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Weekly Menu

Oops! A little late on menu planning this week!  You would think being stuck inside all day while the polar vortex winds blow outside would mean extra posts this week... but I think the cold weather has my husband and I working on projects around the house instead of sitting around all day.  He has been working on new lighting in our kitchen and I have been working on our hallways stairs; sanding, staining, painting, and sealing.  It's been taking longer than I thought it would, but it looks great so far and it is almost done!  And that old, worn out carpet is gone!  :)


I am so ready for these polar vortexes to stay polar.  The snow needs to melt and the sun needs to shine.  I don't want to spend ten minutes bundling up and looking like Randy from A Christmas Story just to go outside for 30 seconds.  On my way into work this morning I swear I felt my eyes freezing over since that was the only thing that was even slightly exposed.

Alright, enough complaining about the weather.  We can't change it, so might as well look at the positive... the snow is kind of pretty and the sun was kind of shining for part of the day.  I'll take it because I hear we're getting up to 47 degrees this weekend!

On to this week's menu (half way through it)...
baked ravioli (using crab raviolis this time... mmm)
lasagna rollups
taco night & pulled chicken sandwiches using roasted chicken
some kind of soup (probably either baked potato soup or roasted corn and tomato soup)

Stay warm out there!

Chocolate Chip Scones - total time 45 minutes


You know the saying you should always try something once?  I whole-heartedly agree that everyone should at least taste things they aren't familiar with.  You never know until you try it.  But in some cases, you have to try things multiple times to realize you love something!

That is so true for me and scones.  I've had scones before... they are usually dry and crumbly.  Scones usually sit next to muffins and donuts in the breakfast line up of choices.  Let's see, dry, crumbly scone or moist muffin that looks like a cupcake or sweet, sweet donuts... I'm probably not reaching for the scone.

Then I had the most delicious scone ever!  We were staying at a bed and breakfast in Olympic National Park where they made us so many tasty breakfasts.  One the last morning, there were these blueberry scones.  So delicious and buttery.  Almost like a muffin top, but better (which kind of made me think of that episode of Seinfield about Elaine selling only the muffin tops).

So, when you have some time in the morning to spend some time on breakfast, or if you're in the mood for brunch... try this scone recipe!  I swapped out the blueberries (which look awful right now, since they aren't in season) and swapped in some dark chocolate chips which made it almost like a dessert.  :)

Weekly Menu

After reading Food Babe's post on New Year's resolutions, I realized I have not made mine.  Her post said that only 8% of people actually stick to their resolutions.  I actually think that is a pretty high number considering the number of cars in my gym's parking lot have already started to dwindle back down to the regulars (and we're only in week three!).

My thoughts on resolutions are that they certainly don't have to be made on January 1 (uh, since I didn't).  Also, there are 365 days to stay in that elite 8% number, so if your resolution is specific or a little too high of a goal, you will feel defeated... so I don't give up when I forgot a day or week... just keep going.  If you do your resolution 40 out of 52 weeks... that's 40 more weeks that you accomplished something that you otherwise would not.  That's something to celebrate and I think that still qualifies as keeping your resolution since you never gave up!

Last year I resolved to eat some sort of raw vegetable every day.  There are some vegetables that are better for you raw and some that are better cooked, but I noticed I was eating mostly cooked vegetables (but at least I was eating them!).  So my resolution helped me mix it up.  I think I probably missed out on about ten days or so... not bad!  But a pretty easy resolution considering most sandwiches qualified.  But I did eat a lot more salads throughout the year, which has continued into 2014.

So this year I am resolving to get things done.  This includes getting projects crossed off the to-do list and cleaning more frequently.  I want to accomplish these on a weekly basis and have already started with last week's hand-painted curtains and this week I'm working on staining our hallway stairs (darn Rehab Addict adding things to my to-do list).  Anyone that owns a house knows that the to-do list never gets shorter, so I'll have plenty of projects to keep me busy all 52 weeks!

Maybe some of you want to make meal planning your resolution!  It is really a great time saver (both at the grocery store and for those "what's for dinner" conversations) and great motivation to get cooking every (okay, most) nights.  Here is our menu for this week, what is yours?!

cashew crusted chicken and brussel sprouts
creamy pasta with spinach, artichokes, and bacon
out for dinner (hockey game)

Chicken, Bowties, and Vodka Sauce - total time 30 minutes


You might have noticed there aren't really any red meat recipes on this blog.  That is because I rarely eat it.  I just don't care for it.  There are several reasons for not eating red meat, or any meat in general.  I find that most of these ideas are a little extreme.  

For example, the health claims that red meat is bad for you.  Yes, it might have more cholesterol and fat than other foods, but it also has more protein and iron.  Or maybe you have seen PETA videos about the treatment of animals in CAFOs.  But thanks to journalists and authors for bringing issues like this to the public, grass-fed, free-range, organic options are available at nearly every grocery store.  This change also essentially eliminates other worries (Mad Cow disease, "pink slime", or other recall issues).

So when I saw Food Inc posted this article on Facebook defending Publican's Quality Meats against PETA, I was a little confused at first.  But after reading the article, I realized their point was exactly the same point I took away from their documentary.  It's not that eating meat is bad, it's a natural thing for most of the animal kingdom, it is about doing it with a conscious.  This means voting with your dollar by purchasing that grass-fed, free-range, organic meat or going to restaurants that serve it.  If everyone made this change, but our current quantity demand remained the same, there wouldn't be enough land to raise enough livestock.  So, it also means reducing that quantity in favor of quality.

To all of those vegans and vegetarians out there, more power to you!  I know I could do it, but I also don't want to know what is in that mock meat.  I like to keep my options open so I don't feel bad about indulging in a hamburger on occasion or trying something new (like Anthony Bourdain) while still trying to be conscious about my decisions and keeping produce and grains the bulk of each meal.

With that being said, here is another chicken recipe!  The pasta and chicken are pretty standard, it's the sauce that has a bit of a twist.  Vodka sauce was new to me a few years ago.  After having regular marinara all my life, the creamy, cheesy goodness became an instant favorite.  If you remove the cheese and use fresh cherry tomatoes, you keep the flavor and make the dish a little lighter.

Culinary Intelligence

On our trek back home from Seattle I read Culinary Intelligence (so... it's been a while).  It's a little bit about the history of why we eat the way we do and then ways to get around the human complex of eating as much as possible.

The little history part included the fact that cooking is really what separated humans from our other ape ancestors.  Cooking meat (and vegetables) started the digestion process for us so we could quickly convert food to energy, which made our digestive tract smaller (no need for that long digestive process any more) and our brains larger.  As many diets are currently shifting to less meat and more raw ingredients, Kaminsky wonders is we might be heading in the wrong direction.  

Of course, much has changed since the days of living in caves.  We don't need as much protein when we're sitting at desks all day instead of hunting and gathering (besides, there are plenty non-meat protein sources).  I do think he has a point on raw food though.  Although my resolution last year was to eat at least one serving of vegetables raw, it is important to get a mix of both raw and cooked foods.  Many foods offer different nutrients when they are in raw form verses cooked.  For example, cooking spinach breaks down some of the vitamins, on the other hand cooking tomatoes adds lycopene, an antioxidant known to lower cancer risk.

Another point made in Culinary Intelligence is that when thinking about your last meal, or maybe optimal meal, most people would choose a meat entree.  A steak, hamburger, filet minon, etc.  Why is that?  Meat has traditionally been viewed as a rare treat, the ultimate indulgence.  Fish is the protein you eat when other meat is not available or while practicing penance (and the reason for Friday fish fry).  And produce, well, people generally don't associate produce as a main course.

There are four elements of taste; salt, sweet, spicy heat, and tart/tangy/acidic... and one bonus element "umami" (Japanese for "tasty").  Keeping these elements in mind, if an ingredient doesn't increase the flavor in one of these elements, then it is probably not worth adding.  

One of Kaminsky's cooking secrets was sealing meat and its marinade in a plastic pouch and then boiling said pouch for the ultimate cooked meat that has all of the flavor and is still fall of the bone tender.  This technique is called "sous-vide" (under pressure).

Last but not least, the idea repeated throughout the book was achieving maximum flavor per calorie.  The more you enjoy a meal, the more satisfied you are while still eating less overall.  While I definitely agree that eating something delicious prevents me from snacking later on... some high calorie foods (like cookies or cheesecake) I will always want more of even after I feel full and satisfied!

Overall, the book had some interesting points.  It took me longer than normal to read it because it was a little repetitive.  If you want to learn more about life as a food columnist or more details about the four elements of taste, check out this book!  Otherwise, just remember when you're reaching for that low-fat or low-calorie item, if it is going to leave you unsatisfied and looking for a snack in ten minutes, maybe you should be opting for a small portion of the full fat version instead.

Weekly Menu

After posting about how little I got done from my to do list over my holiday break I've been painting, sanding, cleaning, and washing all weekend.  It might have something to do with feeling healthy again (finally!) or just saying out loud how unproductive I have been, either way, I am glad stuff is finally getting done.  

Here is one of my projects this weekend... hand painted ombre chevron curtains.  It definitely took longer than expected (what project doesn't), but I couldn't find what I wanted anywhere.  I couldn't even find a good chevron print fabric to sew them myself.  Some times I get so set on what I want, so I got some basic grommeted curtains from Target, taped off my print, and painted.  I'm glad I didn't give in and buy something I didn't like because I love the way they turned out!


I started thinking about these freezer meals I plan to make on Sundays to get dinner on the table faster during the week, but won't get it today.  Maybe next week.  So here is this week's menu...

creamy sundried tomato pasta
bok choy stir fry
pan ravioli (one of my all-time faves!)
pizza night
salmon with dill sauce
lasagna rollups

This week's menu is trending toward Italian because I have been reading Europe guide books to plan our vacation this year and I am on the Italy chapter right now.  I'm not even to the "where to eat" portion of the chapter, but I'm already there in my mind!  :)

Coq au Riesling - total time 40 minutes

During the holiday break, I was pretty lazy... had a whole to do list and just wasn't motivated.  I slept in, took my time making breakfast, watched some TV and movies, and crossed just a few things off my to do list.   One of the things I enjoyed watching on TV was the cooking shows.  They never air after 5:00 and I'm not sure why Food Network thinks we all want to watch cupcake competitions, restaurant takeovers, and average people battle it out in the kitchen.  

One of the shows I watched was a French Food at Home where Laura made coq au riesling.  Ironically, I had made this dish the night before (and twice since then), but I wanted to see if she made hers any differently.  Turns out, pretty much the same (hers had bacon instead of prosciutto, so I like mine better)!  

This dish is rich!  Any time you make a sauce with cream using all flavors from the pan, it is going to be good.  Add in the saltiness of the prosciutto and the tenderness of chicken thighs... it pretty much melts in your mouth.  Pair it with some roasted vegetables or salad and you have a great meal... and it's French, so extra fancy too!  :)

The Taste of Tomorrow

I enjoy reading about food whether it be about nutrition, ethics, or in this case the future of food.  Knowing more about the food we eat helps us make better decisions on what we should be eating.  I picked up The Taste of Tomorrow by Josh Schonwald from the library... I can't remember if it was on a recommended reading list, if it was one of my random keyword searches, or if the library had it on the endcap (they always seem to know exactly what to put there so I walk out with ten books instead of two).  Definitely an interesting (and quick) read!  I want to summarize the key ideas for everyone, but would recommend picking up the book for more detail.

Not that long ago, the lettuce section at the grocery store had a lot fewer choices.  Iceberg or romaine.  Then came the 80s and the advent of bagged lettuce.  Farms could pack the delicate leaves in a specially made bag that allowed them a shelf life.  Spinach could be packed fresh instead of sold only in the frozen food section.  Spring mixes, arugula, red leaf, musclen exploded into the produce section.  No other food trend had a greater impact than bagged lettuce.  Josh was in search of the next big idea.  He followed farmers, studied grocery stores, and went to farmers markets.  His five best guesses are purslane, radicchio, central asian lettuces, shiso, and colored carrots (which I think the last one is already trending).

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been a hot topic lately.  With big companies like Monsanto engineering seeds with chemicals to kill pests, it is no wonder there is a lot of controversy here.  On the flip side, this book talks about the positive side to GMOs created in small labs with goals like feeding the world instead of gaining profits.  Cross breeding different plants as well as cellular combinations like tomatoes with fish DNA can increase durability, flavor, and nutrition.  Providing more nutrient dense foods to hungry nations would prevent a lot of disease and hunger.  However, with all of the GMO aversion lately, these small labs are underfunded.  Even if they create something revolutionary, people would still need to accept GMOs for it to be successful.

Another controversial topic that I know I am passionate about is the rise against Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) thanks to books like Food Matters and Food Rules.  While there has been a trend of people eating less meat, most people aren't willing to give up meat altogether.  With demand out paces the amount of land to raise all animals free range, this book looks for the future's solution... in vitro (test tube) meat.  There has been some success essentially cloning cells into muscle tissue, it still has a long way to go.  In vitro meat has PETA's support... but everyone will still have to get over the ick factor of eating something raised in a test tube.

CAFOs don't stop at just land animals.  The fish we have deemed tasty have also seen their populations disappear from the ocean.  I was lucky enough to see how Seattle has worked to protect wild salmon after decades of over-fishing.  To keep up with demand, fish are now farmed in large tanks and even larger quantities.  This book investigates the next big fish (cobia) and how people have started fish farming indoors.  The tanks are in a dark room and so densely packed that they have little room to swim.  Could this be the next food controversy?  How do you balance happy fish without over fishing the ocean?  One fish farmer is coastal farming by having their tanks actually in the ocean with fewer fish.  However laws are preventing expansion of this idea because of coastal protection laws.

The next point in the book involves ethnic foods.  Many foods from around the world are available everywhere; Chinese, French, Japanese, Italian.  So much so that foods are defined by regions; Sicilian, Tuscan, and more.  It seems we might have every country's traditional (and Americanized) food available to us!  There is just one left to be the future of ethnic foods... sub-Saharan Africa.  Not exactly sure what to expect from this style of cooking, but I have been to an African restaurant in New Orleans... so this may already be trending in foodie towns.

The last thought on the future of food is that there will be no food, just a pill.  I know I take a multi-vitamin every morning, I know that my body will absorb nutrients better from whole foods.  There are certain things that your body will never be able to digest and utilize from a pill like fats and proteins.  That is why the book follows the findings in nanotechnology which is essentially splitting and rebuilding atoms into specific formations (think back to chemistry class when you had to draw how hydrogen and oxygen were linked to create water).  The problem with splitting atoms is you end up with something radio active, albeit very small so you would need a lot to cause a problem.  The reason we overlook the dangers of nuclear power is the amount of energy it generates.  One nanotech pill could power a human for 80 years without food!

So... what do you think the future of food will be?  Could you give up food altogether if you never felt hungry and had energy to spare?  

Weekly Menu

Ugh!  I am finally getting better after feeling under the weather all last week!  It seemed like I had a different ailment everyday, so I have no idea what it was... just some really weird cold, I guess.

I used to get sick a lot more often.  But after reading a book about digestion and immune health, I started taking probiotic supplements daily.  At the time, there wasn't a lot of buzz about probiotics.  I mean there were commercials for Activia yogurt, but you have to eat 40 of those a day with all of that sugar to maintain a healthy amount of good bacteria in your digestive tract. 

Now the only time I get sick is when I run out of probiotics.  You would think after the first time I would just always restock, but it is a good reminder that taking them is really beneficial.  So I was in GNC today, stocking up on probiotics and now they have about 50 different kinds of pills, chews, and powders.  I guess they are pretty popular now.  I hope it doesn't fade away like a super food fad (i.e. acai berries).

So now that I'm feeling better, it's back to meal planning this week (last week was a lot of soups and take out).  With my husband working a new job with earlier hours, eating dinner at 8pm isn't quite working out as well.  I think my solution is going to be preparing a couple freezer meals on Sunday so he can just put it in the oven when he gets home... and by the time I get home an hour later, we can eat dinner at normal people time.  ;)  I might start that next week... 

teriyaki salmon with steamed green beans
butternut mac and cheese with brussel sprouts
sloppy toms
lasagna rolloups
taco night

What are you planning to make this week?


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