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I am late with dinners this week because we had yet another four day weekend and I was busy playing Barbie Goes To The Doctor For A Routine Checkup And Gets Abducted By Unicorns Who Somehow Have Medical Degrees.

Also, I strongly considered seeing whether I could get away with not making dinner at all this week. But alas, I gave in.

We are going out three nights this week though, so that’s pretty close to just not cooking at all, right? One night, we are going out with friends and another night we are going out for my birthday dinner (Mexican food! Margaritas!) and another night we are going to try this local pizza place a bunch of my friends have been raving about.

Here’s what’s on the menu.

Dinners for the Week of February 20-February 27:

Note: I will be making mine with shrimp. This is my all-time favorite salad. The marinade for the chicken is SO GOOD. I like to drizzle it all over the salad. YUM.

Note: My husband asked for this specifically, and I aim to please!

Note: We have some leftover bell peppers from last week’s red curry, so fire fry it is! I totally screwed up the spice ratio last time I made this, so my husband made me promise to be more judicious in my spicing this week.

Note: These were SO GOOD when we made them a few weeks ago. We aren’t going out for dinner ON my birthday, so we’ll have these instead. Who says I can’t celebrate my birthday for multiple days?

 

Instead of birthday cake, I asked my husband if he would make this magical lemon pudding cake he made a few years ago. (NINE YEARS AGO. It has been way too long since I’ve eaten this magical cake.) I do not know if he has a recipe for it squirreled away somewhere, but it certainly looked a lot like this recipe from The Country Cook. (Although I don’t remember him using actual cake and pudding mix? But then again, NINE year ago.) Maybe it was this one, from Epicurious? Ooooh – or he could make little individual cakes, with this recipe from Once Upon a Chef! Well, I suppose I will leave it up to him. I’m pretty excited about it, though.

 

What are you up this week, Internet? Eating-wise or other?

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My ten-day challenge is over and I am in a very gleeful mood, fueled by Reese’s peanut butter hearts and pasta. I feel a little high, honestly. I don’t think I rebound-sugared this way after my No Sugar Month last year. Perhaps I need more than ten days to feel settled in the No Sugar Lifestyle.

Some randomosity for you this afternoon:

  1. Do you remember a while ago when I mentioned I wanted to buy a half sheet pan? And they were super expensive? And then Allison mentioned very tactfully that perhaps I was looking for a quarter  sheet pan instead? Yes. Well, I finally bought one from Amazon – this one, which came with its own little quarter sized Silpat (except it’s not a Silpat, it’s the same brand as the cookie sheet) (and it’s not the size of a quarter, it’s a quarter of… whatever unit of measurement a full sheet pan is) – and I LOVE IT. First of all, it is shiny and clean and the Silpat is not sticky at all (my other two – one a Silpat-Silpat and the other a Crate & Barrel version – persist in stickiness despite rigorous cleaning). But most important, it is exactly the right size for baking three chicken dinosaurs and some butternut squash cubes for Carla to refuse to eat, or for a personal size pizza for me, or for four slices of garlic bread, or for many other magical things I have yet to discover.
Sheet pan with mini-tortilla pizza, and sheet pan next to regular sheet pan. So shiny!
  1. Buying the new sheet pan got me to clean out my sheet-pan drawer. I threw away (!!!!) (the !!!s are because I have a very hard time getting rid of things) my old beloved regular sized cookie sheet which was warped and rusty and which could no longer be washed properly because it left rust streaks on towels and rusty drips on the floor. It is now gone. Well, it is now in the garbage can behind my garage, waiting for garbage day. I can feel its presence still. I hope eventually it releases its hold on me, but we have after all been together many years so we cannot expect to avoid the mourning period entirely, new shiny pans notwithstanding. I also moved a less rusty but not particularly attractive sheet pan and two cupcake/muffin tins into the pantry, where they are now accompanying other infrequently used items, like the madeleine tray and my springform pans which I have used twice?? and another cupcake/muffin tin. Why do I have so many cupcake/muffin tins? We shall never know. I replaced these items with my new-since-December (and still never used) shiny regular size sheet pans. I guess I think of them as more the guestsheet pans, you know, like the guest hand towels in the powder room that your mother scolded you for using because you were not a guest. No? Only me? I like to think I will pull them out for use when we have company, and our guests will admire how shiny they are. I just have to keep them distant enough so that they won’t be tempted to feel my Silpats, which, inevitably, will be sticky.

 

  1. I finally got to eat one of my failed stained-glass sugar cookies. It was good. No, it was adequate. I ate it grudgingly. But I am still super irritated by how poorly they turned out from an aesthetic perspective.

SG cookies 4

  1. Also (I am still on the cookies here) I am really annoyed that the giant bag of Jolly Ranchers we used for the “glass” had only three cherry ranchers. THREE. Listen, even if I hadn’t used them for finicky failure cookies, I would be annoyed. There were something like 16 to 20 of the other three jolly flavors (strawberry, watermelon, and fruit punch); that is a DRASTIC imbalance. In fact, I would have been MORE annoyed if my plan were to eat them all. Who’s in charge of QA at the JR factory is what I want to know.

 

  1. My husband isn’t a big Valentine’s Day fan. Usually, we exchange cards and that’s it. I do all the candy buying. This year, inspired by Swistle, I wanted to buy myself a big heart shaped box of chocolates. I enjoy the variety and surprise of those assortments, and I don’t need The Best Chocolate like my chocolate snob spouse does. So I planned an excursion to the mall to go to the fancy candy store with Carla so she could pick out candy for her father and to also visit See’s, which Swistle recommends so highly, and which I have only ever been to once maybe, so I could get a box of chocolates to surprise myself with on Valentine’s Day. To my despair, there is no longer a See’s at our mall! I swear it was there the last time I visited, which has been… at some point in 2019, even if I’m not recalling the exact date. Boo! Thwarted! Then, on a separate occasion, Carla and I went to Walgreen’s to pick out a card for her father (we need to spread out the excitement around here) and I looked carefully at all the Russell Stover and Lindt and Godiva heart assortments. The one that sounded best was $12.99 (some sort of “special” Russell Stover candies, but the three options featured on the front sounded yummy) which is a bit rich for my blood when it comes to drugstore candy, so we left without it. (Also without all the stuffed animals Carla picked up from the shelves and hugged tightly and told me she MUST own or she would certainly die.) Thwarted again. Oh well. I figured I could go back in a few days and buy it on sale. My husband is on call this week and has been getting home around eight. The night before Valentine’s Day, he arrived a little later. And he had bought me a heart-shaped box of chocolates! Most romantic $3.99 ever!

 

  1. This is more of a side note to the above, but our Walgreen’s no longer has trash cans. It used to have one of those large pebbled trash receptacles out front, but it has disappeared. The reason I noticed is because I had something – receipt, tissue, some piece of trash Carla lovingly plucked from the floor – to throw away, and I couldn’t. So I went back in, stood in line, and waited patiently to ask the checker if I could toss it in her trash can. And she said NO, they no longer have trash cans! I wanted to ask her more questions, but there were actual customers lined up behind me and Carla was trying to scan her jacket pockets with the handheld scanner, and plus I was in shock, so I left without any more information. Seriously though: WHAT?!?!?!

 

  1. While we are speaking of Walgreens – this is how exciting my life is, recounting separate items of “interest” about Walgreens for Pete’s sake – I will tell you that I finally, after five years, did something I have been meaning to do for, well, five years, as I just said. I picked up a prescription and the pharmacist handed it to me, rather than the assistant/tech who normally rings people out. And it was the very same pharmacist who had been so very kind to me five years ago when I was SUPER sick from being pregnant, and still hiding my pregnancy from my BRAND NEW JOB that I had just started a couple of months prior, and the only thing that helped at ALL was Zofran. Seriously – I had the exact hours that I had to take Zofran so I could appear semi-normal at my job – and let me tell you, it wasn’t MAGIC; I didn’t feel WELL; I just felt less like I was in imminent danger of dying or barfing – and I took them religiously every single day. The prescription said I was supposed to take three a day (I think; I could definitely be misremembering) and I had to grit my teeth and clench my fists through the last two hours before I could take the next pill. But – despite that the bottle very clearly said “three a day” (or whatever), my insurance would only pay for, say, 45 Zofran a month (I am forgetting the exact numbers here). The prescription did not give you enough Zofran to take the prescribed daily amount, is what I am trying to tell you, which makes NO SENSE. I was forcing myself to survive on only two a day, but I was about to run out and I was freaking out about it. So I went back to the pharmacy and this lovely pharmacist told me that the cost for the amount of Zofran I needed out of pocket amounted to, say, $23 a pill, and even though I was miserable, I couldn’t justify paying $300+ to not throw up all over my office. At the time, I was nauseated all the time, even with the Zofran, I was working my ass off at work to make sure they wouldn’t be super pissed about hiring me when they found out I was knocked up, I was forcing my husband to subsist on things that didn’t require being cooked. And Zofran was the ONLY THING that was helping me get through it. So I learned all this information at the pharmacy when I was down to my last couple of Zofran and I burst into tears and the pharmacist was SO NICE. Not only did she say soothing things of the, “this is a terrible feeling, but you are going to be okay, and at the end you will have a wonderful baby” variety, she called my doctor and worked some sort of magic to get me a three-month prescription for the same drug that my insurance would actually cover. Don’t ask me to understand what happened or how she did it. All I know is that I ended up with more Zofran than I ended up needing (after my nausea finally cleared up around the 25 week mark). Whatever she did was MAGIC. Anyway, I have always held her in my heart with love and admiration and this most recent time, I told her that I knew she wouldn’t remember, but she had been so kind to me when I was pregnant and I always remembered that and I wanted to thank her. And then I ran out of the Walgreens because I felt super embarrassed.

 

  1. I am pleased to announce that I have achieved one of my 2019 goals. No, I have not finished my manuscript; one of the world’s great unfairnesses is that writing a 1,532-word so far blog post does not move me an inch closer toward finishing my novel. Instead, I have procured a new ottoman for our living room. The old one is very fancy and in a horrid state of disrepair. The new one is from Target, so I won’t feel horrible  if it doesn’t last more than a couple of years (BUT IT BETTER LAST A COUPLE OF YEARS), and it has the bonus of interior storage. It’s a little taller than the old ottoman, which is taking some getting-used-to, but other than that, it’s a fine replacement. Carla believes in her heart that the storage space inside it is for her toys (fine, gets them off the floor/side table) and uses it in her imaginative play. Her dolly has a lot of timeouts in it, despite my gentle urging to not put her child inside a lidded ottoman.
Old ottoman. You can see how the leather is peeling off of it everywhere. YUCK.
New ottoman closed and opened. I can’t take a straight-on photo to save my life.
  1. The old ottoman has become a bone of contention for me and my husband. First, you should know that neither of us is good at throwing things out (see above re: rusty cookie pan). Second, my husband hasn’t even HEARD of Marie Kondo, so he furls his brow at me when I say, “does it bring you joy?” and will not acknowledge how useful a barometer that question is. Third, we both feel guilty because it was (presumably) VERY expensive (not for us; for his parents) and we don’t know what to DO with it. It’s too beat up to give to Goodwill. Neither of us knows how to re-upholster, or we would have chosen that route rather than the Target replacement route. Which is all to say that my husband wants to keep it, and use it downstairs in the basement in place of the IKEA coffee table we’ve had since 2003, and I disagree because it is twice the size of the IKEA coffee table and a) won’t fit as well and b) will be a pain for me to move when I want to exercise. So for now we’ve compromised and it is leaning up against the wall in our living room. NONE OF THIS BRINGS ME JOY.
Ottoman 6

NO JOY.

  1. I have changed my mind. The stained glass cookies are not even adequate. The cookie part is fine, but the stained glass part sticks to my teeth and the strawberry flavor is off-putting against the flavor of the cookie. Even cream cheese frosting couldn’t help. WORST COOKIE EVER.

SG cookies 5

That’s all I’ve got, Internet! Have a lovely weekend.

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My friend and I are doing ten days of no sugar/sweeteners, carbs, wine, or dairy because I enjoy self-torture. (Standard disclaimer, I am not a doctor and in any event I do not advocate cutting entire categories of food from one’s diet as a regular part of your longterm eating plan.) Basically, this means that I am trying as well as I can to eat only veggies, meat, nuts, and water for the next ten days. The lack of soda is so far the thing I miss the most, although I’m sure I will start pining for cheese any second now.  Seriously though, I am always up for a challenge, especially if said challenge will help me reset my over-reliance on cheese and chips. It’s just temporary, and I’m only on Day 2 and I hate life already, so we’ll see if I can even make it a week. (Although I made it a whole month without sugar, so I hope I can do this!) (Also, why do I do these things to myself????) Also, we have a date night this weekend and I can’t stand spending money on food I don’t like, so let’s call that a Planned Cheat Day.

Anyway, here is what I’m making for dinner this week (without any sugar/honey/agave, should those appear as ingredients):

Note: This cold weather has me craving two things: pasta and summer food. Let’s go with summer food this time since pasta is a no-go. This recipe sounds delicious. I might spice it up by adding in some bell peppers and throw in an avocado as well.

Follow Up: I don’t know why, but I didn’t follow this recipe AT ALL. Instead, I used this Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette for the salad and this spice rub recipe to flavor the shrimp. Then I followed these instructions for roasting shrimp in the oven. It turned out GREAT. Super delicious. And I didn’t even miss the honey.

Note: I always cut WAY back on the Chinese five spice powder because I find it easily overpowers the flavors. I will use some water chestnuts and leftover bell pepper to add some color to the lettuce wraps. If water chestnuts are a carb, I don’t want to know.

Follow Up: These are delicious but super messy. By the way, I use two whole packages of mushrooms because I love mushrooms. Also, keep in mind that this makes for a killer stir fry sauce after the fact. Usually, we eat all the pork… and then I make a veggie stir fry with the mushroomy sauce for lunch. There is a LOT of sauce left once the pork is gone.

Note: I will probably marinate the steak in the Italian marinade or the garlic and herb option from the link above. This Ten Day Challenge calls for no fruit, but I am making an exception for citrus juice used in marinades/dressings/this spinach recipe because I feel like it.

Follow Up: I used the garlic and herb marinade and it was super yummy. I used top sirloin steaks, which I prefer to flank steak. And I followed the instructions for oven roasting steak from this site to cook it. (I can’t stand searing meat first — yes, I admit it tastes better when you do that. But it makes such a huge splattery mess and my kitchen smells like Cooked Meat for days afterward.) The sautéed spinach was a huge disappointment. This is the second time I made it. The first time, I only made a little because I don’t typically like spinach and I was afraid I’d hate it and waste it. But I LOVED it. Then the next time… it was not good. My husband and I discussed it, and we think the first time success was a combination of low expectations and novelty. Too bad. Well, I can keep this on the back burner for if I’m REALLY sick of our standard broccoli, green beans, zucchini rotation.

Note: This is a new-to-me recipe but it sounds simple and tasty.

Follow Up: It WAS simple and tasty! Man, I love cod. It is pricey though. I got just over a pound of it for $16.95. (I got to the store so early, the fishmonger was just setting up his display of fish and didn’t yet have the prices up. And the last time I got there that early and asked him what the price of cod was, he got snippy about how he hadn’t had a chance yet to put up the prices. So this time I guess I would have spent WHATEVER IT COST just to not annoy him.) (I failed, by the way. I asked for a pound of cod; he put a piece that was a pound and a third on the scale and asked if it was okay that it was “a little over.” I said, no, I’d really rather it be closer to a pound. So he tried again. This time, it was a pound and a quarter. Still too much, I said. A) That’s an extra $4 and B) My husband and I can’t eat more than a pound of fish, even though we cut off a small piece and cook it for Carla who ignores it completely. Third time, it was 1.17 pounds and he didn’t even ask me, he just wrapped it up for me. SIGH.) (I know it was early and he was probably doing the very best that he can.) ANYWAY, this dish was delicious and easy. And it looked very pretty, with the little pile of asparagus on top of the fish, decorated with scallions and basil. The only thing that could have possibly made it better is if the “sauce” (literally just soy sauce) were a little thicker. I added a big blurp of sriracha to mine and that thickened it a little, but my husband is less interested in spice and he found it too thin to properly flavor the fish. Not quite sure how to fix that issue, though.

Note: I will be omitting the honey from the recipe above, but otherwise this sounds yumster. Or maybe I will marinate it in the chipotle marinade from my “steak marinades” link above. Hmmm… This is gonna have to be a game time decision.

Follow Up: I did end up using the chipotle marinade and it was DELICIOUS. Also, since my husband was on call and his arrival time was unpredictable, I sliced the zucchini lengthwise, cut up some red onions, put them all on a baking sheet, and drizzled them with olive oil and salt and pepper. Then I baked them at the same time that I baked the pork chops. The pork chops may have been a little overcooked by the time my husband got home, but everything was still very tasty. I doubled the chipotle in the marinade so that there was a little extra “pan sauce” to drizzle over the cooked pork. I love me a pan sauce.

  • Note: This week, I will skip the brown sugar in the sauce. Crud. I just looked and there is also sugar in the oyster sauce. Perhaps I need to rethink this meal…

    You know what? I can’t do this. It won’t taste good. I am going to swap this out with good old Taco Salad.

 

I am also doing a Valentine’s baking project with Carla and one of her friends. You know, because I like torturing myself so much.

Follow up: These did NOT turn out well. I will NOT be making these again. Carla and I made a test cookie, and THAT worked fine. But the batch that Carla and her friend so lovingly made burned, so I had to real-quick make all their cookies again and shove them in the oven so they wouldn’t notice. And half of THOSE stuck to the cookie sheet or fell apart. Then I made a third batch and the cookie expanded into the “stained glass” part so that you couldn’t even see it was a heart. Also, I couldn’t taste them because of my stupid challenge. FAIL.

SG cookies 1

Pre-cooked

SG cookies 2

Baked, second batch because the first batch failed. And they are so messy and definitely are going to stick to that cooling rack.

SG cookies 3

The girls frosted them and made them look 1000 times better than they did straight out of the oven. Still sticky though.

SG cookies 5

I tried to make some plain round cookies with small hearts cut out of the center and they STILL looked bad. The bake was better, though. I am nowhere near as good a froster as the girls.

Look for a repeat of these meals next week because it is REALLY hard to find recipes that fit my overly rigid and ridiculous ten-day challenge. No YOU eat eggs — I refuse.

Anyway: please tell me all the decadent, cheese-and-sugar filled foods you are eating this week, Internet. So that I may live vicariously through you.

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Usually, January is the month that lasts for two. But I feel like this particular January flew by. Here’s some randomosity for your Friday reading.

  • My mother-in-law got us tickets to go an author reading in a few months and suggested that, to prepare, we both read her latest book. The author – B. A. Shapiro – is new to me. The book is called The Collector’s Apprentice and it sounds v. interesting – love and art and revenge, all with the 1920s as a backdrop. Sign me up!

Collectors Apprentice

  • I bought the book with a gift card. A gift card I’d had since… at least two Christmases ago. I am not good at usinggift cards, because I don’t want to waste them. My husband is the exact opposite. He BURNS to use a gift card immediately. I hoard them. That is how I came to have several months of pedicures last spring: because I needed to use up a gift card I’d gotten before it expired. It had been a present for my baby shower. In 2013. See? Gift card hoarder. It can really backfire, though, so I’m trying to be better about it. Once, my husband got me a gift certificate for a massage. And I saved and saved it and saved it, waiting for the best possible time to use it… And the spa went out of business. Let that be a lesson to gift card hoarders everywhere!
Gift cards

These were just the ones I found in my wallet. I have a problem.

  • The Collector’s Apprentice wasn’t the only book I bought with my years-old gift card. I spent the whole thing. I bought some writerly type books and some newish fiction I’ve been wanting to read and some classics that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. And now my side table/personal library looks a little… overburdened. I mean, it’s been a good long while since it’s been even nearly this bad. I don’t normally organize the books that way – they don’t fit. Usually the spines are facing the bed. Not that I read through them every night and select one based on the available titles. No, I read no more than two or three at a time like a normal person.
Side table

Note to longtime readers: This is NOT another pregnancy announcement.

  • Hiding behind my book stacks are a variety of chapstick and hand lotion (and pillow spray, which I love). My hands are HATING this weather. My entire skin, in fact, has decided to stage a rebellion. I have big painful spots on each arm, my legs are covered in a scaly, itchy rash, my face has alternated between auditioning for role of Teenage Acne and becoming so dry it peels off. It’s really lovely. My hands are the easiest to deal with. I have purchased a wide variety of hand lotions with oddly aggressive labels like Intensive Healing and Ultra-Dry Skin Relief and Uber Nourishing Dry-Guard Skin Milk. I have stashed lotion everywhere: my nightstand, my bathroom, Carla’s bathroom, the kitchen, my purse, my car. My cuticles are still peeling, but none of my knuckles are cracked OR bleeding, so I think I’m winning.

 

  • Some of those books have been on my nightstand for a couple of years. The upside-down Louise Erdrich book, LaRose, has been there for at least two. She’s an exceptional author and the book is very well done, but it’s so achingly sad I can’t get more than halfway through it before I need to take a break… and then by the time I can gear myself up to pick it up again, I need to start over from the beginning. Lather, rinse, repeat. My husband keeps asking if he can go file it (he LOVES to put books on our bookshelves) but I can’t bring myself to give up on it. Some of the books are just laziness on my part. My husband will be happy to know he can shelve the Tana French book  (very good, as per usual, but not my favorite of her works) and I need to return the Jodi Picoult book and The Association of Small Bombs and The Master Butcher’s Singing Club to their original owners. (I read none of them but have had each of them for well over a year now, so it’s time they went home.)
LaRose

Photo from Amazon.com of the hardcover version on my nightstand; the link goes to the less expensive paperback

 

  • Today is the last day Carla can sell Girl Scout Cookies. Since the weather has warmed up a bit, I think we’ll head out to the last few neighbors’ houses we haven’t hit yet. I am so glad this portion of Girl Scouts is over because I HATE IT. My parents never let me sell things when I was a kid. For one thing, my nearest neighbor was two miles away. For another, they were both “the boss” at their respective offices and felt like it wasn’t cool to ask their employees to buy shit from their kid. I remember distinctly a standoff between my mom and some hapless teacher who was trying to insist that I had to sell whatever scheme they were in the midst of: citrus fruit for choir, magazine sales for lord knows what reason (something to do with “weebles,” although I’m not sure how it benefited the school, exactly). My mom said no, the teacher said it was mandatory (how??? my memory isn’t great so I am probably misremembering) and so my mom wrote a check. And the teacher was sullen about it – the money was only part of the point, I think – but that was that. The end of my career as a salesgirl. This is all to say that I have a deep-rooted discomfort with selling stuff. And yes, I KNOW people love Girl Scout Cookies, and I KNOW this is teaching Carla valuable skills like counting money and interacting with people and memorizing a little sales script and facing rejection and yada yada yada but I HATE IT WITH THE FIRE OF A THOUSAND SUNS.

 

  • Along with most of the country, Carla’s school was closed this week due to cold, so we stayed home and entertained ourselves. By far the most entertaining thing that happened was that an enormous unfamiliar bird stationed himself on top of Carla’s swingset for a good hour or so. I took many pictures of the bird, from many different windows, with two separate cameras. Carla and I pored over our Birds of State book, trying to pinpoint what it was. I narrowed it down to a Cooper’s Hawk or a Broad-winged Hawk; Carla insisted it was an owl of some sort, although I think we can all (except Carla) agree that it does not have an owl face. I took a very boring video of our backyard squirrel, Howard, trying to get close to the bird, and the bird puffing up its wings. I mean, what was Howard thinking? Was he trying to scare the bird off of what he must consider to be HIS swingset? Was he just getting a better look? Did he want to snuggle? But I’m pretty sure a bird that size wouldn’t hesitate to eat Howard for Thanksgiving dinner, so I was pretty relieved that Howard gave up after the bird flapped at him.
Hawk 1

Even with my husband’s fancy camera, I couldn’t get a good close up. And this bird was posing like nobody’s business, fierce looks, lots of feather ruffling, he would definitely win America’s Next Top Hawk Model. It’s not his fault I have poor photography skills.

Hawk 2

Difficult to see because of distance and speed, but this is Howard, trying to sneak up on the giant bird of prey that should probably strike terror in his little sciurine heart.

  • Purely because it’s February, and not because I have anything at all to report, I shall update you on my goals/aspirations for the year. In short, I am not doing well. I have been writing my book, but not as often as I should. My “be in bed by 10:30” goal has been a laughable failure. Last night, for no reason whatsoever, I stayed up until 12:15 am watching Child 44, which wasn’t even particularly good. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t stay up past midnight good. And yet. Okay, I just continued listing all the ways I am failing at my goals and that way madness and tearful potato chip eating lies, so I erased it. One goal I haveaccomplished is to buy new underwear. I was at Nordstrom and there was a sale rack of underpinnings and I figured, I can spend $4 a pair on some new underwear! So I collected two pairs in my size and then found a whole big pile of Natori underpants in nice, bright, pretty colors. And they were on sale for $10.87 a pair, which is steep. But a salesperson happened to walk past and she said, “Those are our bestsellers. Everybody loves them.” So I figured a) Natori is the brand of bra I like best, maybe the underthings will be just as good and b) who am I to go against the undergarment grain? The only problem was that these fancy drawers were one size fits all. I asked the salesperson and she ASSURED ME that they really were magical and fit ALL SIZES. I was deeply suspicious, but wanted to try them – and also felt like it was a bit of a challenge, right? I mean, I’ve got a generous backyard, so if these lawn covers were truly going to be one-size-fits-all, then they had their work cut out for them. Well, I did try them on and they did fit… but I have yet to take the tags off and wash everything and wear them out and about. I will tell you that the Natori knickers rang up at $3.97 apiece, so I feel like even if they provide mere cautionary fodder for this blog, they were worth the price.

 

  • Lately, whenever I can’t find my phone, it’s because Carla has swiped it to take photos. She has her own camera – this Vtech Kidizoom camera which is actually quite cool – but the memory card fills up quickly. And I understand why, because I find evidence of her voluminous photography in my phone’s photo stream.

 

Carla Photos

Experimenting with close ups of floor, foot, and pet (stuffed) tiger. 

  • I really can’t believe it’s February. Despite the lingering cold, it feels like winter is on its way out. February is so short and then it’s March and spring and warmer temperatures. Sitting here in my cozy house with the promise of not just above-zero but above-freezing temperatures later today and all weekend, it is easy to feel like winter is going fast. Of course, I can say that because it’s my favorite season – and I LOVE snow, in particular. As part of my More Weekend Adventures goal, we went sledding a couple of weeks ago. It was Carla’s first time and I think she had a blast. I had to buy a sled, and I got a $9.99 sled from Target. It lasted for an hour before it sprung a big hole. Fortunately, it was quite cold so we were all ready to exchange sledding for hot chocolate, but it was disappointing nonetheless. I don’t know if we misused it – my husband and I did go down with Carla a couple of times; not all three of us, but one parent with the kid – or if the terrain, which seemed nice a deeply snow covered, was somehow rougher than it seemed… but it seems to me that even a $9.99 sled should last for longer than an hour. I wanted to return it, but my husband says it’s not worth it. Who knows if we’ll even get the combination of Good Snow and Survivable Temperatures again this season? And we did use it. Maybe we already got our $9.99 worth of sledding out of it. I’m new at this.
Sled

Sled, beautiful and unblemished, pre-sledding.

Happy weekend, Internet!

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2019 01 31 Dinners This Week

I feel very blah  this week, in terms of meal planning. It’s so cold. I just want to curl up in a big bowl of spaghetti and meat sauce until spring.

Dinners for the Week of January 29- February 5:

We are rolling over a couple of meals from last week:

Note: I made these veggie quinoa bowls as a side a looooooong time ago. And now I am going to attempt to alter the recipe to make it more My-Family-Friendly for a main course. I’m adding shrimp, which I will probably marinate quickly in some lime juice and garlic and paprika, and I am replacing the broccoli with red and green bell peppers. Also, I am going to increase the amount of quinoa so there’s enough to satisfy my husband’s appetite. Also also, I am not including the peanuts.

Follow Up: Well, even though I amped up the veggie quotient and added shrimp, this still felt like a side dish. A GOOD side dish, don’t get me wrong. But my husband, in particular, didn’t feel like it was hearty enough for dinner. He added a big pile of spinach to his, which made it feel more like a salad. But we discussed how to dinner-size it more for next time and came up with these solutions: 1) We will add avocado and edamame to the salad to make it feel meatier. 2) My husband might also add black beans to his portion, which I rejected because I don’t like cold black beans. (He also suggested adding corn, which doesn’t seem like it would “go,” to me, but maybe I’m being overly rigid.) 3) We will add a small amount of honey to the dressing, which had some bitterness. I used this recipe for the shrimp, which was fine, but not so spectacular I’m rushing to do it again.

And:

Note: This is one of my favorite marinades. Simple and delicious. I will pair it with broccoli.

These are the new meals on the agenda. I am guessing we will end up eating out on Saturday night this week, so I’ve tried not to over-plan.

Note: I’ve made this before, as a side for something else. It was good enough that I want to try it as the main course.

Follow Up: This was good. Definitely a solid stir fry.

Note: This is a brand new recipe. I bet my husband will want some sort of meat as an accompaniment… Maybe I can roast him a chicken breast to add to his portion. And I will probably throw in some bell peppers leftover from the veggie stir fry to give it some color.

Follow Up: I was super suspicious of this, because I had no idea what it would taste like. It didn’t seem like it was inspired by Indian flavors… but it also didn’t seem particularly Thai… After eating it, I’d say it is somewhere in between-ish, maybe a little more on the Thai side. It reminded me a little of Massaman curry, but my husband disagrees. My husband and I had a little debate about the sauce. We both felt there wasn’t enough (and it was DELICIOUS). But I think if you doubled the sauce, it would be TOO saucy. And you can’t do one-and-a-half portions, because you’d be stuck with a half can of coconut milk and I for one don’t want to waste it or measure it out in the first place. So we decided on halving the chickpeas. Chickpeas, it turns out, are VERY high in calories OMG I did not realize that before putting this on the menu. It’s too bad, because I love chickpeas. Often, as with this recipe, I prefer them to meat of any kind. But if you jack up the veggie quotient, I think you won’t even miss the second can of chickpeas. Lower calorie, better sauce distribution: I think that’s how I would modify this in future.

Note: This marinade sounds easy and delicious. I will probably sauté the zucchini with a red onion and some minced garlic.

Note: I am suspicious of this recipe, but I love hamburgers and burgers sound properly festive for eating during the Super Bowl, so we’re going to try them.

Follow Up: THESE WERE SO GOOD. They were super easy, especially because my husband made them. And delicious. I kind of want to eat these every day.

What’s on your menu for the week?

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Since we went and had last minute dinner guests, I am once again recycling recipes from last week, although it’s only one this time:

Salmon Cakes with Zucchini: I have decided that I am going to adapt this recipe (https://www.thatskinnychickcanbake.com/fresh-salmon-cakes-with-homemade-remoulade/) by replacing the mayonnaise with two large eggs.And ignoring the Old Bay, which I don’t like. I will further adapt it by using the oven-baked method in this recipe. I am also planning to do a homemade tartar sauce for my husband. (I prefer a bit of mayo mixed with sriracha, myself.)

Follow Up: My take on the salmon cakes went pretty well. They were a little crumbly, but held together well enough overall. My husband did not like the addition of capers to the cakes, although I did, so we may have to find a compromise.

Poor salmon cakes. The salmon is frozen, so there’s no time pressure to eat these. And they are pretty high maintenance, which means I rarely want to go to the trouble of making them. But I am pretty sure the zucchini is on its last legs, so I MUST make these this week. Carla is off school today, so maybe she and I will make them together (and this also means I can avoid dragging her with me to the grocery store).

We are going to the house of new friends this weekend (yay! look at us being all social!) so I only have six days accounted for. That leaves us one wild card. (Although my husband and I have recommitted ourselves to low-calorie eating, so we’ll see.)

Here’s what else we’re planning for dinners:

Note: I made these veggie quinoa bowls as a side a looooooong time ago. And now I am going to attempt to alter the recipe to make it more My-Family-Friendly for a main course. I’m adding shrimp, which I will probably marinate quickly in some lime juice and garlic and paprika, and I am replacing the broccoli with red and green bell peppers. Also, I am going to increase the amount of quinoa so there’s enough to satisfy my husband’s appetite. Also also, I am not including the peanuts.

Note: I am not 100% sure what “Brummel and Brown” is, although my sense is that it’s a brand of margarine? I am replacing it with butter. I have never had farro before, so this will be an adventure.

Follow Up: I sort of cheated with this recipe. I ended up dipping the cod into a mixture of two tablespoons melted butter and two tablespoons lemon juice, then sprinkling the top with a mixture of two tablespoons panko, one tablespoon melted butter, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, and some salt and pepper. I baked the cod in a 9 x 13 dish at 400 degrees until it was cooked through, then I broiled it for two minutes to crisp the panko. But here’s where I REALLY cheated. I made the farro. I steamed some peas. But then I put the cut up green beans and diced red onion in the 9 x 13 dish — before I put the fish in there — with some olive oil and salt and pepper. I roasted the veggies for about 10 minutes, then added the fish and let the veggies continue to roast. Then when everything was cooked, I mixed all the veggies into the farro. IT WAS SO GOOD. My husband loved it, I loved it. The cod was delicious but the farro and veggie mixture was the star of the show.

Note: This is an old favorite, although I skip the roasted red peppers entirely. I love the marinade and I love the mushrooms. My husband always complains about this meal when I tell him it’s for dinner, but then he enjoys it. So I’m taking a chance on it again. Because even if our grill was operational, it is buried under 85 feet of snow, I will just marinate the mushrooms and then roast them. I use mozzarella instead of whatever cheese this recommends but I think many varieties of cheese would be delicious. I like to layer the cheese on the bottom and top of the scooped-out baguette, and then gently toast it in the oven. This helps prevent the bread from getting too soggy from the marinade. The biggest problem with this recipe is that the mushrooms shrink down to nothing, so you need way more mushrooms than you think a human could possibly need.

Note: This is the one where I throw a pork tenderloin, a chopped onion, a jar of BBQ sauce, some minced garlic, and some squirts of sriracha into a crock pot and cook for a few hours. So easy, so good. I like it on top of a baked potato, but my husband likes to make little pulled pork sandwiches with the pork and some easy coleslaw. My husband has a meeting one night this week, so I’ll make this, which is easy to leave in the crock pot and eat whenever you can. I usually make rolls with this recipe, but I am not going to. Maybe I will pick up some sweet Hawaiian rolls for my husband.

Note: This is one of my favorite marinades. Simple and delicious. Instead of having potatoes two nights this week, I will pair it with broccoli.

 

We are also bringing a salad to our friends’ house this weekend. I think I’ll make this salad with pecans and a maple vinaigrette (although you can bet I am buying candied pecans from Trader Joe’s) or this apple, cranberry, walnut salad… or maybe I’ll find some way to mishmash them together.

(This simple butter lettuce salad sounds divine to me, but a) my husband doesn’t like olives and b) the panko topping sounds like it might be better warm, and I won’t be at my house.)

What are you eating for dinner this week?

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Just as a general note, if you or anyone you know need a Girl Scout Cookies hook up, Carla is selling cookies between now and February 2. If you don’t know any Girl Scouts and you want cookies, want to donate cookies to U.S. troops, or want to support an Internet child you don’t know, let me know and I will send you a link to her online order form.

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Last week reminded me that I enjoy shrimp. In small quantities. So I am going to try not to lean on it too much while I am avoiding chicken. Hence the Zero Shrimp Recipes below.

Also, we didn’t eat all the meals I’d planned (one night, my husband had a surprise – to me, not to him – meeting, so we ate leftovers, and another night we spent all day Going Going Going, so we went out to eat instead), so I’m recycling two:

Note: I think one of the reasons this is a leftover item from last week is that I am scared of the spinach. I don’t particularly like spinach, and I have never cooked it before. But I am getting sick of green beans, zucchini, and broccoli, which we rotate practically every three days.

Follow Up: This was SO GOOD. The cod was lemony and delicious, and super easy to make. I think next time I might even skip the flour, just sprinkle the fish with a little paprika, salt, and pepper, and drizzle it with butter and lemon juice. Very simple but really yummy. I also had a few baby potatoes and a red onion and some mushrooms lying around, so I chopped those up and roasted them with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and some fresh thyme. I was afraid the spinach would be gross, so I wanted to have a backup vegetable. But the spinach was AWESOME. I used this Ina Garten recipe (I love you Ina) and it was so simple and really delicious. All in all, an excellent meal! Definitely will do this again.

Note:  I am also planning to do a homemade tartar sauce for my husband. (I prefer a bit of mayo mixed with sriracha, myself.)

Another thing is that I think maybe I need to be more… honest? is that the word? about how many days per week I am willing/able to cook. Especially when it’s a new-to-me meal.

This week, I am going out one night with my dear friend/mentor. And I think I’m going to give us a second night for leftovers/going out/what have you.

Here’s what’s on the meal plan for the remaining three days:

Note: I don’t think I have ever cooked flank steak. And my husband isn’t a huge fan of asparagus. So this meal could be a big loser, we’ll see. (But it’s NOT CHICKEN.)

Follow Up: This was pretty good! The marinade was easy and tasty and overall this was very simple to make. I was a little wary of using boiled asparagus in the quinoa, so I roasted it, Ina Garten style (a little splash of good olive oil, some salt and pepper, roasted for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven). It also turns out that we were out of quinoa, so I used couscous instead. Honestly, I prefer couscous so it worked out nicely. I think the biggest objection to this meal was the cut of meat, which was a bit fatty. Next time I could try a different cut of meat.

Note: This is a recipe I’ve made before, so I feel fairly comfortable fooling around with it. I am going to swap the chicken for pork tenderloin, and the carrots for parsnips andcarrots andred onions because I don’t really like carrots. Cooked carrots. Raw carrots are A-okay.

Follow Up: This ended up being good… if I scraped the mustard sauce off of the pork. I think in terms of mustardy pork tenderloin, I much prefer this mustard balsamic version from Jo Cooks.

My husband admitted that he does not care for cooked carrots either (a revelation), and Carla tried one — and one parsnip — and agrees that she does not like either. So we will be foregoing the cooked carrots in future

Note: I have some tilapia in the freezer from the last time I made this. So all I have to buy is broccoli and some shallots! Woot! Also, don’t let the “en papillote” thing deter you. This is SO EASY. And very delicious.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy it when you tell me what YOU are eating this week, so please. Spill the beans. (Or chicken. Or spaghetti. Or whatever it is you’re planning for dinner.)

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