Sunday, April 28, 2013


Invincible:  in·vin·ci·ble, adj. Incapable of being overcome or defeated.

To me, Michael's Grandpa Eddie will always embody invincibility.  Admittedly, I don't know too many specifics of Grandpa's life, such as where he was born, how old he was when he married Grandma, or his exact title when he retired from the military after years of service all over the world.  I know he made the best Russian black bread and buckwheat pancakes I've ever tasted.  I know bits and pieces from the reminiscing tales at family dinners, and the occasional random tidbits Grandpa would throw into everyday conversation such as how many times they'll let you jump out of an airplane. 

Grandpa's legacy
(plus two little men that weren't born yet!)

they may look tough, but these guys have fun, too

I believe the original caption on this one was something like:
"Beware grandpas of pretty granddaughters"
It's a miracle he let her get married last year

What I do know about Grandpa without a doubt, is how much he loved his family and how downright proud of them he was.  Robert G. Eddie raised three amazing children while traveling all over the world.  From those children and their spouses, he was blessed with 7 grandchildren, 5 grandchildren-in-laws, and 6 great-grandchildren (and counting).   He was an incredibly involved and loving father and grandfather.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Chicken with Poblano Cream Sauce

One of Michael's favorite dishes when we go out for Mexican food is Pollo Poblano.  So this year, I decided to create a healthier version of this delicious dish for his birthday.  Basically, it's chicken coated in a creamy poblano pepper based sauce and sprinkled with cheese.  Don't worry, it's not overly spicy - just the perfect amount of kick.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Chicken with Poblano Cream Sauce

- 2 T. olive oil, divided
- 2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
- 1/2 c. onion, chopped
- 1 t. minced garlic
- 1/2 c. Greek yogurt
- 1/4 - 1/2 c. skim milk
- 1 1/2 lb. chicken breasts
- salt/pepper
- 1 c. grated gouda or jack cheese
- 1 c. rice, prepared according to package directions
- 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
- 1 T. fresh lime juice

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Slow Cooker Broccoli Mac 'n Cheese

Here's a healthy version of everyone's favorite comfort food - macaroni and cheese.  By adding broccoli, using evaporated milk and non-fat sour cream, and reducing the amount of butter, you can greatly reduce the fat and calories.  On top of that, it's made in a slow cooker without cooking the noodles first.  How simple is that?!  I'm officially in love with this dish!

Slow Cooker Broccoli Mac 'n Cheese
- 2 1/2 c. whole grain macaroni, shells, or elbow pasta
- 12 oz. fat-free evaporated milk
- 2 1/2 c. skim milk
- 1 can broccoli cheese soup
- 1/2 c. non-fat sour cream
- 2 T. butter, melted
- 3 c. reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 1/2 c. fresh broccoli, chopped
- salt/pepper, to taste

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Vacationing with a Toddler: Nashville, TN

The Grand Canyon - Spring Break 2008:

Savannah, GA - Spring Break 2011:

Nashville, TN - Spring Break 2013:

One of these things is not like the other...  But she definitely belongs!  This year over Michael's spring break we got to take a little family trip to Nashville, TN over a long weekend.  Although it's surprisingly close, we'd never actually been to Nashville, so we had a lot to see.  We started asking friends for recommendations on where to eat, stay, shop, etc., and soon realized that our trip was going to be quite different from theirs.

So we started searching things like "Nashville, TN family" and "Nashville with kids" and luckily, Michael stumbled across this awesome family site which is a Disney site dedicated to, well, families.  The site isn't exclusively travel advice.  It includes things like seasonal crafts/activities, family friendly recipes, and even parenting advice.  I haven't even begun to delve into all of the amazing resources, but we instantly fell in love with the travel planning help.  The travel guides are arranged by city, so in our case, we went here to find advice on family-friendly activities in Nashville.  Scroll down a bit and you will see a section titled "Suggested Trip Plan by Age" - this is real bread and butter of the site.  Choose from babies, toddlers/pre-k, school age, and pre-teen/teens to see different things to do, places to stay, and places to eat based on the age of your kiddos.  Cool, huh?

The site also give tips for taking each age group to each of the attractions, such as "stroller friendly" or "plan no more than 2 hours here."  Based on the advice (and a little of our own searching/roaming), we were able to plan a pretty awesome family trip.  Here's a few of the highlights:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Basic Baked Chicken Breasts

Here's a super easy baked chicken recipe that's versatile, healthy, and delicious!  In a moment of "I have no idea what I want to make for dinner," I decided to make this baked chicken with garlic mashed cauliflower and parsnips.  The result was a definite keeper!  The stock keeps the chicken moist as it's infused with the flavors of garlic and onion.  Feeling spicy? Add some other spices such as cayenne pepper, cumin, ranch seasoning, rosemary, or jerk seasoning.  Endless possibilities of delicious home-cooked meals with extremely low prep time - working mamas rejoice!

Basic Baked Chicken Breasts

Ingredients: (I doubled this recipe)
- 1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 2 c. chicken stock
- 5-6 whole garlic cloves
- 1 small onion, or half medium onion, cut into large chunks
- salt and pepper, to taste

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower & Parsnips

Well, after seeing numerous recipes on Pinterest, I finally gave in and tried mashed cauliflower.  I will admit, I had my share of doubts about this "mashed potato imposter."  That just seemed like something there was no substitute for - including the boxed stuff.  But, I have to say, we were all pleasantly surprised!  I made this healthy, low fat alternative similar to my regular garlic mashed potatoes, but used Greek yogurt in place of sour cream/butter, added a parsnip for some extra flavor, and blended it for a creamy, smooth texture.  It was delicious and perfect for a family meal (it's basically baby food already!).  Here's how Mama makes it:

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower & Parsnips

- 1 head cauliflower, cut into pieces
- 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
- 4 whole garlic cloves
- 1/2 c. nonfat yogurt
- 1 t. salt
- 1/2 t. pepper
- 1/4 c. chives, (reserve 2 T. for garnish)
- milk, if needed to adjust consistency

Friday, April 19, 2013

Favorite Frozen Foods: Amy's Spinach Pizza Snacks

As many of you know, I work in a pharmacy within a grocery store.  Honestly, I love the setting because it gives me the opportunity to interact with so many people and be incredibly accesible to the public.  Not to mention the amazing lunch selections!  I know what you're thinking, and yes, I usually do take leftovers for lunch.  But even this mama takes days off from cooking and needs to browse the freezer section for lunch or dinner from time to time.

My latest snack/lunch obsession is these Amy's Spinach Pizza Snacks.  They are like healthier, organic pizza rolls (which, I know, sounds awful, but trust me, they.are.fabulous.)  In fact, I think I like them even better than traditional frozen pizza rolls, which is saying a lot for me.  Especially since I cook these in the microwave.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Peanut Post: 14 Month Update

Wow, Peanut, 14 months already! As a side note:  when do we stop counting your age in months?  At 2 years?  I suppose that's when clothing sizes stop counting in months, so that's as good a time as any, right?  Anyway, for now, it's easiest to say, "you are 14 months old."  And man are you rocking it. You've all but mastered walking, running, and climbing, even outside on uneven surfaces these days.  You have your daddy's "curiosity for life" and don't even think twice about, oh, climbing the wire baby gates or walking (not crawling) up the front porch step after Avery, our neighbor girl.  Exploring the world around you is absolutely your number one priority.

playing in the yard

On top of that, new words are coming out of your mouth everyday.  Like your Mama, everything you do and say is very calculated.  It's so funny to watch you move your mouth (with no sound), trying to figure out how to say each new word and sound. Until you think you can master it, you will rarely try it.  Which makes the words that you can say clear as day.  You're starting to randomly repeat a lot of words we say, but these are the ones we hear more regularly:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Jello Poke Cake

Here's a super easy, super yummy childhood favorite.  Basically, you make a cake (usually white, but this time I tried a lemon one I had on hand), let it cool slightly, poke holes all over it, pour jello (flavor of your choice, I usually use cherry or strawberry) in said holes, refrigerate until cold, then top with whipped topping.  It doesn't get much simpler, my friends.  In the summer, I like to add fresh strawberries to the top right before serving.  This cake has accompanied me to many a picnic, holiday, bbq, and cookout and has yet to let me down.  I just a love an easy recipe that tastes/looks great!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Jello Poke Cake

- 1 boxed cake mix
- eggs, oil, water according to cake package directions
- 1 (3 oz) box flavored gelatin (and water according to package directions)
- 1 (16 oz) container whipped topping

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Asian Marinated Grilled Chicken

I just LOVE grilling season!  Maybe it's the fact that I don't actually do the grilling so I have more time to focus on other parts of the meal.  Or maybe it's the beautiful char lines, I do love those...  Or it could be the hunky guy behind the grill at my house, he is a definite plus...  And then again, we can't ignore the fact that it's a pretty healthy way to cook...  Yep, I just don't see a downside here!  (Except that it's pseudo-dependent on weather, of course).   At any rate, here's a delicious grilled chicken recipe to kick off the start of grilling season here in Indiana.  I made the marinade to compliment this carrot ginger dressing, but it could absolutely stand alone as the maincourse.  Here's how Mama (with a little help from Daddy) makes it:

Asian Marinated Grilled Chicken

- 1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 3 T. soy sauce
- 1/4 c. white wine
- 2 T. seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/2 t. ginger (fresh or ground)
- 1/4 c. toasted sesame oil
- 1 T. honey
- 1/2 t. pepper
- 1 T. minced garlic
- 2 t. basil, chopped
- 1 t. hot sauce (add more if you like it spicy!)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Carrot Ginger Dressing (Japanese Steakhouse Style)

This Weight Watchers recipe tastes just like the dressing you get at your favorite Japanese restaurants.  It has a great ginger flavor, a thick texture, and is amazingly low fat.  At only 1 WW pt per 3 T serving, you will fall in love with this dressing!  Try it with your favorite salad, chicken, or rice dish for a lot of extra flavor without the extra calories.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Carrot Ginger Dressing

- 1 c. baby carrots
- 1/2 c. water
- 2 T. fresh ginger root, minced
- 1 T. seasoned white rice vinegar
- 2 t. soy sauce
- 2 t. toasted sesame oil
- 1 t. honey

Friday, April 12, 2013

Toddler Meals: (Semi-Homemade) Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Rice Casserole

This little gem is a Mama's kitchen original, created out of the need for more make-ahead toddler meals.  As we've gotten away from making so many purees, we've really started to miss the ease of heating up a few ice cubes and seconds later having dinner ready.  I find myself seeking more and more creative ways to have delicious and nutritious make-ahead meals that can be easily reheated and served.  This one's different than some of my usual ones in that it uses a lot of shortcuts to make it quick, easy, and doable for this working mama's busy schedule.  It uses several pre-cooked and/or microwavable ingredients and the only kitchen appliance needed is the microwave - talk about simple!  Here's how Mama makes it (and fast!):

Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Rice Casserole

- 1 (8.8 oz) package brown Ready Rice (or microwaveable frozen rice)
- 1 c. frozen broccoli, cooked and chopped
- 1/2 c. pre-cooked chicken, finely chopped
- 1 (10 3/4 oz) can broccoli cheese soup
- 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 - 3/4 c. milk, as needed to thin

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Here's a great salad recipe we had for dinner the other night.  As the weather gets warmer, I love cooking with fresh veggies!  This salad can be served warm or cold (I served it at room temp immediately after preparing it.  I ate it cold the next day as leftovers, but Michael heated it up... so do what feels right to ya).  It makes a great side dish, but can be a meal in itself (I added some shredded chicken and a glass of wine and called it a day!).  Here's how Mama makes it:

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 T. balsamic vinegar
- 1 T. minced garlic
- 1 T. dried dill weed
- 1 t. salt
- 1/2 t. black pepper
- 1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 cup sliced grape tomatoes
- 1/2 cup spinach, chopped
- 1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives
- 1 medium cucumber, chopped (or half of a large English cucumber)
- 3 green onions, chopped (white & green parts)
- 4 ounces feta cheese (about a half cup)
- 1 c. shredded chicken, optional (again, rotisserie chicken works well here)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Toddler Meals: Avocado Chicken Cheese Spread

Here's one of Annalyn's latest favorites.  It's great for so many reasons!  First of all, it's super easy to whip up for lunch or a quick snack.  Peanut likes it best when spread on toast and cut into bite-sized pieces.  When she was younger, I fed it to her from a spoon like a puree.  It's also good with crackers/chips for older kids.  And on top of all that, it's well-rounded and healthy!  Gosh, what more can a mama ask for? Oh yea, and it lasts for more than one meal - usually like 4 or 5!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Avocado Chicken Cheese Spread

- 1 ripe avocado
- 1/2 c. small curd cottage cheese
- 1/4 c. cooked chicken, finely chopped
- 1/4 t. garlic powder (because toddlers have taste buds, too!)
**serving suggestion:  toast, crackers, chips, tortillas

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Peanut Post: Spring is (finally) Here!

Finally, Spring has made it's way up to Indiana!  And we are thrilled!!  After a fun weekend getaway to Nashville, TN, we enjoyed a 70 degree Sunday complete with morning flag football and Huddles frozen yogurt.  I haven't had time to get together a Nashville post, so in the meantime, here's a peak at our fun Indiana Spring day.

future QB
CCA flag football 2030
(she will be 18, we will be in our 40's...
perfect time for a midlife crisis comeback season!)

is there anything better than learning to use a spoon?
not if you're a 13-month old with ice cream!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Working Mama Meal: Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Here's a spur of the moment true working mama meal from a busy Monday morning.  With about 15 minutes until I had to leave, I was inspired by the Reames noodles in my freezer to make this classic, belly-warming comfort food for my loves.  Using ingredients on hand, including frozen noodles and chicken breasts, I tossed together this delicious meal on a day when I couldn't be home to cook dinner. 

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

- 1 lb. chicken breasts, can be frozen
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 c. diced carrots
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cartons (7-8 c.) chicken stock
- 1 T. Italian seasoning
- 1-2 t. salt, to taste
- 1/2 t. black pepper
- 1 (16 oz) package frozen noodles (not precooked)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Peanut Post: Pearberry Yogurt Smoothie

I love this smoothie because it combines some of Annalyn's favorite flavors, while giving her calcium, potassium, fiber, antioxidants, and all around goodness!  While the yogurt and banana can be constipating in large amounts, the pear and blueberry help offset that (fellow parents, you know how important the bowel regulation becomes - crazy how much I consider that when planning her meals!).

Pearberry Yogurt Smoothie

- 1 medium ripe pear
- 1 medium ripe banana
- 1/2 c. blueberries
- 1/2 c. yogurt
- baby cereal as needed to achieve desired thickness


1.  Begin by washing the fruit, peeling the banana, and peeling/coring the pear.  Cute the banana and pear in to large chunks, then place in a blender or food processor. 

2.  Blend slightly to mash, then add the blueberry and yogurt.  Give it another quick blend and you're done!  Add baby cereal as needed to adjust thickness.

Perfect treat for morning cartoons with Daddy! Love lazy hotel mornings :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Baked Cinnamon Apple Chips

It's official, friends, I'm hooked.  For Christmas, I received this mandoline slicer and until about a week ago, had yet to try it out.  And then I did.  Now I'm hooked!  I just LOVE thinly sliced fruits/veggies, sprinkled with salt/sugar/cinnamon/spice and baked into chips.  I just can't stop slicing!  My favorites so far are the apples, so here's Mama's how-to on baked cinnamon apple chips.

Baked Cinnamon Apple Chips

- 1 Granny Smith apple
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 1 T. cinnamon
(this makes 1 batch, or what will generally fit on two baking sheets - I decided to make a double, hence the extra apple!)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

White Chicken & Artichoke Lasagna Roll Ups

After the amazing white chicken lasagna my sister, Emily, made for us last time we visited, I've been inspired to make my own version.  Since I was feeling creative and fancy, I decided to make lasagna roll ups instead of traditional lasagna (which you could absolutely make with this recipe, too!).  After some brainstorming, I came up with this delicious alternative.  It will probably blow your socks off.  Just like traditional lasagna, it makes for awesome leftovers, too! Here's how Mama makes it:

White Chicken & Artichoke Lasagna Roll Ups

- 2 c. shredded rotisserie chicken
- 1 c. part-skim ricotta cheese
- 2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided (reserve 1 cup for topping)
- 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
- 1 t. salt
- 1 t. black pepper
- 2 T. minced garlic
- 1 (14 oz.) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
- 1/4 c. chopped sundried tomatoes
- 1/4 c. chopped fresh basil (about a handful, keep a couple of the smaller leaves for garnish)
- 8-10 lasagna noodles (only 8 will fit in a 9x13 pan, but it never hurts to make a couple extra in case one gets broken or dropped or licked by a dog or bitten by a baby or any other combination of animal/baby destruction!)
- 1 T. olive oil
- 2 c. alfredo sauce (store bought or homemade)

Mama's alfredo:
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 1/2 c. whole milk (or cream)
- 1 c. grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/4 t. pepper (black or white)
- pinch nutmeg

Monday, April 1, 2013

Peanut Post: My Other Birthday

Hi, everyone, it's me, Peanut!  Today is the anniversary of my baptism.  I don't exactly understand it yet, but Mama says it's like having another birthday.  A year ago today, I was surrounded by family, in the little white church in Malmo, NE that my Grandpa Mark grew up in (as well as my Great-Grandpa Barry & Great-Great-Grandma Hanke!).