Thursday, June 30, 2011

My Sweet Life

Seriously, this is what I get to look at all day long.....

I mean, really?

You would be entertained too!

And then your heart would melt....

And yes, you would fall madly for this little guy.....

How could you not?

Just look at those eyes and the pouty lips...and not to mention all of the slobbery wet kisses that soon follow.

Yes, I love my life. I am blessed. I am happy.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jumpstart My Monday

You know what I love? I love those recipes that literally let you throw any ingredients you might have into a big bowl, stir and waaa-la. Dinner.  I love them even more when they are healthy and in my mind cancel out the goodies I ate from Two Tarts Bakery, the left over sample cupcakes I made, the remaining Oreo's, and of course the endless amounts of fries I seem to be consuming lately.  I have found that Monday is the perfect day to treat myself and my honey to something tasty and body fortifying.  The weekends usually involve date nights, dessert, late-night popcorn (ok, lets be honest, my popcorn obsession happens most nights), bakeries, hearty breakfast....and you get the picture.  We like to indulge on the weekends so I make it my duty to provide healthy, substantial and energizing meals the rest of the week.  And this salad is a perfect way to kick start the week, and even better it can be consumed either hot or cold.  Which makes it perfect for packing up and sending it off with my husband for lunch the following day.

Such a lucky bum he is.

Or perhaps I should say what a lucky bum I am.  We finally buckled and purchased a beautiful Canon T3I, so hopefully my pics won't look like such a sloppy mess any longer. 

Now just to learn how to work the husband said maybe I should start with the informative direction pamphlet. I hate reading directions.....which is why this salad is right up my alley.  You can easily follow the directions OR you can do as I do and throw in a little capers, a few mushrooms, handful of olives, a dab of sun dried get the picture?  You can literally make the salad into a main course if you like, and that's exactly what I did.  Here is the base recipe I used (and as a side note it is wonderful as written, so I suggest starting there and then throw in additional ingredients to your liking). Enjoy!

Greek Chicken and Barley Salad:
Source: Greek Yogurt and Apple Slices


  • 2  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

  • 3  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

  • 1  cup  uncooked pearl barley

  • 2  cups  cubed seeded cucumber

  • 1  cup  grape tomatoes, halved

  • 1/2  cup  cubed green bell pepper 

  • 2 handfuls spinach, I like to add a lot of spinach to mine

  • light dressing, of your choice ( I use Ken's Northern Italian)

    1. To prepare chicken, bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add chicken breasts & cook until done- approximately 10- 15 minutes. (just keep checking it) Once done, shred with fork/ cut into pieces.
    2. Bring 3 cups broth to a boil in a large saucepan; add barley. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Cool.
    3. Combine chicken, barley, cucumber, grape tomatos, green pepper & feta in a large bowl.
    4. Stir fry spinach in a pan sprayed with Pam cookin spray for about 3-5 minutes until wilted.
    5. Add spinach to bowl with the chicken & vegetables; toss  with dressing of choice.

    Here is a close up of what it looks like in original form.

    Photo From: Greek Yogurt and Apple Slices
    Here's to a happy and healthy Monday!

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    I had cupcakes on my sleep-deprived mind

    So in all honesty, I had plans of writing this really sweet post about how my baby just turned 8 months, and then I was going to share a cupcake recipe because I thought it would be perfect to commemorate the day.  However, my blog...or computer...or both had something against me yesterday and they refused to let me post any pictures of the delightful cupcakes.  So then I decided heck with the picture I will go ahead and share the recipe with no picture...super boring I know, but I was running out of time. Well, would you believe the site that had the recipe posted had been deleted by the author! Double bummer.....and....a big "oh no!" as that was the recipe I was going to use for my sisters upcoming wedding.  Perhaps in the long run this will all be for the better as hopefully I will find a new recipe that will be even more knock-your-socks-off good.  I am going to cross my fingers, and say a little prayer.  At least now I have a good excuse to whip up some more batches of cupcakes, and this cupcake saga will be resurrected.  And when I find the perfect recipe you better believe I will be sharing it because my mama taught me to share.

    Onto other news we decided to begin sleep training again with our little Cole bug.  He used to be a good sleeper, until he learned that he could wrap mommy and daddy around his chubby little finger. 

    It started off innocently slowly and before we knew it that stinker had us up all hours of the night, and he would cry and cry whenever we tried to put him back down.  I thought I had seriously damaged him for life or that the poor thing had inherited my horrible insomnia.  See, I am used to living off of very little sleep.....but I had reached a breaking point of near insanity.  I knew something needed to change.  After talking to the pediatrician she assured me that he was fully capable of sleeping through the night and that he had probably decided he would much rather hang out with us all night instead of sleeping.  Understandably so, I mean, we are pretty fun people to hang with, ha ha.  She suggested that we start sleep training as it would be healthier for all of us in the end. So together my husband and I devised a solid plan, we were going to conquer this thing....and then the crying began.....

    the first night was the longest and hardest.  I got upset, I got weary, I got frustrated....and my poor husband got the brunt of it all.  We took turns going in to comfort the little one and after 1 1/2 hours he finally drifted off to sleep.....and actually slept for a full 7 hours straight! That was one big stride in the right direction! Last night was day 3 and I can honestly say he acts like a completely different baby.  He goes down for his naps without a peep, he has been sleeping almost all night long....and I feel like a new woman! I am praying that we have turned over a new leaf and that I didn't wreck my baby after all.  Time will tell.  For now I am a happy mama. 

    For all you young moms out there that are going through this same battle, hang in does get better.  My advice would be to go with your gut, and get your husbands involved as you will need their support and encouragement...because believe me, you will want to cave.  You will think to yourself  "I can make the situation better by offering the beloved boob, and the crying will cease."  You need your spouse there to remind you that the best gift you can give your baby is the gift of learning to sleep.  They need sleep, I need sleep, we all need sleep.  So hang tight, be strong, and love that baby.

    Hopefully you will get this as the end result.....

    Good Luck!

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    And they made me eat blueberry ketchup....

    That's right, you read it correctly....blueberry ketchup, apparently that is how those Idahoians do things.  And I couldn't be happier. I've been a little MIA because we have been trecking all around our soon-to-be home for a year.  We are packing up our Oregonian roots and heading on over to make friends with lots and lots of potatoes.  Good thing I got over being a potato hater thanks to my recent pregnancy.  It used to be that you couldn't catch me within a 10 foot radius of a potato unless it was cut, deep fried and smothered in ketchup.  But the minute I started cooking a bun in my oven I wanted potatoes like they were going out of style! 

    There I am in all my potato-lovin be honest, I was kind of hoping the new found love would quickly die once I gave birth.  But how could you give up such a love when you are introduced to a place like this....

    Perfect.  Good thing I wasn't pregnant, I would tried to eat for two.

    I ordered a meal of the Okinawa fries, and they could have easily been dessert. They were blue fries with a thicker skin but a soft, silky flesh that literally melted in my mouth.  But the best part...yes, it does get better they have a ketchup bar!  I have an obsession with ketchup....just ask my husband, he is often grossed out by the copious amount that I cover my food with.  They had everything ranging from fiery hot to oddly sweet n' yummy.  I was quite taken with the blueberry fact, that was lured me to the joint in the first place.  I know, it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, but something about how it combine the perfect ratio of salty and sweet made me going back for dip after dip. It's dangerous to think that will soon be within biking least they say this is a "healthy" fry.  Boise Fry Co.  Thank you for the warm welcoming to our new home, I look forward to becoming better friends this next year.

    So I wasn't planning on designating this whole post glorifying the fry....but I guess I couldn't help myself. 

    In other news we jumped over the hurdle of baby's first flight.  This was our first time traveling with Cole....and once we got past the absurdly annoying flight attendant..... she literally stood by the passenger directly behind us and kid you not, this came out of her mouth, "Sir, is your device turned off? Why don't you take out your ear plugs and turn off that device that you seem to be so attached to....ok, I will just stand here so you can show me that it is turned off....." and I think this one-sided dialogue continued awhile longer.  This was also the same flight attendant that took it upon herself to reinforce the staying buckled up until the plane was at a complete stop by using the means of the intercom, her tauntingly annoying voice said, "I hear those seat belts clicking, you need to wait.....not now....not, not now.....ok now you can un buckle your belts." This was no joking matter, I think she needs to retire....someone has become a little too bitter while up in the air.  I think Cole agreed, as he didn't do so hot on the flight over.  We tried every trick in the book to ensure a nice comfortable flight for the little guy, and he would have none of it.  I think the real issue was the fact that is was his nap time and he was tired.  So after about 20 minutes he passed out...and I mean he was OUT.  I had to carry him in my arms all through the Boise airport, all through waiting for Kyle to get our rental car and then onto our hotel.  But I am proud to say that he was a champ on the way home! He was laughing and playing, and the flight attendants were much better and redeemed themselves, even though they had nothing to do with my opinions of them at that point. 

    All in all the trip was a success.  And I look forward to many more adventures in the potato state in our near future.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    When they came knocking

    Have I mentioned that I love to cook?  I just love being in the kitchen....but, I must say what makes the kitchen all the more satisfying is when I hear my hubby walk through the front door and proclaim "wow, something smells good in here".  That one phrase is about as sweet as a dozen rose bouquet and makes me feel that my efforts in the kitchen were completely worthwhile.  I not only got that compliment from my hubby, but I also got it from a complete stranger. I guess you know a recipe is definitely worth sharing when two recruiters knock on the front door and try to convince my husband to join some "green" party and vote for someone that will save trees and the world from human chaos ( I really couldn't hear everything they were saying, but I'm sure it was very important)....and then in the middle of their spiel one of the door knockers stops and says "your house smells really good".  Yep, that actually happened and I suppose I should also note that in the same breath without much of a pause the dude continued to talk, and talk, and talk.  I think he was trying to prove a point and thought that he just might have a chance if he spewed it all out without giving a moment for my husband to decline listening.  I sat in the kitchen sulking and annoyed, so I did what any logical housewife would do...I began banging and clanking my fork against my plate in hopes that they would get a small hint that we were trying to enjoy eating what was making "our house smell so good".  But they didn't get it, or they chose to pretend they didn't.  And that made my blood boil, I just hate to be ignored. So I finally yelled (sweetly of course) "Hey, honey we need to finish eating." That gave the guy a chance to catch a breath and my husband the opportune time to say "farewell".  They are lucky it was my husband that answered the door, if I would have answered the door (which I never do...I blame it on watching too many episodes of Criminal Minds) but if I had, I would have said, "no, not interested" before they could even utter a word.

    But that's just me.  Good think I'm married to someone so stinkin nice. 

    So I may not always be nice when people come knocking on my door, but I am nice enough to have dinner ready for my hubby when he gets home. And this is what made our home "smell so good" last night.  The best part about this meal is you can make it all in the morning and let it marinate all day and then just toss it all in a pan and in about 10 minutes you will also have a house that smells delicious...better than any glade plug-in (which make me gag anyway).  I found the recipe on Tasty Kitchen, which was created by Ree from The Pioneer Woman. Who is absolutely amazing and perfectly witty....and might I add, she can definitely cook! If you ever need food inspiration or a good chuckle check out her blog. Now onto dinner from last night....

    Apparently I have been on a Thai kick lately, but I was trying to use up the remaining vermicelli noodles I had left over from my new favorite salad. Couldn't let those beauties go to waste!  So here it is in all its yumminess.....

    Thai Honey Peanut Chicken:
    Found from: Tasty Kitchen


    • 1 pound Chicken, In Chunks
    • 1/2 cup Soy Sauce
    • 4 Tablespoons Honey
    • 2 Tablespoon Lime Juice
    • 2 teaspoon Minced Garlic (approximately 1 Large Clove)
    • 2 Tablespoon Natural Peanut Butter (heaping Tablespoon Even Better)
    • 1 teaspoon Curry Powder
    • 1 teaspoon Sriracha (optional)
    (I actually doubled the sauce from the original recipe, if you prefer not to have extra sauce for drizzling over noodles or rice then simply halve the above recipe)


    Mix ingredients and marinate chicken for 2-3 hours.
    Cook chicken in the sauce over medium-high heat for 7-8 minutes or until chicken is done. Reduce heat to medium-low and add precooked veggies if desired. Serve topped with sesame seeds. ( I like to serve over either brown rice or rice noodles.)

    To thicken sauce if needed: reduce heat to medium-low and add a cornstarch slurry (1 teaspoon cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water).


    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    And He slept!

    This weekend I ran solo, my hubby went up to Seattle to celebrate with his friend who is about to be married next month.  To say I was nervous about this weekend would be a complete down-play. My main concern was how Cole would do with me putting him down to bed at night....that is usually daddy's time.  And he can get the little stinker all cuddled up in his arms in a way that I can't even replicate in the slightest.  But I am here to tell you that I survived and actually thrived through last night.  I managed to get him down at the normal time and he only woke up twice....and....are you ready for this....I got 8 total hours of sleep! So I am sitting here puffed up with pride at our successful daddy-less night.  But this shouldn't go without saying that we still miss daddy to pieces.  It was weird how much I missed him even after he had only been gone a few hours.  I truly enjoy my husbands companionship, and it feels strange to not have him hereto meander around town with.  So I am doing what any husband-less wife would do while the babe is napping, I am sipping a cup of coconut coffee and eating home made chocolate chip cookies!  And these aren't just any chocolate chip cookies....these are the THEE one and only chocolate chip cookies I will ever make. Ever.  Let me explain.

    I searched high and low for the best chocolate chip cookie.

    I needed one that wasn't too flat and not too cakey, one that had the right balance of sweetness and saltiness.  This proved to be quite the task, I can only imagine how many trial and errors I had to experience. Except the errors weren't too horrible considering it still meant I was consuming something that had "chocolate chip" in the title. Tough gig.  But low and behold after many many many attempts I have found the one. And it has helped get me through my husband-less weekend.  Here is the prized recipe that I hold close to my heart.

    Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies:
    preheat oven 360

    • 1 c salted butter (softened to room temp)
    • 1/2 c sugar
    • 1 1/2 c packed brown sugar
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • 2 1/2 c (12 oz weighed) flour
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 2 1/4 c chocolate chips
    • 1 tsp sea salt

    Cream butter and sugars in stand up mixer  for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes. Add baking soda, baking powder, flour and salt. Mix until thoroughly incorporated.  Finally add in chocolate chips (batter should be somewhat thick). 

    Drop by 2 T on cookie sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until edges are golden brown.  Cool on sheet for 2 minutes  before transferring to a cooling rack.

    Eat with a tall glass of milk or in my case almond milk!

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    The Green Bean Redemption

    I have to say with I am thrilled, relieved, and oh so thankful that the little Cole man has decided that he likes to take naps after all.  After a week of wanting to literally pull every hair out of my head, I am now surrounded by the peace and quiet of a sweet napping baby boy.  I don't know what changed, there is still no sign of any emerging teeth.....perhaps he is waiting to pop a whole mouth full out at once. Who really knows, all I care about is my baby boy is back! Praise the Lord!

    Other news I have been busy learning the culinary art of making my own baby food.  All I have to say is you win some and you lose some.  I knew early on I wanted to make my own baby food, something about spending $1.00 or more for a little jar of food just didn't settle well with me.  Also, I like knowing what I am feeding my little man.  I have to admit that this has been quite a challenge for me..... see, Cole came out of the womb ready to chow down.  He practically tripled his baby weight in about 3-4 months.  I often joke that I don't just serve up milk, I serve up whipped cream.  I mean, seriously, the kid isn't lacking any rolls.

    Photo By: Shannon Dickman
    It has been challenging transitioning into incorporating some solids into his diet, in fact I kind of began dragging my feet when the time actually came.  The truth is, up until now I always knew that Cole was getting the best food possible, there was no guessing, no measuring, and no preparing....he ate when he was hungry (or when I let him as he would have grazed every minute of every day if I would have let him!).  And in return he was absolutely thriving.  Solids meant that I would have to put more thought into his meals...which I don't mind doing, but it was a matter of what was best for his little body.  Rice cereal turned out to be the safe route but a dead end, as he became overly constipated and the poor thing was miserable.  I finally decided to ditch the cereals and go with veggies and fruit.  So far he has loved eating sweet potatoes, peas, pears, and bananas.  I decided it was time to introduce another veggie and being that I scored a good deal on organic green beans, I thought perfect!  Oh how I worked and worked on getting those green beans pureed just right.  Finally, I pranced on over to showcase them and had visions of Cole gobbling them up and anticipating every single bite of their yumminess. Ummm,  Epic fail.  he took barely one bite and then gave me this....

    Followed by this pained and disgusted look....

    Can't say I blame him, they do look pretty gross. I am now left with a big bowl of green mush, lovely. 

    So maybe I bombed on the green bean machine....but I definitely have a win to share with you today.  You know you hit the jackpot with a meal when you wake up in the middle of the night dreaming about it.  And that is what this is....nothing short of a dream-like salad.  If you are like me and adore spring rolls, then please try this takes all the flavors of Thai spring rolls and tosses them into a wonderfully refreshing salad.  Perfection I tell you. I have eaten this two days in a row and about to do a third, and all I have to say is the flavors get even better with time. Even my hubby went back for seconds and possibly thirds. Take my advice, skip the green beans and indulge in this.

    Without further ado...I give to you....

    Spring Roll Salad:
    Found From: Cooking for Seven


    For the Salad:
    • 1 package Rice Vermicelli
    • 2 carrots, peeled and shredded
    • 1/2 English cucumber, quartered and sliced
    • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
    • 4 C lettuce, chopped
    • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts + extra for serving
    • 6 stalks green onion, chopped
    • 1-2 T olive oil
    • 4 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 inch fresh ginger, finely minced
    • 1-2 lbs. chicken breast, thinly sliced
    • 2 T soy sauce
    • lime wedges, for serving
    For the Peanut Sauce:
    • 1/2 cup peanut butter
    • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
    • water
    For the Fish Sauce:
    • 4 tsp. fish sauce
    • 1/4 C water
    • 2 T fresh lime juice
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 2 T white sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. Thai Sweet Chili Sauce
    1. Soften the rice vermicelli according the the directions on the package. Drain and run under cold water to cool the noodles. Place in a large salad bowl. Add the carrots, cucumber, cilantro, lettuce, 1/2 cup peanuts, and green onions.
    2. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Saute the garlic & ginger for about 1 minute. Add the chicken & soy sauce and saute until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Cool on a plate, then transfer to the refrigerator.

    For the Peanut Sauce:
    3. In a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over boiling water, whisk together the peanut butter and hoisin sauce. Add water a little at a time until desire consistency is achieved.

    For the Fish Sauce:
    4. Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved.

    To Assemble:
    5. Add the chicken to the noodle and vegetable mixture. Toss well. Top with lime wedges. Serve with the peanut & fish sauces & chopped peanuts on the side.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    My Mom to the Rescue

    I guess when it rains it pours....or should I say when he cries he screams.  That about sums up the past couple of days, my once quiet, patient little boy has turned into a monster around nap time.  I have a feeling there is something more going on that I just can't see yet....perhaps a tooth?!  I am crossing my fingers that something will emerge on his gumline, so at least I have validity that this is just a phase.  Believe me when I saw I tried the gas drops, I tried some tylenol, I tried to sing "Silent Night" (this has always been his favorite naptime song), and when I just couldn't take any more I would lay him in his bed, give him his monkey and close the door to muffle the screams.  I needed just a few moments to take a couple deep breaths, shed a few tears (ok, more like a lot), and muster up the strength to go back into the war zone.  This went on for about 3 hours before I finally called both my husband and my mom in tears, all I could seem to get out between my wimpering was, "he won't stop....screaming". I was beside myself, I guess these are the moments that everyone warns you about motherhood, I heard a lot of, "It is one of the hardest jobs, but one of the most rewarding."  And rewarding it definitely has been, but it seems this week we have hit a rough patch. Bless my mom, she picked up on my desperation right away and immediately dropped everything she was doing and advised me to pack up the little turkey and bring him over to Nana's house.  What happened next is pretty funny....keep in mind, he had been screaming for 3 hours straight. As soon as I pick him up, grab his diaper bag and head for the door.... he throws his chubby arms out to his side and makes his excited anticipated squeal, crying ceased at that moment. And for a moment I thought to myself, this will actually work out really well, he will conk out on the way over and will get a somewhat adequate nap in today.Not.A.Chance. All the way to nana's he managed to play with his toes, bat at his toys, watch the cars out the window, make faces at mama...none of which slightly resembled sleeping in the slightest.  And when we arrived at nana and papa's house he had a new renowned burst of energy and was loving life (and probably the fact that he managed to weasel his way out of his nap).  My mom offered to hang out with him so I could run some errands and have a little "me" time.  I cannot begin to tell you how rejuvenating that was, I didn't do anything grand.....just picked up some diapers, found some steals at the Gap Outlet, and scored some free items for my honey.  I needed a little bargain booster, and that did the trick.  So thanks to my wonderful mom, you really saved the day!

    My Beautiful Mom!

     Sometimes I think everyone needs a little time to just "be" no matter where you are at in life.  My "me" time usually comes in the form of shopping (not necessarily buying, more like wandering and browsing), writing, and cooking.  Cooking is probably my favorite, it allows me time to just unwind and think.....although it has gotten a bit tough with the little munchkin, I still thoroughly enjoy it. There is something strangely satisfying to create a dish that brings a smile and a thumbs up from the hubs.  In fact, it makes me all the more excited to share and pass on recipes that have been successful....and lately, ones that come together quick do to some little man that is in constant need of my attention. After my day yesterday I was beat and decided to grab some of our favorite bbq instead.  So here is a recipe that I tried a couple days ago, it was healthy, quick, and made for a fun alternative to a typical weeknight meal. I know, the picture doesn't really look all that appetizing, but trust me.....

    Asian Lettuce Wraps:
    Original Recipe: Annies Eats


    For the sauce: ( I doubled from the original recipe, measurements reflected below)
    3 tsp. hoisin sauce
    2 tsp. soy sauce
    1 tsp. sesame oil
    2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
    Freshly ground black pepper
    1 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce

    For the filling:
    2 tsp. canola oil
    1 tsp. minced garlic
    ½ tsp. grated fresh ginger
    2 green onions, chopped
    1 lb. ground turkey or chicken
    2 cups mixed vegetables, (I used peas, carrots, corn...but next time would add finely chopped mushrooms, onions, and chopped water chestnuts for added crunch).
    ½ green apple, finely chopped ( this actually added a nice sweetness against the spice)

    Sweet Chili Sauce, for dipping

    Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and mix to blend.
    To make the filling, heat a skillet on high heat with cooking oil.  Once the pan is hot, add the garlic, ginger and green onions to the pan, and stir fry for a few seconds, just until fragrant.  Add the ground turkey or chicken, breaking into small pieces, and cook until almost cooked through.  Add the vegetables to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Mix in the sauce and cook for about 1 minute until thickened slightly.  Add the apples to the pan and toss to coat.  Immediately remove the pan from the heat.

    Serve with lettuce and drizzle or dip in a thai sweet chili sauce.

    **All in all it was pretty good, a little lacking in the kick of flavor that I like so I added a topping of the chili sauce and it helped take the wraps to the next level.  But I think I still prefer this recipe for Chicken Lettuce Wraps, although a bit messier and more prep work they offer a higher impact of flavor.  But if you need something quick and easy definitely give this one a whirl.  Ok, I am off to make some popcorn and watch some TV before I hit the sack.  Night!

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    So I had plans of writing this wonderful post about my weekend, about some new recipes, and of course about my sweet baby boy.  However, it's been another one of those morning where nap time becomes our own epic battle of the will.  I of course won, but Cole put up a pretty good fight if I do say so myself.  Usually these mornings don't result in the longest of naps, so I am going to speed things up and give you a fast-forward version of what all has been happening.

    Cole said "mama".....well, apparently this is up for debate since I was the only key witness and he hasn't said it since.  But I swear he said "mom" and "mama" at least 15-20 different times with my coaxing.  I have exhausted all avenues to get him to say it again for daddy, and am usually just given a mischievous grin accompanied by giggles.  So with that said, I don't care what anyone else says (Kyle) it will be put down in the baby book as his first word....not "dada" or "nana" but "MAMA".  Not that this is a competition or anything.
    The look I usually get after coaxing to say "mama"
    The weather was absolutely gorgeous this weekend, we ditched the rain and said hello to a couple of 80 degree days....practically a heatwave for us Oregonians! So we spent the entire weekend outdoors, walking around some of our favorite places in Portland such as NW 23rd.  I made my usual stop at Two Tarts Bakery, and was thrilled when they had malted chocolate macarons and rhubarb macarons, I had been DYING to try these two flavors and they certainly did not disappoint.   I am addicted to these bite-sized pieces of heaven, how could you not fall in love with them? They are about as cute as they are tasty! We also made a stop at Crate and Barrel.....and I think Kyle is probably regretting that decision. We were going simply to pick up wedding presents for some friends......but I get about as excited about that store as I do Two Tarts Bakery.  I wanted one of everything! In fact, I almost wanted to grab that registry gun and go to town...but I didn't.  What I did do was beg for this and beg for that.  By the end my poor husband probably felt more like he had two kids in tow that he was dragging out of the store kicking and screaming. Ok, so I wasn't that bad.  But just look at this plate...seriously, you would be begging too!

    And then I ran across these beautiful hanging candle lanterns that we have absolutely no place for....but I still wanted them because they are so gosh darn pretty!

    And this is just the beginning, I am really loving what they have for this season.  Well, I'm trying to be practical and a good steward of our money and came to the conclusion that we really don't need more "stuff".  But it doesn't hurt to stare a bit, so that's what I did.  I stared and perhaps drooled, but left with my husband, baby, and wedding gifts....exactly what we went in for. Success!

    Now on to the best part of my baby sister got ENGAGED! 

    Now this isn't just any engagement, this has been about 8 years in the making.  They have faithfully and purely waited for the Lord's timing. They were practically just learning to walk when they started dating (ok,so that's a little exaggerated, but you get the picture)  We all knew that this would be the year, but it was a matter of waiting for the actual pop of the question.  I couldn't be happier for them, they deserve nothing short of all the joy that comes along with this season of life.  We are blessed to welcome this young man into our family! So in lieu of the engagement we all got together to celebrate and eat some dessert. My mom made her famous apple pie and I made a Peanut Butter Chocolate torte chosen by the bride-to-be herself.

    If you are looking for something that will flatter your figure and be kind to your waistline then please don't take a second look at this recipe.  This recipe is not for the faint of heart.  Just warning.

    Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte:
    Found From: Annie's Eats (her picture is much prettier than mine)


    For the crust:
    32 Oreo cookies, finely processed into crumbs
    5 1/3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    Small pinch of salt

    For the crunch:
    1 1/4 cups salted peanuts, finely chopped, divided (for the filling, crunch and topping)
    1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
    2 tsp. sugar
    1/2 tsp. espresso powder
    1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
    Dash of ground nutmeg

    For the filling:
    2 cups heavy cream
    1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
    12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
    1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (not natural)
    2 tbsp. whole milk

    For the topping:
    1/2 cup heavy cream
    4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped


    - To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet.  Combine the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in a small bowl.  Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs.  Press into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides of the springform pan.  Freeze the crust for 10 minutes.  Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling.

    - To make the crunch, in another small bowl combine 1/2 cup of the chopped peanuts, mini chocolate chips, sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Toss with a fork to mix and set aside.

    - To prepare the filling, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks.  Beat in 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks.  Scrape the cream into a separate bowl and refrigerate until needed.

    - Wipe out (do not wash) the mixer bowl, replace the whisk with the paddle attachment, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth.  Beat in the peanut butter, whole milk, and 1/4 cup of the chopped peanuts until well combined.
    Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about 1/4 of the whipped cream just to lighten the mousse.  Still working with the spatula, stir in the crunchy peanut mixture, then gingerly fold in the remaining whipped cream.  Scrape the mousse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms.

    - To finish the torte, put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water.  Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan.  Bring the 1/2 cup of cream to a full boil.  Pour the cream over the chocolate and, working with a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and smooth.
    Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing with a metal icing spatula.  Scatter the remaining peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, at least 20 minutes.  When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the springform pan. 

    Refrigerate until ready to serve.

    ***This is the perfect dessert to celebrate something truly fantastic such as an engagement.  And so we did.

    On a much much lighter note, we did some grilling this weekend.  I always love grilling, it is fast, healthy and smells like summer.  I don't usually plan many meals during the weekends simply because I never know whether we will be home or out and about. We actually ended up being home one evening for dinner so I decided we needed something quick and fresh since it was so warm out. This is what I came up with.

    Grilled Lemon Chicken with Mango and Avocado Salsa:
    Adapted from Cooking Light and my Mango Guacamole

    For the Chicken:
    • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
    • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
    • 1 tablespoon lemon pepper
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
    • 6 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves 
    For the Salsa:
    • 1 avocado; diced
    • 1 mango; diced
    • 1 tbls lime juice
    • 1/4-1/2 red onion; diced
    • 1/4-1/2 c cilantro; chopped
    • salt
    • pepper to taste

    • To prepare chicken, combine the juice, soy sauce, ginger, lemon pepper, and garlic in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken to bag; seal and shake to coat. Marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning once.
    • Prepare grill or broiler.
    • Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place chicken on grill rack or broiler pan coated with cooking spray; cook 5 minutes on each side or until chicken is done.
    • For Salsa combine all ingredients in bowl and toss lightly until mixed, scoop over grilled chicken.

    This actually turned out just as I was hoping, the chicken was very flavorful and juicy, and the mango avocado salsa really brightened the chicken up and gave it a very happy and fresh taste.  But then again, I am a sucker for fruit mixed with meat....just ask my husband what I always craved from Red Robin when I was may or may not have been the Teriyaki Chicken Burger with a side of honey mustard dipping sauce. Mmmm, so maybe I still crave it....enough said.

    I promise I will still share with you my Chicken Coconut Curry Soup, but it just didn't seem fitting with the warm weather we had.  Hope ya'll understand, it will be for a rainy day....which we get plenty of. On that note, have a happy Monday!

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    It's a chocolate kind of day....

    So it's been one of those know, the kind that begins before you even fall asleep.  Apparently we are back on a 3 feedings a night kind of schedule. I thought he had graduated from that once he turned 7 months old. I also thought he was fully motivated to go down for his naps without much of a whine.  Hmmmm....I am learning in baby world things change, and they can change daily and ferociously.  One days pristine routine quickly turns to mayhem the next.  God definitely knew what He was doing when He knit together my little coco bean within my womb.  He knew that I wouldn't be able to handle a difficult baby.....because the fact is, I crumble.  Yes, I fall apart and cry like a...well, like a baby.  In the midst of baby mayhem I start to pick apart the very making of my being.  I highlight my inadequacies and shortcomings, and question why in the world God actually thought I had what it takes to be a good mother.  I know so many other wonderful women who are picture-perfect mom material and it doesn't make sense that He would choose me.

    I don't always understand the "why's" in life, but I do know that God gave me my baby for a reason bigger than my earthly mind can fathom.  I am learning....yes, I am learning that you have good days and you have bad days; you have nights where you sleep uninterrupted, and then you have nights where don't even get to rest your eyes for more than a few moments at a time. One thing is for sure, there will always come sunshine after the storm. Like this morning, as I walked back in forth in the hallway trying to calm my crying baby, my ears were ringing, my arms were going numb, and my back felt as if it would buckle under the weight that I carried.....then I glanced down at that sweet little boy as his eyelids fluttered close, that perfect pug nose, those chubby, kissable cheeks, and his lower lip sucked in like an angel; and for a moment in time I forgot that I could no longer feel my arms....and the world was made right, he was my calming after the storm. He was and is my daily dose of sunshine.

    Needless to say after 5 long hours of walking, singling and bouncing he is finally sound asleep. I am one tired mama, if I wasn't still breastfeeding  I would be drowning my sleepy head in about 10 cups of coffee and indulging my tired self in something super duper chocolatey.

    Like one of these....

    Photograph by Shannon Dickman
    These are my ultimate favorite cupcake, you get chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate laced with salted caramel and topped with the most decadently rich dark chocolate frosting. Seriously, this is the perfect cupcake to offset any sleep-deprived day.  And I am going to share it with you, make a batch, throw it in the freezer and pull one out when you need a little indulgence, a little pick-me-up, or just need a good chocolate fixin'. I wish I had some stowed away right now, at least I keep a good stash of Guittard chocolate chips to do the trick! Oh, and the frosting actually stays wonderful when stored in the freezer, it also makes an excellent topping to homemade brownies....thanks to my mom for trying that one out!

    Salted Caramel Mini Cupcakes:
    Found From Bake or Break

    • 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
    • 1 & 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3/4 cup buttermilk
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3/4 cup warm water
    • sea salt, for garnish
    Preheat oven to 350°. Line mini muffin pans with paper liners.
    Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and water. Using an electric mixer on low speed, mix until smooth.
    Fill muffin pans about 2/3 full. Bake about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks about 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes to wire racks to let cool completely.
    Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature or frozen in an airtight container for up to a month.

    Caramel Filling:
    • 2 & 1/2 cups sugar
    • 2/3 cup water
    • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
    • 3/4 cup heavy cream
    • 2 & 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
    Heat sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Stir occasionally until syrup is clear. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan. Stop stirring, and cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed.
    Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and temperature just reaches 360°.
    Remove from heat. Slowly pour in cream and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt. Use immediately. If caramel begins to harden, reheat gently until pourable.
    Use a paring knife, cut a cone-shaped piece, about 1/2-inch deep, from the center of each cupcake. Spoon 1-2 teaspoons of warm filling into each cupcake. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.

    Dark Chocolate Frosting:
    • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
    • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
    • 2 & 1/4 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 & 1/2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
    Combine cocoa and boiling water. Stir until cocoa has dissolved.
    Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add melted and cooled chocolate. Beat until combined. Beat in cocoa mixture.

    Frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days or frozen up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature and beat on low speed until smooth before using.

    Fit a pastry bag with a medium open-star tip (Wilton #18). Fill pastry bag with frosting. Pipe onto cupcakes, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Garnish with a pinch of sea salt.

    Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are filled and frosted. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container until ready to serve.

    Makes about 56 mini cupcakes.

    I hope you enjoy these as much as I do....I was originally going to share with you what I made last night for dinner....but do to the lack of sleep and my slightly cranky manner I haven't felt like photographing it yet.  So, I will save it for tomorrow....hopefully.  But just to tempt your tastebuds a bit more think: coconut milk, curry and chicken.  I had myself at coconut milk.