Weekly Menu 6/29 - 7/3

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In case you were wondering, I didn't fall off the face of the earth. I've just been so extremely busy lately that I haven't had time to do any of the fun stuff I like to do, like blogging. Hell, I've barely had time to even cook in the last two weeks.

To be honest, it absolutely kills me that I get a little more than three months out of the year where I still have great lighting to photograph dinner and now I don't even get that option anymore. I haven't been getting home early enough to cook, or if I do, dinner isn't done until the sun has started to set. 

The good news is we really don't have anything else planned for the rest of the summer so I'm going to try to cook and bake as much as possible on the weekends to try to get back into a decent swing of things. 

I've mentioned before that I'm very much a creature of habit right? Well, this being unable to make dinner and not baking anything for a month has really thrown me for a loop and I feel like I don't even know where anything is in my own kitchen. On top of everything else going on this weekend, I'm planning to reorganize the pantry and cabinets so I can reacquaint myself with everything. All while watching Cooking Channel or Food Network because I haven't done that in ages either. 

So, um, what's been going on? I'm super, super busy at work and with an hour commute each way I just have no interest in doing anything when I get home. Honestly even the thought of heating up dinner or washing a load of clothes makes me want to cry in exhaustion. If you're friends/following me on Facebook or Twitter, you'll know that I had multiple nights with wine for dinner and even one night where I had wine, popcorn and a cupcake. That's a balanced meal, right?

The good news is, at least, that I've managed to keep off all of the weight I lost while doing the Whole30.  The bad news is, I haven't lost anymore. I blame this on cheese. It's the one thing I have no control over right now. You could easily sit me in front of a 5 pound cheese plate and I'd eat the entire thing. I've got to work on curbing this habit.

Anyway, here is what's planned for dinners this week:

Sunday - spicy Thai curry mussels

Monday - prosciutto wrapped pork, cantelope and bell pepper salsa, fries

Tuesday - basil coconut chicken, Thai basil salad

Wednesday - chimmichurri flank steak, corn on the cob, tomato salad 

Thursday - pancakes, bacon, fruit 

For breakfast I'm going to make another frittata and lunch will be a stir fry. If I get to spend as much time in the kitchen as I'm hoping to this weekend, I'm going to make brownies, muffins, and a parfait. Fingers crossed I have enough time! I'm almost out of recipes to share with you! 

Whole30: A Review

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You knew this was coming right? I can't do something and not share my thoughts on it with you. I know the first thing people look for when coming here, so I'll share that first.

Weight Loss: 
I did 28 days of the Whole30. The last 2 days were part of a 3 day juice cleanse. On the last day I ate food, I was down 5.7 pounds. After the juice cleanse, I was down another 2.6 pounds.

Weight wise, this really isn't much compared to what most people lose. I've said on here a million times I have a terrible metabolism that refuses to do anything I ask of her, so I think this is part of it.

I did not measure myself before starting, only took my weight, however my stomach feels and looks flatter (I've had a few people, including Tom who sees me every day) comment, so I'm taking their word on it. Since this is the main area I wanted to lose weight, I'm happy about it.

Other Changes:
I did not get any migraines or break outs during the Whole30. This was quite interesting to realize. I really, really hope they aren't caused by dairy because I really would like that in my diet again.

I did not feel the great increase in energy a lot of people talk about either, but I can say that generally for the last month I've had a bit more energy than usual and I've felt like I've been more pleasant. This could be related to other things (summer, mainly) but I'm going to say it has to do with my eating habits.

Going Forward:
Before I started this, my coworker told me about people who live an 80/20 lifestyle where they have two days (typically the weekend) where they eat what they please and then they stick to the stricter paleo lifestyle during the week. I believe I am going this route, but not necessarily that the weekends will be my 2 days off. I'm sure there will be some weeks where it's more of a 70/30 but I figure as long as I don't go below/above that, I can continue to maintain this for the long run.

Reintroducing Foods:

Dairy: I'm still thinking about a soft serve twist cone like my life depends on it. I cannot wait until I can have one. I also really, really want a burger with cheese. I've never been a big cow's milk fan, so I'm going to stick with the almond and coconut milk varieties just out of preference.

Carbs: This is another hard one. I feel like for the most part, bread and pasta can be a take it or leave it aspect of my life, but then I think about pretzels and oatmeal and I know I need to figure out how to control this throughout the week. I've decided I'm sticking to the whole grain and whole wheat varieties whenever possible and I'll still probably opt to have my burgers without buns for the foreseeable future.

Alcohol: I've never been a big drinker so this has by far been the easiest thing to give up. However, I have 4 events this month alone that I'll probably have a drink. It's poor timing on the part of ending this, but I figure if I drink 4 times this month, it's probably more than I'll drink in the next 6 months combined, so it will all even out at the end.

Legumes: Also incredibly easy for me to give up. I rarely eat beans as it is. I prefer to use them for pie weights. Since it's not something we eat commonly, I'll probably still cook with them, especially when making a chili that Tom likes, but when making one specifically for me, I have no interest in adding beans.

Sugar: I think this is equally as hard as dairy. I have a sweet tooth, I can't deny it. I think I'm just going to work on better portion control and making sure to eat as many natural sugars as possible and still limit those. I read that some people try to limit all their sugars to before noon. That I can handle, hopefully. I've decided I'm going to make my own tea and just buy the stuff from the store with fake sugar when absolutely necessary. Coffee creamer is another hard one, I'm going to have to figure something out here because while I don't miss coffee, I know I'm going to want coffee and none of the creamers are good for you.

Soy: This is another take it or leave it for me. I was perfectly fine with using the coconut aminos in stir fry dishes, although I will admit that I wasn't impressed with using it as a marinade. It gave the chicken a gray color which was just really hard to eat. I know we're eventually going to order Chinese food and I'm not going to order from the bland steamed rice, no seasonings menu. So I think this is just something I'm going to keep an eye out on.

The biggest surprise to me was reading labels. Participating in a Whole30 really opens your eyes to what they put in the foods you eat. I typically think of myself as a person who has a decent amount of knowledge of what to eat and what not to eat. I know how to eat healthy, whether I choose to do so for every meal. There are some items where I would not expect a long list of ingredients and I was disturbed to find them. Canned tuna, for example, can have up to 7 ingredients. Tuna, water (or oil) and salt is all I expected. I'm not sure that choosing organic items really fits into our long-term budget, but I am definitely going to be more aware of label reading to see if there aren't better alternatives to what we are currently choosing. 

Minion Cupcakes

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This past Saturday we celebrated the birthday of my friends daughter. Kenzie turned 10 back at the end of May, but her party was held on June 14th. It was minion themed so of course I volunteered to make minion cupcakes.


These adorable little buggers had been staring at me on Pinterest forever now and I finally had an excuse to make them. Once I finished them, Tom immediately said that he was jealous he didn't get minions for his birthday.

Knowing how busy I was going to be, at that kids wouldn't even notice the difference between boxed and homemade, I opted to go for the prepared route. You could easily make your favorite chocolate or vanilla cupcake from scratch, as well as making an icing and tinting it blue.



Minion Cupcakes
Source: various images on Pinterest
Servings: 24 cupcakes
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Ingredients:
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
2. Add cake mix, eggs, water and oil to a bowl or stand mixer and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes or until no lumps remain.
3. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake pans, filling each one about 3/4 of the way full.
4. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Transfer to a wire rack to allow to cool completely.
6. Spread the blue raspberry frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes. Use about 1 1/2 tablespoons of frosting per cupcake.
7. Create the minions by slicing each Twinkie in half. Dab a spot of decorating gel on the back of each candy eye. Place on the Twinkie. Use the remaining gel to draw the minion "goggles" and a smile. Repeat on remaining minions.
8. Press each minion down into the frosting on the cupcake. Gently press 1-3 chocolate sprinkles into the top of the Twinkie creating minion hair.



Aren't these just incredibly adorable? I need an excuse to make them again, they're just too cute! 

Weekly Menu 6/15 - 6/18

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Hello there, my wonderful readers. Did you miss me? For as much as I am a procrastinator, I actually love being really busy because it forces me to make lists, set timelines and goals for myself and feel that incredible sense of satisfaction when everything is completed.

However, I realized that I have only done this when either my personal or my work life was incredibly busy, not when both were at the same time. Yet the worlds collided last week and both were incredibly busy, hence me falling off the blogosphere last week.

We went to visit Tom's parents at the beach last weekend. I had Friday as a vacation day. In order to return to work Monday and not be buried until 6 feet of work to do, I opted to work a 12 hour day on Thursday. Then Sunday night, instead of blogging, I opted to go to bed at a reasonable hour to make up for the fact that I'd be getting to work before 7 am on Monday.

I came in early and left late every day last week. This week is going to be even worse because I'm off on Friday again because I'm going to the beach for a girl's weekend with my friend Shannon. It's the same weekend as a music festival in DE so we're leaving Thursday night. Which means I can only come in early AND work late Monday through Wednesday.

Work is busy right now because our biggest customer has a buying trip next month and we need to get all of our items entered into their system. There have also been meetings with new customers, which are going very well but that also creates more work. And then there's the little issue that without all of these new things coming along, it still takes us all week to complete our daily work. So busy is an understatement. :)

I've already committed to not getting home before 9 PM this week, which is why instead of relaxing and planning out better recipes to share with you, I opted to make dinner for the next couple of days. This way I have the choice of either taking it to work and eating it, or coming home and already having it prepared.

Tom chose the menu for this week.

Sunday - Pork in Queso Flameado Sauce with corn on the cob

Monday - Roasted chicken with caramelized tomatoes and herbs, corn on the cob, green beans 

Tuesday - bison pineapple chili 

Wednesday - leftovers

To be completely honest, I'm beginning to reach that breaking point of being so busy and so overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done. I've already decided that the last weekend of June, because we have nothing scheduled, we're going through and deep cleaning everything. Even though my cousin comes and cleans on a weekly basis, we still need to scrub cat snot off the baseboards (don't ask), clean the inside of the oven (any volunteers? I'll pay you) and I want to go through everything we own and throw away what we don't want. We've renewed our lease for the second time and I know there are things in this apartment we've used maybe once since moving in.

Wish me luck to make it through these next 4 days? 

Watermelon and Mint Salad

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I initially thought we would go to my mom's house for Memorial Day weekend, but she told me toward the end of last week that she wasn't sure if they would have the pool ready in time. I had a lot to do on Saturday and wanted to keep this weekend as low key as possible, I opted to just hang out at the apartment complex pool.

But that wasn't before I began thinking of different recipes I could bring to my mom's house that I could eat. I know there would be sugar and carbs there to tempt me and I wanted to counteract that as best I could.

One thing that will always be synonymous with holiday weekends at the pool is watermelon. I could easily eat an entire seedless watermelon by myself. (I have a thing for fruit, if you hadn't noticed.) I also have a mint plant growing out of control in my sunroom. Seriously, I pluck off the leaves and the next day they are back again. I could make a lot of mojitos with all the mint we have!



Watermelon and Mint Salad
Source: Cookaholic Wife creation
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1/4 seedless watermelon
    • 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
    • 1 tbsp. strawberry balsamic vinegar 
Directions:
1. Toss all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Keep chilled.



It doesn't get much easier than that, does it?

Cheese Plate

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For years, my idea of a cheese plate consisted of cheddar cheese, a spicy cheese, pepperoni, crackers and mustard. For the most part, this is the only thing that family and friends would eat so I never thought about expanding my cheese plate variety to include fancier cheeses.

Then I started trying all of the wonderful cheeses they have at Wegman's and quickly found that there really isn't a cheese I dislike. I've even learned to appreciate a creamy smooth brie or if in the harder variety, topped with some honey or jam makes it palatable.

So I opted to make what I call is my first "adult" cheese plate. Of course, I asked the nice lady at Wegman's what I should include.

We opted for brie, blue cheese, goat cheese and a smoked cheddar. (On another plate I had colby jack and jalapeno just to give my less adventures family members something to eat.)


In addition to the cheese plate, I offered a stone ground mustard, sugar coated pecans, blackberry jam, grapes and soppapressa.

Since there's no real recipe here, I'm just going to share my new-found knowledge of cheese plates with you.

1. Variety. You want to have  a variety of cheeses: soft, creamy, smoky, sharp, pungent.

2. Accompaniments. Have sweet and salty varieties to pair with the different cheeses.

3. Meats and Crackers. In the meat department, basically any Italian meat will work out well. Prosciutto, soppapressa, salami, etc. As for crackers, have a variety but not of flavored crackers. A wheat cracker, a thin crispy cracker, a buttery cracker, a grain cracker, etc.

Now let's talk about the variety of cheeses.

Soft and Creamy cheeses:
Goat cheese (can be of the flavored variety), chevre, brie, camembert are the most common. Having a goat cheese and brie cheese together on a cheese plate is not a bad thing.

Other semi-soft cheeses include colby, havarti, monterey jack, and fontina.

Smoky and Sharp cheeses:
The obvious answer here is cheddar, but Gouda is a delicious alternative. Smoked swiss cheese also has an incredible flavor.

Pungent:
I used to dislike blue cheese unless it was very mild. Now I prefer the Danish variety which I've found is quite strong. French blue cheese is roquefort, Italian is gorgonzola. Stilton is another option.

Hope this helps! 

Avocado, Bacon and Jalapeno Burger

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I first found this burger on stalkerville.net, which is an awesome website for Paleo and Whole30, and knew I had to make it right away. Bacon and avocado are two of my favorite foods so I wanted to make this right away.

Since Tom is not a fan of avocado, I opted not to stuff it in the burgers like the original recipe and used it as a topping.


Avocado, Bacon and Jalapeno Burger
Source: Hold the Grain
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:

    • 1 lb. ground beef
    • 1 jalapeno, minced
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • salt and pepper 
    • 4 slices bacon, cooked
    • 1 avocado, sliced 
    • toppings: lettuce, tomato, red onion 


Directions:
1. Preheat a grill to high heat.
2. Combine ground beef, jalapeno, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl and form into 4-5 patties. Grill the patties for 3-4 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
3. Serve with desired toppings.


I really should have picked up another pound of ground beef and made double the amount of burgers to have leftovers. These were great. Even after the Whole30 I definitely plan on making them again. 

Secret Recipe Club: Ginger Scallion Noodles

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For the Secret Recipe Club this month I was assigned to Edesia's Notebook. Lesa also participates in the Improv Challenge so I'm quite familiar with her blog. Actually, my first thought of what to make from her blog was the cardamom-crusted pork with orange sauce  that she made for the challenge and I immediately saved. I actually even turned it into a freezer meal and currently had cardamom-crusted pork hanging out in my freezer.

Then I saw the black and white sesame encrusted tuna (which oddly enough was also a challenge recipe, apparently I'm extra attracted to these recipes) and knew I was making the tuna. Then I went to the store and practically had a heart attack over the price of tuna. $25.99 A POUND? Why is it the only fish I really like is more per pound than I make an hour? That's just insanity. I hemmed and hawed for two weeks, staring at that ridiculously expensive tuna waving at me from behind the seafood case in Wegman's. I priced it out at a few other stores and found the price was the same.

Finally, when I was grocery shopping on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, I walked past the fish counter hoping the price had magically dropped. It didn't, but there were two smaller than usual (probably 3-3.5 oz) filets of tuna just sitting there all alone. I immediately bought them.

Apparently, it was the end of the life for those two filets because while they still had the bright red color when I brought them home from the store, they did not make it to the next day. I opened the package to find they had lost some of their bright red color, but didn't smell fishy so I went ahead and grilled them up. I plated them, set up my necessary blogging back drops and sliced the fish. To find that it was gray inside.

::sigh:: So much for that idea. Luckily, I had also made Lesa's ginger scallion noodles and they turned out pretty enough to photograph. As I was still doing the Whole30 at this time, I used zucchini noodles for me which unfortunately did not turn out nice enough to photograph.



Ginger Scallion Noodles 
Source: Edesia's Notebook
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. linguine
    • 2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1 shallot, minced
    • 2 tsp. fish sauce
    • 1 tbsp. soy sauce (coconut aminos for me)
    • 1 tbsp. honey (I omitted)
    • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    • pinch of salt 
    • 1/2 cup green onions, sliced
    • 1 tbsp. black sesame seeds
Directions:
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook linguine until soft, drain and set aside.
2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook ginger, garlic and shallot in olive oil for a minute or two until fragrant. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, honey, red pepper flakes and salt. Stir to combine.
3. Toss pasta in sauce. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.



I really like my zucchini noodles version of this and Tom said the actual pasta version was quite tasty too.



Weekly Menu 6/1 - 6/5

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June!? How is this possible? I still have winter clothes in my closet because I'm worried winter is going to come back at any moment. As I probably said during it, Maryland typically has one really bad winter every five years and that's what happened last year. I think it just felt particularly worse because it started as early as November and dragged right on through to March. And it wasn't just snow that will eventually melt, it was ice and bitterly cold winds as well.

The last couple of weekends have been absolutely gorgeous and I'm starting to wonder if it's the consolation prize for making it through that terrible winter.

So, let's update you on how the Whole30 is going. I was irritated last week because the scale hadn't budged at all. I don't know what made me do it, but I got on the scale Thursday morning and then every morning since then. I've consistently been down another two pounds which is interesting. I'm curious to see how this ends up.

Cravings: food-wise I'm over this, mentally. I don't even want a burger on a bun or a baked white potato but I want the option of being able to have them. There are two things I've been craving since last weekend. The first is a soft serve twisted ice cream cone with sprinkles. At this point, I would knock over small children to get to one. It's that serious. The second is corn on the cob. It's taunted me every single time I've went to the store and I absolutely can not wait to buy a few years. I may end up eating like 4 of them in a sitting.

Also, I'm freaking crazy. No, seriously. Somewhere in the middle of this Whole30 I decided I wanted to end it off with another juice cleanse as a final way to wrap up this super healthy kick. Not that I'm going to dive head first into a bowl of mac and cheese or anything when this is over. I realized that if I did a three day cleanse after my last day of the Whole30, it would mean that the first day Tom and I were visiting his parents at the beach, I'd be drinking juice.

I think I've displayed an incredible amount of willpower these last 28 days but being at the beach and only drinking juice is just more than even I can handle. So I opted to use my last 2 days of the Whole30 for part of a three-day juice cleanse. Thursday I'll stick with blander foods (as I did on the last cleanse) and I plan on eating relatively healthy while I'm at the beach. Tom's parents are on Atkins so I don't think it's going to be all that hard. I am getting an ice cream though. And possibly sharing some fries with Tom if where ever we go to eat doesn't offer the sweet potato variety.

Since I'm doing a cleanse during the week this time, I'm still going to make dinner for Tom. Hopefully it isn't as hard as I think. So here is the menu.

Sunday - pulled pork sandwiches, ginger-lime coleslaw (fries for Tom)

Monday - Italian bread pizzas (day 1 of juice for me)

Tuesday - tacos

Wednesday - sausages and fries

Thursday - coconut basil chicken with thai salad 

Friday - beach! 

I'm making up two prosciutto egg cups for breakfast tomorrow and I'll make two more for Thursday morning. For lunch Thursday I plan on having a salad, either with grilled chicken or tuna or something.

 Also, I thought it'd be fun to share with you how crazy busy I am this month. Usually it's not that bad, but we have something going on almost every weekend this month. The last weekend of the month is the only time I have nothing planned, but that Saturday is Tom's brother Greg's birthday so I have a feeling we'll still be doing something.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
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