Friday, April 11, 2014

Faith-filled Friday: Patience and grilling

Hello Crushers!

Yes, I'm still here. The baby has not decided to pick her birthday yet, so we have reached full term at 40 weeks!

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23
We are very fortunate that our baby has made it to full term and we "shouldn't expect" any major developmental problems that preemie babies would have. Other than the gestational diabetes, I have been very blessed to have a relatively uneventful pregnancy. We've been so, so blessed!

Last night, Steve caught me talking to her. I was doing nursery rhymes to see how many I remember. I started joking that I hope she gets Steve's memory for songs and his singing voice. But I hope she gets my skin, arms, hair and ability to remember names. And our love of food and cooking and nature. And Steve's ears. And my grandpa's memory for places. And Steve's grandma's craftiness. And our moms' patience. And so many qualities that I don't even know if you can pass on to another person! 

While we wait for her arrival, Steve is planning on grilling out tonight thanks to the beautiful weather we're having! It's in the 60's today! We can sit out on our back patio and grill up some pork chops, asparagus and maybe even try some hassleback potatoes on the grill. I'll let you know how they turn out!

If you don't hear from me for a little while, it'll be because Baby Girl has finally decided to show up. Otherwise, I'll work on that patience part and catch you on Monday for a Virtual Running Date! Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pasta Redemption

Good morning, Crushers!

The pasta debacle of the past few days has been resolved. We made the recipe last night and it was delicious! I'm so glad I found this recipe and tried it. There are a few modifications that I made because of personal preference and ingredients that I chose to use. It probably has 10x the calories that you actually need, but if you stick to the portion size, it's not so bad. I had to stick to the serving size because I'm only allowed so many carbs, but that works to my advantage!

Here is the original recipe for Sweet and Creamy Bacon and Sausage Linguine. And here's what I did:
1 box of pasta (I used spaghetti since it was on sale instead of linguine)
1 pound of Italian turkey sausage, browned and crumbled
6 slices of bacon, chopped up into small-ish pieces (I could have made them even been smaller)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (low sodium)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp honey
1/4-ish tsp Penzey's Berbere seasoning (you do not need much at all!)
Black pepper to taste
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
1 1/2 - 2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 bag of spinach, washed and dried
3-4 Roma tomatoes, diced
As much Reggano Parmesan cheese as you want 


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare pasta according to package instructions. Make sure you don't let the pasta cook too long or it gets gross. Plus, you're going to be adding sauce, so watch out!

In a large pan (hello favorite Calphalon pan!), brown sausage and bacon. Remove sausage and bacon, leave drippings in pan. NOTE: I was worried about this step since you're going to be adding butter and heavy cream later. Instead, I think I'd either keep the drippings or the butter, but not do both next time. By the time this was done, so was my pasta. I just drained the pasta and moved the sausage and bacon into the pot with the noodles and stirred them so they wouldn't stick together. Why make another pan dirty?!

The pasta and meat is waiting for the delicious sauce!
Stir in chicken broth, butter (see note above) and honey. Season to taste with Berbere and pepper. I left out the salt since that seemed like overkill. Continue cooking until chicken stock is reduced by half. I'm always amazed at how quickly that reduces!

Stir in lemon juice and zest. Stir in heavy cream and simmer until it coats the back of a spoon. Honestly, I probably did not wait long enough before adding the spinach, but I was getting really hungry. Plus, I was using a cool silicone coated spoon, so nothing sticks to that thing! Add baby spinach and stir until wilted. This doesn't take very long.

And here's the healthiest ingredient becoming not as healthy...
I waited until the last minute to stir in the diced tomatoes because I left the seeds in and didn't want them to get too mushy. They look prettier when they're not all mushed up.

Ready to be eaten!
Pour the sauce mixture over the bacon, sausage and linguine and stir until thick and sticks to noodles. Again, I probably did not wait long enough, but I was hungry. What can I say? Plate it up and top with as much Parmesan cheese as you'd like.

This will DEFINITELY be made again at our house. I loved it and so did Steve. I thought we'd end up arguing over who was going to take the leftovers to work for lunch, but fortunately it made enough for lots of leftovers! This would be a great dish to serve at a party since you could probably make the sauce without the drippings and use veggie broth in case you have vegetarian guests. It would be so good!

Peel-a-head: I will get to make myself a whole pan of these strawberry shortcake bars. I can't wait!

Monday, April 7, 2014

VIrtual Running Date No. 49: Pasta Problems

Good morning, Crushers!

Remember how I said that I was going to make this wonderful pasta dish on Saturday night? Heh.

IF this was a virtual running date, you'd be doing the running and I'd be doing some waddling. Yeah, we're waddling now. Oh. My. Lord.

Anyway, after a wonderful morning walk on Saturday, we went to a bunch of stores to plan out Steve's soon-to-be raised garden bed. He's got veggies on the mind! Just when I was all ready to make us a delicious dish on Saturday night, I realized that we never bought pasta on Friday while grocery shopping!

Um, kind of hard to make linguine without the noodles. Facepalm.

So, I'll be making that tonight for dinner instead. Unless baby girl shows up. Then we'll just have all the ingredients for another time.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Faith-filled Friday: Think before you speak and some Aldi salad love

Good morning, Crushers!

In light of the recent heated outpouring of remarks made about the Mets' player who took a few days of paternity leave, I would like to use this passage for today's Faith-filled Friday:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding. - Psalm 49:3
Yes, the rest of this Psalm provides a lot of commentary on wisdom and foolishness for the rich and poor, but I like this passage because of the words "meditation of my heart". It reminds me of the phrase, "think before you speak", but even more so because you're thinking with your heart. Is what I say going to hurt or help? Is it going to affect someone else's heart (emotions) if I say these words?

I hope that I can remember this as a parent and be as patient as my mom is. She always says that you never know what someone else is going through. Not that you're not allowed to be mad and have feelings, but you should not take them out on someone else. Even when the make crazy statements about paternity leave or "you're still pregnant?!".  Yes, yes I am.

Anyway, considering how much I LOVE Aldi grocery stores, I'm shocked to learn that I discovered only today that they have an app (for iPhone and Android), tons of recipes online, and a test kitchen just an hour or so away from my house. I wish I could take a peek in there!

While I was making my weekly menu, I decided to check out their recipe section to see what was there. Um, HELLO! This is awesome!

Here is our menu for the week:
Saturday: Sweet and Creamy Bacon and Sausage Linguine
Sunday: Grill out
Monday: Tacos and beans
Tuesday: Homemade Pizza
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Wing it/Salads
Friday: either go out to eat or go to the hospital to have a baby

Yup, next week Friday is my due date, so we'll either be sticking to this meal plan or we'll be tossing it all to the wind and raiding our freezer meals. (Speaking of freezer meals, I broke down and used one on Wednesday night for dinner - Mozzarella and tomato chicken pasta - and it was amazing!)

Anyway, one more thing I love about Aldi is their really wonderfully priced produce section which means I can make up all sorts of crazy salads. Today's lunch was a romaine lettuce, red pepper, onion, cucumber salad with balsamic sprinkled on top. Oh, and a side of strawberries. Yes, yes we could go and buy all sorts of organic veggies, but that's just not in our budget right now. Instead, we are choosing to eat as healthy as possible in our budget. I think this salad works!

Delicious salad!
Also, it's pretty gestational diabetes-friendly. I ate it with a tortilla and cheese and the strawberries as my carbs. Yum! Speaking of yum, did you know that since Aldi is a German company, that all of their chocolates are delicious German chocolates? WHOO!

Have a wonderful weekend, Crushers!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Virtual Running Date No. 48: Still here, and Spring made an appearance too!

Good morning, Crushers!

If this were a virtual running date, er walking for me, I would tell you, "Yes, I'm still here. Yes, I'm still pregnant. Yes, we feel as ready as possible. No, I'm not sleeping for more than a few hours at a time. Yes, we're excited." I think that covers most of the questions... Oh! "How am I feeling? Round. I'm feeling round."

Just in case you ever need to know what NOT to say to a pregnant person, here is a fairly comprehensive list.

Anyway, I'm happy to say that although the baby has not arrived yet, spring has started to show itself. We had a gorgeous weekend filled with family time. Here is a photo recap of the weekend:

The Wisconsin Badgers have made it to the Final Four!
Here's a picture of the bump in team colors. Future fan!

All of the snow is finally gone from our backyard!
There is a bit yet on the north side of the house, but that's OK.

I found these two awesomely ridiculous ceramic snails with pots on their heads
hidden among the brush. Steve raked the whole yard!

We tried out our Ergo Baby Carrier with our nephew Dylan.
He fell asleep in two minutes in the carrier. Look at that little nose!
On Sunday night Steve grilled outside in shorts and a t-shirt.
The first burgers of spring taste so good!
 I hope spring is springing around you, and that you're able to enjoy some nice weather. We are predicted to have a "wintry mix" later this week, but I'm pretending that it's not going to happen. Let's hope the weather stays nice for everyone!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Faith-filled Friday: Speak Life

Good morning, Crushers!

I have the song "Speak Life" by Toby Mac stuck in my head. Unfortunately, I don't know any of the words beyond the refrain, so I'm sitting here humming the same few lines over and over and over. Does that ever happen to you?

Anyway, I was talking to my sister and somehow we got on the topic of high school mean girls. You know the ones - not as bad as Regina in the movie - but the ones that you remember with the perfect hair? The ability to make any boy stutter? The fear they put in the hearts of all? The unwritten rules of where you could sit in the cafeteria?

Now, I was pretty fortunate that my grade didn't have A mean girl. I mean, there was definitely different crowds of people, but there isn't anyone in my mind that I could point to and think, "She was awful." My sister was not so lucky. They had a group of girls who were "plastic" from their fake tans to their dyed hair to their parents' credit cards. These girls? They are why I get really annoyed by teens when I go to the mall, which I only go to if I really need something.

These teens are not just found in a suburban, middle class public school. They can be found in private schools (just ask my mom about "the clique" back in her day at a religious private school), public schools, inner city schools and rural schools. I have friends from college who went to rural schools where you fed cows before class. Somehow the mean girls still had time to get all gussied up before class. Steve could tell you about the mean girls he sees in his inner city classes that exude an aura of "I'm cooler than you".

Where do these girls come from? No idea. I'm kind of guessing that their moms were the mean girls before them and somehow it's genetic. Or maybe it's just that they are in that group? No clue.

However, I really, really, really hope that my daughter (who is due in 2 weeks!!!) never ever acts like that. I hope she always speaks life to others. That never a mean word passes from her mouth to another's ear. I also don't want her to be a push-over, but to stand up for herself when the time is right with the appropriate words. Mostly, I hope that she'll be a more eloquent speaker as a teen than her mother was, who regularly stuck her foot in her mouth (and still does on occasion). Words should be used for encouragement, not cutting another person down.

Raise your thoughts a little higher,
Use your words to inspire,
Joy will fall like rain,
When you speak life with the things you say. - Toby Mac Lyrics from KLOVE

Let's all try and speak a little more life today and every day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Butternut Squash Soup kind of day

Good morning, Crushers!

Steve and I have been working on getting through some of the veggies we still had stored in our freezer from last fall's harvest. We recently ate roasted beets from his family's garden. Remember when they turned my hands purple? Fortunately, that didn't happen when we roasted them this time! HA!

I had some left over butternut squash from fall when I made risotto with my grandpa. Freezing the leftovers really paid off because I was able to turn the squash into a really nice soup last weekend. Perfect for a Tuesday night dinner with some fancy grilled cheese (provolone with spinach and mushrooms - yum!). This recipe made enough for the both of us for dinner plus three 2-cup containers for the freezer!

I took a the Butternut Squash and Carrot soup recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and tweaked it. I didn't have enough carrots on hand, so I substituted potatoes. Also, I couldn't find nutmeg anywhere in the house, so I used cinnamon instead. The soup was a bit sweet, but it was a nice compliment to the salty grilled cheese.

Butternut Squash Soup:
3-4 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped into one inch pieces
2 cups potatoes (I used red potatoes), peeled and chopped into small pieces
1/2 a large onion, diced
1 Tbsp butter
1 32 oz box container of low-sodium chicken broth (veggie broth would work too)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup half-and-half or heavy whipping cream

Gear you'll need: A large sauce pan or pot, measuring cups and spoons, a blender or food processor, a sharp knife, cutting board and veggie peeler.

I was fortunate enough to already have peeled my squash, so I didn't have to do that again. What a challenge! Anyway, peel your potatoes and dice them and the onions if you haven't already done so. Put the potatoes, squash, diced onion and butter in the pan/pot and cook for about 7-8 minutes stirring occasionally. They should be tender when you poke them with a knife.
Simmerin' away...

Once the veggies are tender, add the broth and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for a good 25 minutes. You can stir it occasionally. Your squash and potatoes might start to break down a bit. That's perfectly OK since you're going to puree it in a minute.

While that's simmering away, assemble your blender or food processor. I know that I'm one of the biggest food processor fans in the whole world, but I chose to use a blender for this one. I KNOW. Here's why:
  1. I knew I would be pouring hot liquids and the blender has a spout.
  2. It is easy to measure with the lines on the side of the blender, although you don't REALLY need to measure too much.
  3. It is easy to clean up!
  4. It has a puree button.
  5. I couldn't find the right attachment that I wanted to use on my food processor.
Really, numbers 1 and 4 were my biggest reasons, but I figured I'd share them all just in case it sways you one way or the other.
Make sure the lid is on tight!
Once you're all done simmering, add about 1/3 of the mixture to the blender, make sure you have the lid on securely, and puree the heck out of it! Make sure it's nice and creamy. Although the original recipe said to return it to your sauce pan, I just put it in a big bowl that has a lid because I knew I'd be storing it before we'd eat it. As you repeat the steps to puree the mixture, be careful that you don't spill and burn your fingers or arm.


Anyway, once you've got that all done and in a large bowl or back in your sauce pan, add the cream and spices. You could have added the spices already, so if you did, that's fine. I don't think it matters too terribly much. All the real chefs out there can prove me wrong in the comments if you'd like!

Now you can divide the soup into "now and later" portions or you can just stand there with a spoon and eat it. There's no judging here.