make your own salad bar!

I love a salad bar as much as the next self-respecting veggie, but a) going out to lunch is expensive, and b) salad bars seem so germy! Shudder. What I love about them, though, is having all those OPTIONS. It is so much more fun to compile a salad with dabs of everything, isn’t it?

So, I decided to create my own, so I could pack a yummy salad every day for lunch at the office, and I might just do this every week! First, I chopped up lots of veggies, salad size, and put them in containers. I dumped a few canned goods like marinated peppers and artichoke hearts into their own containers, too. I whipped up a yummy marinated bean salad. I even threw some sunflower seeds in a small container. Then I put all those small tupperwares into one large plastic tote with a snap lid. Here’s my “salad bar:”

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It fits nicely on the bottom shelf of my fridge so I can just grab the whole thing in the AM, and assemble a salad superquick. I even made some fast side salads with dinner during the week with it. Mix-and-match!

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Notice just above, I pre-washed varieties of greens and mixed them together in a plastic container (the kind you buy bulk spinach in – just wash between uses). With a few paper towels in there the greens stayed fresh all week.

Do you love seeing what’s in people’s fridges? Welp here’s mine just for fun.

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I use a bento box or a large, flat glasslock container (depending on what’s clean) to pack my salad. Then all the juicy stuff stays separate until ready to mix together and eat! I use silicone cupcake cups, small jars, etc in addition to the little plastic bento containers. It’s like food Tetris! IMG_1463Have fun playing with your food!

instagram weekend & october detox check-in

What a great long weekend!! I was fortunate enough to have Columbus Day off {whoop}! I’m only 8 days in one the month of vegan eating// October detox, but it’s been a blast. It has rejuvenated my cooking rut and I’ve gone out for a couple awesome vegan meals. I can’t wait to try some weird ethnic and gourmet cuisine in NYC next weekend. So far I’ve made: apple sauce, butternut apple soup, apple crisp (can you tell we were hooked up with a serious apple surplus?!), smokey black bean tacos, pumpkin spice lattes, spicy hummus, pumpkin cookies, pasta with Field Roast sausage marinara sauce, red beans and rice, beet burgers, lentil and quinoa salad…. phew!

My life’s not ALL food obsessed and it was a great weekend. I felt like re-capping the 3 glorious days via Instagram.

Friday night, hubby and I went to SLC for dinner at Sage’s Cafe, which is an awesome vegan joint. I had the seitan tacos and hubby had the mushroom stroganoff. 😉 This Marilyn mini tag-art was on a wall near the cafe.

Then we hit the much-anticipated (by ME) Garbage show, which was postponed from last April! It was phenomenal. Much like seeing Fiona Apple, this was almost surreal! This band made up the soundtrack to my early teen years when I was just starting to care abut music. When you’re a weird kid, music can be your best friend. And.. I was pretty damn weird. Somehow seeing this band live made me realize I was just cool before my time. 😉

Saturday morning I made a run down to Whole Foods for some vegan cooking staples, and also hit the new Lululemon store. I loved this store window there. “Do 1 Thing A Day that Scares You.” I think that’s pretty damned good advice {and a good 30 day challenge… hmm.. just sayin’!}. (PS: Love my new Lulumon Studio Pants.)

The Whole Foods haul! Lots of goodies for my month of vegan cooking. OH!.. I was also on a fact-finding mission, as I’m writing a paper on Whole Foods services strategy. I know how to party.

In between studying and paper-writing I made that yummy sugar scrub on Sunday. It’s lovely!

Those vegan pumpkin spice lattes! I made a huge batch of the pumpkin mix from this recipe, to make a latte every day for the rest of the week. They are soooo good.

Monday I spent more of the day studying for my Tuesday night Corporate Finance final. But I did manage to sneak out for a few more cooking supplies at the Asian market… and snapped a picture of their awesome front door. 😉 I’m weird like that.

AND got a much needed haircut at the Cherry Bomb Salon in Ogden. Wanted to sneak that in before our trip next weekend. I’ll definitely be going back!

Monday night’s dinner is Tamarind Tempeh and Sweet Potatoes (from the Appetite for Reduction cookbook) and this purple cauliflower I picked up at Whole Foods. So pretty! So delicious! If I had to pick a favorite veggie it just *might* be cauliflower, but purple cauliflower??! WHA WHAAA!!

I hope everyone else had a fabulous weekend and has a great week!! Do tell.

practically free friday #22 – make a chalkboard menu

This chalkboard paint was in my newly acquired paint stash. I’d love to paint an entire chalkboard wall somewhere at some point, but for now I thought I would just test it on a much smaller scale. To make mine, I used black Rustoleum chalkboard paint, an old frame I had on hand, and an uncut photo mat to fit the frame.

I gave the frame a couple coats of yellow spray paint to give it more contrast against the black board. I painted the photo mat with two coats of the chalkboard paint. I used damage free Command brand picture hangers to mount it to our pantry door.

It’s really handy for planning the weekly menu without necessitating scraps of paper. This would make a great to do list in an office, too.

While I was at it, I painted some rocks with the chalkboard paint, too. Fun paperweights? I dunno.

healthy pesto

I love this time of year because it means all that work in the garden really starts paying off. Then it’s work in the kitchen!

I have an insane amount of basil growing – I keep giving it away but I simply can’t keep up with it. In the next couple of weeks I will start drying some.

But today, I made a couple double batches of my favorite – pesto! Garlic and basil are probably two of my most favorite things, and it will be a treat to get some garden pesto out of the freezer this winter.

To make a double-batch (which yields about a cup) you will need the following..

  • 2 cups of basil leaves
  • 2 palm-fulls of chopped walnuts
  • 6 tbs of lemon juice
  • 2 tbs of olive oil
  • 3-5 cloves of garlic, minced (I like mine garlicy)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste

Simply throw all the ingredients into a food processor and whirl til smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl periodically. Put the pesto into small freezer containers and freeze!

I know lots of pesto recipes call for pine nuts, but walnuts are cheaper and just as delicious. And I omit the cheese and include lemon juice so it’s healthier.

Besides putting this on pasta, you can use it to make panini sandwiches, bruchetta, mix into a marinara sauce, use as a pizza topping, mix into a pasta salad, or stir a little into tomato soup. A little goes a long way so you can chisel a few tablespoons out of your frozen pesto at a time if needed for any of the above ideas. Have you ever made your own pesto? What kinds of good stuff are you getting in your garden (or at farmer’s markets) this summer?

PS: Look how cute my apron is. My sister-in-law Chalese gave e this for my birthday and I wear it nearly every day and it makes me feel so 1950s housewifey.

how to start, and maintain, a cooking club

Last weekend, hubby and I hosted our 4th Cooking Club event at our place. The theme was food-on-a-stick, and it was super fun! All kinds of good things. We made pizza-on-a-stick and salad-on-a-stick. Also on the menu and in our gullets: eggplant skewers, chicken souvlaki, potato salad, corn-on-the-cob, Greek salad, cherry pie, cheese cake, strawberry shortcake… all on a stick!

I am the organizer of this little growing group, so I keep track of every event. I realized this week, we started over THREE years ago, and have had 32 cooking club events!! I venture to say I’m a veteran at this. So, it’s time I did a post about it.

Here are my tips for creating your own cooking club:

  1. Start small. Find a few foodie friends and hit them all up with the idea. The group WILL get bigger and you want the core few to be very committed so it doesn’t fizzle out! To kind of prime everyone I did lay out some “rules” for the theme, and asked everyone to bring specific things for a planned menu. I talked about planning that first one way back in March 2009 on my old blog. There were eight of us in total which was still a LOT for that tiny kitchen. I asked those who attended to be willing to take turns hosting and we decide once a month was perfect.
  2. Establish some rules to break. The “rules” initially were that the host picked the theme and often made the main dish, and the rest of us brought appetizers, sides and desserts. It’s since evolved into a more extensive potluck (lots of main dishes, lots of cocktails, lots of everything!). It is best to be pretty organized in the beginning – once people get the “vision” they will break out of it and make it their own.
  3. Change it up. It took only a few months before people started asking to be invited. We mulled it over and decided to open it up. There would be less structure but more people is always more fun. We’ve also made sure to not duplicate themes and even add activities (Irish food + beer pong for St. Patrick’s Day, costumes for 70’s night..)
  4. Make sure someone keeps it organized. The host for the month plans and sends out the email, but it’s been beneficial for me to send out periodic emails that are more housekeeping-related to keep it all going. Like in December, I sent out an email to everyone asking people to chose their month, on a first-come-first-served basis and within minutes the 2012 cooking club calendar was full. Or if someone needs to cancel I can look at the list and ping those who haven’t hosted in a while (or ever) for the chance.
  5. Make it easy on people. Some people love hosting and some people get so nervous. I make sure to help people out by giving them ideas for themes (if they ask). Some people run with it. And I don’t force people into hosting. There are some clubbers that come almost every time but never host it. No worries. Someone always wants to!
  6. Calm your inner control freak. I wanted this to be so organized that we would all post our recipes to a blog. I started one and it didn’t last. Only a few clubbers wanted to bother. I had to be ok with it that it’d become a BYOB and potluck party more than a fine culinary experience. Thus why my first theme entailed Italian food, china and wine and the last one – food on sticks and PBR. Which leads me to..
  7. Let everyone do their weird thing. Hosting is kind of my “thing” now and I want to get all Martha about it. And some of the others do, too. It’s a great excuse to ask everyone to dress up for a night of cocktails one month, then wear our best 80s band tee or overalls for White Trash cooking. 
  8. If you can’t handle 6 & 7, here’s my highly-specific solution: Start another one. A couple years ago some of the original members decided to start a second “secret” cooking club. Where we’d actually cook something quite impressive and complicated, together, and eat it in a civilized manner. Whereas the other cooking club was a party, this one could have rules and structure (The First Rule of Food Club is.. DON’T TALK ABOUT FOOD CLUB).  It’s dissolved since, but it was kind of fun to reignite the original idea for a while.

I have gained so much from starting a Cooking Club! I’m a more adventurous cook. I no longer have hostess anxiety {ok maybe a little}. I think a little more creatively all the time as a result- really – because I’m on the lookout for ideas and inspiration. And I’ve gotten to know people I work with {and friends-of-friends} better as a result. We are a little family who bonds over laughs and flavors and a shared hobby. We know each others’ kids and significant others and pets and silverware drawers.

Just for fun, here’s a list of all the themes we’ve had through the years {the * means we hosted at our house}:

  • Mar 2009: Italian*
  • Apr 2009: American/BBQ
  • May 2009: Mexican
  • June 2009: Greek
  • July 2009: Cajun
  • Aug 2009: Hawaiian Luau
  • Sept 2009: Soup Kitchen
  • Nov 2009: Breakfast for Dinner
  • Jan 2010: Caribbean
  • Feb 2010: Fondue
  • Mar 2010: Asian Fusion
  • April 2010: French
  • May 2010: Indian
  • June 2010: Backyard BBQ *
  • July 2010: White Trash Cooking
  • August 2010: 70’s-Themed Cooking
  • September 2010: Mongolian BBQ
  • October 2010: Crock Pot Classics
  • November 2010: Baked Potato Bar
  • January 2011: Mini Pizza Party
  • February 2011: Favorite Foods
  • March 2011: Irish & Beer Pong
  • May 2011: Appetizers, Cocktails & Wine
  • June 2011: Grill Out @ Willard Bay + boating
  • July 2011: Vegetarian*
  • August 2011: Brazilian
  • October 2011: Thai
  • December 2011: Red, White & Green + Secret Santa Gift Swap
  • January 2012: Spicy Food
  • February 2012: Seafood
  • March 2012: Restaurant Appetizer Copy Cats
  • May 2012: Food-on-a-Stick*

The rest of the year is planned out so no sign of fizzling out any time soon. Is anyone else into anything like this? What have your experiences been like?

veggie-riffic easter dinner menu

This year, I’m hosting an Easter dinner. Newbie holiday meal-maker here, and I’m very excited!

Here’s the {ham-and-lamb-free} menu:

 

Also on the agenda: fitness, dog park, yard work, and bike riding! I hope everyone has a fabulous Easter weekend.

 

Skinny Mock Margarita

Winter is dragging on and on so I decided to whip up a pitcher of tasty beverages that make me think of summer, while I got my couch potato on. It’s a great healthy recipe, for only 58 calories and lots of tastiness.

Skinny Mock Margaritas

Ingredients:

  • Lime wedge
  • Coarse salt
  • 1 can frozen limeade concentrate
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened grapefruit juice
  • 4 cups ice cubes
  • Lime slices
  • Green food coloring (optional)

Directions:

  1. Rub rims of margarita glasses with lime wedge; dip rims into a shallow dish of coarse salt and shake off excess. Set aside.
  2. In a blender, combine limeade concentrate, orange juice, and grapefruit juice. Cover and blend until smooth. With the blender running, gradually add ice cubes through the hole in the lid, blending until slushy. If desired, tint with a few drops of green food coloring. Pour into margarita glasses. If desired, garnish with citrus slices. Makes 8 (4-ounce) servings.

Nutrition Information:

Calories 58, Total Fat 0 g, Saturated Fat 0 g, Cholesterol 0 mg, Sodium 3 mg, Carbohydrate 15 g, Fiber 0 g, Protein 0 g.

Source.