The Sweetest Thing.

" I feel there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people" ~Van Gogh

Weekly Meal Plan 4/13/15. April 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jessica @ 4:28 pm

What a weekend! We are finally getting some nice weather around here and I could not be happier! I am wearing a sundress and sandals today!!!!! Saturday was spent in the usual way. Housework in the morning and some errands in the afternoon. An easy dinner and some CSI on the couch with my love and an early bed time rounded out the night.

Sunday started out great. We relaxed and chatted in bed for awhile in the morning and then got up and jumped right into our to do list. We got a few things done before a friend came over for brunch. After a delicious brunch we ran to Home Depot for supplies to build a garden bed and stopped at Wegmans for a few groceries. When we got home, Tiff unlocked the door and hung her keys on the hook inside. I carried in groceries and set the groceries and my purse down so I could go help her haul stuff to the backyard. On my way out, I pulled the door shut, not realizing it was locked. We spent all afternoon and most of the evening locked out of the house with our groceries, my phone, our wallets and our keys inside. My mama lost the extra key I gave her and we were not able to get in touch with the landlords all day. We did finally get in but it was not a fun (or cheap) experience. We have a new plan for the extra key in place now.

Needless to say, we did not get much done after that. We were still able to cook out on our new grill so the day wasn’t a total loss. Lots of plans for the backyard and a few indoor projects were pushed back to next weekend. Luckily the nice weather should be sticking around.

My partner is taking a break from working a second job since the overtime has been steady at her primary job. This means she will be home in the evenings and can pitch in a little more with meal prep during the week. She is not quite as adventurous as I am in the kitchen, but is always willing to try and learn new things. Our meal plans might seem a little different since she will be cooking more, but they will still be built around real food.

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Monday~ Crock Pot Collard Greens, Baked Chicken Legs, Gluten Free Cornbread

Tuesday~ Kale Pancakes, Pan Fried Pork Chops, Jasmine Rice

Wednesday~ French Dip Sandwiches, Carrot & Celery Sticks

Thursday~ Mustard & Panko Crusted Salmon, Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Roasted Red Potatoes

Friday~ Leftovers

Saturday~ Empanadas, Salads

Sunday~ Mediterranean Turkey Burgers, Zucchini Planks and Sweet Potato Fries on the Grill

 

April Grocery Haul Part 1- Aldi. April 8, 2015

We headed out to the store on Good Friday because I needed a few essentials for my Easter dessert duties. I was nervous about it being crazy but figured it only made sense to do an actual grocery shop if I was going to the store anyways. It wasn’t too bad but I will still try to do my shopping a bit earlier in the week next year.

After some major stock up shopping last month, we didn’t really need too much besides the fresh stuff- produce and dairy. Our chest freezer in the basement is stocked full of meat and our cupboards are nearly bursting open. I work less in the summer (and have less money), so I like to head into the season well stocked.

We are huge fans of grilling and do so 4 or 5 times a week in the summer. For side dishes, we often just throw whatever veggies we have on the grill, but baked beans, pasta and potato salad also make frequent appearances. Many of these are things we can stock up on as well as some condiments, buns and meat. Over the next couple of months I am going to focus on keeping our food supply full and stocking up on some cookout essentials. I started that with this shop.

We also have a fire pit and love to break out the s’mores ingredients whenever we have company.

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Veggies~

~ Zucchini

~ Baby Bella Mushrooms (2)

~ Romaine Lettuce

~ Carrots

~ Sweet Peppers

~ Garlic

~ Shallots

~ Green Onions

~ Avacado (2)

~ Sweet Potatoes

~ Red Potatoes

~ Red Onions

~ Yellow Onions

~ Brussels Sprouts

~ Spinach

DSC02292Bread/Misc~

~ Flour Tortillas (for Fajitas)

~ Crackers from the discount bin

~ Cinnamon Raisin Bread

~ Italian Bread (2)

~ Hot dog and Hamburger Buns

~ Brown Sugar

~ Shredded Coconut

~ Marshmallows

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Pantry Items~

~ Gluten Free All Purpose Flour & Regular All Purpose Flour

~ Gluten Free Brownie Mix

~ Graham Crackers

~ Cereal (for the honey)

~ Ketchup/Mustard

~ Salad Dressing (Italian & Caeser)

~ Sunflower Seeds

~ Olive Oil Mayo (love when they have this at Aldi)

~ Olive Oil

~Taco Shells

~ BBQ Sauce

~  Basmati Rice

~ Strawberry Preserves

~ Almond Butter

~ Pickles

~ Olives

~ Salsa

~ Relish

~ Pasta Salad (weird addition from Tiffany)

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Canned Goods~

~ Salmon

~ Peaches

~ Baked Beans ( I like to start with the can version and fancy them up)

~ Corned Beef Hash

~ Black Olives

~ Diced Tomatoes

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Fruit~

~ Raspberries & Strawberries (used for Easter)

~ Grapes

~ Lemons (used for Easter)

~ Grapefruits

~ Kiwi

~ Cantaloupe

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Dairy~

~ Frozen Fruit Bars (these did not make the frozen food picture so I just included them here)

~ Parmesan, Blue and Feta Cheese

~ Greek Yogurt

~ Cottage Cheese

~ Milk

~ Cheese sticks

~ Mango Peach Goat Cheese

~ Spicy Mango Cheddar Cheese

~ Greek Yogurt Cups

~ Half & Half

~ Butter

~ Almond Milk

~ Whipping Cream (for Easter)

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Frozen Food~

~ Broccoli (2)

~ Green Beans

~ Mango Chunks (I thought I was grabbing peaches)

~ Mixed Berries

~ Strawberries

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Meat/Protien~

~ Bacon (2)

~ Tilapia

~ Ham ( I cut this in half for two dinners and we will likely get a brunch out of each half too)

~ Italian Sausage

~ Cheddar Brats

~ Stuffed Clams (a grilling favorite of ours)

* Unpictured- 2 dozen eggs and 6 steaks

What are some of your favorite warm weather foods?

 

Crispy Prosciutto & Gorgonzola Green Beans. April 7, 2015

Filed under: Side Dish,Vegetables — Jessica @ 8:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

I meant to post this recipe pre-Easter, but I didn’t. While this would have been a great addition to your Easter table, it will also be a great addition to any meal. Crisp tender green beans, crunchy bits of prosciutto and tangy gorgonzola cheese combine quickly but still manage to feel special. I love these served alongside grilled chicken.

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Crispy Prosciutto & Gorgonzola Green Beans

4-6 servings

Ingredients

16 oz trimmed green beans (fresh or frozen)

4 slices of prosciutto

1/2 c crumbled gorgonzola cheese

1 Tbls olive oil

1 Tbls honey

Freshly ground black pepper- to taste

Directions

1. Crisp prosciutto on cookie sheet in 400° oven. This takes about 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven & let cool.

2.Add olive oil to large skillet & heat.

3. Add green beans to skillet & cook until “crisp tender” or desired doneness.

4. Meanwhile, crumble prosciutto into bowl. Once beans are cooked, add to bowl. Add half of the cheese, honey and pepper. Toss to combine. Top with the remaining half of the cheese before serving.

5. Enjoy!

 

Weekly Meal Plan 4/6/15. April 6, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jessica @ 11:35 am
Tags: ,

Spring is the only time of year that I check the weather forecast when making my meal plans. The weather is so erratic around here. It can seriously go from 60° in the afternoon to snow in the evenings. We had warm temps, sunshine, rain and snow this past weekend. It’s really hard to know what to wear- especially since I do a lot of walking because I live close to work and downtown. We made the most of it anyways!

We were both off on Friday during the day, so we decided to run some errands- groceries and a little sale shopping. (Those text messages from Old Navy might be a terrible thing for me).After stocking up on groceries at Aldi, we headed to the mall. I picked up a few new Spring/Summer pieces and Tiffany even bought herself an outfit for Easter (she buys most of her clothes online). We decided to make a quick stop into TJ Maxx because we hadn’t been in there in awhile and we picked up the usual random beauties while in there. I strangely never even look at their clothing or purses and only occasionally look at their shoes. I always head directly for the gourmet foods, kitchenwares, home decor and stationary. I am also obsessed with their coffee mug selection. I had actually done a good job resisting the last couple of times because the coffee mug cupboard is full, but I was weak this trip and picked up a new one for the collection. After shopping, Tiffany went to work for the evening and I watched Gilmore Girls on Netflix and drank tea.

We both worked Saturday- me in the morning and Tiff in the evening. We hung out and ate grilled cheese and tomato soup in the afternoon. I spent the evening trying out a new recipe and getting some things done around the house. Sunday was Easter celebrations for us. We started the day out with homemade waffle piled with fruit. Tiff went to her family’s in the afternoon and I stayed home to bake for my family dinner in the evening. I wanted to try out a new recipe from the Joy the Baker cookbook I got for Christmas- the lemon meringue cookies. Because it was a new recipe, I picked an old tried and true favorite as a back up just in case. Well, the new recipe turned out fantastic, the old one- not so much. As I said on Instagram, when life hands you a botched lemon pound cake, make trifle. It was a perfectly delicious disaster. Dinner was nice. We ended up being at my mom’s until 10pm! It was nice to play with the children and to talk and laugh with my family. I am grateful for one last day of Spring Break after the late night and a few glasses of wine!

As far as last week’s meal plan goes, we stayed on track except for Saturday. I had a lot of leftover peppers to use up from Monday’s Veggie Loaded Meat Sauce, so I tried out the oven baked chicken fajitas idea I have been seeing on line. They were so good!

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The plan for this week~

Monday~ Chicken Caesar Salads (I’m kind of obsessed with these lately)

Tuesday~ Leftovers

Wednesday~ Salmon Patties, Spring Mix Salads

Thursday~ Coconut Chicken Fingers, Sweet Potato Fries

Friday~ Leftovers or Order Food

Saturday~ BLT’s, Fresh Fruit

Sunday~  Steaks, Stuffed Clams and Asparagus on the Grill (it’s supposed to be warm and not raining)

I enjoyed having some extra time this past week and it was really nice to get to some of the things that I never quite have time for. It’s back to business tomorrow though.

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend!

 

Food Talk. April 2, 2015

Filed under: Lunch,random — Jessica @ 8:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

It would seem that pretty much everything on this blog is food talk, and it is, in the practical sense. That is all important stuff to cover, but it isn’t what food is really about to me. If food was just about practicality, I would spend a lot less time reading, thinking about, researching, shopping for and preparing it. For me, food is about passion. It is about love, It is about nourishment far beyond the physical body. It is about community, tradition, family, memories. Food is the absolute center of my world.

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With Spring Break going on this week (exciting for me since I teach but do not have children, so I really get a break), I have had time to fully indulge my “food brain” as Joy the Baker likes to call it. I have spent countless hours on the internet researching some ideas I have and a few recipes I want to try, I have been reading “My Berlin Kitchen” and I watched The Hundred-Foot Journey . It is always good to know that I am not the only food obsessed one out there. While my family appreciates my culinary adventures, they don’t really “care” about food like I do.

I literally gasped in awe at the markets in The Hundred-Foot Journey and I could taste the salty olives, creamy cheese and the warm yeasty dough as I read about many of the recipes the Author’s family prepared in “My Berlin Kitchen”. I find these kind of stories so deeply, entirely satisfying and I just can’t get enough. Burnout happens with even the most passionate cooks, something that used to make me doubt my passions, but it doesn’t take much to get me excited again.

After seeing the markets in the movie, I had to take a trip to Wegmans (it is the closest I am getting to a market this time of year in Western New York). First, I picked up a cup of coffee while taking in the rich smooth aromas. Then, I took a few minutes to just stand at the front of the produce section and admire all of the colors and textures. I slowly walked around and took the time to really appreciate what was offered. I picked things up to touch them, smell them and imagine them on my table, A few things made it into my shopping basket and I moved on. I went to the olive bar and cheese area. I packed a variety of briny olives into a small container and picked up a couple of chunks of cheese. Next, I walked over to the bakery and admired the crisp golden crusts of their freshly baked loaves. I debated between their rosemary olive oil or the garlic tuscan bread for a few minutes- taking the time to gently squeeze and smell each- before adding one to my basket. On my way to the register, I picked up a bouquet of flowers.  I never even made it past that side of the store. I had what I had come for-a sense of connection, of contentment, of joy. I also had the makings of a really delicious lunch.

Once I arrived home, I trimmed my flowers and put them in a vase on the table. I made a salad with dark leafy spring mix, salty feta cheese, toasted walnuts, olives and my favorite sweet balsamic homemade dressing. I sliced a thick piece of the impossibly chewy bread with the perfect crunchy crust and soft center and poured a bit of olive oil to dip it in. I poured a small glass of wine,lit a candle and sat down at the table for a late lunch. It was one of those meals that was so simple yet so utterly satisfying. It never even crossed my mind to photograph it. When I was done eating, I just sat there, thankful for the time to enjoy such a simple thing so very much.

It was great to remember how important it is to slow down sometimes.  To take the time to truly enjoy the things that bring me real pleasure. It is not practical to think that meals can be such an occasion everyday, but I am going to try to add little touches to remind me that they can and should be sometimes. Tucking a cloth napkin into my lunch bag and taking the time to lay it on my lap, opening up all of my containers to appreciate the colors and giving thanks can make a hurried lunch at my desk a little more special. When I am home, lighting a candle and sitting down at the table without any distractions can make leftover soup seem like a feast. Remembering that food is more than calories, more than a necessity, makes is so much more satisfying.

 

Homemade Freezer Burritos. April 1, 2015

My darling partner ate a lot more processed food before we got together. She was not the most terrible eater by any means, but often relied on convenience items for quick lunches or late night dinners. Despite an aversion to tortillas, she really liked keeping a package of frozen burritos in the freezer for these occasions. After looking at the questionable ingredient list on the package of these burritos, I decided I could make my own version at home. These are quick to make and can be customized to fit your family’s tastes, but this is a general guideline. I most often make this version, but I have also mixed in leftover taco meat (turkey, pork or ground beef), extra veggies etc.

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Homemade Freezer Burritos

makes 8 burritos

Ingredients

8 Tortillas (I try to get ones with minimal ingredients- flour, salt, water and oil is pretty much all it takes)

1.5 cups (or 1 can) refried beans

1 cup salsa

1 boneless skinless chicken breast- cooked & shredded

6 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese- shredded

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1. Make sure tortillas are at room temperature so they roll easily without tearing.

2. Mix beans, salsa, and shredded chicken together

3. Divide mixture evenly between tortillas and spread down the middle of each

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4. Divide cheese evenly between tortillas and sprinkle on bean mixture

5. Roll as pictured below.

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6. Place each burrito in individual sandwich bag & then put all burritos in gallon freezer bag. This makes them easy to just grab from the freezer and toss in a lunch bag.

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7. Place gallon bag in freezer.

8. Reheat in microwave 1-2 minutes depending on how frozen it is and how your microwave works.

9. Top with additional salsa, sour cream/greek yogurt, guacamole etc

10. Enjoy!

*if using gluten free tortillas, Aldi brand are the best I have found so far!

 

Favorite Recipe Resources- Websites. March 31, 2015

Filed under: Meal Plan — Jessica @ 9:14 am
Tags: , , ,

This is kind of my March version of the “monthly cookbook post” I started in January (and then skipped in February when we kind of totally avoided cooking at home pretty much all month). As much as I love cookbooks, sometimes my meal planning is done on the go and I use the internet to collect recipes for the month because I can do it anywhere I have a few free minutes.  This was most definitely the case for March. I usually just bookmark or “pin” the recipes I want to use in a designated folder/board and they are quick to access when I need them. Occasionally, I will print out a recipe if we really really like it and want to use it again.

Blogs are a great resource for recipes but I am going to share my favorite blogs for such things in another post. Today, I am just talking about good old fashioned websites. These are the websites I go to again and again when I need a dinner idea or if I kind of have something in mind but need to figure out how to make it happen.

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1) Food 52– This website is a relatively new discovery for me. It kept coming up in my Facebook newsfeed and I finally checked it out. Beautiful photographs, easy navigation and a focus on real food quickly made it a favorite. There are plenty of tips and tutorials for beginning cooks and enough variety and complexity in the recipes to keep even the most seasoned cook interested. This is not the website for you if cooking on a budget is your main concern but still worth checking out for special occasion meals or inspiration.

2) The Bettter Homes and Gardens website is a great resource for recipes. They cover everything from quick budget meals to dinner parties. Most recipes are focused on getting good food on the table without a ton of fuss for busy lifestyles. I especially love their crock pot recipes because they are not drowned in “cream of” soups and boxes of stuffing mix. Processed food ingredients are very minimal. They have a great dessert collection too!

3) My Recipes is a long time favorite of mine. I know that this is where you can find all of the Cooking Light magazine recipes and from my understanding, it is also where you can find the recipes from several magazines like All You, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Sunset and Southern Living. You can search by ingredient to use up some obscure item in your fridge nearing it’s expiration, save recipes in your very own “recipe box” and it will even make grocery lists for you. They have a new “meal planning” feature but i haven’t really checked it out yet. I love Cooking Light magazine because of it’s focus on healthy real foods and this website is full of those recipes.

4) Food Network seems like an obvious place to go for recipes for most people I suppose. Truthfully, I ususally only use this site when I am looking up a specific recipe I have seen on one of their shows. Giada is a favorite of mine. It is totally worth a visit though. They often feature seasonal recipe collections and many recipes feature detailed reviews to help you avoid mistakes others have already made.

5) Allrecipes was one of the first online recipe collections I discovered. I used to be obsessed with looking at recipes on this site. I don’t use it as much anymore but I still rely on it for some tried and true recipes or anytime I am looking for a recipe for something my Grandma used to make. Anyone can submit recipes on this site. They are not reviewed or tested before being posted so results can be pretty hit or miss if you are a new cook. You can generally find a variety of recipes for just about anything. These are recipes written by real people in normal kitchens with normal budgets, equipment and schedules. My favorite part is reading the little recipe introductions about the traditions, stories and inspiration that the author associates with the recipe.

6)101 Cookbooks is another beautiful website focusing on real food. When I first discovered food 52, I immediately thought of this site. Beautiful photography, simple ingredients and a true love of food make this site inspiring. I believe it may have started as more of a blog but has shifted towards more of a website. You can search by ingredient, season or type of recipe/meal. I love the simplicity of their recipes. My favorite recipes use minimal, quality ingredients that can all shine through and I find that in a lot of recipes on this site.

7) Pinterest is kind of a no brainer, but I had to include it because it is a favorite. I am sure most of you are familiar with the way it works but I love that you can find such a huge variety of ideas from across the internet all in one place. Follow me here.

8) This is kind of cheating since it is a blog, but my very own website right here has become a great resource for me. I love that I have finally written down many of our favorite stand by recipes and I can access them in one place.

These are the sites I use most regularly for recipe research and meal planning. What are some of your favorite online resources for recipes?

 

 
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