Thursday, February 28, 2013

Engagement Photos: Best of T & M, Black & White

Last weekend I had the privilege of photographing my baby brother and his beautiful fiance.   Sure it was about 30 degrees outside, and yes, that is snow on the ground, but these two didn't even seem to notice.  There were so many amazing photos, I decided to break it up into a few posts.  For today, here's the my favorites in black & white.  Some of these I practically shot in black & white because I could just tell they'd be perfect without color.  Hope these love birds make you smile :)


I love how this one tells a story

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Frozen Fruit Slush

This is hands down one of my favorite desserts/ snacks/ foods/ drinks.  It's cool and refreshing on a hot summer day.  It works wonders on a sore throat.  It's a pregnant lady's dream and her worst enemy (I would practically eat the entire bowl towards the end of my pregnancy).  It's a kid's favorite way to eat fruit and think of it as dessert (I've been making this since my cousins taught me as a kid).  Add some ginger ale and 7-up and you have a perfect punch for your next party or shower.  Add some sparkling wine and you have a slushy fruity spritzer.  I've used many different combinations of fruit based on taste/ texture/ preference, but this is by far my favorite.  You can use fresh, canned or even frozen fruit.  Just remember, if you buy canned fruit, to look for ones packed in juice or water instead of syrup.  I like to eat it straight from the fridge or just slightly thawed.  I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have over the years.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Frozen Fruit Slush

- 1 can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
- 1 can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
- 3 c. water
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 can crushed pineapple
- 2 cans peaches, chopped
- 1 can mandarin oranges, whole or cut in half
- 1 c. sliced strawberries
- 1 can tart cherries (I used this instead of strawberries in the batch I made for Peanut to try since I haven't given her strawberries yet).

Monday, February 25, 2013

So much for a vacation...

Sorry for the lack of posts last week. Despite having my first vacation week since Annalyn was born, I ended up with zero "Mama time." I envisioned this perfect week with lots of Mama/Peanut time and intimate little bday celebrations. On the plus side, I ended up with lots of extended family time, some much-needed Niedermeyer time, and even got to take my brother and his fiancé's engagement photos (which I will be sharing soon!). Unfortunately the week also included Grandpa's funeral, hospital bill drama (12 mos later!), driving all day on Valentine's Day and Peanut's bday, and Annalyn's first (and very sad) ear infection. Where's my cape again? I must have misplaced it...

But last night, just as we were about to go to bed with the hope of our poor sick baby sleeping through the night, my little peanut inspired me. My sick, exhausted little lady climbed up a whole flight of stairs (with Mama close behind) and walked to her room. Obviously she had found her cape :)

I promise I have some yummy recipes, adorable pics, and a 1 year old post coming soon. But for now, here's my brave little lady...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Toddler Meals: Pasta with Beef & Veggie Sauce

As Annalyn gets older and starts eating table foods, I'm starting to explore the world of "toddler meals."  Now don't get me wrong, in general, she eats what we eat, just cut up smaller.  But occasionally (especially for lunch or on days that I work), we need healthy, easy to make meals on hand for her.  Much like her purees, I freeze them in small containers so they can be reheated quickly or set in the fridge the night before so it's thawed for the babysitter the next day.  I especially like those little 4 oz. dressing containers that come in the Rubbermaid sets... it seems to be a good amount for her lately.  Here's a recipe that I love because of the nutrition (2 greens & 2 orange veggies!) and she loves because of the taste. 

Pasta with Beef & Veggie Sauce

- 1/2 lb. ground beef
- 1 T. unsalted butter
- 1/2 c. chopped onion
- 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 1 c. diced sweet potato
- 1 c. green peas, frozen or fresh
- 1 large carrot, grated
- 1 t. minced garlic
- 2 c. water
- 1 1/2 c. kale, washed & chopped
- 1/2 t. italian seasoning
- 1 c. uncooked small pasta, such as stars or alphabets (can also use spaghetti broken into small pieces or rice)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Birthday Milk

Today is my baby's first birthday, and we are spending it driving in the car all day... *sigh* I haven't gotten around to writing her 1 year old post yet, but here's a funny/sweet little tradition of ours. Every year we (aka I) try to buy milk with a sell by date on our birthdays (or anniversary, or a family member's birthday, etc.). With all the commotion of the last couple weeks I honestly hadn't paid any attention. Which made the fact that Michael bought her one even sweeter. Mama was touched, Daddy was proud, and Peanut was thirsty and just wanted some milk! Happy birthday, sweetheart!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Today We Celebrate...

Today we celebrate my grandfather and the amazing life he lived.  I could go on about what a devoted husband, loving father and grandfather he was, but Grandpa was a man of few words.  He often joked about how Grandma could take a sentence and make it a long-winded story... he also noted on several occasions that I inherited that gift? curse? trait from her.  Hence this blog.  So, Grandpa, rather than go on and on with every single detail, I'll keep it short and sweet (just like you'd like it) and commemorate your life through pictures.

Robert E. Banghart 2/7/33 - 2/11/13

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day filled with love!
Mama, Daddy, & Peanut

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Family Friendly Cooking: Porcupine Meatballs

Here's a recipe that's not only delicious, but fun for kiddos of all ages.  They are essentially meatballs with uncooked long grain rice mixed in, so when cooked, the rice swells and pokes out like little porcupine quills.  I used a sauce similar to the piquant sauce I put on my meatloaf, which results in a nice sweet & sour flavor.  My mom used to make them using spaghetti sauce, I think... I really just remember how cute and fun they were.  No matter how you make them, they are sure to be a hit!  Here's how Mama makes 'em:

Porcupine Meatballs


- 1 lb. lean ground beef, uncooked
- 1/4 c. onion, finely chopped
- 1/3 c. uncooked long grain rice
- 1/4 c. water
- 1 t. salt
- 1/2 t. pepper
- 1 1/2 c. ketchup
- 1/4 c. mustard
- 1/3 c. brown sugar
- 1/2 c. chicken stock
- 1 t. dried thyme

Friday, February 8, 2013

Slow Cooker Tamale Pie

Here's a yummy casserole inspired by one of my favorite Mexican dishes.  Unlike it's labor-intensive namesake, this dish is simple and relatively quick to make.  And thanks to my good friends Val & Milton, there's a lot of walk away time (yup, I named my slow cookers Val & Milton... they're made by Rival and Hamilton Beach... I also named my minivan Chryssie Chrysler... forgive me, I'm corny and apparently not that inventive when it comes to naming). 

I love the ease of the slow cooker because it allows me to cook dinner during Annalyn's morning nap on my days off, but if you're schedule doesn't allow it, this can easily be made in the oven, too!  Instead of a slow cooker, layer ingredients in a large casserole dish (spray with some cooking spray first) and cook at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes until cornbread is cooked through.  I could think of so many variations for this dish, too!  Try making it with ground turkey or shredded chicken instead of beef...  topping with salsa verde or enchilada sauce... mixing in some jalapenos with the cornbread mixture to give it an extra kick... the possibilities are endless!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Slow Cooker Tamale Pie


- 1 lb. ground  beef (as lean as possible)
- 2-3 T. taco seasoning (see my recipe here)
- 1/2 c. chicken stock
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 cup grated carrot (optional, but adds some nutrients without affecting flavor!)
- 1 can kidney beans
- 1/4 c. each black/green olives, chopped (also optional, but recommended!)
- 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
for the topping: (if using a large slow cooker, you may want to double this... I used my smaller one and it was the perfect amount)
- 1 (8.5 oz.) box cornbread mix (Jiffy suggested)
- 1/3 c. milk
- 1 egg
- 1/2 c. shredded cheese (low fat, if possible... I was out)
- 3/4 c. creamed style corn
optional add-ins:  jalapenos (mix into cornbread mixture), salsa verde/enchilada sauce, green pepper or poblanos (mix into meat)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Baby Product Review: Squooshi Reusable Food Pouches (& Mango-Carrot-Spinach-Applesauce)

After trying the Beaba Babypote and researching similar products available, I decided to give the Squooshi pouches a try.  They are similar to the disposable food pouches you can buy in the store, but have a zipper pouch on one end and cute animals on each side.  I ordered a 4-pack of the large (4.5 oz) meal size pouches, and they actually threw in a trial of the small (2.5 oz) snack size pouches.

this is the snack sized pouch

The pouches are easy to clean, easy to fill, and overall easy to use.  Annalyn has no problem squeezing them (but unfortunately she likes to watch herself do so, which can make for a mess... I really have to watch her while she eats these lately) and can easily get every last bit of puree out.  The zipper seal seems to be pretty strong and reliable, but I haven't pushed this too much (as in, see what happens if baby squeezes like crazy when the lid is on). 

washes easily with warm soapy water

I have, however, learned the importance of putting the lid on before filling the pouch.  Yes, I absolutely did that, and felt pretty embarrassed for making such a ridiculous mistake, but cooking/filling pouches is getting much harder now that Annalyn is mobile (and obsessed with the dogs' water dish).  To make things worse, not only did I let some drip through the spout, but my reaction was to quickly grab (and unfortunately squeeze) the pouch, sending more of it spewing out the zipper end... *sigh*  I then proceeded to remove the baby from the dog dish, wash her hands and set her down so I could start cleaning up the mess that covered my clothes, cabinets, counters, and floor.  Before I could even remove my puree-soaked sweatshirt, I looked down to find my daughter eating handfuls of it off the floor. *sigh*  There's a making mama moment for ya!  Of course, I did what every good mama would do... wipe her hand off, snap a pic, and quickly clean up everything in baby's arms reach!  

Here's the recipe I  made that she seems to really like (from the pouch or off the floor!):


- 1 c. mango, frozen or fresh
- 1 c. sliced carrots, frozen or fresh
- 1/4 c. water
- 1/2 c. packed spinach, frozen or fresh
- 1/2 c. no sugar added applesauce

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Peanut Post: Cake Smash Photos!!

And now for the fun ones!  I was so pleased with how these photos turned out.  I think my favorite part is that there was nothing professional about them... homemade cake, tutu, backdrop, lighting (made by mother nature), and baby! 


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Peanut Post: Annalyn's First Birthday Banana Cake

This past week, I decided to take Annalyn's cake smash pictures for her first birthday.  I've always loved the pics of the chubby little babies playing in their birthday cakes with icing all over their hands, feet, and faces.  But with all our little family celebrations coming up, I really wanted to be able to sit back and celebrate our little lady's first year instead of scrambling to take pictures and hoping she'd cooperate.  To make all our lives a little easier, I made the executive decision to devote a morning to just playing in cake. 

First order of business was to make the cake!  Since this one was all for Peanut, I decided to make her a banana flavored cake.  Never having made one before, I figured I would use someone else's tried and true recipe.  So, after work on Wednesday, after Annalyn was asleep, I made this recipe.  It turned out so good, I decided to share.  (Think banana bread meets cake!)
Banana Cake

- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda (add to pureed bananas)
- 3 pureed bananas, very ripe
- Crisco & flour to grease the pan
for the icing:
(Recipe author suggested a cream cheese icing, but I used a simple buttercream)

- 2 sticks butter, softened
- 1 t. vanilla
- 4 c. powdered sugar
- 2-4 T. milk, to adjust consistency

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pastrami Rye Sandwiches

A perfect pairing with my french onion soup, this pastrami rye sandwich is quick, easy, and delicious.  There's just something about a hot sandwich that makes me happy.  Don't get me wrong, I like cold sandwiches.  But a hot sandwich gives me the warm fuzzy feeling I need on a day like this.  This recipe makes 3 good sized sandwiches (although when served with soup, 1/2 sandwich is plenty!).  It's adapted from this Emeril recipe.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Pastrami Rye Sandwiches

- 1/2 lb. deli pastrami, thinly sliced
- 2 T. whole grain dijon mustard
- 1/2 c. beer (whatever kind you have on hand, or beef stock if you prefer)
- 1 loaf rye bread, sliced
- 3 slices swiss cheese
- dill pickle spears, optional (but it just feels right)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Baby Date: Bring Your Baby Matinees

Cabin fever setting in yet?  Here's a fun and unique opportunity for all you parents of young babies.  Select AMC theatres have a special program called Bring Your Baby Matinees the first Tuesday of every month.  Each month, they choose a popular movie for a baby-friendly noon matinee.  The lights are dimmed but not completely dark, the sound is slightly quieter, and the whole atmosphere is baby-friendly.  (Strollers, car seats, and breastfeeding are all welcomed and guaranteed to be everywhere!)

Bring Your Baby Matinees
We took Annalyn to a couple this summer when Michael was on break and really enjoyed it.  When else can you take a newborn to a movie theater and not have to worry about every little peep she makes?  That being said, I think it might be more of a challenge to take her now that she's mobile.  Getting her stay relatively quiet and sit still would probably be more work than it's worth - it would have to be a team effort.  But I think it's a great program and a really nice outing for mom and baby during maternity leave.  If you intend to take older kids, be sure to check to see what's playing since they are not always kid-friendly.

Warm Bodies Poster
Rated PG-13
running time 1hr 37min
This coming Tuesday they are playing "Warm Bodies" - a perfect Valentine's baby date! 

To find a participating AMC theatre in your area (Trader's Point in Indianapolis has it!) or to read more about it, click here.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Groundhog Day Fun

Does anyone else remember this guy?  Pardon-me-Pete is the little groundhog who narrates the 1979 TV special Jack Frost in which Jack Frost tries to delay spring by scaring Pete with his shadow.  It's one of my personal favorites, especially the part where Pete sings a little song about Groundhog Day...
"I've got a day named after me, Feb-ru-ary 2!
That's the day when I decide, what the weather's gonna do..."
For whatever reason, that song's stayed with me over the years, and because of it, Groundhog Day continues to be one of my favorite little traditions.  Especially when good ole 'Punxsutawney Phil' predicts an early spring!  Here's to hoping!
Happy Feb-ru-ary 2!

Friday, February 1, 2013

French Onion Soup

At Michael's request, I made a big batch of French onion soup to get us through this dreary, rainy week.  It's amazing just how comforting a pot full of onions can be.  Word of warning - though it tastes amazing, this soup will have you crying like a baby...  there's just no way around it when slicing 6 onions in a row!  But I think you'll agree that the warmth and richness of this delicious soup is worth a few tears.

French Onion Soup


- 1 stick butter (yep, I even broke down and used the real stuff!)
- 4 to 6 yellow onions (depending on size), thinly sliced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4 cups beef stock
- 2 T. minced garlic
- 1 T. Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 t. dried thyme
- 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
- french bread, or other crusty bread, thickly sliced
- about 1 c. grated Gruyere cheese (alternatives:  mozarella, swiss, provolone, etc.)