Lately: Cooking and Baking

Good Tuesday morning!

Ever since Finley was born, I have been less than stellar at planning and making dinners. Here are my excuses:

1) It’s hard because her nap schedule is unpredictable – sometimes she sleeps an hour and sometimes it’s three. Often times she’s awake or going down right when I’d need to be making dinner.

2) Turning on the oven when it’s 80+ degrees out is no fun.

3) Many of my go-to meals aren’t summer-y enough.

I’m starting to get better, though, which is funny because all of the above three excuses still apply. I do enjoy cooking and baking, so I’ve started become better at using my free time in the morning (i.e. not just watching The Today Show and reading blogs while she sleeps).

What have I been making?

Banana-Oatmeal Bread
Last week Wednesday, I had a bunch of overripe bananas just screaming at me to be used. Of course I turned to my favorite banana bread recipe. I doubled the recipe, as one loaf was going to fellow blogger and mama of adorable Bennett, Nicole. All was going well until I pulled the two loaves out of the oven and realized…I never added the OATMEAL (obviously hilarious as it is banana-OATMEAL bread) or milk. Leaving out those two ingredients kind of canceled each other out because it still tasted good (just a little drier). On Monday morning during one of Finley’s naps, I used the last three ripe bananas and correctly made a loaf. Said loaf was brought to Nicole’s yesterday.

Spinach Lasagna Rolls
After coming home with a baby, I was so thankful for the generosity of my friends who brought food for meals (and this may have been why I slacked in the kitchen for so many weeks!). We had enchiladas (thanks Mel!), egg muffins (amazing stuff Jena!), lasagna from Gino’s, bags of Target trail mix, etc. I was able to pay it forward to Nicole and Jena this week. I emailed each mama, giving them a bunch of meal and dessert options. Besides the banana-oatmeal bread, Nicole chose Skinnytaste’s Spinach Lasagna Rolls. I first heard about these from Bridget, as this is her go-to meal to bring to her friends with new babies. They were very easy to make, and I followed the recipe almost exactly. Changes I made: I used regular ricotta instead of fat free and added chopped tomatoes and a few spices to the sauce. I’ve never made these before, so I hope they tasted okay!

Pineapple Cashew Fried Rice
Jena requested this meal, and I was psyched to make it again. At the last Wine and Recipe, it was a hit. Although it is a little time consuming with multiple steps, it is so worth it. I love the use of coconut oil and milk – it gives the dish great flavor. Even my husband who HATES coconut loved the serving I left for him. He was actually upset I didn’t leave him a larger portion – ha! Anyways, I also cooked up a couple chicken breasts for some protein for Jena, but it would also be delicious with edamame or shrimp.

No Bake Peanut Butter S’mores
So I am mildly obsessed with Jessica’s blog; her food is amazing, she has beautiful pictures, and she is freaking hilarious. I found this one while going through all of her dessert recipes and immediately added it to the sweet options for the mamas. Jena picked it, and I got to baking. However, as the title states, there’s no baking involved. This accommodates my #2 reason nicely. The simplicity and decadence of this recipe drew me in. OMG people! Make these now, please. Jena was kind enough to cut out a square for me when I dropped them off. I was happy because I had really wanted to try them but would’ve felt ridiculous dropping off a pan of dessert with a square missing. “Hi, I’m Angie, and I have no self control when it comes to chocolate.” They should stay refrigerated, though, especially if it’s warm and/or humid because they will get a little too soft.

Avocado Basil Garlic Pasta
I’ve made this before and blogged about it, but I really think it’s such a fantastic summer meal. While Finley was napping this morning, I assembled this meal for tonight. Everything screams summer: bacon (perfect for using leftovers from BLTs…if that’s a problem you have), tomatoes, basil, and avocados. The warm pasta over the avocado creates a thin sauce, and the lemon adds a brightness. Plus, don’t the food judges on shows like Chopped always talk about acid in a dish? I am forever appreciative to Nicole from Wine and Recipe for sharing this dish with the gang last summer.

Tuna Salad
During Finley’s second nap of the morning (do you see a pattern here?), I made Brody’s mom’s tuna salad. For a guy who hates hard boiled eggs and the smell of drained tuna, it amazes me how he’ll gobble this up. But hey, I am not complaining because I love it too. The mystery ingredients are the relish and pickled watermelon rind. I’ve also blogged about this before, so click on the title if you want the recipe to go my earlier post.

I’ve been bad about taking food pictures. For whatever reason, all I want to do is take pictures of Finley – ha! Like this one…

20130828-112048.jpg
Finley taking up the whole shopping cart at a grocery store in northern Wisconsin

And this one…
20130828-112159.jpg

Finley being an escape artist and getting that hand out of her swaddle sack

And just one more.
20130828-112308.jpg

Finley sleeping in my arms after getting her two month shots

Maybe, if you want to see what these recipes look like, you should make them because then you get to eat them too. It’s a win-win!

Happy eating!

Adventures in Wine & Recipe

In a one week span (a couple of weeks ago), I was lucky enough to hang out with this fun group of women TWICE! Considering we normally all get together only once a month, this was a treat.

Our first adventure was a 30th birthday outing for Mel in Milwaukee. We all decided we do not utilize this city nearly enough with how close it is to Madison/Sun Prairie.

We met at Mel’s house on Saturday morning at 9am to kick off the weekend right: bloodies and mimosas (obv virgin mimosas for Jena and I). The drive to Milwaukee was fast, and we arrived at Lakefront Brewery for our tour (my second brewery tour as a pregnant person).

The tour was lots of fun – our guide had a great sense of humor, and with it being Mel’s birthday weekend, she wasn’t shy getting involved.

20130421-100745.jpg
At the end in the tasting room, you can exchange your plastic cup for a pint glass. I love drinking out of these, so I was happy to add another beer glass to our everyday use collection. Classy stuff around here.

It was way past lunchtime by the time we left Lakefront (hello extra drinking tokens from two pregnant ladies), so once arrived at The Wicked Hop, we ordered a bunch of more substantial appetizers to share. The bloodies were also meals within themselves – check out all of those goodies! The marinated mushrooms were the best.

20130421-101741.jpg
Cheers to Mel!

We were in the Third Ward, which has some cute shops and boutiques. We shopped for a few hours, and I found a bright neon orange and white stripped infinity scarf for $15. Almost everyone bought at least one thing – Laura actually walked away with an entire outfit from various shops.

20130421-102922.jpg
Post-shopping pic on the hotel stairs – Laura’s in the front with the dark hair and all the bags

After some eating, drinking, and gift-opening at the hotel, everyone got gussied up for a nice dinner (and I cannot remember the name of the restaurant now – pregnancy brain?). Three of the ladies weren’t spending the night, so they took off after dinner while the five of us – Mel, Jena, Emily, Nicole, and myself – went to The Oaks, a small but very club-like bar.
20130421-135151.jpg

One NA drink later, Jena and I called it a pregnant night and walked back to the hotel. The remaining three party animals hit up The Whiskey Bar and closed it down, not coming home until after 3am. Damn impressive ladies!

It was a super fun weekend, and spending so much time with a group of friends like that made me feel like I was in college again…just sober and/or not hungover.

Four days later, we were all reunited for a monthly Wine & Recipe night for our second adventure. Steph hosted and chose the theme “Caribbean/Tropical.” Very timely considering the crap weather we’ve been having.

I failed to take any pictures but I will share a few recipes, starting with mine.

Because I’m still on my “chicken-breasts-make-me-wanna-gag” thing, I felt compelled to go with a pork recipe. While I could’ve done an app or dessert, I really prefer bringing main dishes. I turned to a favorite recipe blog, Skinnytaste, and was not disappointed.

Slow Cooked Pork with Caribbean Salsa was a winner. Even Brody liked it!

20130421-104143.jpg
Photo from link above
I’m glad I re-read the recipe the day before because it does require you to marinate the pork for at least five hours before putting it in the slow cooker. As the picture shows, I also served mine over brown rice but as leftovers had it in a whole wheat tortilla. Last thing: I didn’t have the specific jerk seasoning Gina used but found a jerk seasoning at my local grocery store for $5.

Other all-stars from the night were Mel’s tropical quinoa salad and Amber’s coconut banana bread. While the the bread recipe is not the exact one she used, it’s pretty close, and I know to trust anything coming from America’s Test Kitchen.

The weather outside was not even close to tropical, but the fun eats and umbrellas in our water glasses made us forget about that. Too bad Steph couldn’t have brought a heat lamp into her dining room or passed around self-tanner.

Before the night ended, the three of us pregnant ladies took a photo because, interestingly enough, we all wore basically the same outfit. Actually Amber and I had on the exact same top from Target!

20130421-105902.jpg
When this was taken, Amber was 34 weeks (gender unknown), I was 31 (with a girl), and Jena was 25 (with a boy).

It was such a fun week being with these ladies, and it made me look forward to our monthly get together all the more.

Questions:
Do you have a regular get together? Book or dinner club? Scrapbooking or stamping group? Weekly runs with a group?
Thoughts on brewery tours? Best ones around you?
Of the recipes I shared, which one would you be most likely to make?

Snow Day Part Two

20121221-153213.jpg

On Wednesday, I thought there was no way we’d have a snow day on Friday, but here I am, at home, and I will be home now until January 2 because of winter break. A thirteen day break is quite long, and sometimes these longer breaks make it even more difficult to go back. I hope that doesn’t sound like I am complaining, though, because I very much appreciate this perk of being a teacher.

My morning started off like yesterday: toast, a hot beverage (coffee this time), and grading.

Then I worked out.

20121221-145949.jpg

After 65 minutes on the elliptical, my feet were sufficiently tingly and I had worked up a light sweat. I hopefully will be able to get to yoga one day this weekend and maybe start running again next week after Brody’s bronchitis clears up.

Grocery stores make me happy, especially empty ones.

20121221-153243.jpg
A few key buys: kombucha (for $3 each), orange juice (for Brody’s vitamin C needs and my love), and dates.

You know what doesn’t make me happy? Dog poop…in the house…on the carpet. Moose must be having some tummy troubles, which I feel bad for, but I also feel bad for me because the house smells bad and it takes at least twenty minutes to thoroughly clean it up. I’ve heard that dogs can tell if you’re pregnant and sometimes act out. I don’t think that is necessarily the case here, but I do think that’s an interesting notion.

I made plans this morning to meet my friend Jennifer at the dog park this afternoon. She was a little late, but the dogs had fun playing in the deep snow and I liked sitting on a bench under a tree taking in the winter scene.
20121221-153113.jpg

Normally, without snow, I can make it around the dog park loop, which is 2/3 a mile, in 12 minutes. It took Jennifer and I at least 30 minutes to do one lap. The snow was deep, up to my knees in some areas, as no one else had been crazy enough to go there and forge a path for us. Jerks. We actually took a few breaks, and at one point sat down in the snow to rest for a couple minutes. This was definitely my second workout of the day!
20121221-153019.jpg

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe, so I’d like to share what I’m making for dinner tonight. This was a Wine and Recipe recipe by Kathy from Mel’s bar food theme night. I loved these and hope they turn out.

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
By Rachel Ray

Ingredients:
-2 tbs vegetable oil
-4 tbs (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
-1/3 cup Frank’s Red Hot sauce
-1 pound ground chicken, preferably thigh meat
-1 large egg
-3/4 cup bread crumbs
-1/2 celery stalk, minced
-1 tsp salt

Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 450 and evenly drizzle oil over baking dish.
2) Combine butter and hot sauce in a sauce pan, and cook over low heat, whisking until butter is melted. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
3) Combine chicken, hot sauce mixture, egg, celery, bread crumbs, and salt in a large bowl by hand.
4) Roll the mixture into round, 3/4 inch balls, making sure to make the meat firmly. Place balls on baking sheet, touching one another, to form a grid.
5) Roast for 15 to 20 minutes. The center of the balls should be 165 degrees.

Serve these with celery stalks and dip in blue cheese or ranch dressing.

Have a great Friday night, and to all you teachers or students out there, happy winter break!!!

Questions:
Do you enjoy or despise grocery store trips?
What was your workout today?
What is your favorite meatball recipe?

Thursday Thoughts

1. Yesterday I had the day off, so I scheduled a hot stone massage with a Groupon I had purchased last week. Yup, I’m the genius who got a hot stone massage in the middle of the afternoon when it was 95 degrees outside.

2. I boozefaced more than I had wanted to last night. The two cocktails from Merchant were sta-rong!
20120628-110442.jpg

This is the Aviation Cocktail – fun glass!
The Regret and the Aviation Cocktail – 1. Angie – 0. Water is my bff today.

3. Tonight is Wine and Recipe night; the theme is inspired by the porn book Fifty Shades of Gray (that I have not read and probably will never). We’re all supposed to bring food that is sexy or seductive. I am bringing a wrap that includes asparagus and avocado, which are both considered “sexy” foods but only because they look like mens’ body parts.

20120628-110219.jpg

4. Between my massage and my haircut yesterday, I stopped by Trader Joe’s to load up on bars for the trip; Luna bars, Clif bars, and Larabars all found their way into my basket, as did sunflower seed butter, salted creamy peanut butter, almonds, and trail mix.

5. Brody’s Chive shirt arrived! He opened the package when we got home at 11:30pm last night and had a big goofy grin on his face.
20120628-110334.jpg

6. There is a Color Run in Milwaukee at the end of August that I want to do – they look like so much fun!

7. One of the kids I nanny for tested positive for Whooping Cough. The results came back yesterday afternoon when I was over there. That morning we went to the gym so the boys could play basketball and they went to the park with a friend, his brother and mom. Oops. Obviously I was also exposed to it. Normally this would not concern me, but with us leaving for Europe on Tuesday, I a) do not want to have Whooping Cough in Europe, and b) do not want to expose people to it in airports and on the plane. Without even seeing me, my doctor wrote me a prescription for the z-pack.

8. Our CSA this week included sugar snap peas and a beet (which will be juiced). It stinks that the weather is so dry – we haven’t been getting a ton of stuff because nothing is growing. We need RAIN!!!!

Questions:
Do you get massages regularly?
Have you ever had Whooping Cough?
Do you want to do the Color Run with me?