Saturday, December 27, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of December 29 - Soup Week!

This Week

I decided that this week would be soup week at our house.  I picked up three soup cookbooks from the library and they've really inspired me.  Although I have to admit, I don't think any of the soups I've picked out come from any of those cookbooks. 

  • Monday - our friend Chuck is coming over for vegetarian buffalo-wing chili with toasted pita bread and salads.  I figure the soup is going to be too spicy for Sonny D so I'm going to make him some fish sticks.
  • Tuesday - our friend Buddha might come over for chicken parmesan soup with garlic bread and roasted butternut squash with feta cheese.
  • Wednesday - I invited Husband Jeff's parents over for New Year's Eve dinner of creamy fish chowder,  a bag of frozen Szechuan asparagus, and rice.
  • Thursday - red chili with green-chile cornbread (a box of Jiffy mix!)
  • Friday - my friend Heather is joining us for Santa Fe sweet potato soup made in the slow cooker along with lemon-pepper risotto and a can of corn.  I'm also going to attempt to make some more vegan cheese, maybe the same cashew goat cheese recipe as last time or maybe try my hand at something new. 
  • Saturday -  This is where my plan falls apart, I don't have a soup picked out for Saturday.  We'll probably have lots of leftovers to eat or maybe be sick of soups by this point.  We'll definitely be able to find something to eat, maybe melt sandwiches or a bag of frozen gnocchi.
  •  Sunday - Another day without any planned meals.  Once again, we'll figure something out.  Maybe we'll have a meal out somewhere or eat more random food like grilled peanut butter sandwiches or pancakes. 

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of December 15

Last Week

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

This is the year of booze for me.  

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

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

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

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

This Week

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

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of December 8

Last Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Week

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

Wanna Chat?

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

What's Cooking In My Kitchen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pumped! My Weight Lifting Workout

I've had some people ask questions about the weight lifting routine I've been doing so I wanted to write a post about it.  I've been weight lifting several days per week since I quit my full-time job in September. Right after I was done with my job, I signed up for the annual membership to the gym at the local rec center right near our house. For about a month I was exercising pretty much every single day but Sundays -- weight lifting (every weekday but Tuesday), Zumba on Tuesdays, and Core Fusion on Saturdays. But when we got a dog it changed things. He has to be locked in his crate if we're not home because he'll chew everything up, and I already lock him up in the crate on Thursday afternoons when I go to work, so I felt bad also locking him up in the morning so I could go workout. On Fridays I work most of the day so Zipper goes to hang out with grandpa so I adjusted my workout so I do both the Thursday and Friday exercises on Friday afternoon before picking up Zipper and then Sonny D.

The Nitty Gritty

My weight lifting plan is the female workout program on  I had to modify it because my gym doesn't have barbells, so I do everything on a machine or with dumbbells.  I set up the workout on the Gain Fitness app on my iPhone, so when I complete an exercise it tells me what the next one is and it does it all as a circuit, repeating each day's set of exercises three times.  I had to modify some of the exercises because I didn't have the same exact exercise names in my app.  Eh, close enough.

I start with a warmup of 7 minutes on the elliptical on the cross-coutry setting and the 5-minute "cool down".  Then I head over to the equipment to focus on whatever set of body parts I'm working for the day. I don't care for the squats or deadlifts, but I like the leg presses and the dumbbell shrugs (I've got super-powerful shoulders!).  The whole time at the gym takes me about 45 minutes. 

How Is It Going?

I'm supposed to be increasing the amount of weight and reducing the number of repetitions to gain more muscle, but since I'm still getting into this and I haven't been able to work out all the times per week as indicated, I'm still in the initial stage of doing 8-12 reps of each exercise.  I've been increasing the weight as I become more comfortable, so I'm generally doing what they recommend, but not quite.  My only disappointment is that my gym doesn't seem to have 12-pound dumbbells, so if I want to go over the 10 pounds I'm currently lifting for some of the exercises, I'll have to jump up to 15 pounds.  I don't know if I'm currently strong enough for that.

I'm definitely building muscle in my shoulders but I don't really feel like any other parts of my body are particularly different.  I probably still need to increase the amounts on some exercises but I like to make sure that I'm not rushing things and doing the exercise with proper form and technique.   Someday soon I might actually get enough guts to advance to the next stage where you increase the amount of weight so much that you can only do 6-8 repetitions.  But I still have days where it's the same exercise I've always done, but it's still quite hard.  It's a journey. 

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of November 24

Last Week

On Monday I went to Sonny D's preschool to read a book and share a treat with his room. After I dropped him off for the morning I hurriedly made apple oatmeal raisin cookies, they turned out great. Unfortunately the whole thing didn't go well for him, he cried. I think it totally throws him off any time I'm at school other than pick-up and drop-off times.

On Tuesday I took Zipper dog to the vet for a follow-up visit.  No more tapeworm, intestinal parasite, or fleas, so that's good.

On Wednesday Husband Jeff rode the Amtrak train up to Minneapolis to work from his company's headquarters up there.  He stayed with his brother and family, they live only a few minutes from the office. 

On Thursday I took Sonny D to his four-year pediatrician visit.  I knew he was going to get one shot (flu shot), so we had been talking about it beforehand so it wasn't a surprise.  It ended up that they gave him two shots so he's completely ready for kindergarten (which is two years away!) and a flu mist up each nostril.  Not a good time.  I had planned we would go out to lunch at Noodles & Co afterwards, but he wasn't in a good mood so I dropped him off with grandpa and went home and ate lunch by myself.  Nice and quiet.

Last week at my taste training we smelled and tasted pig's feet to understand the "barnyard" scent/flavor.  Surprisingly it wasn't bad at all, just really rich and fatty.   We also had Spam to get familiar with "piggy" scent/flavor.  I grew up eating Spam occasionally but haven't had it in a while.  It was interesting to be reminded that Spam isn't bad, but it isn't very good either.  We also tried low-quality lunch meat, yuck. 

On Saturday Sonny D and I drove up to Minneapolis to meet up with Husband Jeff.  Sonny D got to hang out with his cousins, they had a great time.  We ended up cutting our trip short by a day.   We were supposed to drive back down on Monday, but they were forecasting a lot of snow, so we all came back on Sunday.  All that time in the car made my lower back sore. 

This Week

  • Monday - cheesy gochujang (Korean pepper paste) spaghetti with chickpeas and roasted butternut squash with feta cheese.
  • Tuesday - no dinner planned because I've got Zumba class. Typically Grandma & Grandpa pick up Sonny D, but Grandma has a cold so they might skip it this week.  Don't know what we'll eat for dinner if Sonny D is here.  I'll probably suggest fried egg and cheese sandwiches since it's a set of ingredients we actually have in the house. 
  • Wednesday - My friend Renae's birthday!  Happy birthday, Ren!  Dinner is Italian chicken and tomato soup made in the slow cooker (a frozen meal my friend Heather and I put together) and maybe bagels.  Hopefully also hanging out with our friends Jim & Isabelle, they live in Seattle and are coming here to visit his family for Thanksgiving.
  • Thursday - Thanksgiving on Husband Jeff's side at Aunt Nancy's house.  It appears that we're not on the hook to bring anything, so we'll just sit back and coast.  I don't have a dinner planned so hopefully we're full enough from lunch that we don't really need much to eat later or that we bring leftovers home with us. 
  • Friday - Since Sonny D doesn't have school because of the holiday and I don't work this week, I'm hoping we can go grocery shopping during the day.  Not the most exciting thing for him, but I love grocery shopping.  Dinner is chicken and shrimp paella.
  • Saturday - Core Fusion class in the morning.  I'd love to go downtown and maybe see a kids' performance and then out to lunch, but maybe just out to lunch.  Dinner is Hungarian potato soup.
  • Sunday - We're getting together on Sunday morning to have Thanksgiving lunch at my mom's house.  Mom and I are completely un-traditional when we plan our holidays, this time we're having a taco bar! Once again, I hope we're really full from lunch so we don't need a real dinner.  My only thought was leftovers. 

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of November 17

Past Weeks

I've been too lazy to sit down at the computer and write up our menu plan, but don't worry, we have have still been eating.  :)  I've found it's hard to sit at the computer when I'm off doing other things around the house.  A lot of it is hanging out with our new dog Zipper.  We spend a lot of time gated into the kitchen to ensure there aren't any accidents or eating things he shouldn't.  I'm working on figuring out his potty schedule so I'm not taking him out every two hours, but we're still having accidents.   
Zipper modeling the latest winter jacket.

I've been continuing my taste training for work.  The lowest point has been the day we tasted liver, the highest day is any day we have bacon (has happened a couple times).  The whole thing is all about experiencing things, so it's neat to sit down and taste and smell things like "brown spice" (spices like cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg) or "sweet brown" (sweeteners like brown sugar, molasses, agave, honey, etc.)  And we're all doing better at narrowing our estimates of intensity of the basic tastes, which means we're getting closer answers in the same range.
My setup at the tasting panel.
I've also been doing weight lifting several times per week.  I was supposed to advance to the next level, which is all the same exercises but with a heavier weight where you can't do as many repetitions, but I've stuck with the same workout for a while since I'm still trying to figure out what my maximums are.  Plus I don't get to do my four days at the gym since I feel bad putting Zipper in his crate two times in one day (once for the gym and once for work that I've got work) so I skip it on Thursdays. 
My dinner last week had a head. And eyeballs, teeth, fins, etc. Whole fried tilapia Veracruz.

Sonny D's fourth birthday is on Monday and we've been celebrating all weekend.  This past Saturday we went to play time at a gymnastics place with some of his little friends and we all had a great time.  Several kids didn't want to leave, but that's understandable when you're having so much fun.  And on Sunday morning we went to JC Penney's for his birthday photos and hit McDonald's afterwards for a chocolate shake.  Then had a family birthday dinner on Sunday evening.  It has been several days straight of pizza and we're sick of it. 
Sonny D's birthday, construction dress-up clothes so he can be just like Daddy.

This Week

Our freezers are so full! I'm trying to plan that our dinners will come from the freezer, but I don't think we'll end up eating much of it because of other plans.  
  • Monday - Sonny D's birthday!  In the morning I'm going to visit his preschool and read a book and bring treats.  Dinner is tacos.   
  • Tuesday - Our little dog Zipper has a follow-up vet visit to ensure he's doing good after coming to us with fleas, tapeworm, and an intestinal parasite. He also needs his final distemper shot so he's all caught up on immunizations.  I wasn't planning dinner since Grandma & Grandpa pick him up and I've got Zumba class, but that might change.
  • Wednesday -  Husband Jeff is riding the train up to Minneapolis to visit his office up there so we'll be on our own for dinner of swai fish and broccoli bites.
  • Thursday - Sonny D has his four-year checkup visit at the pediatrician, he'll be getting a flu shot, so it's not going to be the most fun day of  newly-being 4.  Maybe we'll go out to lunch together afterwards.  I've got taste training in the afternoon.  We'll have home-frozen waffles and pancakes and chamchi kimbop (tuna Korean sushi rolls)
  • Friday - My big taste training day of 5 hours.  We'll have a quick dinner of meatballs or hot dogs along with gnocchi or wontons and then find something to do for Me & D night.
  • Saturday & Sunday - We're hanging out all weekend with Jeff's brother's family so we tend to go with the flow of whatever ends up happening. 

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of October 27

Last Week

Last week I went to Sujeo, a new pan-Asian restaurant.  Us three gals shared a hot pot, which is a big bowl of soup that cooks at your table.  So good.  We also had a variety of banchan, which are little Korean side dishes.  My favorite was some sort of seaweed/seaside plant that was marinated to taste like meat, so interesting. 

Sonny D got a very thorough haircut at the salon, she did a really good job.  And we went to a surprise birthday party for a friend, it was nice to make the moment special for him and sweet that his wife wanted to surprise him.  

On Saturday Sonny D and I drove two hours to the Dubuque area to hang out with my friend Renae.  We shopped at the farmers' market to buy vegetables to roast for dinner.  Then went to her house and made our plan of attack.  We cleaned out her fridge and roasted whatever she had hanging out too long in the crisper drawer.  I showed her how to make vegetable stock in the pressure cooker, rescued dinner by finishing the rice in the pressure cooker (rice cooker seemed to malfunction), and tried my hand at poaching eggs to go on top of our roasted dinner.  We also cleaned out and reorganized her closet, which I had a lot of fun doing.  

On Thursday and Friday I started training for my new job as a taste tester.  There were eight of us there this past week but one guy was missing because he was officiating a wedding.  The training is really neat, we are tasting the reference flavors like sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami to become familiar with them.  They come in different intensities ranging from nothing (0) all the way to the maximum (15).   In addition to picking out the flavors, we'll learn to quantify their intensity levels (a sour 2 versus a sour 12).  We also tasted examples of things like acidity and heat/burn.  I also had a lot of fun checking out the company store, one of the other taste panelists and I explored what was available -- from lunch meat to snack nuts, to drink mixes and cheese.  I bought an assortment of items including peanut butter, our favorite hot sauce, and lunch meat.  

I'm still showing up at the gym for my weight lifting workout four times per week.  In some ways I feel really weak with my 5 pound bicep curl, but also really proud that I have increased the amount of weight for my leg presses and shoulder shrugs.  

We also got a new member of the family this weekend, Zipper the dog.  We're still trying to determine if Zipper is actually house-trained since we discovered a couple accidents the first day, but they're also kind of a mystery since we don't know when they happened.
Our new doggie, Zipper.

This Week 

  • Monday - Kung Pao shrimp with green beans and rice
  • Tuesday - I forgot that grandma and grandpa are picking up Sonny D so on the menu I had a bag of frozen gnocchi and hot dogs, but I cant really think of anything better for just Jeff and I.  It'll likely be that we eat whatever on our own.  I've got Zumba class so I really don't eat much dinner on those nights since I don't want to be sick in the middle of class after all that jumping around.  I'll probably have a hard-boiled egg and a piece of peanut butter toast.  
  • Wednesday - tuna kim bop and breakfast stuff (probably pancakes).  Kim bop is the Korean version of sushi, last week my friend mentioned making it with canned tuna and I thought that might be something Sonny D might like.  
  • Thursday - Today is Sonny D's Halloween celebration at preschool and I'd love to see if I could make it there to help out but it's also my second week of work and the two times are pretty close to each other so I might have to skip the event and just go to training.  For dinner I planned tacos but I haven't actually figured out if we have all of the proper ingredients, but I'm sure we'll make it happen with whatever we've got in the kitchen.
  • Friday - Halloween and Sonny D's preschool has an inservice so he doesn't have school.  With me not working full time anymore we figured things like this would be easy to handle, but I have to go to work so Husband Jeff is taking the day off to watch Sonny D (and Zipper!).  Sonny D is going trick-or-treating with the family down the street and I need to have something yummy for dinner so he will actually eat it.  I was thinking either broiled marinated fish or Shanghai fish stew.  
  • Saturday - Core Fusion in the morning, maybe a visit to Costco in the mid-day, then a small potluck dinner with friends that are in town and a few other people.  I think I'm going to have hummus and crackers make creamy tomato-basil soup.
  • Sunday - the Northside farmers' market moves inside and I'm excited to see how it will be.  We'd really love it if the eggroll people came back since that was Sonny D's favorite thing at the market. In the afternoon I'm going to a friend's baby shower and so for dinner I figured I would go super-simple and reheat some 15-bean soup I stashed in the freezer. 

Wanna Chat?

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Makin' It At Home: Citrusy Kale-Quinoa Salad

This dish was inspired by a salad that my friend Chuck picked up at the deli for a party at his house.  I ended up eating a large portion of the salad (um, most of the container) and was determined to make my own since I enjoyed it so much.  At the party I snapped a photo of the ingredients list on the package so I could copy it, but of course now I can't find that photo.  Whatever, no biggie.  It was tasty, that's what really matters.  I love the crunchy nuts, the puckery citrus dressing, the earthy quinoa, the sweet fruit, savory onions, and tangy feta.  It all comes together in a great salad.

When I got home I did some searching online and found this recipe from The Kitchn that seemed really close, so I copied it and modified it to match the salad we had. So this recipe is for Chuck because he likes the salad too, and wouldn't it be nice to make it at home for less money?  Plus it's a flexible recipe, using what you might have on hand. 

This recipe comes together in four separate parts -- the onion, the quinoa, the kale & other stuff, plus the dressing. I made this two times, the first time I had walnuts and feta, the second time the feta was all gone so I added some additional lemon juice. Feel free to make it that way if you want a dairy-free/vegan version. 


The Kitchn kale quinoa salad with citrus dressing



  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
In a medium skillet saute the onion for 20 minutes on medium heat.
beautiful caramelized onions.


  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried lemon peel (totally optional, I only added it because I had it)
In a small pot bring all of the ingredients to a boil, turn the head down to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Once 15 minutes is up, turn the heat off and let it sit 5 minutes to finish absorbing the liquid.
quinoa on to boil.

Kale & other stuff 

  • 1 bunch kale, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit (I used raisins because that's what I had, but the original dish had craisins)
  • 1/2 cup nuts, chopped and toasted in dry skillet (I used walnuts the first time and sliced almonds the second)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta (optional if you want it vegan/dairy-free, but then add another 1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice for tanginess)
To prep the kale, remove the leaves from the stems and toss the stems if they're really tough. Then roll the leaves up the long way and cut them into fine ribbons.
Final salad with the walnuts and feta. 


  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper
In a large bowl mix the first three ingredients together and taste for salt & pepper. Then as the rest of the ingredients are ready, add them to the bowl as well. 
Final salad with sliced almonds and no feta.


I preferred the version with feta, but the version without it was fine too.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Southwestern Quinoa and Black Bean Soup

Another requested recipe from my birthday party on Saturday was my Southwestern quinoa and  black bean soup.  I used a few online recipes as inspiration, but the final result wasn't really based on any one particular source, so this recipe is what I wrote down as my final dish in my new recipe notebook.  The notebook is a nice way to keep all of my recipes together rather than the scraps of paper in the junk drawer in our kitchen. I can't believe it took me this long to realize I should write down all of my recipes in a notebook to keep them all together. 

This soup is similar to chili, so you might want to serve it with traditional chili accompaniments like saltine crackers, cornbread, cheese, etc. 

Southwestern soup


  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 42 oz water or tomato juice
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 14 oz petite diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, diced and sauteed
  • 1/2 each red, yellow, and orange bell peppers 
  • 2 cups black beans (or a 14oz can)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  •  1/2 cup quinoa


Put all of the ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tae's Peas and Potatoes

At the party on Saturday, our friend Tae brought an awesome dish in the slow cooker, peas and potatoes.  She says, "It's my bastardized version of methi matar malai.  I find that it tastes better the longer it cooks, which is why the crock pot method is so nice."  It seemed like everyone at the party asked who made it and if they could have the recipe.  I also wanted to share it with everyone who reads my blog because I figure most people could stand to have more awesome and effortless slow cooker recipes. It's dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegetarian. 

From my research, the name "methi matar malai" translates to "fenugreek peas cream" and is a Punjabi north Indian recipe.  Here's Tae's recipe!


  • Large potatoes - 2, cut into chunks
  • Frozen Peas – 16 oz (1/2 kg)
  • Coconut milk – 1 14oz can (don’t use lite, use the full fat stuff)
  • Tomato – 1 can diced 14oz
  • Salt – to taste
  • Oil – 1 Tbsp
  • Ginger – 1 Tbsp, minced
  • Onion – 1 medium, chopped
  • Cumin powder 1 tsp
  • Turmeric Powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
  • Garam Masala – 1 tsp
  • Red Chili Powder – 1 tsp
  • Optional: Add fresh cilantro on top before serving
  • **Optional: add chicken

Crock Pot Method

Put the oil in the bottom of the crock pot. Add the onions, potatoes, peas, and tomatoes. Throw
in all the spices and add the coconut milk. Set on low for 8 hours. Serve over rice.

Stovetop Method

  1. Heat Oil in a medium pan on medium heat.
  2. Add onions and cook until a light golden color
  3. Add ginger and cook for 2 minutes
  4. Add all spices, potatoes, and tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes
  5. Add peas and coconut milk and simmer for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are cooked all the way through.
  6. Serve over rice. 
From my research, this dish can also have spinach in it to replace the fresh methi (fenugreek) leaves.   I would also add garlic, because I think it pretty much belongs in every savory dish.  And since I can't leave well enough alone, I would probably see if it would be good with a can of chickpeas mixed in, cauliflower florets, or maybe some cubed tofu.  I would also love to add some sliced mushrooms, but that's not going to happen with my family! 

I love Indian food and this inspires me to want to make some. Thanks for the recipe, Tae!

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of October 13

Last Week 

Last week was really quiet, I didn't have much for planned activities but I was preparing and cooking for my Crocktoberfest birthday party on Saturday.  A huge "thank you" to everyone who came over to celebrate. We had 25 adults and 17 children in our house.  It was crazy-busy but definitely fun.  Husband Jeff and I spend so much time playing the hosts that we don't ever get to spend much time actually catching up with our friends. I think we need to have follow-up hanging out sessions with everyone so we can actually talk to them!  I didn't take a single picture during the party, but here's picture of the tag on the bottle of wine some friends gave me.  So very sweet. 
Happy birthday to me!

This Week

This week will be even quieter than last week since I don't have any upcoming deadlines or anything planned.
  • Monday -This is my actual birthday and I'm taking the whole day off to go to Ikea with my mom.  I don't know if I'll be home to make dinner, but I planned that we'll have cheesy polenta with roasted veggies (roasted on Sunday afternoon) and frozen meatballs. Easy for Husband Jeff to throw together without me and have ready. 
  • Tuesday - I'm going to watch a friend's baby for a bit in the morning and then I've got Zumba class at night.  For dinner we'll have spinach-basil pesto pasta, steam-in-the-bag corn, and chile-lime chicken burgers from Trader Joe's.  
  • Wednesday - We'll eat veggie fried rice, Hmong egg rolls made by people at our friend's church, and frozen Trader Joe's pork buns.
  • Thursday - I'm going out for a duo birthday night with my friend Heather since her birthday is next week.  We're going to the Green Owl Cafe for dinner and then to the chocolate tasting at Gail Ambrosius.  Yep, this will be my third time at the chocolate tasting, but it's so delicious!
  • Friday - We're going out for dinner with Jeff's parents for another duo birthday event because Jeff's dad's birthday was Tuesday.  No idea where we're going, but I want to suggest either Roman Candle for pizza or Dobhan for awesome Indian/Moroccan-inspired cuisine.
  • Saturday - I've got Core Fusion class in the morning and then either to the apple orchard or out to Costco with a friend.  We don't have a Costco membership but these friends have talked about it so much and invited me to join them, that I decided to take them up on it.  We haven't planned which day we're going this weekend, but we'll do Costco one day and the apple orchard the other.  For dinner we'll have something easy, like packaged soup and sandwiches
  • Sunday - I wanted breakfast for dinner with pancakes, banana bites (like a muffin with banana chunks), and chicken breakfast sausage

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Friday, October 10, 2014

How I Spend My Days

My last day as a web designer was September 23rd and my new job hasn't started yet.  You might be wondering what I've been doing since I haven't been working. Here's an assortment of photos that will show you how I've kept busy.  I start most days with a weight lifting workout at the community center and then do random chores/errands for the rest of the day.  Last week's focus was getting the dining room painted and redecorated.  This week has been lots of preparing and cooking for my party on Saturday.   I actually end up with not a lot of time to be online. 

Previous incarnation of the dining room.  Two colors, no coordination, no banquette.
What the dining room looks like now. Walls are a pretty teal-grey color.

Walking out of the community center after a workout last week.

Monday's workout.  I like that shirt a lot, it's really lightweight.
Cutting out the letters for my party banner.  Had them printed at Kinko's, super convenient.

Making sugared nuts for the party. It's only sugar, water, nuts and cinnamon.

Planning the layout of the party banner on the kitchen floor.  It's a slow cooker/Crockpot themed party.
Post-workout shot from this morning. I do them surreptitiously so the old folks don't think I'm a weirdo.

Making vegan caramel sauce this afternoon using coconut milk. The secret ingredient is lemon juice.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of October 6

Last week was my first full week since I quit my job. In preparation for my new job, they took a hair sample for a drug test. It wasn't just a few strands, it was a pretty big chunk. Luckily it's in the back where my ponytail is.

During the week I worked on painting the dining room.  My prep work and first coat of primer took three hours to accomplish.  In between other chores during the week, we got the final coat of paint on the walls on Sunday and I did touch-ups on Monday morning (today).   

On Wednesday we went to dinner at the gorgeous Rare Steakhouse downtown with Jeff's cousin and her husband. It's very pretty location on The Square with dark wood and really nice amenities.  And the service is impeccable.  I had the tuna sliders from the bar menu, they were good but nothing amazing.  It didn't come with anything else, so I ordered a side veggie of asparagus and mushrooms.  Husband Jeff got the burger (with bacon, bleu cheese, and caramelized onion) and it was really tasty.   His burger came with french fries that were good as well.

On Thursday morning I went on the field trip to the pumpkin patch with Sonny D's preschool.  Everything was great until it started raining as we were getting on the wagons to go and pick out our pumpkins.  We got soaked and it was not fun at all.  Of course it stopped raining just as we were finished.  I went back to the preschool and had lunch with Sonny D's class.  I was still so wet from the rain that I had to go home and change my clothes before going out grocery shopping.

On Friday night Sonny D had a sleepover with grandma and grandpa while Husband Jeff and I went to the preschool's parents' night and silent auction.  We bid and won the auctions for a massage, a set of science fiction books, and decorated nail wraps.  Score!

On Saturday we had a pretty busy day, in the morning we went out for breakfast with friends and then Sonny D and I went to Applefest while Husband Jeff went to a beer-tasting event.  In the afternoon we went to Chuseok, a fall harvest event for our Korean adoption group.

On Sunday Sonny D and I went to the northside farmers' market and bought veggies to roast later. Then in the afternoon I did a lot of cooking.  I made a kale-quinoa citrus salad based on a dish I've had from the deli that I totally loved.  Then I made chicken rice soup completely from scratch in the pressure cooker with a whole chicken.  It was a pretty involved experiment, but it was a lot quicker than if I had made it without the pressure cooker.  To go along with the soup I made flatbread in a skillet. 

This Week

This should be a nice quiet week with not much going on.  I've gotten word that I might start training for my new job on Thursday, but I'll confirm that since they said it could still change.  
  • Monday - leftover chicken rice soup
  • Tuesday - chili mac
  • Wednesday -breakfast for dinner of pancakes and eggs.
  • Thursday - sandwiches and maybe soup.
  • Friday - shredded pork tacos with vegetable melange.  After dinner we're going out for Me and D night to Warner Park for family fun night.   
  • Saturday - I've got Core Fusion class in the morning and then my Crocktoberfest party in the afternoon. 
  • Sunday - Once again, our Sunday morning visit to the Northside farmers' market.  For dinner we'll have whatever party leftovers we've got in the fridge. 

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of September 29

Right now I'm typing this with my awesome little iPad bluetooth keyboard while being entertained by Sonny D pretending to make me food and drive his car around town.  So since I'm not at a computer, my formatting options are pretty limited, so forgive the barebones look.  I haven't been doing a whole lot since my last day of work on Tuesday, mainly chores around the house and setting up a weight lifting workout in my fitness app on my iPhone.  This morning was my first real workout and I'm glad I did a reconnaissance mission last week to know what equipment was available.  There aren't any barbells at my gym so I'm focusing on using dumbbells instead.  It's probably safer that way.

At the gym, getting ripped!

Monday - We ended up having frozen pancakes and waffles and leftover salmon from last night.  And shared a tiny can of low-sodium V8 vegetable juice.  Sonny D said he liked it and wanted a can in his lunch.  I really doubt he would actually drink it since he only took about two sips.

Tuesday - I'm meeting my friend Natalie for lunch at Edo Japanese.  For dinner we're having whole wheat gnocchi with pasta sauce and tuna mixed in.  Afterwards I'm going to Zumba class.

Wednesday - Husband Jeff and I arre going out for dinner at Rare Steakhouse with his cousin Amy and her husband Doug.  Sonny D loves hanging out with Doug, he's great with children.  

Thursday - Sonny D's preschool is going to the pumpkin patch and I signed up to chaperone.  It'll be an adventure to hang out with about 25-30 preschoolers.  For dinner we'll have eye of round with mashed potatoes

Friday - Husband Jeff and I are going to the preschool parents' night out event at the Craftsman Table & Tap.  I'm not sure if we'll go to the restaurant early and eat dinner there or eat something random at home and then go out.  We've got several meals out already, so hopefully I can convince Jeff to have something at home.  

Saturday - We're heading out for one of our Breakfast Club meetings, this time at the Koffee Kup in Stoughton.  We're also talking about heading to Apple Fest near our house.  In the afternoon we're going to Chuseok, a Korean harvest festival event put on by our Korean adoption group.

Sunday - My customary Sunday morning routine of shopping at the Northside farmers' market.  Last week I forgot to plan ahead with getting cash and ended up raiding the change jar to have enough money to buy things.  In the afternoon I'm taking my Japanese friend Chie to the Vietnamese/Asian market near her house.  She didn't know about the market so I'm glad to introduce her to a possible resource closer than the further away Japanese market she usually goes to. 

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

A New Chapter Starts...

A little over two weeks ago I quit my job as a web designer and now I'm heading into a new chapter of my life.  I will be working as a taste tester (the official title is "sensory panelist") for a huge well-known food production corporation near our house. Right now I haven't heard a start date but it should be any day now. When we do start, I'm going to have approximately three months of training and then a year of tasting product coming off the production line.  Unfortunately I will be working only two to three half days per week and it doesn't pay the big bucks, so once the schedule is figured out I'm going to see about finding a second part-time job to fill in more of my time since I think I will go nuts being at home all the time. I actually like working.  

It was hard walking away from a good paying salary job for a hourly position, I haven't had that since I was in college. But I'm totally in love with the idea of working in the food industry, food is my passion. And I'm really interested in what they'll teach us about tasting. It'll probably be a lot of getting in tune with your palate and being aware of what you're tasting. 

I found the job on a Craigslist posting and I was determined to get it, so I kept contacting the people involved until they contacted me back or told me the job was already filled.  I had a three-hour taste evaluation in a group of about 30 people. The first half was easy with basic taste checks, but the second half was really difficult. Here's an example of what we did -- taste four samples of ham and put them into matching pairs... but they all tasted like ham, seemed like no differences at all!  We went through three or four sets of ham samples and then the last group was saltine crackers. I must have done pretty good though since they asked me to join them. 

People have asked me if I'll spend more time with Sonny D but he'll stay at preschool like usual. I will pick him up earlier on my off days and do fun things like visit the children's museum, hit the big downtown library, make treats together, etc.  I also signed up for a year membership at the workout room at the community center and I'm planning to do weight lifting for strength training. It's something I haven't done before but I'd like to try it out.  

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

More Infused Liquor: Chocolate-Mint Vodka & Jalapeno Tequila

On Sunday I had some free time in the afternoon while Sonny D and Husband Jeff went to the park to play with our neighbors, so I decided to make some recipes I've had on my list for a while, chocolate-mint vodka and jalapeño tequila. This will go along with the spearmint vodka and cherry bounce I made earlier this year.  We're going to break them out at Thanksgiving with our friends, that's probably going to be a drunkfest.  :)

Chocolate-Mint Vodka

I finally went out to our garden to pick the chocolate mint for this recipe.  It's a hearty plant, still going strong despite growing without maintenance.

I picked all of the leaves off a few stems and ripped them a couple times to help release the oils, then put them in the jar.  I had no idea how much mint to use, so I just did it until I ran out of leaves and then covered it with vodka.  I used up the last of a bottle of vodka we had in our pantry and cracked open a new one I had purposely bought to make this recipe.  I wanted to use all of the vodka up so we didn't have any leftovers, but I ended up with a tiny bit that wouldn't fit in the jar.  Maybe I'll infuse it with another flavor.
Don't you love the classy homemade masking tape label!?

This will sit in our fridge to infuse for a week and then I'll strain off the mint.  I'm still not sure how we'll use this or the spearmint vodka I made, but I'm sure we'll figure something out.  Mint, lime, and rum go together to make a mojito, so maybe we'll make a variation on that with something like pineapple juice or coconut.  Or spiked hot chocolate.  Drizzled over vanilla or chocolate ice cream would be good too.  Mixed into hot tea.  Martinis. 

Jalapeño Tequila

I did a bunch of research to learn about tequila to come up with a list of possible brands/types to buy.  I ended up buying El Jimador tequila because it was highly ranked, available at the store I was in, and it's the type our friends Jim & Isabelle drink.  I tasted it straight before I added the jalapeno slices and found out that good tequila is nice!  There's a great smoky quality and it was actually enjoyable, not something you'd need to learn to appreciate like whisky.

I sliced up three jalapeños from our garden and put them in the jar and dumped the tequila on top.  It will infuse for about three-four days and then I will strain out the jalapeños.  I wonder if there's something I can do with those now-boozy jalapeños? 
El Jimador, gettin' spicy. 

I saved the bottle for this one so I can use a funnel and fill it back up.  I figured it will be easier to pour out of a bottle than a canning jar. 

This one seems like it will be easy to use, either straight shots of tequila or made into some sort of margarita.  Yum!  

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of September 22

Last Week

On Tuesday Sonny D and I went to the dentist.  This was his second time and he did great!  He watched videos on my iPhone until it was his turn and then he got right in the chair and opened his mouth as asked.  He even called out the hygienist for not pulling down her box of rewards (it sits way on top of a high cabinet).  I can't believe he even remembered that it was up there.  And he loves his light-up toothbrush and lip balm they gave him.  

On Thursday evening Sonny D and I attend his preschool pizza social, the entertainment was a guy who played kid music and turned on bubble machines.  The kids all loved it.... except for Sonny D.  He sat on my lap and watched the whole time.  Husband Jeff was away for a trip and was envious of our Little Caesar's pizza since we had been talking about it recently.

On Friday for Me & D night we headed to the mall to meet up with friends at the play area.  At first Sonny D was a bit hesitant, but later he loosened up and ran around with Alex.  It'll be fun to get the boys together more often.  We mentioned possibly going to the open swim at the nearby elementary school, that would be fun. 

My friend Heather and her mom stopped by on Sunday and we went to the farmers' market together.  I had a lot of produce from the previous Sunday that I hadn't used up (and even a few things from two weeks prior!) so I didn't buy a whole lot.  I was surprised to still see rhubarb around at the market (and it was good looking too!), to me that's a late-spring thing and it's now fall.  I felt bad, I had talked up the juice/smoothie/spring roll cart to Heather but it ended up that it wasn't there that day.  Darn!

I took time on Sunday afternoon to make and can salsa verde using the tomatillos I bought two weeks ago at the farmers' market.  I had a tiny bit of salsa that didn't fit in a jar so we had some for dinner last night, it was great!  I used jalapenos from our garden instead of the Anaheim chiles called for in the recipe and it was nice and spicy. 
Salsa verde in the making. 
For Sunday dinner I had Husband Jeff grill up okra since I had heard that would prevent it from being really slimy. It was quite good! The seeds were a bit off-putting and I kept getting grossed out by seeing the large white seeds, but they were actually soft and didn't feel weird when eating it.
Grilled okra is A-OK with me! 

This Week

  • Monday - Our neighbors ordered Asian food for delivery yesterday and Husband Jeff thought that was a great idea, so we're having Chinese takeout.  Then after dinner I'm heading out to a board meeting for our Korean adoption group (I'm the Supplies & Events Coordinator).  We're planning Chuseok,  a fall harvest festival.  For us that means lots of Korean food and games.
  • Tuesday - I want to make curry cauliflower soup and add in some chickpeas, along with sesame green beans.  Then I've got Zumba after dinner.
  • Wednesday -I think I'm finally going to make stuffed buns - filled with white bean mash, bacon, spinach, and cheese
  • Thursday - We've got a partial package of hot dogs in the freezer that I have the urge to use up, so we'll have those with miso-butter roasted delicata squash.  I'm sure that won't satisfy Sonny D, so I'll pull out the random other things we've got like hummus, crackers, pretzels, veggies, etc.
  • Friday - The end of the week here is a little uncertain.  I wrote down some food ideas but they're all cold-weather items like soup, but the weather is supposed to be pretty nice.  So I feel almost guilty for making what I want rather than seasonally-appropriate dishes.  So today I picked out chicken rice soup, which Sonny D will hopefully be pleased about since he loves rice.  It's a thick soup, pretty much jook/congee, a savory rice porridge. 
  • Saturday - I've got my Core Fusion class in the morning and then we're meeting friends for lunch but still haven't nailed down a location.  In the late afternoon I was thinking we'd attend the Duck Soup Cinema program downtown.  They show silent movies with an organ accompanying them.  There is also some other entertainment that goes along with it, like one year they had a juggler and a couple a capella groups.  I was figuring we'd have dinner at a nearby restaurant afterwards. 
  • Sunday - Like always, I'll make my way to the Northside farmers' market in the morning.  I'd love to head up to Lapacek's apple orchard in the afternoon to see what apples they've got available.  I'm planning that we'll go to the apple orchard maybe three times this fall, this Sunday, then another trip in mid-October to Oakwood Fruit Farm for pumpkins and super-delicious caramel apples, and then back to Lapacek's at the end of the season.  Last year we went through a lot of apples so that's why I think we should make three trips this year.  For dinner I was thinking super-classic eye of round steaks with mashed potatoes

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of September 15

Last Week

On Thursday we had our old regular tank water heater removed (it had started a leak) and replaced with a tankless water heater.  I don't really notice much of any difference with the water, but the low hum when it kicks in keeps tricking me into thinking I'm getting a call and my cell phone is vibrating.

One night during the week I roasted delicata squash with miso paste and butter, it was great.  I highly recommend it.  I hadn't had delicata squash before, but it's a sweeter squash, pretty similar to acorn squash, but without the stringiness.  I've had a hard time finding delicata squash, but I will buy it as often as I can and make this recipe.
miso-butter roasted delicata squash
I needed to make a treat for work so on Thursday night I baked up a pan of brownies from a mix and looking up recipes to use up the bananas I've got in the freezer and the huge jar of peanut butter that Husband Jeff doesn't like.  I ended up making these Dole banana peanut butter cookies and they were great.  They were great as-is (well, with the addition of a teaspoon of vanilla and a handful of chocolate chunks) but next time I would double the bananas and increase the peanut butter to 1/2 cup.
Peanut butter-banana cookie dough.
I took off Friday and headed to the big Half-Pint kids' resale event and bought $92 worth of clothes for Sonny D.  I had a hard time shopping because I had to finally buy clothes for him (we've always gotten hand-me-downs) and I had no idea how much to buy.  I ended up panicking after my volunteer shift and went out and bought a second small load of clothes. 

On Saturday evening we went to Husband Jeff's company's summer gathering.  One of the other employees invites everyone to his house and feeds us and we all hang out chatting.  There was a bonfire in the back yard, but it was too cold outside and I was too busy chatting to go out there.  We got home after Sonny D's bedtime so he didn't get enough sleep that night and then didn't take a nap the next day, so he had a total meltdown on Sunday afternoon at our friend's house.

On Sunday morning Sonny D and I took the wagon up to the farmers' market and hauled back a large load of produce.  We bought (L to R and top to bottom) - green beans, onion, celeriac, tomato, eggs, Roman beans, okra, bell peppers, potatoes, sweet corn, raspberries, delicata squash, eggplant, Gala apples, and kettle corn (most of it's already gone in this picture).  I rarely plan ahead what I'm going to buy, I just pick out whatever sounds good and can easily be incorporated into our weekly menu.  The celeriac and okra were total impulse purchases, I've never had them before and wanted to try them out.  I think I'm going to use the celeriac in my mom's chicken rice soup recipe and I'd like to grill the okra since I've heard that prevents it from getting slimy.
Our score at the Northside farmers' market.

This Week

  • Monday - creamy butternut squash mac & cheese (totally winging this, might not work out) along with Roma beans and sweet corn from the farmers' market.
  • Tuesday - Sonny D and I are taking the morning off and heading to the dentist.  His first visit went fine, so I'm hoping this one will too. For dinner we're having eggplant parmesan with pasta and sesame green beans.   In the evening I've got my awesome Zumba class.
  • Wednesday - I want to make shakshuka (eggs cooked in tomato sauce) along with grilled okra and miso-roasted delicata squash. 
  • Thursday - Sonny D's preschool is having a pizza social but I'm worried because it's going to be outdoors but there's no rain date.  The weather looks fine right now.  If the event is cancelled, we'll probably get pizza somewhere and bring it home.  
  • Friday - baked fish with rice.  For Me & D night, I think we'll go to the open swim at the warm-water pool.  
  • Saturday - Our friend John wants to go the Food for Thought festival and it was already on my list, so we'll probably head downtown for that.  Then for dinner we have plans to meet another family at Roman Candle Pizzeria mainly because they have a kid play space. 
  • Sunday - I think we're going to the farmers' market with my friend Heather and her mom.  For dinner I want to make cheeseburger casserole with grilled new potatoes. 
And somewhere in here I want to make more of those peanut butter banana cookies.  Yum!

Wanna Chat?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My New Warby Parker Glasses Arrived!

My new Warby Parker glasses arrived in the mail on Monday (Sept 8) even though the original delivery estimate was supposed to be a week and a half later than that (Sept 18).  Yay for under-promising and over-delivering!

I was impressed by the care in sending them.  The outer packaging was the shipping box, then there was a dark grey Warby Parker box inside that.  The glasses were nestled in a really nice light grey hard-sided case with a bright turquoise fuzzy interior.  Cute, the color makes me smile.  A really nice case is a great touch, much better than the not-so-protective soft cases I got with my last two pairs of Sears glasses.

When I showed the package to Husband Jeff, he agreed that the hard case was really good quality and that little things like that really matter in a person's satisfaction.  And he was really impressed with the thinness of the high-index lenses and that it only cost me $30 extra for them.  I think I've got him set on Warby Parker glasses for his next set since mine were such a great price and so nice. And I KNOW I convinced my brother-in-law to get new glasses.  He played around with the home try-on samples at his birthday party and really liked them and I sent him home with the name of the frames he liked best.  This week he sent a picture of himself wearing his new Warby Parkers and mentioned that he likes them so much that he's thinking about getting two more pairs.
My new Warby Parker Baxter glasses have arrived!
I was going to wear my new glasses to dinner the first night, but the prescription is a touch stronger than my last glasses (since the old ones are four years old!) so I needed a little more time to adjust to them. When I finally got to wear my new glasses at bedtime I totally fell in love with them. They're awesome. My previous glasses were small and I love the bigger field of vision these give me. Plus they are solid, not flimsy like you might expect with something so cheap. 

The only tiny drawback is I need to go somewhere to get them fitted since I've got a tiny little head and they need to be tweaked to fit me better. But I can still wear them right now without any issues. 
Modeling my new glasses.
I highly recommend Warby Parker for glasses! I had such a great experience with the whole process -- the two boxes of home try-on frames they sent, loved the attentive emails they sent, love the price, love the quality, etc. 

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, September 9, 2014

Coffee-Cinnamon Cookie Fail!

Here is a story of a recipe fail.  I'm not going to point you to the recipe because I don't know if the recipe wasn't well tested or my crazy substitutions were what caused the cookies to be so bad.  But I felt like sharing, so here you go.

Making Dough

On Monday when I was home for lunch I threw together batter for coffee-cinnamon cookies.   I made it ahead of time because it said the batter was runny and need to chill for a couple hours to stay together.  Sounded good.

I didn't have the maple syrup needed so I substituted with honey.  And I didn't have enough honey left in the open jar and I didn't feel like opening the new jar of honey I had just bought at the farmers' market.  I figured the amount of honey would would be ok since I prefer not-too-sweet cookies.  I thought about tasting the batter to see if it was sweet enough, but I was grossed out by the raw egg so I skipped it. The batter was really dry, completely opposite of the way the recipe was described.  I thought it might hydrate a bit as it sat.

Baking It Up

When it came time to make the cookies, we had to search all over the living room to find the cookie scoop.  It's one of Sonny D's favorite things to play with right now.  We found it inside a big metal cookie tin.  The dough was really stiff so we flattened the balls and hoped they would spread in the oven.
Scooping out cookie dough.
The cookies didn't puff up at all in the oven.  I think it needed more baking powder and maybe something acidic to react with, like maybe yogurt.  Plus more liquid in general. 
Baked cookies. 
We each had a cookie after they cooled a bit.  They were bland and boring, certainly not sweet. And no coffee flavor at all, so after Sonny D went to bed I whipped up a coffee drizzle glaze in order to give them some sweetness and the coffee flavor I was looking for. 
As they cooled overnight, the cookies seemed to get more dense and rock-like.  By this morning, they weren't very good at all, but I threw one in Sonny D's lunch bag and packed two for my morning snack.  I ate those two cookies, more out of boredom than because they were good.  And I somehow ate three of these not-very-good cookies at lunch today with a mug of tea; they're sitting like rocks in my belly.

Moral Of The Story

My advice is that you should ensure you have all of the ingredients before you start making a recipe.  Or at least read through the recipe and come up with a plan for substitutions.  Or maybe test it to see if it's actually going to be decent! 

Any Recommendations?

These coffee cookies were an absolute dud.  Does anybody have a tried-and-true espresso/coffee cookie recipe?  A family favorite?  I'd prefer something that is solely coffee-flavored, no chocolate. 

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!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Menu Plan: September 8

Last Week

On Friday night we loaded up our friends in the car and drove to Sun Prairie for pizza at Salvatore's Tomato Pies.  Excellent!! We ordered three pizzas -- a plain cheese, a pepperoni, and the special, which had scallops, heirloom tomatoes, ricotta, fancy pepper, and some sort of butter sauce.  Yum!

On Saturday we did an express, high-speed trip to Chicago for my friend Woojin's wedding and then headed to JoongBoo Korean Market on our way home.  We were in Chicago for about 7-8 hours.  The wedding was on the Odyssey ship, we boarded at Navy Pier, attended the wedding on the top deck, and then cruised around the area and had hors d'oeuvres, drinks, and a really nice lunch.  I don't think I've been to an afternoon wedding, and most definitely not a wedding on a boat.  We were home by about 7 p.m. but we had Sonny D spend the night with his grandparents, it was his first time spending the night without us.  When we talk about his first sleepover, he says "I want to try that again."  Nice!  I'm glad we tried it and glad it worked out so well.
Wedding on a boat!
Beautiful day for a wedding. Navy Pier Ferris wheel in the background.
Bride and groom stabbing the cake.
On Sunday morning I was actually able to sleep in until a little after 8 because Husband Jeff went over to his parents to hang out with Sonny D.  So nice!  I went to the farmers' market by myself and I picked up picked tomatillos and a couple onions so I can make salsa verde and can it this week. 

This Week

By Thursday and Friday of this week, the weather will cool down a lot.  The high here will be 59 on Thursday and 55 on Friday.

  • Monday - creamy mac & cheese (using butternut squash as part of the sauce base), miso-roasted delicata squash, and sesame green beans.  I prepped dough over lunch so Sonny D and I can bake coffee-cinnamon cookies after dinner. 
  • Tuesday - Shakshuka (eggs cooked in tomato sauce), banana bites, and Asian melon.  Dinner has to be quick so I can head to Zumba class afterwards.
  • Wednesday - burgers on the grill, sweet potato tots, and grilled leeks.  Maybe canning today. 
  • Thursday - I need to make a treat for a work meeting, so I'm going to make brownies from a mix but add mint from my garden to spice them up.  The kicker is that I'm not going to work on Friday, so I'll stop by to deliver them.  For dinner we'll have either a layered taco dish or cheeseburger casserole, both of them take advantage of the pre-cooked ground beef I've got in the freezer. 
  • Friday - I'm taking the day off to do my volunteer shift and shop at the Half-Pint Resale event like I do every spring and fall.  I'm taking advantage of the time off to also get my hair highlighted and have a massage.  Husband Jeff and Sonny D are getting dinner at the nearby church's fish & chicken supper.  I'm hoping for some leftovers!
  • Saturday - I've got Core Fusion starting back up for the fall semester.  It's also the morning of Trucks & Treasures at the same park, so I'm planning I will walk over to meet up with Husband Jeff and Sonny D when I get done.  In the afternoon and evening, we're going to Jeff's coworker's house for a company get together. It doesn't look like it's going to be warm for the event, so hopefully we'll be inside! 
  • Sunday - The standard Northside farmers' market visit in the morning.  Then in the afternoon we're heading over to our friend's house for Chucktemberfest.  I think it's the third or fourth annual Chucktemberfest, which is a grillout at Chuck's house.  

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!