining batter, add the rest of the pumpkin batter on top and swirl in dollops of the rest of the cream cheese mixture. 
Swirled messy second layer
Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the cake part comes out clean (not coated in batter).
All done.
Another good indicator that it's done is when it slightly pulls away from the sides of the pan. 

Closeup of the edges pulled away. 

Verdict 

I loved this pumpkin bar.   My previous angel food bars turned out to be a bummer, they ended up really flat and not very good, so I was happy these actually worked out.  These were cake-like and a little dense with a wonderful swirl of cream cheese. So even though pumpkin is more of a fall flavor, if you're looking for a good dessert, make this!  And they are definitely bar format, denser than a cake.  

It would be neat to add some cocoa powder to the cake mixture to see if you could make a chocolate version. 

Wanna Chat?

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Friday, April 11, 2014

Dip An Apple In It: Greek Yogurt Peanut Butter Dip

I thought this Greek yogurt peanut butter dip would be great to send along in Sonny D's lunches for the week along with some apple slices. I whipped this up for dinner on Sunday night and it was super quick and easy. 

Inspiration 

Family Fresh Meals Greek yogurt peanut butter dip
FitSugar creamy peanut butter dip

I combined the two recipes as I was mixing it to get what I thought was the right blend of ingredients and flavors. I could have used plain yogurt, but I thought vanilla would be a better choice.  And I don't have maple syrup called for in one recipe, but I do have honey. 

Ingredients

  • 6 oz vanilla Greek yogurt (one serving container)
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/2 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Taste and see if you need to adjust any flavoring. 

Creamy peanut butter dip.

Verdict 

We ate this for dinner with apple slices.  Sonny D liked it, but declined when I offered it for his lunch the next day.  Oh well.  We finished it off with another apple the next night. 

I don't care for yogurt at all, but this was pretty good.  I'd rather eat apples without it though.  It reminded me of that potluck salad of grapes in a creamy dressing with chopped nuts sprinkled on top.  I absolutely love that salad but I'm sure the original isn't the healthiest with all the cream cheese and sour cream.  This dip would be approximately the same thing, but I would leave out the peanut butter and switch the honey for brown sugar.  

Oh, you could add some cocoa powder or chocolate syrup to make a choco-peanut butter version, that might be really good.  I've also got some caramel syrup meant for flavoring coffee, that would be good with peanut butter as well.  Oh, and some chopped peanuts would be a great way to expand the peanut flavor. 

Wanna Chat?

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ten-Minute Enchilada Sauce for Chicken Enchiladas

Are you:
  • out of enchilada sauce but want to make enchiladas?  
  • too lazy to go to the store?  
  • an overachiever who is trying prove that you're a bad-ass kitchen ninja by making your own enchilada sauce? (I think this is the one most applicable to me, but also #2.)

Well, if any of those things above applies to you, here's the enchilada sauce I made from scratch on Sunday.  I wish I had a nicer chili powder for a deeper flavor, but I used regular McCormick chili powder that we use for chili.  Our grocery store didn't seem to have anything fancier and I couldn't use anything spicy for fear of Sonny D not eating it.  

Sonny D was my helper for this recipe, he did a great job being careful when stirring and didn't have any mistakes or injuries.  He also reminded me to "be careful!" when shredding the hot chicken, chopping the spinach, etc.

My enchilada filling was two chicken breasts grilled on the George Foreman grill and then shredded with two forks, a can of chopped green chiles, most of a can of petite diced tomatoes, some chopped spinach, a splash of enchilada sauce to keep it moist, and some shredded sharp cheddar cheese.  I like using strong-tasting sharp cheddar for cooking because it has more flavor than a milder cheese so I can use less of it.  You could fill your enchiladas with seasoned ground meat or roasted veggies.  Oh, I also like roasted veggies with scrambled eggs in enchiladas, an excellent breakfast dish.

Oh, and we prefer corn tortillas for enchiladas, not flour.

This sauce recipe made enough for 13 enchiladas, which filled an 8x8 and 9x13 pan.

Inspiration

All Recipes ten minute enchilada sauce

My Modifications

I used half as much oil because I didn't see a reason to use that much and you could probably make it without any oil at all.  And instead of self-rising flour I used white whole-wheat flour because that's what I had and I didn't think it needed the extra salt and baking powder in self-rising (pretty sure we're just looking for the thickening power of flour).  And when I looked in the pantry I realized I didn't have tomato sauce, so instead I used a 6 oz can of tomato paste and added more water until it looked right.  I added 1/4 tsp of salt to start, but added more later after tasting. 

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup New Mexico or California chili powder
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce (or 6 oz can tomato paste with at least 1 additional cup of water)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion salt
  • salt to taste (at least 1/4 teaspoon)

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium-large skillet on medium heat and add the flour and chili powder and stir it with a whisk. 

Pulling out our ingredients.
The flavor is even better if you use Sonny D's favorite egg-shaped whisk. 
Whisking the flour and chili powder.
Add in the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Taste and probably add more salt. 
Whisking up the sauce.
Sonny D carefully stirred.  I'm actually in too much of a hurry when I'm cooking so I tend to make a mess when I stir, so I would say he actually did a better job than me. 
 He's wearing a carpenter's apron around
his little waist and I was wearing my cooking apron.
Use a little sauce in your enchilada filling.  
One 8x8 pan of four enchiladas. 
Later I added shredded cheese and put it in the freezer to save for another day.
Fill and roll your enchiladas and place them seam side down.  Pour the rest of the sauce over your filled enchiladas. 
And one 9x13 pan of nine enchiladas. 

The baked enchiladas after we've ravaged them. I purposely left my burned oven mitt in the picture. 

Verdict 

It wasn't much work to make it since it was generally hands-off (aside from Sonny D's love of whisking) but I wouldn't say that it's better than canned.  I bet it's a lot better if you use a good chili powder though. Even if it didn't rock our socks off, it's nice to know you can make red enchilada sauce without going to the store.

I wish I had added even more salt, to me it seemed a little bland.   I have this problem about not adding enough salt, I'm afraid to add too much since I like saltier foods than my family.  Plus it might seem fine when you taste it plain since it's the only flavor in your mouth, but later I find that a little more salt when cooking would have added so much more.  I'm still trying to figure out the right amount. 

After all of this though, I have to say I actually prefer green enchilada sauce instead, so I'm off to bookmark some green enchilada sauce recipes. 

Wanna Chat?

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bits & Bobs

Applesauce As Replacement For Oil

Have you ever used applesauce instead of the oil in a recipe for baked goods?  I've done this for recipes in the past, but just the other day I read that you should add an extra ½ teaspoon of baking powder to make up for the loss of leavening power.  Why have I not heard that until just now??  Especially since I love cooking tips/advice and have read tons of them. 

Read The Directions!

I had a disappointment last week because I wasn't paying attention... I attempted to make bean soup in the slow cooker, but when we got home it didn't look right.  I tasted it and it wasn't done at all.  I forgot that bean soup needs to simmer to properly rehydrate those dry beans.  Last time I made it, it cooked in a pot on the stove on a weekend afternoon, which I had completely forgotten about. So a couple days later I got the soup on the stove in the morning to simmer for an hour and let it finish in the slow cooker all day.  It turned out fine, but that was really frustrating, especially since I was looking forward to soup for dinner that night.  We ended up having a frozen Jack's rising crust pizza instead, which made Husband Jeff happy.

I'm Currently Reading...

Right now I'm reading The Science of Good Cooking from Cook's Illustrated magazine.  This book is hefty but a really good source of information.  It's a good primer on why things cook the way they do but without being too in depth in the science and over my head.  I love books like this because I like understanding a recipe, mainly so I know how to modify it since I can't seem to make a recipe as written. 

Restaurant Incubator

Last week I read this awesome NPR article about a Dallas restaurant incubator.  Business incubators are pretty common and on the north side of Madison we've got a food business incubator called FEED Kitchens.  A restaurant incubator is a neat concept, it allows restauranteurs an opportunity to try their creative new business ideas to see if they'll work.  This could revitalize an abandoned area of town.  Plus I love the idea of several eateries all in one location, similar to the mall food court, but way classier!  it would be perfect for when you're going out with several friends but nobody can agree on where to go.   And it should hopefully attract others to the neighborhood, like artists.  Another grand vision the investors have is that the area will be set up with New Urbanism development in mind, a mix of commercial businesses and residential housing in a walkable landscape.  This isn't without it's detractors though.  The people that originally lived in the area are unwilling to let the developers come in and take everything over.  I understand their reticence, gentrification could push them out of the way, but it would probably be appreciated to have a nicer neighborhood with better amenities.  Here's an older-but-longer article from D Magazine if you want to read more details about it.  I would love to visit Dallas to eat at the restaurant incubator just to see the space and check out the restaurants that have made the cut.

So Much Cereal!

Yesterday I counted 12 unopened boxes of cereal at home!   I figure you've gotta get it when it's cheap and it's usually pretty cheap at Target, so when I was there last week I picked up a few boxes.  And this weekend the grocery store was having a 4/$10 special. You don't have to buy four boxes (unless specified) but I figure why not go for four, it lasts forever!  So now we have a lot of cereal hanging out.  Only a few boxes fit in our pantry at one time, so the rest is stacked precariously on the basement stairwell shelves Husband Jeff built for me a couple years ago, among the canning supplies, stand mixer, bread machine, etc. 

Smell My Hands!

Vanilla Creme Method hand soap. 
I love the Method seasonal foamy hand soaps.  I found the dulce de leche on clearance last fall and pulled it out right before our soup party last month and it smelled amazing.  That's finally gone so I replaced it with the vanilla creme scent for summer and it smells like yellow birthday cake!  Yum!  If you can find it, get your hands on it!  :)


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!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of April 7

This past week we had a delicious tropical dinner at Cafe Costa Rica using my discounted gift certificate. Only one gift certificate for Dobhan left before I'll allow myself to buy more!

Two Thumbs Up! I ended up making tuna melts on English muffin halves for dinner on Friday.  Sonny D liked them a lot.  Husband Jeff doesn't care for tuna or mayo, so he made his own turkey sandwich using Applegate turkey deli meat. We recently discovered Applegate natural lunch meats after my friend Aaron recommended their hot dogs and we really love their stuff. The turkey lunch meat was a bit bland but the ham is amazing and we can't wait to try more.  I've bought Applegate products at Target and Trader Joe's.

I think it's finally spring here in Madison. On Friday there was snow swirling around at lunch and after work, but things warmed up over the weekend. Saturday was warm enough that we only needed sweatshirts instead of coats. That threw Sonny D off though, he thought we had forgot about our coats and he was quick to point it out.  I had to reassure him we would be fine.

Menu Plan

  • Monday - Have you noticed that chicken breasts only seem to come in huge packages now?  It used to be that it was a little over one pound in one of those Styrofoam trays and nowadays it's hard to find anything under two pounds.  And the breasts are huge!  They're definitely not organic chicken, they would probably be a lot more reasonable if they were.  At the grocery store I recently bought a 2+ lb.package and figured I'd split it up.  On Sunday I made 9x13 and 8x8 pans of chicken enchiladas using the two moderate breasts and I saved the 1 HUGE breast for today's chicken wraps.  I'll cook it up in the ole George Foreman grill, put it in the big tomato-basil wraps that I just HAD to have, and add in a handful of salad greens and avocado. I don't really eat that many sandwiches (hardly ever!), so I have no idea why I felt the need to buy the wraps. 
  • Tuesday - I'm going out for lunch with some girls from work and we're having sushi. Yay! I love sushi but Husband Jeff doesn't eat it, so I try to get it with friends whenever I can.   For dinner I'm making up a dish I'm calling pizza superstar skillet.   It'll be brown rice and quinoa made in the rice cooker with onion soup mix (it's been hanging out in the pantry for a while, better use it up!), a bit of chopped spinach, chopped turkey pepperoni, pizza sauce, and shredded cheese.   
  • Wednesday - My friend Renae is coming to town so we're having lunch together.  Husband Jeff's brother is in town for a conference and we're having dinner with the family. For our contribution I'm going to make green beans with fennel
  • Thursday - We're having a quick dinner of  peas, rice, and chile-soy sauce steamed fish before Sonny D's second swimming lesson. The first one went great and of course he loved having chocolate ice cream afterwards. 
  • Friday - I'm taking the day off to shop and work my volunteer shift for the Half-Pint resale event.  I highly recommend it if you're in the Madison area and have any need for kid stuff.  The public sale is Saturday and the half-price sale is Sunday.   I might also get a pedicure if I've got enough time.  I'll be getting home a little later so I'll probably have oatmeal or a bowl of cereal on my own.
  • Saturday - This will be a fun day, we're having breakfast with the Easter bunny fundraiser to benefit the local food pantry. Then we're going to the Kids In The Rotunda children's event (this week's performance is juggling) with friends and then out to lunch afterwards. Dinner will be quick and easy spaghetti since we're eating breakfast and lunch out.
  • Sunday - We've got a few containers of homemade chili in the freezer that we should eat up, so we'll have chili mac

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!