Monday, back at it

It’s already Monday again? My weekend was so full of fun activities that it feels like I haven’t been to work in a week!

Thursday night, I was incredibly happy to eat a very summery meal of a half of a BLT with fruit, veggies and a few chips. See that sweet corn? It was my last ear from a batch I received from Iowa. Possibly the best sweet corn of my life. So sweet and tender it made my heart sing.

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Friday night we picked up our wedding invitations and envelopes. Eeek! It’s coming so soon. I’m so excited! Brian and I grabbed dinner at Native Foods. He had a curry bowl and I had the indo salad. Both were amazing. We loved our own choices and each other’s so much that we switched bowls half way through. Sharing is caring. After running some more errands, I got home and collapsed on the couch for the night.

Saturday I got up early, did laundry, worked out and watered the garden before heading to a bridal shower in the burbs.  I had a surprise strawberry waiting for me when I got there to water:

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Brian and I had a nice breakfast together before I left for the day. I made him cinnamon streusel French toast with caramelized bananas for breakfast. I had eggs and toast.

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I got to hang out with some fun Hawkeyes at Sarah’s beautiful shower:

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The rest of the day was full of bachelorette fun.

Sunday morning I slept in and headed to water aerobics. Only one more weekend left of getting to be in an outdoor pool and get exercise. Booo! I wish I could have this weather and schedule all year round. The rest of Sunday was filled with making food for the week and folding and putting away laundry. As much as I hate laundry, I love starting out the week with a full and clean closet.

I made another round of macro bowls(spinach, kale, zucchini, quinoa, lentils, beans and sweet potato) for us to have for lunches this week:

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Took a break to have a lunch of leftover pizza, salad, tomatoes and chips.

 

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I felt like I haven’t made us a proper dinner in a few weeks. When I said this, Brian gave me a strange look like I was a crazy person. I just felt like I hadn’t put a lot of time or effort into a meal lately. Which is the direct result of it being summer and using a lot more fresh food that doesn’t need as much preparation. Anyway, I having a strong yearning to do a little more cooking and use our early wedding gift. Look at her. She’s a beauty. I named her Camille, because she’s French, you know. And she can make honey, almond, rosemary roasted carrots with the best of them.

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I also made a simple and quick tomato sauce, which had tons of great flavor:

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With some seasoned green beans, the meal came together kind of like this:

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Brian gave the carrots two thumbs up. I really like the almond carrot combo. Delightful. It would probably be a recipe better reserved for cooler temperatures, but those are probably right around the corner. And the tomato sauce on the chicken really jazzed it up.

 

Tomato, tomato, egg, tomato

I almost made it to this weekend with out posting about last weekend.

Last week was a little nuts. I started a new workout regimen. I was doing strength before work and cardio after work. This left me with little time to actually make dinner. So, I made good use of my old friend the crockpot this past weekend.

After leaving the gym Friday night, I stopped and picked up dinner at Whole Foods. I snagged a bag of their house made thai pepper popcorn. It was the perfect snack for relaxing on the couch and watching a movie.

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Saturday I got up early, worked out, then made a large and delightful breakfast to fuel the day.

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Toast with egg, avocado and sriracha with a side of clementine, and homemade greek yogurt with chia, flax and strawberries. This powered me through a trip to Whole Foods to take advantage of their one day bulk bin sales:

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After getting home, I threw a curry in the crock pot.

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Feeling good about being able to come home to a hot dinner, I headed downtown to do some marathon shopping. After trying on over 50 dresses, I bought one. Success.

I recently inherited a plethora of homegrown tomatoes and a half dozen ears of sweet corn. I have been greatly enjoying those all week. Is there a limit to the number of tomatoes one can eat in day? I think not!
Tomatoes for breakfast:

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Tomatoes for lunch:

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Tomatoes for dinner:

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Oh, the joys of summertime.

Happy Friday!

I’ve been on a bad cycle for the past month to 6 weeks. A cycle of summer socialization. While the socializing is great, the food and booze that I chose to consume in conjunction with the socializing has taken a toll on me. I’ve been feeling non-stop bloated. Gross. The good news is that I’ve been eating well and exercising this week and things are quickly turning around.

One night this week I brought back a version of the good old macro bowl. This time I used a lentil and bean mixture with rice, chicken(seasoned with five spice powder and berbere), kale and sweet potato. Delicious!

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On Wednesday we received a gift in the mail from our registry. A mortar and pestle! I was so excited. I have been dying to make dukkah ever since I saw More Cheese More Chocolate post about making it months ago.  That mortar and pestle made it happen last night. It’s AMAZING!

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Well, I have a girls night tonight, yoga and water aerobics tomorrow morning then the rest of the weekend is all mine. See you later!

Raisin Bran muffins

I was at the store recently and had an impulse purchase of a box of Raisin Bran.

Raisin Bran is one of the few cereals I like. I also like to knit, garden and go to water aerobics. I am a 85-year-old woman.

Being that 1-2 bowls of cereal every few months if about my limit, I needed to find something else to do with the rest of the box of cereal. With a quick Google search, I quickly learned that there are numerous Raisin Bran muffin recipes out there. Apparently, they are a thing. Well, I don’t want to be left behind on the cereal muffin trend, so I made cereal muffins.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups Raisin Bran cereal
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, which together the flour, baking soda, salt and sugars.

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Stir in the cereal. Set aside.

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In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, egg, buttermilk and vanilla.

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Pour the wet ingredients over the dry. Stir until completely combined.

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Cover mixture and refrigerate for 45 minute to 2 days. This allows the cereal to soften. Part of the reason I chose this recipe was the ability to let the batter rest before using it. My oven was full of DIY Greek yogurt, so I couldn’t bake them up right away. See how the batter is soupy before letting it sit, then much thicker afterwards?

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When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375F. Use a muffin tin with liners or lightly grease a muffin tin. Divide batter between 12 muffins.

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Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Store in an airtight container or refrigerate.

I really liked these muffins because they had nice flavor without being too sweet. The only change I might make is adding additional raisins to the recipe.

Faux KIND bars

I have a love/hate relationship with granola bars. They are delicious and easy to eat on the go, but they are loaded with calories, sugar and usually have little protein. I just don’t feel like they have a lot of bang for my buck, calorie wise. But they are sooo tasty.

And a lot of them are loaded with crap and additives, that is why I really like KIND brand granola bars. Unfortunately, they are a little pricey. So, I was ecstatic when I saw Minimalist Baker posted a recipe that looked like a KIND bar. MB kept it simple, using only five ingredients. I added a few more ingredients for fun.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed dates, pitted( I used medjool)
  • 1/4 cup honey( or maple syrup)
  • 1/4 cup natural nut butter of choice(I used almond)
  • 1 1/4 cup rolled oats(not instant or quick oats)
  • 1 cup roasted unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut(toasted preferably)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt(optional)

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Preheat oven to 350F.

Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain.

Spread almonds, oats and coconut on a baking sheet. You might need two baking sheets. Toast in the oven for about 15 minutes until slightly golden brown and the almonds are giving off a nutty flavor. This step is optional but really enhances the flavor of your granola bars.

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Place oats, almonds, coconut, dates, and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix to combine.

Warm honey, vanilla and almond butter for 20 seconds at a time until it can be stirred and combined.

Pour mixture over oat mixture and mix.

Once thoroughly combined, transfer to a parchment lined 9×13 baking dish. Press down until uniformly flattened. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for a minimum of 20 minutes to harden.

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Remove bars form pan and cut into bars(mine made 12 bars). Sore in an airtight container for a few days. I individually wrapped mine and stored them in the freezer and they stayed fresh for about a month.

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Doing a taste test at work with the almond coconut KIND bar and a homemade faux KIND bar, the faux KIND bar won the contest. Oh, and its way cheaper to make these yourself than to buy them already packaged, but I’m sure you could have guessed that!

Weekend recap: It’s August?

With temperatures in the 70s all weekend and a tan that is starting to fade, it’s hard to believe that it is August. Aren’t we supposed to be in the dog days of summer?

Knowing that we had back to back to back activities lined up for Saturday, I took advantage of Friday night by doing some grocery shopping and spending time at the garden. I picked a bunch of kale, fennel, carrots and cherry tomatoes. My cherry tomatoes are growing like crazy. They are all over the plant in giant clusters like I am growing grapes.

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The fennel smells wonderful. I can’t wait to cook it up and possibly use the fronds in a savory bread.

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Saturday started bright and early with a double yolk egg(those are good luck, right?) then off to help a friend with a yard sale.

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The weather was  perfect and it nice to sit outside for a few hours. When the yard sale wrapped up, we high-tailed it across the city to do the cake tasting for our wedding.

So many design options.

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We felt the presentation of the cake flavor options was a little odd, but that didn’t stop us from eating cake. In the end, we decided on a non-traditional flavor combination that we are both very excited about.

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We needed a mid-afternoon boost and stopped at Starbucks before heading to try on wedding bands for Brian. He tried the new Valencia Orange refresher. I thought it tasted just like Tang!(gross)

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After that we headed to a party at Challenger’s Comics to celebrate it winning an Eisner award. We had a ton of fun.

Sunday morning came far too quickly after Saturday’s busy day and late night. Despite the chilly 70 degree weather, I headed to water aerobics with a friend for some much-needed exercise. The water felt frigid at first but we forgot all about it once we started moving and chatting. I continued the outdoor theme for the day as I walked to the grocery store to pick up the last few things I needed to get food ready for the week. The weather was just too gorgeous to be inside. Then I piddled around in the back yard trimming my potted plants. I had a red bell pepper and a tiny San Marzano tomato ready for picking!

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After putting away the groceries, I used up some zucchini to make a batch of delicious chocolate zucchini muffins.

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It was a lazy Sunday dinner of salad, fruit and a take and bake pizza.

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Chocolate ice box sandwiches

I was raised in a very loving family in Iowa. With a mother who believed in having dessert after meals. Who learned it from her mother.

I am now programmed to want something sweet at the end of every meal. I’ve tried to break this habit. It’s no use. It’s in my genes. So the best I can do is try to choose healthier options to get my sweet fix.

This recipe is one that was occasionally in our freezer in the summer and would most often be eaten as an afternoon snack.

Make a box of chocolate pudding(or pudding of flavor choice) using 1/2 cup less of milk than the box calls for. Then, stir in a half tub of thawed cool whip.

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Stir to combine. It doesn’t have to be perfectly mixed.

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Spoon some onto half a graham cracker then gently set another graham on top.

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Layer in a container with sheets of wax paper in between.

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Freeze for a few hours and eat when frozen. They should last about a week.

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DIY Greek yogurt

If you like Greek yogurt, read this post.

If you don’t want to be ruined on store-bought Greek yogurt, don’t read this post.

Warning: Once you realize how easy, inexpensive and way more delicious this yogurt is, you will be ruined on store-bought yogurt.

I had been wanting to make my own yogurt for quite some time and had researched a lot of recipes on different techniques. I think I settled on the most simple one. And no, you don’t need one of those fancy yogurt making machines that they sell for hundreds of dollars at the store. I simply used a pot, an inexpensive candy thermometer, my crock pot, cheesecloth, a strainer and a bowl. Most people probably own all of those things. I’ve already made it twice with great results and plan on making another batch this weekend.

Add 2 quarts(or however much you want) of milk to a sauce pan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the temperature reaches 180F. What kind of milk? I have only used cows milk, but you can use any fat percentage that you want. The higher the fat percentage the thicker and creamier the yogurt with turn out. I have tried with a lower fat percentage and a higher fat percentage, both turned out great.

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Once at 180F take the pot off the burner and let milk come down to a temperature between 110-120F. It is important to get the temperature in that range so that the bacterial cultures can work their magic. If the temperature is too high, they will be killed, if it is too low, they won’t incubate properly.

If you are using a pan with a tight fitting lid, you can move on to the next step. If not, I recommend using the ceramic liner part of your crockpot for the next step. Pour the milk into the inner part of your crock pot. Leave the outside metal part in your cupboard.

At this point, take a couple of spoon fulls of store-bought plain Greek yogurt. I have used Fage and Chobani. They are two of the more pure brands on the market. Under ingredients, you want the bacteria listed but not much other junk. No gelatin or pectin or fruit or fake sugar. Stir the store bought yogurt into your milk. The yogurt is the starter to make more yogurt.

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Next, preheat your oven to any temperature for one minute. Shut off your oven. Wrap your covered pot full of warm milk and a few spoonfuls of yogurt in a large beach or old bath towel. Put in your turned off oven for 8-12 hours. By turning on your oven for one minute and then shutting it off, it helps to take the chill out of the air and keep your yogurt in the temperature range that you want for the bacteria to work it’s magic. A lot of sites recommend turning on the light in your oven for a little extra heat. My oven is so old that it doesn’t have a light in it and I had no trouble making the yogurt without a light. It’s probably also a good reminder that you have something in your oven so you don’t absent mindedly turn it on and start the towel on fire.

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After 8-12 hours, your milk should look much more like yogurt than milk. Much like this:

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If you stir it all up at this point, you have runny yogurt. Which if fine, if you like that sort of thing. Congratulations. Put it in the fridge and you are done.

If you are like me and like a thicker and creamier yogurt, you will want to do this next step. Use a fine mesh strainer or a colander lined with cheese cloth set up above a larger bowl. Pour your yogurt mixture into strainer and let the excess liquid strain into the bowl below it. The excess liquid is known as whey. Some people save it and use it. I pour it down the drain. Place straining contraption in the refrigerator for 2 or more hours.

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When you come back, you will have a fair amount of whey in the bowl and a much thicker yogurt on top. Whisk or stir the yogurt a little to smooth it out. Move the yogurt to storage containers and refrigerate. The yogurt lasts for about a week.

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Your yogurt will taste like a tart, unflavored yogurt. You can add a tablespoon of vanilla(to a 2 quart batch) to make a nicely flavored vanilla yogurt. You can also add in sweetener at this point, if that if your type of thing. I have added vanilla and it tastes great.

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How much cheaper is this than store-bought? Well, you can make two batches like this out of a gallon of milk and one small container of store-bought Greek yogurt(about $4 total). It will make the equivalent of about 4 large containers of store-bought Chobani or Fage (about $5 each x 4= $20). I would say that is a pretty significant savings over time.

Since there is a lot of downtime on this recipe, this is the time frame that I like to do it in: I will heat the milk and let it incubate the 8-12 hours over night. A great time as I know I won’t need to use my oven again. When I get up in the morning, I strain the yogurt and leave it straining while I am at work. You can do it all during the day, but I don’t like having my oven tied up all day and unable to use it.

Longer days, please

I’m behind. I am really behind. It feels good to admit that. I’ve noticed a pattern lately that I have been blogging about half of the recipes I make. I am really good at making excuses why not to blog them. The truth is that life is busy. Really busy right now. It’s not a complaint, it’s just a fact.

We are a little over 3 months until our wedding day, so it’s time to kick it into high gear on all the little decisions. Decisions that take time to research and make. It’s also gardening season. I love my garden but it takes time. Exercise makes me feel better, but it  takes time, as does the showering afterwards. So does researching recipes and making them. Oh, and blogging them definitely takes time. Add all of these things to a major transition time at work(all good things) and the bottom line is that I would like more time in my day to more of all the things I enjoy.

So how far behind am I? At least 13 recipes behind. GULP. That’s a lot. I had big plans to really try to get caught up this week. Then a killer headache knocked me out the past 2 days and tonight is a garden work night. And of course, the upcoming weekend is booked. Not that I am complaining about having to taste lots of flavors of wedding cake. In fact, I have been dreaming about it all week. Hopefully I can eek out a recipe later tonight. My new goal is to get two recipes posted by Sunday night. Hold me to it people.

And, of course, sorry for the lack of recipes.

Two weeks, one post

This summer is going way too fast, but it sure has been a lot of fun!

Last weekend, I had a girls weekend at a friend’s lake house and they surprised me with a mini bachelorette party. We had a lot of fun, took in a lot if good food, drink and time in the water. I love to build a nice fire.

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While having our coffee out on the dock Sunday morning, two trumpeter swans swam right past us.

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This week I made my second batch of homemade Greek yogurt. This batch turned out even better than my first batch. I really need to blog that recipe. While I was making the yogurt, I also started the base for some homemade ice cream.

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I took a night off from the kitchen to celebrate National margarita day with my friend Katie.

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Thursday night I spent making really good banana bread and the homemade ice cream.

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My parents came into town on Friday and we introduced them to ice cream at Margie’s Candies after dinner. We all left with full and happy bellies. Saturday morning we participated in the Big 10 5k. After last years sweat fest, this years cooler temperatures were much appreciated.

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We spent our afternoon making important decisions on our wedding food menu by trying lots of food. It was all really delicious.
I spent Sunday creating a meal plan for the week with the goal of having to buy as few groceries as possible and use up what we have. I am a visual person, so I had to map it all out in writing.

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Being that my parents brought me a bunch of tomatoes from their garden, I knew that BLTs were in my near future. I spent $8.37 on groceries for the week(most of that was on bacon) plus leftovers we had from buying groceries this week and we should have stuff for more than enough meals this week.
Today’s lunch for me was a mustard, feta and veggie open faced sandwich, chips and fruit.

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Supper was an AMAZING BLT, pretzels, fruit and super 7 salad. This meal made me incredibly happy.

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I’ve also been enjoying the fresh flowers my parents brought to us out of their yard.

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And I spent time at my garden multiple days this week. I’ve started getting cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, pulled the last of my radishes, gotten a few carrots and am continuing to get kale. I’m getting really anxious for my full-size tomatoes to ripen after indulging in my parents home grown tomatoes.
Fresh food in the summer makes me incredibly happy!