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Alley

Weekly Menu

Well, there has been a break in posts because I went to the Dominican Republic for vacay with a friend.  I was back last week and had a meal plan, just never got around to posting it.  It was a little boring any way since I was coming off island time and then were driving around quite a bit toward the end of the week, so we were eating out more than usual.

Any way, this week is Earth Week where both Earth Day and Arbor Day happen in the same week, so why not make the whole week about being green?!  Last year I wrote about some easy tips on being a little greener in general, this year I'm giving you a few tips on how to be more green in the kitchen...

1.  Use reusable containers whenever possible.  Sure ziploc bags are convenient, but you end up throwing them away.  A glass storage container is best because you can freeze and heat them as well as you don't have to worry about BPA chemicals.

2.  Save your scraps.  Whether you toss your veggie scraps in a freezer container to make stock later, juice it, or throw it in your compost pile... scraps never need to go in your garbage can.

3.  Unplug your appliances when you're not using them.  Do you really need your coffee maker plugged in while you're at work?  Probably not.  And it is using electricity even though you aren't using it.

4.  Grow your own food.  This one is on my post from last year, but seriously is a great way to make a difference.  Have a few small pots with herbs in your kitchen and you'll remember to water it and use them to flavor your cooking!  Also, if you start with a couple potted fruits/vegetables like cherry tomatoes and strawberries, that is one less thing that has to be trucked from somewhere to end up on your plate.

5.  Use cloth napkins and dish towels to replace paper napkins, paper towels, and disposable cleaning wipes.  Self explanatory and it saves you money too!

dawes arboritum dawes arboritum

Alrighty, here is this week's meal plan...

BBQ chicken salad 
spaghetti bake
asparagus frittata and hash browns
taco night with chips and homemade guac
creamy salmon pasta

What are you planning to make this week?

Dei Fratelli

dei fratelli

I got a chance to work with Dei Fratelli, an Ohio based company specializing in canned and cartoned tomato products.  Now I typically grow and can my own tomatoes, but this summer will be a first time since having a garden I will not be growing tomatoes.  Since my garden is so small, the only way to avoid tomato blight in the plants is to take a year off.  So I was kind of in a conundrum because I'm not giving up tomatoes for a whole year.  The next best thing to growing and canning your own tomatoes is supporting a company that is local, organic, and GMO free!

Dei Fratelli is based out of northwest Ohio and sources nearly all of their tomatoes from family farms in Ohio and Michigan.  You can get their crushed tomatoes to tomato juice to salsa to marinara sauce in cans, jars, and cartons.  I picked up some of their cartons and they have one of the coolest tricks I've seen... the seal, that is always impossible to get open with slippery cooking hands opens when you unscrew the cap, thought that was pretty amazing!  Also, I love the cartons because you can store the unused portion in you fidge for almost two weeks... which is perfect when you're only cooking for one or two people.

The best part is that it tastes like home canning!  When you unscrew that cap, you get the same wiff of summer just like after that mason jar lid clicks off the jar.  Probably one of my favorite smells in the winter.   If you're in the market for some canned tomatoes, definitely give Dei Fratelli a try!  Not only are you supporting a local company and local farmers, but it also tastes better.  :)  Also, enter to win a few cartons to try by entering here!

Here are some recipes to try...

Cheesy Fajita Couscous with Shredded Enchilada Chicken - total time 25minutes

cheesy fajita cousous with shredded chicken and enchilada sauce

Haha, I used to avoid those cooking game show type things on the Food Network or Cooking Channel (cupcake wars just gives me anxiety), but after participating in the first Chopped at Home challenge, I find myself watching the show on occasion.  The last one I saw had viewers vote for the basket ingredients which included cow eyeballs!  Ick!

Luckily, the at home challenge has much more forgiving ingredients.  This time it is Mexican blend shredded cheese, chicken tenders, salsa, and couscous.  All ingredients the average home cook has used before and almost make sense together.  I love Mexican food, so the Mexican cheese blend round sounds delicious!

If you have never had couscous before, it is kind of like quinoa.  I used to cook with it a lot more as a rice substitute before quinoa became so popular as a super food edging out some of the shelf space at grocery stores couscous once occupied.  You can get different sized couscous, pea-sized to itty bitty grain size.  

I was in the mood for some enchiladas, so this dish could easily be wrapped up in tortillas and baked for 20-25 minutes instead.  But this way, we are cutting the carbs and attempting an artsy presentation that is really easy.  Word of caution, you could use four pots/pans for this dish (which sounds like a cleaning nightmare to me)... Or you could use two and have to be watching things a little more attentively.  Read all if the directions before starting the recipe (best practice for any recipe).  :)

Four String Brewery (Grandview) Review

 four strings brewery
We went to Four String brewery and taproom the other night after enjoying several of their beers around town.  The location is a little hard to find, off of Fifth in Grandview behind the B Dubs... And even then... There really isn't much signage.  You feel like you're walking into someone's house with the screen door.  

Once inside, there is seating for about 20.  A bar with six stools and a few tables.  You actually walk through the brewing area and keg storage on your way to the bathroom.  Several of the fermenting tanks are actually formally dairy farm storage.  You can get flights or pints, both reasonably priced, or take away a few six packs.  We went to try the new Suncaster summer wheat ale recently released and also found out they were on their last keg of vanilla porter (my favorite!), so I had to have a pint!

The bartender was super friendly especially since it was not very busy for a Saturday night.  With such a small space, it was cozy and we ended up talking to a couple visiting Columbus on a self-guided brewery tour.  

Four String's taproom has 6-8 of their beers on tap and is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  Happy hour is 4:00pm to 7:00pm where pints are only $3.  This cozy environment and friendly people make you feel at home.  We'll definitely be going back! 

four strings brewery four strings brewery

Zoe Cafe (Bexley) Review

zoe cafe Untitled

On our way to Franklin Park Conservatory we search on UrbanSpoon for some options to eat in Bexley.  We're always looking for new things to try, so when Zoe Cafe came up and we had never heard of it, we decided to give it a try.  It is located on Main Street kind of across from Cafe Istanbul... you should probably type it in your GPS because they don't have a sign on their building yet, just an easel.  The outside looks very modern and I remember driving by it while they were building wondering what was opening.

We were definitely surprised walking in since we weren't sure what to expect.  Lots of wood, cork, and mason jars... very trendy.  I think they were still trying together a few things figured out as their espresso menu wasn't fully vetted out.  However, they had a great menu of very reasonably priced sandwiches and appetizers.  Probably the best thing, though, which it wasn't warm enough to utilize yet is that the full bar had both inside and outside seating!  Just pull open the mini garage doors and the bartenders are at your service from the patio and outdoor barstools!

I got the shaved turkey club and my husband got the pulled pork sandwich, both were very good.  We are excited to come back again when it is warm enough to sit at the outdoor bar, but will probably have to wait in line for those coveted barstools.  :)

zoe cafe
zoe cafe

Franklin Park Conservatory - a tropical getaway in our backyard

franklin park conservatory 
Spring has only just started, and in Ohio, that could still mean snow in the forecast.  But after a long winter, some times we just want to get away!  A tropical vacation sounds perfect until you see how much it costs.  But lucky for us, we have a little tropical getaway spot right in Columbus and it only costs $13!

Franklin Park Conservatory opened in 1895 as part of the city beautiful movement.  It was inspired by World's Fair designs and includes 88 acres of public park with gardens, a lake, paths, and of course the beautiful greenhouse!  Step inside and you'll forget it still feels like winter outside... in fact, you might want to check your coat at the door because you'll be down right hot!

franklin park conservatory 
franklin park conservatory franklin park conservatory franklin park conservatory 
Every time we visit the conservatory the orchids are always in full swing and are incorporated into every room.  There's the mountainous region, desert, tropical, palm house, and a rotating exhibit, currently Blooms & Butterflies (one of my favorites!).  

franklin park conservatory franklin park conservatory
We seriously thought about having our wedding in the Palm House when we looked for a venue.  The room was under renovation though and it worked out for the best because I imagine it gets pretty toasty in June in a greenhouse with tuxes.  :)

franklin park conservatory franklin park conservatory
franklin park conservatory franklin park conservatory franklin park conservatory
Although one of the smaller rooms, the desert is always fascinating to me.  How such large plants can survive on such little water... and can also produce things like aloe and agave nectar... amazing!

franklin park conservatory franklin park conservatory franklin park conservatoryfranklin park conservatory franklin park conservatory franklin park conservatory 
As someone with their own butterfly garden, I could have stayed for hours in the Blooms and Butterflies exhibit!  (I also never wanted to leave after being in the warm humidity again.)  We stayed long enough to hear about some of the species they collect for the exhibit and saw the twice-daily release of more butterflies (recently escaped from cocoon status).  I think butterflies are just so interesting in general... changing from a mere bug crawling slowly on the ground to a beautiful butterfly that can fly many miles.  

franklin park conservatory franklin park conservatoryfranklin park conservatory franklin park conservatory
Besides an escape from Ohio weather, Franklin Park hosts several events including Asian Festival, fundraisers (like Hat Day), kids activities, plant sales, and field to table events.  Definitely a fun place to visit and forget how cold it is outside!


franklin park conservatory

Weekly Menu

Hope everyone had a great weekend!  Can't believe April starts in a few days and it looks like it will be quite the busy month.  I always love Spring when we all come out of hibernation mode and all we want to do is get outside and do something.  I mean, it was still below freezing all day today, but we were out and about at Franklin Park Conservatory and it was "warm enough" for some Jeni's.  Earlier in the week, it was still above freezing when I got home from work... so of course that meant it was great weather to take Snoop for a walk!

ohio fairgrounds cardinal go for a ride

Spring also brings strawberries... I love when they are so red that the juice stains your fingers a bit.  That level of ripeness, you hope the bowl never ends!  Also... El Vaquero opening in Pickerington is going to be a bad idea for us since we have already been there a couple times and I think they have only been open a month now.  Oops!  We love Mexican food too much!  I'm still making enchiladas and tacos at home every week on top of these incremental trips to El Vaq.

homemade granola el vaquero franklin park conservatory jenis bexley

Blooms and butterflies started at Franklin Park Conservatory which is always a fun trip.  They are having their orchid weekend next weekend, so definitely something to check out!

Alright, on to this week's meal plan...

cauliflower tacos
creamy shrimp bowties with garlic bread
sloppy joes
veggie calzones
chicken and veggie fried rice

What are you planning to make this week?

Streusel Muffins - total time 40 minutes


Cinnamon sugar!  I love it!  I was seriously in heaven at all of the bakeries in Switzerland... streusel everywhere!  Okay... I was pretty much in heaven at every European bakery we stopped in while on vacation, but streusel is something I can make at home (I still plan on making those Italian Nutella tarts someday).  

These muffins are somewhere between a muffin, a cupcake, and a doughnut.  They are a little too sweet (and maybe a little too much butter) to be considered an ordinary breakfast muffin.  This is definitely a treat.  Pair it with some fresh fruit for breakfast, add it to your brunch buffet lineup, or as a sweet snack to satisfy that annoying sweet tooth.  Since I love cinnamon, there is cinnamon throughout... even in the muffin!

You know, cinnamon has several health benefits including many antioxidants and having anti-inflammatory properties, so it can keep you healthy.  Too bad sugar and butter aren't health foods too!

Weekly Menu

Happy first weekend of Spring!  Hope you were able to enjoy the sunshine this weekend. We definitely were out and about... so tired of being inside!!

101 beer kitchen
101 beer kitchen 101 beer kitchen
101 Beer Kitchen opened their second location in Gahanna last week.  There is always a long wait at the Dublin location, and the Gahanna location appears like it could be the same way.  Of course there is good reason for the wait!  A long beer list, seasonal menu, and tasty appetizers.  We had the fried cheese curds, I had the mahi mahi tacos, and he had the shrimp po' boy... all very good!

forno pizza kitchen forno pizza kitchen
We also spent some time in the Short North this weekend since the weather was quite nice and we needed to get outside.  Our first stop was Forno for some lunch.  Of course, as the name suggests ('oven' in Italian), is known for the giant pizza oven... so we needed to try the pizza.  But the appetizer we got (because he was starving) was a baked ricotta and peaches spread with bread... almost had a dessert-like sweetness.

laughlins bakery 
laughlins bakery laughlins bakery almond croissants
We finally went to Laughlin's Bakery after hearing about their croissants amazing likeness to the ones you expect in Paris.  I was totally ready to be taken back, if only through my taste buds... and we got the last two almond croissants available for the day!  So if you want what you want, it's best to go early for the largest selection of delicious French pastries.  

homeage jenis splendid ice cream
Then some wandering around high street enjoying the local shops and treats.

pine quarry park pine quarry park
Today was filled with a family get together and a walk in our neighborhood park.  Love being able to walk to pine quarry park from our house.  :)

This week's meal plan...
shrimp fajita tacos
stir fry
catfish po' boy
creamy dijon chicken and asparagus
cauliflower tacos

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