meal planning.


I’m horrible at making a meal without a recipe — it’s like I’m not creative in the area of food — I need something to inspire me, (Pinterest, how I love thee!).  I’m also horrible at eating breakfast — I can usually scrounge up something like a fried egg sandwich, or some cereal, but I’m also great at skipping breakfast altogether — not a good thing, I know.  But give me a recipe, and I’m set!  I love finding amazing recipes that I can stash away in my little red recipe box — adding a tried and true recipe to the mix always makes my heart happy.  I love cozy meals, a sweet place setting, homemade bread, a piping tea pot of Greg’s chai, and making things that taste good — whether it be nutritious, or calls for a little too much butter!

I also feel bad because I know I could make Greg something special for breakfast every morning before he’s off to work — but I’m pretty slow in the mornings, so he usually walks out with a mug of cereal and a spoon — although, I must say, the boy could live off of cereal — he loves it that much.  Yet, I still feel bad as a wife because I could be giving him something more — something made with hands and heart.  When it’s time to give Dhara breakfast every morning, I’ve been resorting to toast with jam, yogurt, cereal, or the occasional simple egg sandwich.  This makes me feel bad too because I’m home, and I have time, and I really do enjoy cooking.

Sooo, last week I decided I would work on a weekly meal plan that incorporated a good breakfast and 1-2 dinners a week.  (We live in my parent’s house — so we split up who cooks dinner every night.)  And lunch is usually comprised of leftovers or a sandwich.

The way my mind works, I’m an organizer at heart — almost in an OCD way — so a meal plan really gets me excited to be in the kitchen because I know what I’m making on any specific day, and I know I have the ingredients for whatever I’m making because I went to the supermarket the week before in preparation for the following week’s meals.  Yes, it’s a good thing, at least for moi over here.  Moreover, it helps my family eat alot more healthier.  So here’s what last week looked like:

Monday:  Fried egg, bacon, avocado, and tomato on wheat toast (sooo good!) with an enzyme smoothie (coconut water, strawberries, blueberries, mango, banana, kale, orange juice concentrate).  Homemade ginger honey cheesecake for dessert.

Tuesday:  Cereal with a probiotic smoothie (kefir, plain whole yogurt, blueberries, mango, banana, orange juice concentrate).  For dinner, I made a simple burrito bar with whole wheat tortillas, seasoned chicken, black beans, onions, cheddar cheese, cilantro, jalapenos, sour cream and salsa.  Mama’s Red Raspberry Brew before bed.

Wednesday:  Wheat waffles with syrup and strawberries.

Thursday:  Cream of wheat topped with strawberries.  For dinner, it happened to be my mom’s birthday, so my sister and I cooked up a meal of onion bhajis with cilantro chutney, chicken tikka masala, Szechwan green beans, naan, and mango lassies topped with a dash of crushed cardamom.  Mama’s Red Raspberry Brew before bed.

Friday:  Yogurt and cereal with an enzyme smoothie (coconut water, strawberries, blueberries, mango, banana, kale, orange juice concentrate).  I was supposed to make buckwheat pancakes as per the meal plan, but something came up!

This week, my meal plan includes: breakfast bran muffins, homemade granola, gluten free sandwich bread, fish soup, and a homemade iron infusion.  Meal planning, hmmmm, yes.

eastern market.

My girlfriends and I decided to take my best friend to Capitol Hill for some good eats and a stroll around Eastern Market.  We ate at Good Stuff Eatery, which by the way, has the most amazing burgers ever.  It’s hands down better than Five Guys — which would probably be my second favorite burger.  I ordered the handcrafted Collette Burger with mushrooms and handcut french fries topped with rosemary and thyme — AMAZING.

The restaurant is a family operated business — one of the family members being Chef Spike from a past season of Top Chef.  Chef Spike is the head Chef, and he’s there everyday, so we got to see him in action as he cooked burgers.  We even got to see a tiff between him and his mom — Chef Spike ran off, he was definitely heated.  Not sure what it was about, but don’t let that stop you from trying Good Stuff.  You won’t regret it.

At Eastern Market, I stopped by my favorite stall, The Red Persimmon, and picked up a hand block printed nightie for my girl.  Lately I’ve been coming up with designs for baby/toddler nightgowns for the Susie Mey shop.  When I saw this one at Eastern Market, it just confirmed that there’s a niche of people looking for the old world style and comfort that a simple nightie brings.  These days women, and especially girls, don’t wear them much, but I will forever be a fan of vintage inspired cotton nightgowns.  They are feminine and beautiful, and what girl wouldn’t want to feel like that?

hand block printed nightie from eastern market

real baby food.

dhara’s first official meal of gently mashed avocado

My little baby is growing up.  Her first tooth made it’s appearance last week.  It’s still in the crowning phase, but yep, it’s there.  Makes me sad.  This tooth signifies the next phase of life — solids.  I personally wanted to delay the introduction of solids to her, and keep her solely on breast milk, but my mom would never let me do that!  : )  So at 5.5 months, she had her first taste of avocado.

Greg purchased two of these wonderful wooden bowls from a yard sale before we were married.  He so proudly brought them to me the day after his purchase.  I just love the artist signature on the bottom.  After I found out I was pregnant, I went searching for these two bowls because I wanted something made of natural materials for the baby, and I knew these two would work out great as baby bowls.  Their size is just baby perfect.

I don’t know exactly why, but I have a small wooden spoon collection — had it since college.  There’s something so age-old about wooden cutlery and dishes that makes food tasty and wholesome.  I remember giving Greg a wooden spoon to carry around in his pocket during our college years.  He did so for quite a while.  Sometimes if you looked closely, you could see the handle sticking out of his pocket.  It was pretty darn cute.

But back to the topic at hand, so what has Dhara been eating?  I’ve been using two sources as references during this new adventure in first foods, Real Food for Mother and Baby, by Nina Planck and Super Baby Food, by Ruth Yaron.  Before reading Nina Planck’s great book, I probably would have given Dhara some baby cereal.  But, I read this interesting bit:

“Years ago, eating solids early in life was considered essential.  Among the principal beneficiaries of this philosophy were manufacturers of the baby cereal.  Bland and slightly sweet, cereal is easily ingested by a young baby who does not need to eat solid foods yet.  Nowadays, babies start on solids around six months, when they are ready to chew and are more coordinated, and by that point they have little interest in largely tasteless cereals.  Babies don’t need cereals.  Cereals are constipating and starchy.  An early emphasis on starch contributes to both a predilection for white foods (rice, potatoes, etc.) and the acquisition of a sweet tooth later on.”

Love this book.  It makes so much sense.


and more beets

creamy cottage cheese and banana

deliciously ripe mangoes

avocado, and sometimes with a dollop of plain yogurt

sweet potatoes with a small pad of homemade butter

she loves a bottle of freshly blended, cold, refreshing watermelon juice. the coldness probably feels good on her sore gums too.

As you can see, this little one is growing in leaps and bounds!  She’s not a big solid food eater, but she loves to try various foods and feel the different textures in her mouth.  After four to five baby spoon fulls, she’s done.  The past few nights have been hard for her because of the emergence of her new tooth.  She ran a small temperature and has cried off and on during the night.  Hopefully it’ll be all over soon.  And then onto more solids.

Next up for this little one, I’d like to introduce meats, fish, lightly cooked egg yolk, and cod liver oil.    

featured II.

Ooooolala.  Dhara’s strawberry cake from her birthday party is being featured on the design blog, You Are My Fave!  You Are My Fave is one of my favorite design blogs!  Yay!

[And while I’m on the topic of birthday cakes, Faith, go bake my best friend a birthday cake she’ll never forget!  Happy Birthday Gifty!  Miss you lots, but I know your having a blast in the midwest.]

eggs, milk, bread, butter.

I went to the farm to pick up 2 dozen eggs from Silka.  She’s an eastern European woman who looks like she’s good with animals.  She happens to be on the same food train that I just got on —  also wanting to feed her daughter real food, she invested in some chickens — now she has more eggs than she knows what to do with.  The eggs she gave me came in all different shades of brown and cream.  They came in different sizes too.  Some small ones, and some really big ones.  A part of me was afraid that a chick might come out an egg as I cracked it over the frying pan for my morning breakfast.  So far, so good — no chicks.  How do you separate the chick eggs from the breakfast eggs anyway?!?  Someone, please explain this…

We also got our first delivery of fresh milk, bread and butter.  The large South Mountain Creamery truck stopped in front of our home fully arrayed in black + white cow spots — surely leaving the neighbors wondering.  The milk, which came in glass bottles, tasted a tad bit creamier than regular grocery store milk.  The bread, rough — the way I like it, was filled with nuts, seeds, and grains — delicious!  And the butter tasted real — not like that I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter junk.

It was also Dhara’s first time at a farm.  She watched curiously as the farm animals sauntered this way and that.  She had a nice time as her grandma explained everything in detail.  Along the way, we met a little boy named Patrick, who I’d like to pretend is Dickon Sowerby from The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Dickon is, in some sense, the spirit of Missel Moor.  His eyes are described as looking like “pieces of moorland sky,” and he smells of “heather and grass and leaves…as if he were made of them.”  When the reader first encounters him, he is sitting beneath a tree charming animals with the music of his wooden pipe.”

Patrick may not have been charming animals with the music of his wooden pipe when we first met him, but he easily could be doing just that.  He lives in a stone house just beyond the farm and entertains himself by befriending visitors and introducing them to the farm animals.  Did I mention that it’s not even his farm?

a slice of organic life [not alice waters].

For the past couple weeks I’ve been egg hunting.  And I don’t mean Easter egg hunting.  I’ve been looking for a local farm that sells fresh eggs (and raw milk!).  It’s simply amazing what having a baby can do to you, because you tend to only want the most natural foods, clothes, skincare and toys for your little person.  So I started calling local farms in my county.  The only farm I didn’t call was the one in our neck of the woods.  We actually live in their woods and on their land.  So I called them up today and found out they don’t sell fresh eggs or raw milk.  But, they have an employee that sells fresh eggs.  So I called Silka — is her name, and will be meeting her at the farm down the street to pick up 2 dozen fresh eggs every couple weeks.

For raw milk, it just so happens that raw milk is illegal in my state.  You have to be on the “in” with a local dairy farmer for raw milk.  I’m certainly not in any “in” group, so the nearby South Mountain Creamery (a milk delivery service!) is my next best bet.  They sell the closest (grass fed, hormone free, unhomogenized) to raw milk that you can get.  They also sell local honey, fresh butter, granola, fresh yogurt, cheeses, and pasture raised beef, pork, and lamb.  And the best part is they deliver for a really small fee of $3.75 for any sized order.  They deliver your standing order on a weekly, biweekly, or once a month basis — whichever you prefer.  I just placed an order for fresh milk, butter, and whole grain bread.  Can you tell how excited I am right now? : )

In Real Food for Mother and Baby, the author emphasizes the need for real milk (and real eggs):

  • Real milk is from grass-fed cows
  • Real milk comes from cows that are not treated with hormones
  • Real milk is raw
  • Real milk is not homogenized
  • Real milk is whole milk

figgy buckwheat scones.

I awoke on Saturday morning ready to prep for a recipe I wanted to try so that we could indulge on Sunday morning before church.  Figgy Buckwheat Scones from Good to the Grain.  Gregory has been asking that we switch to whole wheat flour for our breads and desserts, so I thought I’d give it a shot.  I came across this recipe on 101 Cookbooks — I love this site because Heidi always incorporates whole and natural foods into her cooking — and what recipes I’ve tried of hers always tastes yummy. 

Heidi’s version of the figgy buckwheat scones came out beautifully!  Her scones had a tinge of earth purple, mine did not — I think it’s because I accidentally picked up the gluten-free buckwheat flour.  However, I must say that gluten-free or not, these scones were delicious.  The buckwheat flour gave the scones a very nutty, earthy taste — which I loved!  I didn’t have anise star in my spice cupboard, so I used cardamom.  And I realize that the recipe calls for red wine AND port — but the alcohol cooks out so nicely — it gives the fig butter a taste of pressed grapes.          

Fig Butter:

Kim’s headnotes: In this recipe, dried figs are cooked in a syrup of sugar, red wine, port, and spices, and then puréed until very smooth. Adding butter at the end gives the jam a wonderful richness and a beautiful gloss. Once finished, the fig butter can be smeared over the dough in Figgy Buckwheat Scones (above), creating a flavor-packed spiral. The scone recipe requires only half the amount of fig butter made here, so reserve the remaining spread for your morning toast–or use all the fig butter at once by doubling the scone recipe.

1/2 cup / 2.5 oz / 70 g sugar
2 whole cloves
1 star anise
1 cup / 240 ml red wine
1/2 cup / 120 ml port
12 ounces / 340 g dried Black Mission figs, stems removed
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 ounces / 113g unsalted butter, softened
salt to taste (hs: suggestion)

1. To poach the figs, measure 1/4 cup / 60 ml water and the sugar into a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir the mixture together with a wooden spoon, incorporating the sugar without splashing it up the sides. If crystals do get on the sides of the pot, use a clean pastry brush dipped in water to wipe them off. (The goal is to prevent the syrup from crystallizing.) Add the cloves and star anise.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium flame and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the syrup is amber-colored. For even coloring, the flame should not come up around the outside of the pot.

3. Add the red wine, port, figs, and cinnamon, standing back a bit, as the syrup is hot. Don’t panic when the syrup hardens; this is the normal reaction when liquids are added to hot sugar. Continue cooking the mixture over a medium flame for 2 minutes, until the sugar and wine blend.

4. Reduce the flame to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The figs will burble quietly as they are jostled together by the flame; they are ready when the wine has reduced by half. Remove the pan from the stove and cool to room temperature.

5. Fish out the star anise and cloves. Pour the cooled figs, with their liquid, into a food processor and purée until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the softened butter to the fig paste and process until smooth. (HS note: At this point I folded in a few big pinches of salt as well).

The fig butter can be spread right onto the buckwheat scone dough or stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. If it is refrigerated, bring it to room temperature before using.

Makes 2 cups.

I awoke on Sunday morning, cut my logs into 16 scones, popped them in the oven, loved the smells coming from the oven for the next 30 minutes, and then carefully choose 6 beautiful scones and placed them on 6 beautiful dessert plates, put the plates on a tray, and lastly skipped around the house passing out some figgy goodness.  Now for my next batch.

Figgy Buckwheat Scones:

Kim’s notes: I was inspired to create a scone with buckwheat and figs when I realized how similar they are. Both are ripe and jammy, almost winey. Imagine a sophisticated Fig Newton but less sweet. Although this scone recipe may seem a bit more time-consuming than others, remember that the Fig Butter can be made ahead of time.

Dry mix:
1 cup / 4.75 oz / 135 g buckwheat flour
1 1/4 cups / 5.5 oz / 160g all-purpose flour
1/2 cup / 2.5 oz / 70 g sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Wet mix:
4 ounces / 113 g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups / 10 fl. oz / 300ml heavy cream

1 cup / 8 oz Fig Butter (see recipe below)

1. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.

2. Add the butter to the dry mixture. Rub the butter between your fingers, breaking it into smaller bits. Continue rubbing until the butter is coarsely ground and feels like grains of rice. The faster you do this, the more the butter will stay solid, which is important for the success of the recipe. (HS note: for those of you who like to make short doughs in a food processor, that is what I did, and it worked out great).

3. Add the cream and gently mix it into the flour with a spatula until the dough is just combined.

4. Use a pastry scraper or a spatula to transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface. It will be sticky, so flour your hands and pat the dough into a rectangle. Grab a rolling pin and roll the dough into a rectangle that is 8 inches wide, 16 inches long, and 3/4 inch thick. If at any time the dough rolls off in a different direction, use your hands to square the corners and pat it back into shape. As you’re rolling, periodically run a pastry scraper or spatula underneath to loosen the dough, flour the surface, and continue rolling. This keeps the dough from sticking. Flour the top of the dough if the rolling pin is sticking.

5. Spread the fig butter over the dough. Roll the long edge of the dough up, patting the dough as you roll so that it forms a neat log 16 inches long. Roll the finished log so that the seam is on the bottom and the weight of the roll seals the edge.

6. Use a sharp knife to slice the log in half. Put the halves on a baking sheet or plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (The dough can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 days.) While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

7. After 30 minutes, take both logs out of the refrigerator and cut each half into 6 equal pieces about 11/4 inches wide. Place each scone flat, with the spiral of the fig butter facing up, on a baking sheet, 6 to a sheet. Give the scones a squeeze to shape them into rounds.

8. Bake for 38 to 42 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The scones are ready to come out when their undersides are golden brown. They are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day.

Makes 12 scones.

lemon yogurt cake.

I made him three different kinds of lemon cake for his birthday last week.  Why would I do that?  Well he loves him some lemon cake — so I went ahead and made him a connoisseur of them.  It felt really nice to make these cakes from scratch compared to the boxed cakes we made in the past.  Plus, I’d forgotten how tasty homemade cakes were! 

Our favorite of the three was Ina Garten’s recipe for Lemon Yogurt Cake — and I’m not even a fan of lemon cake, but this one was so good!  The lemony zest and yogurt gives this cake a nice moist density. 

I also made The Kitchn’s, Lemon Yogurt Cake with Ginger-Thyme Syrup, and Chockylit Cupcake’s, Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting.  Oh, and the frosting!  The frosting was so very light and fluffy, and so very tasty!  I couldn’t stop taking sneak licks of the batter.  : )  I absolutely love Chockylit’s cupcake website — this awesome site is dedicated to cupcakes galore!!! [Mazhalai, thanks for sharing the cupcake recipe!]. 

Below is the recipe for Ina Garten’s delicious Lemon Yogurt Cake.

Ingredients + Directions:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

    Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

    Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

    When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

    For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.

    Lastly, add a bit of that old-time charm with some parchment paper and linen twine.  Enjoy.

    banana bread.

    This banana bread recipe is probably my all time favorite!  We first tried out the recipe on our anniversary trip in West Virginia back in November and we loved it.  I came across it on the Duggar’s family website — nothing like some good homecooking recipes from a family of 21!  Right out of the oven, top this bread off with some Woodbine Pumpkin Butter and you’ve got yourself some real tasty stuff.

    Saint John Banana Bread

    1/2 cup butter
    1 cup sugar
    2 eggs
    2 cups sifted flour
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    3 large bananas
    1 cup chopped nuts
    1 teaspoon melted butter
    cinnamon-sugar mixture

    Cream butter + sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Mix in sifted dry ingredients.  Beat in mashed bananas.  Add nuts.  Pour into a greased + floured 9x5x3 pan.  Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes.  While bread is still warm, brush with melted butter + sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.  Makes 1 loaf.

    thanksgiving menu.

    This Thanksgiving will be spent with lots of dear family.  A full house I must say.  I love having family over during the holidays.  It’s nice having the Christmas music playing, a fire going in the background, warm apple cider in my cup, white lights up on the banister, and a bonfire roaring in the backyard.  Oh, and the food.  We can’t forget about a delicious Thanksgiving meal.  This year we are having a potluck.  We’ve designated various families to make certain things — which is nice because one family doesn’t have to do it all.  What will our household be having this Thanksgiving?

    Chips + Mango Dip
    Cheeseball + Crackers
    Potato + Ham Soup
    Pork Tenderloin
    Yankee Stuffing
    Green Bean Casserole
    Seven Layer Salad
    Mashed Potatoes
    Ohio Mommy’s Sweet Potato Casserole
    Glazed Ham
    Homemade Holiday Bread
    Homemade Cranberry Sauce
    Apple Pie
    Pumpkin Pie
    Chocolate Fingers (delish)
    Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies
    Pumpkin Rolls
    Cupcakes (I LOVE cupcakes!)
    Banana Bread with a Warm Cinnamon Glaze
    Tea, Coffee, Hot Chocolate, Apple Cider

    Yum.  Happy Thanksgiving!!!