My doctor wants me to lose a significant amount of weight for potential-baby-drug related reasons that I won’t go into detail on. We joined the Y – Don has been going to spin classes and loving them, and I’m on the cardio machines nearly every day – and I sat down to revamp my meal planning repertoire. Behold: healthy living HQ.
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Trying to get organized, and do better at meal planning. Just cleaned out the freezer and reorganized it (still looks messy, though – drawer freezers are not my favorite for primary use – can’t wait to get a big standing freezer and just use the drawer one for small stuff). Here’s everything in my freezer right this second:
- pork butt (4 lbs)
- pork chops, bone-in (8)
- ground beef (2 1lb bags, 2 2lb bags)
- flank steak (1)
- lamb shanks (2)
- shrimp (2 lbs)
- sea scallops (2 lbs)
- flounder (2 servings)
- calamari (1 box cleaned rings)
- boneless skinless chicken thighs (2 packs of 5)
- boneless skinless chicken breasts (a bunch)
- homemade bratwurst (12ish)
- homemade pork sausage
- jimmy dean regular pork sausage (3)
- linguica (2 sausages)
- mexican chorizo (6 sausages)
Cooking aids and miscellaneous
- bacon (1 lb plus 5 slices)
- pancetta (2 large chunks)
- fat back (1 package)
- veal shoulder chop (1)
- chicken wing tips for stock
- petite peas (2 bags)
- sweet corn (1 large bag, partially used)
- veggie mix – carrots/corn/peas (2 steam-in bags)
- stir fry veggies (1 bag)
- artichoke hearts (1 box)
- spinach (1 box)
- edamame in shell (1 bag)
- blueberries (1/2 bag)
- mixed berries (1 bag)
- bagels, onion (1 bag of 6)
- country bread, half-loaf (2)
- challah loaf (1)
- pound cake (1)
- whole fruit bars (1 1/2 boxes)
- vanilla ice cream
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Claire at Cookthink posted a great tip a while ago — how to re-grow your scallions. I must confess that both Don and I were skeptical; it couldn’t possibly be that easy! We go through scallions like nobody’s business around here. They go in salads, mashed potatoes, pad thai (mmmm pad thai), and get sprinkled over all sorts of things. And I am forever bemoaning the fact that the one thing I need to make a recipe I’d like to try is scallions, and we’ve just run out, or I haven’t been to the store yet, or blah blah blah. So this whole “having scallions always available on your windowsill” notion certainly appealed. But I didn’t really think it would work. I rummaged in the cabinets until I found one of Don’s grandmother’s beautiful glasses, uncovered during the renovation, and stuck my most recent bunch of scallion ends in some water in it as I used them. And would you believe it, it really works? And fast, too! There was noticeable new growth on the scallions as early as the very next day. Awesome! Time for some pad thai.
Oh, and PS — I apologize for not posting recently, but I had a pretty good reason. I’ll be back to posting again soon; my jewelry business will be at a local convention over Thanksgiving weekend and there’s a lot of work to do to get ready first!
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Tags: gardening, other bloggers, scallions, tips
Have you been to your local Asian supermarket lately? Or, like, ever? Because if not, you should go. I’m lucky; I’ve got one of the biggest Asian markets in the area less than ten minutes away. And yet, for some reason, I never go there. I really should — in addition to a great variety of produce, seafood, and Asian specialty foods, their prices make the trip worthwhile. I did manage to get out there a while ago, and while I spent a good hour wandering around looking at things (and trying not to get run over by the inevitable masses of people with shopping carts) all I bought was a package of udon noodles. And yes, I think you can find udon noodles in the regular grocery stores now, so if you don’t have a specialty store near you, don’t despair, you can still make the recipe I’m posting today. But if you can manage to get out to an Asian supermarket, check out all the interesting things you can buy — and check out their prices and wide selection, too.
In any case, I’m glad I picked up the udon noodles, even if I didn’t take advantage of the rest of what was available. Udon noodles, in case you didn’t know, are noodles which are generally made with wheat flour and water. They’re a little paler and starchier than your regular Italian-style pasta, and are usually used for udon itself, which is a Japanese soup. I’m a fan of nabe udon, personally — it’s a seafood soup, with all sorts of delicious things in it along with the usual noodles. Although I must admit that I haven’t had it in a while — once I learned how great sushi was, it became all I ever ordered, to the detriment of my udon-eating. Clearly, we should just be going out for Japanese food more often, to solve this problem (if only! Don doesn’t eat it, which is why sushi is a rare treat for me to have when I’m going out with someone other than him).
In any case, nabe udon aside, I’m actually not a huge soup eater, particularly at home. I’ll go out for udon or pho, but present me with a bowl of soup at home and I’m just unenthused. I realize this is probably a basic flaw in my personality. I’m working on it. In the meantime, I wanted to do something that wasn’t soup with my newly-procured udon noodles, and after some Internet trawling, I found just the thing. It was a huge hit with Don, and will probably be in our regular rotation of side dishes. On top of all of its other pluses, it was really easy to make, which as we all know goes a long way with me.
Pick up some udon noodles and try this out — I think you’ll like it. In the meantime, I’m going to try to overcome my soup issues.
Peanut Udon Noodles with Ginger, Lemon, and Chive
¾ lb udon noodles (3 bundles)
2 tablespoons peanut butter
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp soy sauce
½ cup water
½ tsp sesame oil
½ tsp honey
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
Cook noodles according to package directions, unless the directions on the package are in Japanese like mine were, in which case just boil them like any other pasta and drain them. Combine all remaining ingredients except ginger and chives in a small saucepan and simmer for five minutes, whisking to dissolve peanut butter. Stir chives and ginger into sauce and simmer for another 30 seconds, then pour over noodles and toss to combine.
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Tags: asian, chives, ginger, japanese food, peanut butter, side dishes, udon noodles
No time to talk. Swamped with work. Wouldn’t be able to come up with words to express the fantasticness of these muffins anyway. Please to enjoy recipe.
Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins
(Recipe source: my imaginary best friend, Ina Garten, here)
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 ounces (about 1 cup) sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 half-pints fresh blueberries, picked through for stems (I used frozen, they work fine)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place 16 paper liners in muffin pans (I never use liners, they always stick for me — I just spray my muffin tins with a cooking spray, it generally works fine. Do what you like).
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, sour cream, and milk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (sorry Ina, I didn’t sift! I don’t have the patience and it didn’t seem to make much of a difference here. All I do is fling the dry ingredients in a bowl and foof it with a fork a little bit so they’re mixed. I hope this won’t ruin our imaginary friendship). With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture to the batter and beat until just mixed. Fold in the blueberries with a spatula and be sure the batter is completely mixed.
Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup just over the top (I actually used an ice cream scoop and it was the most gloriously easy thing I’ve ever done except maybe sleep), and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned on top and a cake tester comes out clean.
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Tags: baking, blueberries, blueberry muffins, ina garten
Don has been at home for the last week, all day, every day. It’s been nice in some ways, and incredibly annoying in others, as I’m sure you can all imagine. I don’t need to say much about the frustrating aspects of having your significant other in your workspace all day, but I’ll say this about the nice part: having him at home meant I could bake things that would get eaten instead of sitting around. See, I love to bake, but I’m actually not much of a baked-goods eater (although if you make it miniature I can’t resist it — miniature things are totally my kryptonite). So I bake, and then things sit. I work from home, so there’s no office to take things to and leave in the lunch area with a cute sign. Don never takes things to work — he can usually barely be convinced to eat lunch when he’s there. Baked goods, around here, generally have a slice or piece eaten, and then they sit on the counter and go bad unless I can foist them off on our gaming group or something.
And I love to bake. I’m actually a much better baker than I am a cook; I’m the only cousin in the extended family who gets Grandma Sylvia’s precious lemon bar recipe right every time, and cookies, cakes, and other desserts are my most bookmarked recipes. So when Don, on his first full day at home, looked up from the computer and said, “You know what I’d really like? Some muffins,” it prompted a full-scale muffin assault. His favorite are blueberry muffins; I didn’t have any blueberries then (a situation I’ve since remedied), so I proposed chocolate chip muffins instead. Those disappeared within a day, and the only reason you’re not getting the recipe for them is that I’m still tweaking it a little bit. On the second day, I looked around the kitchen and realized two things. First, I’d run out of milk and couldn’t make more chocolate chip muffins. Second, due to my bad habit of buying fruit in bulk on sale in a misguided attempt to eat more fruit which inevitably results in me eating a couple of pieces and the rest going bad before I can get to it, I had a bag full of pears which really needed to be used. After some Internetting, I hadn’t found any pear muffin recipes that I particularly liked, but I did find a recipe for a cake that sounded awfully good. Cakes are the worst victims of sitting-on-the-counter-itis around here, so I decided to make a few changes and turn the recipe into one for muffins instead. Success!
As for the third day? Blueberry muffins, finally. You’ll see those next.
Pear and Walnut Spice Muffins
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each ground cloves and ground allspice
2 cups peeled pear chunks (from about 3 pears)
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in a medium bowl. Beat eggs and sugar in a mixer with a whisk attachment (or using a hand mixer) until fluffy. With the mixer running, slowly add the vanilla and oil. Add the dry ingredients, and mix until combined. Fold in pears and nuts. Fill greased or lined muffin cups about ¾ full, then bake for 30-40 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Let stand for five minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
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Tags: autumn, muffins, pear, walnut
We go through a lot of eggs around here. Every so often, when I’m going through the grocery checkout with my ‘buy one get one free’ set of 18-packs of eggs, I feel a little awkward. The cashier probably assumes I’m feeding a big family, but I know that it’s just the two of us. We just like eggs, is all! Don’t judge me!
Part of the reason we go through so many eggs is that when I make egg salad, I make enough for at least four people with big appetites. Don and I are both huge fans of egg salad, so we’ll make dinner out of it and then both take some for lunch the next day. It works out nicely, but it uses a LOT of eggs. We’re also fond of Sunday brunches, and so are our friends, who often come over for french toast, eggs, bacon — the works. Eggs, eggs, eggs. In any case, we had an egg salad night this week; I’d just been to Costco and reluctantly picked up a double stack of 18-packs there, because we were out of eggs and I wasn’t going to the regular grocery store for a while. All I can say is, stick to the grocery store eggs (or your organic farmers’ market eggs, you hippies), because Costco vacuum seals their egg cartons together and you can’t look inside to see if they’re cracked or not. I think I threw out seven or eight cracked eggs, at least — which is a huge waste of money, no matter how cheap I got them for (and for what it’s worth, it wasn’t any cheaper than the grocery’s buy-one-get-one deal, which they have almost all the time). There were still plenty available for egg salad, though. Phew!
This is another recipe where you can add things you like. Don likes it with celery, and I’ve heard of other people who like to add capers or other salty bits (check out the comments section on Heidi’s egg salad post for lots of interesting suggestions). I personally like it plain — and my favorite thing to do with it is to make a sandwich out of it with nothing but sliced pickles to accessorize.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1.5 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/8 cup fresh chives, chopped finely*
1 tablespoon dried dill
salt and pepper
The most effective way to hard boil eggs is to stick them in a pot in cold water, then pop the pot on the stove and bring it to a hard boil (really bouncy bubbles). Once it’s boiling, cover the pot and take it off the heat. Let the covered pot sit for at least ten minutes (I confess that when I made this egg salad I got distracted watching the Barefoot Contessa and my pot of hot water and eggs sat for at least half an hour — makes no difference). This technique always, always results in perfect hard boiled eggs — never overcooked, never gray, perfect yellow yolks every time. Try it, you’ll love it.
Run cold water over the eggs for about five minutes to cool them down and stop the cooking process. Then peel and chop the eggs (I use an egg slicer, which makes weird little rectangular chunks of egg but saves me a good twenty minutes and a lot of cussing). Add all other ingredients and mix gently to combine. Chill for at least half an hour to cool everything down before serving.
*If you don’t have chives, just use about the same amount of minced onion. I just happened to have chives growing like crazy in my herb garden.
On photography: All three of the shots in these posts have something different going for them, and they’ve all got different flaws, too. I love the warm, sunlit feel of the first one — that’s the light-feel I’d love to have in all my shots. There’s a window above my kitchen counter, and I took that with the cutting board placed right under it (which is where I do my chopping anyway). The sun was streaming in, and it must have been just the right time of day. When I went to post-process it, the auto-adjuster wanted to take the light back down to around where the second photo is. It might have been more accurate, but I declined. I like it the way it is. But honestly I’m not in love with the composition of that one. And that, I think, is where the second photo shines. I absolutely love the composition of the second photo; there are twenty peeled hard-boiled eggs on that plate! But I don’t love the lighting on that one like I do the first — it was taken about a foot to the left, and it made a huge difference.
The last photo is, of course, the finished egg salad. I’m not really in love with this shot at all. But I really wanted a ‘final product’ shot, and this was definitely the best of the lot. I hate the lighting, although the macro came out decently. I just feel like the light makes it feel grainy and old, like something scanned out of a book from the eighties or something. Oh well.
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Tags: easy, egg salad, eggs
Summer is definitely the best season for lazy cooks. So long as they’re lazy cooks who like produce, anyway. And guess who fits into that category? Yeah. Don’s mother’s tomatoes were dinner a couple of nights ago, in the form of this fast and simple bruschetta. A few minutes of chopping beats standing over the oven any day! Honestly, we didn’t mean to eat nothing but bruschetta for dinner, but it was so good that we’d polished off the whole batch before we knew what we were doing.
One of the best things about this recipe is its sheer flexibility. Use as many tomatoes as you want! Chop in whatever herb is growing best in your garden, or just throw in the dried herbs you like. Add diced red onion, or kalamata olives, or little chunks of mozzarella cheese. Toss in whatever you’d like, omit what you don’t. It’ll taste awesome, I promise.
About 3 cups of chopped tomatoes (I happened to have four on-the-vine tomatoes and four romas sitting around, so that’s what I used)
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Once you’ve got all the tomatoes chopped, pop them into a strainer and gently move your hands through them over the sink to get as much of the excess liquid out without crushing them. You can also simply seed your tomatoes before chopping them, with a spoon or by slicing off the top and squeezing them over the sink, but I like to have the seeds and gel in the mix — just not a lot of extra liquid. Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl and add the herbs, salt and pepper, and vinegar and oil. Stir gently to combine, and allow to sit for about five to ten minutes before serving to let the flavors combine.
Normally, I’d serve these on toasted slices of baguette, but it was a lazy night and I’d picked up a big bag of pre-toasted garlic and parmesan ‘panettini’ bread crisps (no relation to Hayden Panettiere, as far as I know). That’s what you see in the picture above. They were okay; I think I would have preferred the crunchy/soft combination of the bread slices as opposed to just crunchy.
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Tags: appetizer, bruschetta, easy, snack, summer, tomatoes