My first order from Nature Box - 5 snacks each month for about $20 but you get a $10 discount on the first box. We liked all five items; of course I had to open up each one the day I received them. I can’t say for sure that I will keep this up as it’s pretty expensive for the size of the snack. But it is nice to get a wide assortment of choices and to know that they’re fairly healthy. And seeing as snacking is one of my downfalls, it might be a good thing to choose 5 healthy snacks each month and buy less at the grocery store. I will have to evaluate this after I try the next month’s snacks. You can choose the snacks after the first delivery and there are many that sound yummy. I’ll provide an update in the future.
I have discovered in my old age that my life is so much easier, more pleasant and healthier if I do a little prep work on Sunday for the rest of the week. If you’re anything like me, work mornings are rushed and hectic even though I no longer have children at home. I find that I just don’t have time to get together a healthy breakfast and lunch unless I have done some prep work. So I take 30 minutes to an hour on Sunday and do the following things:
- I normally prepare and sometimes cook a good portion of Monday’s dinner on Sunday, depending on what I’m making. For example, this week, I was just making sauteed veggies and barley with an Indian sauce. I didn’t want to saute the veggies ahead of time, but I did all the chopping of the cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, peppers, and onions. I did cook the barley and then just warmed it the next day. I had all the spices in a container ground together. Soups and chili are great to prepare the day ahead so those are great Sunday recipes to make for Monday or Tuesday…
- I often times make an egg frittata on Sunday and eat it for up to four days. I pack it in baggies or plastic containers and take it to work for my breakfast. That way I’m getting my veggies and my eggs all in one dish and not having to do any preparation for my breakfast that week.
- I wrote this post a month ago or so and saved it as a draft. Now I’m re-reading this on Sunday night and how appropriate as today I made lentil soup for tomorrow night and I made a frittata for breakfast that should last me a few days.
- One last time saver for the busy week ahead is to pack a portion of my lunch the night before. If I’m taking leftovers then it’s easy to just have that ready in a container. If I’m taking a salad, I put that together the night before in a container and in the morning I add the dressing to the bottom of the container. Nothing gets soggy, really!
Recently I made a recipe that I found on Pinterest. The picture looked exactly like the type of meal I was looking for; chicken, veggies and an asian sauce on lettuce leafs. But when I read the recipe I was surprised to see that the chicken was precooked chicken strips that you buy at the store and a package of frozen veggies. Needless to say I didn’t use either of those. I’m all for saving time but in other ways. I would rather chop my veggies fresh the night before if time is a factor. And since you have to warm the chicken strips why not just cook the chicken all the way through? I think the blog I got this recipe from must get some advertising money from the chicken she recommends, hence she was recommending pre-cooked chicken strips. As I’ve said many times before, use a recipe for guidance, but do it the way that you think will work best for you or based on the ingredients that you already have. I did like the bloggers ideas about prepping ahead of time and other ways to save time. Other than using raw chicken that I cooked and fresh veggies that I chopped, I did follow the recipe for the most part. I used broccoli, red peppers and onions for the veggies. I think any veggies would work well. I didn’t cook the sauce in a separate pot as the recipe says; after the chicken was almost all the way cooked, I added the sauce to the chicken and heated it up that way. The sauce is delicious but a little sweet so I would cut back on the brown sugar next time. We didn’t wrap these in the lettuce, we just placed the lettuce on the plate and added the chicken, vegetable mixture on top of the lettuce and therefore ate it with a fork and knife. I will definitely make this again.
Today for my husband’s birthday celebration we drove about an hour away from home to Amador County in the Gold country where there are many wineries. We mainly went to eat lunch at a restaurant that I had heard about called Taste. It is the Zagat #1 rated restaurant in the Sacramento area. Taste is in the tiny town of Plymouth on Main Street and the street is very non-descript. You would not expect a top quality restaurant to be on that street. But I’m so glad that I heard about it and got to experience it. We went for lunch because we couldn’t get in for dinner on such short notice. I’m glad we had lunch there, it saved us some money as the dinner entrees are more expensive and it was nice to eat a heavier lunch that normal, and not have to eat for the rest of the day.
We had already gone to two wineries prior to our lunch reservation so we didn’t get wine with lunch as we had already had our share. We started lunch with Taste’s signature appetizer, mushroom cigars. Mushroom cigars are a variety of mushrooms wrapped in phyllo dough with goat cheese. One order is two small pieces, but it is rich so one piece per person really is enough. They are delicious and such a lovely presentation.
My husband ordered pasta carbonara (pasta with pancetta, peas and cream) which he thoroughly enjoyed and I ordered the Taste sandwich which was an open face new york steak sandwich with wild mushrooms, dijon, a fried egg and mixed greens. I don’t normally eat red meat anymore but this sandwich sounded mouth watering to me. The steak was prepared medium rare and was thinly sliced. It literally melted in your mouth and the sauce, mushrooms and egg really put it over the top. I’m so glad I got it as I was considering other items and this sandwich was truly enjoyable.
For dessert my husband ordered the trio of creme brulees. Luckily I don’t like those so he finished them off and I left the restaurant satisfied but not too full. Also lucky for me the restaurant brings two chocolate truffles to the table with the bill. Yum, they were caramel inside and I ate both (they were small)! A fun day!
When I’m in San Diego you can bet that I will be eating at C Level. There are two reasons to eat at C Level. The food is always excellent. The view is the best in the city (of the places that I’ve been). I have a favorite dish at C Level and it’s an appetizer - the ahi tuna, crab salad, mango, avocado beautifully constructed stack. It’s pretty much to die for. But this time I tried a different item, a warm spinach salad with bacon vinegarette, eggs, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, cranberries, and a skewer of blackened prawns. Oh my it was delicious - each and every bite was enjoyable. My dad had a shrimp cocktail, french fries and the largest piece of cheese cake I’ve ever seen!
This is not a great picture, but it shows how close you are to the water at the restaurant and the entire skyline of San Diego can be seen.
I decided to start posting restaurant food that I love for two reasons. One, I want to remember those restaurants so that I remember to go back. Two, I want to remember the dish I ate and possibly try to duplicate it at home.
I’ll start with last week when I was in San Diego. My sister and I went to a great place that is good for you called True Food. We really just stopped in for a snack as we were going to a gala type party that afternoon so we wanted a light bite to eat. We started by sharing a banana, expresso pistachio, date muffin that was yummy and I had a drink called “bright eyes” that was made of pear, ginger, beet and tumeric. I could only drink about 1/2 of it as the ginger was a bit strong for me, but it was very refreshing and had no sugar or sweetener added. Judy had a vegetable egg scramble that was delicious. The sweet potatoes in it made it especially yummy, I think they were roasted. I had a tuna, avocado, asian inspired appetizer. Tuna is one of my favorite things when I eat out. It was very good although the tuna should have probably been seared a little rarer.
The restaurant was light, open and inviting. I so want to go back and try some other items on the menu. I read that the restaurant owner spent time with Dr. Andrew Weil and the menu is based on Dr. Weil’s diet. If you like whole healthy foods, this is definitely a place you want to try.
Renuka was brave enough to coordinate another evening of Indian cooking! Four of us made:
Salmon poached in grapefruit juice
Black eyed beans with mushrooms in a curry sauce
Renuka brought her medicine bag of spices again and I would say that the spices are key. We started by grinding a combination of these spices: coriander, cumin, fennel, black pepper corns, fenugreek, nigella and who knows what else, I’m sorry but I cannot get these spice names right. Renuka I need you to edit this blog for me.
Here Debee, Renuka and Jeanne are showing off the amazing spices and Renuka and Jeanne are measuring and grinding away:
For the bean/mushroom dish, Renuka soaked the beans overnight at home. (Don’t read this Renuka, but if you’re in a hurry or just don’t want to soak your beans, you can use canned black eye beans.) We sautéed a finely chopped onion in oil. We added the spice mixture to the onions and added hot water to make it into a sauce. After that cooked for a while we added the mushrooms and stirred. We also added a chopped tomato. Finally we added the beans, stirred it all and let it simmer. We served this over basmati rice.
For the broccoli we ground more spices. We par boiled the broccoli in batches. We added oil to a large pan and added the chopped onion, broccoli and spices and stirred and let it saute.
For the salmon we used the juice of two grapefruits to poach the salmon. First we added a finely chopped onion to a pan with hot oil, then added the juice and brought it to a boil. Add the salmon(seasoned with salt and pepper) to the juice and onion mixture and cook for three minutes on each side.
Here Renuka is stirring those onions as she instructs us in what to do next (or she might be telling us what not to do). She gets a little bossy!
Renuka was getting a little sassy as the evening went on so I decided she needed a little discipline with the fly swatter:
The food was yummy no matter how I chopped my veggies!
And Jeanne’s lemon cake was delicious and the raspberry sorbet was a perfect compliment, a great way to end the evening!
Dear Costco, Why oh why did you have to have these out as samples? I walked into your store to return some jeans and grab a chicken and some cans of tuna. But your sample of these beautiful dark chocolate enrobed mangoes forced me to add one more item into my hands and now I am stuck with this large bag of unbelievably delectable chocolate mangoes. And who do you think will eat the entire bag almost on her own?!
We have a bit of a love/hate relationship with quinoa in our house. Of course I think that’s how many foods are when you’re first introduced to them - you’re not used to that taste/texture and it takes a little bit of time to develop a taste for it (unless it’s something sugary or salty which we all immediately love).
Since I’ve been cooking healthier foods lately and cutting out red meat almost totally, I’m looking for new ways to add protein into our lives and new ways to branch out a bit. Quinoa seemed like the perfect food. So I began to search for recipes and for some reason all the recipes that appealed to me were cold salad quinoa recipes with oil and vinegar dressings. I liked these recipes just fine but my husband did not like them at all and so he just stopped tasting them which was very frustrating. At least try the new recipe, right?!
Well about a week after he refused to try my cold quinoa salad, we went to a friend’s home for dinner. They grilled steaks, corn and peppers, had green salad and hot quinoa. They told us to take the grilled peppers, cut them up and add them to the quinoa. Well for some reason this hot quinoa looked good to my husband and he ended up eating two helpings with the peppers added in. I enjoyed it also and thought to myself why did I never make hot quinoa?
Well, when something works you have to repeat it so that is what I did. I’ve now made the hot quinoa twice. We grill whole peppers (red, yellow, green, jalapeno, pablano, your choice) and mix it in with the quinoa. It really is wonderful. This last time I grilled an onion, a red pepper (I had no other type of pepper or I would have used more) and a cob of corn. Cut the corn off the cob when done and chop the onion and pepper and add it all to the quinoa and it’s superb!
Finally a quinoa recipe that we both enjoy!
- 1 cup quinoa (can use any color or type)
- 1 red pepper (and any other type of pepper you have)
- 1 onion
- 1 cob of corn
- Cook the quinoa according to the package.
- Brush veggies with olive oil and season, grill until done, peppers will blacken a bit and get soft.
- Chop all vegies and cut the corn off the cobb.
- Mix quinoa with chopped veggies and serve hot.
I have the pleasure to work in an office with a lovely lady from India, Renuka. Almost everyday at lunchtime, Renuka brings out her fabulous lunch that her wonderful husband made the night before. It usually consists of a grain, an assortment of veggies cut up fine, garbanzo beans or chicken and of course a spicy sauce that smells so good throughout the kitchen. We all stare in jealousy at Renuka’s beautiful lunches and she is always so generous offering everyone a taste, even getting up to get us a spoon or a fork to taste with. Needless to say, several of us asked Renuka for recipes or even a cooking demonstration. She agreed to a demo and even though her husband does most of the cooking, she was excited to show us what she could do even though she was also a little hesitant.
So about a month ago Renuka came over to my home and prepared curry chicken and a separate vegetable dish (especially for my vegetarian daughter who happened to be home for dental work). What a wonderful experience to see all the spices that were in a separate purse of Renuka’s that I called the “medicine bag”. Seriously it was full to the brim. Here’s a picture of the medicine bag.
After we relaxed a bit and had a glass of wine and some Trader Joe’s appetizers (Indian ones of course), Renuka went to work.
The first task is to grind the spices, something I had never done before. The spices are definitely the key to Indian cooking I think. Renuka uses a coffee grinder to grind the spices and I happen to have the same grinder so I’m prepared there. I’m not sure I can repeat the name of all the spices but here are the ones that I can: coriander, cumin, fennel seed, pepper, salt, mustard seed, cinnamon, cardamom, garlic, ginger, and tumeric.
Here Renuka is grating the ginger and the garlic.
I had already chopped the chicken into large chunks and I had chopped the veggies into small chunks per my instructions from Renuka. The veggies you use can really be your choice. This day we used cauliflower, red pepper, jalapena pepper, zucchini, green beans and always an onion chopped fine. I made these veggies on my own a few weeks later and I used broccoli, cauliflower, red pepper, jalapena pepper, potatoes and onion.
Emily and Renuka working together!
The magic bag of spinach is next. Renuka made this up and it is pure genious. We wilted a bag of spinach in a large pan. Then we pureed it in a blender. This served as the “sauce” for the veggies, giving all the veggies a thickness and a beautiful green color. And the mildness of the spinach with all the spices was a nice balance.
The order of things is a bit mixed up in my head as I didn’t take many notes while Renuka cooked. I should have made a video - next time. But when I made the veggies by myself here is what I did and they came out great (although I’m sure I missed a spice or two).
- Chop all the veggies
- Since I used potatoes I pre-boiled them until almost done as I knew they would take longer to cook than the other veggies.
- Grind the spices
- Grate ginger and garlic
- Make the spinach puree - see above.
- Heat oil in a large pan and add mustard seed, cinnamon and cardamom, stir until they pop.
- Add onion, garlic and ginger and stir for several minutes until cooked.
- Add spices and spinach puree to onions and stir well.
- Add veggies in the order that they will cook in or if similar time add all veggies.
- Stir and cook until veggies are done.
- At the end I pureed a few small home grown tomatoes and added that to the pan. It added a bit more sauciness to the dish and a nice additional flavor.
The chicken is prepared just as above except for the following: delete step 5 as there is no spinach in the chicken, in step 9 you add the chicken instead of the veggies, add water or broth to the chicken to make a sauce with the spices. We used chicken thighs as Renuka prefers that. It was delicious!
The beautiful meal that Renuka prepared. It tasted even better than it looked!