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.
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.
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.
Ok, so the last two weeks have gone entirely not as all as I expected. Thanks to the Coronavirus, life as we know it has not been the same. I started working from home full time. Court has been cancelled. I do not go to the grocery store to get those last couple ingredients to make a meal. Substitute with what we have or make something else. There are no trips to Target. Sunday church and then brunch at Red Cow is no longer our Sunday Funday. All the restaurants are closed. Church is live streaming from our living room. The boys and Ellie do not go out on their daily adventures. Museums and zoos are closed. Playgrounds are off limits. Beyond playing in the backyard, our family has hunkered down and stayed at home.
It feels like we are constantly living in the calm before the storm. So far everyone in our house is healthy. Our friends and family are healthy. I read about hospitals running out of medical supplies. That medical staff is overworked, and there are not enough beds. And it just doesn’t feel like that is what is happening in our city, our state, our country. That is something that happens somewhere else. But surely not here. It just doesn’t seem possible. But that simply is not correct. It is happening. It is happening here. And I am just lucky that I cannot wrap my mind around it because I haven’t had the misfortune to need medical help. And man, I hope it stays that way. I hope I have a hard time placing the realities that too many people are currently facing for as long as possible. Because that reality is too scary to stomach.
Those realities weigh on my mind. I have always been a worrier. When I was little, I use to have a hard time grappling with the concept of “forever.” That we would be in heaven forever. For so many people, heaven gives you a sense of peace and calming. But the idea of being somewhere forever made me panic. If I am being honest, even writing about it right now is starting to make my heart race. I have always been that person who may be a little too sensitive to cope with certain realities. This pandemic is not doing my heart any favors. I worry about my babies getting sick. I worry about Matt getting sick. I worry about me getting sick. I worry that this pandemic shut in will last a year or more. That my children will miss out on childhood moments that everyone should experience. I could go on and on and on.
Cooking calms me. Cooking something I know my family loves calms me even more. This is that recipe. Because everyone loves tacos.
Hard taco shells, flat bottomed ideally
Shredded, cooked chicken (if possible, I get a rotisserie chicken and shred that)
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Black olives, sliced (optional)
Lettuce, shredded (optional)
Salsa of choice (we like to mix mango, corn, and red/green)
Sour cream (optional)
Guacamole/avocado (in my book, this is never optional. what is a taco without guac or avocado?)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grab a hard shell and coat the inside bottom of the shell with refried beans. Layer in chicken and cheese. Place into 9×12 or 8×8 glass hot dish container. Once all taco shells are filled, place into oven and cook until cheese is melty–about 5 minutes.
Eloise is to the age where she can start eating solid foods. It’s exciting and terrifying. She is just thrilled that she is one of the big kids now. Of course, I am this nervous wreck, constantly worried that she is going to choke. She may be baby number three, but it never gets easier for me.
I’ve read about child-lean eating and we have dabbled in it. But mostly, my babies eat purees because I am scared to feed them more solid food.
Eloise definitely wants to eat what we eat. She tries to swipe food out of our hands and mostly just wants to be part of the group. So when making dinners lately, I’ve been trying to incorporate foods that Ellie can enjoy too.
One of the first non-puree foods that I feel comfortable giving my babies is rice. It’s mushy, and the babies can grab the pieces fairly easily. I am not a baby food specialist so maybe rice isn’t a great option. I have no idea. But with my babies, they’ve been able to master rice. If you don’t feel comfortable giving your baby rice, don’t. Ask your pediatrician first. But for us, it’s worked. And rice is great staple for us to mix up a variety of dinners without making the boys the same meal over and over again.
This cheesy rice dish is a super quick meal you can make on the weekday. It’s easy to change out the veggies to whatever you have in the fridge. Sub the sausage for chicken breast. Whatever you’d prefer. But Ellie was so happy to be at the table, eating her cheesy rice (no veggies), just like the boys.
1 cup white/brown rice
2 cups water
2 heads broccoli, chopped
1/2 cauliflower, chopped
1/2 cup peas
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 links of chicken sausage (I used these from Trader Joe’s)
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Get someone else to make rice for you. But if you are sucker and can’t, put the water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, add in rice and stir. Move to a low simmer and cover. Stir periodically.
Get a skillet and place broccoli and cauliflower in with about a tablespoon of water over medium heat. Cover. Once a little soft, toss in garlic, sausage, and peas.
You know those posts where it says these recipes use only 5 ingredients. But then you find out that they didn’t count the olive oil. And salt and pepper. And the photo they posted for the recipe (which looks simply gosh darn delicious) includes all these “optional” ingredients. And the meal just doesn’t seem as hearty without them. Yeah, I hate that. As a working mom, sometimes I want a simple, only two steps, just a couple ingredient meal for those nights where I get home late, work was stressful, and I do not want to order pizza.
This is that recipe. There are only four ingredients. And I mean that.
There are three steps. Two of them are chopping. This recipe is incredibly easy and tastes great. Every time I share this recipe on my Instagram stories, I get flooded with reactions on how delicious it looks. It is.
Now is this healthy? Well, the chimichurri rice is prepackaged so I am sure there are more healthy choices than this. But I am going to out out on a limb and say this is healthier than ordering Chinese takeout. At least our family’s Chinese takeover order 😉
Andouille sausage, sliced in coin-sized pieces
Trader Joe’s Peruvian Style Chimichurri Rice
Chop broccoli into bite-sized pieces
Cut sausage into coin-sized pieces
Put broccoli, sausage, and rice into a large skillet over medium heat. Add in 2 tablespoons of water. Turn to combine. Place lid over skillet to allow the broccoli to steam cook. The entire meal should be ready to eat within 15 minutes.
I remember when my mom use to make pot pies. I would have a fit. I hated them. My brother and sister would happily eat their dinner, and I would sit at the table, nose up, like a snot, refusing to eat my pot pie. I decided they were the worst and I would not even try them. Nothing would change my mind. They had peas, they had gravy, they were not for me. Now that I am a mom myself, I realize my mom is a saint for not slapping me!
Since my teenager-anxy days, I have never had a pot pie (I am nothing but true to my word). But around Thanksgiving, I kept seeing posts about people making pot pie recipes with their leftover turkey. The cutest ramekins filled with bright orange carrots, firm peas, and shredded turkey. Guys, it looked good. And I couldn’t believe it. I hate pot pies.
But I had a bunch of leftover turkey and I didn’t feel like making soup. I decided that it was time to finally try pot pies.
Ok, now I feel like an adult. I like them. They were good. It was filling, warm, and the perfect level of salty savory. I would make this again. And I can’t believe it. Guys, you should try this. They are good. You’ll feel like an adult. It’s great.
Yellow onion, diced
5 carrots, diced
1 bag frozen Trader Joe’s Mushroom Medley (OR a bunch of diced mushrooms)
1-2 cups turkey or chicken (or opt if desire veggie)
2 tbsp Trader Joe’s Garlic Herb Butter (OR just butter)