Meatballs…Not Just for Italians Anymore | Cooking Through Construction 

I’ve been doing A LOT of cooking in the basement and, guys, it’s a breeze!  Really!  It’s all about the set up and having the right tools.  Once I set up my long, white table with various cooking utensils, spices, seasonings, and (most importantly) my Keurig, it was simple after that!  Plus, the tool that’s making it all possible…my Instant Pot.

71-ak79nv1L._SL1500_Special PSA about the Instant Pot:  if you’re a busy mom or new to cooking or a retired person or if you like to eat in general, you need an Instant Pot.  Let me repeat.  You NEED an Instant Pot.  You can order it right here.

I’ll wait.

Now that that’s out of the way, I can tell you about the two awesome meatball recipes I’ve made in our Basement Bistro.

First, we departed from the norm and tried Asian.  I know what you’re thinking…Asian?  In meatballs?  Ugh…  But trust me.  They were AWESOME.  They were so awesome in fact that I didn’t even snap a picture!  Jake gobbled them up and asked for seconds!  He never asked for seconds when it comes to meat!  He even asked when I could make them again.

A few nights later, we went Swedish and had some of their meatballs.  And the best part was I didn’t even have to cook the noodles!  Everything was cooked in one pot at the same time! You know what that means?  Daddy got dish duty.  The one thing I would change with this recipe is the cook time.  I didn’t trust the cook time in the recipe I followed, so I upped the amount.  What resulted was overcooked noodles.  But the rest of the recipe was still delicious!  Don’t worry…I adjusted it for you already.

If you’re family is like mine and loves meatballs, try either (or both) of these recipes!  I promise you they’ll be a hit.

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Meal #1
Asian Meatballs with Rice
(adapted from this page)

1.25 lbs ground turkey
1 tbsp garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Honey (optional)
Trader Joe’s brown rice (optional)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and roll into 1” balls.  Preheat Instant Pot on “saute” and cook your meatballs for 5 minutes, turning to brown each side.  Add ½ cup soy sauce.  Cancel your Instant Pot and hit “manual”.  Add cover to instant pot, making sure the valve is closed.  Choose “manual” high pressure and cook for 15 minutes.

When your pot beeps to let you know it’s done cooking, let the pressure release naturally while you heat up your rice.  In this case, I chose to use Trader Joe’s brown rice because it’s easy.  If you opt to cook your own, it’s best you start both the rice and the meatballs at the same time.

Once your meatballs are finished, drizzle them with honey to sweeten them slightly if you like.  Serve over rice with extra soy sauce or, my favorite, Frank’s Sweet Chili sauce.

I really kick myself for not taking a photo of these meatballs.  We were all so hungry, they vanished before I even thought about it.  The one above is the only one I have so it’ll have to do.

This meal is declared a “freezer meal” on the original page.  You can make all your meatballs ahead of time and throw everything in the pot the night of.  The IP will cook the meatballs from frozen in the same amount of time it cooked the thawed ones.  I don’t know why…I don’t make the rules. (Name that movie, anyone??)

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Meal #2
Swedish Meatballs
(from this recipe)

1.5 cups low sodium beef broth
1/2 cup milk
1 can cream of mushroom soup
16 oz egg noodles
one 24oz bag (frozen & fully cooked) meatballs
1 block cream cheese

Mix the beef broth, milk, and soup in your Instant Pot.  Cover with egg noodles.  Top with meatballs.  Press “manual” and let cook for 8 minutes.  Once the pot beeps, release the pressure.  I like to add a hand towel to the top so it doesn’t splatter soup steam all over.

Once the pressure switch drops, remove lid and mix in your cream cheese.  Serve to hungry boys!

I hope you try these recipes and find something you like!  What is your favorite meatball recipe?

 

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Small Changes, Big Results

Every day I came home last week, I eagerly opened my garage door to see what changes came about in my kitchen during the day.  The first two days it was very obvious what they did considering when we left our kitchen it was in tact and when we got home it was…well…not.  Before is on the left, after is on the right (obviously):

 

The first two days, we saw the cabinets come down, the wall disappear, and the floor vanish.  Day three the only thing we really noticed was different was more of the floor was missing.  Day four brought a new little turn of events to us.  Black mold.mold

When they removed the floor by our patio door, we saw the dreaded black stuff.  We also noticed how corroded the wall and floor were.  You can actually feel the wind coming in from the outside, which makes sense why it was always so much colder when we were eating dinner!

Our contractor, Tom, asked us if we had considered replacing the door which, oddly enough, we had been talking about.  We were going to wait to do that until the kitchen was done since we were making so many changes at once, but now it looks like we might need to proceed with that change sooner rather than later.

The other thing they did on Thursday was fix our half wall.

Originally, we had a “beam” going from our cabinets to our half wall but, when we removed the beam, we just had a wall sort of hovering in mid air.  (You can kind of see what I’m talking about in the left picture.)  We wanted to fix the wall and take it all the way up to the ceiling so it looked like it was built in, which they completed.  Other than those changes, we didn’t notice a whole ton.  I’m sure they did more “behind the scenes” work that we don’t really notice though.  We also received a note saying the electrician had been sick but would be back to work on things the next day.

cement-floorFriday came and, much like the last few days, it was tough to see what all they did.  I have a feeling until we start seeing cabinets and floors being installed, I won’t really notice as much as I expect to.  We did notice they put down “cement board” on our floors in preparation for the tile to be installed!  I’m really excited to see that part.  You can only imagine so much when you pick items out in a showroom.  They also removed the plumbing from where the sink and dishwasher used to be and cut the carpet so it was straight across.

They are supposed to work on the floors as well as the laundry room this week.  I had to turn in our paint color last week, so I’m thinking they will be painting sometime this week too!  They say it should only take 4 weeks and we are 1 week in already.  It will be interesting to see if they are really able to deliver on their timeline!

To pass the weekend, I headed to Kentucky for my best friend’s bachelorette party.  I was in charge of the weekend and spent most of Thursday night making “survival” bags for the bridesmaids.  I even used my Photoshop skills to make custom champagne bottle labels!  I have to say I’m pretty proud of those bags!

We had a great time.  We started the day with a painting class, headed to Seviche (an upscale restaurant) for dinner, and then ended the night at a club!  We even convinced our limo driver to stop for Starbucks!  It was a great night but I sure was ready to get home to my guys.

parkIt was such a nice weekend we went to the park for hot dogs and smores!  Who’s ready for summer?  I know we are…

Destruction

Days 1 and 2 are in the books.  Our kitchen renovations started Monday when we met with the contractor and his assistant at our house at 8:30am.  He asked us several questions including where to put the fridge, what we wanted done with our oven (which we are giving to charity), and other things of that nature.  I left for work with an eagerness in my step.  I just wanted to get to work so I could come home and see the changes!

First, however, we had to attend a kindergarten parents information meeting.  I cannot believe my kid will be old enough for kindergarten in the fall!  I bet this mama is gonna cry big, ole crocodile tears!!

I tried to keep my speed in check and not race home after the meeting.  I knew there would be some changes, but I seriously didn’t know what I was in for!  Here’s what we saw on night one:

I couldn’t believe how much they had gotten done in one day with just the two of them!  All the cabinets were completely removed and they had taken down all the walls we were eliminating as well.  They ended up having to put a wooden post in temporarily until they could take the rest of the framing down.  They were very neat in their removal too.  No debris.  No dust.  Great work so far!

When we got home, Jake and I headed down to make our dinner, which ended up being delicious!  I posted about our French Dips yesterday.  After dinner, Jake and I spent some quality time with one of our favorite games:  Candy Land.

Then my little carpenter decided he wanted to assist the guys.  Ugh!  I love him!img_9188edited

The next day was more of the same.  Get up, get ready, go to work, try not to get a speeding ticket on the drive home.  I was even more impressed when we walked in that day!  They didn’t waste any time getting the room back to basics for installation of everything!

img_9197editedThis is going to be my view from the kitchen.  I’ll have the whole expanse of the living room before me as I cook.  It will make it easier to look at things when Jeff shouts, “Honey!  Look at this!” from the couch.

img_9196editedThis is how the kitchen will appear if you’ve viewing it from the front door.  An island is going to be right about where the black part stops in the lower part of the picture.

img_9208editedYet another view of the kitchen looking from the fireplace.

You can see the difference a little more in this picture.  This is looking from the patio door towards the laundry room.

One thing you can’t tell in these pictures is just how LARGE the space feels!  It’s echo-y and roomie to say the least.  I know once we get the cabinets in, it will feel smaller, but I can already picture the finished product and if it’s anywhere near where my brain is putting it, I will be a happy mama.

After admiring our day two results, Jake and I went down to make dinner.  He still loves helping and finds cooking in the basement even more fun than I do.  Probably because he doesn’t need a stool (or stoove as he calls it) to see what he’s doing.

We went easy tonight.  Grilled cheese and bacon with baked Cheetos.  It might be simple, but it was delicious!img_9198editedI keep a little plastic tub downstairs and while I’m making dinner I throw the dirty utensils and cooking things in the tub.  Then when we’re done with dinner, I take the bin upstairs and wash the dishes.  It keeps the basement tidy and gives me a place to put my dirty stuff so it’s out of the way while I finish dinner.img_9206editedSo far I am very pleased with the renovation process.  Granted, it’s only two days in, but as far as the cooking goes, I can’t complain!  It’s really not too much different than cooking upstairs.  Except I have no stove and I have to wash everything by hand.  But a month of “sacrifice” will be worth a lifetime of cooking memories.  I just cannot wait!

French Dips | Cooking Through Construction

I moved all our kitchen things to the basement last weekend so I had to start my basement cooking early.  Jeff didn’t really understand why I wasn’t using the kitchen for my cooking, but I explained to him that I had all my cooking accoutrement downstairs already plus I was eager to see how difficult the whole process would be.

I decided to make an Instant Pot meal, which turned out really well!  I even made some of my Crispy Parmesan Zucchini to go along with it.  Yum!

I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to cook in the basement, but it was really no trouble at all!  I just thought of it like camping…with all my necessities of home.  The only thing I’m missing downstairs aside form an oven is my sink, but I’ve made do so far.  I have a plastic bucket I keep downstairs with me and I throw all my dirty dishes in it while I cook.  Then, after dinner, I take the bin upstairs and hand wash everything and let them dry.  In the morning, I take everything back downstairs and put all of it away.  Organization, people.  That’s the key.

My whole goal throughout this blog post series is to give you guys a list of recipes you can make without an oven.  I figured this would be good to know if you’re ever in this situation or, say, camping at a campsite that has electricity.  Sure, I know the whole novelty of camping is cooking over an open fire, but sometimes you’re too hungry to wait for the fire to get hot enough!  Let’s face it.  It’s also just a great way to share the recipes I’ve had success with in my Instant Pot because that’s what 90% of my meals are going to be!

These sandwiches were very yummy.  The key is choosing the right cut of meat.  I made a similar dish the night before and chose poorly.  Learning from my mistake, I paid closer attention to the recipe and looked for that particular cut of meat this time.  Yay!  It worked!

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Does anyone else have this guy’s voice running through you’re head when you make a good decision?  No?  Just me?  Ok then…

French Dip Subs
(adapted from this recipe)

  • 2.5 pound chuck roast
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 1 14 oz can of low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 6 soft rolls
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 6 slices of provolone cheese

Turn your Instant Pot on to saute and add your vegetable oil.  While the pot heats up, season your chuck roast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Brown the roast evenly on all sides and remove from the pot.

Add your onion to the pot and, if needed, a touch more oil.  Cook on saute for a few minutes until the onions are soft.  Next, add your red wine and cook until it reduces by half.  After that, you’ll want to add your beef broth and bay leaf.

e116506f-e73c-443d-a128-9a082b526fe8_1-a55483223214ff9d9a02b8e3af2c2045I have been loving Better Than Bouillon lately!  I never even knew about this product, but it’s awesome!  It’s basically broth that has been condensed all the way down to a paste.  When you’re ready to use it, you just mix it with boiling water.  I was lazy and used room temperature water, which worked just fine.  Telling you, people, you make due with what you have!  And, bonus, it comes in lots of flavors and is a fraction of the broth in the box!  I also happen to love those broth boxes too, but seriously this stuff is awesome.

After you add your broth and the bay leaf to the pot, hit Warm/Cancel to cancel the Saute.  Then put the lid on, making sure the pressure valve is set to sealing.  I sometimes forget this step!  Then hit the Meat/Stew button and let the pot do it’s thing for 100 minutes.  You’ll want the pot to let the pressure release naturally for about 25 minutes before you open the lid.  I was famished at this point and could barely wait for the pot to beep, let along the pressure to release on it’s own.  But I did it!  And then proceeded to eat about ¼ of the roast while I was preparing dinner!  It was soooo good.

Remove your roast from the pot CAREFULLY because it falls apart that easily.  Shred the beef with a couple forks.  Then strain the liquid in your pot to get all the onions, etc, out of the broth.  This is your au jus you’ll want for dipping.  At this point, I varied from the recipe I used a bit.  I put the beef back in the sauce to get the beef all juicy.

Meanwhile, I split the rolls (I got to bolillo rolls from Kroger, which we LOVE) and toasted them in the toaster.  When they were nice and golden, I spread the toast with a little butter, topped them with the beef, and finally with provolone.  I let the heat of the roast melt the cheese and served!  They were seriously delicious.

The boys enjoyed the sandwiches while watching a traditional February movie favorite…The Polar Express. 

According to Jake, not quite as delicious as the meal I made last night, but still.  Stay tuned to see the first pictures of kitchen demo.  Coming soon!!

It’s Like We’re Moving

Once I got the date for our kitchen renovation, things got real, fast.  Jeff got the call that the other fan and the light fixtures were in at the light store, so he picked those up Saturday morning.  Also Saturday morning, my new baby arrived!oven

I took Saturday off to get to work on the rest of the kitchen.  I spent most of the day cleaning out the remaining cabinets and organizing our workspace in the basement.  I can already tell it’s going to be an interesting few weeks!  I’m going to get a lot of stair credit on my Apple Watch, I’ll tell you that!

The first, and probably most important part, we tackled was the pantry.  I started by removing all of the food and organizing it into what I knew I’d need (oils, sauces, etc) and what I might not (waffle mix, lemon curd…you know…those non-everyday items).foodNo, this is nowhere near all of it.

Jake was a HUGE help!  He removed the items he could reach and put them on the counter for me.  Then I went through and organized things.  Eventually we switched and he started “organizing”.jake1I had tons of plastic bins from over the years (I told you I liked containers!), so I organized things into bins where I could.  Jake loves thing organized (unless it’s his toys), so he really enjoyed helping! jake2Once we had everything pulled out of the pantry and organized, it was time to haul the stuff downstairs to set up.  I have a bunch of these shelving units in the basement with bins of things on them, so I was able to clear off and stack the bins and move one of the shelves over to my work area to act as a pantry.jake3I have had “overstock” (yep…you can tell I work retail) in my basement for years (on the lefthand shelves).  When I see a good deal on something, I stock up.  So adding another shelving unit of food just seemed the right thing to do!

I will be cooking in a “make shift” kitchen throughout the process.  My personal challenge is to only eat out once a week.  The boys might eat out twice because I work one night a week, but other than that, we are STAYING IN!  The more money we save, the sooner we can take on the next project!

cooking-setupI’m pretty proud of my little “kitchen”.  I can’t really have the fridge items downstairs with me, which is the only thing I’m really not looking forward to, but I’m pretty sure I have everything else I need!

toasterI love my toaster oven.  It’s good size and I can cook a small pan of lasagna or stuff shells in it.  I’m pretty sure I won’t have to use it nearly as much as I would have before I got my Instant Pot though!  It would be pictured, but I’m making Mississippi Pot Roast for dinner, so it’s up in the kitchen currently.

olive-oilMy “workspace” has my most used items within arms reach.  My olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and DLM spice rub is right there as well as some small mixing bowls and measuring cups.

cooking-itemsThe rest of my utensils and important accoutrement are in the stacked drawers that sit on the table. Ignore the labels…these were from my very brief days of scrapbooking.  I was too lazy to remove them.  The bottom drawer has various baking things in it.  The next two drawers are filled with my spices…I told you I was addicted!  The second to top drawer has measuring cups and spoons, whisks, spatulas, mixing spoons, etc in it.  And finally all the tall bottles are at the top.  You never know.  I might actually like this set up!  I won’t have to bustle around the kitchen quite as much!

coffeeOf course I couldn’t forget my coffee maker!  I’m not really looking forward to going downstairs for my morning cup of joe, but we all must make sacrifices.  Maybe it will get me in the habit of exercising first thing in the morning!  (Wow…I sound lazy!)under-tableUnder the table, I have some larger mixing bowls and other kitchen items on the left, my big bin of baking things in the middle, and all the plastic wrap, bags, etc on the right.

jacobAt this point, I had spent a good few hours in the kitchen and basement.  Jake was tired of helping so he decided to drive his truck around and pout, waiting for me to play with him.  I should have sent him to his buddy’s house so he wasn’t so bored!

Finally the kitchen was cleaned out and our basement kitchen was assembled.  Here is our final look at the kitchen I’ve been cooking in (and wishing to update) for over 7 years:

ceilingThis is the main space I’m in when I’m in the kitchen.  I spend most of my time cutting and prepping my food on both of these counters.  One thing I love about our house is the tall ceilings.  Our new kitchen is going to have cabinets that go all the way up to the crown molding above our fridge.kitchenThis is the opposite side of our kitchen.  You can’t tell in this picture, but the space between these counters and the previous counters is too great.  It was too small for an island and felt bigger than necessary.  Our new kitchen will be straightening out the counter and removing pretty much everything thats not attached to the counter.  Our upper cabinet (complete with its crooked door) and pantry will be gone and the counter will be turned into an island.  I’ll be very excited to get rid of the “bar height” counter. No one could ever use it because the builders made it way too high.barThis will all be gone!  So long, ugly bar stools!sinkGod, I hate our white cabinets and blue counters.  So dang ugly!  We are going to have a medium brown cabinets and grey/black counters.  It’s hard for me to describe the color, but it’s very pretty.  We love it.  We will also have creamish colored tile on the floor and the same color subway tile as our backsplash.fanYou can baaaaarely see our cabinets and counters on the left side of this picture.  In the new kitchen we will be extending the cabinets by TWO pantries!  The cabinets will go nearly all the way to the windows!  And there’s another one of those ugly fans!  Good riddance!  We will also be parting with our kitchen table.  Jeff got this table when he was in college so it’s a good 15 years old!  It’s a nice table but won’t really go with our new “look”.

So that was my Saturday.  I feel accomplished and excited, though I am a little apprehensive to see how this whole cooking in the basement thing goes.  It’s kind of like camping!  Wish us luck!  Now to go see Fifty Shades Darker.  😛

 

 

Declutter

T-4 days until the renovation starts.  I’m overwhelmingly excited and nervous at the same time.  I’m trying to imagine what a month (or more) of cooking is going to look like.  Not only do I cook at least 6 nights a week, but I also make breakfasts and lunches at home too.  Especially with us trying to save as much as possible and not going out to eat hardly at all, this renovation is going to be a challenge.  In truth, I’m kind of looking forward to the challenge…I think.

This past week with emphasis on the weekends that bookended it, Jeff and I (but mostly Jeff) have spent countless hours looking at fans and light fixtures.  Apparently most lighting companies don’t bother to create fans and light fixtures that coordinate because it’s rare to have a fan and a chandelier in the same room.  Since we are having an open concept kitchen with both in the same room, we wanted them to look like they went together.  Even if we just got the same color fan blades and the same color metal, we wanted them to coordinate at least somewhat.  He seriously spent all day Sunday scouring the internet for the perfect fixtures.  Every time we would think we landed on a decision, something would change our minds.  They were too expensive, one of us didn’t like the design, maybe it’s not the right color, it’s not big enough, it’s too big.  On and on and on.

Jeff had President’s Day off and wound up at a local shop to discuss our dilemma.  We had decided we liked one brand in particular,  Kichler, which apparently is quite popular.  The local store had a whole catalog of Kichler products and, turns out, they make coordinating pieces!  Score!  Within a couple hours, Jeff had decided on a couple options and sent them to me for the final decision.  We were finally done!  Signed, sealed, delivered.  Well, at least one was delivered Wednesday night.  And we couldn’t wait to install it!

But first, we had to remove this gaudy monstrosity: fanUgh.  Vomit.  I apologize to anyone who has fans like this is your house.  You do you.  This is not me.  It took Jeff and I three hours to remove this fan and replace it with the new one, but it’s up!  And I love it!  fan2And yes I helped in more ways than reading the instructions and handing Jeff screws.

Since I am off Thursday mornings, it was my goal to get as much of the kitchen packed up as possible.  I decided to turn on This Is Us while I worked.  (Side note: isn’t that show amazing?!  I had missed the last five episodes so over the last few days I decided to catch up on it.  What a tearjerker!!)

Slowly but surely I made my way around the kitchen going through cabinets and drawers, systematically packing things up, throwing things away, and saving things for use until our renovations start.  I have discovered a couple things about myself through this process:

I enjoy spices.  I mean really enjoy spices.  I remember my friend, Chrissy, came over to get some tips on how to make a lasagna and she was saying how she had to go buy some spices like garlic and onion powders.  I chuckled and opened my spice cabinet (yes I have an entire cabinet devoted to spices) to pour some of mine into little baggies for her.  When she saw my spice cabinet, she about fainted.  She could not believe how many I had!  What’s funny is that was several years ago and I think my spices had babies since then because the collection has at least doubled.spices3I couldn’t bear to part with them quite yet and i couldn’t decide which ones I was going to need next month.  So my solution is to look for a box at work tonight that allows me to keep the spices together and easily reachable next month.  Until then, they live here now.

plasticI have a soft spot for plastic containers.  This is in no way a surprise to Jeff.  He actually complains about this on an almost daily basis.  He says I have too many, but we always have leftovers that I want to keep.  I also take my lunch to work and it’s normally not something I can put in a baggie.  Whatever.  He likes them.

I like gadgets.  This isn’t even all of them.  I got rid of several a while back.  By “got rid of”, I mean I moved them from the kitchen to a plastic container in the basement in case I ever needed it again.  I mean, when does one “need” an avocado slicer?  Isn’t that just called a knife?

As I was going through the kitchen, I was reminded just how many shortcuts they made when building!!  Jeff had a door guy over to look at our patio door and he commented quite a few times on how they shortcutted a ton.  I really do love my house, but I have noticed things ever since day one that they could have done differently.  Our windows in the kitchen look like they were put in by a kindergartener.  It’s just sloppy work.  Hopefully this company we hired is much more professional.  I can tell you right now if they aren’t Jeff will raise holy hell about it.

After about three hours of work, my kitchen is at least 75% packed.  I didn’t touch the food in the pantry (mainly because I’m still trying to decide what I’m going to do with everything) and I still have some dishes we will use between now and Monday.  But the rest of it sits in boxes on my kitchen table.

I decided to take a well deserved break after to relax and write this blog post.  Now I have to convince myself to move those boxes to the basement so the boys have a place to eat dinner tonight!  Maybe this can count as my cardio…

 

Crispy Parmesan Zucchini

img_9050I have this love/hate relationship with vegetables.  Most of the time, if I’m being honest with myself, I hate them.  At least most of them.  I’m looking at you, broccoli.  I blame my mom and her weekly chicken broccoli casserole for that one.  😉 Love you, mom!

But…when I find a way I love them…I really love them!  I already wrote about my Zucchini Crisps, but since then I have found a new, better, easier way to make zucchini.  A way in which I could eat them every day and not get tired of them!  There are but two ingredients (four if you count salt and pepper) in my little love affair food.

Zucchini and parmesan.  That’s it!  Guys, it’s seriously so good.  And so EASY!  It’s perfect for those busy weeknights when you have to throw a side dish together quickly.

img_9052Crispy Parmesan Zucchini

1 medium zucchini
¼ cup parmesan (give or take)
Salt and pepper
Optional:  other seasonings to give different flavors to the zucchini.  My favorites are Sunny Paris and Sweet Curry from Penzeys

Preheat oven to 400°.  Cut zucchini into ¼-⅛” rounds depending on your preference.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and optional seasoning if you desire.

Place rounds on a nonstick cookie sheet.  Sprinkle each round with a generous pinch of parmesan cheese.  Full disclosure, I don’t ever measure so it may or may not be ¼ cup.  I like a small mound of cheese on my zucchini so it melts down and gets all crispy when it cools.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the zucchini is tender.  I have cooked it for 10 minutes and the zucchini is still a little chewy as well as the 15 minutes, which makes the bottom of the zucchini somewhat more caramelized and crispy.  Either way, it’s a winner!

 

 

 

Hiking Adventures

I’ve been trying my hardest to get healthy in 2017.  I wasn’t terribly unhealthy in the past, but I definitely let go of my healthy habits recently.  It’s resulted in a nearly 40 pound weight gain from my ideal weight from 2010.

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Aren’t we cute?  😛

Part of my motivation for losing weight and getting healthy in addition to living longer and being able to keep up with my son is the fact that I’m matron of honor in my best friend’s wedding on April 8th.

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The dress I ordered is just a leeeeeetle too snug so I’d like to tone up just a bit and lose just a smidge of weight between now and then.  My goal is to stay under my calories and to move 30 minutes extra every day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what kinds of exercises I want to focus on.  I’ve tried a few things in the past and my two favorites are Zumba and walking.  I’m not a runner.  I’m just not.  I hate it.  But walking is awesome!  I love putting my headphones in and pounding the pavement.  I do some of my best thinking while I walk!

Then I started thinking about how I could get Jake involved more.  We’ve introduced him to the world of video games which is a little scary to be honest.  I love me some Zelda and Mario and want him to have fun with me while we play, but I want to avoid him becoming so digitally dependent to have fun.

We don’t get outside enough in my opinion.  Our options are limited right now with the cold Ohio winter but, when it gets warmer, I want him to want to choose to go outside instead of stay indoors.

img_8962editedThis weekend was 60º on Saturday so we went hiking at our local arboretum!  We had been to another park once last year and he only lasted about ¼ mile before asking to be carried.  He’s 40 pounds now…I can carry him but only for short distances so that’s not really an option.  Part of me was hesitant to take him with me, but I figured I can’t not try, right?

img_8967editedAt our arboretum there are three paths:  the RED one is .6 miles, the BLUE is 1.1, and the YELLOW is 1.8.  I asked Jake which one he wanted to start with, explaining the differences. He chose the red (with my persuasion) to “see how things go”.

We started down the red path and I explained how to tell which trail to take based on the markers.  I think it became a game to him to find the red dots.  Every time we came to a fork, I asked him which way to go and he would shout “Mommy! It’s that way!”

img_8964editedA couple times we came across a muddy section and he would start to whine about getting dirty.  I would say “You’re a boy! You’re supposed to get dirty!”  Then I started thinking about it…why is it OK for boys to get dirty, but not girls?  So I changed it to “You’re a kid! You’re supposed to get dirty!”  Once I had to pick him up and carry him over a particularly deep muddy section, but other than that he was a trooper!  He even started splashing in the “muddy puddles” (thank you, Peppa) towards the end.

img_8970editedWe got to the end of the red path and I asked if he wanted to go back to the car or keep hiking.  He wanted to keep hiking!  So I asked which path…if he wanted to go on the red one again or try another one…and he picked the blue path.  I kept asking if he was sure and double checking that he wasn’t tired, but he was a trooper and insisted he was up for it.

love the blue path.  It goes down a little hill and past a babbling brook.  We even saw a deer on this hike!

img_8992editedI think we took a wrong turn eventually (this path isn’t as clearly marked) because we ended up only walking about 1.7 miles including the walk to and from the parking lot, but that’s OK.  I was still proud of my little buddy for completing it!

img_8965editedThe best part?  He keeps asking when we can go hiking again!  I can’t wait to check out some other parks near us…I hear there’s great hiking all over Ohio!

 

Cooking Through Construction

We are ½ of the way through February.  Can you believe it?  I certainly can’t.  But I also can’t wait for March because…my kitchen is getting renovated!  Not just new paint and cleaning out a couple cabinets.  I’m talking removing walls, y’all!  I’m beyond excited!  Here’s what we’re working with right now:

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Ugh.  Ugly.  I hate it.  It doesn’t look terrible in the picture, but what you can’t see is all the scratches on the countertop lip, the “paint” coming off the cabinets, the crappy quality of the product, the cabinets not staying screwed into the frames, and basically just the general disfuctionality of the kitchen.  My house was one of those development houses where they were just trying to get the work done in as quick of a time frame with the cheapest stuff they could find.  Not anymore!

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Like I said, we are taking down walls, adding cabinets, getting a new oven (EEEKKK!!!), painting, new countertops, new sink, new backsplash, EVEN MORE counter space and cabinet space, raising the height of the cabinets, new floors, the works!!!

Basically everything in this picture will be gone or moved:

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The one thing about this whole process I’m not really looking forward to is the whole being without a kitchen to cook in thing.  I cook dinner at least 6 nights a week, but most of the time I cook every night.  Even on the nights I’m not going to be home, I try to leave my boys with something they can heat up.

I’m combatting that by making a dinner plan for the month of March (they think our reno will take about 4 weeks) which will include a LOT of freezer meals and Instant Pot recipes.  I’m planning on starting a new series on here called “Cooking Through Construction” which will focus these oven-free foods.  Follow along with me while I experience this adventure!

Step one?  Replacing our couch.  I know what you’re thinking…how is the couch part of the kitchen renovation?  We are basically redoing our main living space.  Our house is open concept already and, with the removal of the wall separating the kitchen from the living room, that openness is going to be even more vast.

Our old couch was in sad, sad shape and we were looking for more “adult” furniture.

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So we upgraded to this beauty:

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She’s so comfy! We are still working on side tables, lamps, fans, decor, etc for the space, but step one is complete!

couch1Stay tuned for step two! (Ugh…we have so much work to do!)

If anyone is great at decorating, let me know.  I suck at it.

What’s New

Confession:  I have probably 15 blog post topics just sitting in my WordPress desktop waiting for me to type them out.  I have an additional 4 or 5 sets of pictures on my iPhone waiting to be loaded into WordPress.  Most of them are recipes, which makes them easy to postpone, as I’m going to do today.

See, I was going to share with you my chili recipe as it’s Super Bowl time.  In fact, as I type this I can taste remnants of the chili on my tongue as I sit watching the Super Bowl commercials and waiting for Lada Gaga.  I would LOVE to be one of those people who live for the game but I’m not.  Never have been.  Turn on some Kentucky Wildcats basketball and we’ve got another story.  But football?  Yeah, no.img_8398

Speaking of basketball, did I mention my little guy is playing?  He had his last game two weekends ago.  He and his buddy, Anderson, had so much fun!img_8816

But this post is not about sports.  It’s about what’s new at the grocery store!  At least what’s new that I saw today.  There are tons of things I missed I’m sure.  In fact, I wasn’t even looking for these items!  But man I’m glad I found them.

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Chobani Meze Dip

I have been looking for this dip for a while now.  I really didn’t know anything about it other than it’s Chobani, one of my favorite companies.  I have tried all sorts of Greek yogurt brands in the past and I always come back to Chobani.  For a while I was a Fage fan, but recently I’ve decided the filling is too sweet.  I love Chobani black cherry in particular.  So when I saw these dips on Ibotta (a money saving app), I wanted to try them.  I picked up the Smoked Onion Parmesan flavor today. They also have Roasted Red Pepper, Three Pepper Salsa, and Chili Lime.

I saw all the delicious flavors and then I saw something that REALLY caught my eye.  TWENTY FIVE CALORIES IN TWO TABLESPOONS.  Seriously?  No.  No, seriously?  I am in my best friend’s wedding in two months and my bridesmaid’s dress is just a smidge too tight, so I’m trying to loose a few pounds.  When I saw a creamy, flavorful dip for only 25 calories per serving, I had to try it.  And you know what?  It’s amazing!  So delicious!  I can’t wait to try the other flavors!  I can definitely see myself having this product on hand at all times.  I had it on crackers but mini bell peppers and carrots would be great too.

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Stonefire Naan Crisps
I have been increasingly interested in trying Indian food lately.  I’ve had a little here and there, but I’ve never been to an Indian restaurant.  I keep trying to convince my Indian pharmacy manager to take me to a local restaurant so I can get an education with my meal, but our schedules never really mesh up.  One of these days…

So, instead, I keep finding Indian-inspired items to tide me over.  Take these crisps for example.  I love naan…I still haven’t tried making my own, though I have a recipe in my Pinterest file that I’m excited to try.  Maybe after the kitchen renovation is over.  These naan crisps are light, flavorful, and the perfect vehicle for the Chobani dip!  The Tandoori spice ones are particularly delicious.  They are dangerous though.  I could kill a bag in about 10 minutes (or less).  The food scale and portion control are my friends lately.

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Snack Factory Dessert Thins

I can’t say enough good things about Snack Factory.  They started it all with the Original Pretzel Crisps, which are delicious by themselves.  Then they started adding flavors.  Everything, Honey Mustard and Onion, Garlic Parmesan.  All the flavors are good.  Not to mention that time they dipped the pretzels in peanut butter and chocolate.  Talk about killing a bag in one sitting!

Now, they have introduced Dessert Thins.  These cookie-like crackers are sweet and delicious.  You get four 2×2 squares for 130 calories and they come in the yummy flavors of brownie, chocolate chip, or, my personal favorite, lemon tart.  The lemon ones would be awesome topped with raspberry jam and some candied lemon rind!

Damn.  Now I can’t stop thinking about those peanut butter coated pretzels.  😐

halo-top16365-2500pxHalo Top Ice Cream
OK, so Halo Top isn’t new per se, but I know there are still some of you who haven’t heard of it.  Basically it’s high protein, low calorie ice cream.  I know what you’re thinking…uh…gross!  But it’s a good alternative to the high calorie stuff when you’re trying to eat better and lose weight.  You can have an entire pint of ice cream for less than 300ish calories!  Though, take my advice and split the pint in half.  Due to the high protein content, this ice cream can be extremely filling!  They have some really yummy flavors, but my favorite is the…wait for it…peanut butter cup.  I know.  Shocker.

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What have you discovered at the grocery lately that you’re in love with?  Not like I need any more deliciousness in my house…