Cooking Your Way to a Better Marriage

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Cooking your way to a better marriage? Well, that might be a little bit of a stretch  but I thought it sounded better than eating your way to a better marriage. That probably wouldn’t end well, unless your idea of a better marriage is two sluggish, unhealthy people accompanying one another to the cardiologist. Yeah, let’s stick with cooking. The thing about cooking vs. eating is that eating can be done alone, while cooking brings people together. When you cook, you generally end up sharing your creation with others, usually at a communal table. Enter family dinner. You know how I feel about family dinner…it’s the glue. Great conversations are had over family dinner. Questions are asked and answered, details are discussed and each family member is given a chance to be heard. I love it!

Family dinners don’t always look exactly the same. It can be a family of four or a young, newly married couple enjoying a meal together at the end of the day. No matter what, it’s just the idea that time spent together at the dinner table has the power to solidify and strengthen relationships.

This is why I’m so excited about Menu Therapy rekindling a relationship with a really cool nonprofit called Foundation Restoration. Foundation Restoration is the brain-child of my friend, Ashley, whose passion it is to help marital relationships thrive. She is Marriage and Family Therapist Associate who has spent the past five years writing, counseling and growing her nonprofit from the ground up. I hope you’ll check out the Foundation Restoration website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. I believe you’ll find some great resources and encouragement you can use in all of your relationships.

Also, be on the look out for some Menu Therapy recipes to be featured in the Table for Two column. I’m excited to share some yummy recipes with the Foundation Restoration readers, as well as give away some free monthly AND year-long subscriptions to the Menu Therapy meal planning service. I think this will be the beginning of a beautiful marriage…pun intended! 🙂

To learn more about Foundation Restoration, check out the video below.

California “Barbecue”

We’ve lived in California for 5 years and have certainly learned a lot. We’ve learned that responding, “I’m good,” when asked if we want a drink refill at a restaurant will get us a puzzled look from the server, and likely more drink in our glasses. It’s also apparently not appropriate to give driving directions by saying, “At the third red-light, make a left.” My friend responded to those instructions, “How do you know the light will be red?” OK…at the third traffic light? That sounds weird. No one but my husband eats “supper”, and I’ve gotten quite a few giggles when referring to starting my car engine as “cranking” the car. Whatever. I can make a few concessions on this list and admit that it’s possible a few of my southern phrases don’t make perfect sense, but there’s one thing I will not back down on no matter what. You know that big metal machine you keep outside in the backyard to cook your food on when the weather’s great? It’s a GRILL, people! It is used to GRILL food. Yes, you can certainly finagle (quite possibly another deep South word) your grill to act as a smoker, slow-cooker, or even an oven, but it’s number one purpose in life is to grill. It is not a barbecue and you certainly don’t use it to barbecue hamburgers, hot dogs, or gasp…veggies. I’ll never forget being invited to a pool party where barbecue was promised. I headed outside and inhaled deeply, eagerly anticipating that smoky, been-cooking-overnight aroma of pork. I looked around and saw my friend flipping burgers and weenies on the grill. He saw me and yelled over, “Hey, do you want a barbecued hamburger or a barbecued hot dog?” I’m sorry, what? Is this burger you speak of slow cooked for hours, steaming in its own juices and slathered in a delicious sauce? No? Then I have news my friend, it’s not barbecued. That was the day I learned that while Californians may be right about some things…like traffic lights…they are most certainly incorrect on the looseness in which the term barbecue is used. Okie doke, stepping down off my grandstand now. However, score one for California when we were introduced to the wonder that is Tri Tip. If you haven’t heard of it, which is probably the case if you’re anywhere on the east side of the country, Tri Tip is the triangular piece of meat from the bottom sirloin subprimal cut of the cow. Until the 1950’s it was typically made into ground beef or cut into steaks, until it was introduced into an Oakland, CA meat market as its very own cut. Its popularity spread throughout the state and it is now becoming increasingly popular in other parts of the country. Slowly, but surely. BJ tried his hand at making Tri Trip for me, my mom and Kellan last week.  He and Kellan had a great time outside grilling together. If ever a little boy wanted to be just like his daddy, this little nugget does! IMG_1636   IMG_1634   This was BJ’s second attempt at the mysterious cut of meat; as the first go-round fell a little flat in the texture department. This time he used the method of our good friend Reed, a life-long Orange County boy and avid “barbecuer”. He massaged a yummy dry rub into every square inch of the tri tip and let it hang out in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. He gave it a quick sear on both sides over very high heat, and then wrapped the meat loosely in aluminum foil, lowered the grill temperature down to 275 degrees, and let it slow cook on the top rack of a closed grill for about an hour. This was the closest thing to BBQ, the cooking method that is, that I’ve seen since living on the West Coast. BJ opened the foil and let the meat rest for about 5 to 10 minutes, carefully reserving the super flavorful jus that had formed in the bottom of the packet. This was perfect for pouring over the sliced meat once it was arranged on the serving platter. This tri tip was absolutely melt in your mouth delicious, extremely tender, and had a very bold flavor from the spice rub. Below is the recipe and photo as given by my husband. He’s no food photographer, but I think he did a great job capturing the tender, juicy Tri Tip, and an even better job making all of our bellies extremely happy! The meal was completed with my mom’s buttery fingerling potatoes and a raw asparagus salad I actually got to throw together while sitting at the kitchen table. Hooray for another successful family dinner together around the table while the resident chef is still very much on bed rest. If I wasn’t so stir crazy I could really get used to having these delicious meals prepared by other people! Sometimes it tastes even better when someone else did all the work! tritip California BBQ (Dry Rubbed Tri Tip)  2.5 lb. tri tip, trimmed of extra fat Dry Rub: Lawry’s seasoning salt brown sugar ground ginger garlic powder salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Combine the dry rub ingredients together in a bowl to your taste. It should yield about 1 cup of rub.
  2. Massage the rub into the tri tip. Wrap with plastic wrap, put on a plate, and let hang out in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Oil the grill grates to prevent sticking and preheat grill to very high heat.
  4. Sear the tri tip on both sides to get good grill marks. Approximately 2 minutes per side.
  5. Remove from the grill and wrap loosely in aluminum foil. Lower the heat to 275 degrees and place the foil-wrapped tri tip on the top rack. Let slow cook for 1 hour.
  6. Remove meat from the grill and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Carefully reserve any jus that had gathered in the bottom of the foil packet to drizzle over the sliced meat.
  7. Slice the meat into thin, 1/2 thick slices. Pour jus on top. Serve as is or make sandwiches using Hawaiian rolls and your favorite BBQ sauce.
  8. Thank California for introducing you to their brand of BBQ.

Checking off the list! 

It’s been a wonderful two weeks! My dad was here for a nice long weekend and my mom has been here for two weeks and counting. So much has gotten crossed off my list, it’s unbelievable.

  1. Wash the baby’s clothes. I hung them all up without washing them first. Rookie mistake. Done! Thanks Mom!
  2. Organize the baby’s closet. Again, courtesy of my mother!
  3. Make sure Kellan’s baby book is up to date. (You know, before I never have time to update it ever, again!!) Turns out his only goes through Age 1, I caught a break. 
  4. Begin baby Allie’s baby book. It’s staring at me from the kitchen table and has been since my baby shower. Check!
  5. Pack my hospital bag. This seems like a luxury task as last go ’round I simply left for church and never came home. Somehow everything I needed ended up at the hospital when I needed it. That’s what husbands are for. I feel super accomplished having this done!
  6. Make photo books of Kellan’s 1st AND 2nd birthday. For BONUS points, do his 1st and 2nd Christmas as well! HA! I concede. 
  7. Complete our taxes. Ugh. Come on refund!
  8. Put the Mamaroo swing thing and double stroller together. Stat.  Let’s be honest, I can’t do this. BJ? Dad? Swing and monstrosity of a stroller are ready for duty, thanks to my dad and hubby. 
  9. Write at LEAST six weeks of meal plans for Menu Therapy. Do I only have seven weeks MAX to do that? Yikes! Subscribers, you’ll be eating well!
  10. Kellan needs an Easter outfit! I’m from the South and this is a MUST. Whether I make it off the couch to church with BJ and Kellan, he WILL look like a pastel Easter egg if it’s the last thing I do. BONUS points if I can get him and BJ to match (insert snicker…BJ would not approve).  Nonni and BJ hit the mall today. 
  11. Get a present to Kellan from baby Allie. After the meltdown Kellan had building a bunny for Allie this weekend, we will be going the Amazon route for this one. Done. One gigantic, squishy stegosaurus coming right up. Good choice, Allie. 

Kellan has been spoiled in the BEST way possible, with more love, attention and fun outtings than BJ and I would have been able to do on our own. Of course he’s always pretty well covered in the love department since we basically spend every waking minute letting that boy know how absolutely cherished he is, but there’s something about grandparent love that’s just extra special. 

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I feel super accomplished and I’ve barely left the couch. It’s pretty awesome. Since my dad left to get back to work, my mom has cooked, cleaned, shopped, organized, done mountains of laundry, chauffeured BJ and myself to doctor visits, and has taken exceptional care of Kellan. However, of all of the amazing ways she has helped out over the last two weeks, my favorite has been what she’s done in the kitchen. She’s whipped up some delicious home-cooked meals including the Cinnamon Roll Cake and Brussels Sprouts pizzas I whined about last blog, and has kept us enjoying a nice family dinner around the kitchen table every night. To me, that’s the best way to keep things normal; family dinner around the table. Like church on Sunday morning and date night with my husband every week, family dinners are something to count on when everything else is spinning chaotically out of my control. I believe that gathering around the table for a delicious (hopefully!) dinner plays a central part in keeping families together, which is really where the idea of Menu Therapy came from to begin with! Being able to sit with my family and enjoy dinner each night has made bed rest more bearable. It’s given me something “normal” to look forward to each day…and an excuse to let Kellan pull his mommy off the couch every evening.

34 weeks down…only a handful to go until we trade our current chaos in for another kind. Two kids! Call me crazy, but surely that will be easier, or at least more manageable, than our current situation. At least I’ll be up and at ’em and able to contribute, even if I have a newborn strapped on!

What I Would Cook, If I Could Cook

It’s almost been two weeks, but it feels like 20. I despise sitting on the couch. I want to go, go, go! I love to go grocery shopping, run errands, take walks, clean my house, play with my son, and cook. Oh how I love to cook! I like to use my son’s nap time to whip up dessert or start prepping for dinner. Chopping, mincing and slicing is like therapy to me. Free therapy that not only leaves me feeling refreshed and relaxed, but productive. This girl thrives on productivity and bed rest is so NOT productive; at least not in my sense of the word. I suppose I am being productive in keeping baby Allie cooking as long as possible, but I have so much more I need…and want…to do. Here’s just a taste of my mental to-do list…

  1. Wash the baby’s clothes. I hung them all up without washing them first. Rookie mistake.
  2. Organize the baby’s closet.
  3. Make sure Kellan’s baby book is up to date. (You know, before I never have time to update it ever, again!!)
  4. Begin baby Allie’s baby book. It’s staring at me from the kitchen table and has been since my baby shower.
  5. Pack my hospital bag. This seems like a luxury task as last go ’round I simply left for church and never came home. Somehow everything I needed ended up at the hospital when I needed it. That’s what husbands are for.
  6. Make photo books of Kellan’s 1st AND 2nd birthday. For BONUS points, do his 1st and 2nd Christmas as well! HA!
  7. Complete our taxes. Ugh.
  8. Put the Mamaroo swing thing and double stroller together. Stat.  Let’s be honest, I can’t do this. BJ? Dad?
  9. Write at LEAST six weeks of meal plans for Menu Therapy. Do I only have seven weeks MAX to do that? Yikes!
  10. Kellan needs an Easter outfit! I’m from the South and this is a MUST. Whether I make it off the couch to church with BJ and Kellan, he WILL look like a pastel Easter egg if it’s the last thing I do. BONUS points if I can get him and BJ to match (insert snicker…BJ would not approve).
  11. Get a present to Kellan from baby Allie. After the meltdown Kellan had building a bunny for Allie this weekend, we will be going the Amazon route for this one.

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff I have to get done from the couch, and those are just my “musts”. If I can add some pipe dreams to that list they would all involve food. There’s so much I’d like to cook it’s ridiculous. I mean let’s be honest, I have had plenty of time to binge-watch the Food Network, scroll through Pinterest and read every Bon Appetit mag I own cover to cover…twice. I have been inspired! So, since the chances of me getting up and cooking anything before this baby comes are slim to none, I thought I’d leave this list with you. This is what I would cook if I could cook. Some of the recipes just sound fun to tackle while others sound fun to eat. Maybe some will look good to you too and you will be inspired. If so please let me know how it goes and send me a photo…I would love to live vicariously through you!

Sushi

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I always want sushi when I’m pregnant, it’s such a bummer. During one of my afternoons watching Giada at Home my mouth was watering as I watched her prepare and throw a sushi party. How fun! Making your own sushi rolls is not nearly as daunting as you would think. All you really need is a bamboo roller and a sharp knife, and you can save a ton of time by getting pre made sushi rice from a local restaurant. Check out this tutorial from Hello Hue.

Rigatoni with Lemon-Chile Pesto and Grated Egg

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I’ve confessed my love of pesto many times so of course this recipe called my name when it hit my inbox. This recipe is just interesting and I’m a pasta fanatic just like my husband and son. We would all three be in heaven with this on our dinner plate. I would probably sub in parmesan cheese because I’m not a huge fan of pecorino, but you make the call. Get the recipe at bonappetit.com.

Brussels Sprouts Pita Pizzas

Brussels Sprouts Pizza

This is one of my favorite recipes from last winter and I’m so sad I didn’t get to make it before the unfortunate bed rest. It’s delicious and even made my Brussels Sprouts hating parents and sister jump on the bandwagon. Shredded brussels, caramelized onions, sautéed leeks, bacon, and goat cheese…what’s not to like? See the old blog post for the recipe…and make sure to make enough for me!

Cinnamon Roll Cake

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My parents are flying in this week! YAY!!!! 🙂 Normally I would have a list a mile long of all of the fun things we could do and places we should go eat, but looks like they’re just going to be helping out with Kellan while BJ works and I continue to hang out on…you guessed it…the couch. I found the recipe for this Cinnamon Roll Cake a few months back and thought it would make for a delicious breakfast next time we had overnight company. I’m going to try to talk my mom in to tackling it while she’s here. At least then I can get a pretty pic of it and enjoy a slice or seven with my morning coffee. Mmmmm, sounds amazing! You can get the recipe and a whole lot of other yummy goodness from this baking blog, Crunchy Creamy Sweet.

So that’s it. What I would cook if I could cook. It all looks delicious and sounds like fun to make…let me know if it is!