Ok, how is the summer already coming to an end? With the pandemic still roaring through the states, it just doesn’t feel like summer has started yet. There has been no movies in the park. No summer concerts. Didn’t go see fireworks because the city didn’t have them. No block parties. None of the typical summer activities.
That is not to say we didn’t make a great summer out of what we did have. We were able to sneak away to a cabin in Wisconsin. We have had weekends exploring the woods and parks (just staying away from the playground equipment). Movie nights with popcorn were had. It was a good summer, considering.
We didn’t get to have many cookouts with friends and family, which was a bummer. But we had a couple socially distanced dinners outside on the patio–eating home cooked food, drinking good wine, and pretending just for the evening that our world isn’t completely upside down.
What hasn’t changed is what I serve when we have a cookout at our place. This summer, and all the others, whenever we have people over for a cookout, this is my go-to grilling recipe. So much so, that this is the recipe I made the day JR was born since we had a cookout to celebrate JR on his birthday (birth center births mean you go home same day you give birth).
And I have been meaning to put this recipe up on the blog, but every time I make it, before I can remember to take a photo of the finished product, it’s already in our bellies. It’s that good.
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 Tablespoon sesame seed oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon honey
1-2 pounds of chicken, cut into cubes
1 yellow pepper, cut into chunks
1 red pepper, cut into chunks
1 orange pepper, cut into chunks
1 red onion, cut into chunks
1/2 pineapple (fresh), cut into chunks
To make the sauce, just toss all the ingredients in a small pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat so it is simmering. Stir until the sauce is thickened. Feel free to add a bit more cornstarch. Once to a thickened texture (not as thick as honey but not as thin as water), remove from heat. I recommend dividing out into two bowls–one for dipping later and one for basting.
Make your skewers. If you have metal skewers, great. If not, use wood and soak the wood skewers for a bit before using (although if you don’t, I have never found it to be a deal breaker).
For the skewers, we put all meat on some and then divide the rest throughout (because we have some vegetarians in our house). Baste with the sauce and then grill. Baste periodically as it cooks.
“Ok, what should we have for dinner?” Possibly one of the most frustrating questions. After spending a long day working, sometimes figuring out what we are going to eat for dinner is one decision too many. It can be exhausting.
Sometimes I wish I just could snag someone else’s weekly dinner plan. I mean, our family isn’t the only family eating dinner. Why not take a page out of someone else’s book?
Here is what we had for a week of dinners:
Sunday– Steaks on the grill, baked potatoes with sour cream, blistered shishito peppers.
Ok guys, it has been exactly 9 years since we bought our house. 9 years ago today Matt went to a title company and signed a bazillion documents to become a homeowner at the age of 23. I still remember this night 9 years ago so vividly. We got takeout from Culver’s and sat in the living room floor since we had no furniture (where I am sitting as I write this except on a couch) and we talked about how wonderful life would be now that we owned a house.
And life has been wonderful since we became homeowners. Buying this house has been the best financial decision we have ever made. We bought this house after the real estate market had crashed so we have been lucky to have an incredibly low mortgage payment. This place holds so many memories. This is the house I moved into after Matt and I got married. Where we brought home Pancake. Where we found out that we would be parents. Where we brought home our three children. Where JR, Maxie, and Eloise said their first words, took their first steps, had their first laughs. Where Matt started his YouTube channel. Built a sawmill. Where we dug ditches in the rain for our patio. Where we ripped down walls and walls of wood paneling. Where Matt and I have had our biggest fights and our biggest laughs.
But this house is now too small for us. And it has been for almost 3 years. Three years ago we started to look for our forever house. A house on 10 plus acres. Acres that aren’t just a flat field or tillable land. Two stories. Three bedrooms on the top level. That is it. That is our “must have” list. After three LONG years, we had not put an offer on anything (minus one house in the first month).
Until this weekend. This weekend we found 20 wooded acres in Lino Lakes which would be perfect to build our forever house. It has woods. It has cleared areas. It is only 20 minutes to downtown St. Paul. It is located in the town with the most lenient ordinances for accessory structures we have ever seen. The mayor called me back in under a half hour when I called to get some information about the town (and he was quite nice). We put an offer on it. For the first time in three years, we finally had found a place worth moving to.
Today, on the anniversary of buying our current house, our first offer in three years was rejected. The buyers of the lot decided to accept another offer.
It hurt. The denial made me sad, of course. But honestly, it really just made me feel exhausted. Because there is no doubt that our house is too small for us. The boys literally share a bed. Eloise sleeps in a crib tucked away in a corner of our bedroom. Every corner of our basement is filled with stacked wood. The driveway has a freaking sawmill on it. We are trying so desperately to move. Yet, it feels like we are forever trapped in this tiny house that needs so many updates that we put off doing for three years because we were going to move.
So today, I let myself wallow a bit over the reality that we are going to live in our current house for the foreseeable future. But I also made myself play over the memory in my head this day 9 years ago. Right after we closed on this property. When Matt and I sat in this living room and dreamed of our future in this house as we ate Culver’s french fries. It’s been much longer than we both anticipated. But it’s been way richer and way happier than we could have ever imagined.
There are some little things about raising our babies that I never want to forget. Like our bedtime routine. When we put the boys to bed, I will tell them a bedtime story that I make up. Every story starts the same: There once were two little boys. And they were so beautiful. And so kind. And so smart. And they were brave. And they were strong. And they went on an adventure…”
The boys typically ask that the story revolve around looking for pirates, that they find a pirate ship and eat ice cream, and that they go back home and tell me all about their adventure. I have told some version of this story hundreds of times. Some nights it is too late to tell the little boy story, and sometimes I am so tired from a day of crazy, wild boys refusing to listen for the majority of the day that I want to skip it. But I know someday that JR and Maxie will go to bed, and they won’t beg for me to tell the little boy story. And then someday I won’t even remember what the little boy story was even about. And I’m not sure which make me more sad. So most nights, I tell the little boy story.
JR and Maxie’s obsession with pirates has extended to most areas of our life, including mealtime. Forks and spoons are now swords. Then one day they asked to eat the same food that pirates eat. I had already planned to make something with ground beef. I just didn’t know what. So I decided to find something new that I had never made. That way, the boys would get their pirate food and I could branch out with ground beef recipes. And that is how I ended up making Greek meatballs. Yes, I am aware that Greek food is not pirate food. But Greece is on the water so close enough for my toddlers.
These meatballs are an excellent twist to my typical Italian ones. I paired them with Greek-style rice (ie: white rice cooked with white onions doused with lemon juice and sprinkled with oregano and garlic) and the Mediterranean bean salad. And dipped everything with hummus and tzatziki sauce. It may not be an authentic pirate meal. But my two pirates cleaned their plates.
1 pound ground beef
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 yellow onion grated (yep, grated)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons oregano
1.5 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoons pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grab your cheese grater and grate the onion over a plate so you can collect the juices. Then mix the grated onion with its juices with the breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl.
Combine with egg, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Toss beef into the bowl and then form into golfball sized meatballs.
Place each meatball into a baking sheet.
Drizzle the melted butter over the meatballs (if you have any fresh herbs, toss with the butter. I didn’t so no herb butter for us).
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Serve with the butter from the pan.
This weekend we walked 40 acres that is for sale. Matt had been eyeing this property for quite a while and finally convinced me to see it. Within the first couple of minutes, I got why Matt wanted us to see this. The land reminded me so much of the walking trails and bluffs in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where Matt and I met. The property is a great mix of forest, ravines, and open spaces. Matt, the boys, Ellie, and I walked the land, and Matt showed me where the house would be built, where the shop and sawmill would go, where we would build a treehouse. It felt like the land was destined to be ours.
But then we started reading the township ordinances. And holy hell, there were so many. Ordinances mandating that you can’t build an accessory building before a primary residence. Ordinances about not allowing you to run a business from your property. We would need so many variances. Honestly, it makes me crabby. People should not be jerks and be considerate of their neighbors. People should also be able to do what they want with their land.
Based on what we heard from the township, it doesn’t look good that they would give us any variances. It feels like we may be back to the drawing board. After 3 long years of looking for a new house, it’s exhausting. So many people have accused us of having too high of expectations but honestly, our “must have” list consists of very little: 2 stories, at least 3 bedrooms on top level, on more than 5 acres, acres are not just an open field. That’s it. I don’t feel like we are asking for too much. It just feels like it isn’t out there. Which seems unreasonable. Sigh.
So sometimes you just need an easy win. Everyone likes chicken. And an excuse to open a bottle of wine on a Wednesday. This recipe checks both those boxes, tastes incredible, and can be made in under 30 minutes.
1 pound chicken, tenders or breast, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1-2 leeks, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/6 cup white wine
If you are using chicken breasts, slice them down the middle so they are thinner. If you are using tenders, those should be thin enough. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
Grab a large skillet and toss 1 tablespoon of butter and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil into the skillet. Melt over medium heat. Once melted, add in chicken. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Do not clutter the skillet so you’ll want to probably divide the chicken, cook it, remove from skillet and place into a covered plate to stay warm. Then cook the second half. Remove second round of chicken from skillet and keep warm in the covered plate.
In same skillet, add in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to melt. Add in leeks and mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are soft and leeks are limp–around 5 minutes.
Add in wine and cook for about 2 minutes. Mix in heavy cream and cook until sauce gets thicker. If you want extra thick, add in another tablespoon of butter. Place chicken back into the skillet and toss until chicken is warm and well-mixed with sauce and veggies.
Serve chicken covered with the sauce, leeks, and mushroom. Enjoy!
Thanks to the pandemic and stay-at-home orders, I am working in the basement these days. So the commute has reduced from a 30-40 minute drive home to 30-40 second walk up the stairs. I could use the extra half hour to make a more labor intensive dinner. And sometimes I do. But honestly, I don’t always have it in me. Sometimes I need an easy win that still feels like a solid meal.
Enter: sheet plan meals. Single sheet pan meals are all over Pinterest and for good reason. They are so gosh dang easy to prep. Outside of cutting veggies, you can toss all the food on a pan, swoosh it around, and pop it in the oven–all while a baby is glued to your hip.
We tested out this shrimp fajita sheet pan meal and it was a huge hit. We will definitely making this again–especially once I go back to work in the office. This entire meal can be made under a half hour, which is a game changer when you walk in the front door around 7:00 p.m. each weeknight. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
1 1/2- 2 pounds of shrimp, peeled (I just grabbed a bag from the frozen section and dumped the entire bag in)
3 bell peppers, thinly sliced (mix between red, yellow, and orange)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
squeeze of lime
any and all taco/fajita toppings–for us–guacamole, salsa, and sour cream are musts
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Grab a large bowl and toss together everything but the lime, tortillas and toppings (so the last three ingredients)
Once well coated, distribute across a sprayed cookie sheet.
Cook for 8 minutes. Then turn to broil and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until shrimp are done.
Once out of oven, squeeze the lime juice over the cooked fajita insides.
Toss insides into tortilla shells and top with all the delicious toppings you have.
I first started cooking real meals when I was in law school. I was sick of living on cereal and chips and salsa, and I wanted to get healthy. But it meant I had to cook for one. I had recently moved from La Crosse to the Twin Cities to go to law school, and I didn’t know anyone. So I lived alone.
Cooking for one is not always easy. You end up making too much or making an entire meal seems like such a hassle when it is just you. I would end up making a main dish, with nothing else. So while that prosciutto-wrapped, goat-cheese stuffed chicken may have been delicious, and took a TON of work, I still hadn’t cooked myself a full meal. I still didn’t feel like a real adult who cooked herself a real dinner.
But after I discovered how to cook spinach (yes, I had to learn how to cook spinach. Because I literally knew how do to nothing in the kitchen), I would add this little side dish to my dinner most nights. It takes less than 10 minutes to make, it tastes fresh and healthy, and it compliments a host of main dishes. And now this is probably the dish I’ve made the most since I started my “lindsay learns to cook” endeavor.
Red Onion/Scallots, diced
Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Salt and Pepper
Toss a glug of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) in a deep skillet over medium heat.
Add in garlic and onion and cook until onions are soft.
Take a couple of handfuls of spinach and place into the skillet. Stir the spinach as it slowly wilts. Once the spinach is almost fully wilted, add in tomatoes so the tomatoes get warm, but not mushy.
Remove from heat. Plate the spinach mixture. Then add in feta cheese on top. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Is it just me or is it hard to come up with a complete meal? The main dish with compatible side dishes that make you feel like you are a real adult. This side dish is honestly perfect with so many sides: steak, chicken, beef, tofu, eggplant. It’ll hang with the best of them. I am so glad I added this side dish to my rotation.
I can black beans, drained and washed
1 can chick peas, drained and washed
1 cucumber, cubed
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cup black olives, sliced
1 cup green olives, sliced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/.4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Combine in large bowl black beans, chick peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, and olives.
In separate bowl, combine garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Mix well.
Drizzle dressing over veggie/bean mixture. Add in mint.
It’s Easter! Our first Easter with three walking, wild babies, but it was still our quietest Easter yet (thank you, pandemic). With all the restaurants shut down, there was no need to secure a reservation for Sunday brunch. So I opted for a classic, easy, but filling, breakfast for the five of us: quiche.
Pie crust, deep dish
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 leek, sliced
1 cup ham, diced
3/4 cup half and half
1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, finely shredded
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup Spinach, chopped
Preheat the over to 400 degrees. Put the pie crust in the oven and cook for 5 minutes. Take out.
Over medium heat, melt butter. Add in onions and leeks and cook for 3 minutes. Add in ham and cook for another 5 minutes or until onions and leeks are soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together half and half and eggs. Combine with cheeses, parsley, pepper, onion/leek/ham mixture, and spinach. Mix well.
Pour into pie crust and place onto cookie sheet. Cook for 50 minutes, or until the egg is well-set (pierce with fork in middle of quiche and if it comes out clean, it’s good to go).
Today Minnesota extended the Stay-at-Home order until May 3rd. It feels so weird. Being trapped at home for three weeks now. Sometimes it is fun. I get to have lunch with my babies every single day. I see a lot more of Matt, since our desks are next to each other. But other moments it feels like the world is crumbling below us. And also that nothing is happening. Because everyone in my household is healthy so we are in this bubble where Coronavirus is this urban legend and we don’t see anyone. We are continuously living in the calm before the storm. The fear of getting sick and how sick we will get forever looms over us. Will we be the person who needs to be hospitalized?
We are lucky that that Coronavirus feels mystical. Because it means we are healthy and the people we love are healthy. We are away from the hectic, overworked hospitals. Here’s hoping it stays that way.
This recipe is from simpler times. When the biggest worry was getting lemon juice squirted in our eyes–not getting contracted with a scary virus that could crystallize our lungs.
I hope this meal brings some comfort to you.
2-3 corn on the cob, halved
Andouille sausage, coin sized
5-6 red potatoes, quartered
1 Tablespoon Garlic, minced
1 pound Shrimp
3 Tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
3 Tablespoon Butter
Put the sausage and shrimp in a big bowl.
Then add in the potatoes and corn in the bowl. Add in butter.