Thursday, July 25, 2013

Little Moments

This morning has been trying. I woke up with the mother of all migraines and, instead of having the day off like he was supposed to, my sweet husband was informed yesterday that they hadn't paid attention to the scheduling and there would be no one to man the shop on the electronics side and that he would have to miss out on one of his days he had to wake up and leave me.

Of course, poor Phillie, who has been rapidly gaining teeth on the top of her gums woke up as "the Hulk". While I appreciate the chances that I get to snuggle with her when she isn't feeling well, its always hard to know she is uncomfortable, and when you add a migraine to the mix, let's just say it doesn't get any easier.

As you all well know from some of my previous posts, sweet Faith, my darling Little Diva, seems to ignore her sister and live in her own world most of the time, much to my sweet Divine Cupcake's chagrin. This morning, however, Faith has been an answer to prayers in her own way.

Poor Phillie cries every time I put her down on the ground to leave her to her own devices. Well...I had to go to the bathroom (yes, I just admitted to it, I have bodily functions...) so, unfortunately for the Divine Cupcake, I had to leave her on the ground.

Screaming commenced and continued...I came out of the bathroom and turned the corner to enter my living room just as Faith handed Phillie my cell phone. Apparently, she didn't like to listen to sissy crying and, knowing that Phillie loves to chew on it, piled up a few books so she could stand on them (I'm assuming because there are two thicker books on the floor stacked that were not there before I left for the bathroom) and grabbed my cell phone off of the piano so sissy could have it. She handed it to Phillie and went on her way to grab a new toy for herself.

A few minutes later, I went to make Phillie a bottle...crying once again commenced. Faith, like a pro basketball player, never making eye contact or hinting that she was about to do so, passed Phillie her favorite chew toy, a link bead in the shape of an airplane, and then proceeded to take Phillie's favorite car and crawl around her, pushing it on the floor to make it make sounds, as if she was trying to make her laugh and feel better.

I came out to hand Phillie her bottle, and as I got Phillie down on the ground preparing her to take her bottle, Faith walked over, looking off into space, she reached her little hand out and started to pat her little sister's head, as if trying to soothe and reassure her. She then went on to dance as "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" came on the television screen...and was gone again. Happy in her own world.

I often find myself wondering how much the Little Diva takes in because she does seem to be in her own world so much...but today I got to see, as she worked to try to make her baby sister happy, that she is starting to understand emotions and she is watching us. Everything she did (well, besides freely giving Phillie my cell phone...LOL) was something I would have done to try to make her little sister happy and take her mind off of her aching mouth.

I am so blessed to have such a sweet, caring little girl. Slowly but surely, she is starting to reach out and show us what she is thinking and feeling.  She is beginning to show glimmers and sparks of understanding that she knows someone is sad or hurting. She is beginning to notice when something is funny and tries to be silly when she sees that someone needs to laugh or smile.

To be honest, I couldn't have pictured her doing that a month ago.

We still have our moments. She still will accidentally step on her sister and ignore her attempts to play, she still gets stuck in her own little world and focuses so intently on HOW she is playing with a certain object to notice what we're trying to show her or teach her, but every day there are more little moments that I see her reaching out and trying to communicate...With luck, we will be able to start helping her learn how to verbally communicate one way or another so that her temper tantrums will start being fewer and further between, but I will take little moments with little victories where I can.

I love my babies. I am one blessed mamma.

For good measure, here are some pictures of them the other day waiting for their daddy to get home...One thing they both seem to agree on is knowing about what time daddy should be home and that they need to wait by the door for him...

Ahhh sisters....

Hugs and Loves until next time, Darlings!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Easy Toddler Freezer Meal #1- Pigs in a Pillow

I have been feeling really badly that I have resorted to a lot of premade, preservative filled foods lately to feed my girls. Normally, I am all about making things from scratch, but with living with my mother in law and then moving all of a sudden to Rock Springs, I had started going with what was easiest...and a box of mac and cheese is a lot easier to throw together than a batch of homemade.

I decided that since I am starting to settle here in Rock Springs, I need to start finding some easy toddler freezer meals that I can have on hand so that I take one day of preparation and have several days worth of food that I can defrost and recook for my girls to eat later on.

This recipe is super easy, and while it does have one preservative filled easy food (hot dogs...sue me, my girls LOVE them. I am always guaranteed that they will eat every bite), it feels a little healthier in the way its dressed.

I give you Pigs in a Pillow:

For Dough:
2 TBS yeast
1 c warm water (not too warm, don't want to kill the yeast)
1/2 c sugar
(allow to bubble- the sugar feeds the yeast)
1 tsp salt
1/2 c butter
2 eggs
4 c flour (approximately- add it slowly 1 cup at a time- it makes the mixing easier- and just add enough to make it kneadable)

Mix until smooth. Allow rise about 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.  Roll into two rounds and cut into triangular slices (like a pizza) (Yes, you're making crescent rolls. If you really don't have the time to devote to making it from scratch, you can go ahead and buy a can or 2 of crescent rolls in the dairy/fridge section of your grocery store)

Roll the hot dog into the triangle, putting the wide section of the triangle against the hot dog and rolling it up so the point ends up on top.

Lightly grease your pan. Bake 350 for 12 minutes. (or according to package directions on crescent rolls)

Wait until cooled. Put them into a large Ziploc bag and freeze (they should freeze well for up to 3 months, but I doubt they will last that long) To rewarm them, lightly grease a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350.

I wish I had made more. I didn't even get a picture of the finished product because we used the last of them today. Even my husband was impressed with them. It definitely beats hot dogs in a bun, and the added bonus is that (if you're like me and are a little overly cautious) they are easy to chop into smaller bits so your kids get the added bonus of a carb and protein combo to give them energy and keep them full longer, which means less "snack time" in the afternoon.

My skinny mini 20 month old eats TWO of these in one sitting because she loves them so much and my 10 month old (who is a VERY picky eater) chows down and eats at least 3/4 of hers...which is a lot for her.

Overall, if you're on the go its nice to have options you can feel a little bit better about.

Stay tuned for more toddler freezer/easy meals and snacks. I'm going to be testing more than a few recipes in the next little while. :)

Bon Appetit, darlings!

Friday, July 12, 2013

2 Week Dinner Plan

Feeling a little hum drum in your cooking efforts? Having a case of "What to Make?"

Here's what we're eating in our house for dinners for the next two weeks. Most of the meals are crock pot/hot weather friendly since its been nice and toasty here in Rock Springs, WY; however, a few of my husband's favorites that have to go in the oven have made the roster this time around. I will post the links next to the meals I have internet recipes for, and post my personal recipes as I make them. If you just can't wait, I'm sure you're resourceful and know a guy (*cough*Pinterest*cough*) that can give you the down and dirty on how to make a particular menu item that I haven't posted a how-to for yet...

Bon appetit, Darlings!

(In no particular order)

1- Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Chicken (here) *note* I am playing with this as a freezer meal (ie all the ingredients are in a freezer bag with the chicken but the tapioca). I'll let you know how it goes.
2- Fajita Foil Packs (here)
3- Slow Cooker Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki sauce (using the recipe for the marinade that I made grilled ones with here. Seeing how it works in the good old crock pot...again, I'll let you know how it works out.)
4- Crock Pot Curry (here)
5- Cafe Rio Pork Burritos (here)
6- Pizza Rolls (here)
7- Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos (going to play around with this as a freezer meal. Recipe here.)
8- Crock Pot Spaghetti (the meal that keeps on giving recipe for sauce here. I will be using the extras for the next 2 meals that follow)
9- Zuchinni Parmesan (recipe to come, its an original by me, but  you can find other recipes for it on the net.)
10- Volcano Meatball Subs (recipe for meatballs here.)
11- Breakfast Burritos (I will be using my own recipe, I will also be freezing some for easy breakfasts since Breakfast Burritos are a HUGE hit in my house...recipe to come)
12- Teriyaki Chicken (here) *note* I played around with pre-prepping some marinade and freezing the chicken in it so it marinades as it defrosts, I will let you know how it goes.
13- Meat Loaf (this one is from my old recipe blog and almost impossible to read, so I am going to do it again, this time with step by step guide and pictures)
14- Sloppy joes (again, my own recipe. I think I am also going to play around with freezing the sauce and defrosting it to add to the meat after its browned...I'm still going back and forth on that one. If it happens, you will definitely hear about it.)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Who needs Olive Garden? or Manicotti with Homemade Noodles

I'm back!

Did you miss me?

Did you even know I was gone?

This is another post entirely, but we unexpectedly moved to Rock Springs, WY a week ago. I will tell you all about it...but I figured you'd all want a recipe more than reading the life and times of a diva named Brittany right now... goes...

There it is! That hankering! That craving you just can't want Italian food....No- you don't want to pop open a can of premade spaghetti sauce and boil some want something CLASSY...something a little more refined than a pile of noodles on a plate. Maybe its your anniversary? Maybe its a date night?...and maybe you're as poor as a church mouse and can't afford to go to Olive Garden or some other Italian place like Carinos, etc. and spend $10-30 a plate on a meal...

Don't worry friend...I've got your back! YOU TOO CAN MAKE DELICIOUS ITALIAN DISHES AT HOME AND IT IS EASY!!!


Yes...those cheese filled tubes are calling your name...but those Manicotti noodles you buy at the store...they are so cumbersome, aren't they? You have to take 20 minutes to boil them and then half of them split in half as you're trying to fill them and your Manicotti ends up looking like a sad mess and not an elegant, refined, date night kind of meal...

But, what if there was another way? What if you could make your own noodles and it would be SUPER easy and take less time than boiling and filling those premade tubes of yuck....

I have the way my high school I was introduced to this method by a sweet old lady on the first, and only real date I ever went on (again, a story for another day).  It was the Commencement dance. We went to some lady's house for dinner (I can't for the life of me remember her name.) and she made the most delicious Manicotti EVER and when she found out I was so interested in the recipe. She divulged to me her secret for the noodles...CREPES...

It changed my life, and its about to change it is...

Better than a Restaurant Manicotti:

 For the "Noodles" (crepes)

Mix 1 c flour
2 eggs
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt.

It will be runny like the picture below. Try to get as many of the lumps as you can out of it as you whisk it.

Lightly spray either a crepe pan (pictured below) or if you don't have one, a small 6 inch/8 inch frying pan and heat it up over medium heat. Pour a thin layer of the mixture into the pan after it heats, making sure that it will spread out to the edge of the pan. If you have a crepe pan, put the top part down and let it cook, if you are using a small frying pan, just let it sit and cook until the edges are starting to firm up and turn slightly brown.

Flip the crepe by either flipping the pan (with crepe pan) or using a spatula and let it sit for 5-10 seconds. You only want to make sure there is no raw batter left. You should be left with a round that is slightly browned on one side and shiny like a cooked noodle on the other, like so:
So the crepe doesn't stick to the plate, be sure to put a napkin beneath it. They shouldn't stick to one another if you have cooked off all the raw batter.This batch should make 10-12 crepes. Enough to fill a 9x13 pan across.

Spray the pan again, and repeat until all the crepes are made. This process should take as little as 10 minutes to complete.

Once you have your crepes, you can make your filling. My favorite thing to do is take this basic cheese filling that I will share the recipe for, and add some cooked chicken (boiled or pan fried and cut into small chunks), bell peppers, and about a clove of minced garlic (or 1/2 tsp of garlic powder) to make a unique and VERY tasty dish...but I told you we just you get to see the basic cheese recipe...

In a bowl mix:
One 15 oz carton of Ricotta (ignore your inner urge to be cheap and try to use cottage will be runny and won't work...yes, cottage cheese can work if you drain ALL the whey off the cheese curds, but then it takes 3 times the cottage cheese to make the recipe work, not to mention 5 times the work and effort, and it won't be cheaper by then...besides...COTTAGE CHEESE ISN'T HOW THE ITALIANS DO IT...we are trying to be better than Olive Garden here!
1 egg
1/2 c parmesan cheese
1/2-1 cup shredded cheese of your choice (Italians would use Mozzarella, but if all you have in the house is cheddar or colby jack...fine...)
1/4 tsp of salt
1 TBS of parsley

(at this point you can add the aforementioned chicken recipe above, but mine is just going to be the cheese mixture. Its okay that its a little dry. You don't want it to be runny and cook out the sides of the noodle shells)

Now, pull out your 9x13 pan. Open your spaghetti sauce of choice (if we hadn't moved, mine would have been my homemade spaghetti sauce that I make in the crock pot and then freeze the leftovers for Italian dishes down the line, but I didn't have time and we are still living out of boxes, so I used my favorite store brand which is Prego Heart Smart Traditional- I love the Veggie Smart, but I don't think they sell it anymore, I haven't been able to find it for a while. P.S. I will leave the recipe for my crock pot, freezer sauce at the end of this blog.)

Pour about a half of your bottle of spaghetti sauce (maybe a cup to cup and a half worth) onto the bottom of the pan and spread it out.

Then, add one heaping spoonful of your cheese mix to the middle of one of your crepe noodles on the browned side. Roll it like a taco, being sure to make sure that the pasta spread out almost to the ends of the rolls. Place on top of the sauce in the pan seam side down to prevent it from unrolling.

Top with remaining sauce and sprinkle with about a cup (or more depending on how cheesy you like it) of shredded cheese and sprinkle with parmesan.
Cover with aluminum foil (shiny side down, facing the food for you cooking novices out there...this helps direct the heat to the food and makes it cook evenly) and bake at 375 degrees (fahrenheit...saw a complaint on another blog from our friends in Australia since they cook using a different meter on their ovens) for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the cheeses are browned a bit and bubbling...

Et Voila' ! 

(sorry we dug in before I could get a picture of the finished product...) 

I am not a super heavy eater and I eat 1-2 noodles, my husband will eat 2-3. If you get all 12 in the pan, that means it will serve 4-6 people...and for WAY cheaper than the Olive Garden... You can also fry some ground meat and add it to the sauce before you sauce your pan and your noodles...but this vegetarian version is just as won't even miss the meat. I know my husband doesn't (and he is one of the biggest carnivores I know!)

As promised...for those of you interested. Here is my recipe for Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce. I usually just spoon it into quart freezer bags. I find that I usually only need one bag to make a recipe that serves about 4 people.  It will store for 3 months. It works out to be much cheaper than buying store bought sauce...and its MUCH more tasty! I seem to remember it making 4-6 bags of sauce.

2 (15 oz) cans of diced tomatoes (you can use stewed, but I find those chunks are too big. You can also use Italian style diced tomatoes to add some increased flavor, if you're fond of basil and oregano)
3 cans (15 oz) tomato sauce
2 TBS minced onion (dried or fresh, doesn't matter- fresh is much more pungent) or onion powder
2 TBS parsley
2 tsp Italian Seasoning herbs
3 tsp salt
3 tsp sugar
2 tsp minced garlic or garlic powder
(optional) 1/2 diced small and fine green pepper (I don't always have it on hand, and I've made it without the green pepper and it tastes just as awesome.)

Pour all ingredients in the crock pot. Stir well together. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally. 

Let cool and spoon into quart bags or jars and freeze. Be sure to write the date so you know when its "past its prime"

Bon Appetit until next time, darlings!