Pesto White Beans with Grilled Zucchini

We spent Sunday afternoon decluttering our basement. We’ve lived in our house for over 8 years now and have accumulated   s o   m u c h   s t u f f.   My closet is full of buckets and buckets of clothes I’ve been keeping just in case they fit again, in case I need it for a costume, in case it comes into style.  I am certain Matt has every spare screw that ever came with any kit.  After a couple hours of tossing items in either the donate or garage piles, we called it quits and headed back upstairs to where the clutter is a bit more manageable.

The fall cleaning inspired me to clean out the pantry.  In the back as a lone can of white beans tucked away–likely bought for chili that I never ended up making.  There were two zucchinis on their last legs and a jar of unopened pesto from who knows when.  And that is how this pesto white beans with grilled zucchini came to life.

We ate it as a meal, but it would be a great appetizer or side dish.  It’s a fun interplay between heavy foods (beans and cheese) with lighter foods (pesto and zucchini).  Toast some crusty bread and layer the bean/zucch/cheese mixture on top.  It would be the perfect dish to bring to a late fall cookout or to eat in front of a fire.  It’s got just the right level of flare without feeling pretentious. Which is what I am always looking for in a meal 🙂

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Citrus Beet Salad with Goat Cheese

Today was one of those days where I saw my reflection in the mirror, and I thought, “ugh, I am that chubby girl.”  And that’s because I am.  No, I am not fishing for compliments.  It’s true.  I am chubby.  Yes, I did recently have a baby, but this chubbiness cannot be blamed on Eloise.  It’s because I’ve been eating subpar and not working out as much I’d like.  See, before we went to Texas, I was kicking ass.  I was eating healthy. Working out.  Drinking all the water.  And then vacation happen.  And then I got back and I was busy. Work. Babies. House. Errands.  Yeah, I know.  You can make all the excuses you want.  Clearly I wasn’t making my health a priority.

But her rolls are just so delicious.

Ok, well that is the great thing about priorities.  They can change.  So healthy eating is back on the docket.  I spent the weekend digging into new recipes to try.  To revitalize my motivation to eat healthy, work out, get my spirit back into the better myself vibe. It was time to get out of my funk.

Because I have three little eyes watching me.  Taking notes.  Learning from my habits and internalizing them and possibly even making these habits their own.  So if not for myself, then for them.

sure, it’s hard to work out when you have these two adorable boys who always jump on you. guys, this is the life.

And that is how this beet salad came to life.  I am not about to just eat rabbit food.  That is not going to get me excited about eating healthy.  But of course, healthy eating doesn’t have to be bland.  I just had to remind myself of that. So I went outside the typical “green” salad and landed on beets. There is something about beets that make me feel like I am being healthy and trendy at the same time.  This recipe is unbelievably easy, with no dressing because the ingredients themselves have more than enough flavors.

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Spinach Applesauce

I swear, my toddlers either eat everything in sight or they live on air. There is no middle ground.  So on the days they eat, I try to load them up with as many vegetables as I can.  We’ve been lucky.  The boys generally like vegetables.  Broccoli is one of their favorite foods. They usually like trying new foods and don’t have fits about texture or taste.  Still, we have our days.  The boys only want to eat donuts and cereal (they are their mother’s sons).  No matter what healthy food we offer, they claim they aren’t hungry.  Sometimes we need to be a bit more clever with getting vegetables in the boys’ diet.

Earlier this week was one of those days.  Since we have a new baby, people have been stopping by to spend time with Eloise.  Along with the people come treats: donuts, cookies, birthday cake and pie. Thanks to the sugar snacks, the boys started to refuse to eat dinner. If the food wasn’t 90% sugar, the boys weren’t interested.

Typically, if the boys refuse to eat dinner, I don’t care.  If they are hungry, they will eat what we prepared.  We don’t offer alternative meals.  Either they eat what is on the plate or they don’t eat at all.  I never clear their plates from the dinner table until both boys are sleep in bed so it is easy to direct the boys back to the table if they ask for food.

But this time, the reason the boys weren’t eating wasn’t because they weren’t hungry.  They were full of sugar and no nutritional food.  I was determined to get something healthy in them.

I recalled seeing a post on Instagram that would be perfect solution.  If we put down a bowl of applesauce in front of them, there’s a good chance they’ll ask for seconds. So I used that to my advantage. I tossed a handful of spinach in the applesauce and blended until it was smooth(ish).  The plain applesauce immediately was way more fun.  It was green.  It was a little more chunky (because I didn’t pull out the nice food processor).  It was something new and different.  The boys devoured the applesauce and got a full serving of spinach.  An easy way to get more veggies in their diets without any fight.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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Caprese Soup

It only took six months, but I finally feel like I have a real handle on my job.  Instead of being perpetually on defense, I finally feel like I am on offense.  Now, I can anticipate what needs to be done, understand where I am in a file, and no longer feel like I am constantly asking my boss questions (although, he may not agree. haha).  It’s a good feeling.  Unfortunately, I am not infallible.  So I am not in the clear yet.  I still spend a good amount of time reading statutes and learning something new about banking law.  But, that’s the whole reason why I went into law.  Everyday, there is something new to learn.  (wow, yes.  that is correct.  i am that nerdy. gross).  So, I’m in a good place.

In that some vein, I am getting far more comfortable with my cooking skills.  I no longer stay clear of recipes that require multiple tools, crazy ingredients, and complicated steps.  This recipe is not hella complicated but it is amazing delicious.  It is a bit time consuming, but it is worth the extra time and effort.  After making this, I felt on top of the world.  Trust me, it’s a recipe you do not want to miss.

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Tomato Pesto Soup

It’s that time of the year where everyone is either sick, getting over a sickness, or is about to be sick.  No gusta.  This sickness cloud sat over our house for a couple days last week.  Matt couldn’t get out of bed.  I went home from work early (a true sign of sickness–I’ve never called in sick or went home early from work since I was 16).  Now that we can stomach food again, I had the urge to make some comfort food.

With my health back, I was ready for a challenge.  I’ve been wanting to make homemade tomato pesto soup for quite some time after having a delicious tomato pesto at Crave, a local restaurant.  And this recipe not only met my expectations, it surpassed it.  To my surprise, this recipe isn’t as challenging as I thought it was going to be.  Sure, there are multiple steps.  You need a hand blender.  And lots of tomatoes.  But most of the work involving waiting rather than mincing and chopping.

goal of recreating this soup: check.
goal of recreating this soup: check.

Honestly, this soup may be the best thing I’ve made thus far.  It tasted like Italy.  So natural, fresh, and basily. Perfect. I couldn’t stop bragging about it.  I texted pictures to family and friends.  Blabbed about it at work.  But it was so fucking good.

Ok, enough of my shameless face shoving.  Go make your own batch so you can do the same!

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