Eye of Round Roast Beef

It feels unbelievable but we are already nearing the end of my maternity leave. Next Thursday, I will put on a pencil skirt and blazer and head into the office for the first time in the year 2017.  While I cherish my time off, it will be nice to get into a routine and begin navigating life as a working mom of two.

Knowing that my time with my little babies will be severely reduced, I do not want spend what time I have at home cooking complicated recipes.  Sure, I do enjoy cooking, and there will be nights where I will look forward to tedious chopping and whisking.  But most nights, I want to be able to cuddle my babies until I put them down for bed.

This means that I will need to rely more on the help of others in order to get dinner on the table.  And no, I am not talking about ordering take-out, Matt 🙂 So when I stumbled upon this roast beef recipe, I knew it would be making the rounds once I return to work.

What I love most about this roast is how little prep work there is.  I can rub the meat before I head off to work, drop it in the dutch oven, and simply ask Matt or our nanny to toss it in the oven 2 hours before dinner.  And they basically just have to turn on the oven, turn down the heat of the oven (or turn it off) and that’s it.

And that rub, wow! Matt and I both gushed over how flavorful it was.  I liked it so much I have incorporated it into other recipes.  The tartness of the mustard with the saltiness of the spices is a perfect combination that compliments beef so well.  And while I love that this recipe calls for a cheaper cut of beef,  the rub can be used on a nicer cut as well.

We paired our beef with some green beans and sweet potatoes and had a full, well-rounded meal without too much hassle. Both Matt and JR had seconds, which officially places this dish in the “make again” category. Something that will be manageable even during the work week.

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Meatloaf Medallions

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.

JR ate the whole meatloaf!
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Jambalaya

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.

Just a couple hours old.

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.

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Fresh Salad Dressing

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.

little Maxwell Watson Cremona on his birthday. About 4 hours old here.

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.

One month postpartum

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.

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Apple Muffins

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).

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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.

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all of the apples.
all of the apples.
trying to convince JR to smile for the camera.
trying to convince JR to smile for the camera.

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.

apple apple i pick you
apple apple i pick you

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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.

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Slow Cooker Carolina Pulled Beef

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.

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Best Bloody Mary

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.

bloodies.“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.

spicesThis 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.

celebrated Matt's birthday with a brunch themed party complete with a bloody mary bar.
celebrated Matt’s birthday with a brunch themed party complete with a bloody mary bar.
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Tomato Pie

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.

Pancake helping Matt in the workshop.
Pancake helping Matt in the workshop.

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.

Pancake loves stacking lumber.
Pancake loves stacking lumber.

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.

tomatopie

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 🙂

tomato pie

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…

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Goat Cheese Guacamole

Remember when I disappeared for a couple months.  Well, I kept cooking but stopped taking pictures.  In case it isn’t obvious, I’m not big on the staging portion of the photography part of this whole blogging thing.  Eh. Instragram is about as good as it gets for me.

Instead of learning how to take killer photographs, I’ve been getting the most out of summer now that Minnesota weather is finally cooperative.  Exhibit A: dancing on the boat on the way from dinner.

dancing on the boat on our way home from dinner

And I’ve had my fair share of meals made for me.

brunch

It’s been great.  How can you not love Minnesota summers! With the fresh herbs growing in our garden, guacamole has been my go-to side dish.  While I LOVE guac, I wanted to mix it up.  After seeing a guacamole with goat cheese on a menu at a local restaurant, I had to try to recreate it.

goat cheese guacamole

This guacamole is far richer than traditional guacamole.  The kind of guacamole you’d have at a fancy restaurant.  A fun twist.  The goat cheese makes it much thicker and not really cheesy.  I really loved it, but I personally prefer traditional guac.  Matt likes them both the same.  Try it for yourself and let me know which you prefer!

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Italian Sausage Stuffed Eggplant

When it comes to holidays, I love the ones that aren’t hyper commercialized. So yes, that means I LOVE April Fools Day.  Playing tricks on people is something I live for.  And no, I do not need a holiday for that.  But when our nation decides to celebrate it–yeah, sure. I’m in.

My co-worker Amber and I spent our April Fools Day playing tricks on our co-workers.  Sure, it was fun switching our boss’s diet coke for lemon juice and creamer.  But it only made my thirst for mayhem stronger.  I needed more.

So, this year I decide that Matt would be the perfect target for a fake cake.  I told Matt that I made him his favorite cake–a black forest cake.

black forest cake...or is it....
black forest cake…or is it….

But in reality, I took a balloon–blew it up and covered it with homemade icing.  Matt was psyched that I made him a cake out of the blue.  I gave him a knife and asked him to cut us both a piece of cake.  And then….bam!  The “cake” exploded in his face and icing went everywhere.  It was awesome.  I laughed hysterically, and Matt looked at me and said, “So, there is no cake?” And that was the best part.  He was all excited for cake.  And there none. Bahahaa.

 

my victim. bahahah
my victim. bahahah

All and all, it was a good April Fools Day.  Messing with our co-workers with Amber was fun.  Messing with Matt only made the day better. And really, what is was was a reminder that there is no need to take life so seriously.  Sure, I definitely get stressed.  I have mini-panic attacks at work over nothing.  I freak out over little things.  But at the end of the day, I need to remind myself that I need to just laugh it all off.  And that’s why I love April Fools Day.

Besides making an exploding cake, I made this delicious eggplant dish! I watched this Italian tv show with my father-in-law and memorized the ingredients as well as I could.  This recipe is easy to make and delicious to eat.  Try it.  You will thank me.

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