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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Eye of Round Roast Beef

It feels unbelievable but we are already nearing the end of my maternity leave. Next Thursday, I will put on a pencil skirt and blazer and head into the office for the first time in the year 2017.  While I cherish my time off, it will be nice to get into a routine and begin navigating life as a working mom of two.

Knowing that my time with my little babies will be severely reduced, I do not want spend what time I have at home cooking complicated recipes.  Sure, I do enjoy cooking, and there will be nights where I will look forward to tedious chopping and whisking.  But most nights, I want to be able to cuddle my babies until I put them down for bed.

This means that I will need to rely more on the help of others in order to get dinner on the table.  And no, I am not talking about ordering take-out, Matt 🙂 So when I stumbled upon this roast beef recipe, I knew it would be making the rounds once I return to work.

What I love most about this roast is how little prep work there is.  I can rub the meat before I head off to work, drop it in the dutch oven, and simply ask Matt or our nanny to toss it in the oven 2 hours before dinner.  And they basically just have to turn on the oven, turn down the heat of the oven (or turn it off) and that’s it.

And that rub, wow! Matt and I both gushed over how flavorful it was.  I liked it so much I have incorporated it into other recipes.  The tartness of the mustard with the saltiness of the spices is a perfect combination that compliments beef so well.  And while I love that this recipe calls for a cheaper cut of beef,  the rub can be used on a nicer cut as well.

We paired our beef with some green beans and sweet potatoes and had a full, well-rounded meal without too much hassle. Both Matt and JR had seconds, which officially places this dish in the “make again” category. Something that will be manageable even during the work week.

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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!
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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.

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Slow Cooker Carolina Pulled Beef

I use to think it was difficult to cook a meal after working a 12ish hour day (ohhh attorney hours).  And then I had a baby.  Now I understand a new level of tired.   Given that JR wants to be constantly held from the second I get home until he gets laid down for bed, this makes cooking nearly impossible.  I have not mastered how to cut veggies and hold a one-year-old.

So yeah, you could say I am into slow cooker meals.  This pulled beef recipe does not disappoint.  There is minimal prep (a little rubdown required so you will need to put your baby down) and if you are lazy like me, you can make your significant other shred the beef.  But even if you shred the beef yourself, the extra work is completely worth the effort.  There is this great spicy but subtle sweet taste that makes the flavor right on the mark. Plus this is a great variation from the typical tomato-based bbq.

I made the beef last week, and Matt had three sandwiches in one sitting.  In fact, the beef was so tasty that I forgot to take pictures of the final meal.  But at least I was able to hold my preggo-self back before devouring the beef for lunch today. I am happy to report that the leftovers hold their own–makes some excellent lunches.

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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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Italian Sausage Stuffed Eggplant

When it comes to holidays, I love the ones that aren’t hyper commercialized. So yes, that means I LOVE April Fools Day.  Playing tricks on people is something I live for.  And no, I do not need a holiday for that.  But when our nation decides to celebrate it–yeah, sure. I’m in.

My co-worker Amber and I spent our April Fools Day playing tricks on our co-workers.  Sure, it was fun switching our boss’s diet coke for lemon juice and creamer.  But it only made my thirst for mayhem stronger.  I needed more.

So, this year I decide that Matt would be the perfect target for a fake cake.  I told Matt that I made him his favorite cake–a black forest cake.

black forest cake...or is it....
black forest cake…or is it….

But in reality, I took a balloon–blew it up and covered it with homemade icing.  Matt was psyched that I made him a cake out of the blue.  I gave him a knife and asked him to cut us both a piece of cake.  And then….bam!  The “cake” exploded in his face and icing went everywhere.  It was awesome.  I laughed hysterically, and Matt looked at me and said, “So, there is no cake?” And that was the best part.  He was all excited for cake.  And there none. Bahahaa.

 

my victim. bahahah
my victim. bahahah

All and all, it was a good April Fools Day.  Messing with our co-workers with Amber was fun.  Messing with Matt only made the day better. And really, what is was was a reminder that there is no need to take life so seriously.  Sure, I definitely get stressed.  I have mini-panic attacks at work over nothing.  I freak out over little things.  But at the end of the day, I need to remind myself that I need to just laugh it all off.  And that’s why I love April Fools Day.

Besides making an exploding cake, I made this delicious eggplant dish! I watched this Italian tv show with my father-in-law and memorized the ingredients as well as I could.  This recipe is easy to make and delicious to eat.  Try it.  You will thank me.

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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! 

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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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