Thursday Thoughts: Denver-Bound

Some random thoughts from the week on this cold Thursday morning:

1. It’s currently 4:53 AM.  Andrew and I are flying to Denver early today to visit his sister, Jenny!  You can follow our adventures on Instagram: #storeytime.  😀

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2. Last weekend the cold weather finally killed our pepper plants–they held out far longer than we expected.  We harvested the peppers that were still growing, and this was our haul:

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Isn’t that crazy??  We’ve already eaten some, given away a few, and stored the rest in the freezer for the winter.  Heck.  Yes.

3. Speaking of things that are at least a little bit granola, I had the strange opportunity to wear this to work one day this week:

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The pants were my mom’s in the 60’s/70’s–aren’t they awesome?  I sent my mom this picture and said, “What do you think: was I born in the wrong decade?”  and she said, “Oh, I am sure of it!”  😀

4. We made this meal this week:  jerk pork with mango salsa, garlic-sauteed green beans, and the most delicious oven-roasted potatoes.  Yum, yum, yum.

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5. This sandwich-hater has been attempting sandwiches this week, and I think I found one I can handle:

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 Dark chocolate peanut butter and banana on Ezekiel whole grain bread.  I’m still not sure about the whole bread thing, but overall this sandwich is pretty tasty. 🙂

Well, those are my random 5 AMish thoughts for today.  Have a great Thursday!

Fellow sandwich haters: are there any sandwiches that you actually do like?
Have you ever seen so many beautiful peppers in your life? 😉

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The Sandwich-Hater’s Lunch: Black Bean Salad

As you likely know by now, I am a sandwich-hater down to my bones.  I hadn’t posted on the topic or shared a sandwich-less lunch recipe in a while, but my my sister’s excellent guest post last week inspired me.  After a week on vacation eating a lot of heavy foods (hello, bacon every morning), I have been craving fresh, raw, whole foods.  Beans, rather than meat, have sounded like the most delicious foods in the world this week!  I made a big batch of this super easy black bean salad on Sunday night, and I’ve been working my way through it for lunches:

Black Bean Salad
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

2 tomatoes, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
1 c corn (I used frozen)
Italian dressing to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Done.

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Friends, it’s really delicious.  Also, has anyone had Popcorners (pictured above)?  We buy some whenever we go to our wholesale club, and it’s a miracle if the 18-serving bag lasts a week.  I like to tell myself that Andrew is eating more than his share, but in reality I think I am the culprit.  Last Sunday we took a risk and bought two bags and agreed that no matter when we finished the first, we could not open the second until a week had passed since purchase.  This will prevent us from the entirely possible scenario of eating 36 servings of popcorn chips in one week.  Hah!

Have a great Thursday!

What’s been in your lunch box this week?
Have you tried Popcorners??

Sandwich Hater’s Lunch Jr. (Guest Post)

Our guest blogger today is my amazing big sister, Whitney.  She brings a new perspective to the blog–the challenge of getting a 6-year-old to eat healthy foods daily. 😉   Enjoy!

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“Occasionally my sister Catherine (DoDo to my children) posts about her lunch choices as a self-proclaimed “sandwich hater.” I can relate to these messages because, (although I enjoy anything that someone wants to put between two slices of perfect carb laden bread), my 6 year old absolutely refuses to eat a sandwich. (Editor’s note: ‘atta girl!)

Kendall is in the First grade in a year round school.  I remember sitting in the parent orientation meeting before she started Kindergarten and listening to the Food Service Manager (head cafeteria lady) describe a typical school lunch.  I was horrified.  HORRIFIED.  A 5 year old cannot be expected to lay the foundations for their entire academic career when we are feeding them hot dogs as a protein and tater tots as a vegetable.  I knew then that I would be packing her lunch every.single.day.

So now comes the dilemma of this post.  I need lunches that are: nutritious, portable, able to stay fresh until 12:30, likely to be eaten by a 6 year old, and void of all sandwich related paraphernalia.

A typical lunch for Kendall looks like this:

1 organic cheese stick, 1 homemade “Gogurt”, seasonal fruit, seasonal vegetable, and some sort of carbohydrate. This could be crackers, granola bar, veggie straws, etc.  (I know, I know. The protein police have something to say about this. Cheese and yogurt both have protein and she’ll eat some chicken at dinner.)  She also gets a treat, but there’s a rule.  If anything in her lunchbox comes home (i.e. carrots) then her treat also has to come home. She can’t eat a cookie first and not have time/room for cucumber slices.

The best investment we made in the lunch project was some good Ziploc reusable containers.  They have three compartments that separate her food so nothing runs together and they fit perfectly inside her lunch box.  I also found these awesome silicone Popsicle molds that work great as yogurt containers.  I just mix plain Greek yogurt with fruit, honey, or granola.

The next best investment we make is letting Kendall help pack her lunch most days.  She gets to choose a fruit and a vegetable, she gets to help put it all in the box.  She is now invested and empowered in her own meal and is more likely to eat it as a result.

We are fortunate in the fact that Kendall’s best friend at school also comes from a “real food” family.  Together they stage a daily lunch room sit-in on school lunches, Cheetos, and most importantly: sandwiches.”

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How could you make that sweet face eat a sandwich?  Also, she comes by her love of ice cream naturally 😀

Thanks, sis!

The Sandwich-Hater’s Lunch: Herbed Chicken Salad

One evening during last week’s heat wave (yes, I’m calling 90 degrees in early April a “heat wave,”) I wandered through the grocery store looking for dinner inspiration.  All I could think was, “I refuse to eat anything hot.”  Truly, cereal sounded better to me than anything else, but I had a feeling Andrew would not be to thrilled to eat cereal for dinner. 🙂

Chicken salad popped into my head and immediately seemed like the best idea for a cold dinner entree.  Originally I planned to title this post, “It’s-90-Degrees-And-I-Refuse-to-Eat-Anything-Hot Chicken Salad,” but 1. I’m writing it so far after the hot weather that it’s not as fitting, and 2. the leftovers made for an excellent sandwich-hater’s lunch.

Here’s the recipe:

Herbed Chicken Salad

2 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded*

1/2 cucumber, chopped

Rosemary, fresh**

Sage, fresh**

Thyme, fresh**

1/4 c mayonnaise

Squirt*** of mustard

Salt & pepper to taste

*I boiled the chicken breasts, but you can saute, bake, use leftovers, or even canned chicken.

**In the produce section at my grocery store (Kroger) I found a “poultry blend” of fresh herbs–one small plastic container had rosemary, sage, and thyme, and it was more than enough!

***Yes, a “squirt” is an official measurement.  😉

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Put everything in a bowl and mix well.  It’s not a bad idea to start conservatively with everything but the chicken–you can always add more to suit your taste, but you cannot take out mayonnaise once it’s in!

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We ate ours with mixed green salads, and I had Triscuits with mine as well.  It ended up being an excellent dinner on a hot night… and a solid lunch the next day for someone who hates sandwiches 🙂

Enjoy!

Aioli and the Art of Broiling

How does one use the broiler without setting off the fire alarm or, as was the case last night, catching dinner on fire?  If there is an art to broiling, I don’t have it.  My attempts all end with an open window, a fan, and waving a dish towel in front of the smoke detector.

Here was our intended menu, and more or less what ended up on the table last night:

Broiled Salmon with Lemon-Herb Aioli

Quinoa with Cranberries and Almonds

Sauteed Green Beans

I started with an enormous piece of fish;  I took a photo of it with my hand for comparison:

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After cutting it into more reasonably sized fillets, I put it back on this aluminum foil lined pan, with salt and pepper and  just a little bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking.  (Question: because salmon is so oily anyway, is the olive oil necessary?  Perhaps it was part of the problem…)

I turned on the broiler.  I placed the pan with the salmon on a rack about six inches from the top of the oven.  I set the timer for 3 minutes (just 3 minutes!)  When the timer beeped I grabbed an oven mitt, opened the oven, and smoke billowed out.  I reached in to pull out the pan, and Fwooosh! (<–That’s the sound salmon fillets make when they catch on fire.)  I pushed the pan back into the oven and closed the door.

What did I do wrong?  Was it the olive oil?  Too close to the top of the oven?  Too hot (550 degrees)?

Once I’d dealt with the fire, I decided to bake the salmon the rest of the way–450 degrees on the middle rack.  Much safer. 🙂  From that point the fillets took about 10 minutes to finish cooking, and thankfully turned out pretty well.

Now, about that aioli.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve seriously disliked mayonnaise.  Perhaps it began in childhood, eating ham sandwiches with mayo on the beach and having grains of sand blow into them as I took a bite.  Who knows?  I hated it as a kid, and as I grew up I saw no point in trying it again, as it is a fairly nutritionally-void food.

However, mayonnaise has recently crept into my life in the form of aioli.  It’s basically a fancy mayonnaise, with added herbs or spices.  Some restaurants serve a variety of aiolis instead of ketchup with their french fries, and I love it.  I hate that I love it, but I love it nonetheless.  I even put mayonnaise on a sandwich while visiting my sister earlier this month, and I liked it… I liked the whole thing!

With this new found appreciation for mayonnaise, I decided to make a lemon-herb aioli to go with the salmon last night.  We had some rosemary and sage left over from this meal, so I chopped them finely and mixed them into a small bowl of mayo with a squeeze of lemon juice.

The final product:

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We cooked the quinoa in the rice cooker with low-sodium chicken broth, then added Craisins and sliced almonds at the end.  The green beans were frozen, and we put them in a skillet over medium heat with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Easy and delicious.

The salmon emerged from the fire relatively unscathed.  The skin was crispy, but Andrew tells me that’s something to strive for in the culinary world. 😉

Even with the fire incident, this meal was on the table in 30 minutes.  Not bad for a Wednesday night!

Do you have any broiling tips that could keep me from setting off the smoke detector next time?

The Sandwich-Hater’s Lunch: Leftovers

My birthday was on Monday, and with birthdays come dinner celebrations.  For someone my size, dinner celebrations almost always produce leftovers: a sandwich-hater’s dream come true.  Here’s what I’m eating this week for lunch:

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Salmon, steamed broccoli, and green beans from Bonefish Grill (Monday night with friends)

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Spinach & arugula salad with goat cheese, pecans, pineapple, craisins, and a citrus vinaigrette from Baker’s Crust (Tuesday night with Andrew’s mom)

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Three cheese ravioli with pesto-alfredo sauce from Maggiano’s (Wednesday night with my mom, brother, grandmother, and uncle)

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Bowtie aglio with broccolini, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and parmesan cheese from Maggiano’s (Wednesday night with my family)

I hadn’t been to Maggiano’s in close to ten years, but I’d like to sing their praises for a moment:

1. Anytime we go out to eat, we have to consider Andrew’s gluten and dairy intolerance.  We’d heard that Maggiano’s had gluten-free pasta, and we were curious to try it.  Not only did they have GF pasta, but a chef came to our table and talked with Andrew directly about how he could tailor each dish to meet his needs.  It was far more reassuring than a waiter saying, “Umm, I don’t think that has any bread in it…”

2. Maggiano’s offers a “buy any classic pasta, take another one home for free” deal all the time!  $13 buys you two large portions of really good pasta.  I can easily make five meals out of my two dishes.  You’ll pay more per meal at any fast food restaurant, and the food won’t be nearly as good.

Both pasta dishes were pretty heavy (“pesto-alfredo” means “alfredo with a little basil”) so I am pairing them with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in hopes of keeping my triglycerides at an appropriate level. 😉

I’ve felt very loved and celebrated on my birthday week… and my sandwich-hating self has been extra content to have so many lunch options!

The Sandwich-Hater’s Lunch: Spicy Lentil Soup

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am a sandwich-hater (hi, Catherine.)  

I have a new lunch recipe this week for anyone craving an alternative to the sandwich.  It’s very easy, but does require a bit of time, so I’d recommend preparing it on Sunday evening (or whenever you have a spare hour.)

Spicy Lentil Soup

1+ c dry lentils

2-3 carrots

2 celery stalks

8 oz cherry tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

Spinach leaves (large handful)

5 c low-sodium chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp thyme

salt & pepper (to taste)

Red wine vinegar (a splash)

1 tbsp olive oil

1.  Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium heat.  Meanwhile, slice carrots, celery, tomatoes, and garlic.

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I really love these multi-colored tomatoes from Trader Joe’s… Go antioxidants!

2. Add carrots, celery, and tomatoes to saucepan.  Cook for 5 minutes, then add garlic.  Cook for another 5 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften, stirring often.

3.  Add lentils and chicken broth, and bring to a simmer.  Add bay leaf, spices, salt & pepper.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes (or until carrots and lentils are mostly soft.)

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4. Add spinach and red wine vinegar, and let simmer for a few more minutes (the spinach will wilt quickly.)

5. Taste test; add any spices, salt, pepper, etc. that you desire.

6.. Ladle into your favorite mug or bowl, and enjoy!

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Nutrient-packed, delicious, and very filling.

If you are a vegetarian, you can use vegetable broth rather than chicken broth.  If you are one who believes that a meal must contain meat to be considered a meal (Andrew falls squarely in that category,) a great addition to this soup would be a ham steak, cubed, and added to the pot at the same time as the lentils.

This batch will definitely not last the entire week.  Next time I will double the recipe to safeguard against hungry husbands (Well, just one hungry husband, really.  I haven’t had much trouble with anyone else’s husband snacking on my lunch food ;-))

Lunch shouldn’t be boring;  stay strong, my fellow sandwich-haters!