Meal Plan Monday Post

After our painting spree last week Patrick and I couldn't be happier to be over the hump and half way done with painting the house! As you know from our last post our last weekend painting project spilled over into the week and we just tied up all those loose ends yesterday. Even though there was plastic tarp down for much of the week and each evening consisted of some sort of little painting task we still kept cooking. It's really hard to find the energy to maintain a painting project and cook so we kept everything simple last week (and even threw in a frozen pizza one night).

Meal Plan for Monday February 22 - Sunday February 28

Monday - Chicken salad with almonds and spinach, apple
Tuesday - Nacho Night
Wednesday - Orzo with caramelized veggies
Thursday - Spinach salad and pizza
Friday - Salmon cakes, sauteed bok choy, baked beans
Saturday - Lunch Kanki
   Dinner Leftovers
Sunday - Breakfast Breakfast casserole with pancetta, broccoli, and mushrooms and kiwi
   Lunch Spinach salad with avocado, beets, goat cheese, pepitas and pear
   Dinner Quinoa salad

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming ...

... because we're painting!

Last weekend our weekend painting project was a bit larger than our previous weekend projects. This is only our fifth weekend painting so far but we get more ambitious each time! The first weekend we painted we chose to start with the guest bedroom since that should be fairly forgiving and a nice place to dip our toes in so to speak. Well the next weekend we chose the master bedroom with adjoining en suite vanity/bathroom and walk in closet. That took a bit more time to finish up and spilled into a few weeknight evenings. Next up was the upstairs bonus room and upstairs hallway. And then we spent one weekend just working on upstairs doors and shelves. We set them all up in the office which hasn't been painted yet and proceeded to paint them all.

Our first painting weekend was back in November so this whole "paint the house" project is definitely dragging on now. To hurry things along we decided to make the next weekend project (last weekend) a bit bigger so that we could check rooms off the list. We decided to tackle the stairwell, downstairs entry area, and downstairs half bath. It wasn't necessarily more square footage but there's a ton more trim and that's the most intensive thing to paint. Upstairs we only have baseboards (adding crown molding to come after painting the house!) but downstairs we have not only baseboards and crown moulding but a chair rail. We love all these details but man is it a pain to paint!

So we're telling you all this to let you know that all of our free time this week went to painting and not blogging. On Sunday evening here was everything we still needed to do: paint the bathroom and closet doors with two coats of paint, one final coat on the wall (includes cutting in with a brush and rolling), painting the half bath, swapping out the entry light fixture, and painting the entry ceiling. The ceiling was unexpected hiccup. When we moved into the house the upstairs still had popcorn ceiling so we had it removed and the ceiling was freshly painted. Well we thought the downstairs ceiling was fine (with the exception of the living room) but upon further inspection we realized it needed to be repainted. Unless we miraculously finish up we'll be taking the next two days off. In the meantime enjoy this painting collage and see if you can spot the kitties who are great painting supervisors!

Brussels and avocado salad

Today's post features a refreshing salad with a bit of a twist for the greens. Instead of lettuce it calls for Brussels sprouts leaves! It's certainly an interesting base for the salad that includes avocado and pepitas along with a bright citrus-dijon vinaigrette. After carefully removing Brussels leaves for over 15 minutes I would not recommend doing so yourself. If I were to make this again (and I'd like to) I would simply slice off the bottom of the Brussels to remove the hardest part of the core and then slice it into small rounds. I don't think this would take anything from the salad and would probably also give it a bit more crunch. So despite my annoyance with the prep time requirement of carefully removing all the Brussels leaves I'd still recommend the salad but tell you to save the time and let your knife do the heavy lifting.

Brussels and avocado salad from Martha Stewart's Clean Slate cookbook
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (1 teaspoon) plus 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed, leaves separated
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, toasted
1 avocado, sliced

   Whisk lemon zest and juice and mustard in a small bowl. Gradually add oil, whisking to emulsify, and season with salt and pepper.
   Toss dressing with brussels sprout leaves and pumpkin seeds. Gently stir in avocado and adjust seasoning.

Meal Plan Monday Post

Patrick and I are in trenches - the house painting trenches to be precise! For the past five days we have been tackling more house painting. Thursday and Friday were prep days along with priming followed by lots and lots of painting. We keep the meal plan fairly simply when we're DIYing so that our meals can be quick to assemble and cook. Before this weekend we had painted the majority of upstairs (everything except the office and guest bathroom). Our promise to ourselves for painting was to attempt to paint some rooms upstairs and if either it was too hard or it looked too amateurish then we would hire out the rest of the house. I guess I should back up and say we're painting the whole house! Well we decided, though quite time consuming, we were decent painters and would continue downstairs. This past weekend we did exactly that and painted the stairwell and the downstairs entry. We have minimal plans over the next two months so this project should be finished soon! We'll share some after pictures once we're done. In the meantime here's our meal plan!

Meal Plan for Monday February 15 - Sunday February 21

Monday - President's Day
   Lunch Black bean soup and cheese toasties, apple
   Dinner Manicotti leftovers
Tuesday - Manicotti leftovers
Wednesday - Basketball viewing party complete with heavy hors d'oeuvres 
Thursday - Pesto stuffed chicken, honey carrots, couscous with sundried tomatoes
Friday - Bonus breakfast! French toast and fruit

   Dinner Salmon and stir fry asparagus with shiitakes
Saturday - Breakfast Cinnamon rolls and smoothies
   Lunch Spinach salad with avocado, beets, cottage cheese
   Dinner Fake Bake
Sunday - Breakfast Cinnamon rolls and smoothies
   Dinner Leftovers

 It's Always Caturday
Family selfie

Update to buttermilk pancakes

Pancakes occasionally make it into our home brunch rotation. I used to shy away from them when I didn't quite have the technique down, but now that I've improved we make them on a more regular basis. We've tried several different recipes but our go-to is the Cook's Country buttermilk pancakes recipe, featured here.

One morning recently I came into the kitchen to find that Whitney had already made the pancake batter, and that it was a bit browner than usual. I feared that she might have prepared this unleavened disaster of a pancake recipe, but thankfully it turned out she had just substituted half the flour in our regular recipe with whole wheat. This was still a bit of a risky move given that whole wheat flour can alter the texture and moisture content, but in this case it ended up working perfectly and I couldn't tell a difference from the original recipe.

I'll also add some thoughts on making pancakes based on my experience thus far. The keys to cooking them right are determining the proper heat level for the stove (somewhere around "medium" so that it's hot enough to brown the outside, but not so hot that it burns before fully cooking through), and then waiting long enough for the pan to properly pre-heat before adding the batter (it takes forever!). I'm still working on my flipping technique. I don't know how you cleanly flip a disc that's half liquid, but at least part of it is leaving enough room around the pancake to slide the spatula in, and sliding it in fast. Anyone have tips for the actual flip?

Anyway, here's the recipe with Whitney's whole wheat flour substitution.

Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes Inspiration from Cook's Country
Serves 2

1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 egg
3 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
vegetable oil

   Whisk the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to combine. In a separate bowl whisk the egg and melted butter into the milk until combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; pour in the milk mixture and whisk very gently until just combined with only a few lumps remaining - do not over mix.
   Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot (about 3-5 minutes). Add 1 tsp oil to coat the bottom of the skillet. Pour 1/4 cup batter for each pancake and cook until large bubbles begin to appear (1 1/2 to 2 minutes). Flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown (will need slightly less time than the first side). Serve immediately.

Honey dijon chicken one pan bake

How many of you have gotten sucked into watching the step by step recipe videos on social media? Don't they make everything look so easy and amazing. Well one caught my eye that looked do-able and like something my husband would like. It was a honey dijon chicken recipe that was a one pan wonder with veggies roasting alongside the chicken. Here's the video:

Unfortunately this was a bit of a fail but I thought it would still be fun to share! I also think it had potential and maybe with a few tweaks it could be a winner in the future. Some things that went wrong? The potatoes weren't cooked all the way through and the broccoli got a little crispy. So I'd recommend a small dice on the potatoes and then adding the broccoli half way through the cooking time. And maybe even putting it on a separate pan (I think it was also overcrowded for this preparation). I would also double the marinade so there's more of its deliciousness for all the vegetables. This was still a fun experiment!

Honey Dijon Chicken from Tip Hero
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
½ tsp salt plus more to taste
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, to taste
16 oz baby red potatoes, halved
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 5-6 oz each
   pounded to even thickness if necessary so that they cook evenly
20 oz broccoli florets

   Whisk together 1 Tbsp of the olive oil with the honey, Dijon, garlic, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.
   Reserve half of the sauce for later, then marinate the chicken in the rest of the sauce for an hour.
   Preheat the oven to 400F.
   Toss the potatoes with the second Tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Place them on a foil-lined half sheet pan and lay the chicken breasts on top. Add the broccoli to the pan, then drizzle the reserved sauce over top.
   Bake 35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are tender. If you prefer your broccoli to still have some crispness to it, don’t add the broccoli to the pan until 15 minutes into the cooking time.

Have you made one of those social media video recipes??

Luncheon salads

This awesome weekend lunch was a "throw together" from a few weekends ago. All of the veggies / produce (the avocado, spinach, and tomatoes) were from our Costco produce trip so we were making use of everything in the fridge. I had been wanting to do an avocado-egg salad for awhile now and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

While the eggs were hard boiling - I don't think that's correct usage but it conveys what was going on easily enough! - I prepped the spinach and marinated the tomatoes. Then once the eggs were ready I was able to peel them and mash up the avocado-egg salad. I challenged myself to omit mayonnaise from this quick throw together dish so substituted full fat plain yogurt. While it was tasty it probably could have benefited from a bit more zing - maybe lemon zest or a tablespoon of mayonnaise??

Avocado-egg salad
2 avocados
3-4 hard boiled eggs
1/4 cup full fat plain yogurt
1 tbsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
   Smash the avocados and eggs together. Mix in remaining ingredients until desired consistency reached (we wanted ours a little chunky). Serve as is or on toasted bread for a sandwich.

Mediterranean tomatoes
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp Italian blend seasoning
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste
   Mix all ingredients together and set aside to marinate about 10 minutes. Serve as a topping to chopped spinach.

Mexican Chocolate Pound Cake

When you're hosting a themed potluck sometimes it can be easy to stray from the theme for the dessert portion of the meal. On Saturday night we planned a Mexican potluck and when no one claimed making the dessert I set off to find one that would be the perfect festive end to the evening! After Patrick vetoed dulce de leche brownies I quickly turned to finding a Mexican chocolate dessert. Mexican chocolate is basically cinnamon chocolate so not too odd. This Mexican chocolate pound cake fit the bill and tasted great! It was slightly on the dry side so serve with a dollop of whipped cream or extra chocolate sauce.

Mexican Chocolate Pound Cake from Southern Living
   Makes 16 servings
8-oz semisweet chocolate baking squares, chopped*
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup chocolate syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk

   Preheat oven to 325°. Microwave chocolate baking squares in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 minute and 15 seconds or until chocolate is melted and smooth, stirring at 15-second intervals. Alternately melt the chocolate in a double boiler (which is what we did). Beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer 2 minutes or until creamy. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating 5 to 7 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Stir in melted chocolate, chocolate syrup, and vanilla until smooth.
   Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch (14-cup) tube pan.
   Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack, and let cool completely (about 1 hour and 30 minutes). Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

Be on the lookout for this Mexican potluck post!

Meal Plan Monday Post

February is a short month and I'm sure it will be gone before we know it! In fact it feels like the monthly calendar just flipped to the month of love. Regardless we had lots of fun things going on this past week which made things go by even faster since we were so looking forward to everything. Not only was it Valentine's Day but we had friends in town for a UNC basketball game. While they were staying with us we hosted a Mexican potluck for a mini get together of sorts. Last week, full of exciting things, will lead into another week full of exciting things! Today is President's Day, Whitney's birthday is coming up, and we're hosting a basketball viewing party for the UNC vs Duke game! You can sure bet there's going to be some cinnamon rolls for breakfast one day! Without any more chit chat, here's the meal plan:

Meal Plan for Monday February 8 - Sunday February 14

Monday - Soba noodles with spinach and peanut sauce; Brussels spring rolls
Tuesday - Penne with asparagus and cherry tomatoes
Wednesday - Separate
Thursday - Crockpot chicken cacciatore, brown rice
Friday - Risotto with scallops and Brussels
Saturday - Lunch Grilled Pimento cheese sandwiches, fruit (pear and mango)
   Dinner Mexican potluck
Sunday - Breakfast Sweet potato muffins
   Lunch On campus for a UNC basketball game
   Dinner Valentine's meal with manicotti

Hope you had a nice weekend and staying warm today!

Grits and corn muffins

Patrick and I hadn't made grits in awhile for brunch so, when meal planning, I added grits for our weekly brunch meal recently. The corn muffins, however, were a late addition and quickly made from scratch that morning.

I was able to whip up the corn muffins because Patrick had already eaten a light breakfast. Let me explain why Patrick has two breakfasts. Sometimes our weekend brunch meal can be later in the morning than Patrick would like. Despite having the meal plan written he doesn't like jumping in the kitchen and starting to cook so he waits for me to fix breakfast. But I like lazy mornings and don't prefer to start my day immediately with cooking. After some "hangry" Patrick mornings we learned that Patrick needs to come down after waking up and eat something light, typically a bowl of cereal, and then we'll have a bigger breakfast together in a little while. I, on the other hand, can hold over my breaking of the fast in the morning and don't mind a later breakfast. If you're curious my "hangry" times are having a late dinner without an afternoon snack.

So when I came downstairs this morning and saw that Patrick had eaten his breakfast snack I knew I had a bit of extra time to make corn muffins. The grits are a quick cooking grit so they don't take much time. I stumbled across a honey corn muffin that sounded delightful and off we set to make them!

For the grits I sauteed an onion and added some frozen corn kernels before adding in the chicken stock and grits. We finished them with some milk and parmesan cheese. The grits were served with the corn muffins and avocado.

Honey Corn Muffins from the Neely's and Food Network
   Makes 12 muffins (we cut in half)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
Special equipment: paper muffin cups and a 12-cup muffin tin

   Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
   Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the whole milk, eggs, butter, and honey. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.
   Place muffin paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin. Evenly divide the cornbread mixture into the papers. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden.

Painting our Kitchen Table

Today we're sharing a fun update to the kitchen! One of my fall "house projects" was to paint the kitchen table. Our kitchen table was MIA for a few months but now it's back in action and prettier than ever. It brightens the kitchen and brings in some nice, clean lines with the newly painted white color. Check it out:

This post is just focusing on the update rather than the how-to. This DIY project needed a "third time's the charm" approach and I thought it might end up as a DIY Fail disaster. I'm still not completely satisfied with it but, until you examine it with a magnifying glass, it looks good!

The existing table was a hand-me-down from my grandmother and for obvious sentimental reasons I wanted to keep it. It had a very orange-y natural wood tone with lots of curvy detail throughout the legs and spindles. I planned two things for the DIY update to the kitchen table - it would get painted white and then we would swap in our dining chairs and paint them to match. This gives us a unified, modern set. Patrick and I are both very pleased with the outcome. Here's a before and after: 

I ended up using a furniture paint on it but if I were to do it again I'd use chalk paint. We used chalk paint last year for the kitchen hutch and that seemed to work really well. I don't believe this furniture paint is going to hold up very well. There are already some very light scratches on the surface where keys were thrown on to the table. The major DIY fail was using spray paint, not letting it completely dry and "cure", then having the finishing sealant crackle. So there were two to three coats of spray paint, sealing it, realizing it needed to be done over again, sanding it back down, then a final two coats of the furniture paint. This kitchen table lived in the garage for at least two months. We're just happy it's functioning again and with a few placemats looks great. We've also been making more effort to keep the table free of mail and not the place for the evening drop off of all-the-things so we can enjoy quick breakfasts and weekend lunches in the space. 

Any pro tips for DIY furniture updating?? I may not have any pro tips but I definitely say it's worthwhile to jump in and tackle the project. Chances are if you're considering a DIY update then you're not happy with the current state of the furniture. 

Wellness Wednesday - Cloth Napkins

I view many of these Wellness Wednesday life updates more as sharing ways Patrick and I have chosen to alter our lifestyle with health and wellness in mind. Patrick and I started dating at a pivotal moment in our lives - after college graduation - and I've noticed a lot over the years that we've drastically changed our health and wellness habits since then. I'm sure the majority of these decisions are based on maturing and become adults but I do believe we strive together to be the best we can be for each other and it takes a lot of effort!

And now I'm thinking, Whitney, today's post is about cloth napkins... you're being weird, but I like pointing out how our Wellness Wednesday updates came to be and share that as well. Saying "Hey, switch to cloth napkins. They're awesome and you won't have to keep buying and throwing away paper napkins" wouldn't be very beneficial. So, with my ramblings, I'll tell you why we made the switch.

I originally started this post with this sentence: "At some point last year I decided to stop buying paper napkins." And that got me wondering why didn't I do it sooner? It made me connect the dots and see how Patrick and I slowly transitioned our early dating lives into married adults who try to maintain a sustainable household (and thus my current intro emerged). I chatted a little about these dots in our Wellness Wednesday post on switching our facial cleanser and moisturizer. I truly think everything stems back to us using a CSA and from there continuing to ask what else can we do?? The answers to this have always been small changes and one at a time but I think they're really amounting to large lifestyle changes. By implementing small changes and continually asking ourselves how we can improve, six and a half years later the changes do seem drastic. Our right-after-college-lives would seem quite foreign to us now.

Last year one of the answers to what else can we do was stop buying paper napkins and invest in cloth napkins. And we did. Two sets of 6 white buffet napkins later we've completely stopped using paper napkins. One of the drawers in the buffet is dedicated to napkins. I have our white napkins, our formal napkins, and red napkins which we exclusively used in November and December. I thought two straight months of usage would validate a second color (and maybe we'll pull them out this week for Valentine's Day).

I love these because...
   ... they're "everyday" napkins so we use them at all of our meals for just us but the cloth napkin always sets the tone for hosting friends for dinner. I do have a few patterned napkins that I'll use for various entertaining evenings if I'm feeling particularly jazzy.
   ... they're all white so I use them interchangeably with all my decor. See above for occasional patterned napkins use.
   ... they're 100% cotton so I can compost them after their lifespan is over (whoa, crazy idea!)
   ... they're reusable so Patrick and I may use the same napkin for a few meals as long as nothing is particularly messy before tossing them into a "dirty" basket in the laundry room
   ... they're easy to wash so I typically throw them in the towel load each week.
   ... they're not disposable as paper napkins would be so we're keeping a lot of stuff out of the landfill
   ... they're one of the "simple joys" because using cloth napkins makes me feel fancy

Here's our table setting set for dinner with friends and our white napkins.

Hopefully after reading through this post you'll ask yourself what one small thing can I do that would impact how I live my life and be more sustainable for the planet and maybe you'll find the answer is swapping your paper napkins for cloth (if you haven't already).

Soba Noodle & Sweet Potato Soup

Patrick and I made this dish about a month ago at the beginning of the year when our bodies were wanting some fresh, clean foods and a palette cleanse after all of our holiday travels. This soba noodles and sweet potato soup hit just the spot on a cold evening! We were able to use sweet potatoes held over from our CSA. They're great to store in the pantry. Soba noodles are also something we typically keep in the pantry and homemade chicken stock is always in our freezer. After picking up the remaining vegetables on a weekly grocery store run we were able to make this without any trouble. With one small exception! The grocery store didn't have miso so I was forced to omit this.

Soba Noodles & Sweet Potato Soup inspiration from "A Clean Slate" cookbook
   Serves 4
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp ginger, peeled and small dice
4 scallions, whites and greens separated and sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced with stems removed
1 sweet potato, peeled and 1/2" cubes
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
4 oz soba noodles
2 heads baby bok choy, sliced into 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup miso (we omitted)
1 tbsp fresh lime juice

   Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add ginger, scallion whites, and garlic; cook, stirring, until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2 minutes more. Add sweet potato and toss to coat. Add the stock and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sweet potatoes are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
   Meanwhile, cook soba according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water.
   Add bok choy to sweet-potato mixture, and cook until leaves are just wilted and stems are crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in cooked noodles. Remove from heat.
   Remove 1 cup hot broth, and whisk in miso until smooth, then stir into soup. Add lime juice, and season with salt. Serve soup immediately topped with scallion greens.

Meal Plan Monday Post

Alright! We are back on track with some regular meal planning. Last week it took us awhile to return to normal after the snowstorm but a trip to Costco over the weekend allowed us to stock up on produce. We are really enjoying being back in the kitchen and cooking. We've still got a few more things to use up here at the beginning of this week but most of the produce has been hardy enough to last in the fridge for the week.

I usually type up these meal plan Monday posts on Sunday night since obviously they're a weekly post and feature Sunday night's meal. Well the Super Bowl put me a little behind and I'm finishing it up Monday morning! Patrick and I aren't die-hard Panthers fans but we were certainly rooting for the home team! I was a little disappointed on two fronts - first, the outcome of the game and then also the commercials. I thought they were lacking a little bit this year. But there were still some awesome ones! The Toyota Prius 4 "Longest Chase" commercial was my favorite (did you see the follow up one after the game concluded). I thought the Helen Mirren Budweiser commercial on drinking responsibly was awesome as well as Colgate's Save Water one.

Now here's the meal plan!

Meal Plan for Monday February 1 - Sunday February 7

Monday - One pan bake - honey dijon chicken, potatoes, and broccoli 
Tuesday - Salmon, beets, avocado and brussels salad
Wednesday - Zuppa Toscano Soup
Thursday - Mushroom farfalle
Friday - Bonus breakfast Omelet with spinach and mushrooms, apple
   Dinner Snapper and corn fritters with sauteed tomatoes
Saturday - Brunch Bananas Foster Crepes
   Dinner Spinach salad topped with red peppers, avocado, pepitas
Sunday - Brunch Pancakes with fruit bowl and cottage cheese
   Dinner Super Bowl party

Quiche Updates

It's no secret that Patrick and I turn to quiche for a brunch option. We typically reserve quiche for when we're having guests over because we can bake it the day before. Although we will sometimes make a quiche for a weekend brunch for just the two of us and enjoy the leftovers over the next couple of days.

Today we're updating the blog with some quiche thoughts. Over time we've altered the recipe a bit - primarily with the liquid because it overflows out of the pan a lot. And for the first time, with this quiche shared in this post, we used a homemade pie crust that we had frozen. I'll include all of our tried and true tips for quiche making at the end of the post!

One reason I love keeping quiche in the brunch rotation is because the filling options are limitless! We've made ham and caramelized onions, sundried tomatoes and spinach, butternut squash and caramelized onions, ham and cheese, leek and sun-dried tomatoes, only cheese, and most recently spinach, mushroom, and goat cheese. Below is our updated information for making quiche!

Spinach, mushroom, and goat cheese quiche in a homemade crust

Make the crust
   We're still loving the Martha Stewart Classic Pie Crust that is made with butter, flour, a bit of sugar and salt, and some water. Here's the recipe:

   In a food processor pulse together
      1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
      1/2 tsp salt
      1/2 tsp sugar
   Then add 1 stick butter (cold, unsalted and cut into pieces) and continue to pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with just a few pea-size pieces remaining.
   Sprinkle with 2 tbsp ice water and pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers. If needed add up to 2 tbsp more ice water, 1 tbsp at a time. I usually find that I need the additional water.
   Turn dough out onto a work sugar and form into a 3/4" disk. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until firm. Martha recommends an hour but I don't always do that.
   After the dough has been chilled, flour your work surface and place the disk here. Roll dough to a 14" round. Gently place over the pie plate. Trim overhang to 1" and fold under to form a uniform edge around the rim. Refrigerate for an hour.
   We usually always blind bake a crust now. To do so place pie weights (or dried beans) into the crust and bake in a 350F preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until slightly golden. This prevents the dough from becoming too soggy. The crust is now ready for filling!

As mentioned in the introduction we've had success with freezing this crust. In December when I was making a quiche I made two crust and froze the second one. Two days before making this quiche I removed the crust from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator. Rolling it out and eating it seemed just like a freshly made crust! From now on I think I'll be making two crusts every time I need one.

Assemble the filling
   After the crust has been made and blind baked we assemble the filling. We find it easier to layer the filling on the bottom of the pie before pouring the egg mixture over it. This ensures that the filling is evenly distributed throughout the quiche. After spreading the vegetables and protein we sprinkle cheese over top. If a vegetable contains a lot of moisture like mushrooms we like to saute those first before layering on the crust. Sometimes we'll also place cheese under the vegetables / protein.

Prepare the custard
   Finally we top the quiche filling with this egg custard from a local cookbook.

   Combine and whisk together: 4 eggs, 1 cup dairy* (may use milk or half & half or a combination), dash of salt and pepper. Other seasonings as they complement the filling.
*The original recipe calls for 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup half & half. We've reduced the dairy to 1 cup to prevent the custard from overflowing the pie crust. Our pie pans are not deep dish and I imagine this is not necessary for deep dish shells.
   Pour over filling. To prevent making a mess place the pie pan on a baking sheet to help move the quiche to and from the oven. The last quiche we made had a little bit of overflow that was baked on to the pan (and fortunately not dripping in the oven). Patrick suggests placing the quiche on the extended oven rack, pouring in the custard, and pushing the rack back into the oven but when I tried this the movement of pushing the oven rack in caused the custard to splash out. Just some extra info!

Bake the quiche
   Bake the quiche in a preheated 375F oven for 45 minutes or until firm and brown. Allow quiche to set up for at least 30 minutes. Enjoy!

Peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies

Are you on the hunt for a new go-to cookie recipe?? Well I was a few weeks ago and decided to make these peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies from Sara Foster. They were delicious and my husband says they're the most amazing cookie ever! They merge the best of peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip cookies so you can't help but take his word for it.

Before the snow storm hit the other week we had neighbors over for dinner. I wanted to make something for dessert but didn't want to fuss with a cake despite my new plan for amping up my baking skill set. I thought a cookie would be just perfect. Patrick and I usually turn to the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe that's on the back of the bag but those flatten out so much and we thought something else would be better. Not wanting to be flooded with random recipes from the Internet I turned to my cookbooks and the peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie from Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day cookbook fit the bill.

Typically when I make a batch of homemade dessert goodies the surplus get sent with Patrick to work. Knowing that the snow and ice would derail Patrick from going to work the next day I decided to be super crazy and double the cookies so I could take the surplus to all the neighbors on the street as a snowed in treat!

After easily prepping the dough, baking these to perfection, and my husband declaring them the most amazing cookie ever I've decided they're my new go-to cookie recipe!
Try 'em and let me know what you think!

Sara Foster’s Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Cookies from the "Fresh Every Day" cookbook
   Makes about 20
1 stick salted butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips

   Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease two cookie sheets. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and peanut butter until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and egg until combined. Meanwhile, in a smaller bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir this into the butter mixture in thirds, stirring until the flour is no longer visible. Stir in the chocolate chips and drop onto a baking sheet, using an ice cream scoop, several inches apart. Bake, rotating about halfway through, about 14 minutes. Cool slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

And if you, too, make a double batch and want to share with neighbors, colleagues, friends, family, your mailman, or whoever this is how I packaged them up. In an effort to not only deliver something sweet I wanted to include something healthy. Something healthy ended up being two clementines. I wrapped up four cookies in plastic wrap and put them into the bag with the clementines. Then I finished the bags by adding a "happy snow" note. I thought they turned out really cute! They were also well received.

Costco Shopping

I thought it would be fun to share what produce we purchased on our most recent Costco trip! We typically don't purchase this quantity of produce at Costco since the large Costco quantities can be hard for just us two to use up. However when our CSA is not in session we are in a definite need for obtaining produce from other sources! The state farmer's market I've been going to is about a 40 minute drive away and it's just really hard for me to want to make weekly trips out there. I'm going to try to be better about that though since I think it's important to support our local farmers and the produce is always of great quality and very reasonable prices.

Some of this grocery haul will be frozen for later use, some of it will be to replenish pantry staples, and some of it will be to consume this week. Read on to see what it is and be on the lookout for what was utilized in the meal plan next Monday!

In some sort of order [left to right, top row to bottom]
   Frozen margherita pizza This is the first time we've ever stocked frozen pizzas! Lately our schedules have been a bit different and we've got a need for a better stocked freezer with ready made dinner options. Until I can make some freezer casseroles this will have to do! I've been having Junior League meetings one or twice a week which makes getting dinner ready harder. And since we've painting the house on the weekends it's challenging to pull ourselves away from working to prep in the kitchen for dinner. Hopefully we won't eat all of these in one month though!
   Cheerios Patrick's new favorite breakfast
   Spinach We've knocked out one of these Costco-sized bags of spinach before and we're up for the challenge again! We'll be using a lot of it for spinach side salads. I've got this soba noodles with peanut sauce and spinach in the meal plan as well.
   Old fashioned oats Making homemade granola is something we're tackling these days! I've made two batches and have a post in the works for what I did. Needless to say the oats are used up quickly in the granola batches. I'm curious to see how long this will last.
   Ground turkey The turkey was reportioned into 1 lb packets and frozen. We'll use this over the coming months. Thai turkey chili is one of our favorite things to make with ground turkey.
   Country style pork ribs Patrick's favorite way to consume pork is in a crock pot recipe. These will be portioned into 1 lb packets and frozen for future use in the crock pot!
   Sliced almonds These are one of most reached items for salad toppings. I'll also be using some for homemade granola mix.
   Frozen berry blend The berry blend has strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Patrick most prefers berries for smoothies so this was a great combination. We'll use these primarily as smoothie ingredients.
   Sweet onions We go through onions rather quickly with all of meal planning and cooking at home.
   Honey We'll be using the honey in the granola recipe!
   Brussels sprouts I have a new recipe to try with Brussels sprouts and grabbed these. The bag certainly has two meals worth in it though so I have one of Patrick's requests for how to use Brussels, these brussels spring rolls which will be served with the soba noodles with peanut sauce and spinach.
   Red peppers I always think the red peppers are super expensive at the grocery store and they're much cheaper at Costco. I prefer red peppers over green peppers so usually pick up red peppers at Costco. One of our new favorite recipes is this pasta peperonata which calls for 4 peppers - we made this recipe on the first night with all this produce (and served it with a side spinach salad).
   Extra virgin olive oil Pantry staple that needed to be replenished on this trip.
   Avocados Another produce item that always seems to be pricey at the grocery store. We'll use these on salads, for breakfast, or with a Mexican night. I've got a huevos rancheros planned for a weekend brunch to use an avocado!
   Butter All of our butter is typically used in cooking / baking preparations (versus buttering rolls or toast) but it seems to go quicker than I always think it will. Having butter on hand is always nice and plus it saves us some money to buy it at Costco.
   Cherry tomatoes These will be great for our salads. I've also got a penne pasta with asparagus and cherry tomatoes on our meal plan as well as a fish dish with corn cakes and sauteed cherry tomatoes. We'll plan to squeeze these in however we can!
   Mushrooms I always seem to be grabbing mushrooms every few trips to the grocery store. We really like them in different dishes. I've specifically planned for this mushroom farfalle for this meal plan; I'm sure some of them will be used in our favorite fake bake.
   Cheddar cheese I purchased a block of 2 lb cheddar cheese on a prior Costco trip and froze it in 1/2 lb portions. It worked really well to pull it out and shred it in this portions and then use throughout the week as we needed it. So I'm doing it again!
   Parmesan cheese I'm sure you've noticed on our meal plans that Patrick and I love a good pasta dish. Pasta typically occurs at least once in every meal plan so for this reason we go through a lot of Parmesan. Like the cheddar cheese we'll shred about 2 cups at a time and keep it in the fridge to use throughout the week.
   Apples Gotta keep the fruit bowl full!

Fish tacos with citrus-avocado salsa

Here's an easy take on fish tacos! This recipe caught my eye while flipping through the "Clean Slate" cookbook from Martha Stewart Living. Patrick and I both really loved it! It's fresh and simple and the perfect way to brighten up a gloomy winter evening. The fish is lightly fried in the pan but it's not breaded and topped with a citrus-avocado salsa that has a bit of kick from red onions and jalapenos. We served on whole wheat tortillas for extra fiber.

Fish tacos with citrus-avocado salsa inspiration from Martha Stewart's "Clean Slate"
   Serves 4

1 orange, segmented and cut into 1-inch pieces (may substitute grapefruit)
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp red onion, diced
1/2 jalapeño chile, finely chopped (remove some ribs and seeds)
juice of 1 lime (~1 tbsp fresh lime juice)
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 skinless cod fillets (about 4 ounces each - may substitute halibut)
8 6-inch whole wheat tortillas
1 cup shredded napa cabbage
1 small roma tomato, diced
sour cream, for serving if desired
salt and pepper

   Combine grapefruit, avocado, red onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and lime juice in a bowl. Season with salt. Set aside.
   Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Season halibut generously with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until golden and flaky, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove and let cool slightly, then flake with a fork.
   Warm tortillas. Top with cabbage, roma tomato, fish, and salsa, dividing evenly. Finish with a dollop of sour cream. Serve immediately.

Meal Plan Monday Post

Whew! We made it through this week - it was a tough one! The week started with some remnants of snow and ice on the ground and the refrigerator had been depleted of all produce and yummy things. And even though the pantry and freezer still had staples in them they needed some other ingredients to round out meals. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get to the grocery store until Friday so meals at the beginning of the week are a bit of a wash. We did takeout twice and then threw together the best we could for the other meals. Then we had a date night planned that included a meal with Triangle Restaurant Week. Needless to say this was a very unusual week for us with all of the takeout/restaurant food. We're back on the flip side and welcoming February with a very full fridge and lots of colorful produce to eat! Looking forward to making up for this past week.

Meal Plan for Monday January 25 - Sunday January 31

Monday - Moe's takeout 
Tuesday - Brinner! Breakfast for Dinner! Chorizo-egg bake
Wednesday - Baked ziti with salad from Pulcinella's
Thursday - Slow cooker pork and creamy onion sauce, steamed broccoli
   Bonus Afternoon Smoothie - banana, frozen cherries and pineapple, yogurt, orange juice
Friday - Fish, sweet potato, kale salad
Saturday - Lunch Spinach salad with avocado
   Dinner Triangle Restaurant Week date night at The Little Dipper (Fondue)
Sunday - Breakfast Baked Oatmeal
   Lunch Triangle Restaurant Week ladies lunch at Fairview Dining Room (Patrick stayed at home)
   Dinner Pasta peperonata

It's Always Caturday
They woke up like this