Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sweet & Sour Turkey Meatballs

For those mornings when you have just enough time to throw something in the crockpot before work/ school/ appointment/ kids waking up... this is for you.  For those evenings when you need to get dinner on the table quickly and all in one pot... this is for you.  For those days when you are scouring the pantry/freezer for an easy meal idea... this is for you.  For those "I dread leftovers for lunch because it's never as good reheated" types... this is for you.

It's true, this recipe has it all.  It can be thrown in a crockpot and not touched again til dinner.  It can be mixed up on the stove and after a 15-20 minute simmer, ready to serve.  It has simple ingredients that can be kept on hand as a go-to meal (even the meatballs can be kept frozen and thrown right into the sauce, you just have to cook it a little longer).  Plus, it makes amazing leftovers!  It may even induce labor - it was the last meal I had (as leftovers at work) just before my water broke - but I doubt that theory would hold up in a study... or that anyone would take the time to study the effects of sweet and sour turkey meatballs on labor induction.  Nonetheless, this recipe will always have a special place in my heart as the last meal before they starved me through the night and then I met my little Peanut.  (Don't worry, I'm not going to go into Annalyn's entire birth story right before a recipe... seems a little counterproductive.  But if you would like to read it, the hospital asked me to write a post about our experience and you can read it on the Monogram Maternity site.)

I originally found this recipe on Food Network while exercising on an elliptical at the gym.  It's inspired by a recipe by Food Network chef Robin Miller.  This time I used the slow cooker so I could throw it together before work.  I really like the idea that I can work 13 hours and still make dinner for my family, plus have leftovers for lunch the next day. 

Sweet & Sour Turkey Meatballs
-2 packages of Italian style turkey meatballs
-1 (29 oz.) can tomato sauce
-1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
-1/2 c. chicken stock
-1/4 c. brown sugar
-1 T. dried thyme
-2 T. chili powder

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Grilled Leeks and Leek Puree: The Craziest Food I've Fed My Baby

At 6 months old, Annalyn is now old enough to start trying some really fun recipes.  My neighbor lent me this book by Annabel Karmel and it has been a great source of inspiration for new baby food recipes.  Now that Annalyn is past the "first foods,"  we can start trying some more adventurous foods.  I came across one this weekend that seemed so crazy that I just had to try it - leeks.  As in the big giant green onion-looking things. For a 6 month old baby.  Need I say more? 

you want me to eat what?

Now, in all fairness, the recipe was not for straight leek puree.  I decided to make it that way so we could experiment with different flavor combinations.  Please note, leek puree has a pretty strong flavor and I would not recommend giving it to baby alone.  

Here is a recipe for the rest of family, too, so you can all enjoy this yummy vegetable together! 

Grilled Leeks
(not for babies, but oh so yummy!)


-4 to 6 leeks, white parts and some of the green parts
-olive oil, to drizzle
-salt and pepper, to taste

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mini Parmesan Dill Zucchini Quiche

what are we going to do with this
GIANT zucchini from our garden?

no worries, Mama, I got this....

mmmm... delicious!

Thanks for your help, Peanut.  I think we should eat it, too!  Here is my version of a WW recipe for mini parmesan dill zucchini quiche. (1 point per quiche)

Mini Parmesan Dill Zucchini Quiche

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Slow Cooker Cherry Pork Chops

What would we do without slow cookers?  How great is it that I can plan and prepare a family-friendly dinner all before the baby wakes up?  This is a reduced-calorie version (only 5 points per pork chop!) of one of our favorite slow cooker recipes from way back when we were both just a couple of college students.  To save money, we would buy the giant pork loins when they went on sale and then have them sliced and packaged in trays of 4 each so we could freeze them.  I can't wait until Annalyn's old enough to try it!  What little kid doesn't love putting cherries on top of everything!?  Pretty sure this will get me lots of "my mom is so awesome" points with the kiddos someday :)

Slow Cooker Cherry Pork Chops


-4 pork chops
-1 can sugar free cherry pie filling
-2 T. lemon juice
-salt and pepper
-1/2 t. ground ginger
-1/2 t. dried thyme
-2-4 T. chicken stock (if you intend to let it cook all day, may need to add a bit of liquid to keep it from drying out)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Peanut Post: Motivation

Right now Annalyn hates tummy time.  She will play on her back and roll to her sides, but she flares her little temper in protest every time she's placed on her stomach.  So I decided to use her favorite "toy" to entice her - my cell phone.  You see, she loves my phone even more than she hates being on her tummy.  Sometimes a little motivation is all it takes!

sweet slobbery success!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Paula Deen's Taco Soup Recipe

I always say that my three "go to gals" in the kitchen are Betty, Paula, and Martha (Betty Crocker, Paula Deen, and Martha Stewart).  I've said it several times before and I'll probably say it a hundred times over, but for everyday basic recipes, my Betty Crocker cookbook is wonderful.  If I could recommend one cookbook to beginner cooks, this would be it.  

But for holiday and event planning, I have to go with Martha.  I subscribe to her magazine off and on, but always buy the holiday editions.  Her party planning skills top the list for me - not just menu ideas and timing it all out, but cook-ahead tips, decorations, you name it. 

And then there's Paula.  Is her food the healthiest?  No.  Does she claim that it is?  No.  But no one does low country comfort food better.  I've never been disappointed by one of her recipes.  Last year Michael and I took a trip to Savannah, GA and got the opportunity to eat at her restaurant, The Lady & Sons.  Check that one off the bucket list!  The food was impeccable - it was everything you'd expect and more (including the serving sizes, YIKES!)

 The Lady & Sons
Savannah, GA

This is one of our favorite soup recipes, courtesy of Paula Deen.  To make it a little healthier, I serve it with greek yogurt in place of sour cream, use reduced fat shredded cheese, and leave off the corn chips.  You could also use ground turkey in place of the ground beef to cut even more calories.  (Following the recipe below, with 1 T. greek yogurt and 2 T. shredded low-fat cheese, it's about 7 points per serving.)

Paula Deen's Taco Soup
(taken from


-2 pounds ground beef
-2 cups diced onions
-2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans pinto beans
-1 (15 1/2-ounce) can pink kidney beans
-1 (15 1/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
-1 (14 1/2-ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
-1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
-1 (14 1/2-ounce) can tomatoes with chiles
-2 (4 1/2-ounce) cans diced green chiles
-1 (4.6-ounce) can black olives, drained and sliced, optional
-1/2 cup green olives, sliced, optional
-1 (1 1/4-ounce) package taco seasoning mix
-1 (1-ounce) package ranch salad dressing mix
-2 to 4 c. chicken stock (this is not part of Paula's recipe, but I find that it helps, especially when reheating to have some extra liquid.)
-Corn chips, for serving
-Sour cream, for garnish (I used non-fat greek yogurt)
-Grated cheese, for garnish
-Chopped green onions, for garnish
-Pickled jalapenos, for garnish

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Peanut Post: Pumpkin for my Punky

When it comes to naming children, parents are often concerned with the types of nicknames the name might inspire.  Some parents fight it, constantly correcting people every time they shorten or mispronouce their child's name, while others embrace or even encourage the practice.  I can honestly say it was something we considered when naming Annalyn.  Having a compound name, we figured it would be shortened to Anna or pronounced Anna Lyn (when in fact it's all one word, similar to Madelyn), and we were fine with that.  I even gave her cool initials (ACE), hoping that if she becomes an athlete someday, it might catch on as a nickname (compared to the wonderful nickname my college softball team gave me... Ash-hole.  It's all good, though, it was all in love... I think...). 

my college softball team
spring break 2005

When I was pregnant and would talk to her on my way to work, I often called her my little "Anna-banana," but it just didn't seem to fit her when I finally held her in my arms.  From that very first cuddle, she was my Punky.  Where my horomone-clouded brain came up with "Punky", I'm not real sure, but I'm guessing it was my baby-talk version of "punkin" short for "pumpkin" (don't you like how my brain has two levels of baby-talk?).

Punky became my special name for her, but to the rest of the world, she was "Peanut".  This one's a little easier to explain.  My teeny little Peanut was born 3 weeks early at a whopping 6 lbs. 10 oz. and had the tiniest little features, especially next to her daddy.  So it looks like after all my careful planning to set her up with good nicknames, she's a Peanut.  That's life for ya!  But for the record, Peanut, Mama tried.  Please remember that when you're, say, 16 and still being called Peanut by those who love you most.

Even now, when she's really sleepy or snuggly or just being extra sweet, I find myself calling her my Punky.  Or when I feed her pumpkin, for obvious reasons.  We recently introduced pumpkin into her diet and I've been having lots of fun coming up with new combinations for her to try.  (I used canned pumpkin since they are not yet in season around here.  Just be sure to get plain pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling.)  Here are some of our favorites so far:
sweet sleepy Punky

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Buffalo Joes & BFFs

This recipe combines two of our favorite things - buffalo chicken and sloppy joes!  The first time I made it for Michael, he was very skeptical of a sloppy joe made with chicken and vegetables.  I had doubled the recipe and intended to freeze half of it, but after tasting it, he insisted that he would eat it as leftovers until it was gone (and he did).  

A few weeks later, we made it for our friends Dan & Shawna when we went down to visit their new baby girl, Remy Ann.  You see, Remy is Annalyn's first BFF.  Not because she came home and said, "Mommy, I met a new friend and her name is Remy!" but because we are so close to Remy's parents that the two of them will grow up like sisters.  Remy's daddy and Annalyn's daddy grew up in the same neighborhood and have known each other their entire lives (somewhere, there is even a pic of them in a crib together!).  Shawna and I are pretty sure it was part of an elaborate plan that brought us together.  We are about as different yet the same as two people can be.  She completes me in a way only a BFF can. 

Dan & Michael
sometime around 1987-88, I think

July 2007

friends   family
July 2012

So of course, when we both came up pregnant at the same time, we were elated!  We took bump pics, made registries, planned showers, and dreamed of our kids playing together (or getting married since we didn't know Remy was a Remy until she was born).  Now, we have beautiful baby girls just 4 months apart and we already can't resist dressing them up and taking pictures together.  I am so excited to see their little friendship develop over the years.  They will certainly love each other because our families love each other.

this one's worth more than a thousand words

1 week old and 17 weeks old
& they already have matching outfits!

2 months and 6 months old

both smiley, happy girls!

Here is the buffalo joes recipe - ironically, D & S & R stopped by for dinner the night I made this batch. It's an easy, healthy recipe that goes great with good friends.

Buffalo Joes
(buffalo chicken sloppy joes)

Ingredients: (8 servings)

-1 T. olive oil
-1 lb. ground chicken
-3/4 c. carrots, chopped or shredded
-1 medium onion, diced
-1/2 c. celery, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-salt and black pepper, to taste
-1 T. brown sugar
-1/4 c. cider vinegar
-3/4 c. ketchup
-1/2 c. chicken stock
-1/2-1 c. Frank's Red Hot buffalo sauce (my personal favorite, it's fairly mild; start with 1/2 c. and add from there based on how spicy you want it)
-2 T. Worcestershire sauce
-8 Healthy Life Wheat Buns
-lettuce, for serving, if desired
-blue cheese crumbles/dressing or low fat ranch dressing, if desired
**As an added bonus, it's only 7 points per sandwich when served on a light hamburger bun with blea cheese crumbles! 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sausage and Crescent Breakfast Casserole

I have to start this post with a quick disclaimer, this is not a super healthy low-fat recipe.  But it's quick 'n easy, delicious, and one of our old favorites.  Perfect for Sunday breakfast with the in-laws before work.  It's actually a recipe my neighbor gave me several years ago, and it's one of her family's favorites.  She is master of the simple, croud-pleasing, and family-friendly recipes.

Sausage and Crescent Breakfast Casserole

-2 tubes Big n' Flaky crescent rolls
-1 lb. sausage
-1 pkg. low-fat cream cheese

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Peanut Post: Happy Half Birthday, Baby Annalyn! (Brownie Cake with Homemade Ding Dong Filling)

Somehow, my little tiny baby Peanut has become this thriving, beautiful, spunky 6 month old.  Saturday we celebrated Annalyn's half birthday.  Michael had the great idea of making her a "half birthday cake" by making a single layer, then cutting it in half and stacking it to look like half of a cake.  Cute, cheesy, and creative... PERFECT!!  There's a reason we are so perfect for each other.  Obviously, Annalyn did not get to share in the eating of the cake (that's a milestone that simply must wait!), but we made it anyway in honor of our little lady. 

6 months old

such a big girl!

This is a cake version of some cupcakes I made for Michael to take to work for his birthday a couple years ago.  The cake is actually brownie mix (time saver!) and the filling/icing is homemade Ding Dong filling.  It seemed appropriate since towards the very end of my pregnancy I had a crazy strong craving for a Ding Dong.  Actually, make that a box of Ding Dongs, thanks to the giant Hostess display right outside my pharmacy (working in a grocery store while pregnant can be dangerous!). 

all that sugar made her extra sweet!

Honestly, I wasn't entirely pleased with how this cake turned out (asthetically, that is... it still tasted yummy!), but I had very little time to execute it between getting off work at 9 pm Friday and having to be back to work at 9 am Saturday morning.  The problem I ran into was the brownie cake was a little too dense for the filling, so it slid pretty badly when stacked.  My advice is to make this into brownie cupcakes with filling in the middle or leave it as a single layer and spread the filling on top as icing.  Or use it as filling for a regular chocolate cake and cover with a chocolate ganache (which is essentially one giant Ding Dong and therefore AWESOME).  Point being, the filling is really yummy and definitely worth trying!

Brownie Cake with Homemade Ding Dong Filling

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Made by Mama: Baked Cinnamon Applesauce (no sugar added!)

Here is a great family-friendly recipe that's easy to make and tastes delicious without any added sugar. (for WW, this means zero points!) It's a simple way to make apple puree for baby and fresh applesauce for the rest of the family.

-8 apples (I like to use a mix of different kinds of sweet apples.  Today I used 2 Fuji, 2 Gala, and 4 Braeburn)
-cinnamon, to taste (use less for baby)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mexican Food Friday (Chicken Fajitas with Cilantro Poblano Pesto)

Michael and I are incredibly fortunate to live close to where we went to college.  Not only because of our proximity to the campus on which we met and fell in love, but also because we have a close group of friends from college that live close by.   They are and have always been like family. 

fall 2010 flag football champs

We are the type of friends that play flag football on Sundays and have our own Thanksgiving dinner together every year. We watch March Madness together and chant "U-S-A" (yes, those two go hand-in-hand). We have an entire party devoted to cutting paper snowflakes  (but we'll come back to that).    Over the years,  we have had many different reasons to get together regularly and that's part of why we are so close.  For awhile, that excuse was "Mexican Food Friday."  Just like it sounds, we got together every Friday to eat Mexican food at our favorite restaurants.  Although this is no longer a weekly event, it still happens occasionally (it actually made a brief comeback towards the end of my pregnancy, but I think they were just humoring me).  This recipe is in honor of those nostalgic "Mexican food Fridays" and the friends that made them legendary.

Chicken Fajitas with Cilantro and Poblano Pesto


for cilantro and poblano pesto:
-3 T. olive oil
-1 small or 1/2 medium poblano pepper
-1 c. fresh cilantro
-2 cloves garlic (or a spoonful of minced garlic)
-1/2 t. each chili powder, cumin, and paprika
-1 t. salt
-1/2 t. black pepper

other ingredients:
-2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
-2 T. oil
-1 small or other 1/2 of medium poblano pepper
-1 medium onion
-1 each red/green bell peppers
-whole wheat tortillas
-serving suggestions:  sliced tomato/avocado, greek yogurt as sour cream

make the pesto first so chicken can marinate