Hungry Hungry Hippie

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Spring Summarized

If I had to summarize what I have been eating over the past few weeks (while I wasn’t blogging), the theme would be recipes from this cookbook.

I am obsessed and have more or less been eating one thing or another from the book every single day.

The most frequent have been superhero muffins, the DIY grain salad, and the Thai quinoa slaw…although the fennel and apple salad is hot on their heels. I feel like I am making the apple cider vinaigrette and lemon miso dressing constantly.

The Thai quinoa slaw has accompanied me to two different potlucks this past week alone!

We have so much cabbage from the CSA it’s kinda a no brainer.

And how cool that I can finally make meals with peanuts! Mr. P has been doing amazing with his dosing…maintenance mode has been smooth sailing and we have even done a few challenges here at home, increasing the amount to as high as 9 peanuts without any issues (his normal dose is 5). If I make him a PB&J sando I don’t even measure the amount, I just smear on a knife-ful (making sure I eyeball it to be at least 1 tsp).

Anyway, it’s good with almonds or cashews too.

And thanks to my parents’ lime tree, I am able to make double and triple batches of the dressing.

The DIY grain salad variation I’ve been into the most is the one that most mimics the WF salad that I love so much. It has kale, feta, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, and candied walnuts. For the grain I alternate between wheat berries and brown rice. I don’t think the wheat berries bother my gut. I also add in snap peas.

Check out this cardboard box the snap peas came in! I’m proud to support Durst Organic Growers because of their plastic free packaging – plus they are local!

I used some of the meredith sheep and goat marinated cheese that I blogged about a while back. It’s not cheap, so I buy it as a treat and really make it last, but the best part is that once the cheese is gone you can use the flavored olive oil and it totally makes a normal meal go above and beyond.

I use a ton of slivered almonds because I love the way they soften a bit after a few days…they kinda blend in with the grains.

I know it seems like I’m just taking photos of the same thing over and over again…but believe it or not this is barely half of the amount I’m actually making/eating.

I guess it’s a good thing the UC Davis student farm CSA keeps giving me five heads of lettuce a week!

[It will actually be slowing down with the lettuce now that the summer crops are coming – squash and tomatoes aplenty!]

Pardon the interruption of salads. Here’s a strawberry banana baked oatmeal, which was a big hit. Why is coconut sugar so exponentially better than any other sweetener??? I used to think maple syrup was the *ish, but coconut sugar has stolen my heart.

We baked walnut quick bread, but it only lasted two breakfasts 😛

I think zucchini bread is next on our list to tackle.

Guess what else we’ve been making on repeat…

Thai collard wraps!

These are not from RFCFES but they are definitely a staple in our dinner rotation these days.

I make them once a week because we get collards in our CSA, but the kids love them so much that I have a feeling I’ll be making this long after the collards cease to appear in our basket.

For the beef, I saute it with fish sauce, tamari, fresh grated ginger, brown rice vinegar, and then add in sesame and basil at the end. Sometimes cilantro depending on if I have it. Our basil plant is doing decently well now, so I am loving the addition of it in all kinds of meals.

I switch between almond butter and sun butter for a dipping sauce – just adding water and a splash of tamari to thin it out a bit.

And when the bunch of collards is too small for our family of four…

I have to get creative and use another kind of lettuce.

Which I usually give to Kyle because the kids aren’t skilled enough to keep it from spilling all over the place (and I like collards the most).

Final love affair to disclose involves salmon (and yet again, Asian flavors).

My parents have oranges coming out of their ears, so I took a bunch and made a few jars of orange miso salad dressing (also from RFCFES).

I still LOVE the Thai salad dressing from Nugget market, so I alternate between the two depending on which lettuce I’m using. Leafier greens are better with the lighter vinaigrette, whereas kale can handle either.

I also switch off between cashews, almonds, and peanuts.

On top of that you just need avo and fresh herbs (cilantro and basil) and a nice piece of salmon.

It took me a minute to figure out the best way to prepare the filets, but I struck gold when I started using a non stick pan and a hefty spoonful of coconut oil.

Ok, so I’m basically frying it. But OMG is it the best ever.

I like my salmon a bit under, so I sear it on high high heat for a few minutes on each side – until it gets a nice thick bronze crust – and then leave it to rest in the pan until I’m ready to eat.

And in case you were wondering, yes, that is shredded kohlrabi.

I blogged about it back here but if you’re looking for other ways to enjoy it, here are more posts to check out.

As annoying as it is to get out the food processor and prep it, doing a bunch at once sure makes lunches easy when the time comes.

Is it acceptable to eat Brussels sprouts in June?? I love them so much it’s hard to limit them to the winter season…

And now for a nice little collage of all the meatless (fish free) versions of these salads…

And that’s basically what you missed from me last month.

Plus this (times 100).

Lot of chuao (I still have quite the stash thanks to the Nugget secret special sale where they were $1 per bar), mixed in with my other faves, like tcho, lula’s, and see’s.

I got a few lula’s for mother’s day which I tried to ration, but that proved as hard as you’d think.

The aloha rocky road is hard to top, but the dark chocolate almond toffee is incredible. Luckily they are $$$$$ so they are reserved for very special occasions.

Another highlight included this insane combo of vegan coconut milk ice cream + gluten free vegan whoopie pie + vegan gluten free cookie dough.

I MEAN HOW DO YOU EVEN TOP THAT?

A tale of two BBQ chicken salads

Hi! Remember me?

I have a post titled “anxiety and being nice to myself” in my drafts right now, but the post is empty.

So that’s a pretty good indication of how this past month has been going.

But really, it’s going great.

And sadly, that’s because this blog has taken a backseat to all the other awesome things going on…like teaching for fit4mom, and kiddo graduations, and becoming an auntie again, and, well, SO MANY things I couldn’t list them all. Needless to say, my attention has been scattered. But I’m here for now, wanting to share a recipe or two.

I used to meal plan so well, but our schedules are kinda bonkers with all the end of the year parties and whatnot that I’m basically letting our CSA and pantry run the show as far as dinners are concerned.

This BBQ chicken bowl has a base of wheatberries (from the CSA) and leaf lettuce, topped with bell peppers, red onion, cucumber, avocado, and cheddar cheese.

Plus chicken breasts that I cooked in the instant pot with BBQ sauce. You could use black or pinto beans instead to make it vegetarian.

And cilantro for the adult version.

I made a simple vinaigrette with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper, but you could use a ranch too if you were into that kind of thing.

Making shredded BBQ chicken is literally the easiest. I added a bunch of breasts to a greased instant pot insert, poured 1/4 cup BBQ sauce on top, added 1/4 cup water, and cooked it on high pressure for 25 minutes, letting the pressure release naturally. Shredding it couldn’t have been easier, as it basically fell apart with the lightest touch.

I deliberately made extra which I froze to use later (we were heading out of town for Santa Barbara) and a few weeks later I was so happy to have it on hand.

This time I made another, very similar, recipe. Only I tried a new (to me) dressing just for fun.

This dressing gets rave reviews in the blog world, but it was just okay to me.

It was good in the recipe, but I don’t think Id go out of my way to buy it again. The biggest negative was the amount in the bottle. I used 3/4 of it on this one salad. It was also way more liquidy than I was expecting. I guess that’s a sign that it doesn’t have a bunch of weird thickeners in it, but it caught me off guard as I poured it on (and was expecting a thick sauce). Anyway, the kids and Kyle all liked it, which is a positive because Kyle is not typcically a ranch person (on account of the dill).

This time the salad had sweet potatoes in lieu of the wheatberries.

But it still had leaf lettuce, and avocado.

The first version had a more southwestern/tex-mex chopped salad vibe going on, but this one was more like what I make on a daily basis.

You guys know my formula by now: greens + grain (carb) + fat + crunch

In this case that was leaf lettuce, sweet potatoes, avo, and pepitas. The combo of salty pumpkin seeds and roasted sweet potatoes is one of my all time faves. The chicken is a protein boosting bonus, but not necessarily a make or break ingred. You could just amp up the rest of the components to compensate if you wanted to keep things veg.

And for the record, my favorite ranch recipe is by Danielle Walker (in her Celebrations cookbook), which I actually do have on hand most of the time.

It’s basically mayo, coconut milk, a splash of lemon juice and some fresh herbs. Easy peasy.

Throw it all in a bowl and call it a day.

Add some crunchy tortilla chips on top and people will be fighting over this one.

Staycation weekend

It’s starting to feel like summahhhhhh!

I don’t want to jinx it by writing it out, because we’ve had several rainy days recently, but we also finally broke into the triple digit temps, so I feel pretty pretty prettyyyyyy good that the weather is here to stay.

Going to the splash park also makes it semi official, right?

Even though both kids love school, we are all very seriously anticipating some unstructured time and all the playing and freedom that comes with it (myself included!).

Remind me that I said this in a month. 😛

Honestly, though, I remember last summer with such fondness. We had the perfect blend of camps, free play, mama field trips, and special activities, while still leaving parts of our days open enough for nothingness…which sometimes got filled with plans, but sometimes didn’t. Childhood.

Anyway.

The opposite has been true for the end of May and start of June.

Our schedule has been packed. Packed packed packed. But last weekend we got a bit of a breather. Kyle came home and my parents took the kids for a couple of days so the two of us could have a staycation here in Davis.

I don’t know who had more fun to be honest. It was so great for me and Kyle to have the time together, but I know my parents had a blast with the kids as well. Their bond is just so strong and special.

Despite being in the calendar for a few months, there was a second there I thought it wasn’t going to happen because my sister had her baby on Friday!

My parents are professional grandparents now though 😉 , so they went with the flow and still took our kids, balancing hospital visits while still fitting in trips to the zoo and playing in their pool. It was a win for everyone involved.

And then I got to meet my new nephew when we drove back to the East Bay to reunite with our littles!!

In between, though, we had two stellar date nights.

At Kru, we got the smoked duck kushiyaki, seared wagyu nigiri, beef tsukune, and pork gyozas.

The pork gyozas were incredible, but the beef tsukune was both of our fave.

We also got one sushi roll, which was the other highlight of the meal (which is saying a ton because every single bite we ate was fantastic).

This is the hapa hapa roll, which has salmon, crab and albacore and is lightly fried and served with a garlic sauce and sweet chili with fried soba noodles on top. It was amazing. I could have ordered ten more.

Kru is just such a wonderful restaurant, it never ceases to impress me.

The second night out, we went to Beast & Bounty, which was a very different experience.

Full disclosure, I’ve been here twice before and both times left slightly lukewarm on the experience. The food is okay, but insanely overpriced and I can’t help but feel like they are a little (too) pretentious.

I barely wanted to return, but Kyle has never been, and I felt like he needed to go (at least just once) because there is so much chatter about it in the foodie world. I mean, let’s be real, this is Sacramento, not New York, so it’s silly that we are even pretending there is a food “scene” here, but Sac is trying…and there are definitely improvements…so I don’t want to be a total downer.

But yeah, the hostess stand was empty when we arrived. For a while. Hellooooooo???

But this story has a happy ending!

The food was incredible.

To be clear, we chose the ONLY things on the menu that were reasonably priced and didn’t feel like straight up robbery. $98 for a steak is not acceptable. It doesn’t matter what you do to it.

The Koji cured cabbage salad above, was creative and complex and something I would never think to try (it had fried lamb pastrami – what?!!?). The hot mustard and miso mayo were such flavor bombs.

Kyle and I shared that, as well as our main entrees.

Straight from the menu:

ROASTED DOUBLE CUT PORK CHOP Baked Heirloom Beans / Caramelized Endive / Pickled Kohlrabi

ORA KING SALMON Panang Curry / Peanuts / Salmon Roe / Peas

The only slightly negative thing I could say about the salmon was that the peanut flavor was too overpowering. A little bit less and I would have enjoyed the other flavors of the veggies and fish much more. That said, it was still a great dish.

The pork chop, however, was the stunner of the night.

You can’t tell how big it is from the photo, but we were both STUFFED after this, and probably didn’t even need the fish course.

We both agreed it was the best pork chop we had ever had. Which for me, isn’t saying much, because I’ve had like three in my whole life, but Kyle has had hundreds, so that’s high praise.

And now the countdown is on until the last day of school!

Santa Barbara Memorial Day

After so much sickness and solo parenting, the four of us joined my parents and sister’s fam for a much needed vacation.

We missed my youngest sissie mucho, but she is days/weeks away from having a baby so it was a little too risky for her to come.

We hit a lot of traffic on the way down, which added an hour or two to our car time, but the kids didn’t care one bit because now that we have the DVD player we could drive to Maine and they’d be unaffected so long as we had the movies to get there.

My sister and I tracked each other on the way…

I enjoyed the map image of her lunch stop 😛

We arrived half an hour apart and hung out for a bit before taking a beach stroll.

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The place we rented in Montecito was AMAAAAZING. It was super close to the beach, but alas, we did not run into Oprah.

The cousin love on this trip was beyond heart melting. I couldn’t even handle the cuteness.

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For dinner we went to Goat Tree on State street.

We had no plan as we headed off, which was for the best considering the area was mobbed with people. We basically parked and walked to whatever was closest.

And in this case, Goat Tree happened to be perfect! For the record, this is extremely unlike me. I usually scope out restaurants way ahead of time, scouring all the menus to try to maximize the deliciousness of all my vacation eats. But my plan with this weekend was to go with the flow and just enjoy not cooking and eat what I felt like of the options before me.

This is a much nicer way to go through life, and it worked out so well, I’m going to make an effort to remember it going forward.

I got lamb meatballs to start, with hummus and tzatziki and pickled red onions.

As well as the Caesar salad, to which I added salmon.

I wasn’t even that hungry, so this was way too much food, but I wanted six different things on the menu, so really, just ordering two was a compromise!

The Caesar sounded so unique with rye crisps and butternut squash and a home-made dressing. And I’m so happy I got it, because it was seriously one of the best salads I’ve gotten from a restaurant in a very very long time. The home made Caesar was incredible. And the rye cracker things were awesome.

The kids split the cheeseburger sliders with fries, which thrilled them to no end.

Kyle got the BLT + E (which was humongous) and a side of goat fries. We both ended up having leftovers that we brought home for brekkie and lunch the next day.

Sharing a room turned out to be a little insane for these two, but they got better at it over the rest of the weekend…kinda.

One of the highlights from the next day included the farmer’s market.

Where the kids sampled ALL THE FRUIT…but still somehow had room for lunch.

There is a Natural Cafe in the plaza where the farmer’s market is, so that’s where we ended up. I’ve been to several different Natural Cafe locations before, so I knew what to expect. They have vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options aplenty. And there’s really no bad choice!

I got them an avocado sandwich to split, which had well over half an avo in it!!

They loved the whole meal, including the chips and the side of steamed veggies that I got them too. Never mind that they’d already had cherries, apricots, plums, and I don’t even know what else.

I got the arugula salad, plus salmon. Are you noticing a theme here? I’m in a moooooood for salmon. But really, I was just trying to pick something that went with the tahini dressing, because that’s what caught my eye first. Tahini dressing FTW. The portion was insane, even for me!! Loved it.

Kyle, the one who picked the restaurant in the first place because he “wasn’t hungry and wanted something light like a salad”, opted for the quesadilla. So light. 😉

We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around the house. They backyard had a koi pond and hot tub, and the living room had a pool/ping pong table. So there was plenty to keep us occupied.

For dinner, we went to Cava, which we had all been to before for my sister’s graduation dinner.

V was barely hanging in there (no nap! eek!) but you’d never know it from this great photo of me and my man.

Mr. P enjoyed drawing an entire zoo on the tablecloth, and playing peek a boo with Brooke.

I don’t know who is more in love with who between these cousins. They are all OBSESSED with each other.

I placed the kids’ order (chicken skewers with rice and fruit times two) long before the waiter came back for the rest of us because they were practically falling apart before our eyes, so that ended up saving us.

Meanwhile, we got an order of guacamole and ceviche for the table to share, which were great albeit a bit heavy on the onions.

Kyle got the paella and couldn’t stop raving about it. It definitely looked outstanding.

I chose the ribs, which was unexpected given that the menu had all kinds of delicious dishes on it, but the waiter mentioned it as one of his favorites and after describing the sweet but spicy guava sauce I couldn’t get it out of my head.

It came with a side of slaw and chipotle mashed potatoes, but I just asked for a double serving of cabbage. The waiter had his suspicions, but I’ve never met a plate of cruciferous veggies I couldn’t handle.

Both the slaw and the ribs had a little kick to them! I’m a wuss, so it would probably be NBD to most everyone else, but my lips were tingling half way through and it definitely slowed me down.

So basically we all had leftovers, which made lunch the next day a breeze.

On Monday, we went to breakfast at Jeannine’s in Montecito.

It’s a cute cozy cafe, and even though they don’t have a ton of seating, we had no prob fitting together some tables to accommodate our group of eight.

I got the classic Benedict, but instead of an english muffin, I had them put it on a piece of GF cornbread.

Here’s a side shot of the cornbread.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t really that amazing of a dish. The Canadian bacon was weird so I gave it to Pacman (a very happy recipient) and the hollandaise tasted off somehow. The other main issue was that the eggs were set and the yolks didn’t run out when cut into them. Bummer. So basically the one pro (cornbread) was massively outweighed by the rest of the cons of the dish…you can’t win em all!?

You know who was not remotely disappointed? This guy. He got the kid’s american breakfast and V got the kid’s pancake breakfast.

So cute, right?

We went straight from breakfast to downtown to walk and window shop along State street.

Too much tag before we started walking resulted in piggy back rides back to the car.

We chilled out and let the kids recharge for a bit before eating lunch (leftovers) and then walking down to the beach.

This was the best part of the weekend.

These little beach babes were in pure bliss.

I don’t know how long we were there, but the kids probably would have stayed until sundown.

And then there was this sweetie. Doing tummy time on the sand.

We should have realized that skipping naps and spending hours running from the waves would add up to a small disaster by 6 pm, but we were in vacation mode and just ignored all the warning signs.

Instead, we played in the hot tub and lounged the evening away, and next thing we knew they were zonked and dinner was barely under way.

Weirdos.

For dinner we cooked up some of our farmer’s market goodies – including cauli and broccoli. My dad also grilled salmon. And then there was the first avo and melon salad of the year! I’m so excited for warm weather. This salad is such a favorite.

They each had a few more servings of everything. My bottomless pits of children…eating the most expensive quality food they can.

Happy birthday mom!! We love you!

And now I’m back home solo parenting again for the week (Kyle stayed behind for work) reliving the good times from the weekend through these photos.

Thai meatball salad

Thai meatballs!

These have very few ingredients but heavenly flavors.

You can serve them as a rice bowl w broccoli. Or on the side of a stir fry. Or like I did, on top of a salad.

With so much lettuce from the CSA, I had tons of options for this salad. I decided to go with a mix of red and green leaf, plus mizuna and frisee. Use whatever is available to you though!

For the meatballs, I used a combo of ground pork and ground beef, then I added fresh herbs, fresh ginger, fish sauce, sesame seeds, salt and pepper. See? Not too many ingredients.

Depending on the size you make them, this will yield 22-25 meatballs. All four of us got plenty and then we had enough for one serving as leftovers.

Thai meatball salad

Ingredients:

For the meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger (I grated ~1 inch knob)
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 cup basil, julienned

For the salad:

  • 4-5 cups lettuce (any combo you desire)
  • roasted almonds (or cashews/peanuts/sunflower seeds)
  • fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, mint)
  • orange miso dressing (see below)

For the dressing:

  • 1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp mellow white miso
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef and pork. Add the fish sauce, ginger, sesame seeds, salt, pepper, and herbs and mix until everything is well combined.

Roll into balls and heat a pan with 1-2 tbsp oil.

Once the pan is hot, add the meatballs and cook for several minutes per side, turning as needed to cook all over, but still allowing them to sear in the pan to get a nice browning. Do this on high heat, covering with a splatter guard if needed. Once all sides are nicely seared, you can put the lid on the pan and leave it until the meatballs are cooked through.

Do this in rounds, so you don’t crowd them in the pan. I had a huge pan, so it only took two times, but you may need to do it in three or more steps.

Once they are all done, remove them from the pan and add some water (~1/4 cup) to deglaze the pan, scrapping up all the cooked bits that have stuck to the pan. Reduce the liquid until it is a concentrated broth. If you want to make it a syrupy sauce, add 1 tbsp sugar and let it cook down even more. Then pour it over the meatballs.

While the meatballs are cooking, make the dressing by combining everything in a mason jar and shaking until it’s all mixed. You may consider doubling the recipe (I did) because it’s a great dressing to have on hand for other Asian recipes.

To serve, toss the lettuce in the orange miso dressing, top with nuts and fresh herbs, and then the meatballs.

The leftovers were just as delicious the next day!! This time I had them with sautéed greens and roasted broccoli.

Enjoy!