Settling in to our new life…and cooking again!

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For the last few weeks, very little cooking has happened. First off, we sold our dinner table, then I had to pack our kitchen. I also had my list of restaurants to go to before leaving Charlottesville. Meals were either out or ridiculously simple (i.e. salad mix with a couple of toppings). Once we moved, the new apartment was still a mess for the first few days. Not an easy place to cook!

But I did make the kitchen unpacking and organization a priority. Adjusting to a new kitchen is weird. The new one is much nicer than our old one but the cabinets are so different that I have to reconsider how everything is organized. Some of it is better, some of it still bothers me. I guess I’ll just have to re-adjust it all as I go. One thing I did was to add painter’s tape labels on our cabinets to remember where everything is.

IMG_2021 IMG_2019The other odd thing about moving is that we didn’t get to bring much of what used to be in our fridge. Actually, I did try to take a fair amount of it but it was so hot on our moving day that we lost most of it. Starting off with an empty fridge feels so weird to me. Where do I start? What do I buy first? On my first day after unpacking the kitchen, I went to my two main and closest grocery options now: Publix and Target. I didn’t want to buy too much at once but I did get ground turkey, spring mix, a small variety of fruits and veggies, as well as a few other random items.

I was so excited to make meatballs again! Always an easy meal and I love it every time. I didn’t follow a recipe this time and, instead, improvised with the few ingredients I had on hand. I made a lot more meatballs than I expected which ended up being great as it covered three different meals this past week:

Turkey meatballs on a bed of spring mix, with a sesame ginger vinaigrette.

Turkey meatballs on a bed of spring mix, with a sesame ginger vinaigrette.

Meatballs and southwest frozen veggies on flour tortilla with Ortega taco sauce

Meatballs and southwest frozen veggies on flour tortilla with Ortega taco sauce

Meatballs with a side salad (spring mix and frozen veggies leftovers), drizzle of Ortega taco sauce

Meatballs with a side salad (spring mix and frozen veggies leftovers), drizzle of Ortega taco sauce

You know when magazines show you 3 or 4 items of clothing and explain how you can turn it into a ton of outfits? That’s how I felt this week. What else can I do with the meatballs, frozen veggies and spring mix?

Next week, I might be a little bit more ambitious. We’re finally getting furniture so I will hopefully feel a bit more comfortable in our new home. That’s when the good cooking will happen…I hope! :)

Goodbye Virginia!

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I can’t believe my last post was in April. Craziness! Time just flew by in the last few months. I have been packing, socializing with the friends I know I will miss dearly, and eating at all my favorite local spots. We finally made in to Atlanta this past Sunday but before I start exploring my new home, I want to give Charlottesville one last homage. In the form of a list of places I’ve eaten in the last few months. Because I love food a lot. :)

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Bang! has the best drinks in town (and delicious food as well!). Of course I had to get one more Pink Flamingo before we left! :)

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We have enjoyed so many decadent meals at Mas. We loved their food and their sangria. I will certainly miss their charcuterie plate and carne asada!

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I tried my first oysters at Blue Light Grill. With Kim’s guidance, I tried raw, steamed and fried oysters. Glad I tried it… it wasn’t as bad as the last picture suggests. ;)

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I’ve been wanting to try out The Flat: Takeaway Crêperie since I moved to Charlottesville. Their odd schedule made it almost impossible. So very happy I was able to try them out with Holly! I had the “Temptation of Adam” savory crêpe and it was heavenly.

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Jeff and I had to stop by Trinity Irish Pub, on the Corner, as it used to be a Macado’s, where Jeff worked during his college years. A quick drink down memory lane. :)

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Paradox Pastry is where sweet dreams are baked to perfection. From their brown sugar pie to their “Better than DMB” brownies, everyone finds something they love there. And not to mention how awesome it is to sit and watch the “sugaristas” (what they called themselves) work their magic!

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A sweet treat at Paradox Pastry with Verena and Denise after our last day of preschool!

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We had a fun night out with our friends John and Michelle. We had dinner at Zocalo followed by drinks and dessert at C&O. How I love the rustic look of C&O!

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My all-time favorite. The place I will absolutely miss the most: The Local. Walking distance from our house, it was our go-to restaurants, whether we were meeting with friends or wanting a quick drink with appetizers. Their crispy shrimp will forever be at the top of my favorite food list.

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Although this isn’t a restaurant, I did go cherry picking for the first time! It was a lot of fun to pick them but even better to have a bucket full of freshly picked cherries to eat once I got back home!

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Another place I had not been to until a few weeks ago. Jeff took his dad and I to Mellow Mushroom. The pizza was delicious and although we figured out it was a chain (there is one in Atlanta!), it still felt like a local staple.

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For our dear friend Vari’s birthday, we went to Veritas Winery. With a glass of wine, we enjoyed a fabulous picnic…until a storm hit the area. I will certainly miss all the gorgeous wineries Virginia has to offer!

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Every Friday, Market Street Wine offers a free wine tasting. When the weather was nice (i.e. not too hot), Jeff and I loved going there. As our friend Josh was visiting, we decided to go one last time.

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Marco & Luca: The best dumplings in town. I also love their cold sesame noodles. All together, a cheap and satisfying lunch.

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As if the dumplings weren’t enough, Vari, Denise and I followed our lunch by ice cream cones at Chaps. And, of course, I also love their 50′s diner atmosphere!

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For years, Jeff told me I needed to go to Little John’s Deli. It somehow didn’t happen until Wednesday before we left as I went with Kim. I had their Mo-Jo chicken sandwich and it was fabulous.

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A few hours after our lunch at Little John’s, Kim and I headed over to Sweethaus for some cupcakes. My sweet tooth enticed me to get the “Everything” cupcake, a deliciously rich treat.

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On my last day before Jeff came back, I had lunch at Belmont BBQ with Verena. Their Slop Bucket should gross me out but it is actually very delicious.A staple of the Belmont neighborhood.

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Having Belmont BBQ for lunch followed by Bodo’s Bagels for dinner wasn’t my best move but it didn’t make it any less delicious. Sesame bagel with chicken salad. So good!

Other places I went to but didn’t take pictures of include:

  • Mi Canton: where I had the best Pupusa and tamal
  • Mel’s Café: where a fried chicken sandwich means fried chicken with a side of bread. (but oh so tasty fried chicken!)
  • Lime Leaf: The first Thai restaurant I went to. Their sweet and sour chicken remains my favorite.
  • Now & Zen: By far, the best sushi in town!

So, there you have it. My last foodie memories in Charlottesville. It is now time to turn the page on nine wonderful years to start a new journey in Atlanta. I’m excited to see what this big city has to offer.

My last 9 years in Virginia. So many wonderful memories!

My last 9 years in Virginia. So many wonderful memories!

 

 

Let the Countdown Begin…

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Has it seriously been over a month since my last post? Geez Louise! So much catching up to do.

I need to start by explaining our new life situation as it is the cause of my absence lately but also the inspiration for many posts to come. In February, I mentioned my husband’s new job, involving a lot of traveling. Well, so much traveling that we will move from Virginia to Georgia this summer! This new move is both exciting and terrifying. I am excited to discover a new city and to embark in this new adventure. I am sad to leave my friends and a workplace I love so much. I know I will miss a lot of things about Charlottesville but I also feel like it will be nice to try out something new. And, to be frank, I have only ever moved twice in my life: First from my parents’ house to my host family’s house when I became an Au Pair, and then to Jeff’s house. This will my first time doing actual packing. And this will be quite the packing experience. We will go from a 4-story townhouse to a one-bedroom apartment. This means I need to get rid of most things we own. So my last few weeks have been filled with writing and dealing with Craigslist posts, making donation piles, etc. On top of that, I also have my job and all its end-of-year activities! I love my job and it is honestly what’s keeping me (mostly) sane through all of this.

So where do I start? I guess I should show you what my meals have looked like lately. To be honest, most meals have involved throwing vegetables and some protein in a large pan and throwing the whole thing on pasta. Often my favorite kind of meal and also the easiest. My goal lately has been to use up what we have in the pantry (hence the large quantity of pasta dishes) and in the freezer (sweet peas, shrimp…), while mixing it up with fresh ingredients as well. Here are some examples:

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Shrimp, broccoli, mushroom, onions and tomatoes. Served on fresh Mona Lisa Pasta (a local Italian restaurant) egg linguini. My first time buying really fresh pasta and it will be difficult to go back to anything else from now on.

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Simple but tasty: Bell peppers, white mushrooms, onions and Aidells Portobello & Swiss Chicken sausage.

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One of my favorite ideas so far: Sweet peas and mushrooms, added to a simple Béchamel (white sauce) with Parmesan and prosciutto. Served on angel hair pasta.

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One of my many “what’s left in the fridge” dinners: Asparagus, kale, bell peppers, cauliflower and onions. Served on Soba noodles

As I know that we will soon leave Charlottesville, the town where I have spend the past 8 years, I feel the need to say goodbye to some of my favorite restaurants. For some, it is all about their food, for others, it is about the many memories related to the place. I keep talking about listing them but the official list does not yet exist. I might regret this once I run out of time. But here are a couple of places I visited one last time before the move:

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South Street Brewery: This is where I met most of my American friends when I was an Au Pair. Many friendships grew during our weekly meetings and, come to think of it, I might not have met Jeff if it wasn’t for that (I met Jeff through friends I met there). That is also where I celebrated my 21st birthday!

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Zazu’s Curry Chicken Wrap: One of the first things “out of the ordinary” I ordered when I moved to Charlottesville. Although I have tried many other flavors since, I wanted to end with the original. And it was just as good as I remembered.

Well, I guess you’re a little bit more up-to-date now. Time for me to go make my “before I leave” restaurant list. :)

TCP: Russian Snack for the Winter Olympics

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Whenever I choose a recipe for our cooking projects, I like to link it to our theme. The Winter Olympics were tricky at first. My first thought was “healthy athlete food”, followed by Russian food. Unfortunately, most traditional Russian recipes I found were either not very healthy (or I should say, too heavy) or not easily made/cooked in a classroom with limited time and equipment. I finally came across a Russian carrot salad (apparently also very popular in the South).

The project was very simple: the children mixed the dressing ingredients and we then added it to the carrot and raisin mixture. Nothing too complicated. And, of course, a lot of tasting was involved. Because we couldn’t add carrots and raisins without making sure we liked them! :)

Russian Carrot-Raisin Salad:

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of shredded carrots
  • 1 cup of raisins
  • 1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar

What’s Next?

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, milk and sugar.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the carrots and raisins. Add the yogurt mixture and mix well.
  3. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes before serving.

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This week was more about the experience: we told the children we were traveling to Russia to make our snack. We showed them on a map where America was and how far our plane would go to get to the Olympic village. As we had practiced our Olympic sports all week (during circle time, we pretended to ice-skate, ski, play hockey, etc), we told them we were finally ready to participate in the Olympics, but like any great athletes, we needed to eat well to be ready to compete! Our toddlers, who recently started responding much more to pretend play, really seemed to enjoy the full experience. Most of them went through a full plate of carrot salad! It was definitely nice to have them enjoy such a common vegetable in a different form.IMG_7937 - Version 2

TCP: Strawberry Chocolate Muffins

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I apologize for being so behind on posting our toddler cooking projects! With snow days and hubby travels, I lost track of a lot of things. This week’s recipe is actually what we made the week before Valentine’s day. Since we alternate cooking days between Thursdays and Fridays each week, I wanted this group to make a special Valentine snack as well, even though we were a week early. It turned out to be a good thing because Valentine’s Day was a snow day so we didn’t get a chance to make anything else anyway.

We had chocolate chips left from the holidays (thanks to a generous mom from our group!) so I figured it would be a great time to use them. I found a healthier strawberry-chocolate muffin recipe to try to off-set the fact that we would use chocolate chips.

With each recipe, I try to find a few special tasks for the children. Sometimes, it may be to crack eggs or chop something. For this muffin recipe, I gave each child a plastic knife and a strawberry and asked them to chop it. I told them we would add them to the muffin mixture. It started out great! We were so impressed to see how focus they all worked, trying so hard to dice their strawberries. Unfortunately for the baking, most of them couldn’t resist and ate their strawberries as soon as they were done chopping them. Out of twelve toddlers, only two waited and gave us their chopped strawberries. Thankfully, we had extra and, as soon as we noticed their habit, we quickly chopped extra ones for the recipe.

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Using one of our child-safe knives, a generous donation from a class parent.

Another interesting aspect of making a healthier muffin recipe was using applesauce instead of butter. We had extra individual serving sizes of applesauce from past snack time and the children really loved seeing their favorite snack thrown into the recipe. And surprisingly enough (not!), the children were very happy to sample the chocolate chips before adding them to the recipe!

The children happily devoured their muffins after circle time. Another successful cooking project in the toddler class. :)

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Needless to say, it was a love-filled week in the toddler class!

Keeping My Momentum Going

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As I mentioned in my latest posts, with my husband’s new traveling job, I made one new rule for myself: cook something new every week. Although Jeff ended up being home last week (yay!), I still wanted to follow my plan. I found recipes that we would both liked and headed to the grocery store.

For my lunches, I made taco salad. I followed this Paleo recipe, although I used turkey instead of beef, and added chopped onions. The seasoning was perfect. To make it a salad, I added diced bell peppers, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, lettuce and spinach.

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On Tuesday, I made these pot sticker burgers with Asian slaw. They were super tasty although the slaw was a little bit too spicy for my taste. But that’s my fault, I should have skipped the crushed red peppers…I should’ve known better.

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On Thursday, I made slow cooker Mongolian beef. Although the preparation took a little bit more time than I expected, it was still stupidly easy to make and the result made the house smell amazing. I served the beef with steamed Jasmine rice and sautéed asparagus. When I asked Jeff to rate the dish on a scale of 1 to 5, he responded “I got a second helping. It means more than your scale.” Good point, honey, good point. If Mister Picky gets seconds, you know it was good.

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Although I had planned to make more, I only ended up needing two dinner dishes for the week. Partly because Jeff was out one night and I made a lazy but delicious bowl of pasta (regular boxed pasta and store sauce…don’t judge) and also because we caved in and got frozen pizza on Friday.

This week, I only have one recipe lined up so far: chicken salad for my lunches. The recipe I made was super simple but absolutely delicious. I apologize for the lack of quantities, I just threw it all in randomly.

Best-Ever Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breast, diced
  • Fuji apple, diced
  • Red grapes, halved
  • Fat free Greek yogurt
  • Natural peanut butter (or almond or nut-free butter)
  • Honey

What’s Next?

  1. In a large bowl, mix the chicken, apple and grapes.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt, peanut butter and honey.
  3. Add the “sauce” to the chicken mixture and mix it all together.
  4. Voilà! Serve in sandwich, pita, lettuce wrap…or just eat it with a spoon!

I plan to have it tomorrow for lunch in a pita bread, and possibly try to make a lettuce wrap with it. Seriously, this is my new go-to chicken salad recipe. SO GOOD. I may or may not have had a few spoonfuls after I made it. I had to stop myself.

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Other than the best chicken salad ever, I don’t have any crazy recipes planned this week. My true excitement will be at the preschool: Dr Seuss theme, baby! I cannot wait to see the children’s faces when I tell them we’ll be making green eggs and ham, just like Sam-I-Am! :)

When Snow and Hearts are on the Forecast…

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When Snow and Hearts are on the Forecast…

Wow, what a week! What started as the first week of my husband being out of town turned out to be the most eventful week of the year so far! (Yes, I know, it’s only February…) Although my husband was initially only supposed to come home on Friday, he was sent home early based on the weather forecast. On Wednesday, I drove to the airport in what started to be icky road conditions for Virginia (although, as a Canadian, I feel like I know how to drive in bad weather, the other drivers were scaring me more than anything). I waited at the airport for over an hour and when Jeff’s flight was 5 minutes to arrival time, we were told that the airport was closing and their flight was sent back to Washington DC. Panicked, I started driving back, not sure where Jeff would end up being for the night and having to drive in much worse snow conditions. The roads were messy and the few drivers left weren’t using too much of their brains (no, having a pick-up truck doesn’t mean you know how to drive in the snow…my little car was chugging along nicely while trucks and SUVs in front and around me were swerving all over the place). I finally made it home and did my best to reach Jeff who was back in DC. Flights cancelled and hotels fully booked were not a good sign for him. I’ll skip the nervous wreck night I spent but all this to say that Jeff made it back to Charlottesville (although not home but a hotel about 30 min. away from home) around 3:30am. He stayed there for the night and a good friend of ours drove the next day to go get him and bring him back home at last.

Kitties and I snuggled on the couch until 4am, hoping to get good news from the hubby.

Kitties and I snuggled on the couch until 4am, hoping to get good news from the hubby.

So Jeff finally came home on Thursday afternoon. What a relief it was! Because of the snowstorm, I didn’t have to go to work (the whole city shut down on Thursday and Friday). I didn’t enjoy the snow as I normally would have because, this time, instead of being a source of joy, it was a source of anxiety. It was the obstacle making Jeff’s life miserable. So no, I didn’t make any snowman, which I now slightly regret.

I might have been stressed out but I did enjoy the view!

I might have been stressed out but I did enjoy the view once Jeff was back!

Friday was Valentine’s Day, of course! Normally, I make a big deal about it…never in a demanding way but more by wanting to make heart-shaped treats and share a good meal together. After Wednesday’s big scare, we were both exhausted and didn’t really have access to much since most roads had not been plowed yet. So we improvised with what we had for the perfect Valentine brunch: heart-shaped French toast, sautéed chicken and oranges. And a metric ton of maple syrup. And maybe a little wine since we couldn’t go anywhere anyway.

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Our simple yet tasty Valentine brunch

Sautéed chicken: chicken breast, paprika, curry powder and sea salt, sautéed with olive oil in a wok.

French toast: Mixture of eggs, milk, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon to dip the bread in, cooked in a large pan.

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Yes, this is a gigantic bottle of maple syrup next to the wine…I am Canadian after all!

For dinner, Jeff made some frozen taquitos (did I mention we had to make due with what was left in the house?) and I attempted to make crème brûlée…sadly I failed. I should have known that using fat free milk instead of cream, and a broiler instead of a blowtorch would mess up the result but I was determined to try anyway. Next time, I’ll make sure to have the right ingredients and the right equipment.

Although Valentine’s Day is over, I still want to wish you all 365 days of love, friendship, hugs, high-fives and kisses. Because it should be a year-round thing anyway. :)

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