Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It's time to sleep little bee...

It's time to sleep little bee, little bee

Yes I love you, and you love me.

(from Peanut's bedtime book)

These fall asleep on Mama nights are getting few and far between. So proud that our girl has learned to put herself to sleep, but I do miss the snuggles. I'm sure it's one of many catch-22 moments to come in parenthood. Better enjoy it while it lasts!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! My sister in law took this pic Monday before Michael took Annalyn to his school's safe trick or treat event. I just love it (but it makes me super jealous that I keep having to work during all these fun activities). But how cute is this little bee? :)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Quick & Easy Beef & Barley Soup

Here's a simple and scrumptuous beef & barley soup recipe I made for Michael's family last weekend.  I like this recipe because the veggies can be chopped ahead and the soup comes together very quickly, say, after work when you have a houseful of hungry people waiting on dinner.  It goes well with crusty bread and a glass of red wine.

Quick & Easy Beef & Barley Soup
(this is a double version of the original recipe I found from


- 16 oz. sirloin steak, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 t. ground black pepper
- 3 T. olive oil, divided
- 1 T. minced garlic
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 large celery stalks, sliced
- 2 large carrots, sliced (I used some leftover carrot chips from a previous recipe)
- 1 c. tomato sauce
- 1 T. dried thyme
- 1 1/2 c. cooked barley
- 2 cartons (8 c.) beef stock
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/4 c. red wine vinegar

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sausage & Kale Soup (Copycat recipe for Olive Garden's Toscana Soup)

This soup is adapted from a copycat recipe for Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana. Something about this flavor combination just warms you from the inside out. Michael always says he wishes he could just put the broth in a mug and drink it (not that I have ever told him he couldn't). I always make a huge pot of this soup because we love to have leftovers. You can easily halve this soup if you only want to eat it, say, 2-3 times in a row :) As I made it above, it makes 8 large servings, 7 points each.

Sausage & Kale Soup

- 8 c. chicken stock (2 cartons)
- 1/2 c. fat free half & half (I used to use all cream, but decided to use some half & half to cut calories)
- 1/2 c. heavy cream
- 6 small or 2 large red potatoes
- 4 c. chopped kale (1 bunch)
- 1 lb. andouille sausage (or spicy Italian)
- 1 t. salt
- 1/2 t. black pepper
- 1/4 - 1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes


1. In a skillet over medium-high heat, saute the sausage. You can either remove the casing and crumble the sausage, or cook in links, then cut into slices. I've tried it both ways, and they both rock!
this time, we removed the casing

and crumbled the sausage

2. In the meantime, combine chicken stock, half & half, and cream in a large soup pot over medium heat.

3. Slice the potatoes into 1/4" thick slices. Halve smaller potatoes, or quarter larger ones. Add to the soup.

4. Chop the kale and add to the soup. FYI - not all kale has the purple veins... this is an organic purple kale. I'm not partial to one or the other, this was just all they had at my store.

wash the kale - remove tough stems
roughly chop the leaves.
Don't be alarmed - it looks like a lot of kale,
but I promise it cooks down to a manageable amount of greens!
see, much better already!
5. Add sausage and spices to soup. Bring to boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

the cream will separate slightly, stir before serving

Friday, October 26, 2012

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

On nights like this, who doesn't love a glass of hot cocoa?  Here is my bulk recipe for hot cocoa dry mix.  It makes a large batch, so make it now and enjoy delicious, creamy hot cocoa all season long.  (I think it will make great party favors for holiday parties, too!)  This recipe makes a very sweet and creamy hot chocolate.  This year, I decided to try french vanilla creamer instead of regular to make a french vanilla hot cocoa mix.  My family likes to put a small spoonful of marshmallow cream on top and let it melt into it as well.  Mmmm.  Michael prefers his hot chocolate approximately the consistency of a melted Hershey's bar, so it's a little mild for him.  He usually mixes in some extra cocoa powder.  Like most things, do what tastes right to you.

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix
- 1 box instant nonfat dry milk (the size that makes 8 quarts)
- 4 1/2 cups Nestle chocolate Nesquik
- 1 1/2 cups powdered creamer
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- secret ingredient:  a big dash of holiday cheer!!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Peanut Post: Happy Birthday, Grandpa Mark!!


Today, Peanut's Grandpa Mark turned 50!!  As I've written about in previous posts, we threw him a surprise party a few weeks ago, but today is the big day!  Since Peanut's video card to Grandma was such a big hit, we decided to make one for Grandpa, too.  Happy 50th, Dad! :)


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Peanut Post: Annalyn's first cookie!

For Christmas last year, Michael & his siblings decided to all go in together and give their parents a gift card to put towards a new oven.   After finally finding the perfect model, we received this adorable thank you in the mail...
(it started with more cookies...
but Michael was quicker than my camera!)

Not only was this a really cute way to say thanks, but it tasted sooo yummy!  You see, these aren't just any cookies.  These are molasses cookies.  Michael's favorite cookie.  And I'm pretty sure they are magic - somehow these cookies stay incredibly moist, even after being sent in the mail.  Naturally, we tore into these the minute I got home from work and realized what they were.  After 13 hours of work and missing my baby, I even gave in and let Peanut try a little bite.  Other than the natural sugars in fruit, she hasn't really had anything this sweet, so this was a real treat!  I think it's safe to say she loves cookies like her father....

she even makes the same noises Daddy does when eating cookies!

Thank you, Grandma Eddie for this sweet surprise!  Love, Peanut

Monday, October 22, 2012

Slow Cooker Cherry Cobbler (4 ingredients!)

In honor of my pharmacy student's last week, I wanted to make a special treat.  However, after working all weekend, Monday morning somehow crept up on me and I had 10 minutes before I had to leave for work.  So, in a moment of spontaneity/creativity/early morning madness, I came up with this super easy slow cooker recipe that I could throw together in our tiny little slow cooker at work.  Never having tried making cobbler in a slow cooker, I knew it was a risk, but decided to give it a shot anyway.  I halved this recipe which is intended for a standard sized crock pot.  The pictures are from my phone since this was shot "on location" at my pharmacy.

Slow Cooker Cherry Cobbler


- 2 cans cherry pie filling
- 1 box yellow or white cake mix
- 1/4 cup of butter, softened
- 1/4 c. chopped pecans, optional

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Butler's Homecoming & Chicken Soup with Ginger & Lemon

baby's first tailgate

I have been looking forward to going to Butler's homecoming for months now.  For the first time in several years, I was off work and able to attend the homecoming festivities.  We bought tickets to tailgate and planned lots of festivities in honor of our beloved alma mater.  But, as fate would have it, we all caught a cold.  Starting with Michael, then Annalyn, and finally me... stuffy noses, sore throats, the works.  Ugh.  But, we decided to make the best of it anyway.  So we ate soup, relaxed all morning/afternoon, and went up to Butler later in the day to tailgate and watch some of the football game. 

we love our Baby Bjorn & this carrier cover

Honestly, we felt pretty good after resting all day and had a great evening at Butler.  The football team pulled out a come-from-behind win (Go Dawgs!), we got to take an adorable family picture with Blue II and Trip (Butler's real-life bulldog mascot and mascot-in-training!), we got to see some of our old (and current) friends, and snuggle to keep our little sweetie warm.

Blue II & Blue III "Trip"

J, my college roomie & teammate

mama's snuggle bunny

In honor of our first family cold, here is the chicken soup I made to help us feel better.  (Peanut wasn't quite ready for this one, so I made her chicken with carrots, leeks, and baby rice cereal.  I added some salt-free chicken stock leftover from cooking this chicken puree to make it more like a soup.)

Chicken Soup with Ginger & Lemon

- 2 T. olive oil
- 1/2 c. Thai or wild rice
- 2 c. cooked chicken, shredded
- peels from 2 lemons, cut into 1-inch strips
- 2 T. fresh lemon juice
- 1 bunch green onions
- 1 onion, halved lengthwise
- 2 oz. fresh ginger (1-inch piece), thinly sliced
- 1 or 2 fresh Thai or serrano chiles, seeded and halved
- 1 t. whole black peppercorns
- 10 c. chicken stock
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 T. soy sauce
- 2 T. sweet chili sauce
- 1/2 c. shredded carrots
- 1/2 c. mushrooms, thinly sliced
- salt to taste

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dutch Oven Dijon Chicken Stew

For my birthday this year, Michael got me this beautiful blue dutch oven.  I've been so excited to try it out, and I finally came up with a good (and healthy!) recipe worthy of breaking it in. This WW friendly stew is only 6 points per 1 cup serving (makes about 6 servings).  Adding 1 cup of uncooked rice makes it 9 points per serving.

Dutch Oven Dijon Chicken Stew
- 1/4 c. water
- 3 T. Dijon mustard
- 1 T. cornstarch
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 c. sliced onion
- 3 T. minced garlic
- 1 t. dried rosemary
- 1 c. dry white wine
- 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 (10 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with green chilis
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, shredded or chopped
- 2 c. kale, chopped
- 2 c. chicken stock
- 1/4 t. salt
- 1/4 t. black pepper
- 1 c. uncooked rice, optional

break out the puffs...

baby appetizer & instant entertainment!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Peanut Post: No Cook Baby Food (Papaya & Banana)

Some of my favorite baby food meals are the simple no cook recipes that we can just mash and serve. Besides being fast and simple, these foods are also convenient to travel with since they don't require refrigeration. This is one of our newest additions to our super quick 'n easy baby food arsenal. Like bananas and avocado, papaya can be given to baby without cooking it first. It mashes easily and contains a lot of water, so it also mixes well with baby cereal. Papaya and bananas also make for a tasty combination that can be thrown together in a matter of minutes. Here's how Mama makes it:

No Cook Papaya & Banana Baby Food

-1 large ripe papaya
-2 ripe bananas
Daddy ate half of this papaya,
so I used 1/2 papaya & 1 banana

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Peanut Post: First Word

This week Annalyn said her first word (unless you count screams, squeals, and her spit bubble language).  Much to my chagrin, it was dadadadadada.  *sigh*   Just to make sure there was no mistake, she continued to scream it all through Target... dadadada!  dadadada!  Dada was beaming as he pushed her in the cart and Mama bought a dress to make her feel better.  Then I bought a matching one for Peanut, just to remind her that she's still Mama's girl.  When I asked her if she could say mamamama, she replied with lots of spit bubbles and the orneriest grin you can imagine... little stinker.  But gosh, do I love that baby!   Even thought it saddens me, I'm still incredibly proud of her babbling So here it is, caught on tape - Annalyn's first words (the day after that Target date).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Michael's Smoked Pulled Pork

Try as I might, I could not get Michael to write a guest post for his pulled pork recipe.  Apparently grading papers and watching football is higher on his list of priorities right now :)  So, I decided to do my best to explain the method behind the (delicious) madness.

Michael's Smoked Pulled Pork


(Michael makes his spice rub in bulk, so these are ratios.  For example, to make a small batch you could do 1 T. each of paprika and chili powder and 1/2 T. each of garlic, onion, and black pepper)

-1 paprika
-1/2garlic powder
-1 chili powder
-1/2 onion powder
-1/2 black pepper
-pork shoulder or boston butt cut

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Peanut Post: Pot Roast for Peanut

As Annalyn nears 8 months, we continue to challenge the boundaries of traditional baby food.  This time, I decided to duplicate the flavors of my mom's pot roast recipe.  Beef with carrots, potatoes, onions, and garlic... but baby style!  Honestly, it smelled and tasted just like my mom's pot roast (minus the salt/pepper).  Instead of cooking it in the slow cooker all day, I decided to make it on the stove while Annalyn was napping.  Here's how Peanut's mama makes it:

Peanut's Pot Roast
- 1 lb. beef for stew
- 1/4 c. chopped onion (about 1/8 of a medium onion)
- 1/4 t. minced garlic
- 1 medium red potato, chopped (peeled or unpeeled)
- 1/2 c. carrots
- 3/4 c. water

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mama's Meatloaf

Meatloaf is one of those dishes that causes most people to cringe at the mere mention of it.  One of our friends once told me that his mom actually used it as a form of punishment.  But not in our family.  Meatloaf is and will always be one of my all-time favorite meals.  This recipe has been handed down through the women in my family for several generations and is a favorite among my cousins and siblings.  Some know it as "Grandma's meatloaf," others as "Mom's meatloaf," each of us altering it slightly as we go (mostly because Grandma doesn't use a recipe so it's impossible to actually duplicate hers).  It's one of those recipes we had to learn to make by watching/helping from a young age.  That's part of what makes it so special and comforting.  Here's how this mama makes it:
 Mama's Meatloaf
made by mamas for generations

- 2 lbs. ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 pkg. reduced fat Ritz crackers, crushed
- 2 large eggs
- 2 T. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 t. Lawry's seasoning salt
- 1/2 t. black pepper
- 1/2 t. garlic powder
for the piquant sauce: (amounts are approximate, adjust to taste)
- 1 c. ketchup
- 1/4 c. mustard
- 1/4 c. brown sugar

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Day I Put My Punky in a Pumpkin

It was a warm, 70-something degree October day (thankfully!) that started out like any other. Breakfast with Mama, morning nap, afternoon play time with Daddy after work, carving pumpkins on the back porch... then being stuffed inside a jack-o-lantern? Yea, it might seem a little crazy, but how stinking cute is this little pumpkin?!

well, might as well make the best of it...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dad's Surprise 50th Birthday (White Chicken Chili Recipe)

the birthday boy!

This weekend we threw a surprise 50th birthday party for my dad. Between my cousins coming to visit with their baby girl, and the fact that it was actually on my birthday, he never saw it coming. Plus his birthday isn't for a couple of weeks yet. But boy, was it fun! We planned this party months ago when we found out that Nebraska and Ohio State were playing each other on my birthday. It sounded like the perfect opportunity to surprise Dad, and get a bunch of our family and friends together to watch the big game between my parents' home state Huskers and Michael's beloved Buckeyes.

our little husker & buckeye babies

In addition to good times, we also had quite the spread of food! Michael made his famous (at least to us) pulled pork in the smoker and then we put it in a slow cooker to keep it warm the day of the party (I'm hoping to get him to do a guest post on it, but not holding my breath...). I made a double batch of white chicken chili in the other crockpot, and we ordered upwards of 150 wings from KSR (a local hole-in-the-wall kind of place with the best wings ever!).  And of course, there was cake.  But for today, because it's freezing and fall and football season, here is my recipe for white chicken chili.

my amazing family

White Chicken Chili