Livening up the Meal Plan

Hey, guys! Hope you had a good week. In one of my earlier posts, I was complaining a bit about the recipe rut I’ve been stuck in lately, so I decided to liven things up this week.

When I was visiting my parents last weekend, my dad gave me a brown grocery bag packed with potatoes, so they were first on the menu in Potato-Kale Hash with Eggs.

IMG_7444These were so fun to make! I finally used the shredder on my food processor to make the homemade hash browns. I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve used it, but I’ll definitely be using it more frequently than once every five years.

This recipe was a combo unlike anything I’ve had before: hash browns, onions, and kale topped with cheese, a runny egg, and my own addition of sriracha. It may have been weird, but it definitely worked.

Tuesday, I thawed some ahi tuna steaks to make spicy tuna wraps for dinner.

IMG_7446 I seared the tuna on both sides for a few minutes, let it rest, then sliced it thin. Served with sriracha, guacamole, Greek yogurt, and lettuce on wheat wraps. Not the cheapest dinner, but really tasty. I served some (unpictured) corn on the cob on the side….also from my dad!

Wednesday was back to an old favorite, due to a late night: soup in a homemade bread bowl! Cheese on the side, because it’s me.

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Thursday, I wanted to copy one of my favorite recipes that I rarely make: gnocchi with Brussels sprouts and bacon. In lieu of Brussels sprouts, I sauteed more kale and instead of bacon, I used a crumbled chicken burger.

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This dish was great in theory, but the bleu cheese I bought at the store was so salty that it completely overpowered the dish. Dave made me feel better by saying that I rarely make anything that isn’t delicious, but I was so disappointed that this didn’t turn out like I wanted it to. Curse you, salty bleu cheese! I spit in your face! (Said in a French accent).

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Last night, I tried my hand for a second time at a ravioli skillet lasagna. I served it with a side salad of mixed greens, olives, peppers (from Dad’s garden), red onion, and feta cheese in a little balsamic dressing. A hunk of bread on the side rounded out my Italian meal nicely.

It has been a beautiful fall (ish) week, and I’m actually enjoying the cooler weather. It definitely makes for some lovely walks. Those of you who are ready for the pumpkin-craze, take a look at this baby:

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My neighbor has something up his sleeve.

Arion is still doing wonderful. I know these things about him: he loves ice cubes, he is highly motivated by food, he loves walks, and while he’s definitely not an “attack” dog, he loves to guard us while we sleep.

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I took him to the dog park again yesterday, and there were so many dogs there! The last two times, there have only been two or three, but there were at least twelve yesterday. I wasn’t really sure what the etiquette is at the dog park: some people were letting their dogs run completely free, while others had theirs on leashes and were watched closely.

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A little girl with a chihuahua seemed to be afraid of Ari, so we left a little earlier than he probably would have liked.

We’re celebrating fall for the first time today by going to Pointoberfest this evening. Can’t wait! Happy weekend, everyone.

Fall Lovin’

This summer lovin’ girl is anxious to celebrate all things holiday. Three months of celebrations:

Our 4 year anniversary with a trip to Door County! (Plus our friends Dan and Em’s a week before and my parent’s anniversary a week after–so much love).

Davy’s 28th birthday!

Arion’s 6th birthday! (42 in dog years)

Halloween! (I want to take Aurelia trick-or-treating in Point again).

My mama’s birthday!

Thanksgiving! (My favorite holiday, because….food, wine, family, being allowed to listen to Christmas music and Gabby the Gobbler….)

Family Holiday Shopping Day!

Christmas!

New Year’s!

Yes, I realize that is a lot of exclamations, but I have to get excited so I can store it up for after New Year’s.

Two Days at the Faire

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of running the Sage Hollow tea booth at the County of Brown Renaissance Faire.

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My mom and sister Emily have been key players in the implementation of a renaissance faire in the Green Bay area; in three years, the faire has blossomed into a wonderful event complete with live musicians, belly dancers, a fire show, a scavenger hunt, tea leaf reading, and magicians in addition to delicious food (think dragon legs and garlic mushrooms), drinks (three kinds of mead!), and vendors galore….including Sage Hollow!

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Since Mom and Emily were too busy running the faire and being a queen to run the tea booth, I asked my good friend Shelby to be my pirate-in-arms for the weekend.

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Couldn’t have picked a better one. She was amazing, and I felt so lucky to have her there helping me. I think the Sage Hollow tea ladies will soon go from a trio to a quartet!

Our feet got tired from running around so much, so eventually we broke character and changed our shoes.

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Pirate chucks.

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My sister Emily was a regal and beautiful queen, and her boyfriend Christopher made a very charismatic king. They received many compliments, and my sister was even asked to be a queen for another renaissance faire in the future. So proud of my little sis!

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My aunt Dina did a great job reading tea leaves. She “practiced” on me and Shelby and came pretty darn close on some things going on in my life right now. She even predicted my anniversary trip to Door County with Davy, which I hadn’t told her about! Behold the inner eye….

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It was so fun to see so many people in costume enjoying the faire.

People of the Fair

I loved the Irish Wolfhounds. They truly were “gentle giants.”

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Aurelia looked so tiny next to them!

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There were also stocks set up, which were perfect for photo ops.

Shelby and I got thrown in for spitting in public.

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So did Dina and Em.

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It was a fun but exhausting weekend, and even though I didn’t get to spend much one-on-one time with my family, I had a wonderful time. Huzzah!

Life with a Puppy

It is still weird coming home to a dog or just looking over and seeing him lying on the floor looking up at me and bumping his tail against the floor.

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The week started off a little stressful. I was taking turns giving the cats and Arion free reign of the house, so for the first part of the week, I was running home to switch them midway through the day and take Arion out for a bathroom break. I was so worried that they would hate each other and that the cats would be stressed out that I nearly had a panic attack at work.

Fortunately, their first meeting went incredibly well. Yes, our cats are cats, so they hiss a little when they run into him unexpectedly or he stands up quickly, but for the most part, they are getting along phenomenally. Arion pretty much ignores them and they ignore him unless they both want to be on or near us at the same time. The other night when we were going to bed, both the cats were on the bed and Arion came into the room to lay down by us, and I felt like we were at the zoo. “We should get a parrot!” I told Dave.

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I wanna hold your hand…

Eats this week:

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One pot pasta with fresh tomatoes from Dan & Em’s garden, homemade pesto from mom, basil from our garden, and shrimp. Dave raved over this one! He never used to like when I made pasta, so I’m really glad he likes this dish.

Tuesday after work, I started the rice cooker, took Arion out on a nice, long walk, and when we got back, the rice was done! We never had a rice cooker before because Alton Brown doesn’t like single-purpose kitchen tools (and he’s our kitchen god), but this one sure has come in handy.

I set fire to the counter the other week when I wasn’t in the kitchen watching my rice on the stove, so apparently I can’t be trusted. Rice cooker to the rescue!

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I made a quick vegetable curry to go over the rice with leftover sweet and regular potatoes from Sunday’s cookout and topped mine with a heap of Greek yogurt.

I’ve definitely been sort of a broken record when it comes to meals: pretty much every week we have a variation of one-pot pasta, curry, pizza, enchiladas or burritos, soup, and chicken burgers with fries. Dave hasn’t complained yet, but I need to find a new recipe soon! (Time to flip through Smitten Kitchen….)

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Wednesday was windy, cold, and rainy, so I suggested Dave pull some homemade soup from the freezer to thaw. Since he had off, he made more bread bowls to go with! Soup in a breadbowl is such a cheap, easy meal and so satisfying. Dave took the breadbowls out of the oven right as I got home from work, so it was perfect timing. Nothing quite like freshly baked bread.

Yesterday was another cool day. Last week I wore shorts and a t-shirt; yesterday I wore a sweater with jeans and my fall boots. Yes, Wisconsin, we get the fact that you are sooooo changeable.

Since I have Thursdays off, I had the whole day to spend with my pets. :) Athena and I had a nice cuddle fest in the morning while I sipped on some Cinnamon Orange Spice tea.

img_7332Then Arion and I ran some errands: two quick trips to Fleet Farm and the library, then a trip to the vet for Ari’s free health exam.

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He was such a good boy and is in perfect health except for his dry skin. He has to go back in two weeks for some vaccines and possibly antibiotics depending if his skin clears up. I got a head start on helping it along by taking him home and giving him a bath. Too bad Arion thought it was a game and not a very fun one at that. I rinsed him off as best as I could, then rubbed some coconut oil into his fur, which Dave claims is greasy and I claim is “good lotion” when you pet him.

On Arion’s walk last night, he and I discovered the Stevens Point Dog Park!

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30 acres of a fenced, leashless dog park. It’s pretty much an open, woodsy field with a few benches where dogs can run free and play with each other.

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Arion had so much fun being off-leash and kept galloping off, then turning back to see if I was still behind him. All in all, I’ve been getting a lot of exercise the last week, and so has Dave. (This is why people with pets are usually healthier…)

Because of the cool weather, I was craving comfort food so I made myself a big bowl of mac & cheese for dinner with steamed veggies on the side. (I made Dave chicken burgers and sweet potato fries, because he doesn’t like mac & cheese).

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Definitely not the healthiest dinner, but it sure hit the spot.

This weekend I’m leaving Dave, Arion, Athena, and Artemis home while my father-in-law comes to visit, because I’m going to be working my mom’s tea booth at the County of Brown Renaissance Faire! I’m bummed to miss Barry’s visit but excited to see my family and dress like a pirate to sell tea. Happy weekend, everyone!

Can’t Buy Me Love

I’ll buy it myself.

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So, I didn’t last very long volunteering at the humane society before I got sucked into adopting a dog.

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Or perhaps I should say Dave. We ADORE our kitty babies, but Dave was terrified that we couldn’t make it work having both a dog and cats. We still don’t know, but we are both willing to try our hardest. It was either that or me bringing home at least three more cats and fostering some kittens.

 

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Meet Arion Sirius, the newest member of our family.

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Arion (whose name was originally Aaron) had one owner for six years who surrendered him when he moved. At the humane society he was nicknamed, “The Gentle Giant.” He’s laid back, good with cats, kids and other dogs, and a wonderful walker. And after having him for only about 24 hours in our house, it is clear that he is falling in love with us as much as we are falling in love with him.

I was so excited to pick him up yesterday that I woke up bright and early to get the house ready for him.

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Shopping for dog supplies was the highlight of my Friday.

After all the paperwork was signed on Saturday, one of the employees at the humane society put on his new collar and leash, then told me to come back in if I needed help getting him in the car.

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I didn’t need any help as all. As soon as I opened the car door, Arion jumped in, ready for his new life to start.

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I have read up extensively on the best way to introduce cats and dogs, so for the time being, we are switching off allowing them free reign of the house. It’s not fun, but it’s better than rushing them into meeting and it ending up badly.

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We are now two adults living in a three-pet house.

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Now I have both indoor and outdoor best friends!

 

Eats Lately

This meal was from over a week ago, but I still had to share:

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Dave made homemade curried white bean soup one day and to spice up the leftovers, he made homemade French bread bowls to serve them….one of my favorite meals, because I’m a carboholic. I love having a chest freezer because we always have soup in the freezer for days we don’t feel like cooking.

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Vegetable enchiladas for dinner another night. I stuffed them with sauteed mushrooms, peppers, onions and leftover rice from one night when we ordered Chinese. Lots of sharp cheddar to top them off and served with lettuce, salsa, and Greek yogurt. 

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I made a very weird but tasty combination for dinner one night: lox and bagel sandwiches with capers served with roasted Brussels sprouts and French fries. Weird but delicious!

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Thursday I made one of my favorite recipes: drunken risotto. I didn’t have any sausage, so I cooked up some Boca crumbles with fennel, which worked just fine.

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Friday night, Dave made a celebration deep dish pizza!

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The crust on this baby was huuuge! Dave is not capable of making a bad pizza, so of course it was delicious. And as for what we celebrated, you’ll just have to stick around (No, Mom, we’re not having a baby yet). 

 

This Weekend I…..

went to Wauwatosa to celebrate the engagement of these two lovebirds.

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Hung out with some of my favorite people.

 

 

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Went to a super fun military science surplus store that had the best descriptions of their products.

PicMonkey CollageWent out for a delicious brunch at Hollander.

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Pretzel Breakfast Sammy with Hollander Potatoes. Yum.

Went on a distillery tour.

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Spent time with my baby.

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And my brother.

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And this cool couple who is getting married next October!

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Had a delicious dinner of slow-cooked pork, mushroom risotto, and caprese salad.

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Played Jenga (and discussed how much safer it was than Jumanji).

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Read more of my current book, Dragonfly in Amber.

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Had a delicious Bloody Mary in an owl mug.

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Lounged.

058 050 056And then drove back home to spend a lazy Monday Labor Day with Dave and the kitties.

I win.

 

Perfecting the Oven Fry

Oven fries are normally not a match for “fried” fries. Oven fries are basically “potato strips”, and if you happen to love potatoes in any form, that’s fine. But if you’re craving a healthier version of a French fry (or just don’t want to go through the trouble of preparing a deep fryer), it’s dang hard to find a substitute. I’m working on it.

Monday was the closest I’ve come yet to a perfect oven fry, and I was proud of the result. 

This is the secret that I learned from Deb from Smitten Kitchen: cook the potatoes twice. Once to cook the inside, once to cook the outside. Sort of the opposite of cooking meat, where you sear the outside and then let the inside cook, for potatoes you want to cook the inside until they’re tender, and then crisp the outside. Brilliant!

Here’s what I did: I sliced up two russet potatoes into fries, then soaked them for 30 minutes in a microwave-safe bowl of ice water. (This removes some of the starch which will end up making them crispier). Drain the water and microwave the fries in the bowl for four minutes, tossing after two minutes (this may take longer if you are making a bigger batch of fries). Lay the potatoes out and dry them thoroughly with a tea towel (or paper towel, if that’s all you have).

Toss the fries with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for thirty minutes, tossing potatoes several times. If you like super crispy fries like I do, you may want to bake them even longer.

So here are the “secrets:”

*Soak potatoes in ice cold water

*Pre-cook in microwave

*Dry potatoes completely before baking

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Golden deliciousness.

Savory Tomato Pie

I had pinned a couple tomato pie recipes on Pinterest in anticipation of having hordes of fresh tomatoes this summer. So far…no dice. We have lots of green tomatoes and lots of red tomatoes that were either eaten or had blossom rot. 

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This Roma gets an A+ for effort, though! I stopped watering him months ago when he turned brown, and he still produced two tiny tomatoes. Sorry I gave up on you, buddy!

Fortunately, the Farmer’s Market has plenty of delicious heirloom tomatoes for everyone whose thumb hasn’t quite reached green status (hem, hem). I picked up a few beauties last weekend with a tomato pie in mind for Sunday dinner. 

Make this. Make it now. (She said nicely).

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Savory Tomato Pie

  • 1 pie crust (pre-baked for 10 minutes to prevent a soggy crust)
  • 1-2 large tomatoes 
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 diced jalapeno
  • 1/4 cup pesto
  • 1/2 shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup plain regular or Greek yogurt

First, slice your tomatoes, sprinkle liberally with salt, and let drain, either on paper towel or in a colander.

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Let the tomatoes drain for about 20-30 minutes before piling into a pre-made pie crust that has been baked for about 10 minutes. (To prevent sogginess even more, you can rub a little butter on the bottom of the crust before filling with the tomatoes). Dollop with pesto.

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Sprinkle with onion & jalapeno mixture.

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In a separate bowl, combine cheeses and yogurt. Spread carefully on top of tomato filling.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and finish under the broiler for even more golden-brown deliciousness.

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This was SO GOOD. I’m not sure why I was surprised it was so good. Heirloom tomatoes, pesto, and cheese? Onions and jalapenos? There is nothing bad in this pie. I half-wished I had made and frozen a dozen of them, but thankfully, tomato season is still upon us with plenty of opportunities left. This tomato pie is next on my list, however. It includes whipped feta and balsamic with raw tomatoes—how could I possibly go wrong?