Do you have a “go-to” meal when you have guests over for dinner? It use to be that once I sent out the text inviting friends over for dinner, the next thing I would do is panic. What am I going to serve these people? It has to be something relatively easy. After all, I have two kids, both of which would prefer to be held at all times. This certainly complicates cooking. So there cannot be multiple steps and a multitude of ingredients. I need a meal that I can put together in under 10 minutes and that I can step away from without ruining it (so I can pick up a crying baby mid-cooking).
But guests are coming over. So I don’t want the meal to look too simple and plain. I need a meal that has the illusion of fanciness. After several years of searching, I have finally found my go-to meal: meatloaf medallions.
Ok, yes, this is meatloaf. At first glance, meatloaf may seem like it isn’t anything special–possibly even boring. Something your grandmother made that you covered in ketchup. However, meatloaf is relatively simple to make. There isn’t a huge list of uncommon ingredients. There are only a few steps before it is completed and ready to be served. Mix it together and toss it in the oven so you can focus on that messy house you need to clean before guests arrived.
But this isn’t just meatloaf. These are mini, single-serving meatloaves wrapped in bacon and topped with fried onions. Just enough flare to spice up a typical, every day meal to make them worthy of company.
So now when we invite friends over for dinner, there is a good chance this is what we will serve. I am happy to report that we have only received rave reviews thus far.
We all have our own comfort food. Whether its mash potatoes, pasta, or fast food, sometimes you just need a meal to make our day a little better. Jambalaya is ours.
The past week was challenging for our family. Max has hydronephrosis. He was diagnosed in the womb. At our 20 week ultrasound, the technician uttered a phrase you don’t want to hear–“abnormal scan.” Ar this time, the hydronephrosis was present in both of his kidneys, Of course, we had never heard of hydronephrosis. Basically, it meant that Max’s kidneys weren’t developing properly. We were told that 50% of the time, this type of hydronephrosis resolves itself. So a second ultrasound was scheduled for my 28 weeks of pregnancy.
At our second ultrasound, there was good and bad news. Max’s right kidney had resolved itself. It was developing just fine. But his left kidney hadn’t. It was twice the size of the right. It didn’t appear to be working at all. So we went to a specialist. We were told that once Max was a month old, Max would go back for testing to determine the severity of the issue and how to resolve it. If the left kidney was partially working, then it would be worth saving. Otherwise, we would assess whether it would make sense to remove the kidney altogether. For the rest of my pregnancy, there was nothing more to do. Just wait for Max show to up.
Then right on time, our Maxwell was born, happy and wide eyed. We made the one month appointment for Max’s kidney.
And then last week, the one month appointment arrived. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the news we were hoping for. Max’s left kidney hasn’t improved. It is twice the size of what it should be and does not appear to work. Because of this, the doctor recommends surgery to remove the kidney when Max is 5 or 6 months old. The idea of my baby being put under anesthesia makes my heart ache. I can’t imagine handing my baby to a doctor for surgery. It just hurts. So when we came home from the appointment, our family needed some comfort food. We needed to eat this jambalaya.
This recipe for jambalaya is quick and easy. There is low prep work. Just dice a couple of veggies, toss them in a pan, and let it simmer. You can alter the recipe so it can be as spicy or mild as you’d like. So when your heart is aching, you can eat a home cooked meal without too much complication. Plus, the assortment of vegetables makes the meal relatively healthy.
So after Max’s kidney appointment we ate this jambalaya as a family. And while it didn’t make the fact that Max has hydrondphrosis go away, it made us all feel a little bit better, even if it was just for the night.
Well, I had another baby! On December 15, 2016, little Maxwell decided he wasn’t going to wait another second and was born. And even though he was born on his due date, I was anything but prepared. See, JR was 12 days late. Yes, 12 days. While I certainly was not rooting for another almost two week late baby, I had convinced myself that Max would not be showing up anytime near the 15th. Perhaps sometime in the 20’s–like Christmas. But surely not on his due date. So when my water broke at 9:40 p.m. on December 14th, I immediately panicked (our house was a complete mess. I had lost my phone. I hadn’t done laundry in weeks.) But after a mere two and a half hours of labor, Maxwell was born. It was perfect.
Of course, now that Max is here, I should be in the “lose the baby weight” phase. But there was Christmas. Then New Years. And donuts are freaking delicious. Plus, who is going to eat all those Junior Mints?! And while I am technically down to my pre-Max weight (note: not pre-baby), my belly is squishy. It would be nice to be back to my law school size. Since it’s the beginning of the year, I can jump on the “new year new you” bandwagon. My social media has been swarmed with Whole30 posts so it is a constant reminder that I too need to be more aware of what I am eating if I want to see results.
That’s where this salad comes in. It’s healthy and quick to make. Plus, you can toss in as many vegetables you’d like, add chicken, salmon, etc., and make the salad more filling (and more of an entree v. side dish). But, regardless of what ingredients you put in the salad, it is truly the salad dressing that holds it all together. My friend Mel shared her dressing recipe with me, and now it is my go-to dressing. Ok, it is the only salad dressing I use these days. It’s light but full of flavor. And I can eat a salad and still feel healthy that it isn’t covered in a creamy, fattening dressing.
Being it’s officially fall and all, this weekend we went to the Minnetonka Apple Orchard. We hadn’t been apple picking since we lived in La Crosse, and while JR is probably too young to truly enjoy it, it was a great excuse to spend some time outdoors that didn’t completely revolve around lumber (yes, apples grow on trees. baby steps).
JR danced around the pumpkins and experienced his first hayride. Pancake could hardly handle herself-stopping to smell most everything and pulling her leash at every chance she got…so a pretty typical afternoon for her.
The only apples in season for you-pick were harlsons–a decent baking apple. After some prodding, JR got the hang of plucking the apple off the tree and tossing it into our bag.
Of course, now that we have all these apples, its baking time. When I found this apple muffin recipe, it was simple enough that I could easily get them into the oven while JR napped so it immediately went to the top of the “must-make” list. The biggest time suck is prepping the apples-peeling and dicing takes time. But these muffins are unbelievably moist (sorry if that word grosses you out but they are!) and completely delicious. And as a huge confidence boost, JR dances every time he takes a bite 🙂 So with that dancing endorsement, these muffins are worth making.
I use to think it was difficult to cook a meal after working a 12ish hour day (ohhh attorney hours). And then I had a baby. Now I understand a new level of tired. Given that JR wants to be constantly held from the second I get home until he gets laid down for bed, this makes cooking nearly impossible. I have not mastered how to cut veggies and hold a one-year-old.
So yeah, you could say I am into slow cooker meals. This pulled beef recipe does not disappoint. There is minimal prep (a little rubdown required so you will need to put your baby down) and if you are lazy like me, you can make your significant other shred the beef. But even if you shred the beef yourself, the extra work is completely worth the effort. There is this great spicy but subtle sweet taste that makes the flavor right on the mark. Plus this is a great variation from the typical tomato-based bbq.
I made the beef last week, and Matt had three sandwiches in one sitting. In fact, the beef was so tasty that I forgot to take pictures of the final meal. But at least I was able to hold my preggo-self back before devouring the beef for lunch today. I am happy to report that the leftovers hold their own–makes some excellent lunches.
The post could be summed up by saying, “Everyone has their own preferences. All babies are different. This whole child rearing thing is just a whole trial and error game. And this is what worked for us.”
Aden + Anais Blankets: It is no secret that I am am a blanket addict. We own no less than 20 blankets (mostly the silky soft muslin variety), which sounds ridiculous given these blankets can be quite pricey. But I was able to find them at TJ Maxx/HomeGoods/Marshalls for around half the price and we got several sets as gifts, so I didn’t end up spending a small fortune on blankets (but God knows I would).
But regardless of the price, these blankets are worth it–they are easily our most used item. We use them for everything–cuddles, burp rag, cleaning up spit up, swaddling (well, we didn’t swaddle but we “mermaid-ed” him with them). And JR is definitely a blanket baby. He walks around with a blanket constantly and he uses it to comfort himself whenever he is upset (new use: bunching it up and biting it as a way to relieve teething pain). Cannot imagine having a baby without these blankets.
Boppy Lounger: The essential ingredient for a table baby. Matt and I would place the boppy on the table and drop JR in it while we ate dinner. Gosh, dinner time was so much simpler back then (now JR tries to escape from his high chair and tosses his food on the floor to Pancake). That boppy followed us to room to room. It was the perfect place to stash a baby when you have to pee and you don’t want to put him on the bathroom floor. Or when you are cooking a meal. And it is far easier to move a boppy than an entire swing.
Gummy Bear Red NightLight: JR was not the best sleeper for the first 10 months of his life, and he was a total piglet when it came to breastfeeding. I cannot remember one night over my maternity leave where we didn’t spend the majority of the night nursing. In the beginning, we relied on the hall light so I could see in the middle of the night. But it was too bright, and it was hard to fall back asleep (and when you only have 20-30 minutes to get some sleep before the baby wants to nurse again, you wanna fall asleep as fast as possible). This light was the perfect solution. It stays on for an hour, is red light (which apparently is the light you want in the middle of the night) and doubles as a toy for the baby. Plus, no need to buy the charger (which comes separately) because your charger from your breast pump works with it.
mamaRoo Swing: This swing is certainly in vogue. It seems like everyone has one. And apparently we also drank the Kool-Aid because we loved ours. The swing has 5 different swing settings, which is great because if JR wasn’t going for one type of swing, we could switch it up and try another. It also has four different white noise sounds which helped encourage JR to nap somewhere that wasn’t on me.
Bassinet: Ok, I did design our bassinet myself (as in, I found a picture on Pinterest that I loved and told Matt, make this) but I cannot imagine how we would have survived the first couple of months without a bassinet. Having JR sleeping next to me was a huge comfort. I would weave my hand through the bars, rest it on JR’s chest, know that he was breathing, and be able to get some decent sleep.
So yeah, these items made navigating the first couple months of parenthood so much easier. Sure, our changing table, diapers, and wipes were pretty important but hey, those aren’t as glamorous and fun 😉
Hopefully, this baby registry must have is helpful. Of course, this is just what worked for us. We aren’t baby experts (yet) so this list certainly isn’t gospel. And feel free to let me know what baby must haves I missed 🙂
In late 2014, we got a huge surprise–I was pregnant. We weren’t exactly trying to get pregnant, but we also weren’t trying not to, just playing our own version of Russian roulette which turned out to be successful a bit faster than we anticipated. Of course, Matt was over the moon. He had wanted to be a baby daddy since forever and the news that it finally was a reality was the perfect news. I was a little scared of the unknown but excited to have a baby to kiss and cuddle with.
Lucky for me, I had a generally easy pregnancy. I slowly got fatter and fatter around my belly, but no morning sickness, no food aversion, no cravings. Instead, my feet swelled. By 7 months, my shoes no longer could fit and when I wore high-heels for work, I looked like Miss Piggie. Nothing like fat feet to make your whole body look unbelievably more large and prego. Even though my swollen feet looked painful, typically they weren’t too uncomfortable, beyond feeling tight. Plus, Matt massaged them every night 😉
We decided not to find out the sex of the baby until Toastie (our womb name for JR) was born. For us, it was a no brainer. The sex of your baby is one of the most genuine surprises in your life, and we didn’t want to ruin the surprise until Toastie was ready to fall out. The anticipation of finding out what Toastie was wasn’t too difficult….until Toastie decided to be late. 12 days late (with labor starting at 11 days late). Those days were easily the hardest part of my pregnancy.
The due date was July 12th. Sure, it is common knowledge that calculating due dates is not an exact science. And I am certain I said that catch phrase over and over again once the calendar said July 1st (mostly to my boss, who was starting to come to terms with the reality that I would be out of the office for two months). Still, when July 12th came and went, we were disappointed. Every day after July 12th, I would wake up a bit disheartened that I was getting ready for work instead of getting ready for labor. (for some reason, I was convinced that I would go into labor in the middle of the night–I didn’t).
We tried everything to induce labor. Sex, walking, running, spicy food, acupuncture (three times). Nothing worked (we didn’t try the castor oil–I just couldn’t bring myself to risk it). Every day I would run 2 miles. But this baby was stubborn. He had his own agenda. But then it was Thursday, July 23rd.
I woke up on Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 6:00 a.m. and it felt like I had peed myself. I was quite certain it was my water breaking, but the entire area wasn’t saturated, so I started to doubt myself and wondered if maybe I just sweated an ungodly amount over the night (pregnancy can be gross).
Sure, this baby was already 11 days past the due date. But after 11 days, and thinking everything was “a sign that labor was around the corner” and then feeling disappointed when I was still pregnant, I was starting to feel like I was going to die pregnant. Plus, weren’t contractions suppose to come with my water breaking? I felt just like I had every other day of pregnancy—completely fine. I needed a second opinion.
I woke Matt up and told him what happened. He smiled, “we are going to have a baby today!” And he was right (ok, well he was born on the 24th but close enough). After only 5 and half hours of labor, I caught my baby as he floated up from the water towards me like a torpedo. We are so blessed. I had the birthing experience I wanted–a non-medicated, water birth–and a beautiful, healthy baby boy.
Since we gave birth at a birth center, we were discharged 5 hours after JR was born. I know, this sounds shocking to most people (and even I was hesitant about it) but it was natural and organic.
Matthew Anthony Jr. (who we lovingly call JR) was born July 24, 2015 at 2:43 a.m. at 7 lbs 6 oz and 20 inches. And our life has become better for it.
Wow, its been over two years since I last posted. To be honest, my sabbatical from blogging was unintentional. It started with my laptop breaking. Not sure what happened, but it no longer turned on. Matt said it would cost too much to fix it so it sat in the tv stand for the past couple of years, collecting dust while I was essentially computer-less. And then I forgot the password to sign into my blog account. So my attempts to sign into my blog on Matt’s desktop was unsuccessful. But then on December, 2015 (two years from my last post!), my work gave me a glorious, gold MacBook. It took way too many guesses, but I finally cracked my password (but to be honest, I have once again forgotten it-thank God it is saved to my new computer). Remembering how to navigate wordpress…still not up to par yet. Ugh, technology is hard.
Gosh, my life has completely transformed. Most notably, I became a mom.
And I would post more, but for some reason, pictures won’t upload into wordpress. Seriously, wordpress is anything but user-friendly. After fighting with it for over an hour, I’m throwing my hands up. You win, wordpress. I’ll be back to struggle with you tomorrow.
Two years ago, it was brunch time. Matt and I decided to venture outside the Northeast and went to Edina for eggs and bloodies. It was just ok. Our bloodies were just glorified V8s with a mini pickle. I left disappointed and thirsty. After living within a mile from a bar with the Helen of Troy of bloodies for four years, I had yet to find a replacement since I moved to the Twin Cities.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying. My google history was riddled with “best Bloody Marys in Minneapolis.” And I dragged Matt to try every single one of the proclaimed best bloodies. Each one fell short.
“Seriously, how hard is it to find the best Bloody Mary in Minneapolis!” I complained on our drive home from brunch. “I’m starting to think the Twin Cities just doesn’t have one.”
And that’s how this blog started. “Why don’t you rate all the bloodies we’ve tried on a blog so other people in the cities can rely on your expertise,” Matt suggested.
This blog has now transformed from rating bloodies into my outlet to learn to cook. Nevertheless, my original idea behind this blog hasn’t completely been lost. And as it turns out, I sleep next to the mixologist who has created the world’s best bloody–Matt. It took several years of trial and error, but we finally have perfected what we believe to be the greatest bloody recipe. And it would be a sin not to share that recipe with the world.
It’s been a while. Again. Still been making new recipes. Still forgetting to take pictures. I’ve been lazy.
But there is something I have been spending my time taking pictures of. Surprise! There is a new addition to our family. Three weeks ago, a little French bulldog moved into our house. Her name is Pancake.
It’s been an adventure. Neither of us have owned or trained a dog before so we enrolled into a puppy class. Pancake is becoming proficient at playing fetch, and she’s great at sitting, but now that she has learned that sitting equals treats, walking on a leash has become more difficult. She will walk a few steps, sit, and wait for a treat. It’s only been three weeks so hopefully she will get the hang of it soon.
Our kitchen also has experienced a new milestone. I finally made something using yeast! I’ve been saying for months that I wanted to learn how to make dough, but every time the opportunity arose, I opted for Pillsbury’s.
This lazy streak has come to an end! Matt is an avid woodworker (the best if you ask me!) and he subscribes to every woodworking show, blog, youtube channel. One of the woodworkers he follows had a post about making a pizza peel with a recipe for tomato pie which included a homemade crust. Matt took it as a sign that it was time for me to finally learn to work with yeast. Clever guy 🙂
I love this tomato pie recipe because of the simplicity of it. While I love a pizza piled with toppings, sometimes you crave the bare necessities. Plus, you make this pizza up-side-down. The cheese is the first topping with the sauce on top. This unique structure and simple ingredients enhances the flavor of the pizza. It was the perfect recipe for me to start my journey working with yeast. And we’ve now made this pizza over 10 times. I’d say it’s a keeper! And I now consider myself a “yeast expert.” Well, as long as it involves this recipe…