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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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.

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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.

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Moroccan Chicken with Chickpeas

Ok, so yesterday I came to a realization.  I’m chubby.  I might even be fat.  Ugh, fat.  It hurts writing that.  As if putting it down in words somehow materializes something that otherwise would not exist.  Unfortunately, that isn’t how it works.  My body is squishy regardless if I acknowledge it on this blog.

Now for someone who has seen me since I’ve pushed out my babies, this shouldn’t be news.  If anything, confusing on how I have gone for over a year since the birth of my youngest son and I am only now just realizing that I am a chubby girl.  But honestly, for the last year I am lived completely oblivious to this reality.  My lack of awareness of my own body size is the result of many factors.  But really, it can be boiled down to one single truth.

I suffer from a high self-esteem.  Much like my mother, I live my life with complete confidence in myself.  For the majority of my life, I have been blindly self-assured of who I am as an individual, appearance and all.  And frankly, it has served me well.  As a whole, I am almost always happy with my life because I am largely confident in my life choices.  I’ve gotten job offers, made friends, found stylish clothes that fit.  When I was single, I never had an issue getting a date.  Overall, if I really wanted it, I would will it to happen.

So after having my baby boys, sure, many of my clothes still didn’t fit.  But that didn’t mean I was chubby.  My hips have shifted.  Or I am not that far off from where I was (oh I am).  Because in my head, I wasn’t overweight (oh I am).  I was in complete denial.

This isn’t the first time my body imagine has not matched reality.  When I went to college, as a quintessential overachiever, I gained 30 pounds.

Yet, I remained as confident as ever.  I went through three full years of undergrad before I actually realized that I was chubby and needed to rethink my habits. I won’t forget the day it hit me.  I was sitting in a class, talking to a girl who lived in my dorm who was friends with my roommate.  She was telling me a story about someone.  Or trying to see if I knew someone.  That part of the story has faded.  But the rest of our conversation, I can close my eyes and find myself sitting in that classroom.  There were no desks, and the plastic chairs made a giant circle outlining the room.  It was right before class as we made what I had amounted to nothing more than small talk.  She began describing this girl she was talking about to me.

“She is a little bit of a bigger girl. You know, like you.”

Those words stung.  In that moment, I wanted to cry and run out of the classroom.   I replayed her words over and over in my head on my walk back to my room after class.  I had to get them out of my head.  So I joined Weight Watchers. lost the weight, and got myself down to 128 pounds.  I was fit, healthy, and happy.

This time, she hasn’t been around to bring me back to reality.  So I am not sure what happened to snap me out of it.  But yesterday, I realized that maybe I was a bit farther away from my pre-baby weight than I’d like, and I need to kick it into gear if I want to feel confident in my skin by summer (and more importantly, my Italian vacation with my husband).

So I am embarking on the 8 week total body challenge on the Strive with Megan app.  It includes a daily 22-28 minute workout and a meal plan.  It’ll be tough.  Mostly because Matt loves snacking and I love to be part of the party 😉 But I’ve done it before.  So it’ll happen again.

We tried one of the meals from the 8 week meal plan, and it was delicious! I tweaked it a bit to make it our own, including adding rice because otherwise Matt would have claimed there was just not enough food.  It was simple to make, and the ingredients are mostly items that you would find in your kitchen on any day.  Matt put this on his: make again list.

[ps: I don’t plan to share other variations of the meals from the Strive app but I encourage you to get the app yourself!]

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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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