A gift of chervil

I am again participating in the local park district community garden program. We each have our own bed to garden as we please and a larger plot for everyone to care for. I almost didn’t do it again this year as I yielded so little from my plot last year. Mostly due to the homeless in the park taking the produce. At the last minute, I decided to reserve my plot again. Thank goodness I did. At our park there is a 70 person waiting list to get a bed. The longest waiting list in the city.

Tonight was the first community work night. We all got together and cleaned up the area and worked the compost. For those who hadn’t planted their gardens yet, they did so. Even though I planted a few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist adding more. I added a Serrano pepper plant, another cherry tomato, two more kale, parsley, onions and cabbage.

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Our first strawberry is almost ready!

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And a plot neighbor gave me some of her chervil. I munched on it the entire walk home!

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Are you gardening this year? What do you have growing?

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Weekend round up

This past weekend I had a much needed weekend away in Ann Arbor to visit my friend Mel. After arriving on Friday and getting settled, we headed out to dinner at Isalita, a very delicious tapas style Mexican restaurant. We had a short wait where we enjoyed a delicious whiskey drink by the bar.

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One of my favorites among the food ordered were the baja fish tacos, which they made look like a fish stick.

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Saturday we spend the day frolicking down town, on campus and at the farmers market. Mel gave me a tour of the library, showed me the hidden door and toured me though several floors of stacks:

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After indulging on Friday night, we decided we needed a lighter dinner on Saturday and make some nibble platters of pita, hummus, falafel, olives and veggies.

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We enjoyed these down by the pond while watching the geese.

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We decided that for having been friends for 14 years, we haven’t aged too badly.

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After returning home on Sunday, Brian and I worked in the garden, rode bikes and had dinner on a patio. I even got to pick a few stems of kale.

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One of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time and I even got a tan! Hello, summer! I’m ready to spend my days outdoors.

Banana, peanut butter and flax waffles

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I got a much wanted waffle maker a few months ago. Honestly, I was a little intimidated about making waffles once I started researching recipes. Use yeast, don’t use yeast, fold in the whipped egg whites, it doesn’t matter. So many decisions, so many opinions.

I put off making waffles for about a month after getting the waffle maker. I couldn’t decide on a recipe. Then {never}homemaker posted a peanut butter and banana waffle recipe. It looked simple enough and if it was a flop, then my next attempts could only go better, right?

This recipe makes a healthier waffle than you would get at a restaurant. Brian and I both really liked it and made enough to have leftovers throughout the week. Brian likes his leftover waffles cold. I like to reheat mine in the toaster to give them a crispy exterior. Both of us eat the leftovers dry. I think the leftovers were even more flavorful than the fresh made.

I ran out of flour, so I substituted some oats in the mix and also threw in some cinnamon.

Dry ingredients:

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Wet ingredients:

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The wet and dry becoming friends:

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A nice thick mixture:

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Becoming a waffle:

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Extras cooling on a drying rack so they don’t become soggy and mushy and can be frozen to eat later:

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Mine with a little maple syrup and some 5-minute brownie crumbled on top. I regretted the syrup. Made it too sweet.

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Brian’s with a few chocolate chips on top:

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These are so delicious. I can’t wait to make them again.

The Weekend

I don’t feel as if I made anything this weekend that qualified as a meal. It was a very underwhelming weekend in the food department.

I was getting home late on Friday night and completely unmotivated to cook. So, I stopped by Whole foods and picked up some pizza, salad and soup. The soup was a last minute grab but it worked out perfectly because it was freezing out.

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Saturday morning I ran the Race to Wrigley 5k, which I thought had a great course.

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Afterwards, I resisted eating the free banana and bagel and headed over to Flat Top grill to redeem my free birthday meal. I had some fruit and a giant egg white omelet, loaded with tons of vegetables.

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That kept me full until dinner when I regained a little hunger. Enough to have the rest of Friday’s soup, 1/2 of the post race bagel and some crackers.

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Saturday night was a lazy night in with a blueberry, banana and spinach smoothie for me and a chocolate shake for Brian.

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Sunday I made our lunches for the week and a batch of chocolate, banana and almond butter waffles for Brian. For lunch was some leftover chicken meat transformed into BBQ chicken wraps. They were monster sized.
Then, the rest of the day was filled with wedding planning.
I was still so full from lunch at 8pm last night that I only had a small bowl of cereal for dinner.
See, it was a boring weekend in food. I didn’t even fix a proper meal for the two of us.

Meal Planning 101

I’ve had a few people ask me lately about meal plans. I’ll give you a run down about how I plan our meals.

Brian and I pack and take our lunches to work most days of the week. It’s way cheaper and healthier. Even if you are getting an inexpensive meal out, just keep in mind that restaurants charge you at least 3x or more what it costs them to make it. Meaning: You can make it sooo much cheaper at home. Let’s do the math. If you spend $5 on lunch everyday eating out(which if you live in Chicago you spend more), that means that it’s costs that restaurant at most $1.66 to make your meal.

So $5 x 5 days per week is $25 per week on lunches.

If you made that same thing at home for $1.66 x 5 days a week, you would have spent $8.33.

$25-$8.33= a savings of $16.67 per week. Times 52 weeks per year = A savings of…

$866.84 per year

Wow. It really adds up, doesn’t it? Save almost $1000 per year just by packing your lunch instead of eating out. I bet you’d like an extra $1000 per year.

And really, it’s not that hard. It just takes a little planning.

I really like using paper and pen. Notice there is hardly any processed food on the list.

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First, break it down. How many meals do you need for the week? Check your fridge and pantry. What do you already have that you can use?

We both eat our breakfasts at work. So those need to be packed, too. Do you stop and buy donuts and coffee everyday? Don’t even get me started on how money wasteful that is. Make your own donuts/breakfast sandwiches/oatmeal and coffee for PENNIES. Seriously people. I bet it would take less time to make your coffee at home in a Keurig(yes, you can afford a Keurig if you stop buying your coffee everyday) than to stop, stand in line, order and buy it. So what do we eat for breakfasts? Cold oats, oatmeal bakes, tofu scrambles, egg bakes, donuts, muffins and waffles. Yep, make extra donuts, waffles, pancakes ahead of time and reheat. Just as good as the first time.

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Brian and I combined need 12 lunches. I only put 10 because I don’t usually plan the weekend out as strictly as the weekdays. The weekend is when we will eat 1 to 2 meals out. And if we are out running errands or have other obligations, we sometimes eat separately or we just have the leftovers from the week. I try to do one crock pot meal on the weekends. It saves time and makes a lot all at once. I don’t care if you are cooking for one or four, most recipes freeze well. Utilize your freezer, people. So, what are some of my favorite crock pot meals to make? Buffalo chicken, chicken curry, pulled pork, pork tinga, soups…or anything on pinterest. Start it in the morning. When it is done cooking, eat it for dinner. Then portion the rest out. Put a few containers in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.

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I have also made a very conscious effort for us to eat meat less. A lot less. I make veggie burgers often. They are simple, fast and incredibly inexpensive to make. They are also filling, low in fat, high in fiber and protein. Win, win, win, win.

Another thing that Brian and I love are macro bowls. I steam kale, cook black beans, roast sweet potatoes, cook quinoa and bake tofu. Then I divide it out evenly between bowls. These bowls pack a punch in the flavor department, are super healthy and filling. They are really easy to customize, too. You don’t like tofu, substitute meat of your choice. You hate black beans? Throw in any other bean or lentil. Don’t have quinoa, use rice. Kale grosses you out? Use broccoli. You get protein, fiber, veg, and antioxidants. Yes these take a little while to make since you cooking everything separately, but they come in at less than $2 per bowl, using all organic ingredients.

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Two other dishes that we love are rama chicken and orange chicken. Healthier versions of take out food, made at home. Both pack great for lunches, too. Substitute tofu for the chicken and they are vegetarian. Most things you order at restaurant can be made fairly simply at home.

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Are these too healthy of options? Make a pizza. Make your own crust. That’s an option that takes less than 10 minutes to make. Spread on some sauce, cheese and toppings. This makes a very large pizza or two, so you will have a few days of left over pizza, too. Another fast option. Kraft whole grain macaroni and cheese… add a source of protein and vegetables(a lot) to it when it’s done cooking. It saves you from eating the whole box, makes it much more nutritious and gives you 1-2 meals worth of leftovers. Win, win.

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Need a fast weeknight meal? Well, that pizza and mac and cheese come together in about a half an hour. Do you know what else cooks really fast? Fish! Seriously, it takes less than 10 minutes to cook most fish. While that is cooking, saute or steam some of your favorite vegetable(s). Tired of your same old, same old tuna sandwich? Make a tuna melt. Leave the sandwich open-faced, throw on a slice of cheese and broil it for a few minutes.

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Another thing I do that saves me a ton of time during the week is to prepare a lot of vegetables a head of time. It’s easy to cut root vegetables, potatoes, or brussies up and roast them while doing other things around the house. Then I have a quick side to go with any meal throughout the week. Or put some potatoes or sweet potatoes in your crock pot. I also peel and cut up the entire bag of carrots at one time to snack on throughout the week.

I also take full advantage of my weekends and get most of my cooking done then. Take 4 hours one day and see what all you can get accomplished. I bet you will be eating well for days. This weekend, I am going to try to make about 10 days worth of food so there are things in the house through next weekend.

What’s on the list? Crockpot buffalo chicken(some will go in the freezer), a batch of veggie burgers, macrobiotic bowls, pizza, grilled burgers, tilapia and asparagus packets and some sort of breakfast(donuts or waffles) to pack for Brian. There you go. Six recipes that will feed 2 people for 10 days, plus some fresh fruit and vegetables. Getting some done ahead of time sure beats scrambling to make dinner every night.

I can make all of that with less than $70 worth of groceries for about one week of food. That’s $10 per day for 3 meals for 2 people. That makes each meal average out to $1.66. Way cheaper than eating out. And much healthier.

You’ve asked. I’ve answered. A weekly meal plan to save your waistline and pocket-book!

Afternoon snack

I eat this almost everyday. It’s one of my favorite snacks. An apple with 10 almonds.

The trick to making it taste extra good? Take a bite of the apple. Put an almond in your mouth. Chew together. Tastes way better than almonds and apples separately.

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Birthday weekend

What a weekend!
Yesterday was my 32nd birthday. Thirty-two. When did I get that old? Where has the time gone? I can’t complain. It’s been a good ride.
Friday, my co-workers surprised me with fancy cupcakes that we all indulged in.

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When I got home Friday night, Brian surprised me with season 2 of the BBC’s show Sherlock. We watched an episode Friday night. The season is only 3 episodes long, but each episode is 90 minutes. The first episode was so good. We were on the edge of our seats the entire time.
We went out for BBQ for lunch yesterday. We ordered an appetizer of poutine then decided to split a sandwich. Holy cow. The poutine had a homemade gravy that is probably the tastiest gravy I have ever eaten, globs of cheese, bacon and pulled pork.

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That hit my stomach like a brick. A few bites of cornbread and I was done. The sandwich we ordered was packed up and brought home as leftovers as well as some of the poutine.

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We did a decent amount of walking after that, then I had to come home and lay down for an hour.
I was able to revive myself for a beer on a patio.

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Followed by a delicious empanada.

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We ended the day by seeing Iron Man 3. We both really liked it.
After yesterday’s food fest, I got up and went for a long walk today. Made a successful batch of spinach and mushroom veggie burgers:

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After lunch, Brian and I rode our bikes up to my garden plot and got some things planted.

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Then had a very fruit and veg heavy dinner. After yesterday’s meat and fat fest, it was a necessity.

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I’ll leave you with a pretty picture of the pear tree blooms in our back yard.

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Thanks to everyone who reached out with calls, cards, texts and messages to make me feel so loved on my birthday.

Pumpkin pizza dough and bbq chicken pizza

I love the blog {Never} homemaker. She is constantly being creative with what she has. Which, I try to do, but she seems to do it much better.

I recently planned to make a hybrid of her Pumpkin Garlic Knots and Pesto Garlic Knots by making Pesto Pumpkin Garlic Knots.

So, I made the dough.

pizza5 pizza6pizza7And then I let it rise. I put half of the batch in the freezer to use later(genius to have spare bread/pizza dough on hand) and went to grab my pesto out of the fridge. Uh oh. There wasn’t near enough left to make the pesto garlic knots. But there was enough left for me to make a delicious flat bread(you know, less surface area to cover than multiple knots).

So, that’s what I did. I pressed the dough out real thin, spread some pesto on it, topped with slices of tomato and a nice blend of Italian cheeses.

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About a week later, I pulled the other half of the dough out of the freezer and made some of Brian’s favorite pizza with it. BBQ chicken. Our favorite BBQ sauce to use is Sweet Baby Ray’s honey chipotle. It has a little heat and smokiness that perfectly compliments the sweet. Top with lots of cooked chicken. Then load on the cheese. Bake until bubbling and has a crispy crust.

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I pulled off a little ball of dough to make an individual pizza for myself, too. I rolled mine out extra thin, cooked it until slightly crisp in a dry skillet, topped it and finished it off on a pizza stone in the oven to melt the cheese.

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This is a super easy pizza dough recipe and I like that it has the added nutrients of the pumpkin. I have also made neverhomemaker’s beet pizza dough with good success. I love that it makes enough for 2 huge pizzas, so I have leftovers to use when I’m short on time.

Mango lassi

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People! This is tasty and refreshing. Last month I went to an Indian cooking class. At the end, our instructor made mango lassi’s for everyone. YUM!

I had to attempt to recreate at home, of course.

The ones I made were much thicker and more smoothie like than was made in class, but I liked them that way.

For 2 lassi:

-1 individual container of plain Greek yogurt

-2 mangoes, peeled and diced

-1 cup unsweetened coconut milk(or whatever milk you prefer)

-dash of cardamom

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Blend away! Pour in two glasses. You can add more liquid(milk or water) to think them down more if you like. They are the perfect complement to a spicy dish. Or, we had ours with pizza and salad!

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Vegan gluten-free black bean brownies

I really, really liked these. I like them because they are vegan, you can slightly underbake them, leave them extra gooey and not have any raw egg illness worry. Mine were baked enough that they held together but gooey enough that they stuck to my teeth with every bite, leaving me looking like a hillbilly with a big goofy grin of brownie happiness.

I made these exactly like Minimalist Baker told me to. Or rather blogged about, but I felt like she was talking directly to me. Telling me to make them, so I did.

Let’s look at the deliciousness. The flax egg setting up:

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The other dry ingredients and draining and rinsing the beans:

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Bring it all together now:

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Scoop it to be baked:

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Hot and delicious:

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Take a big bite!

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