Cooking with my Boys

I am a working mother.  It is something that I am deeply proud of.  But it is also something that is deeply painful. Every weekday morning, I wake up earlier than I’d like so I have enough time to put my makeup on, curl my hair, and get dressed–all while making the boys breakfast, convincing the boys to use the potty, and breaking up fights on who gets to sit on the side of the sink that’s closer to mom.  Most days, I am not as put together as I’d like.  But that doesn’t bother me.  What bothers me is that I leave behind two boys screaming for me to stay with them for just a couple more minutes.  To hold them forever. It breaks my heart.

The boys spend their weekdays with our nanny.  A wonderful woman who gets to shape and mold my boys.  She gets to take them to story times. To the zoo. Museums.  The three of them get to have inside jokes that I will never understand.  There are entire story lines that I am not a part of.  It creates a feeling of emptiness that is unquantifiable.

But I love working.  I love being a lawyer. When I was in elementary school, I made the decision that I would be a lawyer someday.  Actually, I wanted to be the first female United States President.  The fact that a woman has never been elected as president has bothered me since as early as I can remember.  So I figured, why not be the person to change it? And modern day presidents go to law school (present president excluded) so that’s what I did.

I get to spend my day working as a lawyer challenging myself–working through litigation strategy, finding pragmatic solutions, and providing advice to those who rely on my expertise. Sure, my days of dreaming for the presidency is behind me, but I still find myself in a male-dominated field where my gender has played a defining role in my career in ways my male colleagues will never understand.  So I still get to work on defying gender stereotypes in a small way. And as a mother of two boys, it makes it easier to leave them every day knowing that my work may make a small difference in the future of how women are seen in the workforce, at least in their eyes. Certainly, someday in the future, if a female says she works at a law firm to one of my sons, the first question out of my boy’s mouth won’t be, “oh, are you a paralegal/secretary?”

In a similar vein, I want my boys to have life skills that traditionally wouldn’t be pressed upon little boys.  My boys will know how to cook.

I’m not a great cook.  I’m not even a good cook.  But that really doesn’t matter. Teaching the boys to cook while I learn to cook means we get to spend quality time together.  It is our thing.  On Saturday or Sunday afternoons, I’ll look up a various recipe for us to experiment with. We’ll go to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients.  JR will want to buy everything in the store.  Max will want all the food to be touching him in the cart.  We’ll head home and unpack the groceries.  The boys will eat the entire carton of berries before they make it to the fridge.  Then, the boys will pull up a stool to the counter, and we’ll start to cook.

Since the boys are still young, I cut and measure.  They pour and stir.

Through our cooking adventures, the boys have s l o w l y learned to be better listeners.  That we cannot rush through steps.  That even though we want to toss in an extra cup of sugar, we probably shouldn’t.  That they can make a meal for their loved ones, not in spite of the fact that they are boys, but because they love to cook.

I may not be there during the weekday to take the boys to story time.  But I will be the person who will teach JR and Maxie how to make sugar cookies, pasta sauce, dice veggies, and delegate the duty of making rice to someone else (because I refuse to make rice).  And hopefully, I’ll play a small part in teaching the boys that there is no such thing as a boy job or a girl job.  There are just jobs.  A mom can be a lawyer, and a dad can be in charge of cooking.  And both are ok.

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Stuffed Cabbage Roll Soup

You guys, I am 7 months pregnant with my third baby.  How are we already only two(ish) months away from becoming a family of five?!?!  We are anything but prepared.  Our house only has two bedrooms so we haven’t had to put together a nursery since JR was born.  Poor Maxie never got his own room (his crib is in our room, and JR and Max share a closet and dresser). So while we don’t have to worry about designing a nursery, it also means we have no where to put the baby’s clothes or diapers or really anything.  Hence why we still need to prepare for Toastie Three’s arrival.

thirty weeks pregnant

But the lack of preparation has no correlation to my level of anticipation for the baby’s arrival.  I am really looking forward to having an infant again.  Sure, there is less sleep, and I can only imagine that having three babies v. two babies will have it’s own challenges.   But my maternity leaves have always been so much fun.

I have heard multiple mothers say they found maternity leave to be isolating and lonely.  Typically, her husband has no more than a week or two of time off after the baby is born.  Once the father goes back to work, it is just the mom and the baby alone for a huge chunk of the day.  Sometimes the mom has no time to grab a shower or a solid meal since there is no one to help watch the baby and so many babies won’t sleep unless they are being held.  I am lucky to have had quite the opposite experience.  Since Matt works at home, we spend so much time together as a family. We eat every meal together.  Our day starts with Matt making us pancakes for breakfast (because who wants to lose baby weight).  While Matt will head to the basement or workshop after breakfast, he joins us for lunch and frequently stops up to say hi throughout the day.  I’ve never gone a day without showering, brushing my teeth, or putting on make-up because Matt is happy to take a break throughout the day to help out when needed. And by 6:00 p.m., we are all sitting down together for dinner.  Both maternity leaves were so rejuvenating, and I am really looking forward to soaking up the extra family time while we adjust to a family of five.

Still, knowing we will soon have three kids sounds more than just a little overwhelming.  And while I know I have Matt to help throughout the day, he does have to work and we have to respect working hours.  Ideally, I want to be able to cook dinner and watch the three kids while Matt works.  So I’ve been trying to find easy recipes that do not require too many steps.  Finding meals that can be made in one pot is even better.  Less dishes sounds lovely (for Matt–he is the dish washer in the family).

This soup will likely make a reappearance once the baby arrives.  Beyond chopping up vegetables, it consists of just dumping everything into one pot and letting it cook.  Also, I love love love cooked cabbage, and the boys always finish their bowls whenever I make it. So it’s a win win.

Continue Reading

Eggplant Parmesan

Every Saturday morning, JR jumps into our bed and says, “How big is the baby?”  (Ok, he’s usually already in our bed since he has a new habit of sneaking into our bed in the middle of the night and laying at the end by Pancake so we don’t feel him in the bed right away and move him back).  After surcoming to the reality that I won’t be getting any more sleep, I pull up the two baby apps on my phone, and JR gets excited to see how the baby is now the size of some various fruit or vegetable.  He looks at the picture of the food, scrolls to see the baby in 3D, and talks about how the baby eats with the placenta.

Then one day I was at the grocery store, and I saw a pomegranate.  I was 17 weeks pregnant, and since we spent our morning gushing over the baby app, I remembered that the baby was the size of a pomegranate.  So I tossed it in my cart and brought it home to show the boys so they’d have a better idea of how big the baby currently was.  The boys carried it around for a while.  And then we ate it.

From then on, we started incorporating the “what size is the baby” food into our meal rotation.  We’ve had mangos, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, pomegranates, and bananas.

And at 28 weeks, the baby was the size of an eggplant.  So we decided to eat an eggplant.

I had made eggplant parmesan many times.  Each time, I find a new recipe.  Each time, the meal is ok.  Until this time.  This time I finally found the perfect eggplant recipe!  Instead of using breadcrumbs or Panko, I used Corn Flakes.  This was a game changer.  Each eggplant slice was just crispy enough.  And since we had a block of leftover Parmesan cheese from Christmas, I shredded it instead of using pre-shredded cheese from a bag.  This was a good idea.  The cheese didn’t weigh down the eggplant or make it too soggy.  Instead it added a dash of salty, sweet element that mixed well with the dollop of sauce.

The meal was a success.  JR ate everything on his plate plus some.   Matt and Max were into it.  Now next time I make eggplant parmesan, it won’t start by me googing a new recipe.  I’ll make this one.

Continue Reading

Korean Beef

You guys, picking a boy name is hard.  Just as we did with our first two, we don’t know if Toastie Three is a boy or a girl.  So we need to be prepared if we are having a third boy (no need to brainstorm a girl name–we’ve had that one in the chamber since pregnancy number one).

Naming JR and Max was easy.  Matt had always wanted a junior.  I wasn’t a huge fan of my husband and son sharing a name, but it was so important to Matt that it was impossible to say no.  We compromised that we would call him JR (for Junior), and the issue of naming our first born was as simple as that.

With naming Max, I was reading JR the storybook Where the Wild Things Are.  The little boy in the book is named Max, and it fit. There was no back and forth on whether there was a “better” name out there.  Max was it.

And now we need to find our third perfect boy name.  I think we have it.  But that is just it.  There was no uncertainty with JR’s or Maxie’s name.  So maybe we haven’t found it just quite yet.

But the one thing Matt doesn’t wavering on is his favorite, last-minute meal.  Whenever Matt and I have no clue on what to make, Matt suggests this Korean beef meal.  It is unbelievably simple but fancier than just tossing together spaghetti (another go-to at our place when we are out of meal ideas).

Continue Reading

Tater Tot Hot Dish

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  It’ll be our seventh Thanksgiving in our house.  The house Matt bought when he was 23, right before we got married.  I remember when we moved in, the plan was that we’d live in the house for five years and then find our forever home.  Or at least a house that was nicer.

It may not look like much. But it’s ours. [also pictured: most adorable 3-year-old]
As I sit here, pregnant with our third child, preparing to host our seventh Thanksgiving, we are no closer to moving than we were when we first moved in.  There are no prospective houses on the market, and there hasn’t been a truly viable house for us since we started seriously looking over year and a half ago.  But the fact remains: our house is too small.  We need a new home.  Max doesn’t have a room so his crib has always been squeezed into our bedroom.  This third baby won’t have a room or even its own crib.  It’ll share a bedroom with its brother, mom, and dad, until we figure out a way for Max and JR to share a bed so that the baby can have Max’s crib.  We have only a quarter of an acre of land that currently houses a monstrous sawmill.  Possibly the largest, handmade sawmill ever to be built to date.  And it is sitting in our driveway.  The amount of wood and slabs on our land is enviable to any woodworker.  The basement is cluttered with piles of drying wood that the boys are now masters of maneuvering around. Our house is more than a little crammed.

But there is a coziness to a small home.  No matter where you are in the house, you can hear children laughing (or crying because toddlers).  I can easily cook dinner in the kitchen while actively watching the boys play in the tv room.  On weekends, Matt and I cuddle in bed while the boys bounce around the house and we can always hear where they are. And when there’s an argument, you can only avoid the person for so long.  There just isn’t enough space to hide out.  So much has happened in our small, little home that could not be duplicated in this huge, Victorian dream home I am looking for.

The sense of home is such a strong, innate feeling.  And while there are aspects of our home that I am honestly ashamed of, it’s our home.  And that is enough.  It is enough.

Certain meals evoke that same sense of home.  If you live in Minnesota, tater tot hot dish is likely that meal.  This is the authentic, Minnesota meal.  When it is cold outside and you need comfort food, you eat tater tot hot dish.  It’s the meal you bring to neighbors and friends when a loved one has passed or a new baby has arrived.  It’s the meal grandmothers make for the big family get togethers.  It’s the meal you make when it’s been a long week and you just want something that is easy and tastes so gosh darn good.  It is not entirely healthy.  It’s certainly not pretty looking.  But it is reliable. It’s safe.  It’s so so delicious.  It’s the quintessential Minnesota meal that reminds you of the safety of home.

Continue Reading

Panzanella Salad

Last weekend was my sister-in-law’s wedding.  I first met Matt’s sister Nicole when she was a high schooler.  She was this perky, outgoing girl who immediately made you feel at ease. It was as if you had known her your whole life.  Because that is quintessentially Nicole.  She lives her life with her heart on her sleeve. Sharing intimate stories.  Gushing love.  Always being completely honest.  So if something is on her mind, she’ll let you know.  She’s always all in or all out.  It’s something I’ve always admired about her.

and then the little frog turned into Ben 😉

She was the first sibling of Matt’s and mine to get married.  So the wedding weekend was a bit surreal.  How can she be getting married? She is the little sister.  But she looked beautiful.  The wedding was beautiful.  The family time was beautiful.  There’s nothing like a wedding to make you feel grateful for family.

Matt with his little sister.

Matt and I were in the wedding party so we got to walk down the aisle together, which was pretty fun.  The two of us hadn’t been in a wedding party together since our own wedding.  Not having to worry about anything except being where we are suppose to was a great change in pace.  Our little boys were in the wedding too.  They wore little dress pants with suspenders and bow ties. And they were too adorable. Despite complete breakdowns and tantrums at the rehearsal dinner, both boys walked perfectly down the aisle and were quiet the entire wedding ceremony (and we are Catholic so we are talking an hour and a half mass).  After the mass, the boys went off with my parents while Matt and I jumped on the party bus for photos.

Matt insisted on finding his own bouquet and snagged a lovely bundle of sticks.

Of course, the wedding was a full on traditional Italian wedding.  Guests were greeted at the reception by a table of shots.  Each guest is to take a shots to toast the new couple for good luck.  Traditionally, those shots are taken with the bridal party, but I have no idea how those Italians do that and don’t get completely bombed.  Here, there were bartenders that just handed them out so we didn’t have to worry about spending the entire reception slurring our words (because I swear, I smell liquor and suddenly I am completely incapable of articulating a clear sentence).  Our meal included antipasto, a pasta plate followed by a meat plate.  The late night snack was a nacho bar (oh man, for Matt’s and my second wedding, we are totally stealing this).  The dessert table was full of almond cookies, biscottis, and canolis. Yeah, in case it isn’t obvious, food is an important piece of the celebration.

And a panzanella salad is one of my favorite Italian salads.  It is one of the few salads that Matt loves because a good quarter of the salad is garlic, butter toasted bread.  He calls it “the bread salad” and its one of the few salads where Matt gets seconds.  The combination of the toasted bread with cucumbers and tomatoes tastes like summer.  It’s a quick and easy recipe with just simple, real ingredients.  Real Italian cooking at its finest. So for your next celebration, if you want to toss in a little Italian tradition, try adding this bread salad.

Continue Reading

Sausage and Mushroom Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I had never been to a Trader Joe’s until I found this recipe.  I had this idea that Trader Joe’s was this super crunchy, ultra expensive grocery store.  But then I stumbled upon this recipe that seemed like the perfect weekday meal (ie: one that takes 40 minutes or less from fridge to the table). Ok, so turns out that my perception of Trader Joe’s wasn’t exactly on mark.  There is more than just granola and organic yogurt.

This truly is a great meal.  There isn’t more than a couple of ingredients–all which are very easy to prepare.  You toss everything together and bam, you got yourself a fancy meal.

Continue Reading

Rome at a glance

To round out our Italian adventure, we spent an extended weekend in Rome.  When we began planning our trip to Italy, so many people said we HAD to go to Rome.  A city rich with history, ruins, culture, and just 2 hours away from Positano.  Since we can never guarantee that we will make our way back to Italy, we wanted to see as much as Italy without cheating our experience of each city.  Tacking an extended weekend in Rome was exactly what we were looking for.

because who doesn’t want to see this!
Continue Reading

Five things you should know before booking a trip to Italy

We booked our trip to Italy without knowing much more than cursory understanding of the culture.  Pasta, wine, ocean views.  What more did we need to know?  Well, once we got there, a couple things kept coming up that both Matt and I would say–“Someone should tell you this before you get to Italy.”  So here I am, doing just that 🙂

1. You can’t sit down for a meal at a restaurant at any time throughout the day.  Restaurants are only open from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. for lunch and 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. for dinner.  Any decent restaurant will be closed in the mid-day and will not be open for dinner anytime before 7:00 p.m.

We didn’t know that.  So we booked tours to see the sites from 11:00 to 2:00.  This was a bad idea.  We couldn’t eat lunch before the tour, and by the time the tour was finished and we figured out a good place to eat, we’d have about 15 minutes before the restaurant would close.  We made it work, but it would have been nice to planned around this a bit better.

2. Be a little picky when selecting your restaurant.  Great Italian restaurants don’t have pictures of food on their menus or translate their menus into other languages.  Matt and I are anything but foodies.  I do not have a refined palate and really like most everything.  So any food in Italy sounded amazing.  But there are some tips to get the best of the best.

If the menu has pictures of the food, consider finding another restaurant.  Italians know what that dishes look like.  They have been eating these meals for generations.  If there are photos, this likely is not the restaurant the local Italians are going to time and time again.  It is likely a tourist-focused (less authentic and delicious) restaurant.  In that same vein, if the menu is translated in another language, it is probably not a local’s go-to restaurant.  You want to eat where the locals eat.  That’s where the best food is at.

Also, typically the restaurants near the big tourist attractions are not going to be where you find your best meals.  The great, local Italian restaurant is probably going to a couple blocks away from the action.

3. You can make a lunch out of meats, cheeses, olives, and bread from the grocery store.  The grocery stores in Italy are full of fruit and vegetables that are unbelievably fresh.  Lemons are the size of your fist.  You can pick up a baguette, some cold cuts, and fresh cheeses and make your own sandwich.  The grocery stores have half bottles of wine that are perfect to split.  And get the buffalo mozzarella cheese.  It’s amazing.

Plus you can pick up food to try you over until dinner time if you are use to eating your dinner before 7:30 p.m.  On our second day in Italy, we picked up a bottle of prosecco, olives, and some cheese at the local grocery store and had a midday snack.  We saved a bit of money and kept the hangry Matt at bay 😉

4. Bring a water bottle to Rome.  Rome has water fountains with drinkable water by all of the major site.  Just toss your water bottle underneath and grab some cold water.  So make sure to pack a cute water bottle with you or save a durable disposable bottle.  There are people all over trying to sell you water bottles for a Euro.  Don’t do it.  Grab your own bottle and refill for free!

5. You have to pay to use public bathrooms.  Yes, if you have to use the restroom, you better be at a restaurant or near your hotel because otherwise you’ll be paying about a Euro to use the bathroom.  As someone who is thirsty most of the time, and drinks lots of water, planning was involved so that I wouldn’t spend our money on bathroom trips.

Even without knowing this information before we got there, our trip to Italy was amazing.  It was beautiful, relaxing, and everything we hoped it would be. But if we had known these things before getting there, it would have made the trip a bit more seamless at times.  Hopefully this will help you as you plan your trip to Italy!

Other Italy posts: Positano Travel Guide // A day trip to Capri // Rome at a glance

 

Continue Reading

Lemon and Garlic Whole Chicken

It’s no secret that I am a working mom.  It is something I am deeply proud of.  I love being a lawyer, just as I love being a mom.  But most nights, I do not get home until 7:00.  If I start making a full dinner from scratch once I get home, we typically don’t sit down to eat until after 8:00.  As much I’d love to tell you that I pre-plan our weekday meals, that would be a lie.  There are weeks where I am great.  There are lots of weeks where I am not.

I am not a fan of take-out or even eating out in general.  It’s expensive.  It’s not as healthy.  And I usually end up feeling disappointed for overindulging or because of the quality of the food for the price.  Plus two little boys in a restaurant can be exhausting. We try to avoid it whenever possible.

So on nights when we haven’t planned dinner, our go-to meal is a rotisserie chicken.  The boys love it.  It’s not ridiculously overpriced. It’s not wholly unhealthy. But like most things, I’d prefer to make it myself than buy a premade meal.  Of course, there is no way I’d have time to roast a whole chicken on a weekday.  But I still wanted to try out a homemade version.  So last weekend, Maxie and I picked up a raw chicken and decided to make our own rotisserie chicken of sorts.

Continue Reading
1 2 3 10