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.

Continue Reading

Sausage and Mushroom Sweet Potato Gnocchi

I had never been to a Trader Joe’s until I found this recipe.  I had this idea that Trader Joe’s was this super crunchy, ultra expensive grocery store.  But then I stumbled upon this recipe that seemed like the perfect weekday meal (ie: one that takes 40 minutes or less from fridge to the table). Ok, so turns out that my perception of Trader Joe’s wasn’t exactly on mark.  There is more than just granola and organic yogurt.

This truly is a great meal.  There isn’t more than a couple of ingredients–all which are very easy to prepare.  You toss everything together and bam, you got yourself a fancy meal.

Continue Reading

Lemon and Garlic Whole Chicken

It’s no secret that I am a working mom.  It is something I am deeply proud of.  I love being a lawyer, just as I love being a mom.  But most nights, I do not get home until 7:00.  If I start making a full dinner from scratch once I get home, we typically don’t sit down to eat until after 8:00.  As much I’d love to tell you that I pre-plan our weekday meals, that would be a lie.  There are weeks where I am great.  There are lots of weeks where I am not.

I am not a fan of take-out or even eating out in general.  It’s expensive.  It’s not as healthy.  And I usually end up feeling disappointed for overindulging or because of the quality of the food for the price.  Plus two little boys in a restaurant can be exhausting. We try to avoid it whenever possible.

So on nights when we haven’t planned dinner, our go-to meal is a rotisserie chicken.  The boys love it.  It’s not ridiculously overpriced. It’s not wholly unhealthy. But like most things, I’d prefer to make it myself than buy a premade meal.  Of course, there is no way I’d have time to roast a whole chicken on a weekday.  But I still wanted to try out a homemade version.  So last weekend, Maxie and I picked up a raw chicken and decided to make our own rotisserie chicken of sorts.

Continue Reading

Meatloaf Medallions

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.

JR ate the whole meatloaf!
Continue Reading

Jambalaya

We all have our own comfort food.  Whether its mash potatoes, pasta, or fast food, sometimes you just need a meal to make our day a little better.  Jambalaya is ours.

The past week was challenging for our family.  Max has hydronephrosis.  He was diagnosed in the womb.  At our 20 week ultrasound, the technician uttered a phrase you don’t want to hear–“abnormal scan.” Ar this time, the hydronephrosis was present in both of his kidneys,  Of course, we had never heard of hydronephrosis.  Basically, it meant that Max’s kidneys weren’t developing properly.  We were told that 50% of the time, this type of hydronephrosis resolves itself.  So a second ultrasound was scheduled for my 28 weeks of pregnancy.

At our second ultrasound, there was good and bad news.  Max’s right kidney had resolved itself. It was developing just fine.  But his left kidney hadn’t.  It was twice the size of the right. It didn’t appear to be working at all.  So we went to a specialist. We were told that once Max was a month old, Max would go back for testing to determine the severity of the issue and how to resolve it.  If the left kidney was partially working, then it would be worth saving.  Otherwise, we would assess whether it would make sense to remove the kidney altogether.  For the rest of my pregnancy, there was nothing more to do.  Just wait for Max show to up.

Then right on time, our Maxwell was born, happy and wide eyed. We made the one month appointment for Max’s kidney.

Just a couple hours old.

And then last week, the one month appointment arrived. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the news we were hoping for. Max’s left kidney hasn’t improved.  It is twice the size of what it should be and does not appear to work.  Because of this, the doctor recommends surgery to remove the kidney when Max is 5 or 6 months old.   The idea of my baby being put under anesthesia makes my heart ache.  I can’t imagine handing my baby to a doctor for surgery.  It just hurts.  So when we came home from the appointment, our family needed some comfort food.  We needed to eat this jambalaya.

This recipe for jambalaya is quick and easy.  There is low prep work.  Just dice a couple of veggies, toss them in a pan, and let it simmer.  You can alter the recipe so it can be as spicy or mild as you’d like.  So when your heart is aching, you can eat a home cooked meal without too much complication.  Plus, the assortment of vegetables makes the meal relatively healthy.

So after Max’s kidney appointment we ate this jambalaya as a family.  And while it didn’t make the fact that Max has hydrondphrosis go away, it made us all feel a little bit better, even if it was just for the night.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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…

Continue Reading

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!

Continue Reading

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup

Remember picture day back in high school?  It was such a big ordeal.  Picking out the perfect outfit, applying gobs of makeup, and finding a hair-style that’s just right.  Yes, very similar to Goldilock’s adventure.  Unfortunately for me, every year my pictures turned out the same.  Eyes mid-blink.  Uncomfortable smile. Messy hair.

pop can bangs. yes, i was that stylish.
pop can bangs. yes, i was that stylish.

Today, we had picture day at work.  Well, kinda.  See, our firm hired two new employees who needed photos for our website.  Since the photographer was already going to be around taking their pictures, I thought, “hey, this is a great opportunity for me to get a better picture.” Maybe I can just sneak in and get a new pic.  [no worries. I got the thumbs up from our marketing coordinator].

Spicy Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup

Why did I need a new picture you ask?  Yeah–I’m not the most photographic of individuals.  It wasn’t my best work.  Meaning I’m that girl who has been complaining about her work picture ever since it was taken.

Today was the third time I’ve had my picture professionally taken for work.  Move over, Beyonce.  There’s a new diva running this town.  But, channeling my inner celebrity paid off.  I got to look at my new work pictures, and while I won’t be auditioning for America’s Next Top Model anytime soon, I no longer looked frazzled.

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup

Photographing soup has always been a bit of a challenge for me.  If it isn’t full of chunky ingredients, a creamy soup looks bland.  What I should do is buy some cute, unique bowls from Goodwill to jazz it up.  But its so easy to get lazy when it comes laying out colorful and eye-catching backdrops for my website.  Thankfully, this recipe is full of delicious chunky ingredients, so my fiestaware bowls sufficed.  This spicy soup was delicious, easy to make, and can be ready in twenty minutes.  The perfect meal after a long day of work! 

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading