Road Trippin’ in a Van + Travel Snacks

Today my coworkers and I drove up to Ohio for a work conference.  Last week, this is the conversation I had with Andrew regarding the trip:

Catherine: Just a reminder, we leave Wednesday for that conference in Ohio.
Andrew:  Oh, yeah.  Do you need me to take you to the airport?
Catherine: Oh, no!  We are driving the church van.
Andrew:  Your driving to Ohio??

Oh, yes.  We spent 10 hours a 15-passenger van and traveled in three different states today, but we arrived in one piece. 😀

We will be away from home for four days (including travel days), and in the spirit of setting myself up to make healthy choices, I packed plenty of snacks for the time away.  We’ll eat breakfasts at the hotel, lunches at the conference, and dinners out at restaurants, and while I’m sure the food will be excellent, you just never know what the produce situation will be.  And four days with insufficient produce sounds like a headache to me.

travelfood

I packed:

~Bananas
~Clementines
~GoGo Squeez Fast Fruit
~Trail Mix
~Almond milk
~Energy bars (not pictured)

For traveling I love having “pre-packaged” fruit like bananas and clementines that can be thrown in a bag without any special preparation.  I was excited to find the Fast Fruits too–they’re essentially pureed fruit in a pouch!

Additionally I packed my running shoes and scoped out the hotel fitness center situation (there is a gym!), plus found some “do anywhere” workouts that I can do in the hotel room.  Preparation leads to healthier decisions.

After we arrived this evening we settled into our rooms, went out to dinner (our travel meals were pretty good today–Cracker Barrel and Outback Steakhouse, both of which have quality, healthy options!), then turned in for the night.  I am glad to be out of the van and looking forward to the conference starting tomorrow (Thursday)!

-What food do you pack when traveling?

-What tips do you have for working out on the road?

Valentine’s Day 2014

Valentine’s Day was full of good food and love for us this year.  My mom gave us a heart-shaped egg cooker, so Friday morning Andrew fried us some heart eggs to go with our banana muffins from earlier in the week:

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I met my good friend Kate for lunch at The Daily (the restaurant where Andrew and I had our awesome date night last week).  Kate and I realized that, for various reasons, we’ve had lunch together on Valentine’s Day for the last three years.  New tradition 🙂  We went to The Daily because I really needed some more of those Brussels sprouts:

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Mmm 🙂

After work I went for a 30-minute run–the first in my new running shoes that I bought last week!  I’m not usually a pink girl, but these are the best shoes for me, and this is the current color.  It’s tough sometimes, but I never pick running shoes based on the look!  It was festive for a Valentine’s Day run, anyway.

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Friday was a beautiful day here–I’m pretty sure the temperature was in the upper 50’s when I ran, but not all the snow had melted yet.  It feels a little funny to run in shorts with snow on the ground, but I’m not complaining!

After my run I took a quick shower and was getting ready for our Valentine’s date when Andrew arrived home with these goodies:

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Beautiful flowers and all-natural chocolate:  he knows the way to my heart 🙂

We turned to the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora and began prepping dinner.  While cooking, we enjoyed some festive pink cocktails that were quite delicious: cranberry-pomegranate juice, passion fruit rum, and lime (plus tonic water for Andrew).  Amazing.

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We tag-teamed the cooking and ended up with this very tasty dinner: steak, garlic green beans, and baked sweet potatoes.

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(I only ate about half of that giant steak :)) 

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After taking our time and really enjoying dinner and good conversation, we started watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s on Netflix.  Neither of us had seen it, and it was so good!  Midway through the movie, once our food had digested some, we brought dessert to the living room:

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Dark chocolate fondue with strawberries, marshmallows, bananas, and rice crispie treats

We made the fondue in our Crock-pot “Little Dipper”– chocolate chips + almond milk + vanilla.  We plugged it in while we were making dinner, and it was ready to go by the dessert course!

Overall it was a fantastic Valentine’s Day.  Oh, and in case anyone is wondering, the day before V-day we did fulfill #4 on this list:

IMG_4104We built a very lovely snow woman in our neighbors’ driveway. 😀

Have a great Monday!

-How did you spend Valentine’s Day?
-What was the highlight of your weekend?

-When buying running shoes, how much does appearance affect your choice?

Snowmageddon Chicken Stew and Other Snow Adventures

We have another snow day here in Richmond!  In anticipation of the snow, which started yesterday around 4 PM, I felt compelled to cook a lot of food.  (If that sounds familiar, yes, I did the same thing a few weeks ago.  It must be a primal survival instinct.)

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For dinner–and what will be dinner for at least two more days–I made a big pot of Snowmageddon Chicken & Rice Stew.  What makes it Snowmageddon stew rather than regular chicken stew?  The chicken is only from drumsticks because when I went to the grocery store in all the storm preparation craziness yesterday, there was no chicken remaining except drumsticks.  I am not exaggerating.  The poultry case was empty except for a few packages of chicken legs.  Chicken legs it is. 🙂

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Snowmageddon Chicken & Rice Stew
10 drumsticks (~3 lb)
8 whole carrots
4 large celery sticks
8 oz green beans
8 oz mushrooms
5 large kale leaves
2 cloves garlic
1.5 c brown rice
2 qts chicken broth
Salt, pepper, thyme, smoked paprika, rosemary, onion powder
Olive oil

1.  Chop all veggies into bite-sized pieces.  2. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and brown; add garlic and saute for about a minute.  3.  Add all remaining ingredients, including whole, raw chicken legs.  Stir.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer.  4. Check chicken in about 15 minutes.  When it’s cooked through, take all drumsticks out of pot.  Remove chicken from each leg (yes, this is very tedious), discarding the bones and putting meat back in the pot.  5.  Continue to let simmer, partially covered, until rice is cooked through (or longer).

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Best if eaten while sitting under blankets on the couch 🙂

The legs definitely give the stew more flavor than we would have gotten using breasts, so that’s a plus!

While the stew was simmering, Andrew and I tag-teamed a batch of banana muffins.  We used a recipe from a gluten-free, dairy-free cookbook we have, and they turned out pretty great:

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We added a cinnamon-brown sugar crumble on top…not the prettiest, but they taste wonderful!

After dinner and dessert, we suited-up and played in the still-falling snow.  We took our sleds and found the best sledding hills in the neighborhood, threw a few snowballs, and give our inner-children free reign for an hour or so. 😀

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Eating snow + Snyoga

We warmed up and capped the night with two mugs of green chai tea:

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Andrew and I are both home from work today and have one snow adventure planned so far: making an igloo.  🙂  Have a great snow day, everyone!  Stay safe and warm!

-Do you have a snow day today?
-When was the last time you went sledding?
Do you cook way more food than you actually need when it’s about to snow?

Weekend Highlights: The Daily Kitchen and Bar

When given the choice, Andrew and I generally choose to eat dinner on the early side–6:30ish.  I think Andrew would eat the moment he walked in the door at 5:30 if he could. 😉  Friday night he had a basketball game (he plays in a church league) at 6:30, so we planned on having a late date night.

After the game–they won, and Andrew was on fire!–we headed to a restaurant in the city called The Daily Kitchen & Bar.  We’d been once before for lunch and determined that it was definitely worth a second trip for dinner.  As it turns out, we were right; after Friday this restaurant has moved to the top of our favorites list, but I’ll get into that more in a moment.  When we arrived at 8:30, we were told the wait would be an hour–crazy-late for us old folks–so we gave them my phone number (they text when the table is ready so you can explore the area) and walked up the street to our favorite Thai restaurant… for appetizers 😀

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Wonton soup for me (with all the scallions given to Andrew), and tofu vegetable soup for A.

Just as we were finishing our soup, I received the text that our table was ready, so we headed back down the street to The Daily.  According to their website (and printed on the first page of the menus) :

“We strive to serve foods that are not only delicious but also health conscious, environmentally friendly, and socially responsible.  We use organic, all natural, local, and sustainable ingredients as much as possible while still keeping our prices fair.  In addition, we also offer an extensive selection of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free items.”

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In other words, this is the restaurant of our dreams.

We started with drinks:

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Pomegranate mojito for me, cucumber martini for Andrew.  They were both delicious;  mine tasted like straight juice, which is exactly how I want a mixed drink to taste. 🙂  Just as we were about to order our entrees, Andrew spotted something great on the appetizer menu: gluten-free calamari.  We love calamari, but it’s most always breaded with wheat flour, so Andrew can never have it.  Despite the fact that we’d already had soup as an appetizer, we knew we needed to try this.

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Oh. My. Gosh.  The calamari was amazing.  It came with two sauces: a chipotle lemon vinaigrette and a garlic toum.  Both were fantastic.

For the entrees, Andrew ordered the blackened tuna sandwich (GF bread) with sweet potato fries and crispy Brussels sprouts.  I had the organic roasted chicken with whipped potatoes, asparagus, and a lemon herb pan sauce.

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Everything was swoon-worthy.  I don’t know how else to put it.  Every time we took a bite of something we felt so much joy that we’d found such a great restaurant!  Let’s talk about the Brussels sprouts for a minute.  The next time we go, I will be very tempted to order a few bowls of them and nothing else.  The waiter told us that the sauce is a lemon-something gastrique, and somehow, the sprouts were perfectly soft on the inside yet delightfully crispy on the outside.  How do they do that?  And somehow, they tasted like egg rolls–and I mean that in a very good way!  Who wouldn’t want to eat vegetables that taste like egg rolls?  Oh, man.

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Andrew, give me your best “Most Interesting Man in the World.”

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Monster-hand spoofs 😉

As you might imagine, after two appetizers and drinks neither of us had much room left in our stomachs, so we brought home a lot of leftovers, which were just as tasty the next day.  If you are in Richmond and looking for a restaurant with a. amazing food b. vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free options c.organic, socially responsible food, or d. all of the above, you must try The Daily Kitchen & Bar in Carytown!

The rest of the weekend was a nice mix of fun and relaxation.  Saturday morning we went to the gym together–after Friday’s dog bite incident I just took a relatively slow walk on the treadmill.  The bite mark is still pretty gross, but it doesn’t hurt as much to move today.  Progress 😉

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Saturday night we had a hilarious game night with some friends.  Have you ever played The Game of Things?  It’s my favorite…and not just because it’s the only game I can almost always win.  🙂  We had church and youth group on Sunday, with a lot of lounging in between, plus a phone call to my dad for his birthday!  All in all it was a great weekend.

I’m off now to attempt a run!  I hope to encounter exactly zero animals, wild or otherwise.

-What did you do this weekend?
-Are you an early or late dinner-eater?

-Have you ever played Things?

Spinach, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Lasagna (Gluten-Free)

Sometimes you decide to cook a certain meal for dinner because you are craving a specific flavor.  You can’t get your mind off that one meal, and any other meal will not bring you the same satisfaction.  It’s decided: you will have that for dinner.  You know what I’m talking about, right?

And sometimes you decide to cook a certain meal because your husband opened the wrong can for a recipe earlier in the week, and now you have to use its contents before it goes bad.  We fell into this category this week. 😉

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Doh!

On Saturday Andrew opened a can of tomato sauce rather than diced tomatoes when we were making our Brunswick stew, so we decided to use it with some kind of pasta dish this week.  I didn’t feel like making plain ol’ spaghetti, and I recently found gluten-free brown rice lasagna noodles on manager’s special at Kroger, so I thought I’d give it a try!

We only used ingredients we had on hand, so you can tweak it depending on what’s in your refrigerator.  It’s not technically dairy-free, but if you are like Andrew and can tolerate goat cheese but not cow cheese, this may be a great recipe for you!

Spinach, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Lasagna

1 lb ground bison (or beef)
2 15-oz can tomato sauce
8 oz sliced mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c fresh spinach
5-6 large basil leaves, chopped
Salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper, onion powder to taste
Olive oil
6 oz goat cheese
Almond milk (splash)
9 GF lasagna noodles

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and brown.  Remove mushrooms from pot.  2.  Add more olive oil if needed, then add ground bison to the pot, and cook until brown.  3. Make room in center of pot, and add garlic.  Cook until fragrant.  4.  Stir and add tomato sauce, mushrooms, basil, and spices.  5.  Reduce heat, and let simmer.  6.  Meanwhile, cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions.  Preheat oven to 350.  Add a splash of almond milk to goat cheese and mix well to give goat cheese a creamier consistency.  7. Add spinach to sauce and stir.  8.  In a glass baking dish (9×13) layer sauce, noodles, cheese.  Repeat for 3 layers and finish with sauce on top. 9.  Cover and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove cover and bake for 10 more minutes.

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Oh man.  This tasted so good.  I am not ashamed to say that we ate half the pan that night!  I’m a huge fan of brown rice noodles too–I like that they are whole grain but taste exponentially better than whole wheat noodles.  The texture is way better than regular pasta too.  So good.

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Mmm 🙂

While I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of having pasta when Andrew opened that can Saturday, it did push me to try a new recipe–and the end result was fantastic!  We will be making this dish more often!

Have a great Thursday!

-What are you cooking tonight?
-Have you ever been forced to cook something because you accidentally opened a can/package?  😀
-Do you prefer brown rice, whole wheat, or regular noodles?

Double Bean Brunswick Stew {Stewsday & Less Meat Monday}

Last Tuesday I cooked my first whole chicken, and it provided dinner for Andrew and me on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  We saved the bones, and on Saturday I used them to make chicken stock.  With the stock and about half of a breast that was left, we decided to make Brunswick stew for dinner that night.  I turned to the internet to find a basic recipe and quickly discovered that there are hundreds of variations with very little consistency.  So we improvised.

This recipe is great for Less Meat Monday or Stewsday!

Double Bean Brunswick Stew

1 qt chicken stock/broth
3 oz chicken, cooked and shredded
1 15-oz can black beans
1 15-oz can white beans
frozen carrots (1 bag)
frozen corn (1 bag)
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes 
4 oz tomato paste
3-4 c fresh spinach
1 pat of butter
Worcestershire sauce (generous splash)
White wine vinegar (splash)
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste 

The complicated steps:  Put everything except spinach in a large pot; stir and heat.  A few minutes before serving, add spinach and stir.

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As is the case with most stews, the longer you let it simmer, the better it will taste.  We used frozen and canned veggies because we were short on time, but you can certainly use fresh produce if you have more time to let it cook!  You can also add more water if it’s too thick for your taste buds.  Andrew really doesn’t like Lima beans–something I consider a staple in Brunswick stew–so we used other varieties.  You can leave out the chicken entirely if you’d like, or you can add more!  It’s a very adaptable recipe.

All in all this was a very good, easy, quick stew.  I love soups and stews because they are a great way to squeeze in veggies and swap beans for meat without really noticing the difference.  Speaking of foods with lots of fiber, if you’re looking for a more filling, tasty alternative to those popular detox cleanses, this may be your ticket.  It, uh, keeps things moving the way they are supposed to.  😉

I am trying to be less wasteful when it comes to food, so I am very pleased with the fact that we are using every bit of that chicken!  In addition to the three nights we ate the meat, the stew fed us Saturday, Monday, and there’s enough remaining for one more meal.  Heck, yes!

Happy Stewsday to all!

-Have you ever made Brunswick stew?  What do you consider to be the key ingredients?

Warm Days in February + Homemade Baked Beans

Looking out my window now at the cold, gray rain, it’s hard to believe that yesterday was uncharacteristically warm and sunny for February.  Andrew and I took advantage of the beautiful day by heading to a park for a walk.

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The lake, which had clearly been frozen solid, was beginning to thaw, and it was beautiful.  I loved watching the ducks waddle from the ice into the water. 🙂  We spent about 45 minutes walking around the trails and the lake, and it was a much-welcomed change of scenery from the gym workouts we’ve been doing lately due to the cold weather!

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Crazy Eyes: we got ’em

 As we were heading back to the car, we ran into one of the girls in the youth group that I work with.  Naturally, Andrew decided to throw a snowball at her and her friend.

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Sorry, Brooke;  it’s never a fair fight with that guy. 😉

Later in the evening, we went to our friends Evan and Kristina’s house to watch the Super Bowl with friends.  I had decided to make baked beans (from scratch) in the Crock Pot to bring as our contribution.  Despite the fact that I’d started cooking them at 8:30 AM, they were still not quite done nine hours later, so we brought the whole Crock Pot to the party to allow them more cooking time.  😀

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Navy beans (soaked over night and rinsed) + bacon + brown sugar + molasses + Dijon mustard + salt + pepper + onion powder + water

The flavor was really good, but they never got quite soft enough.  Any advice from more experienced Crock Pot users?  Is that just the texture of beans that don’t come from a can?  I’d love to give them another shot… once we finish the half-gallon of this batch still left in our fridge. 😉

Have a great Monday!

-What was your favorite Super Bowl snack/dish from last night?
-If you had a warm day yesterday like us, how did you spend it?
-What’s the best thing you did this weekend?