Sunday, March 30, 2014

Snack Attack: Cottage Cheese with Tomatoes, Cucumber, & Basil

As I mentioned before, I've had a major sweet tooth lately between meals.  And as a business strategy/cruel joke/(complete accident?) my store manager moved the discounted baked goods right between my pharmacy and the bathroom.  Really?  A whole cart of marked down sweets between the two places I spend my entire 13 hour days... thank you for that!  Normally, I have enough will power to just ignore/not buy junk food so it's not even an option to eat.  In an effort to make that change again, I emailed Michael's cousin, Elizabeth for some helpful snacking tips.  (Check out her faith/family/fitness/food blog FitLifeWithE).  Sometimes it just helps to get a fresh perspective - just like writers, cooks get mental blocks and forget the basics - especially when they have a lot their plates (metaphorically speaking, in this case!).  Elizabeth reminded me of some great snacking ideas, as well as some new ones I'd normally not think about.  It definitely helped refocus my food choices and stock my kitchen (and work fridge) with healthier options.  One of her favorites was cottage cheese with tomatoes, avocado, and spinach.  Since I didn't have an avocado on hand, I Mama-fied it to my taste, and made this delicious (and filling! Even for me!) snack.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Cottage Cheese with Tomatoes, Cucumber, & Basil

Ingredients: (makes 4 snack sized servings)
- 1 1/3 c. cottage cheese
- 1/2 large English cucumber, chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1 T. balsamic vinegar
- 1 T. fresh chopped basil (I used the refrigerated tube kind)
- salt/pepper to taste
- about a cup of baby spinach (packed)


1.  In a medium bowl, combine chopped tomatoes, cucumber, basil, and vinegar.  Stir gently to combine, then add salt and pepper to taste.  Store in fridge until ready to use if making this up ahead of time.

I actually tossed it all in a bowl with a lid and shook to combine

2.  When ready to eat, layer 1/3 c. cottage cheese, 1/4 of the tomato mixture, and a small handful of the baby spinach.  It's that easy!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

About Aboo: 30 weeks!

My dearest Emelina,

Well, kiddo, we're in the homestretch now!  Made it to the 30's and feeling pretty good about it.  Hard to believe that you'll be here in about 2 months (maybe less if you're impatient like Peanut!).  Sometimes I think I'm the only one who realizes how close we're getting.  The idea of June just seems so far away on cold, dreary days like this one (though I still have my doubts that you'll make it all the way til June, my guess is maybe around Memorial Day).  I don't have too many stats to report, but I did remember to ask Dr. Stevens for my belly measurement at this week's appointment.  She said we are measuring right on track at 29 cm (should be within a couple cm of the # of weeks, so 28-32ish at this point).  My weight it almost identical to this point with Annalyn, and all our 28 week blood tests came back normal.  Your heart rate was in the 150's this week and you even got feisty and kicked at the Doppler. 

I've been wearing the support belt any time I'm doing a lot of walking/standing which seems to help, though I've had a hard time leaving it on for 13 hours straight.  For whatever reason, I don't like the big elastic waistbands or anything tight around my waist this pregnancy.  Good thing these last couple months are in the spring so I can wear dresses/skirts!  Grandma Cindy even found me some super comfy, stretchy shoes that work with dresses/skirts for work (at least while pregnant - you can only be so stylish with closed toed, no heel, comfy enough to wear for 14 hours a day shoes).  I can tell I'm getting close to the end because my white coat won't button, my patience is waning, and I'm always hungry.  On the plus side, I don't have any swelling in my hands, feet, or legs even after my 13 hour days (knock on wood!)

What I do have is a major sweet tooth lately!  This is not usual for me, and even with my last pregnancy, most of my cravings were for salty/sour foods (probably why your big sis eats lemons like they're oranges - I agree, it's weird.  You can help me make fun of her for it someday).  Makes it very hard when I'm at work and have a whole grocery store full of food at my disposal.  But never fear, I emailed a friend for some healthy snack ideas to help get us through between meals.  I'm bound and determined not to go super crazy since I hope to go back on Weight Watchers this summer.  But, for the record and nostalgia's sake, we've really enjoyed butter pecan ice cream cones, cantelope (a healthy sweet at least!), decaf carmel macchiatos, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and tiramisu these past few weeks.  Also, this parmesan cheese covered in black pepper, but that doesn't really fit the sweet tooth pattern...

You're still kicking like crazy and I keep telling Daddy that you're going to be tall because it feels like you're running out of room already.  I feel you stretching a lot lately and have to encourage you to save baby yoga for when you come out because my ribs just can't expand anymore.  I've started getting out of breath easily as all my organs are squished up making room for your acrobatics. Still having some trouble with my hips/legs/sciatic nerves but I think that's just par for the course for me.  Daddy laughs at me when I can't climb into bed at night after a long day, and heckles me for struggling to turn over at night.  Needless to say, he's had to go rescue Annalyn the couple times she's fallen out of bed this week.  Those fun leg cramps have started in my calves at night, too.  But nothing this mama can't handle!

Let's see, what else is new around here... Well, we are in the process of hiring a new nanny since Michaela told us she's accepting a full time position in May.  It's been a big, BIG stress added this past month, but fingers crossed,  I think we've found someone who will be the perfect fit for you and Annalyn.  After meeting her and talking with a couple references, we both have pretty high hopes.  It's even harder this time for a couple reasons.  First of all, we will be leaving a 3 month old baby instead of a 6 month old.  Annalyn's birthday was nicely timed so that Daddy had her for the whole summer after my 12 week maternity leave, so she wasn't with a nanny until her half birthday.  Although we are super excited to have the whole summer off together (maybe the only time all of us will ever be off for the entire summer!), it will be hard that both of us will be starting back to work around the same time.  Aside from that, we're leaving two kids, knowing that our nanny's time will be split between you, and it won't be someone we really know that well.  I'm planning to have her come a few times over the summer to get to know us all better, so hopefully that will put all our minds at ease.  I hope that by the time you can read this, you will look back and say, "Geez, Mom, how did you ever doubt/worry about her?  She's the best nanny ever!"  Hey, a mama can hope, right?

Another big step for our family this week - Daddy and I attended a new member orientation at a church we've been attending a little lately.  Although we can only really go every other week with my work schedule, we've decided it's time for us to have a church home and community for our growing family. We're hoping to become official members in a couple weeks, and probably even baptize you there this summer.  They have tons of kids (in fact, 1/4 of the their members are under 18!), and a lot of Sunday school, preschool, and nursery options for little ones.

Wow, I guess I had more to report than I thought.  Big month for us, baby girl!  Most importantly, we're healthy, happy, and growing.  What more can we really hope for?  Anxiously awaiting your arrival (I even bought your baby book last weekend!).  Love you like crazy.



PS - this may be the coolest bump pic ever.  It definitely rivals Annalyn's 18 week bump pic with Pooh.  If you happen to attend Butler someday, it will definitely win :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Loose Meat Sandwiches

Here's a yummy sandwich recipe created due to a disappointing forecast.  Having planned to grill burgers, I had to practice some flexibility when it was suddenly 40 degrees and raining.  Oh, spring in Indiana!  On the plus side, I came up with this delicious loose meat sandwich recipe that's easy, family-friendly, and only requires a few ingredients.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Loose Meat Sandwiches

- 1 lb. ground beef
- 2 t. salt
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 2 T. mustard
- 2 T. cider vinegar
- 1 T. brown sugar
- water, to cover (about 1 c.)
- salt and pepper, to taste
- buns, mustard, pickles for serving

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Don't tell Daddy...

But we sort of ate cookie dough for breakfast.  I'll admit, not one of my proudest moments, though it might be one of my coolest parent ever moments. Too bad she's too young to know it! 

Now some of you are probably already scolding me in your heads - how dare she give that toddler raw egg! And she's pregnant!  For shame! - but before you grab for your pitchfork, relax. It's an eggless cookie dough recipe made for eating.  No it's not sugar/fat/calorie free, but it sure is a yummy special treat!  

We made it this morning and admittedly ate a couple spoonfuls each before dropping the rest by spoonfuls onto a waxed paper-lined plate and popping in the freezer.  Because in my book, the only thing better than raw cookie dough is frozen cookie dough.  

Ladies, is this not the stuff of dreams?  Imagine opening your freezer to this - even while pregnant!  Best. Idea. Ever. 
Here's how we made it:

Eggless Cookie Dough

- 1/4 c. Butter, softened
- 3/4 c. Brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 t. Vanilla extract
- 1/4 c. Milk
- 1 c. Flour
- 1/3 c. (ish) M&Ms or chocolate chips


1.  Cream butter and sugar together.  Add salt, vanilla, and milk.

2.  Stir in the flour until combined, then fold in M&Ms or chocolate chips. 

3.  Devour or drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper-lined plate and freeze for about an hour, then transfer to a freezer bag.  

*be sure to label! These are not for baking, but work well to spread on graham crackers, chop up into ice cream, eat by the spoonful, etc. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Make Ahead Muffin Mix: Orange Dream Muffins

Next stop on our Make Ahead Muffin Mix journey - Orange Dream!  These creamy, dreamy muffins were not only delicious when fresh, but also the next day.  They have a beautiful pale orange color and sweet, citrusy scent.  Plus, like all of my Make Ahead Mix recipes, they were super quick and easy to make.  It was like having a gourmet breakfast before work!  Gosh, I'm starting to love muffin Sundays.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Orange Dream Muffins

Ingredients: (makes 12 muffins)
- 1 Make Ahead Muffin Mix (see instructions here)
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
- 2/3 c. orange cream flavored yogurt
- 4 T. melted butter
- 1 egg
- 1 t. vanilla
- 1/4 c. orange juice
- 1/4 c. orange marmalade, softened (plus extra for serving)
for glaze:  1/3 c. powdered sugar, 3-4 T. orange juice

Monday, March 17, 2014

Peanut Post: If you give a girl a flower...

I don't care how old she is,

how bad her bedhead is,

if she's still a little sleepy,

or not eaten breakfast yet,

if you give a girl a flower,

she's going to smile.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Make Ahead Muffin Mix: Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Here's the first of my muffin creations made using my Make Ahead Muffin Mix.  It was so quick and simple to whip up this fresh batch of homemade muffins for our BFFs Saturday morning.  And to think, I still have three mixes left to make!  This version is an easy blueberry muffin with just a hint of lemon (from the flavored yogurt).  I sprinkled them with just a bit of coarse sanding sugar before baking, but if you have extra time on your hands, make a lemon glaze with 1/3 c. powdered sugar and the juice of 1 lemon.  While you're at it, zest the rind and add that to the muffin batter.  On the other hand, if you're always looking for a way to make breakfast quicker, keep it simple and delicious!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients: (makes 12 muffins)
- 1 Make Ahead Muffin Mix
  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
- 2/3 c. lemon flavored yogurt
- 4 T. melted butter
- 1 egg
- 1 t. vanilla (or lemon extract)
- 3 T. milk
- zest of 1 lemon (optional)
- 1 c. blueberries

- coarse sugar to garnish tops (if not using a glaze)
for glaze (optional):  juice of 1 lemon, 1/3 c. powdered sugar

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Chicken Pasta with Dates, Pecans, and Cauliflower Sauce

Here's the latest creation from Mama's Kitchen using a delicious cauliflower garlic sauce from Pinch of Yum (see link below).  We made the cauliflower sauce earlier in the week, but it made so much that I froze half of it to use for another recipe.  So then I needed another recipe to use it in... hence this one was born!  This pasta is sort of a combination of a few of my favorite dishes - chicken alfredo, sweet onion tart, and bowtie pasta because they're just so darn cute.  Call it a craving or a revelation, but these flavors mixed very well and made for one yummy pasta dish!  Luckily Dan, Shawna, and Remy didn't mind being my guinea pigs and enjoyed it, too!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Chicken Pasta with Dates, Pecans, and Cauliflower Sauce

- 1/2 batch cauliflower sauce (see recipe from Pinch of Yum here, ingredients below)
- 1 c. milk (or more to thin)
- meat from 1 rotisserie chicken (approximately 2 c. cooked chicken)
- 1 lb. box bowtie pasta
- 2 T. butter
- 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/4 t. pepper
- 1/2 c. chopped dates
- 1/3 c. pecan pieces
- 1/2 t. nutmeg
- 1/2 c. grated parmesan
- fresh parsley, for garnish

*for cauliflower sauce: (for half batch - I made a whole batch and froze half to save for the above recipe)
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 T. butter
- 1 head cauliflower, chopped
- 3-4 c. vegetable broth or water
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/4 t. pepper
- 1/2 c. milk (I increased the amount the author suggested b/c I ended up adding more)
- 3-4 T. olive oil

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Maternity Photos: What My Girls Have Taught Me About Self-Image

Maternity or bump photos have become a pretty common part of pregnancy these days, designed to help celebrate and commemorate pregnancy.  Many mamas enjoy an excuse to dress up and take pictures to celebrate the belly.  Others dread being in front of a camera, but decide to take a few anyway so they can look back and remember what it felt like to have that precious little person growing inside them.  Or just to show the kids what they did to our bodies and hold it over their heads forever (we do get to do that, right?).  Personally, I have absolutely loved having my friend, Shawna, take these pictures for me with both my pregnancies.  (Because who better to capture an intimate moment than your BFF?)


With Annalyn, I remember wanting to capture all the excitement and impatience we were feeling waiting for our first born.  I waited until I had a pretty huge 34 week belly and could barely get my rings on due to the swelling and water retention.  And exactly 3 weeks later, she was born.  I love looking back at those pictures and remembering the suspense, struggles, and wonder of those last 3 weeks.  Even the swollen fingers/ankles, chubby cheeks, and love handles can't undo the beauty in those pictures. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Making Mama Moment: Admitting I Need a Break

Really for the first time in my last two years of motherhood, I finally admitted to myself and Michael that I just needed a break.  Like most working mothers, I've always seen work as my "me time" and could never understand why Michael felt he needed self time outside of that.  At work I get adult conversation, stimulating problem solving, and time outside of the house (granted dealing with the public can be a lot like dealing with toddlers - they're stubborn, don't always make sense, and yell for no reason.  But in general, I have pretty great patients and I enjoy seeing them when I'm there).  I've always loved that my schedule also gives me entire days off with Annalyn, so it's like having the best of both worlds.  But in reality, that just doesn't exist.  When I'm at work, I feel guilty that I'm away from her and not home to cook/eat dinner every night with my family.  When I'm at home, I have days that I get frustrated and overwhelmed and oh so tired, then I feel guilty for wishing I could have a break from her when I was just wishing the opposite 12 hours ago.  Don't get me wrong, I absolutely cherish my days with her.  In fact, I miss our Mama-Peanut alone time over Michael's breaks, despite the amazing family time that we get. 

But now that she's mastered the art of fit-throwing, learning to use the potty (yet refusing to go #2 on the potty most days), testing me at every turn, and absolutely demanding every single second of my undivided attention, I just get tired.  Tired of being unable to meet her ridiculous demands that cause the fits (one last week was initiated by me making toast for myself... "no!! Mama doesn't like toast!"  Seriously?).  Tired of not being able to even figure out why she's throwing a fit.  Tired of having no "safe" spot for anything now that she's figured out how to manipulate her environment to reach just about everything in the house (including opening doors, climbing my drawer pulls, using chairs/stools/toys as ladders, and jumping over the couch to evade the baby gates).  Tired of  being stuck in the house because it's been so incredibly COLD this winter.  Tired of how guilty I feel for getting so frustrated by the end of the day when I know I won't see her until basically bedtime the next day.

Sure, I could blame the hormones and I'm sure they have a lot to do with the tired feeling, too, but a lot of it is just the fact that Annalyn and I are so similar.  We are both very obsessive, like to get our way, know exactly what we want, and figure out how to get it at all costs.  Someday, I'll probably admire some of those qualities in her.  But for now, they make for one exhausting two year old!  My mother insists that she'll grow out of it just like I did, but even she admits that Peanut may have even more stamina than I did at that age.  Now, don't get me wrong - Annalyn and I have lots of good days together, too.  Lately she takes most of her afternoon naps snuggled up with me on the couch.  She helps me make lunch and dinner, and loves to go to doctors' appointments and run errands with me.  We play with baby dolls and her play kitchen.  I paint her toenails and style her hair to match mine.  Deep down, I think we both sense that her time as an only child is about over and we are eating up every second of it.

On the flip side, I'm preparing for bringing another baby into our family.  I find myself thinking things like "how am I ever going to divide my attention when she insists on having it all the time?" and "she needs to learn to cope now before Emelina gets here." And boy, do I remember how much time/energy newborns take!  In reality, we will all have to adjust in good time and be thankful for lots of help/support when the time comes if we need it.  It's just what expecting mamas do - we plan ahead.  And thanks to my newfound nesting instinct, I've been in super-obsessive planning/organizing/stressing mode.  Which brings me to my point - I needed a break.

So I made the hard-for-me decision to ask our babysitter to come for a few hours on one of my personal days so I could just have some Ashley time - not Mama time, not pharmacist time, Ashley time.  I can rationalize it to myself because it's not cutting out any of the time I'd normally have with her - it's time I'd normally spend at work.  Michael's never been so supportive as when I mentioned that I was thinking about doing it.  He absolutely agreed that I needed it.  Even if it was to just go to a Starbucks, order a venti decaf white mocha and knit for a couple hours (since I've been really worried about not having time to finish Emelina's baby blanket - guess who's jealous of that now that she knows it's for tummy baby?).   So here I am at Starbucks, just sitting.  Not entertaining Annalyn as she tries to escape her chair or protecting my drink from her ever-increasing reach.  Not rushing to eat before the next patient walks up and needs my attention.  Not answering phones while trying to swallow.  Not trying to manage two windows, a drive-thru, and three phone lines all at once.  Just sitting and sipping my drink, blogging without guarding my keyboard, and trying to get motivated to knit while I have the chance.  Before this, I met a friend for brunch and some much-needed girl talk, and next I'm getting groceries in peace in preparation for our BFF visit this weekend.  Yes, it was hard for me to admit to myself that I needed this.  But yes, it was good for me, too.  Because like my dear hubby reminded me, I'm still Ashley, a person outside of being a mother and a wife and a pharmacist.  Obviously those are huge parts of who I am and I can't just turn them off, but it's ok to physically and emotionally take a break from it all to just relax.  Hopefully this will get me one step closer to learning to ask for help when I need it.  If not, I bet the newborn/jealous two year old combo will do the trick here in a few months!

Hope you all can take some time this week just for yourselves.  Even if it's just for an hour or two to run errands or check in with a friend.  I must say, it's really been helpful for me! 

Happy Friday, everyone!



Layered Hummus Dip

Here's an awesome dip recipe based on similar ones I've seen on Pinterest lately.  Honestly, I've never thought of making a layered dip with hummus, but it was divine.  I added some feta (of course) because I pretty much add it to everything when given the chance.  We enjoyed it along with pita chips and it was incredibly filling.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Layered Hummus Dip

- 1 container plain hummus
- 1 small red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 cucumber, chopped
- 1/4 c. kalamata olives, chopped
- 2 oz. reduced fat feta cheese
- 3 T. chopped fresh dill
- pita chips/crackers for serving


1.  In a medium casserole dish, spread hummus in an even layer.

2.  Top with chopped red pepper and cucumber.

3.  Add olives and feta, then sprinkle dill over the top.  Refrigerate until serving.

4.  Serve with pita chips, crackers, or spread on flatbread.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Make Ahead Muffin Mix

Lately, we've started a new little family "tradition" of sorts.  Every other Sunday before I leave for work, we've started making a batch of muffins.  Since I don't leave until 10:30am and Annalyn's started getting up closer to 7:30am, we usually have plenty of time to make and enjoy them before I have to leave.  That being said, it's so nice to have a premade muffin mix ready to go to trim down the time in the kitchen.  After being disappointed by a couple of commercial boxed mixes, I decided to make my own.  I figure that by having the dry ingredients measured out ahead of time, it will save just enough time to make it worthwhile to use homemade vs. boxed mix.  I used the base of one of my favorite muffin recipes, these strawberry cinnamon muffins, and started brainstorming ways to vary it just by changing one or two wet ingredients.  I already have a list of 4-5 different variations to try, using pretty common ingredients I'd usually have on hand anyway (except for some of the flavored yogurts that I'd have to pick up beforehand).   Here's the basic mix and I look forward to showing you how Mama makes it into delicious muffins!

Make Ahead Muffin Mix

Bag Ingredients: (to go into make ahead gallon bags, each makes 12 muffins)
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 2 1/2 t. baking powder
- 1/4 t. salt


1.  Label and date a quart or gallon sized bag or mason jar (dry mix lasts for 6 months in an airtight container).  Be sure to write the wet ingredient list on the bag so it's handy when you're ready to bake the muffins.

2.  Measure dry ingredients in each bag and shake to combine.  Make several mixes to save time.  You can even make double batch bags to make 24 muffins (just be sure to double wet ingredient list, too!).  If you want, you can add nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit, spices, etc. at this point.  I decided to wait and add those with the wet ingredients so these would be generic mixes.

When ready to bake muffins:

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Frosted Flake Breaded Chicken Tenders

I like to think that my blog tells a story, whether through food, photos, or written posts about my family.  Lately, my food posts tell a pretty obvious tale - I'm pregnant.  And I eat/cook like a pregnant lady.  It's random, it's not always low fat, and it's adventurous in the strangest of ways.  Like chicken tenders coated in crushed frosted flakes and chili powder.  But trust me friends, it doesn't take pregnancy to appreciate this delicious dish!  In fact, Michael and I have been making a similar dish for years, sometimes using drumsticks or wings.  But this time I opted for the lower fat skinless chicken tenders (which also give you more crunch per bite and are a lot healthier than fried chicken).  Here's how Mama makes it:

Frosted Flake Breaded Chicken Tenders


- 1 package chicken tenders
- 2 1/2 c. frosted flakes
- 1 t. chili powder
- 1/2 t. cayenne pepper
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 egg
- 1 T. water
- salt/pepper