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.
I first started cooking real meals when I was in law school. I was sick of living on cereal and chips and salsa, and I wanted to get healthy. But it meant I had to cook for one. I had recently moved from La Crosse to the Twin Cities to go to law school, and I didn’t know anyone. So I lived alone.
Cooking for one is not always easy. You end up making too much or making an entire meal seems like such a hassle when it is just you. I would end up making a main dish, with nothing else. So while that prosciutto-wrapped, goat-cheese stuffed chicken may have been delicious, and took a TON of work, I still hadn’t cooked myself a full meal. I still didn’t feel like a real adult who cooked herself a real dinner.
But after I discovered how to cook spinach (yes, I had to learn how to cook spinach. Because I literally knew how do to nothing in the kitchen), I would add this little side dish to my dinner most nights. It takes less than 10 minutes to make, it tastes fresh and healthy, and it compliments a host of main dishes. And now this is probably the dish I’ve made the most since I started my “lindsay learns to cook” endeavor.
Red Onion/Scallots, diced
Cherry Tomatoes, halved
Salt and Pepper
Toss a glug of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) in a deep skillet over medium heat.
Add in garlic and onion and cook until onions are soft.
Take a couple of handfuls of spinach and place into the skillet. Stir the spinach as it slowly wilts. Once the spinach is almost fully wilted, add in tomatoes so the tomatoes get warm, but not mushy.
Remove from heat. Plate the spinach mixture. Then add in feta cheese on top. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Is it just me or is it hard to come up with a complete meal? The main dish with compatible side dishes that make you feel like you are a real adult. This side dish is honestly perfect with so many sides: steak, chicken, beef, tofu, eggplant. It’ll hang with the best of them. I am so glad I added this side dish to my rotation.
I can black beans, drained and washed
1 can chick peas, drained and washed
1 cucumber, cubed
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced
1 cup green olives, sliced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/.4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
Combine in large bowl black beans, chick peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, and olives.
In separate bowl, combine garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Mix well.
Drizzle dressing over veggie/bean mixture. Add in mint.
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.
To people who have never had a baby, maternity leave sounds like this glorious vacation. You don’t work for 6-12 weeks. You “just” take care of your baby. You stay at home on “your own” schedule. I cannot count how many times someone asked me, “So, what do you do all day?” I would stare at them, hair disheveled, covered in spit-up, wearing a diaper myself, and I would imagine smushing their face. Because while I truly did love maternity leave, it was not a vacation. It was work.
For my first maternity leave with JR, I had no idea what to expect. I heard the stories about moms who were so frazzled that they weren’t able to take a shower for days. That brushing your teeth would be a luxury. And I was not ok with that being my new reality. I was not ready to lose myself. Wearing diapers was one thing. I was not on board with the reality that my well-being would be last on the to-do list.
And before I had three children, was back to work, and gave up caring what other people think (well kinda of–I still care–I just don’t let it eat me up as much as I use to), the thought of people coming over to a messy house completely embarrassed me. But everything I heard about having a baby, I would have no time to clean. That terrified me. I didn’t want people to think I was this lazy mom on leave who just sat around all day binging tv.
So Matt and I made a pact. Matt and I each wrote down one personal care item that was most important for ourselves to do. The thing that made us feel human.
We then wrote down the one chore that was most important to us to be done in the house. The thing that made us feel like our house wasn’t falling apart. Even if it kinda was.
For personal care, I wrote down “put on makeup.” Matt wrote “brush teeth.” (yeah, I am not ashamed that my choice is far less hygienic). Every day, it was each other’s job to make sure we did met our item. Matt would ensure that I would put on makeup sometime during the day. I would make sure he brushed his teeth. It didn’t have to be first thing in the morning or even by noon. It just had to happen at some point during the day.
Once I had on my makeup, I felt a little more like myself. Sure, I now was full of spit up, milk always was leaking through my shirt, and my clothes weren’t fitting the way I hoped, but I had gosh damn makeup on.
For chores, Matt needed the dishes done each day. I wanted the bathroom sink wiped down. Every day, I would make sure that dishes were done at some point during the day (and no, that didn’t mean I did them. I just made sure they got done, which largely meant it was a duty delegated to someone else). Matt would make sure the sink got wiped down every day. The rest of the house could be in complete shambles. Diapers would need to be washed. Laundry piled up. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was that we got those two chores done. The rest could be forgotten.
It made such a difference. The idea of having a million things to do on top of keeping this tiny baby alive can be overwhelming. There simply was no way I could nurse JR all day (I mean ALL DAY), keep up with laundry, take a shower, take a sitz bath, do my makeup, style my hair, dress myself, dress JR, change JR’s diapers 10 times a day, change my own diaper 3 plus times a day, make food for myself (that is super healthy and keeps my milk supply up), sweep the kitchen floor, wash the dishes, buy groceries, put away groceries, keep the house de-cluttered, and every other little thing that needs to be done. But I also couldn’t pretend like I didn’t need to be taken care of. And that the house needed tending to. So we just picked one each. And the rest got done when we had extra energy and time.
Moms, please take this unsolicited advice. Don’t set yourself up for failure and expect that you need to do it all in order to have a successful day. Keeping a baby alive while being utterly sleep deprived is an accomplishment in itself. But sometimes only taking care of your baby isn’t enough to feel ok on leave. And sometimes it hurts to feel yourself melting away. So set your list of one personal care item and one housework item and let the rest go.
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)