This Week’s Menu: Zoodles & Snacks

Oodles of zoodles roasted, cut, cooled and ready for our salad!

First, a quick review of the spiralizer I bought: I love it! After researching many spiralizers, I chose the Oxo Goodgrips handheld tool for both cost ($14.95) and packability – it can fit right into our suitcase whenever we travel and have the opportunity to prepare some of our own meals. The blades are very sharp, so it made quick work of several zucchini, a carrot and a cucumber. It was also very easy to clean, and takes up almost no room in the cupboard. I’m looking forward to spiralizing again and again with my simple little green machine!

The Oxo Good Grips handheld spiralizer

While Brett is more of a “grazer,” throughout the day, with small bites of a variety of things, I am not all that big on snacking. Still, I do get hungry in between meals and once I went low-carb I had to completely rethink what I could have for snacks. It was initially a bit difficult to come up with ideas as I didn’t want to load up on cheese or other high fat/high cholesterol foods, and I knew if I also didn’t develop some sort of variety I would be doomed. Also, lots of low carb, healthy alternatives, like nuts, were expensive, and because I already eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, more of those as snacks didn’t seem very appetizing or satisfying. Initially snacks consisted of two, sometimes three, spoonfuls of peanut butter every day, just because I love it. Through some trial and error, these days I’m enjoying a better variety of snacks while keeping costs down:

  • Nuts: Unsalted cashews are my favorite, but I also like mixed nuts and macadamias. I have a couple of tablespoons of nuts every afternoon even though they’re expensive. Just a few though are very satisfying.
  • Peanut butter: I still love the stuff, but am down to one spoonful a day, usually before my evening exercise, for some energy.
  • Beef jerky: I eat the organic, plain variety from Costco – it’s chewy and even a small amount takes a while to eat so it’s satisfying. One bag lasts for almost a month.
  • Fruit: I eat fruit at both breakfast and lunch, and often for dessert in the evening, but my favorite “snack fruit” right now are frozen sweet dark cherries from Costco – they’re very satisfying, healthy (lots of antioxidants) and refreshing when it’s hot. I have between a half cup to a cup every day.

What are your favorite low-carb, low-starch snacks? I would love any and all suggestions!

In the meantime, here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Leftovers (it’s just Brett and me)
  • Wednesday: Club sandwiches with chicken; potato chips (I’ll have a salad with the chicken, tomatoes, cheese and bacon) – it’s just Brett and me at dinner
  • Thursday: Grilled lemon chicken; grilled vegetable skewers
  • Friday: Leftovers (just the two of us again)
  • Saturday: Chinese 3-color salad with chicken and zoodles (I can finally eat the whole salad!)
  • Sunday: Breakfast for dinner: pancakes; sausages; fruit (just sausage and fruit for me)
  • Monday: Slow cooker barbecue pulled pork sandwiches; coleslaw (no bread for me)

We’ll be getting lots of zucchini again at the farmers’ market, along with tomatoes, cucumbers, bananas, papayas, and mangoes. Broccoli has still been showing up, so I’d like to get some more of that as well.

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This Week’s Menu: A Glimpse Into the Future

Our Hunan “chili girls” all love spicy mapo tofu

With YaYu gone to China for the next two weeks, and WenYu working almost every day (they feed her at work), it will be just Brett and I at the dinner table most evenings. This will be our first look at what it will be like to cook for just the two of us, and we’re interested in seeing not only how many leftovers there are, but how quickly they get eaten.

I have repeatedly told Brett that once the girls are out on their own that I’d like to take a break, that even though I enjoy cooking I want some time off. I’m hoping though that I’ll be able to find a happy medium between cooking some things at home and supplementing our menu with prepared foods from the market or deli, all while still staying within our budget.

My spiralizer arrived! I am eager to try it out, and there was a tasty recipe for a cold noodles salad in the little book that came with the gadget, so we’re going to try that this week. Brett told me he wants to swap out spaghetti for zoodles right along with me, but I’ll still have to fix pasta for the girls. Our egg dinner is getting switched to Monday so that we can have one of Brett’s favorites for Father’s Day: burgers and fries.

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Pad Thai with chicken; cucumbers (just chicken and cucumbers for me)
  • Wednesday: Cold vegetable noodle salad with sesame-peanut sauce
  • Thursday: Grilled beef Polish sausages; sauerkraut; coleslaw
  • Friday: Mapo tofu; steamed rice; cucumbers
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday (Father’s Day): Grilled hamburgers; French fries; wilted cucumber pickles
  • Monday: Baked chili rellenos; yellow rice; grilled zucchini

We’ll be picking up lots of zucchini at the farmers’ market this week, as well as cucumbers, daikon radish, tomatoes, mint (for mojitos), mangoes and papaya. Locally grown pineapples are showing up now, so we may get one of those if we can find an affordable one.

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#Kaua’i: Hamura’s Saimin

Hamura’s Saimin – in business since 1951

WenYu and YaYu are both huge noodle afficionadas, so it made perfect sense that Hamura’s Saimin would be their choice of where to go to celebrate the end of their respective school years last week.

A small bowl of Hamura’s regular saimin is very filling!

Hamura’s Saimin is an institution on Kaua’i, and has been around as long as most people can remember. Aiko and Charlie Hamura began selling bowls of noodles from their car in 1951, and the restaurant they eventually opened is still family owned and operated. Every day locals and visitors alike head to the humble restaurant, located on a back street in Lihue, and often line up to wait for a spot at the big winding counter in order to enjoy a bowl of homemade noodles and wontons topped with meat, kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) and vegetables.

There were seats available when this picture was taken, but there’s often a wait for a place at the counter.

Originally developed in Hawai’i during its plantation days, saimin is a Hawaiian version of ramen, with Chinese, Japanese and Filipino influences. It is considered a traditional state food in Hawai’i.

Hamura’s is old school, and proud of it. Noodles and wontons are made fresh from scratch every morning, then cooked and served in bowls of fragrant broth. The small restaurant has won many awards over the years, including an “American Classic” award from the James Beard Foundation in 2006. In spite of it all, their noodles remain affordable: $6.75 for a small bowl of regular saimin, $7.00 for medium, and $7.75 for large. Specialty bowls are only slightly more.

Our girls eat their saimin Chinese style: Chopsticks in one hand for the noodles, and the soup spoon in the other for sipping the broth.

Hamura’s also offers an incredible homemade lilikoi (passionfruit) chiffon pie for dessert, the perfect finish after a bowl of saimin. It’s sold by the slice, but sometimes whole pies are available for sale.

Hamura’s light and fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth homemade lilikoi chiffon pie

If you want a taste of traditional Hawai’i, Hamura’s is the real deal. Hamura’s Saimin is located at 2956 Kress Street in Lihue. It’s open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on weekdays, and 12:00 a.m. on weekends. Payment is cash only.

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This Week’s Menu: Will That Be a Table for Two or Three?

Black pepper chicken thighs with mangoes, rum and cashews (photo credit: NY Times)

With YaYu over in Oahu this week it’s just Brett, WenYu and me holding down the fort here at dinner – except for the nights when WenYu is working. YaYu will be home on Friday evening, so we’ll be back at full strength for three nights until she leaves for China next week and then I’ll be working around WenYu’s schedule again.

It’s making meal planning a bit of a challenge, but on the plus side it means there should be lots of leftovers once again for lunches and such. I also have the chance to fix or try dishes that YaYu doesn’t particularly care for, like chicken adobo with bok choy (I thought she liked it, but she let me know last month it was not a particular favorite. WenYu, on the other hand has been asking me to fix it). The black pepper chicken thigh recipe came across in my Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago and is right in our wheelhouse when it comes to flavors. I’m trying it while YaYi is gone though because she doesn’t care for cashews. If the rest of us like the dish though I’ll make it again after she’s home, but let her take out her cashews.

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

We’ll need to pick up a couple of fresh mangoes this week at the farmers’ market, along cucumbers, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, sweet onions, green onions, papaya and bananas. We need mung bean sprouts as well, but will stop by Big Save to get those – they spoil quickly and I won’t be cooking with them until Sunday. We may also need to buy the sweet onions there as well if we don’t see them at the market.

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This Week’s Menu: Happy Consequences

Chocolate Covered Katie’s creamy red pepper alfredo sauce

Along with the dietary changes we’ve made in the past year have come some happy consequences, above and beyond what we were expecting.

Brett suffered from a persistent cough the past several years, more annoying than anything problematic. He talked with his doctors about it over the years, but all felt it was a side effect of one of the medications he took, and they recommended he take over-the-counter allergy medication to relieve the cough as much as possible. Along with cough drops the OTC medication helped somewhat, but the cough still lingered. However, when we removed dairy (mostly ice cream and cheese) from our diet for YaYu, who is lactose intolerant, Brett’s cough disappeared along with several other problems he was experiencing. It turns out he was allergic to milk! Not once in all these years was that ever considered as a possible cause for his cough. He still eats a small amount of cheese, but only a couple of times a week, and that’s it for dairy these days. What a happy consequence it was to finally solve the riddle of the cough, and all because of a simple change to diet.

At the end of last year I developed a fairly severe case of GERD (GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease). It came on quickly, and got so bad that it was waking me up at night. My doctor prescribed medication, but at the same time also told me to ditch the carbs/starches as I was also complaining about my weight gain – even though I exercised, and measured all my portions, no matter what I did I still added pounds each month. Even after starting the medication, I still suffered from the GERD each night when the medication wore off. But, within a week or two of no longer eating starches, the acid reflux disappeared completely, even at night, and even on the occasional day when I forgot to take the medication – a happy consequence of no longer eating starches. I see the doctor next month and am going to ask if I can wean myself off the medication I’m still taking. Fingers are crossed!

The girls want to make pasta on Thursday which gives me an excuse to make the red pepper alfredo sauce (I always make double so I get leftovers). They’ve also agreed to help cook other dishes so that I don’t have to stand over the hot stove. I do the prep, and they do the hot stuff – works for me!

  • Tuesday (this evening): Vegetable (cauliflower, potato, carrot & onion) curry; steamed rice (just curry for me)
  • Wednesday: Beef tacos; yellow rice (no tortillas or rice for me)
  • Thursday: Homemade pasta with creamy red pepper alfredo sauce; lightly steamed broccoli; garlic bread (no pasta 😦 or bread for me)
  • Friday: Grilled chicken & apple sausages; roasted mixed vegetables; couscous (which I’m skipping)
  • Saturday: Leftovers or YOYO
  • Sunday: Caprese skillet eggs; steamed artichoke; toast (no toast for me)
  • Monday: Pork & pepper stir fry; steamed rice (I’m skipping the rice)

This week at the farmers’ market we’ll be getting more cucumbers, lots of fresh tomatoes (for the  Caprese skillet eggs), papayas, zucchini and onions. We also need more limes as it’s mojito and gin & tonic season once again, and I’d like to get some fresh mangoes if I can find some affordable ones.

This Week’s Menu: No Leftovers

Scotch eggs – we make our own breakfast sausage with ground pork and Penzey’s sausage seasoning. Ours also don’t have the crispy coating on the outside (although it looks delicious) because the eggs are baked vs. fried.

I had forgotten just how much of a difference one extra person can make when it comes to having leftovers. Like, there are none. Everything I prepare has been completely consumed at mealtime. I’ve had to separate out ‘leftovers’ for YaYu’s lunch ahead of sitting down to eat, but thankfully this is the last week of school for the year. Still, not having abundant leftovers means that our monthly food supplies are most likely going to dwindle faster than usual.

On the plus side though, I’m very happy that the girls (and Brett) eat everything I prepare, with no complaint. YaYu continues to be a bit of a picky eater, but as long as she can add her hot sauces or dried red chilis she’s usually good to go.

It continues to be very warm here, so I’m trying to prepare things in a way that heats up the kitchen the least. Most things on the menu this week will be grilled (huli huli chicken is back on the menu!), but I’ll break out the slow cooker for the risotto, Brett will make the Scotch eggs on Sunday and I’m going to let the girls prepare pork noodles on Monday because it requires working at the stove. It’s one of their favorite dishes though, so they said they’ll be happy to cook that evening.

  • Tuesday (this evening): Slow cooker risotto with asparagus and chicken; steamed artichokes (asparagus and chicken only for me)
  • Wednesday: Asian turkey burgers with sesame mayonnaise; sweet & sour cole slaw (no bun for me)
  • Thursday: Huli huli chicken; steamed rice; grilled asparagus
  • Friday: Grilled teriyaki chicken meatballs, fresh pineapple, and green pepper kabobs; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Saturday: Leftovers (if there are any lol); otherwise it’s YOYO (You’re On Your Own)
  • Sunday: Scotch eggs; fruit; toast (I’m skipping the toast)
  • Monday: Pork noodles; cucumber salad (just pork sauce and salad for me)

We’ll need cucumbers, bok choy, papayas and bananas from the farmers’ market this week, but otherwise we have everything on hand for meals – we bought asparagus, artichokes, cabbage, pineapple, and loads of peppers from Costco last week. We’re also planning to pick up some mint and limes at the market – it’s mojito weather!

We will probably have to go back to Costco next week for more eggs, and peanut butter. We have been going through the eggs we bought at a quick pace, and there was no peanut butter when we shopped last time. It’s still a favorite snack and gets used fairly frequently in recipes.

This Week’s Menu: Another Place At the Table

Slow cooker chicken pho

WenYu will be home tonight! Not in time for dinner, but I’m so excited that my favorite middle daughter will be back with us for the next three months. She’s had a terrific first year at college, but is ready to be home and get to work. We’re all hoping it doesn’t take her too long to find a job. I’m going to be planning meals like she will be home for dinner every day, but that could change if the job she finds requires her to work evenings. Also, with four of us there might not be as many leftovers for YaYu’s school lunches, something else I need to consider.

We will be going food shopping again tomorrow versus next week as we have been running out of things faster than we thought this month. I have no idea why other than last month we had reserves and this month we haven’t. For example, in March we bought two jars of peanut butter, but already had one in reserve and got through until the next shop without running out. This month we bought just two jars of peanut butter and have run out. It’s been the same for several other items, and the refrigerator and cupboards are looking quite bare.

The slow cooker balsamic pork roast I made last week was very, very delicious and will be repeated, but huli huli chicken unfortunately didn’t get made. I went to fix the marinade and discovered we only had about two tablespoons left of soy sauce in the jug, and the recipe called for a cup. So, we just grilled the chicken instead, and will try the huli huli later. This week we’ll be using up one of the two roast chickens we plan to pick up tomorrow.

Here’s what we’re having this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Stir-fried chicken with broccoli; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Wednesday: Grilled hamburgers; onion rings; cole slaw (no hamburger roll or onion rings for m)
  • Thursday: Chinese three-color salad with chicken (only salad toppings for me)
  • Friday: Slow cooker chicken pho with bok choy (I’ll skip the rice noodles)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs; steamed rice; cucumbers (no rice for me)
  • Monday: Chicken tacos; yellow rice (no tortillas or rice for moi)

About the slow cooker chicken pho: I always cut the amount of spices called for in half, otherwise it tastes like you’re eating a Christmas potpourri. Also, I’ve found it works best if you soak the rice noodles separately, then place them into the bottom of the soup bowls and pour the soup over the noodles. If you add them to the slow cooker the noodles tend to disintegrate. You don’t need to have all the garnishes either – choose the ones you prefer if you don’t have them all (we like cilantro and basil).

We’ll have to pick up more cucumbers at the farmers’ market, as well as tomatoes, bok choy, green onions, cilantro, basil and papayas. We can get organic cabbage and lettuce now at Cost U Less, so will stop for that when we do our food shopping.

This Week’s Menu: Two Celebrations in One!

Huli huli chicken on the grill

This is one of those years where both my birthday and Mother’s Day fall on the same day. When I was growing up, I hated when this happened because it was always just Mother’s Day. My parents never made a big to-do about birthdays as it was, but in this case it was like my birthday didn’t even exist, which was pretty hard to take when I was young.

These days I’m the one that doesn’t care so much about birthday celebrations, at least not my own. And, on Mother’s Day these past few years I’ve been thrilled with my Day of Doing Nothing, where Brett and the girls take care of everything, so that will be plenty for my birthday as well, including what they prepare for me to eat.  I guess I could make a request for something special for Sunday’s dinner, but I’ve decided to leave it up to Brett and YaYu. She loves to cook, and I know she’ll make something fabulous (and low carb). At least I know there will be no cake!

In my quest to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen now that it’s getting warmer (re. HOT), I’m trying out two new recipes this week: Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork Roast, from Skinnytaste, and Huli Huli chicken, a Hawaiian favorite. I saw lots of other recipes I’d like to try, but almost all of them called for honey, which we are out of right now, so they’ll have to wait until next month.

Here’s what we’re having this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled chicken & apple sausages; couscous; steamed artichokes (no couscous for me)
  • Wednesday: Grilled teriyaki chicken; zaru soba; cucumber salad (no soba for me – sob!)
  • Thursday: Slow cooker balsamic pork roast; steamed artichokes; bread (no bread for me)
  • Friday: Huli huli chicken; steamed rice; cucumbers (no rice for me)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Whatever Brett and YaYu want to fix
  • Monday: Spaghetti & meatballs w/marinara; grilled zucchini; garlic bread

We’ll need to pick up zucchini, cucumbers, green onions, ginger, papayas and bananas this week at the farmers’ market, and anything Brett or YaYu needs for Sunday. After a couple of slim weeks, cucumbers are in abundance again, so we want to buy several for both our meals and to make some refrigerator pickles. Otherwise, we have everything else needed to prepare this week’s menu.

This Week’s Menu: Catching Our Breath

Lumpia are Filipino spring rolls (and are surprisingly low carb in spite of the wrapper). We use a sweet chili sauce for dipping.

Sports are over, we’re in the middle of testing, but it’s the time of the year when we’re finally able to stop and catch our breath. There’s less than a month less in the school year to go, but from here on out YaYu will be coming home directly from school, and will be able to help out more in the kitchen.

There’s nothing really special happening this week – I shopped the pantry, fridge and freezer to come up with the meals we’ll be having. It will be interesting to see what happens weather-wise this week as we had a terrifically hot week just a short time ago, but it’s been cool now for the past few days and cooking indoors has been pleasant. Only half of the meals planned will need to be prepared on the stovetop: the curry, lumpia and the omelets. The other half will be prepared on the grill or in the slow cooker.

Here’s what’s we’re having:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Chicken curry with potato, carrots, and cauliflower; steamed rice (no rice or potato for me)
  • Wednesday: Teriyaki meatball, pineapple and pepper kabobs; grilled zucchini; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Thursday: Grilled Polish sausages; sauerkraut; roasted peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, cauliflower and onions
  • Friday: Leftovers – YaYu will be attending the annual Key Club banquet, and Brett and I will be Skyping into a mandatory meeting for parents of children going on this summer’s China trip.
  • Saturday: Lumpia; steamed rice; Asian-y cole slaw (no rice for me)
  • Sunday: Omelets; fruit; toast for Brett and YaYu
  • Monday: Slow cooker barbecue pulled pork sandwiches; coleslaw (no bread for me)

We really could get by without going to the farmers’ market this week, but Brett and I love to go and see what’s available and say hello to people we know. I’ve put bok choy, tomatoes, cucumbers, papayas and bananas on our list, but really don’t need much else. I’m sort of keeping my fingers crossed that mango prices will be down as more of them are being harvested.

This Week’s Menu: It’s Shopping Week! (thank goodness)

YaYu loves to make (and eat) egg drop soup!

Shopping week! Thank goodness too – other than having several protein choices on hand, we are out of almost everything else needed to make a meal. I actually had a little trouble coming up with what to have for dinner tonight because there is no produce left in the house – we finished all of that up over the weekend and yesterday. For some reason we forgot to buy more zucchini at the farmers’ market last week, so tonight it’s just spaghetti with marinara and meatballs, and bread for YaYu and Brett. Does marinara count as a vegetable?

The egg foo yung, pad thai and Chinese three-color salad will use up our monthly Costco roast chicken. I also will be using some of it to make chicken salad for sandwiches, or in my case, to eat with tomatoes. I add diced celery, sliced green onion, and slivered almonds to my chicken salad, and blend with a curry mayonnaise. YaYu likes the almonds left out, and blended with sriracha mayonnaise. To each his own.

Asian dishes still seem to be dominating this week’s menu:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Spaghetti with meatballs; garlic bread (just meatballs and sauce for me)
  • Wednesday: Mabo dofu; steamed rice; cucumbers (no rice for me)
  • Thursday: Egg drop soup; egg foo yung; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Friday: Leftovers (track finals)
  • Saturday: Pad Thai with chicken; cucumber salad (not sure what I’ll have)
  • Sunday: Chinese three-color salad (hiyashi chuka) with chicken (salad toppings only for me)
  • Monday: Grilled fish tacos with mango salsa; yellow rice (no rice or tortillas for me)

Besides picking up mung bean sprouts at the farmers’ market, we’ll also need cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini and a jalapeño pepper, as well as bananas and papayas. Mangoes are showing up at the market now, but they’re still too expensive. We have a bag of frozen mango chunks that I can use to make Friday night’s salsa.

WenYu will be home before our next Big Shop, so some of her favorites (i.e. manapua) are on the list this month. If it’s not on the list, we don’t buy it.

Fingers are crossed that we come in under budget with our monthly big shop!