Saturday, September 27, 2014

Freezer Prep to Make Meals Easier

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I do a lot of meal  planning, prep, and cooking on the weekends. Usually, it looks something like this:

Meal Prep 1027

Without it, we wouldn’t eat as well and life would be a whole lot more stressful.

In addition to my weekend shopping, prepping and cooking sessions where I focus on buying and preparing fresh, in-season produce, my freezer and my pantry are my best friends when it comes to keeping meal time stress-free.

Here is what I normally keep in the freezer:
  • Bone-in chicken – I use it to make chicken broth in my slow cooker. I buy organic chicken when it’s on sale and always have some in the freezer. The other day, I came down with a bad cold and was very glad to have chicken to make some broth.
  • Chicken broth – I always freeze some of the chicken broth I make to have around for an “emergency” when one of us gets sick. I also use the chicken broth in soups, stews, and sauces.
  • Vegetable peels, ends, etc. – I freeze the peels, end pieces, etc. from organic vegetables in a big freezer bag. I use the peels to make vegetable stock as well as bone broth (beef or chicken).
  • Pancakes – I make almond flour pancakes every few weeks and always make extra. The leftovers go in the freezer. It’s easy to take a few out for the boys’ breakfast.
  • Various homemade freezer meals: beef stew, chickpea stew, kimchi stew, and various vegetable soups are some of our favorite meals from the freezer. 
  • Leftover rice – it’s very convenient for quick meals.
  • Sourdough bread – I buy a good, four ingredient sourdough bread at the farmers market for the boys. They don’t eat a lot of bread, and I always freeze at least 2/3 of it (sliced). We defrost it a few slices at a time over the next couple of  weeks.
  • Frozen banana slices – I buy organic bananas at Costco and freeze most of them (sliced). I use the frozen banana slices in my green smoothies. When it’s warm out, I also enjoy eating a few slices as a little frozen treat.
  • Organic frozen vegetables – peas, asparagus, etc. – great meal savers when I don’t have other veggies around.
Questions: What do you always keep in your freezer? Do you use your freezer to make meals easier? 

Be well,

Monday, September 22, 2014

Half Moon Bay Escape and Food & Beers at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company

Friday and Saturday were full of work prep (preparing for a new academic year) and life prep (cleaning, food prep, and pre cooking). While I was very busy and got up really early on both days, it felt great once everything was done. I truly believe that the time spent on getting everything organized is essential for life to go smoothly, and it ultimately affects everything from how you sleep to how you eat.

On Sunday, we got to escape to the coast up north to “get away from it all.” Andy had been invited to try the beers and food at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, and the kid and I got to tag along.

Andy got to sample all ten beers on tap and enjoyed them a lot.

We started our meal with the seafood duo: Ahi poke and ceviche with fried wontons and tortilla chips. The dish came with a fruit salsa, which went great with both the poke and the ceviche and was a wonderful palate cleanser when switching from the poke to the ceviche. I am usually not a big fan of fruit salsas, but this one was very nice as the onions and peppers in it provided a nice balance. I didn’t have any of the wontons or the chips, but Andy and the kid liked them a lot. Both the ceviche and the poke were outstanding, and the dish was the highlight of our meal.

For his main courses, Andy had the wild salmon, which was topped with the fruit salsa (a nice combo) and came with rice and veggies. Everything was tasty.

For my main course, I chose the green salad with a balsamic vinaigrette on the side (I ended up not needing it) topped with Dungeness crab and bay shrimp. There were big juicy pieces of crab meat, and the shrimp were very sweet and tasty. The salad had artichokes, mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, and cucumber slices, which, with the seafood, made for an instant dressing. It had the ingredients a salad on the California coast should have: wonderful produce and fresh, tasty seafood.

Early on I had spotted a flourless (and naturally gluten-free) chocolate torte on the menu and decided we had to try it. It was great, and a few bites went a long way.

We had planned to go for a walk after lunch. When we saw a farmers’ market nearby, we decided to stop by first. The kid had a great time taste testing all the different fruits, including pomegranate seeds.

Then we headed to the pier and the beach. It was 65 degrees and overcast – the perfect weather to recharge our batteries and get our daily steps. 

It was a great day with great food and effortless daily steps.

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? Sunday definitely made up for Friday and Saturday and all the prep work earlier in the week! Smile  What’s your favorite seafood? I don’t have crab meat very often but love it. It was great having it in the salad. Also, Ahi poke is one of my favorite seafood dishes, and the one we had was very good.

Be well,

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mixx in Mountain View: Weekend Food Fun

On Friday, we were invited to have lunch at Mixx in Mountain View during its soft opening.

We went toward the end of the lunch service after we picked up the kid from school.

The meal started with warm bread and butter. The boys were excited since they don’t get to eat a lot of bread at home. Both said it was excellent.

Our appetizers were pork belly sliders, which were served on steamed buns. Since I can’t eat gluten, I didn’t try the bun but liked the slightly sweet sauce on the pork belly and especially the marinated vegetables on top. The kid gave them 10 “thumbs/fingers” up. Smile 

Andy ordered the steak frites, which was served with fries and a salad. I really liked the presentation of the fries in a little wire basket. The fries were served with a homemade ketchup, which was good but quite sweet. 

The kid got the croque madame, a giant grilled cheese and ham sandwich that is served with a poached egg on top. He enjoyed it a lot but couldn’t make a dent in it. The sandwich is definitely big enough to split between two people.

Finally, I got the kale salad. It was well marinated/massaged and had a generous amount of quinoa as well as feta cheese, dried cranberries, nuts, and fresh grapes. I very much enjoyed the kale salad. I like kale a lot, but I think even those who aren’t the biggest kale fans would enjoy this version as it’s well marinated, and the kale taste is therefore quite mild. The serving was huge. Two people could have a nice meal splitting one or two appetizers and the kale salad.

Andy enjoyed a Firestone Walker Union Jack with his meal and was excited that Mixx offers a selection of craft beers on tap as well as in bottles. There are also ciders on the menu as well as specialty cocktails. A big lounge area features big screen TVs as well as numerous games, including a shuffleboard. It looks like a fun place to hang out after work (for those of us who can….). 

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? Do you like kale? (Biz, you don’t need to answer this… Winking smile)This is the second kale salad I had in a restaurant in the last few weeks, and I enjoyed them both even though they were completely different. The one I had at Herbivore wasn’t massaged/marinated and the kale flavor came through a lot more. I think the version at Mixx is perfect for those who enjoy a milder kale flavor.

Be well,

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Recent Kid-Friendly Hiking Adventures in the South Bay

The kid is enjoying longer and more difficult hikes (for the most part – I would lie if I said there was never any complaining, but it’s rare…), which has been awesome. Hiking, especially hikes with some steep parts, is definitely my favorite way to get those daily steps!

On Labor Day, we did a 9-mile hike in Henry Coe Park in Morgan Hill. It’s quite a drive to get to the parking lot as the winding road leads you 10 miles up the mountain. The trail we followed was beautiful, but there wasn’t a lot of shade and it was quite steep at times. Since it was 90+ degrees on the day of our hike, it was not the ideal hike to do on that day. Plus, we didn’t bring enough water – a big no no.

Here are some photos from the hike:

A few months ago, we hiked in Castle Rock State Park in Los Gatos. It’s a beautiful hike with plenty of opportunities to climb on some rocks, which the kids loved. The longer hikes there are great for kids 6 and older.

Rancho San Antonio in Los Altos is a favorite with the locals and parking can be a challenge. Deer Hollow Farm – a working farm with chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, a cow, plenty of herbs and vegetables, and more –  is about one mile from the parking lot and many families walk there on the weekends. If you are lucky, you may even be able to buy some farm-fresh eggs from truly happy chickens (they run out quickly though). There are many trails to choose from throughout the park, and you can do anything from a leisurely walk to the farm to more challenging trails, including the - at times - quite steep 8-mile PG&E trail.

Some hiking dos:
  • Bring enough water – you’ll probably need more than you think! We learned that the hard way last week!
  • On hiking days, make sure you are well hydrated, even before you start your hike
  • Wear hiking shoes that provide stability – since I have a weak/previously injured ankle, this is an absolute must for me
  • Bring sunblock and a hat
  • Pay attention to your surroundings – this past weekend, a 6-year-old boy was attacked by a mountain lion in the Santa Cruz mountains – read the warning signs at the trail head and know what to do when encountering mountain lions, snakes, etc.
Questions: Do you like to hike? Do you have a hiking bucket list? For now, I just want to explore more of the awesome trails in our immediate area, but I also would like to explore the Pinnacles sometime soon.

Be well,

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Berkeley Visit and Vegan Food at Herbivore

On Saturday, we decided to visit Andy’s alma mater. Before exploring the campus, we went to Herbivore – a vegan restaurant at 2451 Shattuck Avenue. Herbivore also has two locations in San Francisco, and I had been wanting to visit one of their locations for quite some time. Luckily, we were not disappointed.

We decided to split the raw kale salad. I was going to get the lemongrass noodles and Andy the shawarma wrap with “chicken.” Our waitress had indicated that Andy’s order was her favorite. The menu can potentially be a bit confusing as it lists chicken and beef strips (without quotes). Clearly, they are meat substitutes, but we actually overheard customers asking for clarification as they were confused by the language on the menu. Perhaps it would be a bit clearer if “chicken” and “beef strips” were in quotes…

Since we weren’t very clear when we ordered, our waitress only ordered the kale salad and the wrap. This was actually a good thing as the kale salad filled me up. It was simply dressed but very tasty. The onions were very mild (maybe soaked in ice water?) and added a nice crunch to the salad. It’s definitely a kale salad that lets the kale shine and doesn’t try to cover up its flavor. I enjoyed it a lot, and even the kid ate his fair share of it. I also had some of the filling of Andy’s wrap, and it was very tasty as well. It was marinated in a very flavorful, slightly spicy sauce and came with a nicely dressed side salad. The meal left us satisfied and ready to explore the campus. We can’t wait to go back and explore more of the menu!

After lunch, we walked toward campus.

But first we stopped at the student bookstore. 

We had to take a picture in front of the famous Sather Gate. 

And then we headed to the Campanile Tower. 

We took the elevator to the top (unfortunately you can’t take the stairs) and enjoyed the view. 

Then we headed to the Life Sciences Building and checked out some dinosaur bones. This was definitely the highlight for the kid!

Then we explored the beautiful campus some more. It was a great way to get some steps. I love it when we get plenty of steps effortlessly! 

Exploring Berkeley and the university campus was a great way to spend a Saturday. I love the relaxed, offbeat atmosphere of the city, and there is lots to explore on campus, including lots of things to keep kids interested. We can’t wait to go back to explore more and try more dishes at Herbivore! 

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? Do you have a list of restaurants you want to visit? I do have quite the list, but since we hardly ever go out to eat, we pretty much never visit any of them. I’m glad I can cross Herbivore off the list but also want to go back! Smile 

Be well,