This Week’s Menu: Starting the Clean-Out

Fried panko tofu cubes. I make mine about half the size of these ones.
Fried panko tofu cubes. I make mine about half the size of these ones.

We’re starting the segue into “cleaning out the fridge” mode this week, trying to use up everything we have on hand before we leave for Japan. A few things can be put into the freezer while we’re gone, but most everything else that’s in the refrigerator now, other than condiments, will have to be eaten. The goal is to leave the refrigerator as empty as possible when we leave mid March.

We have one package of tofu left, and I’m looking forward to having the fried panko tofu cubes again this week. They were a big hit the last time we had them – the outside is nice and crispy, and the tofu inside becomes very creamy when cooked. Our dipping sauces will include teriyaki, barbecue, Thai spicy mango, Bulldog (Japanese-style Worchester sauce) and one of YaYu’s hot sauces. I might put out some catsup too.

By the way, the creamy red pepper alfredo sauce that YaYu made last week was AMAZING. Thank goodness we doubled the recipe, because I could sit and eat it with a spoon right out of the pan. I’ve been enjoying it on eggs, over leftover meatloaf, and with roasted vegetables. YUM!

Here’s what’s on our dinner menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled beef Polish sausages; sauerkraut; roasted carrots
  • Wednesday: Leftover steak and zucchini stir fry; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Thursday: Leftovers (first track meet of the season; B & Y won’t get home until after 8:00 p.m.)
  • Friday: Fried panko tofu cubes with assorted dipping sauces; sweet & sour cole slaw
  • Saturday: Thai-style pork stew; steamed jasmine rice; cucumber salad
  • Sunday: Zucchini frittata; salami; garlic bread (no bread for me)
  • Monday: Grill ahi tacos with fresh mango salsa; yellow rice (no tortillas or rice for me)

Purchases at the farmers’ market this week will be minimal, even if there are still tempting things to be found, like cauliflower and broccoli. Looking at the list all I can see that we have to buy is zucchini,but we will also probably also buy some papayas, bananas and bok choy as those will definitely get eaten before we go.

This Week’s Menu: Back to Everyday Regular Normal

Slow cooker chicken adobo with bok choy

It feels like the holidays are finally over here at Casa Aloha. YaYu is back at school, and we’re no longer eating ham.

Dinners this week are all about having things that WenYu likes and asked that I fix while she’s at home. We found broccoli at the farmers’ market last week so I put tofu & broccoli on the menu, and we have a small piece of our pre-Christmas turkey and some gravy left over, so I’m using those up for hot turkey sandwiches. Our egg dish this week is a recipe from the old Sunset Magazine Favorite Recipes cookbook that I’ve owned since before I knew Brett. Canned chilis and cheese are layered between puffy, souffle-like layers of egg and baked, then topped with warm enchilada sauce.

Here’s what we’re having for dinner this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Tofu & broccoli with spicy peanut sauce; steamed rice
  • Wednesday: Slow cooker chicken adobo with bok choy; steamed rice
  • Thursday: Snake Alley noodles; cucumber salad
  • Friday: Grilled lemon chicken; quinoa salad (swim team spaghetti dinner for YaYu)
  • Saturday: Hamburgers; onion rings
  • Sunday: Baked chili rellenos with enchilada sauce; yellow rice; iceberg wedge salad
  • Monday: Hot turkey sandwiches with stuffing; steamed peas

We’ll need bok choy, cucumbers, mint and parsley from the farmer’s market this week, and we’ll stop by Safeway for a head of organic iceberg lettuce (Big Save has better all-around grocery prices, but Safeway has the best produce in town). Otherwise, everything we need is in the pantry, fridge or freezer.

What’s on your menu this week?

This Week’s Menu: Our Week of Ham

Slow-cooker split pea soup
Slow cooker split pea soup

Last month, we bought the smallest spiral-sliced ham we could find at Costco, and have had some wonderful meals from it already, so I was a bit surprised when I checked this past weekend and found out how much we still had left. Ham therefore will be the star of this week’s menu, appearing in four different meals, but that should finish it off. We probably won’t buy another one until next year at Christmas – as much as we love ham, one is just too much for the three of us these days. We’ll have to find other ways to get our ham fix until then.

Otherwise, things are getting eaten up fairly quickly around here with WenYu still at home. Both girls are active, and have big appetites, so we’ve seen few leftovers, and if they do exist, they disappear quickly.

We’re looking forward to having the first of some teriyaki chicken & pineapple meatballs we picked up at Costco last week. A package of 60 was on sale for just a little over $10, and that many should see us through five or six meals. Besides the ham we will also be finishing up the last of the Costco roast chicken. Our egg meal this week will be omelets that will include ham.

Here’s our first-week-of-the-new-year menu:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Chinese three-color salad (hiyashi chuka) with ham.
  • Wednesday: Barbecue chicken quesadillas; coleslaw
  • Thursday: Ham & vegetable fried rice
  • Friday: Slow cooker split pea soup; country-style bread (YaYu will be at a team spaghetti dinner)
  • Saturday: Denver omelets; biscuits; fruit
  • Sunday: Homemade spaghetti with marinara; grilled Italian sausages; garlic bread; grilled zucchini
  • Monday: Teriyaki chicken & pineapple meatballs; zaru soba; cucumber salad

All we’ll need from the farmers’ market this week will be cucumbers, zucchini and bananas – another quick trip!

Posting my menu each week last year has been key in helping us keep our food budget down, as well as keeping food waste to a minimum. I’m going to stick to doing it again this year.

What’s on your menu this week?

This Week’s Menu: The Homecoming Begins

Cheeseburger Pie, on of Meiling’s favorites

Meiling arrives home fairly late this coming Sunday evening, and believe it or not, she asked me if I would cook for her as soon as we got back to the house! I told her there’d be some things she likes on hand for her to eat, but that I’ll start cooking for her in earnest on Monday.

The first order of business for Meiling when she arrives on Kaua’i is always a trip up to Duane’s Ono Char Burger where I’m pretty sure she’ll orders her usual two burgers. I’m making Cheeseburger Pie for dinner on Monday night, one of her favorites, but I don’t think she’s going to complain about having cheeseburgers twice in one day.

Brett and I are doing the second half of our monthly Costco shop today to get ready for the happy occasion of having all the girls at home. We’ll be picking up one of their giant pizzas for our dinner tonight as we’ve all been craving pizza, and the leftovers will be available for lunches for the rest of the week. Otherwise we’ll be finishing up things we still have on hand, even after the big defrost, and saving our Costco purchases for the weeks ahead. Tomorrow or Thursday we’ll go back for a few more things at Big Save and other than our weekly trips to the farmers’ market that will finish our food shopping for the month.

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Pepperoni pizza; salad
  • Wednesday: Chicken tamales; yellow rice; steamed broccoli
  • Thursday: Italian sausage sandwiches with sauteéd peppers and onions
  • Friday: Leftovers (YaYu has her first swim team spaghetti dinner this evening)
  • Saturday: Chinese three-color salad (hiyashi chuka)
  • Sunday: Sweet potato, kale and quinoa ravioli with pesto; grilled zucchini; garlic bread
  • Monday: Cheeseburger pie; onion rings; lettuce & tomato salad (the linked recipe is pretty close to the one we use, but we skip the eggs, and substitute 1/3 cup dill pickle juice for part of the milk, and add a 1/2 cup chopped dill pickle to the filling. We also bake our pie in a crust.).

We’ll need to pick up tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and (hopefully) some broccoli at the farmers’ market this week, as well as more bananas, but otherwise we have everything we need on hand.

And, hopefully it will be warm enough on Saturday to appreciate the cool, refreshing hiyashi chuka! It’s one of YaYu’s favorite dishes.

This Week’s Menu: Almost There

Locally-caught monchong, a deep-sea pomfret has been appearing at Costco. It's got a delicious, moderately fishy flavor.
Locally-caught monchong, a deep-sea Pomfret, has been appearing lately at Costco. It’s affordable, and has a delicious flavor.

Brett and I have decided that no matter what, we need to defrost the freezer next weekend. We will be finishing up the last of our food shopping for the month the week after, and need to have the freezer cleaned out and ready to go for that haul. I think by the end of this week we’ll have everything down to where what’s leftover can fit into the inside freezer or the cooler while the defrost takes place.

A big goal this coming month is to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in our diet. I think we do a pretty good job already, but know we can kick it up a bit. YaYu consumes most of the fruit we buy, and eats a lot of vegetables, but we’ve stocked up on vegetables for snacking, and I am going to work at having at least two servings of fruit each day. Citrus season is starting here, and I’m looking forward to enjoying local mandarin oranges and tangelos, as well as making fresh orange juice.

Although this month I’m going to start eating meat again in small amounts, if desired, this week I’m still pretty much sticking to a vegetarian/vegan diet.

Appearing on this week’s menu:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Spaghetti with greens; meatballs; garlic bread (vegan meatballs for me)
  • Wednesday: Grilled chicken; vegetable lo mein (‘chickenless’ nuggets for me) – bumped from last week
  • Thursday: Grilled monchong; steamed broccoli; whole grain bread
  • Friday: Panzanella with beans (without cheese)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Yakisoba with chicken (no chicken for me)
  • Monday: Potstickers; steamed rice; Asian coleslaw (vegetable potstickers for me)

We won’t need a whole lot from the farmers’ market this week as we’re going to be using up what we have on hand as well as the last of some frozen vegetables. We will need to get some tomatoes and cucumbers though for the panzanella salad, as well as some citrus fruits and bananas.

This Week’s Menu: It’s That Time Again

There's approximately 1 1/2" of frost coating the inside of the freezer, growing thicker by the day. And yes, that is a big bottle of rum back in the corner, keeping nice and cold for our mojitos!
There’s approximately 1 1/2″ of frost coating the inside of the freezer, growing thicker by the day. And yes, that is a big bottle of rum back in the corner, staying nice and cold for our mojitos!

It’s once again time for our small chest freezer to be defrosted, which means several weeks of using up everything that’s already in there as well as trying not to put more into it. Right now it’s pretty full so it’s going to be an interesting and challenging few weeks, menu-wise. It also means we won’t be buying much food either for a while, which hopefully means more for our travel savings.

A great deal of what’s taking up space in there right now seems to be bread in one form or another – both Brett and I are puzzled about how we ended up with so much. I’d also like to think there’s not a whole lot of meat, but there’s probably more than I imagine. We have several frozen treats, like ice cream and a big tub of mini cream puffs (which are for election night next week), but all of that should disappear fairly quickly. Our goal in the coming weeks will be to use much as possible so we can fit what’s remaining into our small-ish refrigerator freezer and our big cooler while the defrost and re-chill happen. I always convince myself that it will only take us two to three weeks to get to this point, when in reality it usually takes more like four or five before we’re ready to shut the freezer off.

As it’s a new month I’m going to ‘officially’ add dairy, including milk and ice cream, back into my diet, although in limited amounts. I will continue to use soy milk whenever I can though because I enjoy it. I still have no interest in eating any kind of meat other than fish.

Here’s this week’s menu:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Quinoa, kale and butternut squash ravioli with pesto; steamed artichokes; garlic bread;
  • Wednesday: Thai curry chicken (chickenless nuggets with curry for me); steamed rice; cucumber salad
  • Thursday: Grilled hamburgers (Boca Burger for me); leftover 3-bean salad; potato chips
  • Friday: Vegetarian lasagna; garlic bread; grilled zucchini
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Slow cooker kalua pork; rice; macaroni salad; cucumbers (no pork for me)
  • Monday: Homemade fish cake sandwiches; cole slaw

We’ll need zucchini, cucumbers, mint and limes from the farmers’ market this week, so that will mean savings as well.

Let the games begin!

This Week’s Menu: Macaroni & Cheese, Please

Creamy macaroni & cheese (photo from the NY Times)
Creamy macaroni & cheese (photo from the NY Times)

Election night has always been a big deal at our house. We settle ourselves around the TV to watch the returns, and serve finger foods to nosh on while we watch the returns come in.

In a change from tradition, YaYu has asked for fried chicken from Pono Market in Kapaa (the best fried chicken ever, according to her) along with macaroni and cheese for our election night meal this year. OK! Because of the time difference, election returns from the east coast will start becoming available here in early afternoon, but since YaYu will again be serving as a poll worker, she wants a more traditional meal when she finishes in the evening.

I have been wanting to try out some new mac & cheese recipes for a while, so this week I’m going to fix a simple recipe from the New York Times for a creamy macaroni & cheese that’s baked in the oven, and next week I’m trying one that’s prepared in the slow cooker. Whichever one ‘wins’ YaYu’s approval will be prepared again on election night.

Of course this means that for the next three weeks macaroni and cheese will be appearing on the menu here at Casa Aloha. I’m not sure I’m ready to indulge in something with that much dairy, but hopefully I can manage a small amount.

YaYu’s cross country season has ended, and since Friday night spaghetti dinners (for the swim team) won’t start again until after the first of the year, I’ll have to put something on the menu again for that night. We’ll stick with having leftovers on Saturday – I like finishing things up and that no one has to cook!

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Spaghetti with marinara sauce; grilled Italian sausages (vegan for me);  grilled zucchini; garlic bread
  • Wednesday: Grilled steak; baked potatoes; sautéed Swiss chard (no steak for me)
  • Thursday: Tofu & broccoli in spicy peanut sauce; steamed rice
  • Friday: Creamy macaroni & cheese; salad
  • Saturday: leftovers
  • Sunday: Panzanella with beans
  • Monday: Grilled ahi tuna; couscous; grilled zucchini

We plan to buy a bag of broccoli florets at Costco today, which will last us two to three meals. We’ll get Swiss chard, zucchini (YaYu’s favorite vegetable), cucumbers, a green pepper, and carrots at the farmers’ market this week, as well as more limes and bananas, but otherwise we’ll see what catches our eye and looks good (and is affordable). Brett is still doing the majority of cooking, but I’m pitching in more and more as I feel better.

This Week’s Menu: The Best Laid Plans

The Cuban Bowl from Laughing Planet Cafe in Portland was the inspiration for our Cuban-style burritos.

At the end of last week I did my usual menu planning, and based our meals on what we have on hand and what we would be picking up at the farmers’ market on Wednesday and Costco on either Thursday or Friday.

And then on Sunday I injured my back (again) and am now on Day Two of bedrest, hoping that I can get myself back to where I can at least stand and cook, let alone shop and do all the other things that need doing. My long day of sitting in airplanes and airports, and lifting my carry-on in and out of the overhead bins at the end of last month apparently was more than my lower back could handle, and it’s had good days and bad ever since. On Sunday all was well until I bent to pick up a basket of laundry, and suddenly my back was a hot mess again, and here I am in bed.

We switched yesterday’s planned Homemade Fish Cake sandwiches to hamburgers which were easier for Brett to fix, and although I’m going to go ahead and stick to the planned meals for this week, I decided to switch a few days around and front load the week with meals that are easier for Brett and YaYu to prepare. Hopefully by the end of the week my back will be pain free once again and I’ll be back in the kitchen.


Here’s what’s planned for this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Beef & broccoli stir fry; steamed rice (vegan lo mein for me)
  • Wednesday: Grilled mahi mahi; roasted sweet potatoes; grilled zucchini
  • Thursday: Cuban-style burritos (stuffed with saffron rice, Cuban-style black beans, roasted sweet potatoes, fried banana, and pico de gallo)
  • Friday: Pizza for Brett and me (YaYu will be dining at her cross country team spaghetti dinner)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Slow cooker balsamic pork roast; vegan stuffing; petite peas (“chickenless” nuggets for me)
  • Monday: Slow cooker adobo chicken with bok choy; steamed rice (tofu for me instead of chicken)

We’ll see how it goes. I’m feeling confident that by giving my back the rest it needs and deserves, and then being careful, I can get things back to normal and keep them that way.

Fingers are crossed.

This Week’s Menu: Happy In the Kitchen

Definitely NOT my mood most evenings after fixing dinner!
Definitely NOT my mood most evenings after fixing dinner!

Last week Brett and I received a lovely letter from WenYu, thanking us for all we had done for her over the years to help her get where she is now. She particularly thanked Brett for teaching her how to drive, and then continuing to drive her around because she disliked driving so much. She thanked me for “sacrificing my happiness” in the kitchen in order to make sure she always had a good, healthy dinner every night.

Sacrificing my happiness?

I enjoy cooking. I’m a good cook and take pride in the meals I prepare. I’ve always enjoyed creating menus and preparing healthy, tasty food for my family, who thankfully, with few exceptions, eat everything I make without complaint. WenYu’s letter made me realize however that I have apparently not been a happy cook for a while.

It’s hot and humid here, and just when it’s time to get started with fixing dinner that’s when the sun is beating on the house from the west (and both kitchens have been/are on the west side of the house) AND the trade winds die off for a couple of hours, killing any breezes that typically flow through the house. The combination of afternoon sun and no air moving has made working in the kitchen nearly intolerable at times, for me anyway. Our current kitchen has a ceiling fan, which helps quite a bit, but it has to be turned off if we’re cooking on the stove. I can honestly say that cooking dinner for the past two years has been an effort of trying to stay cool long enough that I can get things to the table and enjoy eating with my family, and I apparently failed at this more than I realized. It didn’t help my mood either that my former place at the table in this house sits in a “dead zone” between two ceiling fans – I had no idea how truly uncomfortable it was there until I moved week before last to the opposite side of the table, where WenYu used to sit, and experienced the cool breeze coming from the living room fan while I dined.

I have vowed to be a happier cook once again. I will use my slow cooker more, we will grill more, and I will try to keep the ceiling fan going in the kitchen whenever possible, for as long as possible. I will call YaYu in to help with stovetop cooking rather than being a stoic and sweating it out; she doesn’t heat up like I do. No more “sacrificing my happiness” in the kitchen!

Here’s this week’s menu – not as many “cool” meals as I would like, but YaYu and I will get it done. She’s excited we’re making a meatloaf!

  • Tuesday (this evening): Sunset Magazine’s Family Meatloaf (from 1969); mashed potatoes & gravy; steamed green beans. I make the meatloaf with 1# ground beef and 1# ground turkey, oats instead of breadcrumbs, and only 2/3 cup milk. (I’ll be having lentil soup though.)
  • Wednesday: Caprese Skillet Eggs; garlic toast; salad
  • Thursday: Sautéed Italian sausages, peppers and onion (on the grill) for sandwiches; chips (vegan sausage for me)
  • Friday: Mabo nasu with tofu; steamed rice; sliced cucumbers
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Slow cooker chicken & rice soup; cornbread (lentil soup again for me).
  • Monday: Homemade fish cake sandwiches; honeydew melon

Fingers crossed that all goes as planned!

This Week’s Menu: I’ll Drink To That!

Mmmm – mojitos!

The humidity here demands that we all take in a LOT of fluid every day. Water, iced tea, and coffee are our usual staples, but we also like to mix things up with other beverages and cocktails.

None of us are big soft drink fans, but we do enjoy a ginger ale now and again, and I still love Diet Coke big time. I gave them up at the beginning of the year, but the other day Safeway had 20-packs on sale for $5, a price too good to pass up. Hopefully the box will last for a while, but I haven’t been craving them this time around and have had just a couple so far, on hot afternoon last weekend. They were very refreshing, but I don’t want to get hooked again.

Brett and I also decided to add some different cocktails to our evening rotation. We’ve always enjoyed a glass of wine in the evening, and occasionally a gin & tonic, but before I went on my trip last month I was feeling bored with the wine and suggested we try something new after I got back. The gin & tonics are still our favorite cocktail, but we’ve also been enjoying POG (passion fruit, orange and guava juice) mimosas and tonight we’re having mojitos. I had a complementary (and delicious!) POG mimosa in First Class on the way home, which gave me the idea for those, and we’ve always liked mojitos more than other rum drinks, including mai tais and piña coladas. We’re not ready to set up a full bar yet, but like having something different in the evening. And, eventually we’ll go back to enjoying a glass of wine.

Also, I ate quite a bit of cheese during my trip, mainly because there weren’t often a whole lot of other vegetarian options. The cheese was delicious, but my digestive system didn’t like it, so I’m back to primarily vegan dining once again. I have missed pizza though, and am going to try a small amount of mozzarella once in a while and see how that goes as well as sticking to the occasional sprinkle of Parmesan on pasta dishes.

Here’s what we’re eating this week at Chez Aloha:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled teriyaki chicken thighs; zaru soba; cucumber salad (chilled tofu for me instead of chicken)
  • Wednesday: Slow cooker chicken risotto; grilled zucchini (pasta with vegan ‘butter’ and Parmesan for me)
  • Thursday: California Roll Salad
  • Friday: Pizza: one half will be salami & cheese, for Brett; the other half just cheese, for me. We’ll also add some vegetables – not sure yet what those will be (YaYu will be dining at her first cross country team spaghetti dinner).
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Potstickers; steamed rice; ‘Asian’ coleslaw (I found vegan potstickers at Costco last week – yeah!)
  • Monday: Pasta with marinara; grilled Italian sausages; grilled zucchini; garlic bread

That’s it for this week – I think it’s doable, and I’m looking forward to being back in the kitchen. YaYu is taking a culinary course this term, and will be helping out more with dinner prep as well.