Monday, March 31, 2014

Menu plan: week of March 31

Last week I had a planning meeting for the Burgers & Brew event coming up at the end of May.  I'm in charge of signage, so I'm putting up the signs on the day of the event.  I can't wait to see what it's like "behind the scenes" after attending it once before.  And I love to give feedback on what went well and what could be improved on.  I'm excited that they have WiscoPop available instead of beer and I'm hoping they've got Sandcreek hard lemonade, it's excellent on tap.  They also will have at least three vegetarian "burger" options.

I had three awesome fresh-made/fresh-squeezed juice blends over the weekend -- pear-carrot-ginger-orange, mango-orange, and an apple-ginger zing (had whole strawberries, grapes, pineapple, cayenne, cinnamon, etc.). I loved the ginger in two of the juices, it gives a spicy kick. I wish I had a super-powerful blender to make similar smoothies/juices at home. Maybe I should look into buying a Ninja or NutriBullet. I definitely don't want a juicer, you lose so many benefits by throwing away all that pulp. 

We also had great meals hanging out with friends this weekend.  And we went to a conservatory on Saturday where it was so beautiful and humid inside.  I wish we lived closer to it, I would go there all the time in the winter. Yes, we have a conservatory here in Madison, but it's not free and I'm super cheap.  :)

I was excited to find Ziyad hommos tahini over the weekend.  I've been interested in this after seeing it on Biz's blog My Bizzy Kitchen forever ago.  Since Biz lives in the Chicagoland area I thought I might find it at the Chicago grocery store called Mariano's.  Score!  I bought three cans, two of the plain and one extra spicy.  I opened a can of the plain hummus last night for dinner and it's good, very smooth texture.  Husband Jeff liked how it was pretty much just the taste of garbanzo beans.


  • Monday - sauteed sesame green beans and baked buffalo tempeh "wings".  Sonny D probably won't be too keen on the spicy buffalo sauce, so I'll leave his plain. We really like the Frank's Buffalo sauce, it's great on pizza.  
  • Tuesday - I'm craving another batch of bean soup so I picked up a bag of 16-bean mix to throw in the slow cooker so dinner is ready when we get home.  We've got three pieces of pre-cooked bacon in the freezer that I'll chop and throw in the soup, along with some chopped spinach and maybe shredded zucchini.  I love slow cooker meals so I don't have to do any cooking after work so I can buzz over to my cardio fitness class after we eat. 
  • Wednesday - Every once in a while the the Madison Originals restaurant group has a sale on discounted gift cards for their member restaurants (they're actually having a sale right now!) and several months ago I bought $25 gift cards for Cafe Costa Rica and Dobhan. They expire on May 18, so I decided I need to plan when we'll use them before they expire, so I'm pushing myself to use the Cafe Costa Rica one tonight.  I've also put myself on a ban from buying any other restaurant discounts until we use these up because I don't want to forget about them and lose money on them.   
  • Thursday - Today is Sonny D's first swimming lesson of the semester!  He's already taken the Little Dippers intro class and now he's on to the Shrimp Dip class.  The frustrating thing is that you aren't allowed to register them for this class until they're actually 3 years old when the class starts.  So after the first class we had to wait like a year before we could take swimming again, well, other than taking the first class over again, but that would be boring.   I've got my cardio fitness class right after work so I won't be around.  Since swimming is pretty early, Husband Jeff and Sonny D are going to have something quick and easy, probably sandwiches
  • Friday - I have two options for dinner, tuna melts or breaded fish nuggets and shrimp bites. If we go with the baked fish nuggets we only have two swai fish filets the freezer so I don't think we have enough to feed all three of us, so I was going to combine it with the 1/2 pound of shrimp we've also got left.  Fridays are also Me and D night, where Sonny D and I go out to do whatever while Husband Jeff does his own thing.  Husband Jeff hasn't gone out yet, but I keep encouraging him to go hang out with his friends.
  • Saturday - Our adoption group is hosting a Korean Culture Day so we're doing that in the morning. In the afternoon the FEED Kitchens food business incubator space on the northside of Madison is having a bazaar.  Their producers that use the kitchens will be offering tastings and an opportunity to try their products. So I want to see what that is like.  I have no idea what to have for dinner, maybe we'll eat leftovers.   I wish the Final Four basketball game was earlier so we could go out to dinner somewhere and watch the Badgers play, but it'd be past Sonny D's bedtime.
  • Sunday - I've got a big package of chicken breasts in the freezer and a pile of corn tortillas, so I want to make chicken enchiladas with homemade enchilada sauce. I wanted this earlier in the week but I realized I'd need a bit of time to make this dish, so I opted for the weekend.  I'll use only half of the chicken breasts to make it, so I'll need to make the rest of them on Monday into something else.  Not hard since I've got a ton of chicken recipes bookmarked. 

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Meal Plan: Week of March 24

I'm on strike this week, I'm refusing to make real dinners.   We went grocery shopping over the weekend so we're stocked up with the basics and can eat simple things like cereal, oatmeal, salads, bagels & cream cheese, egg sandwiches, cottage cheese, canned soup, pasta with red sauce, and veggies.   
  • Monday - We have books to return to the library, so we'll probably head over there after dinner. 
  • Tuesday -I'd like to go to cardio dance fitness today and Thursday but since I've got a meeting on Wednesday right after work, I'll need to skip one of the exercise classes so I'm not gone three nights in a row. 
  • Wednesday - Burgers & Brew volunteer meeting.  Burgers & Brew features locally sourced burgers and Wisconsin craft beers.  Husband Jeff and I went a few years ago and enjoyed it.  You get three mini burgers and three short pours of beer, it was a great way to try some interesting burger concoctions from local restaurants.  If you're interested, buy tickets now, they sell out. 
  • Thursday - Another cardio dance fitness class.
  • Friday - We're hanging out with friends all weekend, so I'm sure pretty much every meal is going to be eaten out. 
  • Saturday - More meals out.
  • Sunday - More meals out. 

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Another Edition of "Put It In the Waffle Maker": Waffle Omelets

This recipe for waffle iron omelets has been on my radar for a while.  I loved how it turned out making French toast in the waffle iron and thought this might be good as well.  I've put it on several of our weekly menus but have skipped over it for various reasons.  Last night I made pancakes (blueberry and plain) while the guys made the waffle iron omelets. It turned out so awesome that I had to make sure to tell you guys about it immediately. 


The Gracious Pantry Clean Eating Mexican-Style Waffle Omelets

We didn't have the olives called for in the recipe and I don't like corn in dishes, so this was just eggs and seasoning, but you could add anything that is small pieces, such as sauteed diced veggies, ground meat or meatless crumbles, etc. 


Makes 4 omelets in our waffle iron
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

Heat up your waffle iron while you combine the ingredients.   Our waffle iron doesn't have any settings, just plug it in and it's on. The light turns off when it's at maximum temperature.
Sonny D using the whisk, his favorite kitchen implement!
Mix up the eggs and seasoning. Spray your waffle iron with baking spray (I use Trader Joe's olive oil spray but also like their coconut version) and pour in about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the egg mixture and close the lid.  

Puffy egg.
The egg will puff up from the steam and push the lid up, so you'll have to use this first one as a test to see how much egg your waffle iron will hold. As you can see from this photo, we had extra egg come out the back on our first one. 

They were cooked in about 1 minute, but of course your iron will probably be different. Using a fork, delicately pull out the omelet and put it on a plate.  Husband Jeff put shredded cheese on top and folded them in half to melt the cheese.
Adding shredded cheese and then folding in half
Husband Jeff and I put salsa on ours. 
I elegantly dumped salsa on top.


Sonny D had a great time making the eggs, he absolutely loves using a whisk.  It's always the first thing he wants to pull out to help me cook, so I have to explain that sometimes a different tool works better like the hand mixer.

The brown color was deceiving, it looked like a waffle but you had to remind yourself that you were eating eggs instead. I liked that the texture was solid.  Light and fluffy eggs are great too, but this turned it into something different.

Sonny D ate his with just cheese inside, it was solid so it was pretty easy for him to pick up like a sandwich.  I don't know if he catches on to the novelty of making eggs in the waffle iron, but he really seemed to like it. We had one extra folded egg omelet with cheese inside left over, so I put that aside for Sonny D's lunch today.

The only thing is that it might have been a lot of garlic powder and onion powder in the mixture, so you might want to go a little light on that, but even as written it's great.  I can't wait to try this with other ingredients.  You could keep the Mexican theme by adding a bit of leftover taco meat and similar things, or take it into classic omelet territory with ham and peppers and onions. 

The only drawback to using only eggs is that it deflates down to be quite flat, it just cosmetic though.  Adding ingredients to the omelet itself would remedy that. 

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of March 17

Review of the Previous Week

We had some good luck on Tuesday when I defrosted the unknown Pyrex dish from our freezer, it turned out to be creamy beef tips so we quickly threw some egg noodles in water to boil.  I've definitely learned my lesson on labeling everything I put in the freezer.  I always figure I'll know what it is later on, but that's so not true.  So many things look different and smell 'flat' when frozen, which makes it difficult to identify them later.  And it's time to inventory the freezer again, I'm sure there are several things in there that aren't on my list. 

Pi(e) Day - Mexican shepherd's pie
Friday's Pi(e) Day dinner turned out great, Mexican shepherd's pie with a cheesy mashed sweet potato topping.  Previously I've cooked sweet potatoes in the microwave but I over-cooked them and they end up too dry.  This time I cooked the sweet potatoes in water as if they were standard white potatoes and it worked out perfectly.  Sonny D pretty much mashed the sweet potatoes by himself with the hand mixer, I only gave a little assistance to ensure he kept the beaters in the potatoes. I also made crustless pumpkin pie to use up the last little bit of Cool Whip in the freezer.  I've found I don't like pumpkin pie straight from the fridge, I either get it out when we sit down to dinner so it has time to sit out and take the chill off, or put it in the microwave for about 7 seconds. 

Our Friday "Me & D" time ended up being Sonny D and I going to the mall play area after dinner again, same as the previous week.  Sonny D can now go on the JC Penney's escalator himself rather than me carrying him. I was proud that he was brave enough to hop on by himself, it's great to try new things. 

Saturday we ended up having a delicious Irish meal at Husband Jeff's parents' house -- corned beef with cabbage, potatoes, carrots, salad.  Dessert was completely un-Irish but tasty strawberry cupcakes. :)  My contribution to the dinner was Irish soda bread muffins, they turned out pretty good but I wish I had caraway seeds to add since it's traditional.  I've never had Irish soda bread before but I could see how it would be really good when paired with a soup or stew. 
Choco hemp seed butter
On Sunday afternoon Sonny D and I made chocolate hemp seed butter.  It turned out fine (could probably use more sweetener), but this morning when I pulled it out of the fridge to make a sandwich for Sonny D's lunch it was completely solid and flaky.  I wonder if I need to add more oil.  Maybe this is why you don't see hemp seed butter very often.
Reuben brat filled with melty Swiss cheese
and chunks of corned beef!
Our Sunday dinner was excellent, I had Husband Jeff pick up Reuben brats at Jim's Meat Market.  I'm the only one in the house who likes Reuben sandwiches, so he only bought two of them, he also picked up two traditional ones and two jalapeno-cheese brats. He grilled them up out on the deck, I can't wait for actual grilling weather!  The brats were SO good but they didn't have sauerkraut in them like I expected, so I grabbed some homemade kraut a gal from work shared with me.  Heavenly!

This Week's Menu

  • Monday - Sauteed shrimp with pasta with red sauce, along with sweet & spicy roasted butternut squash.  I think I'm going to make the marinara sauce to be more like a puttanesca sauce by adding anchovy paste (from a tube) and capers.  I might also sneak in a little chopped spinach as well. 
  • Tuesday - Husband Jeff and I have been married 8 years today so we're going out for an anniversary dinner at L'Etoile
  • Wednesday - I'm still set on making omelets in the waffle iron, so I'm hoping with Husband Jeff's help I can accomplish it today.  I also want to make pancakes of some sort, maybe blueberry.
  • Thursday - Since I had to skip my exercise class on Tuesday for our anniversary dinner, I'm  definitely going to my cardio dance fitness class tonight.  Since my exercise class is right after work, Husband Jeff and Sonny D are on their own for dinner, which means I wrote down pizza since that's Husband Jeff's favorite and we haven't had it in a while.  And Husband Jeff is going to take Sonny D to get his hair cut since it is soooo long and shaggy.
  • Friday - For "Me & D" night, we're hoping to go out with Aunt Terri for dinner, we're still ironing out our plans. I'm trying to encourage Husband Jeff to go do something on his own. 
  • Saturday - I've got my regular Saturday morning Core Fusion class and afterwards we're meeting up with our friends for our Breakfast Club.  This time we're going to Crema Cafe, known for their local ingredients and inventive dishes.  For dinner I want to make hot dogs with mac & cheese and frozen sweet corn from this past summer.
  • Sunday - I'm going out to lunch with Husband Jeff's mother, Cathy and then afterwards we're going to a taping of the White Jasmine cooking show.  For dinner I have three options written down -- tofu scramble, roasted tofu with noodles in peanut sauce, or baked buffalo tempeh "wings"

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Our March Kitchen

I've been busy making things in the kitchen, but too busy to sit down and write up full posts on them, so here's a quick photo rundown of what's been going on in our kitchen lately.

Homemade Almond Butter

I researched several recipes to figure out how to make nut butters.  For my first batch I wanted to use up some almonds from our freezer and it ends up that's the most difficult one to make.  It seems almonds take the longest to process, about 20 minutes with a standard food processor.  Might as well give it a shot though!  I figured if it burned out my food processor, I'd get a new (bigger) one.  :)

homemade almond butter
I toasted 1 cup of whole almonds in the oven, threw them in the food processor, and Sonny D ran the machine until they were smooth.   I added a touch of cinnamon, a pinch of salt, and some honey.  It made enough nut butter to fill a 4 oz canning jar with a little bit leftover. 

I might have toasted the almonds a little longer than I should have because the almond butter ended up looking and maybe tasting a little dark.  Not burnt at all, just darker than expected.  They were skin-on almonds, so that gave it a darker color and maybe that also contributed to the deeper flavor.  Sonny D kept asking if it was chocolate (because of the brown color) and I had to tell him no.  I had thought about adding chocolate, but I wanted to keep it simple this first time.   

This was SO good.  I didn't eat much of it, but used it for Sonny D's sandwiches for preschool.  I made sure to label them as "homemade almond butter" in case anyone there thought it was Nutella since it looked pretty similar.  Didn't want to be branded as a neglectful mom serving her son essentially frosting for lunch since it's my son's first few weeks at this preschool.  :)

For my next batch of nut butter I'm going to make hemp seed butter (I'm such a hippie!), possibly regular or maybe that will be my first chocolate batch.  I ordered hemp seed online since it's a separate trip to a specialty store if I buy it in town and I never need anything else at that store and rarely make it over there.  When the box arrived I realized it was more than I was expecting, there were four bags in the order, so I've got a ton of hemp seeds that I don't know what to do with other than putting a single tablespoon in my morning oatmeal.  

Asian Meatballs

I threw together Asian meatballs with some ground turkey and seasonings.  I was out of eggs, so I used a flax "egg" as the glue to hold them together and I think it worked out quite well.  I used my larger cookie scoop to shape them, but I forgot that meat shrinks when you cook it, so they ended up a little smaller than expected.  I think I need an even-larger cookie scoop for things like this.
Asian meatballs
I liked the tangy ginger in them, they were slightly zippy.  They were pretty good, nothing amazing. Next time I think I would want to add more meaty flavor, maybe mixing in lean pork or beef.  I'd also love to add some chopped and sauteed mushrooms for more 'umami'.  Those would be a secret though since the guys don't like mushrooms, so don't tell my family!

Banana-Oat-Yogurt Pancakes

Sonny D hasn't been eating the Greek yogurt I buy for him so I used some of it to make pancakes for dinner.  I'm a huge fan of breakfast-for-dinner meals... well, breakfast is great any time! 

I mixed together rolled oats and an equal amount of almond milk at lunchtime to give it time to hydrate.  When I came home we added a frozen banana (when it melts it disappears into the batter) and some vanilla yogurt and other ingredients. We whizzed the batter up with the immersion blender and poured out pancakes onto the electric skillet at 275 degrees. 

banana, oatmeal, and yogurt pancake batter
All of the alternative pancakes (without flour) I make look nice and puffy while they're cooking, but they deflate after removing from the heat.  They still taste good, but are thin.  I need to figure out how to make them stay puffed up.  Less heat?  Are they not cooked all the way through?  Should I add some flour?

These pancakes weren't noticeably flavored by the oatmeal or yogurt, but I liked knowing they were in there. 

Cheesy Sausage Pasta Skillet

I liked how this was all made in one skillet. I browned the sausage, then added the chicken stock, pasta, veggies (secret shredded zucchini!), and a bit of leftover evaporated milk.  It cooked pretty quickly, maybe 15 minutes after adding the pasta?  Then at the end I crumbled in some leftover cheese slices from our soup party to make it cheesy.  Nothing goes to waste in our house! 
cheesy sausage pasta skillet
I think this was supposed to be finished off under the broiler for maximum toasty-goodness, but since the broiler is so hot I'm always afraid I'll let it go too long and burn it, plus we're usually ready to start eating right away, so I consider those 'brown under the broiler' steps optional.

Broiled Fish Filets

Sonny D usually loves fish and recently Husband Jeff mentioned that he prefers swai to walleye or tilapia, so I decided to make broiled fish.  It comes together really quickly.  I mixed together flax seed meal and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  I tried a simple dredging of egg wash then the seasoned breading, but the breading mixture didn't stick too well.  C'est la vie. I threw them under the broiler for 10 minutes and we were ready.
Fish coated in flax seed meal and Parmesan

The taste was good, I liked the nuttiness of the flax seed meal.  The flavor of the Parmesan was lost and it could have used some salt and maybe some herbs, but I liked it a lot. I served this with a box of Near East wheat pilaf made with chicken stock, which was delicious. 

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

This was brown rice, roasted sweet potato (roasted a couple days ahead of time), toasted sunflower seeds (threw them in the oven with the sweet potato for the last few minutes),  three slices of bacon chopped up, some frozen leftover feta cheese from our soup party, and a simple dressing of red wine vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, and black pepper. 
Roasted sweet potato salad.
I based this on a recipe I saw on one of the many blogs I read, but customized it based on what I had in the house and what I wanted to include.  It originally called for carrots but I skipped them because I didn't think the texture would work well here and also skipped the onion since it was raw and seemed like it would be too bold and intrusive.  

Husband Jeff thought the bacon didn't really add much, but I liked it.  It was a slight smoky, meatiness that hung out in the background without being too much.  The salty feta was a great complement to the sweet potato. 

Sonny D's Salad

Sonny D's dinner salad.
Lately Sonny D has wanted to try our salads at dinnertime, so the other day I asked if he wanted his own salad.  He was excited and said yes.  So we poured him out some greens and added a few croutons on top.  He didn't want to wait and was insistent that we were forgetting the dressing, but we waited a few minutes until we were ready to eat before adding dressing. His choice was ranch dressing rather than caesar.  He loved it so much that he ate three bowls!  What 3-year-old does that?!

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of March 10

Things have been busy, I've been cooking but haven't had time to write up any of my adventures.  If I can find a little time, I'll at least pull the pictures together so you can see what's been going on in my kitchen.

  • Monday - I have an adoption group board meeting after dinner, so we need to be somewhat quick.  We'll have Trader Joe's vegetarian pizza burgers, salads, and sweet potato + rice side dish. Well, officially it's called a salad but seems silly to list two salads for dinner. 
  • Tuesday - I'd like to go to cardio dance fitness, but I feel bad being gone for two nights in a row, so I'll either exercise at home in the morning if I wake up early or over lunch.  For dinner I decided we'll be adventurous and eat the contents of the unknown Pyrex dish (looks like some sort of stew?) that I socked away in the freezer and didn't label.  If that ends up being something scary, we'll have taco salads since our crisper drawer is overflowing with salad greens. 
  • Wednesday - Sonny D's school is doing a community lunch, so I don't need to pack a lunch for him today.  It's nice to have less to worry about in the morning.  For dinner our friends Brian & Kristen are coming over and we'll have soup from the freezer, creamy tomato-basil soup and white chicken chili.  We'll also grab an artisan bread from the freezer. 
  • Thursday - I've got cardio dance fitness after work and then Husband Jeff and I might meet out for dinner somewhere for a date night. 
  • Friday - Today is Pi(e) day (3.14) so I was thinking I'd make sweet potato Mexican shepard's pie.  I never liked shepard's pie growing up and haven't eaten it since, but a Mexican version sounds good.  Mine will probably be a vegetarian version since I don't think we have any ground beef at home.  I'll use textured vegetable protein flavored with taco seasoning and throw in a bunch of veggies like shredded zucchini, chopped spinach, sauteed onions & peppers, tomatoes with green chiles, maybe black beans.  And then top it with cheesy mashed sweet potatoes. 
  • Saturday -  I've got Core Fusion exercise class in the morning, but we don't have any real plans.  Maybe we'll have lunch out and spaghetti with red sauce for dinner. 
  • Sunday - My enthusiasm for planning kind of petered out by the end here, so I only came up with "egg dish" since we bought a dozen eggs at the grocery store. 

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of March 3

We had a soup party over the weekend, guests brought a slow cooker of soup and it turned out great!  Every soup was amazingly good, our friends are excellent cooks.  And all the kids had a fun time running around. We have tons of food leftover from it, so we'll be eating that until the cows come home!  We even had to put some extra soup in the freezer since we knew we wouldn't be able to eat it fast enough.  Nice to have extra food waiting.

I'm so glad it's March already.  February flew by plus it was a short month.  I want winter to be over with, I'm sick of being so cold. 
  • Monday - leftover soup and other leftover party food along with salads.
  • Tuesday - This is Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day, so why not have pancakes?  I've also had my eye on the concept of waffle-iron omelets.
  • Wednesday - sausage pasta skillet, a bit similar to Hamburger Helper but with sausage instead of ground beef.  It's cheesy and creamy and I'm going to add in a bunch of veggies.
  • Thursday - I've got cardio fitness class but afterwards Husband Jeff and I might go out for dinner for a date night
  • Friday - Husband Jeff is doing his own thing so Sonny D and I are going to do mother-son things.  I brainstormed a list of ideas (of course I have a list!) so we'll have to figure out what we want to do.  Not sure if we'll go out for dinner or have something at home.   
  • Saturday - I've got Core Fusion in the morning and that's our only solid plans so far.  Another mom and I are talking about getting our boys together to put together a gingerbread house that we missed doing at Christmas so we're going to do that sometime over the weekend.  And Sonny D wants to go grocery shopping so I planned we could go to Trader Joe's at some point as well.  For dinner I don't have any plans but I'm sure we'll figure something out, either leftovers from meals out, make something new, or go out. 
  • Sunday - Our Breakfast Club is meeting at a greasy spoon diner called The Curve for lunch.  Our last Breakfast Club wasn't too fabulous, so hopefully this one will make up for that.  For dinner we're having oven-fried fish (coated with flax and Parmesan) with cheesy polenta and a vegetable.

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!