Monday, December 23, 2013

Peanut Post: 22 Month Update

Dear little Peanut,

I can't believe that in 2 short months you will be celebrating your second birthday.  Going through pregnancy for a second time and looking so forward to the due date makes me remember just how quickly your birth came and went.  It's so funny how being a parent works - on the one hand, it seems like just a few months ago that you were in my belly, but on the other, you've been a part of my life forever.  Daddy and I still joke about how it feels like we're missing a limb when we go out without you (which isn't too often, but we try once in awhile).  Looking at you now just amazes me.  You are truly your own little person and becoming more and more independent every day.  On the one hand, we embrace this with the hope that you will fall into your big sis/big girl role happily and willingly.  Then again, it scares me to death.  My baby is growing up.... <sigh>.

A few milestones this month (and probably a lot more that my tired, pregnant brain has already forgotten):

- 3 new teeth!  Yep, all three of your remaining eye teeth decided to cut through at once.  Poor girl!  They are starting to work their way down and that will complete your baby teeth (at least til the next molars come).

- Climbing out of your crib - yep, as of the other night, you figured out how to swing that little leg up and over what I once thought of as the deepest, sturdiest, safest crib ever.  Aw, beginners.  Your motivation?  To snuggle.  For whatever reason, you insisted all night long that we should rock and snuggle as opposed to sleep.  So much that you climbed out of your crib to protest.  And the world changed forever.  You are no longer "caged" and Daddy and I are stuck deciding whether to put you in your big girl bed (which seems crazy since the one in your room now is a queen) or keep you in the crib as long as possible.  I guess we will see how it plays out...


I don't know why we were so surprised,
you basically climb everything lately!

- Wanting to sit at the table - For awhile it was enough to push your highchair up to the table, but lately you want to sit on a chair (a booster seat is also acceptible as long as it's on a big chair).  Too bad your not a little taller, because it would make this transition much easier!  But it is super cute and definitely easier to just plop you in a chair.




- Carrying on conversations - The past few months your talking has really taken off and now you're talking in fairly long sentences of 6-8 or more words.  You come up with ideas on your own and respond to questioning with sometimes surprisingly thoughtful answers.  That being said, the world is still pretty black and white to you.  But you have thoughts and wants and feelings and by golly, you aren't afraid to voice them!  Some of your favorite sentences lately are:  "I want a big sister, Mom!" "I want to watch baby videos on Mama's phone."  "I'm sitting on the table."  "I want to dance with Daddy"  "I want to put shoes/hat/shirt/pants/socks/slippers/etc. on/off"  and "I trust Dot-dot" (our older dog, I'm sure you heard us say this at one point, but not sure why you like to repeat it so much)

I want to dance!
(Cinderella is also a popular dance partner lately)

- Counting - You will now count on your own, always 1 to 6, and sometimes all the way to 10, but more likely it goes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 5, 10!  Hey, it's a start though.

- Basic shapes - this is a new one, but you are beginning to recognize basic shapes like circle and square.  Circle is definitely your favorite because you love rings, bracelets, circular pretzels (which also make good rings), etc.

- Reading to yourself - You've always loved books and loved for us to read them to you, but recently you've decided you like to "read" them, too.  We love listening to you tell us what's happening on each page.


 
- Learning (a few) manners - This has been/is still an ongoing battle, but you are finally learning to say please and thank you.  We have been trying hard to teach you table manners, as in don't throw your food, but this has been a battle.

- Helping - This isn't super new, but you've started to really like to help Mama and Daddy around the house with things like cooking, emptying the dishwasher (even when the dishes are dirty... unfortunately you can even open it on your own), vacuuming, and washing anything.  We're still working on picking up after yourself - of course, this is your least favorite chore to help with.

- Playing dress-up - This is a definite favorite since Aunt Lindsey got you a few princess dresses for Christmas!  A few days, this has pretty much been all you will wear.




This is definitely one of the most fun yet challenging stages you've been in.  With more independence comes more disagreements, more fits, and more challenges to just how far you can push us.  But we get to know you better and better each day through all your crazy/cute stories, expressions, and reactions to the world around you.  I am trying to treasure each day with you, even the difficult ones.  We can't wait until your baby sister gets here, but we also can't imagine not calling you the baby.  So let's just soak up every minute of just the three of us and you being the only center of our world.  What a wonderful world it is with you!  Love you like crazy, little Annalyn!

Love,

Mama



Tuesday, December 17, 2013

About Aboo: Gender Reveal!!

Thanks to modern technology, we were able to find out the gender of our little one earlier than if we'd had to wait for the mid-pregnancy ultrasound.  I had decided not to until I discussed it with my doctor, realized my insurance paid for at least part of it, and just couldn't help but want to know!  Basically the test works by analyzing fetal DNA that crosses the placenta into the mother's blood stream (it's a simple blood draw, completely non-invasive to baby - read about it here).  It's able to screen for numerous genetic/chromosomal abnormalities as well as X/Y (gender) with extremely high accuracy (>99%).  But that's enough of the science lesson for today... back to my kiddos!

As I've mentioned before, Annalyn has decided that tummy baby's name is Aboo or sometimes just Boo.  We've decided to go with a name we've loved for a long time, but figure it will make one cute nickname!  Annalyn was very excited when I told her baby Aboo's gender, so I decided to let her break the news to everyone:

video
 
 
We couldn't be more excited to meet our little one this spring.  Feeling so blessed to have another healthy baby in the making!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2013 Christmas Card Letter

Happy holidays, everyone!

It's that time of year again - writing Christmas cards, preparing for the upcoming holiday celebrations, and reflecting on the past year.  To be honest, 2013 has had a lot of ups and downs for our family.  It's been one of those years that I won't be sad to say goodbye to come New Year's Eve.  Don't get me wrong, we've had our fair share of joyous moments this year, too.  We'll try to focus on those.

For instance, who can resist these two ladies celebrating their first Eddie-Niedermeyer New Year's celebration?!  I remember thinking at the time, "they're just growing up so fast!"





Friday, December 6, 2013

Dear Baby: Week 14

Dear Baby,

Well, we are officially onto the second trimester!  So feel free to stop the nausea and hurling at any time now.  For some reason, my kids never seem to get that memo...  Mama is definitely starting to show, which seems crazy this early.  I also swear I have started feeling you move already.  Call me crazy, but at night when I'm laying super still, I can feel those first little flutters low in my abdomen.  According to BabyCenter, you're about the size of a lemon now.   Bye-bye seeds and legumes, on to the fruit comparisons!

Daddy and I have already started daydreaming about what you'll be like.  We wonder if you'll be as strong-willed and active as big sis, or more laid back and chill.  We still don't know your gender, so we have a lot of room to speculate on that, too.  I think we've picked out the names either way (definitely if you're a boy), so as soon as we know we can stop calling you tummy baby and start getting used to your name.  I just can't wait for that!  Call us crazy, but we like to name our little tummy babies as soon as we can.  You are already a little person and a part of our family, so we like to treat you as such.  I even have the main part of your stocking ready, just waiting to see if I'll be putting red or blue felt at the top for next Christmas (so your mama plans ahead a little). 

Let me think, what other milestones have we hit?  Well, we announced your existence to the world just before Thanksgiving, that's a big one.  Everyone's excited to meet you this Spring and see how Peanut deals with being a big sister.  Don't worry, we have high hopes that she won't toss you around like her baby dolls.  To be fair, she does kiss/hug them first.  Oh, and I can no longer button my pants, despite the fact that I've lost weight.  On to the elastic for us, kiddo!  Looking forward to lots and lots more milestones in the coming months and years.

Love you like crazy,

Mama

a beautiful snowy morning,
just 6 more months until your due date!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Harmless but Hurtful

I've been wrestling with how and whether to write this post for awhile now, but decided to attempt it anyway.   Even if you can't relate to this specific topic, I'm sure everyone has experienced those well-meaning but oh-so-gut-wrenching remarks that you just wish you could block out.  Over the past several years of struggling to get pregnant, first with Annalyn, then with baby #2, we've sure had our fair share.  The topic of kids seems to be one that nobody thinks twice about bringing up.  Working with the public, I get a double dose of questioning, prodding, and down-right rude remarks.  Since when is it ok to TELL (not ask) someone that it's really time to start having kids, or another kid?  How is that not one of the most personal, private decisions ever?  Call me sensitive, but after nearly a year of trying for each of my kiddos, the last thing I want to hear is, "Well, isn't it about time for another one?  You don't want to wait too long, you know."  Gee, thanks for clearing that up for me...

Even though I am pretty much an open book when it comes to most aspects of my life, I am very private about this one.  Not because I am ashamed or embarrassed, but because it's just hurtful to talk about.  Either you tell everyone you're trying and get constant questions about whether it's happened yet, you tell no one and bear the burden between the two of you, or you tell a select few and hope that they have the respect and kindness to pray for you, send happy thoughts your way, all the while not asking a thing.  I'm glad to talk to close friends and family about this stuff - on my terms.  On the flip side, I will never ask you (or I hope I won't!  I'll admit that I've made this mistake before.  I was just as ignorant before kids, too.).  I am always excited to talk to people about babies, the prospect of babies, and even the struggles of waiting for babies.  But I have absolutely learned not to ask.  Not because I don't care, but because I've been there.

So next time you're wondering why your friend, relative, neighbor, or co-worker hasn't started having kids, or had x amount of kids (as if there's a perfect number?), stop and think for a second that a.) the timing isn't right for them, b.) they are trying and it just isn't happening yet, and c.) it's just none of your darn business until they share that information.  Don't judge people for having one or two kids - maybe they were thrilled to be blessed with the ones they have.   Don't judge people for waiting to have kids - why rush something that will change your life forever?  If you get nothing else out of this post, please just think twice before tossing out these seemingly harmless but potentially very hurtful questions.  Show some compassion and awareness that infertility affects more people than you think and even your closest friends may not be ready to share that part of themselves with you.  Modern medicine and the gift of adoption allows so many couples to get their miracles, but it still takes time and resources, and unfortunately heartbreak and disappointment along the way.  God takes longer to make some babies than others.  His timing is perfect, but good luck convincing parents of that before that little miracle arrives.  In the meantime, it feels like everyone on the planet is getting pregnant before you.  And as genuinely happy as you are for them, each one feels like a little punch to the gut.  It's nothing personal against them, or towards you, but it hurts just the same.  Please don't be offended if I can't express my joy like I'd like to - assume I'm on some fun new medication that makes me crazy/angry/irritable/emotional/sick/you name it.  Some of you know exactly what I'm talking about.

I don't want this to sound like a rant, I'm just trying to express to you all something near and dear to my heart with the hope that it will spare even a few people's feelings by keeping those harmless but hurtful remarks to yourself.  If you are still in the middle of your infertility journey, I feel for you.  Mine is nothing compared to that of some friends, patients, relatives, and strangers.  Just have faith that miracles and science are happening every day and yours is waiting.  And the heartbreak and frustration you endure to get there makes you appreciate pregnancy and parenthood more than you can know.  Even if pregnancy kicks your butt, too, it's amazing how appreciative you can be of every meal you don't keep down, every backache after a long day, and every worry that will absolutely plague your mind throughout those 9 months of more waiting.  But it's worth it.  Believe me, friends, it is so worth it.

With lots of love and happy thoughts,

Mama

Convos with Peanut: Tummy Baby

Mama - Annalyn, where's Mama's tummy baby? <she points to my belly>  Do you like tummy baby?

Peanut - hug, kiss...  aww, so cute!  <whilst patting/hugging/kissing my belly>

Mama - Anna, do you think tummy baby is a baby girl or a baby boy?  (granted this answer changes about daily)

Peanut - Baby booooy <smiling>

Mama - What should we name baby boy?

Peanut - Giiiirl!!!  <she says with lots of excitement>

Mama (looking at Daddy laughing) - Well, Johnny Cash might approve of a boy named girl, but we might want to think of some other options...

This was a couple weeks ago, she now insists that tummy baby's name is "aboo" or just "boo." Again, I have no clue where she came up with it :) 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dear Baby: Week 10

11/8/13:

Dear Baby,

We are a fourth of the way there!  Getting so close to the end of the dreaded first trimester and time to tell the world of your existence.  Still not feeling great, but honestly starting to feel better already! (A big change from your sister where a threw up til week 24... hoping this is a good sign.)  We've had 3 ultrasounds now, and the last two we've been able to see/hear your heartbeat, which is one of my favorite parts of pregnancy.  I can't wait until you're big enough to use my stethoscope to listen in.  I feel like I'm already starting to show a little (partially from the bloating thanks to supplemental progesterone and pregnancy itself, but also probably your expanding home.)  I can't believe how much different my second pregnancy is - I assume this means you will be different, too, as most siblings are.  No major feelings one way or another as far as your gender, but anxious to find out already.  The last ultrasound (at about 9 weeks) was a fun one - you're looking more like a little baby already (or more accurately a gummy bear) and wiggled around for me to see.  Very comforting for a nervous mama.  This week we've officially told most of our family and a few close friends, which is starting to make it feel more real.  Everyone is thrilled to meet you.  "Uncle" Jeff and Derek's prediction is that you will come during the Indy 500 around Memorial Day and it will be an even better story than Daddy being at Moe & Johnny's when my water broke with Annalyn (even though Daddy's never gone to the 500 with them, they are still hopeful!).  I don't know about that, but feel free to come a little early like big sis - it sure made for an easier delivery.

This pregnancy is so much different than the first.  For one, I feel pretty darn good during the day (as long as I eat constantly) but awful as soon as night sets in.  I'm sleeping great (partially due to the Diclegis for nausea which contains doxylamine, an antihistamine similar to Benadryl).  Daddy's hoping this means you're a boy, but I just can't decide.  Most people that know me are saying boy, but we have some girl votes, too. We will find out soon enough I suppose.  Just keep growing and developing and becoming the amazing little person we look forward to meeting next spring and we will be happy, proud parents.  It's funny how much I've connected with you already.  I talk to you in the car, I dream about you and what you'll be like (in between the hilarious and slightly embarrassing dreams about eating filet mignon, mostly because it's near impossible to cook one well done and I know this).  Not too many cravings yet, but more like I try something that works and stick with it for awhile until it "doesn't work."  For a couple weeks it was Jimmy John's BLTs, yesterday it was Thai sweet and sour chicken, the last week it was Lean Cuisine frozen paninis.  Good thing I work in a grocery store with lots of options! 

Much the same as with Annalyn, I LOVE being pregnant.  Despite the nausea, constipation, exhaustion, emotional craziness, etc., I've never felt better about myself.  The sense of purpose, the realization of the amazing miracle happening inside me, the anticipation of getting to meet you and becoming a family of 4 - all of it thrills me.  Daddy says he can't wait until my belly is huge and he can feel you move.  That's what really makes it real for him.  In the meantime, Daddy is my saving grace.  I can't believe how much he's picked up the slack around the house while I've been sick.  Please thank him for that someday when you're old enough to understand. 

Big Sis calls you "tummy baby" and loves to hug, kiss, and pat-pat my belly.  I can tell my belly's getting bigger because as soon as I take my coat off after work, she points and runs over to greet "tummy baby."  We're hoping this is a good sign and that she'll be excited to embrace her new role as Big Sister.

I guess that's really all I have to report for now.  Love you like crazy, little bean.

Love,
Mama

Dear Baby: Week 6/7

10/10/13:
Dear Baby,

Although I won't be posting this for awhile, I figured today was the perfect day to start writing to you.  This afternoon I have my first OB appointment and ultrasound.  I'm a crazy hormonal mix of excited, nervous, nauseous (oh so nauseous!  Thanks for that...), and anxious as I sit on the couch eating salty potato chips (don't judge, if it keeps me from hurling all morning and being dehydrated, it's better than nothing).  Your big sister is still sleeping and I'm just daydreaming about what I'll get to see this afternoon.  After a spotting scare last week, I still have my reservations about getting too excited, but at the same time, I can't help but hope.  With full blown nausea starting this week (over a week earlier than it did with Annalyn), I'm actually hopeful that all is well.  Between you and me, I actually have a strange feeling that you might be twins (yikes!), but only time will tell. Your dad doesn't get to come to the appointment today because it's the last day of his semester at school.  We are both bummed, but he's made me promise to text him updates constantly.  We are both so excited for you. Well, your big sis is waking up, so this letter will have to be a quick one.  Hoping to see you later, little heartbeat and all.  Love you already sweet baby.

Love,

Mama

10/11/13:
Dear Baby,

Well, the ultrasound came and went but not much to report.  The general consensus was that 5 weeks 6 days is just too early to see much (although that's the exact day I saw Annalyn's heartbeat for the first time).  I guess you're going to be more like Daddy and do things on your own time.  Might be a good thing to have one less type A personality in this house anyway.  The doctor says everything looks good for being this far along and scheduled another ultrasound for next week, so hoping to see more then.  As for my twin premonition, well, I wasn't exactly right.  They did see what looked to be a second gestational sack, but nothing was developing in it, so looks like you're going it alone (at least til you're born and meet your big sis).  Mama is in full blown morning/afternoon/night/all day long sickness which is just super.  It's so much harder this time because I can't just lay in bed all day on my days off.  Once again, Pizza Lunchables seem to get me through (at least today) - gross, I know but hey, it's better than hurling all day on an empty stomach.  (Today was my first official puke, too.  Ah, your first milestone!)  Aside from that and the emotional swings (which I totally blame on Glee's tribute to Cory Monteith - again, showing my guilty pleasure/girly side), I'm doing ok.  Still hopefull that all is well and you're growing as you should.  I feel like the extreme nausea is a good sign right now.  No strong feelings as far as your gender yet, but I really didn't with Annalyn either.  My prayers are wasted on things like healthy, happy, and whole instead of blue or pink, so focusing on that.  Love you like crazy.

Mama

10/17/13:

Dear Baby:

Today we were sooo excited to see your tiny heartbeat for the first time.  Daddy and Annalyn came along and they got to see/hear it, too. (Not that there's much to see at just under 7 weeks, but a beating heart was music to my ears).  We love you like crazy.  Still super sick - looks like you're going to be more like your big sis than I thought.

Love,

Mama

Peanut Post: We've been baking!!!

Since I couldn't send out cards to everyone, I decided to scan them in so I could finally share some of these adorable pics from our baking cookies photo shoot (pictures courtesy of Golden Light Photography, matching aprons courtesy of my super talented mother-in-law).  I decided to let Peanut narrate them since she tells such good stories these days...


"Mama and I have been doing lots of baking lately.
I thought we were making cookies,
but Mama says there's a bun in the oven..."


"She also stays there's a baby in her belly,
but I guess we have to wait 'til early June (due 6/6/14)
to meet my new brother or sister.
I'm sure glad cookies don't take that long to cook!
Wish you were here to share them with us."

Love,
"soon-to-be BIG sister,"
Annalyn


Monday, November 25, 2013

Last Minute Thanksgiving Menu Planning

Since I just haven't gotten around to cooking up any exciting new Thanksgiving recipes ahead of time this year, I figured I would give you a list of my favorite turkey day recipes.  I did a whole series of plan ahead recipes last year, so they are just ready and waiting to be compiled!  Here's how Mama does Thanksgiving:

1.  The turkey:  This lemon herb turkey recipe is my favorite way to roast the bird.  Try it with clementine oranges for a twist on this classic.



2.  Garlic mashed potatoes:  For me, there's only one way to do mashed potatoes - skins on, whole garlic mashed in, sour cream, butter, and lots of lumps.  Not a fan of garlic?  Leave it out, the potatoes won't mind. 


Friday, November 22, 2013

Peanut Post: 21 month update

Although my blog has been on a bit of a break lately, I just have to take time and tell you about how much my little Peanut has grown up in the past few months.  The pics are from my phone because the only little photo shoot I've done with you lately are your Christmas pics.  I don't really have any new stats since we (luckily) haven't been to the doctor in awhile, but there are plenty of other changes.  About a month or two ago, you suddenly started talking in sentences. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

8 Things You Never Thought To Do With a Crabapple

Here's a fun list I've been compiling of things to do with crabapples - you know, those little cherry-sized guys that fall from the trees every Fall and inevitably end up being stepped on and smashed?  Well, apparently they are edible (taste like very tart little apples) and can be made into lots of delicious creations.  To be honest, we didn't get ours harvested this year, but I decided to share some of the yummy ideas I had for them anyway.  Maybe next year I can try a few!  Here's the links:












Hopefully these will inspire some awesome fall favorites that you can make from your own trees (or the neighbors, as long as you share the end result!).  Let me know if you've had, made, or heard of any of these or any others.  I'm really hoping to try cooking with crabapples one of these years! 

Happy Monday!

Love, Mama

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pumpkin & Apple Breakfast Quinoa

Here's a delicious fall recipe that I made for breakfast the other day.  Packed with flavor and nutrients, but low on WW points, this is a definite crowd pleaser!  Here's how Mama makes it:
Pumpkin & Apple Breakfast Quinoa

Ingredients:
- 1 c. uncooked quinoa
- 2 sprays cooking spray
- 1 T. salted butter, divided
- 2 medium apples, chopped or diced
- 1/3 c. dried cranberries
- 2 c. cold water
- 1 c. canned pumpkin (not the pie filling)
- 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice
- 3 T. packed brown sugar
- 1/4 c. skim milk
- 1/4 c. chopped pecans, for garnish

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Grape Jelly Turkey Meatballs

Here's a quick and simple recipe that's sure to become a tailgate favorite.  In honor of Butler's homecoming (which sadly I'll be missing this year since I have to work), here's a 3 ingredient staple of any tailgate or football watching day.  Go Dawgs!!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Grape Jelly Turkey Meatballs

Ingredients:
-1 package frozen turkey meatballs
- 1 small jar grape jelly
- 1 bottle BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pie Crust Cookies

In honor of my mom's birthday today, here's one of her favorite recipes that she used to make a lot when we were kids.  (Minus the honey of course, because she's not a fan.)  It's simple, yet oh so yummy and will satisfy any cinnamon/sugar craving.  I decided to make some the other night as a special treat for my family with the extra pie crust I had in the fridge.  Annalyn and Michael definitely approved!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Pie Crust Cookies

Ingredients:
- 1 pastry for 1 crust pie (I used an extra Pillsbury roll out crust I had on hand)
- 2 T. yogurt butter
- 2 T. cinnamon/sugar
- 1 T. honey

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment.  Roll out the pie crust and place on the prepared pan.

2.  Spread butter evenly across the pastry, then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.




3.  Fold the pastry in half and cut into slices.   Sprinkle with a little more cinnamon and sugar.  Separate slices slightly, then bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.





4.  Remove from oven and drizzle with honey.  Serve warm alone or with a little ice cream or whipped cream.







Peanut was pretty excited for her evening treat!  Especially when we handed her a whole one - "Big one!  Mmmm, delicious!"  (one of her latest and most adorable sayings!)





Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Baby Product Review: Sucup Feeder

Here's a new innovative product recommended by one of my readers.  As you all know, I'm a complete sucker for gadgets, especially baby gadgets, so I was super curious.  After checking out the site (www.sucup.com),  I was so impressed and intrigued by this unique design that I couldn't resist ordering one just to see how it worked. 


The product is made in the UK and received a prestigious double gold award at the British Invention Show in 2012.  The Sucup comes in two different models - the Teeny-Weany for babies 4+ months just starting on solids, and the Toddler for babies 10+ months which is designed for lumpier foods and purees.  (Obviously I ordered the Toddler version for Annalyn since she's 19 months and been eating table food for awhile now.) The cost from the US was $16.37 and I received it within a week!

After ordering the product, I actually received a personal email from the inventor thanking me for my order and asking for my feedback.  Wow, talk about amazing customer service!  They even waived my postage charge since I was their first overseas order (though I'd imagine there will be more coming soon!).


At first look, the Sucup may seem a little intimidating because of all the parts, but it comes with great directions and is super easy to put together and use.  Here's my step by step directions on how to assemble the product:

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Return of Chili Season!

For the first time in awhile, I actually waited until official Fall to make a big pot of chili.  Usually the first day under 70 degrees, I get excited and go for it, but with all the wedding craziness in the past month, I had lots to distract me.  So imagine my excitement over this delicious chili on the third day of Fall. 



In our house, we make all kinds of chili.  A couple of our favorite (and most frequently made) ones are chicken chilies (like this and this one), but this time I decided to make a good old-fashioned beef chili like both of our mamas always made.  Well, sort of...  I started with a good old-fashioned typical chili base - beef, tomato, beans, onion, and chili powder, but added some Eddie favorites, too.  We have unique tastes in our household, so green/black olives, garden jalapenos, and a little Cajun seasoning were also involved.  All three of us LOVED it!  Here's how Mama makes it for her loves:

Family Favorite Beef Chili
Ingredients:
(8 WW pts per 1 c. serving)
- 1 lb. ground beef (5% or less fat)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 T. minced garlic
- 1 jalapeno, chopped and seeded
- 7 oz. can chopped green chilies
- 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 14.5 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- two 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- two 2.25 oz. cans sliced black olives
- 1/3 c. sliced green olives
- 2 c. chicken stock
- 1/4 c. chili powder
- 2 T. Cajun seasoning
- 1 t. cumin
Serving suggestion:  top with small amount of reduced fat shredded cheese (may affect WW pt values)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Feta-Stuffed Turkey Burgers with Tomato Jam

Here's a yummy WW-friendly treat my Michael grilled for us the other night.  My homemade tomato jam is the perfect compliment to this tasty turkey burger, but you could always substitute ketchup.  This could easily make 4 burgers, but my hubby refuses to make burgers any smaller than 1/3 lb.  Here's how Mama & Daddy make it:

Feta-Stuffed Turkey Burgers with Tomato Jam

Ingredients:
(makes three 1/3 lb burgers, ... 9 WW pts each)
- 1 lb. ground turkey
- 1/3 c. onion, chopped
- 1/4 c. feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 t. cumin
- 1/4 t. oregano
- salt & black pepper, to taste
- 3 low-fat buns
- 3 T. tomato jam

Thursday, September 26, 2013

My Brother's Mario Groom's Cake

I just had to share a picture of the groom's cake I made for my brother, Travis's wedding last weekend.  The top two layers are fondant on cake boards, and the bottom layer is a white almond confetti cake with buttercream icing and filling (because my brother's awesome like that).  After it's fair share of issues, the cake actually turned out really cute. 

"you are my star; together we are invincible"
I couldn't think of a better way to tie in the Mario theme
to the marriage of my brother and his bride
 
We've been playing Super Mario since we were kids, so this cake is not only fun, but it also reflects my brother and a little piece of our childhood.  Because what's a wedding without tradition?
 

 
Of course, you want to see this beautiful bride and handsome groom, too!

 
 

And what wedding would be complete without an adorable flower girl ;)


I just couldn't resist a picture with my Travi - didn't he look great?!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Gluten Free Mini Dutch Apple Pies

It is so cool to see all the new gluten free products that are becoming available lately.  A new one I tried recently was this Pillsbury Pie Crust.  It comes in a tub like butter and after a little kneading, is ready to roll out and use.  It makes two crusts or 1 muffin pan full of mini crusts.  Since I was short on time and had friends coming over, I decided to avoid the flour mess and just press them into the muffin tin.  Amazingly, the proportions were perfect for 12 little mini pies!  Using a quart of my pie filling and some gluten free flour to make a crumb topping, it made these perfect little pies. We decided not to tell Michael and see if he noticed a difference.  Impressively, he said he's have never known it was gluten free.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Gluten Free Mini Dutch Apple Pies 

Ingredients:
- 1 tub Pillsbury gluten free pie dough
- 1 quart apple pie filling (or about two cans of filling)
- 1 c. gluten free flour mix
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 1 1/2 t. cinnamon
- 1/2 t. salt
- 6 T. chilled butter cut into chunks


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kale Chips

As I've mentioned before, my baby is now absolutely crazy about kale chips.  And by kale chips, I mean pieces of kale that have been washed, dried, tossed in olive oil and salt, then baked until dried and crispy.  It's that simple, but soooo good!  And don't tell Peanut, but it's super healthy, too!  Thanks again to my friend Brittany for introducing us to another favorite tasty snack.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Kale Chips

Ingredients:
- 1 bunch kale; chopped, washed, and dried (I used some pre-wahed bagged kale leftover from making soup)
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 t. salt, or to taste (or try other spices, like seasoned salt, garlic, or cayenne)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Chicken Sausage & Mushroom Casserole

Here's a delicious, hearty Weight Watchers meal that was a hit with the whole family.  The portions are big and it combines veggies, meat, whole grains, and dairy all in one dish.  Not to mention, it yields lots of leftovers for the rest of the week - a definite plus for a working mama!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Chicken Sausage & Mushroom Casserole

Ingredients:
makes 8 servings, 9 WW pts each
- 12 oz. uncooked whole wheat rotini
- 1 t. olive oil
- 1/2 c. panko breadcrumbs
- 2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 t. Italian seasoning
- 8 oz. cooked Italian chicken sausage, thinly sliced
- 1 medium yellow pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 medium uncooked onion, chopped
- 1 lb. sliced mushrooms
- 1/4 c. sliced black olives
- 2 T. water
- 4 c. marinara sauce (I didn't have this much, so I used 3 c. marinara, 1/4 c. tomato paste, and 3/4 c. water to make up the difference - this does not affect point values)
- 1 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wedding Cake Timeline

Recently, I had the honor of making a small wedding cake for some of our closest friends here in Indy.  I also made 15 or so pies, but that's another story (read about it here)...  The cake itself was very simple and classy, just a small two layer 6" round white almond cake with apricot filling and buttercream icing.  Like the wedding, the bride asked that it not be too fussy - just simple, elegant, and tasty.  Super easy order, right?  Well, add in a full time job (including working pretty much up until the ceremony that day), a very curious toddler, and 15 pies to make the day before, and now it seems a little more daunting.  Completely doable, but definitely requires planning.  So I started researching timelines for making wedding cakes, in terms of when to bake, fill, crumb coat, decorate, and if/when to freeze, how to store/transport, and so on and so forth.  It's amazing how much goes into this one little tiny piece of the wedding!  Who knew? 


Basically, what I found was that it is pretty common to bake the cakes a few days before and freeze them while still warm.  This locks in the moisture, makes the cake easier to fill/ice, and saves you some time as you get closer to the big day.  Definitely not an essential step, but made absolute sense for me.  Here was the timeline I used (and loved!):

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bacon, Egg, & Tomato Jam Breakfast Sandwich

I just had to share this morning's quick but delicious breakfast sandwich.  A toasted whole grain English muffin, hard fried egg (using just a little cooking spray), and a slice of microwave bacon, with just a bit of tomato jam.  It was heavenly.  And only 7 WW points - unbelievable compared to most restaurant breakfast sandwiches. 


Peanut helped me make another big batch of tomato jam yesterday to use up all the cherry tomatoes before they go bad (we just can't keep up lately!).  She loved getting to help stir (before the pot was too hot), and cleanup with the vacuum attachment.  I love that she's started the Mama's little helper stage - so adorable!

Bacon, Egg, & Tomato Jam Breakfast Sandwich


Ingredients:
- 1 whole grain lite English muffin
- 1 slice microwavable, pre-cooked bacon
- 1 egg, hard-fried
- cooking spray
- 1 T. tomato jam (can substitute a little cheese, dijon mustard, or your favorite savory sauce if you haven't jumped on the tomato jam bandwagon yet)
- freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1.  Spray a small omelet pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the egg and a little pepper.  Meanwhile, toast the muffin and heat the bacon.

2.  Flip the egg and continue cooking until yoke is solid (break it if you have to in a pinch).  Add a little more pepper.  Assemble the sandwich - egg, bacon, jam.  Eat if you have time, or wrap in foil to go.  I felt so spoiled!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Gluten Free Tapioca Cheese Rolls

The Gluten-Free Goddess strikes again!  My friends Brittany & Jen came over for a dinner feast last week and made these AMAZING gluten free rolls.  They were beautifully light, fluffy, cheesy, garlicky, and super simple.  Plus, they're made in a mini-muffin tin so you feel less guilty about eating, oh, say 8 of them.  I can never believe how delicious gluten free can be, but this girl is making me a believer.  I snapped some action shots while she was cooking, because I just do that sort of thing.  Here's how we made it:

Gluten Free Tapioca Cheese Rolls


Ingredients:
(makes about 36 mini-rolls, 1 WW point each)
- 1/3 c. olive oil
- 2/3 c. skim milk
- 1 egg
- 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
- 1 t. salt
- 1 1/4 c. tapioca flour
- 1/4 c. cornstarch
Serving suggestions:  garlic butter/spread, tomato jam