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{Kitchen Reno} So what’s for dinner?

16 Feb

After seeing how tiny our kitchen is, you might be pretty surprised by how often we cook at home. However, we’ve always made most of our dinners at home so we could save our “eating out” budget for date nights or dinners with friends. During the past year, we’ve made even more changes to our eating routines by trying to eat better, more organic foods and offsetting those increased costs by eating less meat and bringing our lunches to work. So, it’s no surprise that when I’ve been telling friends about our kitchen remodel, one of the first questions they ask is what we’re eating. And a good question it is.

Before the demo started, I decided to prep as much as possible since our fridge is still plugged in but we no longer have a stove, microwave, sink, or countertops.

I washed and chopped as many fruits and veggies as possible, made a batch of steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast (I actually do that often on Sundays), some pasta, orzo, and shredded chicken. Not knowing how exactly this would work out, my meal plan was a little looser than usual. But, over the course of week 1 we actually did a pretty good job of sticking to our plan, which included:

  • Steel-cut oatmeal with fresh fruit
  • Chicken pasta salad
  • Greek orzo and spinach salad (inspired by Charise’s Cran-Spinach Orzo)
  • Hamburgers on the George Foreman grill (if only it were warm enough to grill outside!)
  • Corn chowder in the crockpot

It might be one of my more impressive organizational feats ever. I didn’t approach week 2 with quite the same level of ambition though. (I am trying to stay sane through the process, after all.) We are making good use of our quesedilla maker and trying to throw in things like black beans and avocado to up the nutritional factor. But we’re also relying more on dining out (using up those gift cards and Groupons!) and prepared foods from Whole Foods.

I’m hoping at the end of this week we’ll have use of the stove and microwave again but I know we won’t have a sink or countertops. Still, that should enough to get us back on track to eat from home again (with a little planning and organization) while we wait for everything else to be done!


Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

15 Jan

I woke up one recent Saturday morning and decided to use some leftover buttermilk to make blueberry buttermilk pancakes (per the link but with whole wheat flour.) I’m not usually a breakfast person nor do I like mornings very much so Pete was doubly surprised by this idea. Maybe the recent muffin success changed my mind about breakfast. Well, in case I have mistakenly led either one of us to believe I am the next Martha Stewart, let me show you how they turned out.

Oops. The surfaces burned before the middle cooked through. I decided the griddle must be too hot and the pancakes too big. So I tried again. Only they still turned out too big and sloppy. But at least they weren’t as burnt. Despite their appearance, they did actually taste good. Still, if anyone has any suggestions on what I did wrong please let me know!

Maple Crunch Muffins

14 Jan

While I was home on winter break, I decided to try a few recipes I don’t normally have time to make. One of them was this tasty treat. I’m not sure nutrition experts would recommend anything with cream cheese for breakfast but, you know what, sometimes you just have to eat things that taste good. Plus, there’s whole wheat flour in them. That has to count for something….

Maple Crunch Muffins (from Better Homes and Garden)

I can’t take any credit for the recipe, I followed it directly from the link above except for doubling the frosting (2 oz of cream cheese is not very much!) I can, however, take credit for the delicious granola I used. That recipe is below. I plan on adding more granola to the muffins next time. I was worried it would overpower the bread but, especially with the smaller grain of the steel-cut oats, I think more crunch would be good.

Homemade granola (adapted from Epicurious)

  • 2 c steel-cut oats
  • ½ c wheat germ
  • ¼ c maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts (it’s what I had, you can also use pecans)
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • ¼ t salt
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1 T water
  • 2 t ground cinnamon
  • 2 t vanilla extract
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 275° F.
  2. Spray 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.
  3. Combine first 6 ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  4. Bring syrup, oil and water, to a simmer in saucepan over low heat. Stir in cinnamon and vanilla.
  5. Stir syrup mixture into dry ingredients.
  6. Pour mixture into pan and squeeze into small clumps.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes.

If I make this to top yogurt, I add about 1/3 cup raisins during the last 15 minutes. Yum!

Pizza, pizza, pizza

9 Jan

Way back in November (doesn’t it seem like so long ago!?!) we met our friends’ new baby boy (who is super perfect, by the way.) Not knowing what they needed (he’s their second baby) and taking a cue from Charise (though her choice may have been healthier), I decided (once again) you can’t go wrong with food.

We were going over to their house around lunchtime so I offered to bring something for all of us to eat. I wanted something easy to prep ahead and  just pop in the oven once we got there. Pete and I love making homemade pizzas (though I haven’t ever made my own dough – I should try soon) so I decided to make three pizzas with different toppings on each one. Here are the before images which we just covered in foil to carry over.

Tomato sauce, italian seasoning, sausage, green pepper, and onion

Left: Olive oil, shallots, ham, swiss, and thyme

Right: Olive oil, tomato, mozzarella, salt, pepper, and fresh basil (after cooking)

Yum. Just looking at them is making me think pizza will be on the menu for next week.

Since it wouldn’t be nice to bring food over just to eat it, we also brought over stuffed shells for them to eat or freeze. I didn’t take any photos though and I just follow the recipe on the back of the box of shells. But there’s a specific brand I like (which I only know by sight) and when Pete went to the store they didn’t have it. The directions on the box he got were different than usual so I tried to improvise adding and subtracting where I thought necessary. It ultimately turned out OK but not without some bad doubling the recipe math on my end. And we have a lot of mascarpone in our fridge right that I need to find a use for.

Maybe it will go on next week’s pizza…

Oh, Christmas tree

23 Dec

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas weekend!


What’s Cookin’?

23 Nov

Although we aren’t hosting this holiday, there has been lots of cooking and baking going on here lately. I’ve finally gotten back into the swing of planning our meals (see my menu planner and grocery list template here), which is a good thing. We almost always cook at home but, as I’ve gotten pickier about what we’re eating – less meat, less dairy, more veggies, more non-meat protein – I prefer to be the one who does the planning (no offense, Pete.)

I actually don’t normally do a lot of baking (there are only two of us so baking 24 cupcakes just isn’t a good idea) but as I’ve tried to cut back on red wine (also known as my favorite beverage), it seems my body craves more sugar. Or maybe just comfort. Regardless, why can’t I crave something better for me, like tea? But I digress.

So, here are a few favorites and a few new finds:

Chicken and Vegetable Pot Pie – This one is an old favorite. I guess pie crust isn’t ever necessarily good for you, but at least I can feel good about the rest of it. I made it as written except with almond milk (see above about the dairy), extra peas, and garlic. Yum.


As a public service announcement, this is what happens when you leave an oven mitt on hot burner. Luckily, the house did not burn down and the oven came clean. But oops.


We made tacos last weekend but the store was out of my favorite taco seasoning (aka the only one I’ll use.) Pete bought another one but I figured this was a good time to try a homemade mix. It was amazing. Before declaring I was never going back to store-bought, I decided to check the back of the label we had. I figured maybe the ingredients were essentially the same. I mean, what preservatives could you possibly need in seasoning? Yeah. There was a lot of stuff I couldn’t pronounce on there. Officially never going back to store-bought.

Minestone soup. On the stove, not the crock pot. My proportions were somehow all wrong and I had to add a second batch of broth (and it was still not very soup-y.) But it was really good regardless.

We’re in charge of bring an appetizer to my Aunt’s tomorrow (this part’s for you Krishann!) Whenever we bring something to a party I try not to need to use the stove or oven, figuring the host will already have enough going on. I was also in the mood to try something new that wasn’t based in cheese. After a bit of searching, I decided on Curried Crab on Crackers. I think it’s going to be good.

Of course, I wasn’t sure it was going to be good, and didn’t want to bring something no one would like. Or maybe I just wanted an excuse to make one of my favorites. Cream cheese (I know, I know…I just said I didn’t want cheese, but I love this. So I figured better to make it and share.) covered with cranberry sauce. Literally. That’s all you do. Super easy. I smashed the cream cheese onto the serving tray instead of leaving it in a big brick but just so the sauce had more to cover. Sometimes I just leave it. Serve with crackers. Also great on bagels. 

And, as for the baking, this blueberry cake is to die for. I used frozen blueberries and I’m so glad I have a giant bag left in the freezer and *have* to make more cake. Charise’s S’mores cookies are also amazing. Unlike a lot of cookies, they are definitely better when they get a little mushier on day 2+. I also have all the ingredients to make cookie dough brownies, but figured I should hold off until after Thanksgiving. And I just saw this recipe for a homemade cookie skillet. OMG. I’m going to need to start exercising.

And there’s more planned where all that came from. Perhaps I’ll have to start posting about food more often if all I’m doing is eating. :)

The Year of the Sparkling Buddha

24 Oct

Before each birthday, my friend Lauren likes to declare a theme for the next year. Every couple of years or so, I’m inspired to come up with one of my own. So, a few weeks ago we had an e-mail conversation that went something like this:

J: Hmm. I think I’m going to declare next year The Year of Sparkle.

L: Ooooh. Sparkle and Fun at 31!!!

J: Ummm. I’m only turning 30. And I never said anything about fun. I just want it to be sparkly.

L: Oh yeah. But the only thing that rhymes with 30 is flirty. And boooo. Why not fun?

J: I’m not saying it won’t be fun. But that isn’t the focus. I need to figure a few things out, so it’s more like an internal kind of sparkly.

L: Ooooh. So you’ll be sort of like a Sparkling Buddha.

J: Yes! Exactly!

L: OK. The Year of the Sparkling Buddha.

And then she sent me this image –

{appears to originally be from here}

It still makes me laugh every time I see it. If that guy was for sale I’d probably buy it. Alternatively (and slightly off-topic), I’m seriously considering buying a giant disco ball to randomly display in our home. If I came across one of those I would definitely buy it. But I haven’t started to seek one out just yet. And, in the meantime, I’ll work on being sparkly the way I intended. And try to finish all of my to-do’s from last year…