Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Feta Mac & Cheese

Feta Mac & Cheese

I found myself with a bunch of extra feta on hand and wanted a way to use up a bunch in one dish.  I wanted to try this mac and cheese plain first, but next time I think I'll experiment with adding in spinach, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, herbs, and/or fresh tomatoes.  This was just ok in my opinion, it still need some tweaking for a bit more flavor, but it's a good starting point.

-1 box whole wheat elbows or shells, cooked al dente
-1 Tbsp olive oil
-2 c crumbled feta cheese
-5 eggs
-2 c skim milk
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-2 slices whole wheat sandwich bread, toasted well and broken into crumbs

Toss hot pasta with olive oil.  Then toss coated pasta with feta cheese.  Spread into a greased 13x9  pan.  In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.  Pour egg mixture over pasta.  Top with bread crumbs.  Bake at 400 for 40 minutes, or until set and top is browned.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Oatmeal

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Oatmeal

I enjoyed the slow cooker apple oatmeal so much that I wanted to try a pumpkin version also.  Serve with milk, brown sugar, craisins, and nuts for topping.

-3 c rolled/ old fashioned oats
-6 c water
-3/4 c milk
-1 can pumpkin
-1 c brown sugar
-2 Tbsp butter, cut up
-2 tsp vanilla
-2 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp ginger
-1/4 tsp nutmeg
-1/4 tsp cloves

Combine all ingredients in a greased slow cooker.  Cook on low for 2-4 hours.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

3 years old

Happy Birthday to my fun, sweet, energetic boy!  I can't believe that you are 3 years old!  The time has flown by!

It is such a joy to be your mother.  You brighten my world.  You help me to play and have fun.  To enjoy the journey and not just the destination.  You teach me so much about life, myself, and God.  About patience, grace, and forgiveness.  

You are such a fun, energetic, funny, enthusiastic little kid.  You are brave and fearless.  You are sensitive and thoughtful.  

You are such a good friend.  You share really well and even find joy in bringing snacks and toys for the playdates we have with your friends.  You pray for your friends every night before bed and want to see them every day.

You are a great big brother.  You never get angry or impatient with your brother, even when he cries a whole 20 minute car ride.  If anything you love him too much and are constantly trying to play with him and invading his personal space bubble (which he actually seems to enjoy).

You are so smart!  You know the alphabet, shapes, colors, how to count to between 20 and 30, and can recognize many letters by sight now.

You love trucks and know every type by sight.  Even more than you love trucks, you love dirt.  Pretty much every time we go to a playground you choose to play in the dirt rather than on the actual playground equipment.  

You are potty trained.  You sleep by yourself in your big boy bed with Lightning McQueen and Mater sheets.  Soon your little brother will also be sharing your room with you.

You nap some days and not others.  You enjoy life way too much to interrupt and miss it by sleeping during the day.

You are a fairly picky eater.  You eat most fruits, raw carrots and cucumbers, cheese, any carby snacks, pb&j and grilled cheeses.

We let you watch a few shows before bed each night, and first thing each morning.  Your current favorite is the Mighty Machine Series, especially the Harvest, Car Wrecker, and Machines go to School episodes.

You no longer answer to Noah, and have informed us (and anyone who asks your name) that your name is Hard Hat Harry.  You got this from the character on All About Helicopters.  You also have an alter ego known as Tom Tom Bane.  We have no idea where this name came from, but when you start calling yourself this you get pretty wild and rowdy.  You have also started calling your brother Eck-o-loo.  It caught on and kinda stuck and now our whole family calls Elisha Eckoloo.

Although you are such a rough and energetic little boy, there is a softer side to you.  You are sensitive, empathetic, and discerning.  You are going to be a leader.  You will be able to feel the hurts of others, and your heart will go out to them.  You will care about and love people.  You will love Jesus.  If you marry, and have kids, you will be an amazing husband and daddy.  You will make disciples of the nations.

Your daddy and I are so proud of you, and love you lots!  You have changed our lives for the better, taught us how to play and explore.  You give us a reason to be a man and woman of God, to lead by example, to do the things we want to see you do, to provide a stable, loving, Christ centered home.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Construction Party

For Noah's 3rd birthday we had a Construction themed party.  I thought it was the perfect theme for him because he loves trucks and diggers and is obsessed with playing in dirt.  In fact, anytime we go to a playground he chooses to play in the dirt rather than playing on any playground equipment.  So for the party we basically turned our whole backyard into a construction zone.  We had sections of pine straw, rocks, and dirt, and plenty of trucks and shovels for the kids to dig with.  It was a really fun party, I think the kids had a blast playing and since the kids were happy and occupied the adults got to relax and chat.

Huge thanks to my hubby and his parents for getting our backyard converted to a construction zone, y'all are amazing!!!!!

 since the focus was the dirt and digging, the decorations were fairly simple and easy.  some caution tape and a few constuction-y looking signs

 for the cake, I made a plain chocolate sheet cake, with chocolate frosting, and then used graham cracker crumbs to top it and make it look like dirt

Friday, October 25, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

I made these Peanut Butter Muffins.  The only change that I made was to add 1 c semisweet chocolate chips to the batter.  I thought they turned out well, Noah however, did not like them, and Jeremy thought they were just okay.  Guess I'll stick with our faves of banana chocolate chip muffins and pumpkin oat muffins.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Slow Cooker Apple Oatmeal

Slow Cooker Apple Oatmeal

This dish just screams fall... warm, hearty, soul soothing, apples, cinnamon, and spices.  Serve with additional milk, raisins, craisins, nuts, maple syrup, and/ or brown sugar for topping.  

-2 c whole oats
-4 c water
-1/2 c milk
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/8 tsp cloves
-1/8 tsp nutmeg
-1/2 tsp vanilla
-1 Tbsp butter, cut up
-1/4 c brown sugar
-1/8-1/4 c maple syrup
-2 apples, peeled and diced

Combine all ingredients in a greased slow cooker.  Cook on low 4 hours.  Serve with desired toppings.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Vietnamese Hot and Sour Soup

Vietnamese Hot and Sour Soup

We are huge fans of Vietnamese food.  It is probably my favorite cuisine.  This soup is Jeremy's current "go to" order at our favorite spot, although he usually gets it with chicken rather than shrimp.  Serve rice on the side for scooping into your bowl.  I thought this turned out well, but no where near as good as what we get out.  I'd say it's not my best work, or even my best Asian soup, but it's good, healthy, easy and worthwhile.

-8 c chicken or seafood broth
-5 Tbsp fish sauce
-4 Tbsp sugar
-3 Tbsp lime juice
-1 Tbsp sriracha
-2 tomatoes, cut into large chunks
-1/2 pineapple, cut into bite sized chunks
-1 lb frozen okra
-1 lb medium shrimp, peeled
-1/2 bag bean sprouts
-rice and fresh cilantro, scallions, lime wedges, and sriracha for serving

Bring broth, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and sriracha to a boil in a large pot.  Add tomatoes, okra, and pineapple.  Reduce heat and simmer until okra starts to soften (5-10 minutes).  Add shrimp, simmer until cooked, about 5 more minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in bean sprouts and serve.

Friday, October 18, 2013

21 weeks

Here is what is going on with Elisha this week according to babycenter.com;

Your baby may be able to hold her own bottle now and it's fine to let her, but never prop the bottle for her and walk away. A propped bottle could cause your baby to overeat or even choke. Also, if your baby falls asleep while sucking on the bottle, milk or formula can pool in her mouth, coating her teeth with sugar, which can lead to tooth decay. Pooled milk can also drip into the tubes that connect the back of the throat with the middle part of the ear, leading to ear infections.

Your baby's probably showing more signs that she's ready for solids — from a weaker tongue-thrust reflex (when your baby pushes out her tongue when something is placed on it) to a keener interest in the foods you and others are eating. But don't be in a rush to give your baby solid food. Discuss when to introduce solid food with your baby's healthcare provider.

Your baby's digestive system may not be ready for solids, and she might not be able control her chewing and swallowing muscles. (Don't worry: That will all come in a few weeks.) Giving your baby solid foods too early can raise her risk of developing food allergies, too. Common allergies include citrus, egg whites, peanut butter, wheat, shellfish, and cow's milk.

Use family mealtime to socialize with your baby. She'll enjoy watching you eat, and she may even eat more herself as a result. In another month or so, she'll be better able to sit up by herself and grasp small objects, too, adding to her dinner table skills.
Your baby may now be able to get into a sitting position from lying on her stomach by pushing up on her arms. If she's sitting independently, stay nearby for support — even if you provide pillows to cushion a possible fall. Your baby may have mastered the sitting skill, but she still might lose interest in being upright and topple over.
Your baby may start showing signs of one of her first major emotional milestones — stranger anxiety. She may become clingy and anxious around new (and even familiar!) people and may cry if a stranger suddenly approaches her.

Keep this in mind when you're around people she doesn't know, and try not to be embarrassed when she cries in someone else's arms — just take her back and calm her down by holding her yourself. Tell your friends and family to approach your little one with slow gentle movements.

A case of stranger anxiety doesn't mean you have to avoid new faces. Your baby will benefit from getting used to being around people other than you and your partner. Just remember that she needs your patience and understanding to get through this very important stage of development.
At all well-baby visits, your child's doctor should examine your baby's eyes, checking their structure and alignment, her ability to move them correctly, and for signs of congenital eye conditions or other problems. Find out what to expect from the examination and what to look for yourself.
Elisha is doing great!

I don't know how much he weighs right now, but at his last doctors appointment, 2 months ago, he already weighed 6 oz more than Noah did at 21 weeks.  It's safe to say that Elisha is a little more hearty/ thick than Noah was at this point, although Noah did have some length on him.

He is starting to notice when I eat, and watches me curiously, but I think we'll at least wait until the 6 month mark before introducing solid food.

This week we started some sleep training/ "crying it out" with Elisha.  That's pretty much what I did with Noah after the newborn stage was over, and he was always a very good sleeper.  Due to logistics where we live, I haven't wanted to let Elisha cry it out at night because he would either wake Noah up, or disturb our neighbors who share a bedroom wall with Elisha.  That said, since he hasn't consistently been sleeping through the night I decided to work harder at scheduling and letting him cry it out, because we were sure those worked so well with Noah, and our family dynamic.  I started at nap time Monday, Elisha cried for almost an hour before he finally fell asleep.  But something magic happened after that, he has never cried more than 15 minutes before any nap since then, and by Tuesday night, he fell straight asleep without making as much as a whimper.  He's still not sleeping through the night yet, but I do feel like he is picking up the skill of being able to comfort himself and am hoping that pays off at night soon.

Now Elisha can roll from his back to his belly, or his belly to his back.  He will also do a little pre-crawling pushing with his legs while on his belly.

He's still a very happy and easily comforted baby (for me), but he has developed a case of the "mommies" as Jeremy's mom calls it.  Since I rarely ever leave him with anyone other than me, he is starting to be a little sad and less comforted when I am gone.

Here was Noah at 21 weeks.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Baked Cheesy Spaghetti Squash

I made this Baked Cheesy Spaghetti Squash.  I thought it was really tasty, but there were a few things that I did not like about the recipe.  My spaghetti squash ended up overcooked and almost completely mushy, rather than in firm strings.  Next time I would roast the spaghetti squash for 30 minutes instead of 45.  Also, there was too much sauce for my taste, next time I'd reduce the milk down to only 1 cup and proceed as directed for the rest of the ingredients.  I had so much sauce leftover that I chopped up a bunch of leftover broccoli and cauliflower and made a casserole with that also.  Which ended up being really good also.  I think this would be a great method/ sauce for making a casserole with pretty much any vegetables that you desired.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Roasted Root Vegetables

This is more of a method than a recipe.  You could change the vegetables or the herbs based on your preference.  I was in the mood to try something new, so this was the first time that I've ever cooked with turnips and parsnips.  I enjoyed the parsnips, but the flavor of the turnips were a little strong for my taste.  This doesn't have to just be root vegetables either, I think it would be great with some acorn or butternut squash.  This is the only way that I've ever been able to get Jeremy to like cooked carrots, and I was shocked to see him actually picky them out to eat.  I think the chewy and crispy texture was what did it for him.

-1 lb each assorted root or winter vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, squash, etc., all peeled and cut into similar sized pieces.  veggies will shrink while roasting, so cut them a little larger than you'd like the finish product to be, I did about 1-2" chunks.
-4 Tbsp olive oil
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1 tsp dried rosemary or thyme
-2-4 Tbsp honey or maple syrup

Toss vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper and dried herbs.  Spread in a single layer on 2 baking sheets.  Roast at 425 for 30-45 minutes, giving them a flip/ stir every 15 minutes, until desired tenderness/ crispness is achieved.   Toss veggies with honey or syrup, place back in the oven for 5 minutes to let sweetener form a glaze then remove from oven and serve immediately.

Monday, October 14, 2013



I just revamped the gumbo recipe that I've been using for a few years and couldn't be happier.  One of the things that makes this recipe different is the use of frozen veggies.  I don't normally take shortcuts like buying pre-chopped frozen veggies, but in this instance adding them still frozen to the pan allows the roux to cool, without having the added step of most gumbo recipes of actually giving the roux at least 20 minutes to cool before continuing on with the recipe.  Another shortcut you can do to save time and energy for this recipe is to substitute a shredded rotisserie chicken for the chicken breasts and eliminate the whole step of cooking the chicken.

-4 large chicken breasts
-black pepper
-1/2 c plus 2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
-1 pack smoked sausage, sliced... I like a good Cajun brand like Savoie's and a lot of the time I even use their turkey smoked sausage to reduce fat and calories
-1 c flour
-32 oz frozen seasoning blend vegetables (onion, peppers, celery mixed)
-16 oz frozen okra
-4 cups beef stock
-4 cups chicken stock
-2 cups water
-1 tsp dried thyme
-4-5 small bay leaves
-1/2 tsp cayenne
-1 tsp (or more) Tony Chachere's Cajun seasoning mix
-4 Tbsp (or more) hot sauce

Sprinkle chicken generously with pepper and set aside.

Heat 2 T oil over medium high heat in heavy pot. Add sausage pieces and cook, stirring frequently, untill browned. Remove with a slotted spoon into a large bowl. Add the chicken to the pot and cook, turning once or twice, for around 6 minutes, or until browned on both sides. Remove and place in the bowl with the sausage.

Before you begin the next step make sure you can complete it without interruptions and with focus - it will take about 10 minutes of your undivided attention. Also, make sure you have a LONG wooden spoon for stirring, and an oven mitt on the other hand for handling/stabilizing the pot around as necessary. Set your stovetop fan to high to draw off smoke. NOW.....

Add the remaining 1/2 c of oil to the pot and heat over medium heat. When hot, sprinkle the flour over the hot oil and start stirring. You will want to keep the mixture moving in the pan - try not to let it sit in one spot in the pan for more than a few seconds, or let it stick to the bottom - keep moving and scraping to avoid burning. Keep it moving until the mixture becomes a dark, chocolate brown color - you may think it's burning but it's not..... the darker the roux, the better! Just keep it moving in the pot and you'll be fine!

When the roux is a dark chocolate color, quickly add the frozen seasoning blend and keep stirring. It will cool off the roux and cook the veggies. Stir frequently for about 7-8 minutes. Then, stir in the , beef stock, chicken stock, and water. Add back in the chicken and sausage, then add in the thyme, bay leaves and cayenne. Cook, partially covered over medium/low heat for about 40 min. Remove the chicken to a plate and let cool. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat. Shred the chicken and place back in the pot. Season to taste with Tony's and hot sauce, add the okra and cook over low heat for another 30 min or so.

It's best the next day. Skim any fat off the top before reheating. Spoon hot gumbo into bowls and top with a spoonful of rice.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Blueberry Crisp

I made this Martha Stewart Blueberry Crisp.  We loved it and thought it turned out really well.  In fact, Jeremy said it may be the best thing I've ever baked.  I'm not sure how I feel about that considering I have baked a lot of more elaborate, tedious, expensive, indulgent desserts.  I'm not sure what that says about his tastes, or my baking, but either way, we will definitely be eating this crisp more regularly.  The only change that I made to the recipe was to use whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, and I didn't notice the difference and would make that change again.  This is unlike any other crisp that I've ever made in that it has baking powder in the topping, and I really like the way that it helped the topping to rise and crisp up.

You Are My Sunshine Baby Shower

This weekend I had the privilege of throwing a baby shower for one of my favorite people in the whole world.  Her and her husband are not finding out the gender of their baby, so I needed a gender neutral theme.  Their nursery colors are aqua/ turquoise-ish, yellow, gray, and orange and I thought that those would go well with a You Are My Sunshine theme.  That way, the decorations that I made for the shower could double as gifts/ nursery decorations also.  This was my favorite theme, color scheme, and decor for any party that I've ever thrown.  Now sure if it's how special the guest of honor is to me, or if it was the theme itself, but I had a lot of fun dreaming up and creating this shower.  

My camera and I had a huge struggle with the lighting at the location, so please excuse the blurry pictures.

I made this sign from some scrap wood

the centerpieces were branches in mason jars with tissue paper flowers glued to them

we had a table with envelopes to address and an advice/ encouragement book for guests to sign

I made the sunshine blocks out of more scrap wood, some patterned cardstock, and then stamped the letters on them.  the framed print was a free printable found here.  I also printed and framed a few other free printables found here and here.

another activity was a onesie and burp cloth decorating station.  I didn't need to buy anything other than a pack of burp cloths for this, I just used supplies that I have on hand in my crafting stash.  basically I supplied plenty of onesies and burp cloths, lots of scrap fabric, fusible web, embroidery floss, fabric markers and paint, stencils, and stamps and let guests get creative.  this would be great for bibs also.  I wish I had taken pictures of some of the finished products, they were SO cute!

I made a word banner using my cricut machine to easily cut the letters from cardstock.  then I punched holes in them and strung them on yarn.

I made several tissue paper pom poms (rounded edges for the "clouds" and spiked edges for the "suns".  these are so cheap and easy to make and turned out really well!

this picture is awful, but these free printable cupcake (or mac and cheese cup) toppers were adorable

and here's the link for the free printable toppers I used on the cupcakes

I used this site for the free printable invitations, thank you cards, food tents, and favor tags, and just made them all in the same color scheme as the shower.  for the favors, I made coffee meringue "clouds". 

for the food, I stuck with a yellow/ sunshine-y theme and incorporated the mama-to-be's tastes, favorites, and requests.  we had;

-veggies with curry dip
-fruit skewers
-orange marmalade cupcakes
-coffee punch

It was such a fun sweet time to celebrate the mama-to-be and baby!

Friday, October 4, 2013

19 weeks

Here is what is going on with Elisha this week according to babycenter.com;

Even though crying is still your baby's strongest form of communication, he's also developing his sense of humor during his fifth month. He may start to laugh at pleasant surprises such as your face appearing from underneath a blanket or a toy popping out of a box, provided it isn't too loud or startling.

Encourage your baby's laughs, giggles, and smiles with funny faces and lots of general silliness. Babies enjoy hearing a variety of sounds and you don't need special toys or instruments to provide them. Simply click your tongue, whistle, or make animal noises — your baby will love it!
Encourage your baby to experiment and play with a variety of objects. Something as simple as a clean cloth diaper might occupy him for several minutes. Watch him suck on it, hold it, and discover what happens when he scrunches it up.

Give him a light rattle and see him delight in the sound it makes when he shakes it. An activity center or crib gym is a good choice for this stage, as your baby begins to explore the cause and effect of moving a lever and hearing a bell ring, for instance.
Babies see color from birth, but they have difficulty distinguishing similar tones, such as red and orange. (Babies can tell the difference between very different colors such as red, green, and yellow.) As a result, younger babies often prefer black and white or high-contrast patterns.

At your baby's age, color differences become clearer, and your baby has started to distinguish between similar shades. Present him with a variety of colors in books, toys, and clothing.

Elisha is doing great!

After several weeks of not sleeping through the night (after a few of having slept through the night) he has had a few days in a row now where he has slept as late as 4 or 5 am without getting up in the middle of the night.

One day last week Elisha rolled all the way from his belly onto his back, but he has not done it again since, and he hasn't rolled from his back to his belly yet.  He can start off on either his back or belly, but usually stops mid-roll, on his side, and stays that way before rolling back to whatever he came from.

He's working on a little army crawl/ scoot on his belly also.

He can also sit up some on his own, as long as we are nearby to catch him if he suddenly looses control and falls.

He still sleeps in his swaddle blanket and cannot nap without it, as soon as he falls asleep he moves his arms and wakes himself back up.  Jeremy and I keep making jokes that he'll be 8 years old still being swaddled and we'll be wrapping him in a sheet, because I don't think swaddle blankets get any bigger than the size our large baby is already in.

Here is a link to Noah's weekly update at 19 weeks.