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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I grew up in a small town with a Kozy Kitchen and two American fast food burger joints. Any food that isn’t served in a diner is not served in my hometown. So when I got my driver’s license, my best friend and I drove to the “big town” a half hour away and ate at a Chinese restaurant. It tasted of freedom. Salty freedom followed by a fortune cookie. After three plates of chow mein, chicken, beef, and veggie dishes, we shoved 10 crab ragoons in our purses and munched on them on our parentless drive home. Ever since, Chinese food has always had a special meaning to me.
This beef and broccoli dish is easy to make and easy to prep in your crockpot to enjoy after a long day of work. The joy of a warm dinner with the freedom of no cooking.
Matt loves Italian beef. A lot. So when I found this slow cook recipe that only need four ingredients, I had to try it out. This meal is easy to make and tastes delicious. And there are only four ingredients!