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)
Traditions. If I could sum up November and December in one word, it would be traditions. We have traditions for how we celebrate Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve. All of it. Each day has been specifically calculated to include rituals we have done for years and years. Molding my family’s traditions, with Matt’s family’s traditions, with our own hybrid traditions. I love it. It feels like it is part of what defines what it means to be part of our family. To know, celebrate, understand these traditions means you are a Cremona/Watson.
And after Thanksgiving, we use the leftover ham to make split pea soup (yes, we always have turkey and ham at Thanksgiving). That is this soup. After spending an entire day stuffing our faces with turkey, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie, we stock up on Black Friday deals and make this soup. There is something so comforting about dipping a chunk of crusty bread into this soup as we flip through the big box ads with my sister, dad, and sister-in-law. It’s part of the Cremona/Watson family Thanksgiving weekend. Just doesn’t feel like the holiday without it.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
Serious question: how do you parents get your kids to bed? It is 10:30 and the boys are still wide awake. They’ve been laying in the dark for the past twoish hours. But that doesn’t matter. They are still rolling around, giggling, not closing their eyes. Matt is currently being held hostage in the bedroom, sitting in the rocking chair waiting for the boys to finally fall asleep. It doesn’t seem to matter what bedroom routine we have. The boy are impervious to our tricks.
Ok, but beyond typically bedtime, I just haven’t been my normal self in the kitchen. Guys, I’ve been in a funk lately. No researching of new recipes. No wandering around the grocery store looking for new food to incorporate into a recipe. Not looking forward to trying new dishes. Not really sure why. But then last week, I texted Matt before I left the office to put some rice on (because I refuse to cook my own rice). I stopped at Trader Joe’s, walked around the store, and picked up chicken and tzatziki sauce. I didn’t have any particular recipe in mind. But for the first time in a while, I was in the mood to experiment.
And I came up with this. It isn’t anything too crazy or fancy. But the boys eat it. Matt really liked it. It was exactly what my soul needed. Perhaps this recipe will rejuvenate your meal rotation as well.
I spent this spring on maternity leave. Which meant I had all day to prep for dinner. And for the first couple of weeks, I had sincere plans to make elaborate meals, fancy desserts, and snacks. But then I didn’t. Because I have three kids. So sure, I may have had the time to tackle a multiple step recipe but yeah, I have three kids. I have no hands. I am constantly breastfeeding. Someone needs a glass of water or milk. Someone is screaming that a toy is no longer in his grasp. While I may have all day to cook, life is anything but simple. Dinner recipes need to be as uncomplicated as possible.
That’s where soup comes in. The idea of tossing all the ingredients into a pot, letting it simmer (maybe checking on it periodically to stir, but maybe not)–yeah, I can handle that and breastfeed a baby while wiping a toddler’s butt (yeah, that happened. Sorry, Ellie!)
And when making soup, why not stick with a classic: chicken noodle. I am all for making as much of your recipe from scratch when you can–especially when it’s not super complicated. Making your own chicken broth is stupid easy. Literally, you throw full chicken in a pot of hot water. Leave the chicken in hot water. Come back later and take out the chicken. And wah lah, you have chicken broth. Even with three young children, this is manageable.
So anytime we get a rotisserie chicken, there’s a good chance homemade chicken noodle soup is on the horizon. Here’s some unsolicited advice that you do the same.