Precious Moments

A few days ago Scott was able to get home a little early from work (yay!). This enabled me to get out and get my run in earlier than usual (double yay!).

When I came home none of my guys (Scott, Marcus, Drake) were downstairs. I heard faint little coos coming from the direction of the monkey's room.
I found the guys in Marcus' room. With Drake at the foot of the rocker, and Scott snuggled up with Marcus in the rocker. Marcus was so content lying in Scott's arms, staring up at his daddy and cooing and chatting like I've never heard from the little man. The sight melted my heart.

It was the purest and most precious moment. I wish I could pause time, even if just for a second.


Perfect Garlic Bread

This is kind of a no-recipe, recipe. And, I don't think you can technically call this baking. But, hey, if it's going to accompany my spaghetti and taste PHENOM then I don't see a problem. This bread was paired with the Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce and it was a match made in Heaven.

No pasta dinner is complete without the garlic bread. Let me tell you, you want this garlic bread in your life, you really do.

Go grab a loaf of your favorite Italian or French bread and get going on this!

Perfect Garlic Bread
1 loaf Italian or French bread (found in your grocers bakery)
Butter, melted
Garlic salt, to taste
Italian seasoning, to taste
Preheat oven to 350.
Cut bread into slices about 1/2 inch thick.
Be sure you do not cut the bread all the way through.
Add garlic salt and Italian seasoning to butter.
Brush seasoned butter between the slices.
Wrap loaf in aluminum foil.
Bake for 15 minutes to warm through.

The oven gets turned on, so does that count as baking? Let's just go ahead and say yes.
Next time you're planning a meal that involves pasta DO NOT forget to make this bread!

Source: Iowa Girl Eats :)


Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce

Another delightful dish from Iowa Girl. I'd apologize for recreating her recipes, but then I'd just be lying to you. I'm not sorry. In fact, isn't the greatest form of flattery copying reproducing another work? Well, that's just what I'm doing.

Secretly, I kind of want to be Iowa Girl. Or, just spend a week with her, in her kitchen, watching her whip up deliciousness and taking amazing photos as she goes.

Iowa Girl enjoys running, and I enjoy running. She likes to cook/bake, I like to cook/bake. She blogs about her food, so do I. She's from Iowa, I'm from Iowa. And she hates Lima beans as much as me! All this makes me think we should just go ahead and become BFFs!

Alright, I'll stop obsessing about Iowa Girl (but, seriously, if I'm ever in Iowa and see her I might run up to her, give her a huge hug and babble on about how much I love her and think we were destined to be best friends) and get on with the meal at hand.

It's been a hot minute since I've busted out the crock pot. The second I saw this I knew I'd be making it.   When it comes to spaghetti sauce I usually always take the easy route and grab my fav jar of Ragu Light, but something about this looked too amazing to skip over.

Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce
1 lb ground turkey (yeah, yeah, use beef if you really must)
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, minced
28oz can crushed tomatoes
8oz can tomato sauce
6oz can tomato paste
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 bay leaf
3 garlic cloves, minced,
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp red chili pepper flakes (optional)
2 Tbsp butter*
Season ground turkey/beef with salt and pepper.
Brown meat with minced onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Drain, then add to large crock pot.
Add all ingredients except for the butter*, stir to combine, then cook on low for 5-6 hours.
Remove bay leaves, stir in butter*.
Serve over cooked pasta.

*I just could not find it in me to add 2 Tbsp of butter, and the sauce was outstanding without it. I'm sure the taste would be kicked up a notch with the butter, I mean, everything is better with butter - right?!
Oh goodness did we enjoy our pasta. I'm not sure I'll ever buy the store sauce ever again.

Nutrition Info for sauce only:
Serves approximately 6; nutrition info for one serving (about 3/4 cup sauce)
Calories - 116
Fat - 1.5g
Carbs - 19g
Fiber - 5g
Protein - 6.5g

Source: Iowa Girl Eats


Shrimp Scampi

On a few rare occasions since the little man has been born I've tried to make a few meals that require a lot of time and attention. Quickly, I've realized those meals will be few and far between. At least until the big guy is a little more self sufficient. Until then, I'm always on the search for quick, tasty, and healthy meals.

Introducing the newest dinner staple in our house...
This meal, from start to finish, took me 18 minutes. That's it! The time factor alone has catapulted this into my top 10 meals to make over and over.

Shrimp Scampi
Serves 4
4 portions whole-wheat penne pasta (8 oz uncooked)
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 portions raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 1 lb)
6 Tbsp Can't Believe It's Not Butter (or other light butter substitute)
6 Tbsp chicken broth (or white wine)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
6 Tbsp reduced-fat Parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 lemon, halved
Prepare penne pasta according to package directions.
While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil and garlic in a large skillet, over medium heat.
Add shrimp to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until it's almost pink (three-quarters done), about 2 minutes.
Add 2 Tbsp butter substitute and chicken broth to shrimp; saute about 2 more minutes.
Place cooked pasta in a large mixing bowl and combine with remainder of butter and black pepper; mix gently.
Add cooked shrimp to pasts and gently mix it all together.
Divide into 4 portions and serve with a squeeze of lemon, parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.

Nutrition run down:
Calories - 227
Fat - 15g (I'm working on finding a way to cut the fat grams down... If you have any suggestions, by all means, let me know!)
Carbs - 13g
Fiber - 1.5g
Protein - 7g

Source: Bill Phillips, Eating For Life


Happy Marcus Monday!

The little guy has some interesting locks these days...
Left side: blonde hair. Right side: blonde hair.
Front: Blond hair. Back: Dark brown!
Looks like he has a mullet. Hahahaha! Around here we have a special term for his hair do.
Baby + mullet = baby mullet = "bullet!"
Good thing he doesn't seem to mind. :)

Happy Monday!


Never Fail Banana Bread

When I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it. I've never made banana bread. Scratch that. I've never made any kind of bread. I LOVE banana bread, and when I saw how simple this recipe looked I couldn't pass it up. 

Stephanie, over at The Cookbook Project was my inspiration for baking this. She and I went to school together. Growing up I remember her and I being picky eaters. She didn't like sauce on her spaghetti (only butter and Parmesan), and I didn't eat meat. When we got together I'm sure our parents would groan in agony, trying to figure out what to feed us. HA! When I saw she started her own food blog I knew I'd have to follow her journey in the kitchen. She has 291 cookbooks, and she's challenging herself to cook/bake something from each and every book until she's used all her books. I admire her goal and look forward to her posts. I have exactly 13 cookbooks, and I can tell you right now I will probably never open half of them.

Back to the goods... 
Naturally I didn't have any ripe bananas on hand, I had to buy the ripest bananas I could find at the grocery store. Usually there are over-ripe bananas on sale, not so much when I went on my search, go figure. My bananas seemed so defiant, taking their sweet time to reach optimal ripeness. Oh, and might I add, since I hardly ever never make bread I realized I didn't own a bread pan. Good thing I found one on the cheap, or this recipe probably wouldn't have happened. Anyway... While this stuff was baking my whole house held the wonderful aroma of the bread. I couldn't wait to get myself a slice. 

Never Fail Banana Bread
I doubled the recipe. However, here is the single recipe.

1 cups bananas, crushed
1 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional, I put cinnamon in about everything:)
1 tsp vanilla (I probably doubled the amount of vanilla used, I'm a firm believer you can never really use too much vanilla:)
2 cups flour
3 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease loaf pan.
Mix together all ingredients, adding bananas and flour last.
Pour batter into loaf pan.
Bake for 1 hour, or until the top of the bread springs back.
For my second batch, instead of a loaf I made muffins and mini-muffins. The batter made 12 muffins, and 16 of the cutest little mini banana muffins.
Bake muffins for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins spring back.
Bake mini muffins for 10-12 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins spring back.
The only thing I'll do next time is wait juuuuuust a smidge longer on the bananas and their ripeness. I just couldn't wait any longer to make this.

Suffice it to say, the title of the bread does not lie. This bread did not fail me, not in the slightest. Too bad Scott doesn't like banana bread. Shucks. :)
Nutrition Info:
Loaf serves approximately 12; nutrition info for one slice
Calories - 211
Fat - 9g
Carbs - 19g
Fiber - >1g
Protein - 2g

Source: Adaptations from The Cookbook Project


Five Months Old!

Unofficial Stats
Length: 29ish inches (above 95th percentile)
Weight:  20ish pounds - note: my scale has weighed Marcus heavier than the doctor (95th percentile)
Photos of the little man are really becoming fun. His personality is really starting to show.
What a ham!
What I've learned in the past month:
~ The little monkey has started to recognize and respond to his name.
~ Marcus seems to understand what his bottle is all about, and reaches for it, and tries to hold it while eating.
~ Just when I thought our man was figuring out the whole sleeping-through-the-night thing we're back to square one, and waking every two hours (I think the big guy is teething...).
~ Apparently, after four months you shouldn't swaddle your baby (this may be another reason why we're struggling with sleep these days).
~ My child has already displayed a very independent demeanor. Things could get interesting as he gets older.
~ Lying on the floor to play is no longer much fun.
~ When we are lying down toes and diapers (on or off, doesn't matter, he loves playing with his diapers) are some of the best forms of entertainment.
~ It's really quite amazing what we find in the neck folds at bath time. Kinda gross.
~ The jumparoo provides some entertainment, however, the little man would much rather have someone hold him up so he can "stand." We stand. A LOT.
~ Marcus has taken quite an interest in Drake lately.
~ The little man LOVES the pool. We try to get to the pool once a week, right before bath/bedtime.
~ There is so much more interaction between Marcus and Mommy and Daddy these days.
~ I'm pretty sure I've heard the world "hey" and "hi" come out of the little monkey's mouth.
~ Marcus has rolled over, all on his own, one time. However, the way he's been rolling from side to side I don't think it will be long before rolling over is a common occurrence.
~ I no longer look for the closest parking stall at any store. I look for the parking spot that is closest to the cart return, or has a rogue cart near it. I'm not about to truck all 32 pounds of baby/car seat/diaper bag into the store without a cart! I will park at the very back of the parking lot if it means there's a shopping cart near by.
Upper left: Na-na-na boo boo.   Upper right: The trademark lean.
Lower left: Thumb check   Lower right: Loves those feet!
Of course we had to have a photo with Drake. Look at those two!


First Foods

We've started solids!
Rice cereal is on the menu. At least until the little man can successfully finish three teaspoons. We'll add some other cereals along the way. Then the fun begins with steaming and pureeing.

Here's the progression of the little monkey's first go with food:

We started with such vigor and gusto. We ended on a slightly different note.
When the little guy is done, he's done!


Cheesy Broccoli Orzo

There's nothing more frustrating when making dinner  than trying to decide on a good side to complete the meal. I can do rice, potatoes, a steamed veggie, or a salad so many times before I become bored. When I came across this easy recipe I knew I'd struck gold.

I fancified (I'm pretty sure I just made that a word) my dinner ten-fold when I placed a hearty scoop of this deliciousness next to my grilled chicken. And, after I thoroughly cleaned my plate of each tasty orzo morsel I went back for seconds. Hey, don't judge, you'll do the same when you taste this stuff.

Ditch the baked potatoes tonight. Give these a shot. You can always thank me later!

Cheesy Broccoli Orzo
Serves 4
1 cup orzo
1 1/2 cups chopped broccoli florets
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp butter
1/4-1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
salt, to taste
Add orzo to a large pot of salted boiling water.
Cook for 3 minutes, then add chopped broccoli and cook for 2 more minutes, or until orzo is tender.
Drain very well (broccoli is know to hang onto water).
Return broccoli/orzo to pot.
Add cheeses, butter, and 1/4 cup milk.
Stir well.
Add more milk if needed.
Season with salt to taste.

This took me all of 10 minutes, start to finish, to make.
Here's the nutritional break down:
Calories - 136
Fat - 6.5g
Carbs - 34g
Fiber - 2.5g
Protein - 9.5g

If you have a fabulous side let me know, I'm all ears, and always looking for something new!

Source: Iowa Girl Eats


Happy Marcus Monday!

The little man dressed to the nines in his Sunday finest. HA!
Happy little man after getting right with God. :)
Happy Monday!


Mini Cinnis with Maple Frosting

Yeast. What a petrifying five letter word. I'm not going to even pretend I know what to do with the stuff. I'm about as familiar with aerospace engineering as I am yeast. If I see a recipe that strikes my baking fancy, and then I see it involves yeast I immediately dismiss the recipe. A trip to the ER sounds more enticing.

I was perusing IGE's blog the other day when I saw a few cinnamon roll recipes she is fond of. One included yeast. Though I'm terrified of the stuff, I just might give that recipe a try... We'll see. Don't go holding your breath.

For now, I'm content taking baby steps with my baking. This was also on IGE's cinnamon roll list and it looked easy enough for me. Yes, I realize these aren't exactly your grandma's homemade rolls, but they're tasty, and that's all that matters in my book.

If you have about 15 minutes you, too, can get a batch of these on your counter. It will take even less time to watch them disappear. :)

Mini Cinnis with Maple Frosting
1 can crescent roll dough sheet
2 tbsp melted butter
brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Unroll crescent roll sheet, use rolling pin to roll sheet to about 1/4 inch thick.
Brush on butter.
Sprinkle on cinnamon.
Sprinkle on brown sugar.
The amount of cinnamon and sugar is totally up to you. I LOVE me some cinnamon, so I used that generously.
Roll up the dough into one big log.
Use a pain of kitchen sheers to cut 16 bite size rolls.
Place rolls in non-stick sprayed mini muffin tin.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.

While your rolls are baking:
Combine maple syrup, milk and vanilla.
Mix in powdered sugar until you get your desired consistency.
Drizzle over warm cinnamon rolls.
These didn't last long in our house. Bet they won't in yours either. :)
I'm still toying around with that cinnamon roll recipe that requires yeast...

Source: Iowa Girl Eats


Starting Solids Soon

Next week the big guy will be five months. For us that means we are about to enter the world of solid foods. By solids, I mean rice cereal. Give us a few more weeks and we'll be steaming and pureeing like it's going out of style.
I find it a bit ridiculous to pay for baby food when I'm very capable of making it at home. And, that's just what I'll do.
We have all the necessary items for solids: the machine that steams and purees all in one, the itty bitty spoons, rice cereal, baby food cook books, and those cute little containers to freeze and store food, and last, but not least, the high chair. Holy cow, my kid is ready for a high chair.
Looks like the little monkey is ready to get this party started!
There's something about this whole process that is leaving me a bit anxious... I don't know what it is, but I'm a teensy bit scared of this whole food thing. 

If you have any tips or suggestions on what worked well while feeding your little one I'd love to hear about it! 


Taco Pasta Bake

When I think California I do not think excessive heat and humidity. However, that's just what we've been having. It's so gross. As much as I miss all the comforts of home I can't say I miss the hot, sticky summers that are synonymous with the Midwest.

With all that being said I've been doing my best to avoid the oven. The last thing we need is one more thing heating our house to intolorable levels. But, I caved. This looked too good to wait to make till cooler weather.

Taco Pasta Bake
1 lb ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 recipe of homemade taco seasoning
14.5 oz can tomato sauce
14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes
A few dashes of hot sauce
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 1/2 cups corn kernels (canned, fresh, frozen)
4 oz can chopped green chilies
8 oz macaroni shells, cooked and drained
2 cups crushed tortilla chips
Any additional toppings you so desire (chopped tomatoes, salsa, cilantro, Greek yogurt)
Cook ground turkey and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink.
Drain, return to skillet.
Add water, homemade taco seasoning, tomato sauce, petite diced tomatoes, and hot sauce; stir to combine.
Turn heat down to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook macaroni shells n salted, boiling water until just under al dente.
Drain shells and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350.
Turn stove off and add 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese to the tomato mixture, stir until smooth.
Add corn, chilies, and cooked shells, stir to combine.
Pour mixture into a non-stick sprayed 8x8 baking dish.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Top with crushed tortilla chips and remaining cheese.
Bake for additional 10 minutes.
Serve with desired toppings.
This one is fab, and it makes A LOT. Yep, the leftovers were just as good as the first go around. 

Next time you've got company make this. It's sure to be a crowd pleaser.


Source: Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats 
Original recipe, AllRecipes,com