Monday, March 10, 2014

Happy Monday! Weekend Recap 3/7-3/9

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Happy Monday! I finally have a chance to sit down, take a break from things and share. Postings have been sporadic to say the least and I miss regularly sharing since it's a way to reflect on things and capture daily happenings through food. Since my weekends are usually so full of food related happenings, I figured I'd start recapping the weekends just to capture how crazy my life is lol.

I spent the early part of the weekend prepping freezer meals for some dear friends. One friend recently celebrated a birthday and instead of my usual cupcake tower [which is difficult to do at the pharmacy, given the restrictions we have on food] he opted for some prepared meals. This was a perfect gift since he primarily cooks for his family and who wouldn't want a break from cooking after a long day at the office?! Another couple I prepped freezer meals for were new parents, my dearest friends who I've known since childhood. They just welcomed their first child to their family and I remember how much I loved having prepped meals ready as a new mom. So with these wonderful friends in mind, I made roughly 10 different dishes which I packaged up. One set of meals were delivered and happily received!

Dishes I prepared include:
Garlic Herb Chicken Bake
Shrimp Pesto Pasta [substituted shrimp in recipe]
Spinach Mac & Cheese [omitted chicken & artichoke in recipe]

If you're looking for other great make ahead meals, definitely check out Crock-Pot CuisineCrock-Pot® recently launched of a line of chef inspired slow cooker meals called Crock-Pot® Cuisine. These all natural, flash frozen meals make dinner easy – just open the package, put the meal into your Crock-Pot® slow cooker and enjoy! There’s no shopping or chopping, just a delicious meal ready for you at the end of the day. You can find more info about the meals at www.CrockPotCuisine.comI had the opportunity to try a few of their meals including:

Rustic Beef Stew

Creole Style Andouille Chicken & Sausage

Lemon Herb Chicken

Roasted Chicken with Mini Herbed Dumplings

In fact, to encourage you to check these fantastic meals out, here's a special code - CPC25BLOGE. You can use this code to get 25% off of your order at CrockPotCuisine.com through March 31, 2014!


Also this weekend, Patrick and I reviewed a new restaurant in the suburbs called Big Chef Burgers. This place is tucked away in a strip mall and we were pleasantly surprised with what they had to offer. We started off our meal with their homemade potato chips. They were light, the perfect thickness and nicely seasoned!


The burgers were made with fresh ground, hormone free Angus beef... and they were amazing. You can definitely taste the richness and full flavor of the burgers with each bite. I also loved the way you're able to customize your burger. They have 11 types of burgers highlighted but you're able to choose your toppings if you prefer. Aside from the toppings, you can also choose your bun - regular bun, pretzel bun, whole wheat bun or even onion bun are available. Not listed on their menu are gluten free buns so I was excited about that! I enjoyed the Bacon Burger [spicy cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo] while Patrick had the Truffle Burger [swiss cheese, truffle oil, fried egg, tomato, lettuce, onion]. We both loved the burgers and they were full of flavor even without the toppings. That is definitely a sign of a worthy burgers since it can stand on it's own without any toppings. Served with the burgers are your choice of homemade potato chips, onion rings, regular potato fries, sweet potato fries, mashed potatoes or coleslaw.

Aside from burgers, the restaurant also offers brick oven pizza. This is such a great addition to their menu and I love how their beautiful oven is available for folks to see regardless where they sit in the restaurant. There are 8 pizzas on the menu and even calzone.

Another highlight to their menu are their shakes. Their shakes are made with gelato - a richer, smoother and more flavorful component as opposed to the typical ice cream. They are made to order and six different kinds to choose from, there's a flavor for everyone. I enjoyed by peanut butter and banana shake while Patrick liked his chocolate mint shake. They doubled as both a drink and dessert, which was perfect with a juicy burger.

Overall, we had a wonderful experience, thanks to our server Robin. If you're in the area, definitely check this place out. We look forward to visiting again soon!

So after our early dinner Saturday at Big Chef, we headed home. Throughout the day I was dealing with soreness and it progressively got worse. I'd like to think I handle pain really well and I can tolerate a great deal of pain without meds, but I was really challenged by the time we got home. We made a quick stop to the pharmacy for a heating pad. I propped myself on the couch with the heating pad in hopes I felt better, but 2 hours later, I went up to Patrick and said we needed to go to the hospital. At that point, I was at an 8, borderline 9 on a 10 point scale of pain.

We get to the hospital just before 10pm, I'm triaged and settled into an emergency room... for 3 hours. A shot of morphine is administered. I'm woozy, Patrick's tired and we're anxious to go home. The last hour was a whirlwind and I have a surgical procedure done which was probably the most painful experience I've ever endured - even with the morphine and local anesthesia applied. In fact, the needle with the anesthesia was the peak of pain for me. I would give birth multiple times than go through that anesthesia needle again, hands down without a doubt. That said, I'm finally discharged after given some pain meds, antibiotics and I don't remember too much after that. We finally get home shortly after 3am (after the extra hour was applied for daylight savings time). I didn't sleep too well or for too long since I was sore and the rest of my weekend was spent on the couch feeling weak, nauseous, tired, exhausted and just spent. Patrick was nothing short of being a trooper, my rock and source of comfort. Despite the turn of events, I'm glad it happened when it did since this past weekend Joel was spending time with his dad and I wasn't teaching. Also, with our upcoming vacation next week, I'm thankful this happened while at home versus away. So as a result of the procedure and ER visit, I've got a few several weeks to heal and recover from the procedure but already, I'm feeling better. Hopefully the recovery is quick and continues to be comfortable.

While recovering on the couch, I took the opportunity to read some books from my personal library. I really have way too many books but love the fact that my library is full of great reads to draw inspiration from for meals, entertaining ideas and recipes to try. Some books I perused and recommend include:

Pottery Barn Dining Spaces. This is a great book to dress your table for guests or just for everyday. I'm inspired by the different color schemes and ways to decorate throughout the year to match with entertaining ideas. The ideas I've gathered form this book inspires me to look for pieces at local thrift shops and second hand stores where I can save money without paying full price!

Stoneware Sensations. A few years back, I used to be a Pampered Chef consultant. I forgot that I had a few Pampered Chef cookbooks on hand and flipped through this one. It has a handful of recipe ideas, many of which use prepared pizza dough, bread dough, croissant dough and the like. Granted, the recipes aren't necessarily gluten free but I can certainly drawn from the recipes where I could substitute homemade/gluten free pizza dough, bread dough, etc for a more homemade feel. Flipping through this book also reminded me how I need to use my stoneware baking pieces more!

Chocolate From the Cake Doctor. Chocolate cake, what's not to love? This book is another one where I could get some chocolate cake ideas that I am able to adapt for gluten free living. It's also a good source to jazz up cake mix. Should there be a sale on cake mixes, I'd grab this book for ideas... and it comes in handy when I have potlucks, parties or last minute entertaining where I need to make a dessert on the fly!

Food & Wine: Best of the Best Volume 12. Years ago I hosted a cookbook swap. One of my friends that attended tuned me in on Food & Wine's 'Best of the Best' cookbooks. Ever since, I've been a fan. If you're not familiar, these cookbooks are basically a compilation of the top cookbooks of the year where the book highlights specific recipes from each of those all in one place. So in essence, you have the best recipes of the best cookbooks in the year all bound together. I have a collection of these books and this one is volume 12.

So that's my weekend recap... How was your weekend?! Hope you had a delicious weekend yourself!

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