09 May 2013

It's Party time

Every good party has two things going for it - silly party tricks and tasty food. 

C has turned out to be quite a little ham.  She has never met a stranger and loves to be the center of attention.  Her newest party trick is showing everyone how she can 'jump' ... and it's adorable.  Bless her little heart, she thinks she is jumping so high and she never actually leaves the ground.  I captured her trick on my phone yesterday.  Enjoy.  (The first 6 seconds are blurry, but I just couldn't bring myself to cut that part because it's so cute)   

 A few weeks ago I came across the most fabulous party sandwich idea (at HEB, of course)... Lazy Girl Muffalettas.  I've made them twice already - once for a party and then on a smaller scale for dinner for my family. 

To feed a crowd you'll need:
1 loaf of ciabatta or French bread
olive tapenade
provolone cheese slices
mozzarella cheese slices
deli slices of ham, turkey, salami and or pastrami (I use a combo of all of 'em)

Heat the oven to 350.

Slice the loaf lengthwise and spread both sides with some of the tapenade.  Layer your chosen meats on both sides of the bread, followed by the cheeses (one type on each side) .  Put the two sides together, with the cheeses meeting in the middle.  Wrap the entire thing in foil and then pop it in the oven for 20 or so minutes, just until everything is warmed through and the cheese is melted. 

Delicious right out of the oven, but just as yummy as they cool also.  I'm planning on making several variations on this theme over the next few weeks/months.  Seems like it would totally work in the grill too.  I'm always trying to think of ways to NOT use my oven during the summer months.

09 April 2013

Yes, I'm Still Alive

Just pulled up my blog for the first time in a loooong time. I thought it was very interesting that the last post I made was EXACTLY one month before C came into this world! Yep, we had a Groundhog Baby. I ended up being induced and was able to choose between January 31st and February 2nd. For some reason I have always really liked the month of February, I wanted her to be born on an even day (weird, I know) and Groundhog Day is also my grandparents' anniversary.  It was the most amazing experience and one of the best days of my life. We now can't imagine life without C!

Just a few hours old.  Isn't she precious?

There were a few bumps in the road along the way the first year. We dealt with nightly 1 - 3 am scream-fests for a few weeks, difficulty digesting dairy (I ended up giving up dairy for 5 months so her little tummy wouldn't hurt), and chronic ear infections that led to C not sleeping through the night before her first birthday.  I will be forever grateful to Dr. Harvey Karp’s book Happiest Baby on the Block, all of the great dairy replacement options on the market and to Dr. Jakob for putting tubes in C’s ears.  Through it all the Hubs has been such an amazing support. I know I would not have survived without his encouragement and love. 

Found this stuck to my  lamp while getting ready for bed one night.

Although it’s not my first choice, I did have to go back to work this school year and honestly, balancing working full-time and trying to be a good mom has been really hard.  I rush home from work every day and try to cram in as much quality time as possible before bedtime.  And before C began sleeping well at night I was still getting up 3xs a night on average.  Needless to say I was exhausted.  For the first year of Little C's life I didn’t do much cooking.  Never before had we ever eaten so much take-out, fast food and pre-packaged meals.  It’s not like I was happy about it, but I just felt like I had no other choice.  I did make a fair amount of her baby food, but not as much as I would have liked - still working through all of the ‘mom guilt’ I feel about that one.

This photo captures it perfectly.
It’s only recently that, as I posted on Facebook the other day,"I'm finally starting to feel morelike ' me'... starting to cook more and meal plan again, tackling a few 'just for fun' projects, and am ready to buy some new, stylish clothes for my post-baby body". C has started sleeping very well, only occasionally waking up once during the night. She also now plays independently for extended periods of time, freeing me up to actually prepare meals, as opposed to just heating something up.   I have missed cooking.  A lot.  But I am getting back into it, slowly, but surely.  I’ve found that planning ahead and utilization of the crockpot are keys to success for me.  For April I actually made a monthly dinner plan calendar! 

It's color-coded and even includes hyperlinks to recipes

On Pintrest I have seen a ton of links to sites that say something like “prep a month worth of meals in 1 day”.  I excitedly open each of them hoping that they hold the key to simplifying my life, but without fail they require large chunks of hands-on time to do the food prep. This is a problem for me for several reasons: 1) I work full time and 2) the Hubs holds a second job as a photographer and most weekends he has at least one, and many times two photo shoots, in addition to several weeknight sessions.  Two other criteria that have to be met for a meal plan to work for me are that the meals need to be fairly nutritious and budget friendly.  I’ve been trying to take some of the ideas behind those “ahead of time food prep” sites and shape them in ways that work for my family with my time, nutrition and budget constraints. 

C is such a big help in the kitchen

One thing I have noticed is that tons of make-ahead recipes utilize already cooked and chopped or shredded chicken. If you’re using store-bought rotisserie chickens it can get really expensive really fast. So when bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts go on sale at my local HEB, I stock up and roast them all at once. Super simple. Here’s what that actually looks like time-wise at my house:
  1. When I get home from work I turn the oven on to preheat (375°F) while I’m changing clothes and getting us snacks.  C then helps me season the meat with some olive oil, salt and pepper and any other spices I feel like using. (I’m currently addicted to this blend from Penzeys).  
  2. We play outside while the chicken breasts roast (45 - 50 minutes) and then I let them cool completely while we eat dinner and do our bedtime routine. 
  3. After she is down it takes me about 10 minutes to remove the skin, pull all of the meat off of the bones and then cube it.  I typically use my FoodSaver to vacuum pack the meat into 2 cup portions to go in the freezer. 
This means that this week I spent a little less than $10, lost no precious time with my daughter and ended up with over 12 cups of cooked, cubed chicken that I am using in empanadas, green chili chicken enchiladas, chicken tortilla soup, and homemade pizzas (Thai & BBQ) that we will eat later this month and next month, too. 

02 January 2012

What we did over our holiday break...

So besides that pre-Christmas baking spree, I did almost NO other cooking.  I couldn't.  We were so busy trying to get the house ready for Little C that there just wasn't time.  Despite the fact that I feel more and more like a beached whale every day, these seriously might have been the most productive 6 days we have ever had.

My view of the world these days.
 We've been in our house for a little over 5 years and never really defined a purpose for each of the other three bedrooms.  Basically they became collect-all rooms full of a random assortment of junk and none of them were really functional.  With Little C's arrival only 6 weeks away, it was time to spring into action.  Closets needed to be cleaned out, rooms needed to be painted, furniture needed to be moved, purchased or thrown out and new carpet needed to be installed.  That's a lot of work.