Category Archives: Cooking

Hy-Vee Dish: Happy Hour for the parent set

I’m not sure what it says about my life that the Hy-Vee “Dish” freezer meal workshop I just attended was fun and exciting, but it kind of rocked my world. (Well, nobody got me tickets to the  Beyoncé Formation World Tour!) My friend Kate from babysitting co-op got together 15 women for a Monday night happy hour situation and we all left with 10 meals (four serving each) for under $150 – and no cost to attend.

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Our workshop was from 6-7 p.m., which was perfect timing to take advantage of the Hy-Vee Market  happy hour before we started in on our meals. My grandpa always used to write recipes with “Step 1: Pour a drink,” so I felt right at home. The packaging itself happens in the market cafe, too, and you can bring your beverage right over. (My friend’s jaw dropped when they gave her a bill for just $4 for two local brews. Good deals. Or she’s just cute.)

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The Hy-Vee staff (shout out to Jenn and her team at the Valley West location) did all of the shopping/chopping for us before the event, and each meal had a prep zone with all of the ingredients, instructions, measuring spoons, labeled bags – everything. You just don an apron, gloves, buddy up and measure and dump.  The ingredients were high quality, and whatever is left over you can arm wrestle your friends to take home.

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There’s a variety of meal options, so Kate was a genius and invited us all to a Facebook event and posted the options as a poll, so we could vote for our favorites. Here’s what we took home:

  1. Chicken Pad Thai
  2. Southwest Marinade Steak
  3. Party Chicken
  4. Firecracker Grilled Salmon (super excited about this one!)
  5. Honey Garlic Meatballs
  6. Baked Ziti
  7. Chicken Asada Fajitas
  8. Crockpot Italian Beef
  9. Chicken and Dumplings
  10. Orange Chicken Stir Fry

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I brought my sister-in-law and caught up with my friend Kimberly at the Chicken Pad Thai station. Then, once all of the meals are prepped, they divvy them up for you and you just pay at the register.

I could totally see organizing one of these as a great “stock the freezer” party for a mom-to-be, with everyone chipping in to buy her portion of the dinners. I could also see a group of dudes doing this, or a couples date night thing with a bunch of friends.

Really, just, everyone with a mouth – if you’re the kind of person who uses the slow cooker on the regs, sign up for this. Hy-Vee always manages to make grocery shopping fun for me, and they really outdo themselves with the Dish event. I think you can get a group together and call to schedule a workshop, but certain Hy-Vees also have them on their events calendar.

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What I’m into: Caucus week edition

Totally nerding out in my corner of America because it’s CAUCUS EVE.

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Free caucus download via xo-lp.com

As an Iowan By Choice, I take the privilege of our first in the nation caucus seriously — especially now that we don’t work at the paper and can participate. I gleefully take all of the pollster calls (most recently in the midst of a carwash) and am so excited and a little nervous to head to the Roosevelt auditorium with my family and neighbors and engage in civil political discourse. I know many of my thoughtful neighbors and there seems to be strong support for Hillary, although I plan to caucus for Bernie Sanders.

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While I would absolutely love to see a woman in the white house, for me, Bernie represents the social justice candidate. I’m not disillusioned with Obama and don’t think a “political revolution” happens with a single candidate. This article does a pretty good job of capturing my feelings.

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We went to see him at a rally this summer, and every time Sanders’ voice comes on NPR, Emmett recognizes it! Speaking of NPR, I think I’m going to get up early (because, let’s be frank, I’m typically up feeding a baby at 4 a.m.) and head to Smokey Row for live Morning Edition before work:

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Descending the soapbox now! Entering the kitchen!

I’ve been back to work for about a month, and the biggest stress has been trying to figure out how to get dinner made and served without everyone in the house having a meltdown. This past week we nailed it, repurposing leftovers and utilizing our groceries wisely.

Our latest go-to is variations of tamale pie, which is one-skillet and allows for lots of improvisation. In a cast-iron skillet, sweat veggies like zucchini, pepper and onion in chili powder, add meat (we’ve used ground turkey and most recently leftover pulled pork from a crockpot meal) and top with wet cornbread mix, then bake. (Something like this recipe.) It comes together quickly from scratch and is great for lunch the next day.

We’ve also been eating fresh drop biscuits with soup because mixing them up with pantry staples is a great activity to keep a toddler busy while we get everything together.

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What I’m into: Holidaze

You know it’s the Christmas season when the kitchen table is covered in fabric and I’m trying not to step on straight pins!

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I have my sewing machine out to finish up Eileen’s stocking, which involves quilting Moda Winterberry charms in a coordinating design to hang alongside her brother’s. (Pattern is a riff on this one from Prudent Baby).

The majority of my Instagram feed is either babies, dogs or fabric designers, and when I came across a festive tablesetting project on the fatquartershop feed, I was inspired to make it for my forever friend, Regina:

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(I made my own template, but you can purchase them here.)

Regina and I got to meet up at my hometown Breakfast with Santa this past weekend and had to get a special photo with our baby girls.

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My mom’s side of the family also celebrated, and this snap captures the feels from our family party:

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Emmett’s wearing a Super Why cape my mom sewed for him. Super Why is a PBS superhero with The Power…To..Read! – obviously my favorite super power of all time.

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Joe and I brought this New York Times chocolate whiskey cake, which features a half a cup of Irish whiskey and a bunch of coffee and pinch of pepper/clove. It was intoxicating.

I still have some last-minute crafting, so I’m going to cross my fingers the kids keep napping and put MAIDS’ new holiday song, “All About Xmas” on repeat. Softly.

P.S. I’m obsessed with all things Aziz Ansari right now. Joe and I listened to “Modern Romance” on our drive to/from Chicago and we’ve bingewatched “Master of None” and I laughed out loud watching his Madison Square Garden special on Netflix. He’s got this refreshing sincerity and feminism going on in the midst of all that funny.

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Girls of 2015

I’m always surprised by how excited everyone seems to be that I had a little girl as my second (and last!) child. I love being a mom to a boy and raising him to value and respect women, and would have been totally content with two little dudes. But I’ve got to tell you – pink clothes explosion aside – having a daughter in a time when there are so many inspiring women breaking barriers is pretty exciting.

There’s still so much work to be done to achieve gender equality on a global scale, but this really made me smile:

Semi-related, Joe and I listed to the audiobook of “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg” on our Thanksgiving travels while the kids were sleeping. (We ‘checked it out’ of the library using their Overdrive app!) Her story is super inspiring, but what impressed me so much was the example of an egalitarian marriage that she and her late husband, Marty, shared. Also, I know what Eileen’s next Halloween costume should be 😉

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We also tried to get through (and completed the first set) of the “36 Questions that Lead to Love” featured in the New York Times.

I-80 is so boring, so I have to resist the urge to spend the entire ride scrolling through social media, which is unfair to Joe while he’s driving. I’m feeling super grateful that the only minor meltdown we had in 12 hours of total travel time was a rough patch around Newton on the way home. Bonus points for getting to breastfeed in the Mississippi River McDonalds twice in one week! Ha.

P.S. Joe made this butternut squash mac & cheese as a Thanksgiving side and although Emmett pushed it away after half a taste, it was a hit with the grown-ups!

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At home with the Heggens

Last week, my friends Danny and Katy and I finally made good on a volley of “LET’S MAKE RICOTTA” text messages. What? You don’t text your friends about cheese?

I had cheesemaking on my 30-before-30 list, a my friend even got me a sweet kit, but Emmett and I always seem to drink all of the milk in the house before I can manage any attempt to morph it into cheese. Danny is on a make-things-and-document-it kick, and I knew he’d DIY-d ricotta before, so I talked him into inviting me over to whip up a batch, especially since we don’t see each other at YNPN Des Moines board meetings any more. (Tear.)

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We donned aprons and made this creamy Smitten Kitchen ricotta because pretty much every post on Smitten Kitchen is a mouthwatering gem and they could attest to its taste and ease. Making the ricotta was insanely simple. The Heggens have way nicer kitchen utensils and even bought a bottle of silly alcohol-free red wine for me. The ricotta takes just a few minutes on the stove, and then we had to let it drain/firm up, so could hang out on the back porch and chow chips and drink “wine” and talk about the situational leadership model I learned about at a retreat. Because we’re geeks.

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We went a step further and turned half the ricotta into spinach-and-ricotta dumplings, sauteed in marinara sauce. They were pretty delish. I can’t find the Cooking Light recipe online (it’s in the current issue), but this is pretty similar.

Joe and Emmett came over for dinner after the cooking sesh/Emmett’s nap, and Danny even let Emmett try out his ukulele.

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I’m pretty terrible at making time to hang out with my friends. But I’m a champ at eating Sunday dinner. So, we should probably make and eat Sunday dinner with friends a lot more often.

 

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What I’m into

We have zilch on the agenda for Memorial Day weekend, which is quite amazing, because we definitely need a long weekend to recover from all of the fun we’ve been having before graduation party and family reunion weekends have us traveling again.

Here are a few things I’ve been enjoying lately:

Family date night to Pedal Art at the DMSC. Joe scored tickets to the early evening poster show preview party, so we were able to attend the bike month event as a family and snag a great print before the crowds arrived. It’s so rare that the timing for those events works out for us, so I was in heaven with my 20 oz. chai latte pregnant lady splurge.

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Yummy Toddler Food. My friend Amy (who is admittedly somewhat neurotic about making sure her kiddo gets wholesome food) started Yummy Toddler Food and although many of the meals don’t quite work with Emmett’s allergies, the variety of recipes is great inspiration! Follow Amy on Instagram, too.

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Did you know you could DIY fruit snacks with a healthy supplement boost? (I also love her list of mealtime gear, which is would make practical baby shower/toddler birthday gifts. Emmett loves meal prep.)

Brunch in CB. We finally went to Dixie Quicks in downtown Council Bluffs when we were in the Omaha area for a wedding last weekend and it was a delightful and delicious spot right downtown. Any place that has gourmet chilaquiles and gives toddlers dinosaur figurines to play with is great, but this also has a little attached art gallery. If you find yourself in the area, check it out!

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Image source + more pics 

A fantastic bedside book. I finished “All the Light We Cannot See,” our next book club choice, ahead of schedule because I hated to put it down! The prose was lyrical, the chapters short but the novel thick, and it was set in WWII France, so pretty much my ideal combo. Definitely recommend.

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A mid-week visit from a long-lost friend. Alex, my freshman year college roommate, lives in Wyoming and Alaska and the last chance I got to see her was in the Dominican Republic at a wedding in 2012! It was so special to share Des Moines with her, especially a bike ride around Cumming Tap, a visit to the Jasper Winery Concert Series, and an afternoon outing to the Des Moines Art Center restaurant (nom!!!) for girl talk and Fiber: Sculpture 1960-present exhibition. It’s amazing! Go!

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Visitors are encouraged to walk through this piece and ring the bells and shells. It’s a dream. Also, there is a giant woven vagina. So.

We also visited Beaverdale Books and Backcountry Outfitters, where I bought what look like ballerina sandals for an 80-year old, but feel like the ultimate footwear for a lady who is going to be pregnant through the heat of summer. (Apparently they are “yoga lifestyle” shoes, but let’s be real – they are going to be utilized while eating fried things on a stick at the State Fair, walking the dog and at work.)

Off to soak up more long weekend. Code for: Take more naps!

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NPR in everyday life

Iowa Public Radio is the first preset in my car (don’t worry, I’m a sustaining member!) and so shows like All Things Considered and segments like StoryCorps are part of my everyday life.

I went a step further this week: In pursuit of headway on my 30 before 30 list (less than a month to go! totally not going to cross off the majority!), I convinced my dear friend Arin to stay up late after our kiddos had gone to bed and bake a multi-layer cake. I’m not a confident baker, but I do love All Cakes Considered, by NPR producer Melissa Gray. We set out to make Aunt Di’s Bittersweet Chocolate Frosted Layer Cake.

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Once upon a time, in the beginning of my Des Moines life, Arin and Karen (co-owner of the stationery store Ephemera) were the cake queens. They used to bake a weekly cake from scratch and a big group of us used to come over to eat it. Those are some of my favorite memories.

So Monday night, I poured some fake, pregnant lady wine and unpacked armloads of supplies in Arin’s kitchen.  Her children slept through the sounds of our giggling and the amazing aroma. It was lovely. The cake, well, let’s just say it wasn’t going to win any beauty contests. (We frosted it while it was still hot.) But with two cups of freshly whipped cream (a delightful chore on a mint KitchenAid Mixer) in the batter and the frosting calling for enough confectioner’s sugar to swim in, it tasted delish. My coworkers graciously overlooked its ugliness and helped devour it at our Tuesday staff meeting.

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Nailed it. Maybe I should set my sights on the Iowa State Fair ugliest cake contest. I really can’t take myself too seriously.

And over the weekend, when I was home for a wedding, I downloaded the StoryCorps app to my phone.

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I love doing videos and interviews with my grandpa (he just turned 93 last week!) and this is a really great format. We talked about his mom, or at least tried to, in honor of Mother’s Day. The app gives you question prompts and it’s easy to upload the finished interview. Plus, any reason to get these two hangout time:

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We have a family reunion in June and I hope to record a longer StoryCorps about his experience in the Navy during WWII. It takes him a bit to get warmed up, but once he gets going, the stories start to flow. I think it would be fun for us to interview aunts and uncles, too! We don’t get together as much as I would like.

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