Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012 goals

I'm not much of a resolution person, probably because I've never made one that I've kept.  So instead of making a resolution, I thought I'd set some goals for 2012, and share them so that friends can encourage me and hold me accountable.  Here they are, in no particular order...

  • talk less, listen more... REALLY listen... not the kind of listening where I'm planning in my head what I'm going to say next, but completely present in the moment listening (this is not a strong suit for me, especially when my busy little boy is running around me, but I really want to get better at this!).
  • try new things... I'm such a creature of habit and routine.  I do the same activities week in and week out, eat the same foods, go to the same places, and so on.  I want to try foods that I've never had, visit new places, and be more open to being spontaneous.
  • take more pictures.  I tend not to lug around our fancy Nikon much, and therefore don't document as many fun memories as I'd like to.  I acquired a small, inexpensive hand me down camera that I can keep in my purse, and want to get better at documenting my life, and creating a photo journal here to look back upon.
  • pray more. pray without ceasing. be in constant communication with my Heavenly Father.  making all tasks/ activities an act of worship.  constantly giving thanks, and constantly walking in the Spirit.
  • take a family vacay... just me, Jeremy, and Noah.  even if it's only 1 night.  even if we just stay in the French Quarter.
  • conquer my tendency to gossip.  use my words to encourage others and spur them on, rather than leaving idle (or worse) words.
  • reduce my inbox.  remove myself from email lists rather than just hitting delete.
  • catalog and backup all of our family pictures and videos that are stored on our computer.
  • become more like Christ and grow in my ability to love others in action and in truth.
Did you make any New Year's Resolutions?

Happy New Year!!!!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

crafting with noah

today Noah and I made up some quick thank you cards to send out for the gifts that we received.  he seemed to love the feel of the paint on his hands, and seeing his hands covered in red and green.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Gifts

The last couple of years we haven't bought any Christmas gifts, and have given a few small handmade items to our friends and family.  These are the gifts that I came up with this year...

peppermint bark... I did this for our neighbor gifts this year.  It seemed easier than my usual baking of multiple different kinds of cookies.

homemade playdough

a few homemade signs

assorted embroidered ornaments

Hope your Christmas was merry!!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

14 months

Here is what is going on with Noah this month according to;

At 14 months, your toddler understands many more words than she can say. Her spoken vocabulary likely consists of about three to five words, typically "Mama," "Dada," and one other simple word such as "ball" or "dog," but she learns the meanings of new words every day. As she starts to add words to her vocabulary, you'll notice that she looks for opportunities to practice them. Once she can say "dog," for instance, she'll look for dogs everywhere — in books, outside, on videos — just so she can point and say the word over and over again.

Rhymes, jingles, and silly songs are big hits with toddlers. If your 14-month-old is already speaking several words, encourage her willingness to repeat after you by singing silly or repetitive songs, such as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." As she becomes familiar with the refrains she'll chime in one word at a time and before you know it she'll be singing the whole song right along with you.

If your 14-month-old isn't speaking many words at this point, you can help her with the other two elements of language acquisition. When talking to your child, vary your tone, facial expressions, and hand gestures, all of which will help her understand the meanings of your words. Maintain eye contact when you talk to her so she learns to listen to you. And don't rush her when she is trying to use words — listen patiently and look her in the eye.

Now that your toddler can indicate her needs with actions and some words, expect her to use "tools" to help her communicate. She'll bring you her jacket to let you know she wants to go outside. Or she'll point to a CD that she would like to hear. She is trying hard to make you understand what she wants. And you can expect her to repeat many words she hears even though she doesn't know their meaning (so starting now you need to watch what you say, lest your little parrot repeat any swear words!).
Her ability to remember people, places, and events gets stronger every day. This month she may even be able to respond to two-part requests, such as to go to her room and fetch her shoes or a toy, or retrieve a lost pacifier.

Hide-and-seek is still very entertaining, especially if your 14-month-old gets to do the seeking. Here's a variation that's sure to evoke lots of laughter: Show your toddler a toy and then stash it in your pocket and ask her where it went. She has the cognitive power to realize that just because the toy is out of sight doesn't mean it's gone. She'll giggle as she searches your pocket, purse, or backpack to see where you've hidden the toy. You can also hide little toys in her own pockets and see how much fun she has trying to get them out.

Noah is doing great.  His vocabularly is increasing each week.  I think he is up to about 20 (or so) words right now.  Most often mama, dada, eat, walk, dog, light, go, bird, home, yellow, belly button, Noah, car, night night, poop, grandma, paw-paw, and a few others.  Most of them he knows what they mean... for example, he'll point at a light, dog, or car and correctly identify them.  But yellow is the one word that he says very frequently, that I don't think he has grasped the meaning of yet.  Luke says it all the time, so Noah is just copying him.  Noah frequently pulls up his shirt and points to his belly and says belly button.  Now he also tells us when he has pooped.  And when he starts getting tired and ready for a nap or bedtime he will say night night.  At least once (but up to hundreds of times) every hour he will say eat. 

Our kid is a bottomless pit, he eats most foods that we give him, and anything that he does eat, he'll eat as much of it as we are willing to give him.  This month he had his first taste of chocolate (against our wishes) and grabbed a big hunk of chocolate cake off of the table at community group when we weren't looking.  Now that he knows that stuff (dessert) that we haven't been giving him is good, I'm sure he'll beg even more.  This month he also learned how to open the fridge (to my dismay), and how to help himself to food in there.

He knows where his ears, nose, and belly are and can point to them if you ask him.  He tries to count to 5, usually leaving out a number or two, and with the numbers sounding a little bit mumbled.

He still doesn't/ won't pay any attention to tv shows or movies, but when I was burning some videos of him onto cds for Christmas presents, he was fully engaged and getting a kick out of watching videos of his much younger self.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Whole Wheat Artisan Bread

I made this whole wheat bread to dip into a big pot of soup for our dinner.  Prior to today, I have always been intimidated by yeast breads.  This was my first time using yeast, and my first time using the dough hook for my mixer.  This bread really was super easy, and came out so well!  Not bad for my first attempt.  I see MUCH more of this bread in our future.  And since the dough keeps in the fridge for 14 days, you could make it a while in advance and have a fresh baked loaf any day.  I can't wait to try some fun flavors by adding in rosemary, garlic, and more.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Black Bean, Corn, and Feta Dip

Black Bean, Corn, and Feta Dip

We recently had something similar to this at a friend's house.  She said it was a Pampered Chef recipe, which she verbally told me the ingredients of.  I liked it so much that I went home and tried to re-make it.  Based on my memory this may, or may not be the same as the Pampered Chef version.  In hindsight, I think hers may have had some colored bell pepper in it, but I'm not quite sure.  Serve this at room temperature, with your favorite tortilla chips (I like Baked or Multigrain Scoops).

-1 (15 oz) can white corn, drained
-1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
-1/4 c sugar
-1/4 c apple cider vinegar
-1/4 c olive oil
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp pepper
-4 scallions, chopped
-1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

In medium bowl, whisk together sugar, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Toss with remaining ingredients.  Chill at least 2 hours prior to serving.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas

I made this Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchilada recipe.  Noah and I really liked them, but Jeremy didn't seem to care for the idea of sweet potatoes in his enchiladas.  The few changes that I made were to use flour instead of arrowroot starch, use whole wheat tortillas (and omit the frying step), I mixed the sweet potato mixture with the black bean mixture (rather than doing them separate), I added 1/4 tsp cayenne to the filling, and used cheddar cheese instead of jack (but pepper jack would be GREAT!).  Next time I think I'd try to spice them up a bit more by adding hot sauce and more cayenne to the filling and sauce.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Roasted Cabbage

Although I'm a cabbage lover, I never would have thought of the idea of roasting this particular vegetable.  I have so many ways that I already enjoy cabbage, that I wasn't searching for any new recipes... until... I came across this Martha Stewart Roasted Cabbage on Pinterest.  I was intrigued.  And since cabbage is on sale right now for 54 cents a pound, I figured I didn't have anything to loose.  I made one tray with the fennel seeds, and one tray with the caraway seeds.  Much to my surprise, I think I enjoyed the fennel seeds a touch more, but they were both delicious.  This is such a simple and delicious way to enjoy cabbage!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Black Beans, Corn, and Rice Casserole

Black Beans, Corn, and Rice Casserole

This is the perfect side dish for a Mexican or Southwestern meal.  Or you could make it a main dish by adding cooked chicken into the mix.  This is a crowd pleaser, Noah, Jeremy, and I all really liked it!  You can assemble this casserole early in the day and keep in the fridge until you are ready to pop it in the oven.

-4 c cooked brown rice
-1 (15 oz) can corn, drained
-1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
-1 cup light sour cream
-1 (4 oz) can green chiles
-1 c salsa
-1 1/4 c shredded cheddar cheese, divided
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp cayenne
-2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
Combine all ingredients except cilantro and 1/4 c cheddar in a large bowl.  Mix well.  Spread into a greased 13x9 dish.  Top with remaining 1/4 c cheddar.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mushroom Brown Rice Casserole


I made this Mushroom Brown Rice Casserole.  (That tastes WAY better than it photographs, I promise).  The only things that I did differently were to double the salt, add 1/2 tsp pepper, add 1 tsp dried thyme, and used reduced-fat cottage cheese and sour cream. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Indonesian Green Beans

I made these Indonesian Green Beans.  They were good, but not quite as amazing as I had hoped for.  Still, they were a nice change from plain old steamed or roasted beans.  The few things I changed were to eliminate the coconut (I couldn't bring myself to buy a bag for only 1 tsp), and used red pepper flakes instead of sambal.  In the future, I think I would double or triple the sauce ingredients, because there really wasn't much sauce at all, and maybe add a tsp or two of sugar to the sauce.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Sweet Potato Pancakes

These were good, not my favorite pancakes ever, but solidly good.  I will confess, that that is probably my fault for being lazy.  Out of laziness I mashed the sweet potatoes by hand, rather than with an electric mixer.  This resulted in some sweet potato chunks in the finished pancakes.  I would have much preferred a more smooth puree, mixed throughout the pancake.  So learn from my mistakes, don't take short cuts, and fully puree your sweet potato.  Serve with maple syrup and chopped pecans.

-1 large sweet potato, cooked until tender and mashed
-1 c whole wheat flour
-1 c all-purpose flour
-2 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 c brown sugar
-1 tsp vanilla
-2 eggs
-2 1/4 c fat-free milk

In medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Pour by 1/4 c increments into a greased skillet, over medium heat.  Once bubbles form, flip and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Balsamic Roasted Green Beans and Mushrooms

I made this recipe for roasted green beans and mushrooms.  They were great, Jeremy said that we defintely need to have them again.  The few changes that I made were to add 1/2 tsp garlic powder and 1/2 tsp dried thyme to the oil/ vinegar mixture.  Some fresh garlic would have been great also. 

13 months

Here is what is going on with Noah this month according to;

The range of ages when it's considered normal to begin walking is broader with this gross motor skill than with any other. Almost all infants are able to lift their head, for instance, between 2 and 4 months. But a child who walks as early as 9 months or as late as 18 months is right on schedule.
Don't be surprised this week if your child's budding mobility — whether she's crawling, cruising, or walking — means she's suddenly reluctant to be held or carried. Once your baby has had a taste of freedom, it will be hard to hold her back. (Outings to the grocery store or shopping mall, and traveling, may be particularly trying for you right now!) Try not to get too upset when she falls, and resist the urge to rush to her aid unless she's really hurt. Falling is an inevitable part of learning to walk. Cruising and walking on uneven surfaces, even subtle ones such as wrinkled carpet or a sand-filled play area, will likely trip her up for a time, but it's great practice. Just be patient and give your child safe places to test her new independence.

Your baby will likely find it hilarious if you can play at having more trouble with walking than she does: Try developing a little comic routine in which you are walking along where she can see you and then — whoops! — you trip and almost fall. It builds children's confidence to see a big person having their difficulty in a theatrical fashion that lets them laugh about it. As long as it keeps getting a laugh, keep doing it, and your child will become a more and more confident walker.

If you haven't already, be sure to install a safety gate on any staircase with more than a step or two. A hardware-mounted gate is the best choice for stairs since a determined toddler can dislodge many pressure-mounted gates.
You don't need to rush out and buy shoes right away. Walking barefoot, on grass or sand, is actually good for a toddler because it helps build muscles in the lower legs while developing a sense of balance. Once your child is able and wants to walk in places where she might injure her feet, however, you'll need to put shoes on her. But you don't need to invest in a pair of shoes that costs as much as yours do. Since her shoes probably won't fit for very long, buying pricey pairs is a waste of money. Instead, look for canvas sneakers or soft leather shoes with flexible rubber soles. Never buy shoes that are a couple of sizes too big so your toddler can grow into them; she'll have trouble keeping her balance in them and she may trip. She should have about a half-inch of space between her big toe and the end of the shoe; if you can't feel her big toe, the shoe is too hard.

Noah is 13 months old today.

His vocabulary is continuing to grow.  He says "do" for dog, "at" for eat, monkey, car, light, duck, truck, up, mama, dada, walk, "ado" for all done, "mine" (usually while clutching something to his chest, an awful habit he learned from the other little boy that I watch), and a few other words.  He can also make animal sounds for dogs, ducks, monkeys, and sheep.

Noah is growing up to be quite an independent little boy.  He loves to play with Luke (the boy I watch), and he loves to  play with adults, but he also will often take a book or toy and go tuck himself in a corner so that he can play alone.

He continues to be a very open minded eater.  I have yet to ever see this kid get full and stop eating.  He will eat everything we give him, and then beg for our food when he is done.  His favorites are still cheese, bananas, and pasta.  He loves cooked carrots and sweet potatoes.  He doesn't seem to mind spicy food at all.  Recently I was eating spicy curried cabbage, and he was constantly begging for bite after bite until it was gone.

Noah is a very observant little boy.  He hears every single little sound.  I hardly ever notice the sound of planes, but Noah always hears them and points to the sky.  Same with dogs barking.  He picks up on it all.

Friday, November 25, 2011

overflowing with gratitude

We had such a great Thanksgiving, I wish I had taken some pictures, but I was too busy enjoying the day.  We spent it with Jeremy's parents, some close friends, and their 3 kiddos.  It was perfect.  Great people, great food, and great weather.

I read this quote that one of my friends posted on facebook and wanted to document it here, as an ongoing reminder to come back to...

"The heart that gives thanks is a happy one, for we cannot feel thankful and unhappy at the same time. The more we say thanks, the more we find to be thankful for. And the more we find to be thankful for, the happier we become. We don't give thanks because we're happy. We are happy because we give thanks."

Love this, and agree wholeheartedly!   

Today I am overflowing with gratitude at the Lord's kindness to me, at the amazing people that surround me, and at the abundant provisions I'm blessed with.  I just pray that I would remain this thankful even when things are tough, and that I would seize hold of the spiritual act of giving thanks in all circumstances.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

When we are thankful, it encourages thankfulness in those around us, what are you thankful for today?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

(Not Your Mama's) Green Bean Casserole

Green Bean Casserole

This was the best green bean casserole that I've ever had (if I do say so myself).  SO much better than the questionable cream of... soup, mushy caned green beans, and fat laden fried onions.  And it's really not that much more difficult to throw together than the processed version, but it has much more flavor, and much less calories.  I was inspired by Alton Brown's version, but I lightened it up a bit, added some herbs, and completely changed out the topping.  I wanted to capture the crunch and flavor of the fried onions, without the grease and fat.  I think that the crunch of the bread crumbs paired with the flavor of the caramelized onions does that quite nicely... in fact, I think it has more flavor than the fried onions, without the heavy feeling in your stomach from the grease.

For the topping:

-2 slices whole wheat sandwich bread toasted and chopped into crumbs (a food processor makes quick work of this)
-2 Tbsp butter, melted

For the caramelized onions:
-1 Tbsp butter
-2 onions, thinly sliced
-1/2 tsp salt

For beans and sauce:
-1 Tbsp plus 1/2 tsp salt, divided
-2 lbs  green beans (fresh or frozen), rinsed, trimmed and halved
-1 Tbsp butter
-12 oz mushrooms, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
-1/2 tsp black pepper
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tsp thyme
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
-1 c chicken broth
-1 c fat-free half-and-half

Melt 1 Tbsp butter in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sliced onions, saute 10, stirring often.  Reduce heat to medium-low, add 1/2 tsp salt, cook an additional 30 minutes (or until golden brown), stirring often.

While the onions are cooking, prepare the beans. Bring a gallon of water and 1 Tbsp of salt to a boil in medium pot. Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, and nutmeg, and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low, and add the fat-free half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.   Remove from the heat and stir in the green beans.  Spread the green bean mixture into a greased, medium sized baking dish.  Top with the caramelized onions. Top with the whole wheat bread crumbs, and then sprinkle with the melted butter.  Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

This is a nice quick and easy side dish perfect for an every day dinner.  You could also use orange juice, half and half, or apple juice instead of the milk.  You could also add ginger or nutmeg to suit your tastes.  Garnish with chopped nuts if desired.

-4 medium to large sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks, and boiled until tender
-1/2 c fat-free milk
-6 Tbsp brown sugar
-1 tsp vanilla
-2 Tbsp butter
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 tsp cinnamon

Combine all ingredients, and mash to achieve desired consistency (chunky or smooth).  Serve immediately.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Spinach Balls

Spinach Balls

These are a great appetizer.  There are a lot of versions of this recipe out there.  I like the flavor the thyme and cayenne add in this mixture, plus I reduced the butter and cheese over most traditional recipes. You could use bread crumbs (even whole wheat) in place of the stuffing if you prefer.  Noah (and all of our guests) loved them, so I think it's a great way to get picky eater kids to eat some green veggies.  They also freeze wonderfully.  I made the balls 3 days before I needed to serve them, and then just defrosted for 30 minutes prior to baking.  This could also be a great vegetarian option for meatballs served in a pasta sauce, as long as the vegetarian eats eggs. 

-1 (16 oz) package frozen spinach, defrosted, and squeezed of excess moisture
-2 c herb stuffing mix
-1 yellow onion, finely diced
-5 eggs
-3/4 c melted butter
-1/2 c parmesan cheese
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 1/2 tsp thyme
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp cayenne
-1/2 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Roll the mixture into balls, using about 1 Tbsp of the mixture per ball.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, serve immediately.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies

I made these Pumpkin Gingersnap cookies, that are now one of my all time favorite cookies.  They are soft, spicy, and delicious.  For once, I actually followed the recipe exactly as written, and I wouldn't change a thing in the future!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

daily list

I'm a list maker.  for each week I have a "to do" list.  a grocery list.  a prayer list.  a "to read" list.  a "to blog" list.  a "to create" list.  a wish list.  a "to cook" list, and more.  I thrive on organization, time management, planning, etc.  I've been wanting to come up with a daily list, of things that I need to do daily for my overall emotional/ spiritual/ physical health and well being.  here's what I have so far.  I'm thinking I might find a way to word this list nicely or make it decorative and place it on my night stand, as a reminder of my top priorities for each day.

each day I will...
  • read: my Bible, books/ blogs/ devotionals that inspire me... just read something
  • create: write, cook, craft, order in my home... just create something
  • pray: over my prayer list, and constantly communicating with my Father throughout my day
  • play: not take my lists or myself so seriously that I neglect to cherish the moments with those around me... I will give myself the freedom to laugh, to enjoy the small things, to make doing so a priority rather than treat it as an addendum to my day, after I've finished all of the "important" things
  • go outside: take in God's creatures and creation, let the sun light energize me, exercise and allow the endorphins to stimulate me, and use this all as a time of prayer for where I am, and praise for God's creativity and the beauty He has made.  this can be walking, running, checking the mail, or even just sitting on our stoop for a few minutes
of course not all of these happen every single day.  but I feel much more balanced when they do, and therefore desire to make a conscious effort to do each one of these every day.

What do you need to do each day to feel healthy/ balanced?

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

I was inspired by the combination of flavors in Ellie Krieger's spiced nuts.  I tweaked her recipe a bit to best suit my tastes, but I think her use of maple syrup instead of the sugar would add a great dimension of flavor.  I wasn't completely satisfied with my first batch, so I have tweaked the recipe for how I would do these in the future.  This would be great to serve as a snack or appetizer, or to give as a gift in a decorative jar.

-1 egg white
-1 Tbsp water
-4 c assorted nuts, raw and unsalted (I used a combination of almonds and pecans)
-1/2 c sugar
-1/4 c brown sugar
-2 tsp curry powder
-2 tsp dried rosemary
-1 tsp salt
-3/4 tsp cayenne

In medium bowl, whisk together water and egg white until frothy.  Toss egg mixture with nuts.  In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.  Toss nuts with spice mixture.  Place on greased cookie sheet, and bake at 300, for thirty minutes, stirring half way through cooking.  Use spatula to loosen nuts from cookie sheet while cooling (I didn't do this, and had a hard time scraping some of my nuts off of the cookie sheet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Custard

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Custard

This does not photograph well, but it tastes delicious... like pumpkin pie filling.    It was ok warm, but I liked it much better after being chilled.  A dollop of whipped cream on top would be delicious, and add a bit to the visual presentation.

-1 (15 oz) can solid pack pumpkin
-1 (12 oz) can fat-free evaporated milk
-3/4 cup sugar
-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
-3/4 tsp baking powder
-1/8 tsp salt
-2 eggs, beaten
-2 Tbsp butter, melted
-1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
-2 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl mix together the ingredients.  Transfer to greased slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low 6-7 hours.  Serve in bowls with whipped cream, if desired.

Monday, November 14, 2011

African Sweet Potato Peanut Soup

I made this African Sweet Potato Peanut Soup that was similar to (but not quite as good as) the chicken pavlava that I made a few months ago.  I've never done much African cooking, but Jeremy and I have really been enjoying the few dishes that I've been trying recently, so I think I will continue to experiment.  Since I like things spicy, I left the seeds in the jalapeno, but then realized that between that and the curry paste there was a lot of heat to the dish, so I eliminated the red pepper flakes.  So unless you like things very spicy, I suggest either seeding the jalapeno, or leaving out the red pepper flakes.  I also used a red bell pepper instead of the yellow pepper due to personal preference.  Other than that I followed the recipe, and served the soup ladled over brown rice. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pumpkin & Ricotta Pasta

I made this Pumpkin and Ricotta Pasta Casserole.  It was warm, hearty, and everything good Fall food should be.  The changes I made were to use part-skim ricotta, nonfat yogurt, 1 tsp dried thyme instead of the fresh sage, add 1 Tbsp brown sugar, add 1/4 tsp cayenne, and add 1/4 tsp cinnamon.  The final product was a tad too salty for me, so I think in the future I will reduce the salt by 1/2-1 tsp.  I think you could also substitute fat-free half and half, or broth for the yogurt with great results.  I love the crunch that the nuts add to the texture of the dish.  This dish was great as is, but I would even like a little more pumpkin and/ or moisture in the finished dish, so next time I might add a little more pumpkin, or 1/2 c of broth prior to baking.  To make this a main dish for meat eaters, you could easily stir in cooked and crumbled sausage, which would compliment the flavors quite nicely.  Noah highly approved of this casserole, as he does most pasta dishes.  This will definitely be present for some of our winter holiday meals.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Black Eyed Pea and Spinach Salad

I made this Black Eyed Pea and Spinach Salad by Ellie Krieger (LOVE her!).  I didn't have buttermilk on hand so I used 1/2 c nonfat plain yogurt, and 1/4 c milk instead.  I also added 2 tsp of sugar to the dressing, and doubled both the pepper and the hot sauce.  It produced a tangy dressing, which was a nice contrast to the red onion, black eyed peas, and spinach.  Next time I think I'll add a clove of garlic to the dressing also.  I really didn't have high hopes for this salad, because it sounded rather plain, but I had all of the ingredients on hand and gave it a try.  It was a pleasant surprise of flavor.

Spicy Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup

Spicy Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup

This is a nice combination of creamy, spicy, and sweet flavors.  My soup was pretty spicy, so reduce or eliminate the cayenne if you don't like so much heat.  This same recipe would be great with carrots or butternut squash instead of the pumpkin.  This would also be great, and a little more traditional by eliminating the curry and cumin, and adding cinnamon and nutmeg, and maybe increasing the thyme.

-1 Tbsp olive oil
-1 onion, diced
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-3 c chicken or veggie stock
-1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
-1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed
-1 (29 oz) can pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
-3 Tbsp brown sugar
-1 Tbsp curry powder
-1 tsp cumin
-1/2 tsp thyme
-1/4 tsp cayenne
-1.5 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1 c fat-free half and half

In large pot, over medium heat, saute the onion in olive oil until soft (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic, cook 1 additional minute.  Add remaining ingredients except half and half.  Reduce heat and simmer (at least) 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in half and half and serve.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Soft Pumpkin Cookies

These have been my favorite cookies for a long time!  I have topped them with the glaze on the recipe, and with cream cheese frosting.  Both are great, but the glaze is a lot easier to manage because you can stack them once it hardens, not so much with the frosting.  They produce a soft, pillowy, cakelike cookie, so if you don't dig soft cookies, this recipe is not for you.

Cilantro, Chili, Lime Corn

Cilantro, Chili, Lime Corn

I love the combination of corn, chili, and lime flavors.  This dish is super versatile, you could add a diced jalapeno, some chili powder, a green pepper, or tomatoes.  Olive oil or butter would also add great flavor here, but I was going for a low-fat side.

-4 c corn (either fresh, or thawed frozen)
-1 onion, diced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-3/4 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp cayenne
-1/4 bunch cilantro, chopped
-2 Tbsp light sour cream
-2 Tbsp lime juice

Coat a skillet with cooking spray.  Saute onion in skillet, over medium heat, until tender (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic, cook 1 minute.  Add corn, salt, pepper, cumin, and cayenne.  Saute an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in cilantro, sour cream, and lime, serve immediately.



This is comfort food at its best.  And by including vegetables, using lean ground beef, and using oats, it's quite nutritious also.  Feel free to use whole wheat bread crumbs in place of the oats.  Cheese could also be included in the mixture, but it would up the fat.  Shredded carrots, diced bell pepper, chopped spinach, or fresh garlic would also be great ways to sneak extra nutrition in.

-1 lb ground beef (I recommend 93/7)
-1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
-1/2 c oats
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1 onion, finely diced
-1/2 tsp garlic powder
-2 tsp Italian seasoning
-1 egg

-2/3 c ketchup
-4 Tbsp brown sugar
-2 Tbsp yellow mustard

In medium bowl, combine meatloaf ingredients until well mixed.  Place in a baking dish and shape into a loaf.  Whisk together topping ingredients and spread over meatloaf.  Bake at 375 for 1 hour.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Loaded Potato Casserole

Loaded Potato Casserole

This was my attempt at the flavors of a twice baked potato, but with less fuss.  I used dried chives because that's all that I had on hand, but sliced green onions, or fresh chives would both be great here.  I used red potatoes because I'm lazy, and didn't want to peel anything.  Use cooked, peeled russets if you prefer.  Garlic would also be a great add in here.

-2 lbs red potatoes, diced, and boiled until tender
-1 c light sour cream
-2 Tbsp butter
-2 c shredded cheddar cheese, divided
-1/2 c cooked and crumbled bacon, divided
-1/2 c nonfat milk
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-3 tsp dried chives, divided

Mash potatoes with sour cream, butter, 1.5 c cheddar, 1/4 c bacon, milk, salt, pepper, 2 tsp chives.  Spread  potatoes into a greased 13x9 dish.  Top with remaining cheese, bacon, and chives.  Baked at 350 for 30 minutes.

Burgundy Mushrooms

I made these burgundy mushrooms, which turned out delicious!  But really, can you go wrong with anything simmered in wine all day?  The few changes I made were to decrease the butter by half, use the cheapest Merlot I could find ($2.74), and substituted rosemary and thyme for the dill.  These are a super easy, no fuss side that will keep warm well until you are ready to serve them.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Spicy Chicken Enchiladas

Spicy Chicken Enchiladas

This is my (slightly modified) version of my friend Crystin's chicken enchiladas.  When I'm feeling lazy I just buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it and start with step 2 to put the enchiladas together.

-1 Whole Chicken, boiled or roasted
-1 onion, chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
-1 (8 oz) light cream cheese, softened
-2 t paprika
-1/2 t cayenne pepper
-2 t cumin
-1 T chili powder
-1 t salt
-1 t blk pepper
-3/4 c cheddar, shredded
-10 whole wheat tortillas (I like Aztec)
-chopped green onions and cilantro for garnish

1. Boil or roast chicken. When cooled, pull off all meat, remove fat/skin.
2. For sauce: Heat a couple drizzles of olive oil in large pan or shallow wide pot. Add onion, saute. After softened, add garlic. Lower heat, add cream cheese and mash and stir. Stir vigorously until it melts- don't burn. Raise heat back to medium, whisk in tomato sauce.  Add all dry spices.  Lightly simmer about 10min.  Place ~2 ½ c sauce in bowl. Set aside.
3. Add chicken to sauce on stove. Simmer another 5 minutes.
4. Heat oven to 375. Grease 13x9 pan. Start assembly line: Hold tortilla and fill with about 1/3 C chicken mixture, fold and place in pan seam down. Repeat until all of chicken mixture is used.
5. Pour sauce sitting aside over enchiladas. Cover with cheddar cheese. Bake for about 20-25min on 375 until cheese is bubbly.  Sprinkle with green onions and cilantro and serve.

Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas

Spinach and Black Bean Enchiladas

It's not often that I make a vegetarian meal that Jeremy likes more than a meat laden meal, but this just happens to be one of his favorite dinners.  I always make the sauce according to this beef enchilada recipe, but you could use stuff straight from the can if you prefer.

-1 (28 oz) can enchilada sauce (or "homemade" sauce from the link above), divided
-10 tortillas (I like the Aztec whole wheat, as they aren't grainy like other whole wheat tortillas)
-2 cups frozen corn, thawed
-1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
-1 (16 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
-2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles
-1 tsp. ground cumin
-½ tsp. chili powder
-1 tsp. salt
-½ tsp. pepper
-¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
-chopped green onions and cilantro for garnish

In a large bowl, combine everything but 1/2 c of the cheese, the enchilada sauce, and tortillas. Mix well to blend.  Place 1/2 c of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 13x9 pan.  Place 1/4 c of the filling in the tortilla, roll up, and place in the pan, seam side down.  Repeat with the remaining filling/ tortillas.  Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the pan.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.  Top with green onions and cilantro, and serve with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spinach Gratin

I made this Spinach Gratin.  It was delicious, so delicious that I ate the entire dish in one evening, aside from the few spoonfuls that I gave Noah (Jeremy isn't as much as a spinach lover as I am).  The few changes that I made were to cut the butter in half, use fat-free half and half instead of the cream or stock (although I think I'll try stock next time), used whole wheat breadcrumbs, and used a combination of part-skim mozzarella and parmesan cheese (because that is what I had on hand).  I think a few cloves of sauteed garlic would also be a great addition.

Pesto Tomato Soup and Pesto Grilled Cheese

This was classic comfort food, with a sophisticated twist.  The soup and the sandwich were both super delicious, I think I have found my fave grilled cheese and tomato soup combo now.  I made this tomato soup, eliminating the crouton toppers, using my spinach pesto in place of the jarred stuff, adding 1 tsp of black pepper, and changing the heavy cream to fat-free half and half.  I won't insult your intelligence by telling you how to make a grilled cheese, but for ingredients I used plain whole wheat sandwich bread, spread on each side with my spinach pesto, and accompanied by sliced part-skim mozzarella, and slices of fresh tomato.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Caprese Pasta Salad

Caprese Pasta Salad

The balsamic vinegar will add a brown tint to the salad, so for a more pretty presentation use white balsamic vinegar.

-1 lb whole wheat rotini, cooked al dente
-1/2 c olive oil
-1/4 c balsamic vinegar
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1 tsp sugar
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1 large tomato, diced
-1/2 c mozzarella cheese, diced
-1/2 c basil, chopped

In medium bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper.  Toss dressing with pasta, cheese, tomatoes, and basil.  Chill at least 2 hours prior to serving.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Caprese Baked Eggs

I made this Caprese Baked Eggs for a light lunch, but it would be a great breakfast dish also.  It was delicious!  The only thing I did differently than the recipe was I used two whole eggs, plus two egg whites to fill my dish, and then had to bake a lot longer due to the added volume.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Baked Panzanella Caprese

A friend was generous to share a ton of her fresh basil with me, so you will be seeing several new recipes including basil over the next week.  Today I started with Baked Panzanella Caprese for a light lunch.  It was great!  The only thing that I changed was that I used whole wheat sandwich bread for the bread, and it worked great in my opion.  This dish is perfect for a light lunch or dinner, and I think it would make a great breakfast or brunch dish also.

1 year old

Here's what is going on with Noah this week, according to;

That major rite of passage is almost here, if it hasn't happened already — some time this month, your baby may take his first steps alone. (If he doesn't, don't worry — it takes some children several more weeks or months to start toddling.) If he's like most children, your little one will take those early strides on tiptoe with his feet turned outward. Keep the camera ready to capture the moment!

Your baby's play probably will start shifting from mastering his fine motor skills — he's got that thumb-and-forefinger grasp down pat — to exercising larger muscles. Some children this age have an attention span of two to five minutes for quiet activities, although your child's favorite games may not be all that quiet.
Your child probably thinks it's fun to push, throw, and knock everything down. He'll give you a toy as well as take one, and he likes games where he can put things in containers and dump them out again. This works well with blocks in buckets or boxes and with pots and pans, which he can nest inside one another. He'll thrill to the loud sounds of those pots and pans banging together, too.

Our little boy isn't a baby anymore.  Wow, how time flies!  This has been a great year, so much more exciting and special than we ever could have imagined.  This little boy has captured our hearts, and taught us about a completely different kind of love than we had already known.

Noah is full of laughter.  He loves to be the center of attention and will carry on with growls and other goofy noises until he has everyone in the room staring at him.  He loves to play with his toy cars and make fun car sounds as he pushes them around.  He LOVES to be outside.  He is constantly busy.  When we kneel down he runs at us and throws himself into our open arms for a great big hug.  That is about all of the cuddling and snuggling we can get out of him though, before he's on to the next thing.  He loves to sit on our laps while we read him books.  He loves dogs and cats, but doesn't understand to stroke them softly, rather than wildly bat at their heads.  He LOVES to eat, and wants to do it constantly.

We've successfully cut out the nursing before his morning nap and it was SO much easier than I expected.  Once our bodies adjust, I'll work on cutting out the nursing before his afternoon nap, and he'll be down to just two a day.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Sugar Snap Peas

Sweet and Spicy Sugar Snap Peas

A local restaurant serves a delicious side dish of Thai Sugar Snap peas, but they are also swimming in butter.  This is my healthy knock off of their dish.

-1 lb sugar snap peas
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-2 Tbsp soy sauce
-2 Tbsp brown sugar
-2 tsp sesame oil
-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
-1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Coat a stir-fry pan with cooking spray and heat over medium high heat. Add garlic and sugar snap peas. Cook, stirring often, until sugar snap peas turn bright green (about 5 minutes). In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes. Pour sauce into the pan with the peas, and cook an additional minute. Turn off heat, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve immediately.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Noah's birthday party

We had a birthday party for Noah at Jeremy's parents house.  It was perfect!  I think that all of the adults, and kids had a great time, and the birthday boy loved it.

we had all of Noah's favorites... vegetables, cheese, fruit, pasta salad, and more
we spent the entire 2 hours outdoors, which is Noah's favorite place to be!

the backyard was set up with plenty of chairs for the adults, and tables, tunnels, a swing, and a sand box for the kiddos

Noah got to have his first dessert ever, a banana bread cup cake with cream cheese frosting

at first he was timid and just licking the icing
and then he went for it and shoved 1/2 the cup cake in his mouth

he licked up every last crumb and bit of icing... I think he liked it!