It was one of those nights where we had a half pound of ground beef and spaghetti squash that needed to be used. And I was in a mood. I didn’t want to follow a recipe too closely or make anything complicated. But I also wanted our meal to taste good. And I don’t typically cook spaghetti squash so I didn’t have an index of past meals to work off of. So I made this. By pretending I was going to make lasagna. Only with spaghetti squash instead of noodles. And soft goat cheese instead of ricotta. And not really layered. So very loosely based on lasagna. But it was so so good.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half. Spoon out the seeds. Cover the entire squash (both sides) with olive oil. Sprinkle inside with salt and pepper to taste. Place in oven, inside down, for 30-35 minutes. It should be done when you stab the skin and the knife goes in easily. But don’t get too stab happy because we need the shell intact to use as a bowl later.
While squash is cooking, make the sauce. Brown ground beef until it is almost done but not completely done. Drain the excess fat. Then cut the uncooked bacon into the pan with the ground beef. I use a kitchen knife and cut the bacon into the pan.
While bacon is cooking, add in diced red pepper, onions, and garlic. Add in tomato sauce, a glug of olive oil, a glug of wine, rosemary, and parsley. Toss in salt and pepper to taste. Simmer.
Remove spaghetti squash from oven once cooked. Take a fork and pull the squash from the shell without destroying the shell, as you will be putting everything back into it.
Place squash into a medium size bowl. Mix in goat cheese and shredded cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon squash back into each shell. Top with sauce and sprinkle cheese.
Place back into the oven and cook for 10 additional minutes.
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.
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.
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.
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!