Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays?

Now, don't go getting your tinsel in a tangle because I used the term "happy holidays" in my title.  Hear me out here.

I saw this image on a friends Facebook wall the other day.  It made me think.  While I may not totally "get" Kwanzaa I am sure there are many that don't get why our family does Advent, Christmas, and we actually give more than a nod towards Epiphany.  But as I thought about this image I wondered if I wished someone a Merry Christmas would they in turn wish me a merry/joyous/happy whatever they celebrate?

Little did I know that I would find out a few days later.

I was leaving the pediatrician on Wednesday with our newest one and our oldest one who likes to come help Mama with Miss S.  I was getting them secured in the van when Miss L asked where Miss S was at that moment.  I told her that Miss S was right next to me and that she was okay.  I realized a lady had moved to a bench behind me with the intentions of grabbing a quick smoke in the designated area.  Awesome.  I had basically parked in the smoking section!  This kind lady head me talking, realized I had a newborn, and quickly said she would wait to light up her cigarette until we were underway.  I appreciated her consideration greatly.  She then asked how old Baby Girl was and then wished me a "Merry Christmas."  I wished her one as well and then she replied, "Hanukkah, actually, but thank you."  She was very kind about it.  I engaged her a little about Hanukkah and I think she was surprised that I knew that it had actually started at sunset the evening before.  This whole time Miss L is shouting from in the car, "Merry Christmas!!" Precious and funny at that particular moment all at the same time.

I immediately thought back to this social network image.  Interesting, right?  Basically, I am fine with whatever you want to tell me as long as I can tell you my preference.  However, if I know you celebrate one in particular that is what I will tell you.  However, I do take issue with curbing what people would normally says for the sake of political correctness. Political Correctness, in my book, has overstayed its welcome.

So, from our house to yours...

Merry Christmas!

On a side note, my conversation was of enough time that she never had time to take her smoke break as her ride came to pick her up.  ha ha!  YES!!

And, yes, there will be a post about the arrival of Miss S. :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Freezer Meals: I'm Done...I think


I'm done.


It's officially December.  I'm huge (in my mind's eye when many others have said, "Oh you don't look like you are due in a month.)  I'm tired of cooking -- to an extent.  And in some sense we are running out of freezer space.  Not entirely.  But there are some other things I want to throw in there and not have to worry about it.  So, I am done.


Not much happened in November.  I technically made two Chicken Pot Pies but one was for that night's dinner and the other I froze.  My mother-in-law (the gem that she is!)  made a double batch of meatballs for us so those are in there.   Yep, that sums up the month.  HA!


However, as I sit here looking at the list there are a couple of things that I can just let the slow cooker take care of for me.  While I tend to use a different recipe for enchiladas I stumbled upon a friend's recipe that I loved while we were visiting with her family earlier this year in Texas.  I can just whip it up, freeze it, and then put it all together when we are ready for it.  Sounds delish.


That may be the only one I really go after from the list.  My cranberry chicken is super easy and really everything I need for it is in the pantry.  I just need to make sure that I am stocked up on everything times two for that.


I'll keep the other recipes around and close at hand for when I need to start cooking again.  I can double it up or some of them may just be easy.  Also, the burrito recipes may come in handy when I am scrambling for something to send with Husband to work for lunch.  He's not picky so I will look at that some more, too.


I need to work on my freezer inventory list as I have some things in there that I am sure that I will forget about when Baby#3 arrives.  You know, like vegetables and some other sides.


OH!  I will also add a few things from Costco.  Chicken nuggets (because the girls are gaga over anything chicken nuggets these days) will be used for lunches mostly but will probably make an appearance with dinner at some point, too.  Ravioli will feed our family 2-3 times depending on how hungry the girls are that night.  Fish for tacos (we love them!) or just to throw in the oven with a side if we are running out of time.


So, I think we have a good start to things.


What now?


Well, we wait for Baby#3.  We thought she might try to make an ultra early entrance yesterday but alas she is content to stay inside a little longer -- with the help of some modern medicine.


I have a lot of the ingredients I need for lactation bars so my mother-in-law has graciously offered to make up a bunch of those for me.  I can bake them up no problem.  I need to get that moving here sooner than later.  HA!


My dad has also said that he would help with Christmas cookies (ahem - I know you are reading this) and he can be bribed with dinner or the promise of chocolate chip cookies anyway.


Welp, here's the final list.  Not fully finished but I took a good whack at it!


Beef Stew x 1 (from Mom C)
Tator Tot Casserole x 1
Mom C's Meatloaf x1
Stuffed Peppers x 1 (from Mom C)
Husband's Lasagna x 2
Italian Stuffed Meatloaf x 2
My Chile x 2
Veggie Chile x 3
Ren's Chocolate Muffins x 2 (has good stuff like pumpkin, flax, etc -- it's not ALL sugar)
Chicken Pot Pie x 1
Fiesta Chicken x 2
Fiesta Chicken (Green Version) x 2
Spaghetti Sauce x 2
Spinach & Artichoke Mac & Cheese x 2
Green Chile Enchiladas x 3 (or more at the request of Husband)
Spaghetti Pizza x 2
Turkey & Vegetable Meatloaf x 2
Meatballs x 2 (17 in each bag) from Mom C
Brown Bag Burritos x 1 (makes 20-ish)
Chicken Spaghetti (Pioneer Woman) x 2
Pulled Pork x 1 (more if meat comes on sale again)
Breakfast Burritos x 1 (will probably make more - cranks out about 16)
Chicken & Rice (Quinoa) Burritos x 1 (makes about 8?)
Baked Ziti x 2
BBQ Beef & Bean Corn Bread Casserole x 2
Bacon, Egg, Cheese Biscuit Cups x 1
Ham & Cheese Pockets x 1
Sausage Biscuits x 1
Twice Cooked Mashed Potatoes x 2
Cranberry Chicken x 2
Broccoli & Cheddar Soup x 2
Healthy Mama BBQ Chicken x 2
Lactation Cookies x LOTS!



*That is not a picture of MY freezer.  Just so you know.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Did Not Forget

No, I have not forgotten this blog exists.

However, I am trying to figure out how we are only about a week away from Thanksgiving.  However, I am not too overwhelmed by that because what I still need to pick up from the store is minimal.

I have made little progress on my freezer meal list and I think that I am just going to be okay with that.  I may have a few things that I want to work on and maybe I will bring in help for those things.  We will see.  I have two turkeys in the freezer right now and we will cook them up and bag the meat in December.  Seriously, I can't beat the price to not only feed my family for about .59/lb but then I can turkey stock and have that on hand in the future as well.  I am a bit bummed that prices are not as low as last year but in the grand scheme of things I cannot complain.

I have a TON of recipes to post.  Last week I used my slow cooker almost every day trying out new things to cook in there.  Some are total winners and some... well, were major flops in my book...but my husband is ever the encouragement and eats it and even is willing to take it to work for lunch.  I am debating about putting the "flops" on the blog.  Although, I saw someone do that and kind of liked that I saw that not all things are yummy or come out the way we want them... and the pizza delivery at the last moment can be and is a reality in some homes with littles 'round the table.

With all that said, I have just been tired and working on some other things.  Also, I have been gimping around as my hips have been bothering me more in this pregnancy than the previous two.  Yesterday, I had a ton of energy and got some things done only to realize I over did it by the time it came to dinner.  To be honest, I have also just wanted to veg out by the time the girls go to bed.  I will try to be more productive in the coming days.  HA!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Moment to Cherish

I would normally put this under bright spots... but I had to get it down before I forgot about it.

I stepped out of the living room for just a minute.  When I returned I find Miss L and Miss A looking through Green Eggs and Ham.  However, Miss L has her arms around Miss A and I hear her say to Miss A,

"My best friend."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chicken Spaghetti


I have heard a LOT about The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.  However, I resisted going to her website.  I thought many of her things would be far too difficult for me to make or require a BUNCH of ingredients for one meal that I don't normally have on hand and would never use again unless I made that meal again.  Boy howdy, I was wrong! (She also has an iced coffee recipe that I am dying to try -- I need to peruse her recipes a bit more.)


I think I was looking around on other blogs for ideas for freezer meals and someone's list pointed be to the PW and her Chicken Spaghetti.  I thought I would at least give it a whirl.  I have never had anything smell SO GOOD while I was prepping it.  I wished I had actually tripled the recipe so we could have one pan for dinner that night.  Alas, I had to settle for just taking a test bite here and there.  Yummy!!  Seriously, though, I just wanted to stand there and sniff at it the rest of the day.  It was sad to cover it up and stick it in the freezer for when Baby #3 arrives.  Sigh.  I generally have most of these ingredients in my pantry and if I don't they are not going to sit forever waiting to be used.  I think I was out of Cayenne Pepper so I just left it out.


You can find the recipe here:  Chicken Spaghetti


However, if you just print out the recipe card from her site I would suggest reading through the whole post for more specifics on what to do and what not to do.  I will post my extended version with specifics below.

Chicken Spaghetti  (from The Pioneer Woman)


2 cups Cooked Chicken (from whole fryer cut up or other source)
3 cups Dry Spaghetti, Broken Into Two Inch Pieces
2 cans Cream Of Mushroom Soup
2 cups Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese
¼ cups Finely Diced Green Pepper
¼ cups Finely Diced Onion
1 jar (4 Ounce) Diced Pimentos, Drained
2 cups Reserved Chicken Broth From Pot
1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt
⅛ teaspoons (to 1/4 Teaspoon) Cayenne Pepper
Salt And Pepper, to taste
1 cup Additional Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Fill large pot (think stock pot or pasta pot) with water.  Put on stove and start heating the water.
Wash each chicken piece.  Add chicken to water.  Bring to a rolling boil and let boil for a few minutes.  Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for a good 30 to 45 minutes.

Dice green pepper and onion.  Drain the 4 oz jar of pimentos. (If they came diced, awesome!  If they are sliced dice them up a bit).

Next, break the thin spaghetti into 2-inch pieces until you have around 2 1/2 to 3 cups. (if you’re careful and keep the spaghetti nice and packed, it should be around 2 1/2 – 3 cups, uncooked.)

Remove cooked chicken from pot.  Reserve 2 cups of the broth.  Turn the pot with the rest of the broth to high heat.  When it is boiling again add the spaghetti.  Cook to al dente (remember you will be baking this again later!)  Drain and set aside.

When the chicken is cool, remove chicken meat from bones.  You will need two cups (packed) of meat.

**Note: You can use any cut of chicken you like. I like the whole fryer because it gives you a mixture of dark and light meat, but if you’d like to do just breasts, that would work just fine! Also, if you have cooked chicken from another source (leftovers, etc), that’s fine too; just be sure to add a small amount of canned chicken broth to the water before you boil the spaghetti. (Not too much, though, or the dish will be too salty.)

Add chicken to large mixing bowl.  Add chicken and 2 cans of Cream of Mushroom soup.  (Sometimes I like to use Cream of Chicken & Mushroom soup. You can do one of each, or pick one. They both work beautifully.)  Add the diced green pepper, onion, and pimentos.  Add 2 Cups grated sharp cheese.  1 tsp Lawry’s seasoning salt.  Generous seasoning with black pepper.  1/8 to ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (1/8 of a tsp is usually good for little mouths.)

Now start adding the chicken broth, beginning with 1 cup. Stir it up, then add a little more. You want the mixture to be stirrable, but definitely not soupy. I usually stop just short of using the full two cups.

Stir thoroughly, then take a bite and check your seasonings. Add a little salt if needed, a little more pepper, and maybe a little more Cayenne if you didn’t have enough Chutzpa the first time around. Make sure it’s seasoned enough!

Place in any shape casserole dish.  Top with an additional 1 cup of shredded cheese.

At this point, you can cover it well and freeze it, unbaked. Or you can cover it and refrigerate it, unbaked, for up to two days before baking. Or, if your family is salivating and rending their garments in hunger and agony, go ahead and bake it at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes until hot & bubbly.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Freezer Meals: October Update

So, I am pretty sure we are good to go on meat loaf now.  HA!  It's a good thing we like it around here as we now ave FIVE loaves in the freezer.  Three different kinds - Turkey w/ vegetables (so YUMMY!), Italian stuffed, and a Mom C meatloaf.  Yeah, I think we are just fine there.


I made a bit more progress this month.  One weekend I cranked out four things:  Turkey meatloaves, Sausage (and cheese) Biscuits, Breakfast Burritos (made 23), and Twice Cooked Baked Potato Casserole (which I am pretty sure we will also be having for Thanksgiving... divine!).  These were all relatively simple so I was able to crank them out in a decent amount of time.  There was some rush at the end (we were off to see a movie) because I took a long break while the girls were napping.  Dinner was delegated to Blimpie's and in the end all was perfectly fine.


Husband asked if I was done after that day.  I looked at him and kind of laughed.  I said, "No."  However, my goal is to basically be done by the time December rolls around.  The only thing that I think that I want to be working on in December are Christmas cookies and lactation bars.  HA!  Husband thought this was funny and a good idea all at the same time.


I also tried to find random moments to whip something out during the weekdays.  I did the Bacon, Egg, and cheese biscuits on what turned into a rather busy and tiring day but it was worth it for sure!  I may make more of these because I just scored 5 packages of bacon for under $4.  Whoop!  Although, I am pretty sure my family would just like to eat some bacon, too.  HA HA HA!


It seems like there were a couple of weeks when I was really trying to crank some things out and when I thought I had all the ingredients I would find I was missing one.  Or some other random hiccup.  But we press on just the same.  I realized that some things will not be made in the quantity that I had originally anticipated so my list is becoming more streamlined and I am rethinking a couple of recipes.  Nothing has been totally scratched as of yet.


Also completed this month -
Fiesta Chicken (Red Version)
Fiesta Chicken (Green Version) x 1 -- The other crock pot is being used for soup today.
Ren's Chocolate Chip Muffins
Spaghetti Sauce


Beef Stew x 1 (from Mom C)
Tator Tot Casserole x 1
Mom C's Meatloaf x1
Stuffed Peppers x 1 (from Mom C)
Husband's Lasagna x 2
Italian Stuffed Meatloaf x 2
My Chile x 2
Veggie Chile x 3
Ren's Chocolate Muffins x 2 (has good stuff like pumpkin, flax, etc -- it's not ALL sugar)
Chicken Pot Pie x 2
Fiesta Chicken x 2
Fiesta Chicken (Green Version) x 2
Spaghetti Sauce x 2
Spinach & Artichoke Mac & Cheese x 2
Green Chile Enchiladas x 3 (or more at the request of Husband)
Spaghetti Pizza x 2
Turkey & Vegetable Meatloaf x 2
Meatballs (not sure how many yet)
Brown Bag Burritos x 1 (makes 20-ish)
Chicken Spaghetti (Pioneer Woman) x 2
Pulled Pork x 1 (more if meat comes on sale again)
Breakfast Burritos x 1 (will probably make more - cranks out about 16)
Chicken & Rice (Quinoa) Burritos x 1 (makes about 8?)
Baked Ziti x 2
BBQ Beef & Bean Corn Bread Casserole x 2
Bacon, Egg, Cheese Biscuit Cups x 1
Ham & Cheese Pockets x 1
Sausage Biscuits x 1
Twice Cooked Mashed Potatoes x 2
Cranberry Chicken x 2
Broccoli & Cheddar Soup x 2
Healthy Mama BBQ Chicken x 2
Lactation Cookies x LOTS!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Italian Stuffed Meatloaf


So, I realized that I had originally planned to post all of the recipes I was making for the freezer when Baby #3 arrives.  I am SO behind.  I must say there are some that I am more excited about than others which may be why I haven't posted some yet.  This may be one of those recipes that I am not so excited about right now.  The recipe comes from some ladies that do some once a month type cooking.  They have a group of ladies that get together, make meals, swap, and they leave with about 12 different meals to use during the month that they store in their freezers.  If you follow the link at the bottom of the recipe you can get to the original post and click on a PDF that is there of many recipes that they use for this gathering.  Many could also be used for freezer meals for a baby as well.  I have a few other recipes that I will post from them that we really enjoy.

Anyway, when I made this I tripled the recipe -- two for the freezer and one for dinner that night.  I was a little less than excited in the final product.  However, it was different and it was good.  I probably won't make it again as I like my Turkey &Vegetable meatloaf much better.  I wonder if this would taste better with a different meat like elk (yum!) or turkey.  Maybe someday I will try it that way.

If you try this let me know what you think!


ITALIAN STUFFED MEATLOAF

1 lbs ground beef
1/2 c breadcrumbs
1/2 t salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c onion, diced
1/8 c celery, finely diced
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp basil
1/8 c Parmesan
1 eggs
1/8 t Worcestershire sauce
1/8tsp hot pepper sauce
1-1/2 c spaghetti sauce

Filling:
1/2 c ricotta cheese (low fat)
1/2 c Italian cheese blend, shredded
1/2 T parsley

Assembly:
Meat Mixture: In small bowl, mix breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, celery, Italian seasoning, basil and cheese.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, break up beef and make an indentation in the center. Break the eggs into this well;
add Worc. Sauce and hot pepper sauce. With a fork, quickly beat the eggs and sauce together in the well. Using either your hands or large spoon, mix eggs and meat together until well combined. Pour the breadcrumb mixture into the meat mixture in 2-3 installments, mixing each time until well incorporated. If mixture seems too dry, add a little milk or one more beaten egg to the mixture. Filling: In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, shredded cheese and parsley. Mix together and set aside.

Divide meat mixture into two equal parts. Line loaf pans; press 1/2 of meat mixture into loaf pan. Pressing
down with your fingers or the back of a spoon, create a shallow “ditch” down the middle of the meat mixture. Spread part of ricotta filling mixture into each ditch, leaving about 1-1/2” border of meat all around. Press second 1/2 of meat mixture into loaf pan, pushing down around the edges to help seal in the filling.

If freezing, do so here using foil and plastic wrap method. (Thaw in fridge before cooking)

To Serve: Preheat oven 350 degrees. Bake meatloaf for 30 min, then spoon off any excess grease, if necessary. Pour 1-2 cups of your favorite tomato or spaghetti sauce on top of meatloaf and bake an additional 25-30 min. Be careful not to over-bake. Serve with buttered noodles or pasta, a salad, and garlic bread.

courtesy of http://blonde-designs.squarespace.com/blonde-designs-blog/2010/1/29/freezer-meals.html

Monday, October 24, 2011

How To: Miss A's Owl Cake

Okay, so a few people have asked for a more step by step "tutorial" on how I made this cake.  Because I didn't take pictures for each step you will have to do your best to imagine.  If you have specific questions feel free to e-mail or comment.

Upfront, this is a small cake.  I used a 6-inch cake pan that I got at a craft store.  Yes, it's small.  I used a butter cream frosting and colored it as needed with Wilton cake colors -- far superior than regular food coloring.  Feel free to use whatever frosting you feel the need to use.  Butter cream warms up pretty fast and will lose it's ability to hold form as it warms up in the pastry bag you are piping with.  So, work quickly and take a break to refrigerate your frosting as needed.
  • With my cake on a plate, I crumb coated the cake.  I need to look into what this really entails but my version was just adding a thin layer of white icing on the whole cake.  It gave me a nice clean surface to work on.
  • Then I created the outline for the bird face in the crumb coat.  For the large part of the eye I used a glass tumbler from our cabinet.  For the black part of the eyes I used the alcohol measuring cup -- ahem -- you know it's small and it measures out a pour, etc.  Then I drew the rest out with a toothpick.  When I was satisfied with my template I put it in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes.
  • While the cake was in the freezer I set aside some of the white frosting I made for the owl's eyes.  With the rest I colored to my desired blue color.  When the timer went off I pulled the cake from the freezer and iced the side and the smooth blue areas of the cake.  I have yet to master the technique of an ultra-smooth cake.  Someday.  It was satisfactory for me and gave the owl a little texture.  HA!  Back in he freezer.
  • During this break I filled my pastry bag and pick my decorating tip.  For the life of me I don't remember which number I used.  Basically, just pick what kind of texture you want and go with it.  I let the frosting firm up a bit in the fridge and all was good to go when the timer went off.  I "stippled" in the feather area.  Freezer.
  • Fill in the white of the eyes even though they are already white.  It covers the crumb coat and makes everything level.  I just used a medium sized piping tip (it's just round if you are wondering about that.)  Still working on my technique here.  Freezer.
  • Make the back icing.  Fill in eyes and eyebrows.  I used a yellow cake gel I had on hand for the nose and filled that in pretty fast.  You can use the gel (it comes in primary colors in the baking section of your local grocery/market) or make some yellow frosting.  I didn't have yellow coloring so this was super handy.
That's basically it.  The freezing, for me, helped keep the shape of everything and prevented any of the colors from bleeding into each other.
If I missed something let me know and I will add that into this "tutorial."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Miss A's 1st Birthday!



ARGH!

I realized last night as I was posting what seemed like a gazillion photos to Flickr (with still many more to go from two other cameras!) I realized that I never posted about Miss A's birthday cake.  What?!?!?  Seriously, we are about a month and a half out from her birthday.  Where does the time go?

I found this owl cake on Pinterest and immediately fell in love with it.  I realized later I liked how "clean" it was which was created with fondant.  However, I have never really worked with fondant nor did I think that it would be ideal for a cake that a freshly minted one-year-old would tear into.  So, I opted to just adapt from there.

To be honest I almost scraped the whole idea and just go for decorating the cake like a cupcake.  Sigh.  I finally just sucked it up and went for it.  I like using butter cream frosting but it is not so stable when it warms up.  So, I went in stages with this cake and stuck it in the freezer for about 20 minutes between each step so the frosting would firm up.  I worked fast between steps so it wouldn't "melt."  It was a winner of a plan although it took some time.  However, I was pretty tired on this particular day so lots of little breaks were a welcome addition to the day.  Well, here's my final product.  I realized I should have crossed his eyes to maybe make him look a little less Angry Birds looking.  It was hit either way, even with my oldest, Miss L.  I have to also mention that I bought a special small cake pan for this project as I didn't think Miss A needed a regular sized cake all to herself.  Baking the cake took some extra care because there aren't standard guidelines for this sized cake.  I also did up cupcakes for the rest of the family.

I still would like to work on my cake decorating skills.  Maybe when the girls are older I can take a class.  Until then it will be my random dinking around with what I remember from almost 15 years ago when I had someone teaching me.  I used to be able to make lovely drop flowers and roses.  I am not sure I would know where to start anymore.  I think I will also try working with cream cheese frosting the next time around.  Delish and maybe a bit more sturdy (as in not so "melty") for sure.

Is it worth spending so much time on my cakes just so the girls can destroy them?  Totally.  The videos of my girls tearing into their first cakes are so worth every minute.  Plus, it's a fun little challenge.  However, I think for Miss L's third birthday coming up we may be ordering a cake from the bakery as I will be not too long from my due date and wow... that sounds like a lot of work.  We will see.  Oh yes... one more picture... the cake after Miss A was done with it...





Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Vegetarian" Lasagna

I am always looking for something to add vegetables to our meals rather than just as a side.  I am not really creative there and Miss L is now in a phase of hit or miss on whether she likes vegetables and Miss A could not care any less as long as the food is in front of her.  I found this recipe browsing Pinterest (surprised?) and it was in a list of "8 weeks of easy recipes" from a website called, Moms Who Think.


So, while I am not a huge fan of mushroom I purchased all the necessary ingredients.  I had pasta sauce already on hand from a great sale and oddly enough I also had feta on hand that I needed to use sooner than later.  I have the word vegetarian in quotes in this post because I happened to have some left over pasta sauce that had some Italian sausage in it.  I added more sauce to the recipe as an estimate.  Go with what works for you.  Also, 24oz of mozzarella was a lot of cheese.  I didn't use it all by any means.  I will be using in in another meal later this week.  Be sure not to cook the vegetables too much as they will become too mushy during baking.  While I almost left the feta off because Miss L has not been such a fan of feta in the past.  However, she seemed to like it and it adds a whole new dimension -- must. add. feta.

This meal, while messy for my one year old, went over very well!  Great leftovers and the girls gobbled it up!  Totally worth the mess.  Totally.

Vegetarian Lasagna Ingredients:
4 medium zucchini
1 package of fresh mushrooms (amount depends on taste)
1 medium onion
Fresh garlic (to taste)
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach
28 oz. jar pasta sauce
24 oz. mozzarella cheese
8 oz. feta cheese
Olive Oil (to coat the pan)
Lasagna Noodles
Directions:
1. Boil lasagna noodles until al dente. Mince zucchini, mushrooms, onion and garlic.
2. Coat pan with oil and sauté vegetables until tender. Add defrosted spinach. Add pasta sauce.
3. Layer vegetable mixture on top of noodles; add mozzarella cheese on each layer.
4. Top with feta cheese. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 until brown and bubbly.
5. Serve with warmed Italian bread. (Or maybe a fresh green salad!) 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Miss A's Birth Story

I find Miss A's birth story to be quite entertaining at times.  Mostly because it all basically starts on our anniversary. Nothing says "celebration" like an OB appointment, right?  When we found out that Miss A was head down I started to cry.  It was one of the best things I had ever heard.  I so desperately wanted to try for a VBAC and my OB said as long as she was head down and I went into labor on my own (no use of labor inducing drugs, etc) then I should be fine.

The week prior to this particular appointment (36 weeks) my OB checked me and said I was at least 4.5 cm -- she said she couldn't quite give me 5cm.  She said let's see what happens over the next week and if I want I can have my membranes stripped the next week.

Fast forward to the next Thursday (37 weeks) and it's our wedding anniversary.  My dad drops me off at my appointment while Husband's parents watch Miss L.  We did it this way so that after the appointment Husband and I can go to dinner together in one car.  It's just nicer that way, you know.  I meet with the doctor and confirm that I am nearly at 5 cm but not quite and about 90% effaced.  Can you say, "ticking time bomb?"  We talk about the possibility of stripping my membranes.  Let's face it.  It's the end of August in the Valley of the Sun.  It's hot.  I'm big.  I want this baby to come on out.  I'm done.  Husband and I look at each other and say, "Sure."  The doctor stripped my membranes and off to dinner we go.  I had heard that some people could go into labor 12 hours after having this done.  Some 24 hours later.  Some it doesn't really do much of anything.  Depends on how ready you and baby are.  We didn't really know what to expect.

Husband and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at a local Italian restaurant.  We basically had the whole place to ourselves until about the last 15 minutes we were there.  It was awesome.  We had a lovely dinner and some yummy dessert.  As we were getting in the car I could tell something was happening and mentioned as much to Husband.  We arrive home in time to put Miss L to bed ourselves.  We also tell Husband's mom to go home and get things ready as we think Miss A will be arriving sometime during the night.  At this point my contractions are starting to build.  Some are enough that I need to stop talking to concentrate to get through them.  It turns out that I am in labor just three or four hours after having my membranes stripped!  Nutty.

We head to the hospital around 10:00 PM.  Longest. Ride. Ever.  The hospital we went to is a bit of a drive from our house but it's not horribly far.  I'm pretty sure it felt like we were driving to California.  However, I was thankful for an app that Husband had on his phone that we had been timing my contractions with during the evening.  It gets to the point where it is able to predict your contractions.  I liked having a few seconds to mentally prepare for the next contraction and to be able to see potentially when it would end.  It was pretty accurate!  I finally understood all the talk about how difficult and painful it is to labor laying on your back or sitting can be.  I needed to be on a ball or the best for me was kneeling on the bed "on all fours."

The nurses had a hard time keeping the monitor on me and were very supportive of me moving around.  So, every 20 minutes or so they would hold the monitors on me to get a reading and then leave me be.  I wanted to go as long as I could without medication.  I got to the point where I was just shaking through contractions and couldn't stay up.  Throw in the towel.  Show me some epidural love.  It apparently was just the right timing for me because the anesthesiologist was available almost immediately rather than the over an hour wait I had been warned about.  Ahh... relief.  I think at that point I hadn't progressed much beyond 5 cm.  Te doctor talked to me about breaking my bag of waters and seeing what would happen.  It was nice to be able to rest.  Husband was a little nervous at this point that I would stall and have to have a c-section again.  Epidurals can help but they have also been known to hinder.  I told him, "Well, we'll just have to wait and see what happens."  We went to sleep.  Weird, right?

After a couple of hours the nurse (Nurse Laura?) came in to check me.  7cm!  Yeah for progress!!  Husband was amazed.  So we kept sleeping.  Each time they checked me another centimeter progress.  Moving right along.  At sometime before 6 AM I was fully dilated and ready to push.  The doctor told the nurse to go ahead and have me start pushing and he would be there soon.  Apparently I was a better pusher than anyone anticipated because soon the nurse stepped out to call the doctor down and to hurry.  Unfortunately, there was a point where Miss A was "right there" but couldn't quite push her through.  After nearly an hour of pushing the doctor asked what I thought about an episiotomy.  "No way, Jose!" was my response.  However, he told me why he was thinking about it and after awhile I consented.  The only reason it was ultimately worth it was because Miss A came out on the next push!  YAY!!  Miss A was born at 7:09 AM (the day after our anniversary...whew!), 6lbs 9oz, and 19 inches long.

Dr. J had told me when we started that he likes to put babies right away up on the mother's chest and let the mothers clean the babies.  So, I was waiting for that.  However, when Miss A came out he just held her.  He looked up and said, "Her umbilical cord is too short to reach your chest so we have to cut it before you can hold her."  Random and funny all at the same time.

Miss A was perfectly healthy.  After some time they moved us to a "shared" room and hoped to move me to a private room later in the afternoon.  Once settled into the private room I was a bit more comfortable with everything.  The healing process from a c-section vs. successful VBAC were very different.  Each with their own pros and cons.  The details of each I won't go into here.  Some small and some significant.

The first night the nurse came in to do some measurements and other tests on Miss A.  They had to take her and that was no big deal.  When she came back she made the comment, "This is one of the strongest babies I have ever seen!  I usually weigh them on their tummies so they are not so wiggly and your baby rolled right over!"  I laughed.  Indications of what was to come?  Maybe.

Miss A started to show some signs of jaundice.  Doctors said we could go home as long as we had he blood levels checked the next day (which was a Sunday) -- we located a place that would be open on Sunday and we were discharged Saturday late afternoon.  Awesome!

We took Miss A in for a blood test and her jaundice was a bit increased.  They told us to see out regular doctor on Tuesday.  So, in we went to our regular pediatrician.  Unfortunately, by Tuesday even I could see that Miss A was a bit "yellow."  Our pediatrician was concerned and upset at the advice to wait from the other doctor.  He sent us on chase to try to get Miss A's blood levels checked.  However, it was late in the day and most places were closing up.  In the meantime our doctor went ahead and ordered a bili-blanket for Miss A to start right away (home light therapy) which was delivered to our house.  Needless to say, we didn't find a place to have her blood test that night but went in right away Wednesday morning.  We got a call back by noon that day from our doctor confirming that her levels were high and to keep using the blanket.  She had to be getting the lights except when she was nursing.  He warned that if her levels remained high the next morning then we would have to go to the hospital.  Her levels came down and we had to go in for blood tests the next three days as well as keep her in the blanket.  I was glad we could treat at home but a little scary, too.  We learned a few things for sure.

We had more nursing issues with Miss A like we did with Miss L -- to be anticipated at some level.  We hired a private lactation consultant and it made a world of difference.  I produced more milk this time around but still had many struggles and frustrations.  But it was all worth it.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Miss L's Birth Story

I think that several people have asked for my birth stories and I never got them fully written down.  However, the Lord has really preserved that part of my memory with them through the last couple of years.  Husband fills in some details that I don't remember which makes for a more interesting story.  So, with Baby #3 on the way I wanted to get Miss L and Miss A's story down and then be sure to get #3's down, too.  Sorry, she doesn't have a name yet so she is just #3 for now.

Miss L was born on a Thursday.  Her story really starts the weekend before.  My dad had just left to go back to New Mexico (he wasn't living here when Miss L was born) and Husband's parents had gone to Denver to celebrate an early Christmas with his grandparents.  We stopped by their house to check on something and as we were leaving I quipped, "You know, now that ALL the grandparents are gone something will happen."  It was a joke.  When I said those words I was only 35 weeks and some change.  That Monday I had an appointment with my OB.  They checked me -- "Soft but closed."  Miss L was breech which we had only recently confirmed through one of those fun family ultrasounds.  Turned out that the tech that ran this other business was also the tech at my doctor.  The doctors had been convinced that they were feeling her head when they felt my tummy.  I told them what I had discovered at this "other" ultrasound without giving away that their tech was moonlighting.  They sent me over to ultrasound to confirm for themselves that she was breech.  Sure enough... same tech found the SAME thing.  So, I made an appointment for Friday to talk about my options for turning this baby girl around.

Wednesday night I went to bed without a care in the world.  We were anticipating a friend's Christmas party that weekend and in the middle of lovely Advent celebrations.  Of course the night held the usual trip to the bathroom that began several months before.  Around 4:00 AM I bolted out of bed and to the bathroom.  Thankfully, they are not very far from each other.  I was wet.  What was all this?  I thought, "I have heard of incontinence in pregnancy but this is ridiculous!"  Husband had heard me gasp when I jumped out of bed but didn't think too much of it until I started calling his name.  He came to see me and I was laughing.

"Um...I'm pretty sure that my water just broke."

Not fully awake Husband made a comment about making it stop.  No, once he fully was awake he realized we can't put the water back.  You can make contractions stop but if that water breaks that baby is a comin'!  So, we tried to get ready as we wrapped our minds around the fact that our baby would be coming that very day and NOT in four weeks like we had anticipated.

I decided to take a shower and despite what I knew was coming (surgery) I still had a granola bar before we left because I was that hungry when we left around 5:00 AM.  We had no bag packed (on the list of things to do for the weekend) and just threw some things together.  Of course, we laughed as we called our parents at the crack of dawn.  Husbands parents were in Colorado and were going to try arrange flights to get back ASAP.  My dad prepared to head out from New Mexico and be there the next day.

Just before we left the house I felt a bit of pressure in my low back.  I didn't realize that it was the first of many contractions.  We laughed in the vehicle as I sat on a stack of towels and hurried to the hospital.  Once we got there I was taken into triage only to have them confirm that my water had indeed broke, I was in labor, and an ultrasound confirmed that Miss L was still breech.  With that, they started prepping me for the operating room.  I guess Miss L's heart tones wavered just enough for them to call it an "emergency c-section" but it was nothing like some of the emergencies that others have endured leading up to a c-section.  At this point, my contractions were starting to come more frequently and with more intensity.  I was not a happy girl.  The doctors still wanted to check how far dilated I was -- 5 cm.  Of course at this time they make the comment. "Gosh, if she wasn't breech we think you would have had a great natural labor!"  Thanks.  Not exactly what I wanted to hear right now when that is what I had planned and wanted!  However, I had prepared myself for a c-section until I knew she was turned.  She wasn't and this was the best thing for us.

Husband gets ready for the operating room, too.  They roll me away and tell him to wait in a particular area and inform him that they will come get him when they are ready.  I was not a huge fan of being separated at this point but I understood.  It was kind of funny in the OR and I appreciated the lightheartedness of it all!  The anesthesiologist did a great job.  We laughed that they had to extend the table a bit because I was too tall.  He felt my pain as he was well over six feet tall.  The epidural was painless and took effect fast.  I remember at one point my leg fell off the table -- the surgical assistant was there and caught me.  I laughed because I couldn't help him.  They laughed, too.  One thing I also remember is how incredibly cold I was in that room.  The only time that I was cold while being pregnant!  HA!  They piled on the warmed blankets.

Soon, the procedure started.  Husband was watching over the curtain.  One time he asked me, "You didn't feel that?"  I said, "No."  "Good," he replied.  I again laughed.  Soon I had to just concentrate with my eyes somewhere else because the tugging and pressure were a lot.  The next thing I know Miss L was out!  She arrived at 7:59 AM, 7lbs 6 oz (at 36 weeks to the day), and 20 3/4 inches long.  She was perfectly healthy!  APGAR scores were as high as they can possibly be without being perfect (we learned that no baby is ever given a perfect score).  Husband's eyes were filled with tears of joy -- so much had happened in the last few hours!  He went with Miss L to the nursery while they closed me up.  I was coming down from my adrenaline rush.  All I wanted to do was sleep.  So, I did.  I realized I could see all that the doctors were doing on the other side of the curtain by the reflection in the surgery light.  The best thing to do was close my eyes.  I got a bit of rest for which I was thankful.

Soon I found myself in a makeshift room just off of triage.  The maternity ward was full and they hoped to have me in a room by evening.  Until then we would just have to wait it out there.  Pastor N was the first person to come see us.  Then family friend KW surprised us but it was really fun to see familiar faces for awhile.  Honestly, it was hard to know what to do with this new baby in this closed off room.  I had leg compression machines on my legs to help prevent blood clots.  I think the lactation consultant visited us.  We mostly just cuddled with our new little girl.  By evening they did have a room for us.  Elder K and his wife came to visit and soon after Husband's parents arrived fresh from Colorado to see their granddaughter.

We were tired and I was thankful that Husband would be staying with me for the night.  We learned quickly that we were not so very good at swaddling and Miss L was squirming out from time to time.  I think I finally just held her on my chest to get some sleep.

The next day (Friday) is spent trying to figure out nursing and healing.  I am hooked up to all sorts of things to help with the process.  What I really want is to be able to go to the bathroom without some big production.  It's a relatively average day.  My dad arrives from New Mexico to meet his first grandchild.

At different points in the night Miss L was taken for routine tests.  I think some of it had to do with how many hours old she was and it happened to fall in the middle of the night.  The nurse was supposed to bring her back at a particular time (early Saturday morning about 1:30) to nurse.  The nurse walked in... no baby.  The first thing out of her mouth, "Everything is fine... but..."  A million things run through my head.  I like this nurse so her concern for me and Miss L are genuine.  She told me how she had been watching Miss L and how she had looked a little "off" and jittery.  She checked her blood sugar and it had tanked... significantly.  She knew that I did not want to give Miss L formula but she was in such a bad place that she gave her just enough to balance Miss L out and then the nurse came to talk to me about next steps.  And thus began a long and difficult road of nursing of which I will not recount here.  I was thankful, however, to figure out the problem then rather than later.  I was also thankful that things had not been worse for Miss L.  And, no, it was not a nurse trying to push formula on me either. 

At that point, on top of everything, Miss L had jaundice.  So much so that they decided she needed to be under therapy lights for 24 hours before they would even think about letting us go.  UGH.  I had a very hard time with this.  She was only allowed "out" for 30 minutes to nurse.  It seemed like 15 of those minutes were used to just get her latched on.  Stress me out.  It was hard for me to want to go see her as there was nothing I could do to help her.  I felt like it was my fault and I had not done all that I could to care for her properly.  I cried.  A lot.  Foolish, now, I know.  But in the midst of crazy postpartum hormones that is where I was.  So, this was the icing on the cake after a fairly stressful night.  Lovely.

After all was said and done we were in the hospital 4 full days (Thursday AM - Sunday PM) and I have never been so excited to go home.  Miss L was healthy and doing well.

Now we had to figure some things out on our own....  ha ha ha!!