Thursday, August 29, 2013

Buckwheat for Breakfast

Individual buckwheat groats
I finally tried the buckwheat I bought from the bulk bin.  It's usually so much easier to stay in a rut by making a big batch of regular oatmeal rather than figuring out how to make something new.  I definitely wanted to make a small batch in case I didn't like it.

I bought buckwheat groats, the hulled version of the grain.  I have no idea what it would look like with the hull, maybe it's something you only want to feed to farm animals, and I haven't turned into a horse (not yet at least, despite Husband Jeff's whinneys and neighs occasionally when I eat oatmeal).  Each groat is triangular-shaped, like a little pyramid.

Buckwheat is gluten-free even though it has "wheat" in the name, so if that's your thing, you can go for it.  


makes two servings

I was too lazy to look up how to cook plain buckwheat so I checked one recipe and figured I would chance it by cooking them like steel-cut oats, which involves a 2:1 ratio of water to oats.

  • 1/2 cup buckwheat groats
  • 1 cup water


I also treated the buckwheat groats like steel-cut oats when it came to cooking.  I used the heat-it-up-and-forget-it method where you bring it to a boil on the stovetop to start the cooking process, turn it off, and letting it sit overnight. It's quicker than standing over the stove working at it but also with maximum hydration.  So when you wake up in the morning, breakfast is waiting.
Groats plus water.
Put the groats and water in a small pot with a lid and bring it to a boil.  Once it reaches a boil, take it off the heat and let it sit undisturbed overnight.
Water absorbed
In the morning, divide it up between two bowls, add your toppings/mix-ins and any sweetener. 
My first bowl of buckwheat!


The amount I made was two servings, so I had it for breakfast two days in a row.  I added half a diced peach both days and the last bits of dried cranberries to the first bowl since I'm trying to eat up all the breakfast items I've stockpiled.  I also added my coconut creamer (not really a fan, I think I'm giving up and sticking with the icky store-bought non-dairy creamer) and some regular creamer.

Cooked buckwheat smells similar to quinoa, an earthy scent.

The buckwheat seemed pretty filling (wasn't hungry a couple hours later) and the texture is nice, but I would like it to be more porridge-like, so I'll probably mix it with other things like old-fashioned rolled oats and rye flakes.  I've found I'm really more of a fan of porridge than individual grains. 

One way to jazz it up would be to add some flavors in the cooking liquid, like maybe a mashed banana or dried fruit or replace the water with juice or milk.  I thought about doing that but I wanted to try it unadulterated first to see what I thought.  

Cooked buckwheat seems similar to Israeli couscous, barley, or steel-cut oats.  It's separated grains, not like a porridge.  I didn't really have any idea what it would be like, but if I had thought about it, I would have realized it wasn't going to make a thick porridge since it's similar to steel-cut oats. Buckwheat groats would be good made into a savory salad with chopped veggies like cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, some chunks of feta cheese, with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. 

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Inspired by India: Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

This recipe ended up being another joint effort where I relied on several recipes to end up with the final dish, and then towards the end, I ended up winging it anyway.  This recipe actually starts the day before when I sliced an eggplant into rounds and then threw under the broiler with some leftover onion slices for about 30 minutes. I was intending to make baingan bartha (eggplant curry) to go along with the tikka masala, but I added it to this recipe because I didn't want to make even more food. 


Weight Watcher slow cooker chicken tikka masala
A Summer of Pie low fat chicken tikka masala
Shrinking Kitchen lighter chicken tikka masala

The first two recipes are virtually the same, I don't know if one is a copy of the other or what.

I mainly followed these recipes but used half as much chicken than called for since I only had 1 pound.  After I put everything in the slow cooker, I started tossing in other things that I had, like the shredded zucchini. 

If you want to make this vegetarian, you can substitute firm tofu for the chicken, but I wouldn't add it until closer to the end of the cooking time.  And you could make it dairy-free by substituting a non-dairy yogurt or skipping the yogurt all together since it's great without it.  Coconut milk or cream would be another good substitution.


  • 14 oz diced tomatoes (It wasn't until I opened the can that I realized mine included garlic and olive oil, plain is probably fine)
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (some of the onion I used was a red onion that I roasted, but not roasted is fine too)
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon ginger (mine is the paste from a tube)
  • 1 Tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 pound chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4-5 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 eggplant, sliced and roasted  
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 3/4 cup shredded zucchini 
  • 6 oz plain Greek yogurt


Put everything in the slow cooker except the Greek yogurt and cook on low for 6-8 hours. 
Everything goes in the slow cooker. 
Those are frozen "muffins" of shredded zucchini on top.
I came home for lunch at the halfway point and took the chicken out and cut it into bite-sized chunks. 
Mid-point of cooking, took the chicken breasts out. 
Then I used my immersion blender to puree everything else left in the slow cooker. 
The saucy stuff minus the chicken.

whizzing up the saucy stuff.

aiming for a smooth puree.

smooth enough now?
Then I threw the chicken breast chunks back in and let them finish the rest of the cooking time.

When it came time to serve, I got out the container of yogurt and added some of the hot sauce from the slow cooker to it to temper it.  Stir it around and keep adding a bit more of the sauce and stirring until you bring up the temperature a bit, you don't want it refrigerator-cold.  That will prevent it from curdling when you add it to the slow cooker.
Tempering the yogurt.
Add the warmed up yogurt mixture to the slow cooker and stir it around. 
My plate of brown Basmati rice with sauteed spinach and chicken tikka masala.
I served this on brown Basmati rice. for my plate I also added some sauteed spinach since I had it. I thought it might turn Sonny D off, so I only put it on my plate rather than mixing it into the entire batch.


Husband Jeff and I loved this.   I think it needs a ton more tomato flavor (more paste?) to match the version at my favorite Indian buffet, but I think my version is probably way healthier.  I'm glad I resisted the urge to throw in a bunch of extra spices since I don't really know what I'm doing with Indian food.

Sonny D had a bit of rice but later freaked out when I tried to give him rice with the chicken and sauce.  He didn't eat much for dinner that night, which is fine. 

This made a lot, we had it for dinner the first night, and then we each had it for lunch at least one more time, maybe two.  There was still a lot of sauce and chicken left over, so I put it in the freezer so we can have a quick meal later. 

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Another Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Adventure: Cauliflower-Crust Mini Pizzas

Using my recipe for the cheesy cauliflower "breadsticks" as my guide, I made mini pizzas.  Here's a photo tour of what I did.

Once again, I got too excited about mixing everything together and completely forgot the step where you cook the cauliflower and then squeeze out all the liquid.  I skip ahead to the part where you add the egg, cheese, and seasonings, and then I try to microwave it a tiny bit (but don't cook the egg!).  These still turned out pretty good even with that error.

If you want to make this vegetarian, definitely use vegetarian-friendly toppings.  
The ingredients.
This time I couldn't find an important part for the chute attachment on my food processor like I used for the breadsticks, so this time I used the cup part and chopped up the cauliflower that way.  It works quite well! 
I jumped the gun, that's not cooked cauliflower!
A big bowl of cauliflower mixture.
Even though I forgot the step of cooking the cauliflower before adding the cheese and egg and seasoning, I went ahead and scooped out spoonfuls of cheesy, seasoned cauliflower mixture.  Flatten them out a bit but try to ensure all the pieces are touching so they form a cohesive structure when the egg cooks.
shaping out rounds
Pre-cook the cauliflower crusts for a few minutes (until lightly browned).  I really don't recall how long, but it was longer than I expected.  Probably because I missed that first step in the microwave and left the mixture too wet! 
After some initial cooking, add sauce.
Add sauce and toppings after that initial stint in the oven.  Pick your favorite ones and customize! We used chopped up pepperoni, onion, bell pepper, black olives, shredded mozzarella, and sliced pepperjack.  Oh, and mushrooms on mine. 
cute mini pizzas waiting to go back in the oven.
Put them in the oven for a few minutes until they're done to your liking and the cheese is melted.
Browned and waiting to go in my belly!


Sonny D barely touched his, he might have had a single bite, but I don't think it was because he was suspicious about what it was made of, but rather because he's a toddler and sometimes they just don't eat much.  Husband Jeff and I ate them and enjoyed them, but I'm sure they would have been better if I had done the first steps properly so they would brown up more and be a bit more solid.  I can't believe I did it wrong twice (for the breadsticks and for these mini pizzas)!

There is barely a touch of cauliflower-ness to them.  I like cauliflower and so it wasn't an issue, but if you served this to a cauliflower-hater, they might not like them much.  But really, it's a vehicle for the toppings.  I would definitely stick with stronger-flavored toppings, like sausage, pepperoni, etc.  If you went with something bland, the cauliflower flavor might come through even more.

I have to recommend NOT chopping up an entire head of cauliflower, because it ends up being way more than you think it will be.  I ended up freezing the remainder of the chopped up cauliflower mixture and putting it into other things. 

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Menu Plan: Week of August 26

Mountain climber challenge progress

For our virtual mountain climb I did 431 steps since last Monday, 1,923 steps total since we started, which is 82% complete out of the total 2,330 steps.  This week I slacked a bit since I was really busy with work, I even forgot to do them one day.  Oops.  I'm way down this week, I averaged only 61 "steps" per day, compared with last week's average of 90 "steps" per day.   

On Sunday we rode on the city bus to go out for pizza since Sonny D loves buses.  He did great, he sat down in his seat and was quiet the whole time.  Total pro at it!  We had delicious pizza and then made our way back to the bus stop and went home.  The best was when we got back to our car at the park-and-ride lot, Sonny D said "good-bye, bus!" 

Meal Plan

I need to do a freezer inventory because I know my current freezer list is out of date.  Sometimes I get busy and I don't remember to write down the new things I put in the freezer and also forget to cross items off when we use them.  Plus I've been freezing a lot of my own fresh food, like zucchini shreds and sweet corn, and I know those aren't on the list.  I hope I can find time for that this week because it becomes harder to plan meals when you're not really sure what you've got in the house.

  • Monday - I've got an adoption group committee meeting in the evening so dinner needs to be quick. I'm going with a Korean-inspired dish with  tofu, veggies, and rice noodles and served with salads.  I'll dry-fry the tofu and throw in random veggies and Korean flavors from japchae ("mixed and stirred vegetables").
  • Tuesday - Last week we enjoyed our dinner at the food carts at our neighborhood meet-and-eat event.  I had tofu squash curry, Husband Jeff had nachos and a couple beef and cheese empanadas plus a yogurt from home. Sonny D had a container of yogurt from home, some of the empanadas, and definitely some nachos.  Since we liked it last time and it's the last week of the food carts, we're going to have dinner there with Husband Jeff's parents. In the evening I've got an electrolysis appointment, I've only had one real session so far but I'm loving the results.  I'm having them zap the hairs on my legs.
  • Wednesday - We're ready to harvest a lot of eggplant from our garden, so I'm going to try oven-baked eggplant parmigiana. I've never made it before but I've made tofu parmigiana, so I figure it should be similar (famous last words!). I also found a recipe for a quick 3-serving, 3-minute microwave chocolate cake that I want to try out so I can share it with you. 
  • Thursday - Sonny D has a haircut after dinner so we're aiming for a little quicker meal.  I'm going to make a breakfast casserole (hash browns, meat, cottage cheese, eggs, veggies) because it's a great way to use up small amounts of ingredients and I think I've got a couple breakfast sausages hanging out and some pre-cooked bacon in the freezer.  Hopefully I can convince the guys that we need sweet potato pancakes with the egg dish since I really want to try them. 
  • Friday - After work I'm going shopping with my friend Jessica and we're going to Noodles and Company for dinner since its quick and can be decently healthy. Gotta be fast so we can shop as much as possible!  I figure Husband Jeff and Sonny D will have a frozen pizza for dinner while I'm out, at least I think we've still got frozen pizzas downstairs in the chest freezer! 
  • Saturday - This Saturday and Sunday are the Taste of Madison, which is one of my favorite local "holidays" since it's a great way to try a variety of foods.  For lunch we'll aim for a lighter meal with pesto pasta with shredded zucchini and artichoke hearts. Also fish (maybe poached?) since we've got a couple pieces hanging around in the freezer.  Then in the afternoon/evening we'll go to the Taste of Madison and pig out.
  • Sunday - We'll hit the Northside farmers' market like usual so we can get Sonny D's two egg rolls and my two spring rolls. Last week we tried fresh-squeezed orange juice and carrot juice from the smoothie cart, which was quite nice, we might get that again or try another combo. Husband Jeff is going to help our friends Dustin & Jessica move, so he'll probably do that while we're at the market. Later, our friends Alicia & Brian are having a pig roast, which sounds like fun, so we'll head over there for the afternoon. 
  • Monday - Since Monday is a holiday, I'll include it here since in my mind its an extension of the weekend and not really the start of a new week. It's so far away that its hard to plan for it, but I've written down hot dogs, a veggie pizza burger, and Trader Joe's frozen gnocchi alla Sorrentina.

Wanna Chat?

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Enhanced Box Mix Brownies

I needed a treat for work but I didn't have any time to make something from scratch but I also didn't want to resort to going to the grocery store to buy treats.  I knew I had a box of brownie mix in the cupboard, so that was the plan.  I figured plain brownies weren't going to win me any points with my coworkers, so I decided I would spiffy them up a bit. 


  • Betty Crocker fudge brownie mix  (13x9 family size, 18.3 oz)
  • water, oil, and eggs called for on the box
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla 
  • 1 tsp Folgers decaf instant coffee crystals (coffee enhances chocolate flavor)
  • 3/4 container Trader Joe's mini chocolate peanut butter cups, choppe


Preheat the oven as directed on the box.  Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  
chopped PB cups.  I might have tasted a couple.
Mix the water, oil, eggs, vanilla, and add the coffee crystals to ensure they fully dissolve.  Then add the brownie mix powder and mix thoroughly.  Then stir in the chopped mini peanut butter cups.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake as directed.
Had a taste to ensure they were
good enough to serve to my coworkers!


The piece I tasted was quite good, but I don't know if they were really jazzed up enough to be a whole lot better than plain box brownies (which are quite fab!). 

They seemed to go pretty fast at the office, so I think that means they were good. 

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Menu Plan: Week of August 19

dress, top, and pink pants.
I have totally been in a mood to shop and buy things. It's mainly been clothes, I think because its "back to school" time. In the last two weeks I've bought:

on eBay
  • 2 pairs of fun dress pants for work, one bright salmon pink and one royal blue
  • Two floral blazers - one pink and purple, the other blue and green
  • A teal and white striped casual top for fall
  • A halter dress that I hope I still get a chance to wear before the weather turns cold. I'd love to wear it to the Taste of Madison on Labor Day weekend.
blue pants and two blazers

from Old Navy
Two patterned workout tops, one purple and the other aqua

3 pairs of shoes - grey, nude, and teal. But I think the nude pair might get sent back because they seemed a little tight when I tried them on the other day.

Some of the items have arrived but others are still on their way. I love having the nice surprise of a package waiting on my doorstep when I get home from work.

Oh, and I bought two Madison Originals discounted restaurant certificates for Dobhan (fusion cuisine from Nepal and India) and Roman Candle Pizzeria (see Sunday's dinner plans).

I also signed up for two exercise classes for the upcoming fall semester - Core Fusion (my usual Saturday morning class) and PiYo, a class that I've never tried before, it's a mix of Pilates and yoga.

And I've been thinking of ordering the book the Flavor Bible. I totally enjoyed it when I borrowed it from the library and would really love owning it, but the thought of spending money on books just kills me since I'm such a cheapskate. I almost always get my books from the library or from super-duper sales where they're only $1-3 each.

If you happen to see me wearing any of these new clothes (or anything that looks new to you) definitely be sure to tell me how great I look in them so I can justify all the spending. :)

Progress on my mountain climber challenge

Weekly update on my progress for our virtual mountain climb - 635 steps since last Monday, 1,492 steps total, which is 64% of complete out of the total 2,330 steps. I keep increasing my daily totals, this past week I averaged about 90 "steps" per day compared with only 80 "steps" per day last week.

OK, so on to the meal plan!  We don't have a lot of family plans this week, but I've got three exercise classes like normal.

  • Monday - bacon pesto pasta (made with basil from our garden), regular green salad for husband Jeff, massaged kale salad for me.  I might roast up an eggplant too since we've got so many in the garden. Not sure what I'll do within the eggplant, last time I roasted it with intentions to make baba ghanoush but I ended up eating it on salads for lunch. 
  • Tuesday - Zumba class again for me but no swimming for Sonny D. Last week was the last swim class of the semester and he can't sign up for the next one until he's three years old by the time class starts.  The sessions start in September and October but since his birthday is in November he's going to have to wait until the spring semester for more swimming lessons.  For dinner I want to check out the food carts that come to our neighborhood for the weekly Meet and Eat neighborhood events in August. 
  • Wednesday - I love any reason to have breakfast for dinner and Sonny D's swimming lessons gave me that weekly excuse for a quick and tasty breakfast-for-dinner. So now that swimming is done, I don't have a convenient reason but I'm hoping to make a new recipe, that's my excuse now. I want to make scrambled eggs with either French toast waffles again or sweet potato pancakes. Plus we've got a can of spray whipped cream, so I guess that's all the reason you need to have something like waffles! 
  • Thursday - it's my last Total Toning class for the semester (this is a makeup class for a previously cancelled class) and class starts at 5:45, which is so early!  I can barely get home and eat a modest amount of food before busting out the door again.  So I'm planning to make slow cooker chicken tikka masala (planned for last week but never had it) with brown jasmine rice. 
  • Friday - I found a recipe for pizza crust that uses beer and doesn't need a lot of rising time, so I'm game to try it out. 
  • Saturday - I've got Zumba class in the morning and I was thinking about contacting friends to see if they wanted to go out brunch at Eldorado Grill.  In the afternoon we're attending a grillout to celebrate the marriage of one of Husband Jeff's close friends.  A grillout is always fun. 
  • Sunday - On Sunday morning we'll head up to north side farmers' market like usual to get spring rolls for me and eggrolls for Sonny D.  Sonny D loves buses, so for dinner we're going to hop on the city bus at the north transfer point by our house, ride to Roman Candle Pizzeria to sample their finest, and then ride the bus home. 

Wanna Chat?

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Chocolate Truffle Brownies

[Edited on 8/19/2013] - These were originally titled "Healthy Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies" but this new name of Chocolate Truffle Brownies more accurately reflects their rich taste and fluffy texture. They're like the inside of a chocolate truffle.  

I've wanted to make black bean brownies for a long time, like years.  Yep, it's exactly what you think, brownies made from black beans. I know it seems weird, but it's a pretty common way to make gluten-free or healthy/Weight Watchers baked goods since it removes the standard flour and replaces them with fiber- and protein-rich beans.  I've been curious about them forever but never really found the motivation to actually make them. I was pushed more to make this when my coworker Kate made a similar chocolate-chip cookie pie (made with garbanzo beans) and gave me a piece to taste.  Hers were incredibly delicious, and I was thoroughly impressed. I decided I should finally try my hand at them. 


Ridiculously Healthy easy super low calorie brownies
Chocolate-Covered Katie black bean brownies
Summer of Pie healthful vegan chocolate brownies (my coworker Kate's blog!)

I combined these three recipes to make mine.  The first two are more what I was going for because they didn't have flour and I wanted to keep mine gluten-free, but I compared flavors and other ingredients with the last recipe to see how she enhanced hers. Plus Kate's recipe is vegan, and I thought that was yet another restriction, and I didn't need to restrict these even more since they're already made with black beans, no flour of any sort, and oil-free. I was afraid if I made any other modifications, they wouldn't turn out at all.


makes 16 brownies, 100 calories each
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (recommend Ghiradelli semi-sweet)
  • 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 3/4 cup egg substitute (or 3 whole eggs because an egg is 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules, optional but it really enhances the chocolate flavor
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I'm using the homemade stuff)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar


Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spray an 8x8 or 9x9 pan with cooking spray.

Put the chocolate chips in the food processor and chop them up.  You don't want fine granules, only a few pulses to make them about 1/3 of the original size for better distribution.  Mine were frozen so they didn't chop too well. When you've got them chopped to the size you want, put them in a bowl off to the side to be incorporated later. 
Mine aren't too chopped, hopefully yours go better.

Once the chocolate chips are out of the food processor, put in the rest of the ingredients and pulse until smooth. 
beans and cocoa powder.
You'll probably need to stop and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and ensure there aren't any bits of bean missed. 
blended up smooth.
As you can see from the photos, the chocolatey batter oozed from the food processor bowl and came out everywhere.  So if you've got a small food processor, you can blend it in batches.  I would recommend mainly processing the beans (or most of them) with the egg and cocoa powder, the rest of the stuff can get mixed in by hand.  The cocoa powder definitely needs maximum hydration time. 
Messy batter.
If you use egg substitute, you can taste the raw batter since the eggs are pasteurized.  It tastes like chocolate pudding, quite nice. 
Tasty pools of chocolate.
When you've got it all processed smooth, add your chopped chocolate chips and pour into the prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. 
Finished pan.


A moist, fluffy brownie with rich chocolate taste... and NO hint of bean flavor.

Husband Jeff tried them (not knowing they were made of black beans) and he declared them to be the best brownies I've ever made.  Even a day or two later he was proclaiming them to be so amazingly good.  He might have gotten a little shy about eating them after I told him they were made of black beans, but I wasn't really paying attention. Sonny D wouldn't try them when I first offered him some, but he finally did taste it and as he scampered up into his chair to eat it, he said "thank you, mama", which was awesome. 

Wow, it really helps to use good quality chocolate.  This was my first time using Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips and they are wonderful.  Of course Sonny D and I had to taste them as soon as we opened the bag, and then a few more to verify their deliciousness.  They didn't have any of the bitterness I usually associate with Hershey's chocolate chips.  I also used high-quality Callebaut cocoa powder, which I don't think is necessarily much better than the Hershey's natural unsweetened cocoa powder but I guess for homemade brownies that truly depend on the flavor, it might matter here. 

The texture might have a little of the bean graininess, but I might think that because I'm looking for it.  They're fluffier than a normal brownie, which is fine if you're used to cake brownies since it's pretty similar, but if you prefer them fudgy, you might want to underbake them a bit.  I gave a brownie to a coworker and he said there is no way you would be able to tell it was made from beans.

I love them, I think they're great, but definitely a little different than a standard box brownie mix.  They might be a little closer to a homemade brownie, but since I don't prefer homemade brownies, I haven't eaten one in a long time to really remember what they're like.  But like I said, the high quality chocolate chips and cocoa powder probably really help a lot to make them taste richer and more decadent.  They're certainly not going to taste like a full-fat brownie since there's no fat added to keep them low-calorie.  If you don't mind adding a bit of calories, you can replace the applesauce with coconut oil or butter. 

So if you're curious, I highly suggest you try them with an open mind.

Wanna Chat?

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What Size Pancakes Do You Make?

The advent of the internet is a wonderful thing.  It allows me to shop at stores that aren't local to me, read and share information, and look at images I wouldn't normally encounter.  After years of browsing on the internet, along came blogs and Pinterest showing more of everybody's home lives and I realized something.  When I paid attention to photos of pancakes online, I discovered not everybody makes pancakes the way I'm used to.  Growing up, our pancakes were always on the larger side, where one would cover most of a dinner plate.  But now I find there are other sizes for pancakes, some are palm-sized or even smaller. I knew you could get "silver dollar" pancakes at restaurants, but I figured that was just a restaurant novelty like Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes, done to appeal to children. 

How Big Are Yours?

What size pancakes do you pour out when you make them at home?   If you make small pancakes at home, why that size?  Is that the size pancake you grew up with?  Does it just look better for blog pictures? Do you do it for children?  Are they easier to deal with when cooking?  I'm terrible at flipping pancakes.  As I flip, the raw top sometimes touches one of the already-flipped pancakes, thus tainting it with raw eggy batter.  So if smaller pancakes makes them easier to flip, I should try it.

What Goes On Top?

What do you typically put on your pancakes?  I only ever want butter along with lite syrup or boysenberry syrup, but I know some people skip the butter (sacrilegious!) and top with fruit and such.  Sometimes we'll put butter, syrup, and whipped cream on waffles, but I don't think we've ever tried it on pancakes.    

Tell me about your pancakes!

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Menu Plan: Week of August 12

I'm excited because I'm planning to make wine jelly some night this week.  Do you have any canning tips for me?  Please leave a comment or email me with any help or guidance you can provide.  I've already got the jars, jar lifter, and pectin. 

Weekly update on my progress for our virtual mountain climb - 565 steps since last Monday, 857 steps total, which is 36% of complete out of the total 2,330 steps.  I'm averaging about 80 "steps" per day this week, compared with only 58 "steps" per day last week.  This past week I had two days where I did two sets of mountain climbers each day.  One day I had extra energy and decided to do more later in the day, the other day was during one of my exercise classes and mountain climbers were part of our workout for the night. It was nice to get some extra steps in without really thinking about it.

Ok, now on to the menu plan for the week. Last week I was so lazy about making dinner, I wanted to go out to a restaurant most nights.  Luckily we ended up only going out once.  Hopefully this week I'm less lazy.
  • Monday - we'll have a tiny bit of barbecue leftovers from Sunday including baked beans, potato salad, homemade hummus, and two desserts, cream puffs and cake!
  • Tuesday - tonight is Sonny D's last swimming lesson for the summer and I've got Zumba class again, so I figured I would rely on my freezer by heating up some soup I've frozen and salads. My options are peanut stew or sweet potato-chipotle soup.
  • Wednesday - I'm really feeling like having Mexican so I'm planning taco salads, but maybe we'll have salads and tacos, essentially the same thing. 
  • Thursday - The basil in our garden is out of control and I need to do something with it, so we'll have pesto pasta with bacon chunks in it, that was good when I made it previously.  I've also got Total Toning exercise class in the evening, so I can't eat too much since I don't want to embarrass myself by puking in front of everyone. 
  • Friday - I want to try a new recipe, slow cooker chicken tikka masala.  It really helps that my grocery store (Copps) has their own brand of Greek yogurt on sale until October, so I've been making recipes that involve plain Greek yogurt.
  • Saturday - I'm going to my friend Rachel's bridal shower in the afternoon and I want to finally try out mini cauliflower crust pizzas, but that might be too ambitious to try to make that for dinner .  And my head of cauliflower might go bad by that point (bought on Thursday of the previous week), so I might need to keep track of that and maybe make this earlier in the week.
  • Sunday - Sonny D and I are going to visit my friend Kate for the afternoon so I was figuring we'd have a quick and simple dinner of hot dogs or sausages with pepperjack Mac and cheese. 
I also have a recipe for a microwave cake that takes about three minutes to cook and it serves three people.  Perfect for our family! So I might try that out this week too. 

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Spice Non-Dairy Creamer

I realized as I was writing up my admissions the other day that I was a bit embarrassed to say I use chemical-filled non-dairy creamer in my oatmeal each morning.  I was inspired to find a replacement for it and I remembered seeing recipes using coconut milk to make a non-dairy creamer, so I did some research to see what I could find.  Most use dates to sweeten it, but I didn't have dates in the kitchen other than chopped sugared dates, which I think I want to get rid of since dates don't need extra sugar (didn't know what I was buying).  I found one recipe that uses honey as a sweetener, so I used that one.


Shrinking Kitchen All Natural Vanilla Spice Coffee Creamer

My only substitution was to use cinnamon and baking spice instead of pumpkin pie spice.


  • 1 14-oz can light coconut milk
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking spice (can use cinnamon instead)


The original directions call for blending everything with a blender, but I figured I would skip that step since I didn't want to make a mess with my immersion blender.
Measuring out the honey
This was really simple, just put everything together (I used my 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup), stir it well to make sure there's no honey stuck in the bottom, and put it into a container for storage.
Adding the honey to the rest of the ingredients.
The spices don't really incorporate well, but keep going. Once you get it into a sealed container, you can shake it and it will mix better. 
Ready to pour it into an old International Delights bottle. 
Luckily I had the last bottle of International Delights coffee creamer that I washed out and refilled.
My vanilla spice non-dairy creamer!


I threw this together in the morning before work but I didn't have time to try it then.  So at lunch time I had a mug of coffee with it so I would know what it was like since I was going grocery shopping that night and needed to know if I should go back to the nasty creamer or buy more ingredients to make this.


It’s thick and sweet enough when you taste it plain, but not sweet enough when mixed into coffee, but I’m a total coffee wuss.  And it’s not creamy enough to "soften" my coffee to the level I like, I'm usually a 2-sugars and 2-creams sort of gal.
And it separates with the coconut cream on the top and coconut water on the bottom, so you have to shake it up before using it, but that's ok because I would do that with any creamer.

Any changes?

I've already added a second tablespoon of honey to it, but this morning was a total trial with my toddler and I didn't get to try it.

Maybe next time I wouldn’t add the almond milk.  I didn't see the point of using it when I don’t think it needs it, but I might find it actually does something.

So it's only "ok" but I will make it again to see if I can refine it to something I like a bit more.

Wanna Chat?

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Sugar Cookie Tea-Infused Oatmeal

I don't remember where I saw this first, probably The Oatmeal Artist blog, and I thought it sounded neat.  This past winter I bought "sugar cookie" herbal tea and saved the last couple teabags to make infused oatmeal.  Well, this week I finally got around to making it!  This was several months late since I made this in the middle of summer with a winter tea, but it was still tasty. 

I went the route of making tea and then used that water to make oatmeal. 


  • 2 teabags of "sugar cookie" herbal tea (use your favorite flavor)
  • 3/4 cup water (if you're not letting this soak overnight, you'll want to use only 1/2 cup water)
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 Tablespoon chia seeds (totally optional, but this is what I used)


Heat the water up in a bowl as if you're making tea and add the teabags.  My microwave has a 'hot water' setting where you enter the amount of water and it uses sensors to measure the amount of steam given off. For 1 cup of water it ends up being about 1 min + 30 seconds in my 1200-watt microwave and it comes out at the perfect hot temperature.  Hot enough to be hot, but cool enough to drink right away and not burn your mouth.  
Steep for the maximum amount of time recommended (7 minutes for mine), taste to ensure it's strong enough/not too strong, and then remove the teabags.  You don't want to infuse for too long, it can get bitter.
Teabags starting to soak in one of my oatmeal bowls. 
Yep, I have bowls that I pretty much only use for oatmeal.
Add the oatmeal and chia seeds. 
Oats, tea water, and chia seeds.
Cook the oatmeal in the microwave for 1-2 minute on high, then left it sit overnight to absorb all the water. 
It looks like this the next morning. 
My recipe is never the same thing twice since I like to add random things like oat bran, wheat bran, wheat germ, flax seed meal, other rolled grains, etc.  So if it ends up being too thick, I add a little more water the next morning and finish heating it up. This is how I used to make oatmeal at night to eat the next morning.  I liked being able to customize each bowl based on what I felt like eating, but now I need to save time with a toddler in the house so I make a 6-serving batch every few days.  It's definitely quicker to make a big batch and divvy it up into containers and throw them in the fridge.  Sometimes Sonny D has one of those servings, other times they're all mine. And they don't last long, it seems like I'm always making a big batch of oatmeal since I'll occasionally eat one for lunch.  Yep, two servings of oatmeal in one day. 


Pleasing, subtle flavor.

I could barely tell this was flavored since it was really similar to my plain cinnamon oatmeal, but it was really nice. The next time I think I'll use one of my stronger herbal teas, like tangerine-ginger. 

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Currently: August

I totally stole this whole format from Oatmeal After Spinning because I loved it so much.

Current book: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. 
Sometimes I giggle when reading this book because it feels like "miraculous product" talk with some foods as panaceas for random old-timey illnesses.  "Eat food X and it will cure your gout, dyspepsia, palsy, and prevent hysterics!"

But I am finding it inspiring to eat real foods, like butter instead of margarine and try sprouted breads. 

I'm also trying to catch up on all the random mail I've gotten in the last week or two.  

Current music: none.  I don't get much time to listen to anything fun.  In the mornings we listen to NPR during breakfast, so there's no music there unless they're doing a news piece that involves a something musical.  But I'm looking forward to the newly released graphic novel paired with the music from my favorite band, The Architects. 

Current guilty pleasure: Getting up early and going down to our basement to do a 30-minute workout on the elliptical machine and watching episodes of the '90s TV show Angel (spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) via Netflix On Demand on my new iPad.  This is about the only place/time I can have the privacy to watch what I want since we don't turn the TV on when our son is around.  I think we've turned the TV on only about 3-4 times since we brought him home a year ago, usually only to watch Green Bay Packers football games. 

My hot pink and neon orange pedi.
Current nail color: this awesome two-tone hot pink and neon orange pedicure I got with my friend Jessica.  I love getting these vibrant, clashing pedicures because they make me smile when I go to my workouts where you don't wear shoes (Zumba, Core Fusion).  

Current drink: as always, hot herbal tea, even in the summertime.  Somewhat recently I got some paper filter teabags on and they're great for taking loose tea to work since I don't want to fuss with a tea ball/infuser at the office.  Plus they're great for containing the super-fine bits in rooibos teas. 

Current food: It's a tie between the humongous spring roll I had at the northside farmers' market last week and the last of the wonderful Door County cherries that I also bought at the farmers' market.  At least the spring roll I can get each week until the end of the market, and I definitely plan to!  

Current favorite show: I love catching the Cook's Illustrated shows on PBS -- America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country.  Once again, this is when I'm on the elliptical in the basement by myself.  If I'm exercising on a weekday morning, I'm working out before our PBS stations come on the air (6 a.m.) so it usually only happens on the weekend afternoons. 

Current wish list: I would like a bunch of fun, stylish, colorful clothes for fall. Usually back-to-school time freaks me out but this year I noticed it and it made me a little happy.  I love the idea of getting some new clothes. To fulfill this wish, I'm bidding on fun colored dress pants on eBay.  I've already scored a pink pair and now I'm working on getting some bright blue ones.  I also wouldn't mind if somebody could recommend entire outfits to buy since I'm not the greatest at figuring it out myself. 

Current needs: I need to practice more restraint and not over-eat at pretty much every meal.  But I love food so much!

Current triumphs: Not forgetting to do my daily virtual climb up the mountain challenge.  I've been kicking butt on this! I even did two different sets yesterday, one in the morning and another in the evening after my Zumba class. 

Current bane of my existence: My husband would say my breakfast routine that is too intricate and takes too long, but I think it's totally fine because that's what I want to do for breakfast every day.  I seriously swear I've got some sort of weird food addiction to oats.

Current indulgence: going out for so many meals so often.  I love weekly lunches with my coworkers and we've got lots of great restaurants here in Madison.

Current slang: Does it count that I call my toddler son "dude"?  It's so weird, but it's the first thing that comes out of my mouth rather than his name.

Current outfit: I'm dressed for work, so a black blazer, royal blue tee, black pinstripe pants, and black suede pumps.  Yes, suede shoes in summer, I think they're the only black shoes I've got anymore and these are my only black pants, and I don't wear either of them often.

Current excitement: I would like to plan a trip somewhere with our son. It would be great to visit our friends out in Seattle, but I don't know if we're ready for a long flight (or any flight).  I'm also super-excited to pick up the equipment and supplies needed to make jelly/jam.  I went to a jelly-making class that focused on wine jellies and I think it would be so cool to make a couple batches to share with friends. 

Current mood: So excited to go out for dinner at the new Grampa's Pizzeria.

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Savory Zucchini-Cheddar Muffins with Quinoa

This is yet another recipe I've had my eye on for a while.  I attempted to make it a week or two ago, but I didn't have the plain Greek yogurt it needed.  Then after I bought the Greek yogurt, the more I looked at the Cook For Your Life recipe I realized I didn't like the amount of oil they used (only 1/3 cup, but still seemed like a lot), so I combined a couple recipes. I used the All Recipes one for the muffin base, and I followed the Cook For Your Life recipe for the spices and quinoa. 

Sonny D helps me cook sometimes, so this is one occasion where I really got him in on the action.


All Recipes savory cheddar zucchini muffins (base savory muffin recipe)
Cook for your Life zucchini, cheddar, and quinoa muffins (spices + quinoa idea)
Instructions for cooking quinoa

I replaced all of the butter from the All Recipes version with plain Greek yogurt.  And I removed some of the flour and replaced it with cooked quinoa.  I don't really know how much shredded cheese I used since it was an already open bag, that's why the calorie count varies.  If it was more like 3/4 cup of shredded cheese, then it would be at the low end, but if it was the full 2 cups, then it would be 135 calories per muffin.  I also skipped the Parmesan and bacon because I didn't think they were going to need it and I was too lazy to pull out even more ingredients.


makes 12 savory muffins, approximately 100-135 calories each
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (white all-purpose flour would probably be fine too, I used this because I had it)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (I made 1 cup dry which cooks up to approximately 2 cups of cooked quinoa.  The rest went into containers in the freezer.)
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed dry in a kitchen towel
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (from a jar)
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar (I had a partial bag, no idea how much I really used)


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick spray.  Definitely don't skip this part.  I forgot to spray mine and put the first one in and it stuck a bit, and that was in an essentially non-stick silicone pan. So if you're using a metal pan, you most definitely have to spray it. 
It helps to have a shirtless toddler assistant, makes them taste better! 
In a medium bowl mix the dry ingredients, flour through salt.  Luckily it didn't matter if he stirred this a lot, because this got "splashed" and mixed around as much as he could.
The dry ingredients mixed by a child's hands.
In a large bowl mix the wet ingredients, yogurt through shredded cheese.
The wet ingredients.  Gosh, that really is a beautiful hand model!
 My zucchini was huge, I had to cut it into about 4 pieces to get reasonable sized chunks to shred up.  All the rest of it went into a couple freezer bags to be frozen for later use, ya know, like when you get a hankering for random zucchini items (ok, really to boost the veggie quotient in dish). 
Some shredded zucchini before squeezing dry in a kitchen towel.
Zucchini in the wet mixture.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time (I split mine into three rounds) and gently combine.  Pour into the sprayed muffin pan.

 Bake for 30-35 min.
I always forget to take a picture before they go in the oven!
Let the muffins cool in the pan and then remove.  I ran a knife around mine to ensure they weren't stuck and then after they had cooled somewhat, tipped them on their sides to finish cooling to ensure they didn't get all soggy from steaming themselves in the pan. 
Cheesy muffins.


Reminiscent of the awesome homemade cheesy crackers I used to make in high school! 

We first ate these warm from the oven with our dinner and I was totally in love!  They totally gave me flashbacks to the many batches of homemade cheesy crackers I made in high school.  I ended up eating two the first night because I loved them so much even though I was already super-full from the rest of dinner.  I don't know if I even paid attention to whether Husband Jeff really liked them because I was caught in my own pleasant high school thoughts.  I guess he must have said he liked them because I packed them for his lunches and snacks the next couple of days.  Sonny D wouldn't even try them, but I feel like he would love them since it seems really child-friendly.

I had a couple coworkers each try a chunk of one because I was trying to talk them into making them. 

I wish these muffins were a little puffier, don't know if that was because the batter was a little wetter than it was supposed to be or if they need more baking powder.  It doesn't really bug me though since they taste great.  The only things I would change for next time is to see if I can add more zucchini, add maybe 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and maybe season the quinoa as it cooks.  But they were awesome as written, too. 

Since I've got so much zucchini, I might make this one again.  I've also got my eye on a lemon zucchini muffin that sounds pretty cool.

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Homemade Hummus: Quicker than I Thought!

I recently cleaned out my fridge... well, I didn't actually wash down the shelves like I should have, but I went through and tossed some condiments that were past their expiration date.  Which resulted in not having tahini (sesame paste) since it was two years past its expiration date!  Eeek!  I seriously never pay attention to the stuff that gets shoved to the back corners of the fridge, and that's a great example.  I can't remember the last time I used the tahini, which is good since it's been expired for so long!

So it ended up that I had promised to make hummus for a friend's birthday party, and now I had no tahini, which is a pretty major ingredient in hummus.  I did a little searching for a recipe that didn't use tahini, which wasn't too hard, apparently it's a pretty common thing to be without tahini.


Honest Cooking hummus without tahini and All Recipes super easy hummus

I liked the comments from the first recipe where people talked about how to replace that sesame flavor without tahini, but I was looking for a way to reduce the amount of oil used, so that's why I used the second recipe.  I replaced the tahini flavor by adding sesame seeds and sesame oil.

I really recommend using garlic powder in this recipe since it is already finely ground so you won't have any huge garlic-y surprises.


  • 1 15 oz can garbanzo beans, liquid drained but reserved (If you can get them, I highly recommend Roundy's garbanzo beans, they're soft and super-tasty.)
  • 1/2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2T lemon juice (I used bottled, but of course fresh-squeezed would be best)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T reserved bean liquid (more or less)
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (start with only a little bit, you can always add more)
  • Fresh-ground black pepper


Put all of the ingredients into a medium-size food processor and process until desired smoothness.
The ingredients all lined up.  I was intending to put roasted red peppers in the hummus, but I changed my mind.
All of the ingredients in the food processor.
Partially blended.
You might want to scrape down the sides of the processor cup with a rubber spatula to ensure you get it all smooth. 
Smooth puree.
You'll definitely want to taste the hummus as you go and adjust the flavors to be what you want.


Quick to make with earthy flavor.  

I took this to the birthday party but I didn't label it, so only brave people tried it.  I hate when I forget to label food for a party since I know I probably wouldn't be brave enough to try creepy-looking tan sludge, but I would definitely eat homemade hummus.

Husband Jeff declared this to be better than store-bought hummus, which I really appreciated.  He asked that we make it homemade from now on, which is a huge compliment.  Sonny D tried it and liked it, but Jeff and I ate it so quickly that he didn't get much. 

I would love to experiment with different flavors and add the roasted red peppers next time. I would also like to try cooking the garbanzo beans from scratch in my pressure cooker since the flavor is supposedly superior to canned beans. 

This really was quick and easy to make and I will definitely continue to make it from scratch.  I don't know if I will completely stop buying it from the store though since I love so many of the different flavors available (huge recommendation for Trader Joe's horseradish hummus -- Sonny D and I are huge fans!).  

Last night I roasted an eggplant from our garden and am planning to make a baba ghanoush-hummus with 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) It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!