Tag Archives: Whatcha Got Cooking?

A Manly Meal = A Night Off For Mom

Friday night was a big night! 

To my surprise, I felt up to eating….chicken. 

That’s right, people! I’m back!

Okay, so maybe not fully back. I definitely am still having food aversions, and if you asked me to eat a grilled chicken breast with a salad, I might turn you down. But smother it in refried beans and cheese, and I’ll say, “Yes, please!”

In honor of this momentous pregnancy occasion I thought I’d share a little secret with you from one mom to another. When you don’t feel up to cooking, grill and if your husband is anything like mine, he’ll take over dinner. 

There’s one meal I can pretty much convince my husband to grill anytime I ask, and that’s Alton Brown’s fajita recipe. It’s delicious, restaurant quality, and slightly manly. Of course, Alton Brown is as manly as it comes when it comes to cooking. If you’re not familiar with Alton, take an hour and watch his show on the Food Network. He makes cooking a science; literally, and appeals to a male audience when he talks about the “hardware” in the kitchen.

So, if you’re looking for a great summer meal to grill this Fourth of July, try this fajita recipe. I promise you won’t regret it! 

Marinade Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 4 scallions, washed and cut in 1/2
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar or Mexican brown sugar
  • Original recipe calls for: 2 pounds inside skirt steak, cut into 3 equal pieces 
  • We use: 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1) Heat charcoal, preferably natural chunk, until grey ash appears.
(or start your gas grill!) 
2) In a blender, put in oil, soy sauce, scallions, garlic, lime juice, red pepper, cumin, and sugar, and puree in a food processor. 

3) In a large heavy duty Ziplock bag, put pieces of skirt steak (or chicken) and pour in marinade.

4) Seal bag, removing as much air as possible. 

5) Allow steak to marinate for 1 hour in refrigerator.

6) Remove steak from bag and pat dry with paper towels. 
7) Lay steaks directly onto hot coals for 1 minute per side. If using chicken, allow for 4-5 minutes on each side depending on thickness.

8) When finished cooking, place meat in double thickness of aluminum foil, wrap, and allow to sit for 15 minutes.
9) Remove meat from foil, reserving foil and juices. 
10) Slice thinly across the grain of the meat. 
11) Return to foil pouch and toss with juice. 
Serve with grilled peppers and onions, if desired.

Let me know how you like it!

My Version of Thank You Notes

With the exception of a slight headache, I woke up this morning feeling pretty good. I’ve got 2 1/2 weeks until the end of my first trimester, and I’m hopeful that the worst of the nausea is over! What I’ve come to realize is that it’s all about control. If I can be in control of my eating throughout the day, for the most part, I can keep the nausea at bay. I still have some bad days, but for the most part it’s not where it was 4 weeks ago. 

As I was reflecting on how much better things have been I started to wish I could thank some key players who played a role in helping me overcome the last trimester; which of course made me Google Thank You Notes by Jimmy Fallon just to get a good laugh. . .
Now I’m not a comedian, so my thank you notes aren’t funny, but I do have a few thank you’s I’d write if it were appropriate to write thank you notes to objects.

What were your favorite foods to help you through the nausea?

Thirty By 30: No. 30

During the summer of 2007, my husband and I were fortunate enough to have spent 2 weeks touring the backroads of Germany. We began in Munich where we picked up my husband’s dream car (a newly released 135i), drove down to Berchtesgaden near the Austrian border, over to Hohenschwangau to see Schloss Neuschwanstein, up the Romantic Road to Berlin, and finally landed in Frankfurt to head home. 

Having ice cream spaghetti in Rothenberg ob der Tauber
While we were there, we were immersed in the language and culture; more specifically the food. The entire 2 weeks the only foods I ate that weren’t German was a brief stop off at a Subway on the Romantic Road, the Hard Rock Cafe in Berlin, and a Pizza Hut in Frankfurt. 

A little background: When we visited Germany, my husband was well-traveled; however, I had never been out of Continental United States. It didn’t take long for me to become overwhelmed by German food and couldn’t wait to be back in the States to enjoy a good, greasy fast food hamburger. To this day, I still can’t look at a Meatball sub from Subway without an overwhelming feeling of happiness and relief. 

Since then, I’ve traveled a little more and have experienced a few more cultures. Now, I’d give anything to be back in Germany eating Schnitzel Wiener Art and Kartoffelgratin. We’ll go back one day, but until then, we have to settle for our “famous” Oktoberfest parties and the Bavarian Grill

If you’re looking to have a German experience, this is the place to go! It’s a deceptively small storefront in a small Plano shopping center, but has been voted the #1 German restaurant in the nation by Germandeli.com. Walking in, you’re instantly transported to a small German town. There’s the rich smell of bread and potatoes in the air and a polka band playing in each room. 
You’ll have a hard time finding another restaurant with as large of a selection of authentic German beers as the Bavarian Grill. 

It’s important to not let the language intimidate you on food choice! When we went last weekend, they were featuring a whole menu using Spargel or white asparagus; a staple in German food in the spring. I opted to try the Spargel Creme Suppe for an appetizer and it was delicious! It tasted like a warm rich potato soup with a hint of asparagus flavor. It was delicious, and I only wish it was a dish I could make in cooler seasons. Sadly the Spring Season in Texas is 90 degrees!

I was tempted to venture outside my “usual,” but the Schnitzel Wiener Art is too delicious to pass up. If you’re unfamiliar with this dish, it’s veal pounded to an 1/8″ thick friend in breadcrumbs. The best way to serve it is by squeezing some lemon juice onto the top. The Bavarian Grill serves it a little fancier with a creamy mushroom sauce. I ordered the Spaetzle (homemade noodle dumplings) and kartoffelsalat (a warm, mustardy, herbed potato salad). 

And as full as we were, you can’t pass up strudel. A freshly baked apple “pie-like” dessert with a vanilla creme sauce and whipped cream. But hold the “a la mode”! If you want to be authentic, Germans typically don’t eat strudel with ice cream. 

Just like turkey on Thanksgiving or Ham on Easter, German food isn’t something we indulge in very often, but before I turned 30, I wanted to make sure I enjoyed a good ol’ fashioned home-cooked German meal!

What’s your favorite type of foreign food? 

Let the Aversions Begin

As the days have gone on, the food aversions and nausea have begun. It’s odd how one day you can be eating a chicken soft taco or a fresh mixed green salad with no problems, then the next day those same foods repulse you. 

Zofran helps with the nausea, but it doesn’t help with the aversions. I hate feeling like everything around me is disgusting. My poor husband has been working until 6:30 or 7:00 lately while he finishes a project, and when he gets home I want him to be able to enjoy a home cooked meal. How do I prepare a meal when every idea I have makes me want to. . . blah. 

This evening I was looking for ideas when I came across this blog article from LiveStrong.com. The author has several tips for how to prepare food when you’re in the middle of morning sickness woes. 

Step 1
Take a nap before cooking. Feeling tired and fatigued while pregnant worsens your nausea symptoms, so a 30-minute nap can give you some much needed energy before preparing a meal.

Step 2
Snack on crackers throughout the day and while you’re preparing food. Crackers can help settle an upset stomach, and they keep you from feeling hungry while you’re cooking. Hunger often makes nausea more noticeable during pregnancy.

Step 3
Avoid foods that trigger your nausea. Your heightened sense of smell during pregnancy makes some of your favorite pre-pregnancy foods seem repulsive. The cause of your super smell is unknown, but it’s possible that increased estrogen production is to blame. Fish, fried foods, smoke from cooking, spices and raw meats are only a few possible triggers. 

Step 4
Suck on lemons or lemon-drop candies while cooking to reduce morning sickness. Sniffing a lemon may also reduce nausea while cooking, so keep a lemon cut up in a small dish near your cooking space. Cooking with ginger and drinking ginger ale while preparing meals also has an anti-nausea effect.

Step 5
Prepare bland foods, such as mashed potatoes, bagels, yogurt, chicken soup, plain baked potato, rice, pasta, oatmeal and toast. If you can only tolerate breakfast foods, eat those foods for all your meals in combination with your prenatal vitamins. You can eat a whole-grain bagel with peanut butter, a banana and a cup of yogurt for every meal for the next 15 weeks if that’s what you’re comfortable eating.

Step 6
Control your environment. Open windows and turn on fans to reduce smoke in the room and make the air less stuffy. Avoid using the oven during the summer if you don’t have air conditioning since a warm room increases your nausea.

Step 7
Take vitamin B-6 supplements. Always get your doctor’s approval before taking any supplements while pregnant. Vitamin B-6 is known to ease nausea for some women and is taken in doses of 10 to 25 milligrams, three times per day. Your prenatal vitamin counts as one dose.

I haven’t tried any of these yet, but I’m definitely going to start! I’m really hoping they’ll help!

How did you manage to cook in the midst of your morning sickness? 

The Power of Ginger

I’ve been watching a friend go through the joys of the first trimester of pregnancy. All those wonderful experiences like worrying, anxiety, nausea, and sickness. Don’t you miss that? 

Although it seems like yesterday when I discovered I was pregnant, all of the memories that came along with the first trimester have slowly faded. It wasn’t until she’d brought up ginger that I even remembered the herb was supposed to help with nausea. I guess I’m not experienced enough with the whole pregnancy-thing to remember those types of details. After our conversation, I decided to do a little research on Ginger just out of curiosity. I was pretty surprised what I found! 

Most moms are familiar with the different types of Ginger pops (Queasy Pops, Preggie Pops, and Gin Gins.) Yes, those are real products! But I wondered if there wasn’t a better way to get a dose of ginger without sucking on it. So last night, I turned to the internet and found some awesome recipes I’m going to recommend to my pregnant friend.

Now I haven’t tried any of these yet, but with recipes from sites like Better Homes & Gardens and Martha Stewart.com, I’m sure they must be good! 
Ginger-Lime Soda / Ginger Cookies / Ginger Peach Galettes / Carrot Ginger Soup
Do you have any great ginger recipes to share? 
What ways did you battle the nausea

It’s All In the Details

I have a problem with expectations. 
(My husband will laugh hysterically at this understatement.) 

The Little Man’s first birthday was a huge learning experience for me and a lesson in dealing with expectations. Now that the wrapping paper has been cleaned up and the dishes have been loaded into the dishwasher, I can look back and shake my head at all the silly things I’ve been stressing over the last week. 

From the beginning, I knew that he wouldn’t remember ANYTHING from this party, but in my head I wanted to make it special for me, Tim, and all of our family that has been through this last year with us. I envisioned Martha Stewart worthy decorations, appetizers that would be pinned for years to come, a picture-perfect homemade smash cake, and a home filled with family and friends. 

What I got was this  . . . 

This is my homemade smash cake. 
Uneven fondant circles, rough butter cream icing, and leaning like the Tower of Pisa.

I don’t think anyone will be pinning this anytime soon. 

But that’s okay. Because what I learned today is that it doesn’t matter what the cake looks like. It’ll get eaten. And it doesn’t matter if the cookies I baked weren’t perfectly round because they still tasted amazing. And even though only 12 of 30 family members are able to come, the house was still filled with laughter and love for my son.  

Just like pregnancy and having a newborn, I wish I’d listened to the advice I’d been given about throwing a birthday party for my child. And just like our next child, the next birthday party I’ll do things differently.

My Advice for Your Child’s 1st Birthday 
From Someone Who’s Been There

1) When it comes to decorating, Dollar Tree is your friend. 
They have a whole aisle dedicated to party supplies. You might pay $2.99 for a brown plastic tablecloth at Party City, but you’ll pay $1 at the Dollar Tree. And just like Party City, they’ll have plates, napkins, silverware, and cups to match your table cloth. 

2) Stick with recipes you know, or at least test them in advance. 
Pinterest is awesome for discovering new recipes, but don’t expect them to always work. When trying out new recipes, go with a trusted source like Allrecipes.com or TasteofHome.com. When nap times are all the time you have to work and bake, don’t waste your time with recipes where the only comments are “Those look so delicious!” Look for ratings and comments from users who have tried the recipe before you. It will save you a lot of precious time! Then you can pin the recipes and let others learn from you!

3) Stick to a budget.
Party planning and decorating can get expensive and fast. Basic supplies like balloons, ingredients, invitations, food and party favors can easily add up to $100. Then when you add decorations, bakery cupcakes and/or cakes, drinks, etc. . .it adds up! Come up with a plan, draw out what you want your party to look like, and stay with it! 

4) Stop and smell the roses. 
Remember, when it’s all said and done, you want your memories to be of your child’s happiness on their special day; not slaving away in the kitchen throwing cookie dough at your husband when something doesn’t go right. (Did that happen?)  If it doesn’t all get done, don’t worry about! Your child will be just as thrilled that they’re being celebrated and won’t noticed the little touches you didn’t have time for.

I’ve walked away a better person for having experienced all the trials and tribulations that go into a first birthday, and now that I can take a deep breath and brush all the drama away, I couldn’t have asked for a better day. 
Salted Caramel Turtle Cookies / Gift tags by Whimsical Occassions / Turtle fonts & images by Little Prints Parties
Cake Mix Cookies / Caesar Salad Bits
Banner by Whimsical Occasions / Photo Frames – Dollar Tree

Creating a Freezer Group

I’ve had several people ask me, “What is a freezer group?

In a few words, it’s a lifesaver!

(Update: My Freezer group loves it so much, we actually posted about it on the SAME DAY! Check out Kali’s freezer post at Dallas Moms Blog.)

A freezer meal group is a group of people who meet to exchange ready-to-bake frozen meals. Inspired by the Funky Freezer Girls, my small group of 8 meets every other month. Over dessert and wine, we quickly exchange our meals and spend the rest of the time socializing! Sounds easy, huh? 

For 1 day of work, I walk away with 8 new meals, new recipes, and a huge sense of relief that I’ll always have an “in case of emergency” meal for those nights I just don’t want to cook!

How do I start a group?
It’s easy! Grab a group of girlfriends, and pick a date! 
Try to stick with a group less than 10. Just remember, you have to make a meal for each family. The more meals you have to make, the longer you’ll be spending in the kitchen. But you also want a good number so you have more meals to choose from!

How does this type of group work?
I will make 1 meal for each person in our group; including 1 meal for my family and 1 “Blessing” meal (explained later). Each meal that I make is exactly the same, so I typically make it in one big batch. When we meet up, we all swap meals and walk away with the same number of meals that we brought. 

Isn’t it expensive?
 Anytime you have a large grocery purchase, it does get expensive for that particular trip to the store, but don’t let sticker shock steer you away. After each of my shopping trips, I’ve totaled everything up and divide it by the number of meals I’ve made. So far, my meals have all been less than $10 per entree. You can save even more by buying in bulk (Costco, Sam’s Club, etc.), using coupons, and using off-brand when you can. 

Also, avoid recipes that have more expensive ingredients. When browsing the internet for frozen meals, recipes are often meant for just 2 meals. You’ll quickly learn that 2 cup of pecans might not be terribly expensive, but 20 cups is a whole different story! 

Is it time consuming?
It can be depending on the recipe you choose. Just like cooking a typical meal at home, some steps take longer than others.  If you know you’re not going to have a lot of time one month, make sure to choose a recipe that doesn’t involve shredding chicken or dicing a lot of ingredients. Instead, choose a meal that uses ground beef, frozen veggies, and/or canned soups.
You can also learn how to prepare foods in bulk to help you cut down on your cooking time. For example, I might normally boil chicken when I’m cooking 2-4 chicken breasts, but with 20 chicken breast, the oven is a much better choice! (Thanks to sites like The Cutting Back Kitchen!)
Where do you get your recipes? 
Or try sites like these:
What is a “Blessing” meal, and is it really worth making?
A “Blessing” meal is a meal that you’d like to give to someone else to help them in a time of need. Maybe there’s a new mom who’s needing a meal for her family. Perhaps there’s a sick couple at your church. Or even a neighbor you’d like to get to know, and need an ice breaker. Use this meal to bless someone in your life! Can’t think of anyone that month to give it to, then bless your own family with a awesome homecooked meal!

Ready to start your own Freezer group now?
Grab some girlfriends and go!

Are you a part of a Freezer group?
What tricks have you learned along the way?

Rediscovering Peppermint

The tree’s being taken down and the ornaments are getting packed away. All that’s left are those lonely candy canes hanging there on the branches still waiting to be eaten. 

It’s tradition in my family to hang these on the tree, but almost every year I’ll eat one or two and the rest will get thrown away. A dinner mint x 10; eating a whole candy cane is a little too much for me. It just doesn’t seem like a Christmas tree without these thrown about, so I know I’ll continue to buy them, but next year I’m going to try changing their fate! 

I wish I’d been the genius who came up with these awesome ways of using your unwanted candy canes, but I didn’t. However, I am smart enough to know a good idea when I see one!

Take the Crushed Peppermint Cheesecake with an Oreo cookie crust! 
This would make an excellent New Year’s dessert! 

Or the peppermint fudge by Martha Stewart. 

You could even do something simple like add crushed candy canes to the top of whipped cream in your cup of hot chocolate or sprinkled over your Hot Fudge Sunday. If you’re really into peppermint, add it to your Blue Bell Peppermint ice cream!

The possibilities are endless!
I’ve also recently discovered some of other “pepperminty” products on the market inspired by this winter sweet

Bath & Body Works has launched a new line of candles called Slatkin & Co (sold at White Barn), and they’ve gone all out on peppermint! Some of their new scents include Twisted Peppermint, Ribbon Candy, and my favorite, Marshmallow Peppermint.  And while you’re there, Bath & Body Works also has a refreshing lip balm called Peppermint Hug. 

If you’ve ever been a pregnant mommy, you may have tried a foot rub to help soothe your tired feet. Burt’s Bees makes a peppermint foot lotion that has a cooling effect as you apply. I used this almost every night during the third trimester!

What ideas do you have for your leftover Candy Canes?

Smells From My Kitchen

As I’ve gotten older and my monthly budget has become tighter than my belt, I’ve come to realize that high prices don’t always mean greater satisfaction. Long gone are the days of shopping at Victoria’s Secret for pajamas and underwear. Instead of paying $26 for 5, I’m now paying $15 for 5 at my local Target. My Ann Taylor credit card is collecting dust, and sales and coupons now determine where I’ll shop for Christmas gifts. 

I finished my Christmas shopping early this year, and with my free time I found myself being called to do more. Tim and I have done such a great job of coming in under budget on our Christmas spending, so I didn’t want to ruin it by going out and spending more on gifts for everyone that came to mind. 

In the past, I would have been so embarrassed at the thought of making a homemade gift for someone. I’m not creative, and my baking skills were somewhat lacking. Although, my cookies often tasted good, I was no Martha Stewart. I always shivered at the thought of someone receiving my baked goods that had been a little too brown or not perfectly round.

After our Dopps Camp Thanksgiving, I found myself with some extra baking ingredients. (That’s an understatement!)

Originally I’d kept the receipts to return as much as possible, when I realized I could do a lot with what I had; the cookie possibilities were endless!

My first thought was baking for myself, but I knew it was ridiculous to think about baking this much for my little family of 3. 

And that’s when it dawned on me. . .gifts! I could use almost everything I had as gifts for someone. 

For my 2 year old Bible Hour volunteers and neighbors. . .
Inspired by Pilcookbooks.com
And my friends at MoPS. . .
(Modified) Pretzel Kisses by House on Hilltop
 Then there’s Baby Boot Camp mommies. . . 
Treat Toppers by Rachel Cooke & Maple Cinnamon Mix
In the past, I would have felt so embarrassed gifting homemade goodies, but I‘ve come to realize that homemade gifts can be just as special as store bought ones. Taking the time our of my mommy schedule to bake for someone is my way of showing my appreciation for that person. Although my gift might not be “high end,” it’s the thought and love that went into the gift that matters. 

And with all the cute and crafty ideas on the internet lately, I no longer have the I’m not Martha Stewart excuse!  

What are some of your favorite homemade gift ideas?

Comfort Treats No. 3

When the holidays roll around, that’s the time my kitchen gets the messiest! 

I have quite a few favorite treats that I make every year, 
and most of them have come from this cookbook!
I know, I know!
I’ve mentioned Taste of Home a number of times on my blog
but it’s because they’re just so darn good!

I have yet to make a dish out of one of their recipe books that I haven’t liked. 

I normally share my favorite recipes when sharing a cookbook,
 but I think this time I’ll share my husband’s. 
(He’s already begging me to make these again!)

by Muriel White, Brampton, Ontario

Makes 3 dozen 

1/2 c. butter
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
3 tbsp. baking cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. graham cracker crumbs (about 32 squares)
3 1/2 c. flaked coconut
36 large marshmallows (about)
wax paper

1. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper; set aside.
2. In a saucepan, combine butter, milk, cocoa, and vanilla. Cook and stir over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.
3. Remove from the heat; stir in cracker crumbs and 1 1/2 c. coconut. 
Let stand until cool enough to handle. 
4. Using moistened hands, wrap about 1 tbsp. of mixture around each marshmallow (dip hands in water often to prevent sticking). 
5. Roll in remaining coconut; place on prepared baking sheet. 
6. Cover and freeze until firm.
7. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. 
8. May be frozen for up to 2 months. 

In the end, you’ll have something that looks like this
Looks delicious, huh?

From sweet treats to bountiful breads and savory bites, 
you’ll want this recipe book on your shelf for all the holidays!

But why wait to buy it when you can win it here!

One lucky winner will win Gifts From the Country Kitchen by Taste of Home.
Simply use the Rafflecopter form below to enter!

Contest will end Saturday, December 10 at 12:01am.