slow cooker taco soup

I have a sick baby.  Taking care of a sick baby means I have no time to cook.  No time to cook means... it's time to break out the slow cooker!!

We all know the crockpot is the perfect solution for days where you know you won't have any time to cook...  and a meal that takes less than 5 minutes to put together makes it even better!

This is one of my favorite super quick and easy meals, and it's always a hit with the family!

Crockpot Taco Soup Recipe

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 large onion, minced
2 regular cans diced tomatoes
1 small can diced green chiles
2 cans beans, drained and rinsed (use whatever kinds you have!)
1 can creamed corn
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
salt & pepper, to taste

Stir everything together in your slow cooker, cover and let it cook on LOW for 6-8 hours!

Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, and whatever else you would like as toppings!  (We like chips with ours, and black olives!) 


croup... and mom guilt.

We have a very sick little boy right now.  After a horrible night of not being able to breathe well, and being inconsolable... I took Bjorn to the doctor and found out that he has an ear infection and croup.
He's such a miserable little guy right now...  his bath is one of the few things that helps him feel a little bit better!
He was fine on Tuesday...  he just seemed to have a little cold.  That night, we put him to bed as usual and about an hour later he woke up coughing and gasping for breath so badly that we first thought he had aspirated his vomit!  It took about an hour just to get him to calm down enough to get a decent breath... and the rest of the night went downhill from there.

He couldn't catch his breath.  He couldn't swallow.  He didn't want to be held.  He didn't want to be put down.  He couldn't lay down.  He couldn't sit up on his own.  He couldn't sleep...

After the fact, I realize that we should have taken him to the ER that night, right away.  At one point he couldn't even swallow his own saliva, and drool was pouring out of his mouth like water.  We questioned it all night long, and were just about to get up and go when he finally calmed down enough to sleep a few hours.  The worst had passed apparently...

We were lucky.  Things could have gone much worse for him, and I feel horrible that we didn't just take him to the ER when that thought first crossed our minds!

Why didn't we??  Well, because 9 out of 10 times, it seems, when you do rush your little one to the ER or the doctor, they tell you that they're just fine, and there's really nothing they can do.  And I hate that feeling of being treated like an over-protective worry-wart!

So, I guess you could say it was my own pride that kept me from taking him in?  Is that what we've learned from this experience??

I hate that I didn't just listen to my gut and take him in.  Maybe he would have found relief much sooner. Maybe his little body wouldn't have exhausted itself to the point of collapse.  Maybe he wouldn't be so sick today, if we had gotten him relief sooner that night.

I know there's nothing I can do to go back and change the past, but I will learn from this and look toward the future.

I will no longer ignore my mom-instincts and let them be drowned out by the voices of others.  I will take care of my child, whatever it takes, and I will make sure he gets the best care possible.  I will not care what others think of me...  only what he thinks of me, and ultimately what He thinks of me!


the best salad

Have you ever had a perfect, amazing salad at a fancy restaurant and wondered why salad never tastes that good at home??

This recipe is just as good, actually it's better, than any fancy restaurant's!

The Best Salad Recipe

2 heads romaine hearts, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup thinly-sliced green onion
3/4 cup grated romano cheese
1 cup well-done bacon bits
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Toss the first 4 ingredients together in a large bowl, and refrigerate.

In a Tupperware container or glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, mix together the last 8 ingredients, shaking well.

Just before serving, toss the dressing with the salad and tomatoes.

This salad can easily be made-ahead, undressed...  and the dressing can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days!


banana not ice cream

Ice cream without the cream...  or the sugar!  If you're trying to avoid sugar or can't have dairy, but love ice cream, here's your solution!

I like chocolate syrup and chopped nuts on mine (think Chocolate-Covered Frozen Banana!), but for those trying to be extra healthy, feel free to enjoy it plain!
(and in case you were wondering...  Yes, you have seen this here before in a slightly less-healthy Nutella version!  to see that again, click here!)

Banana Not Ice Cream Recipe
This recipe makes 2-4 small servings.

3-4 bananas, sliced

Slice the bananas into 1/2" rounds, place in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze overnight.

Place the frozen banana slices into your food processor or blender.  Pulse (or blend) until the bananas are smooth and creamy, the consistency of soft-serve ice cream!  (This will take a few minutes...  be patient!)

(Disclaimer:  Your food processor might sound like it is going to explode in to a million pieces when you start processing the frozen bananas.  It WON'T! - or at least mine didn't!  :o) - Just give it a few pulses and it will start to calm down...)

You can eat this right away as a soft-serve ice cream, or if you like your ice cream firm like I do, pack it into a tupperware container and freeze for several hours!


my love

3 years ago today I married my best friend.  The man I had been waiting my whole life for.  And I am so glad I did.
Our life is not easy, but it is not worrisome either.  Our life is not pretty, but it is beautiful.  Our life is not without pain and trials, but it is also not without comfort and support.

We love each other.  But most importantly we love our Savior.  He makes us whole, and without Him, we are nothing.

3 years ago we became one, and we are both better people because of having the other in our life.

Andrew, my sweet husband, I love you so much.  Thank you for loving me, and forgiving me, and being patient with me, and for making me a better person.  Thank you for everything you do for me, for us, and for growing a little more each day into the man God is making you.

I love you.  So much.  Forever-Ever.
-your wife.

creamy tomato basil soup

Hearty tomatoes, tangy roasted red peppers, creamy, cheesy richness... with a slight kick from the red pepper flakes...

Comfort in a bowl.  That's what this soup is.

I was having a crummy evening, ate a big bowl of this soup, and felt the hot creamy magic working its way into my very soul.  Life is good.  And I am blessed!  And now I am going to go have some more soup!

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup Recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup chopped roasted red peppers (from a jar)
2 (28oz) cans San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
salt & pepper, to taste
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese

In a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, saute the onions and red pepper flakes in olive oil until softened.  Stir in the garlic and red peppers and saute a few minutes longer.  

Stir in the tomatoes, stock, basil, salt & pepper & sugar.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about one hour.

Puree in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth.  Stir in the heavy cream and serve with freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese on top!


my brown-eyed boy...

sometimes I can hardly believe how incredibly much I love this child...



chocolate pudding with cinnamon whipped cream

Nothing says Happy Valentines Day better than chocolate, right?  So we celebrated with this scrumptious chocolate pudding with cinnamon whipped cream!

Chocolate pudding is almost as easy to make from-scratch as it is to make out of a box.  So why settle for less than homemade??  So rich, creamy and satisfying...  try this and you will never go back to pudding from a box!

Happy Valentines Day!!

Simple Chocolate Pudding with Cinnamon Whipped Cream Recipe

for the pudding:
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 cups whole milk
1 cup chocolate chips
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
for the cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl.

Combine the milk, chocolate chips and salt in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the chocolate melts.  Gradually pour the hot chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.  Pour back into the saucepan and stir until thick, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Divide among 6-8 small dishes and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours or overnight.  Serve with plenty of whipped cream

For the whipped cream: whip together the cold cream, sugar and cinnamon just until stiff peaks form.


smoky mini meatloaves

Nothing says comfort food like meatloaf.  Now, I know some people are not impressed with meatloaf, but I think that means you've never had great meatloaf!

This is a classic, comforting version with a tiny smoky kick.  A great make-ahead dish, this almost tastes even better as leftovers the next day!
Smoky Mini-Meatloaves Recipe

3 pounds ground beef
1 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
2 cups milk
1/2 large onion, finely minced
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder

4-6 tablespoons vegetable oil, for browning
1 cup flour

2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon chipotle Tabasco

In a large bowl, gently mix together the first 8 ingredients.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow mixture to set and flavors to combine.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Form the meat mixture into palm-sized patties, and place onto a foil-lined baking sheet.   Heat the oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat.  Dredge each patty lightly in flour and place into the hot oil, browning on each side (In batches - don't overcrowd the pan!).  When the patties are brown, transfer them to another baking dish.

Mix together the last 6 ingredients and pour over the meatloaves.  (This is a great place to stop, if you want to make these ahead of time!  Just cover and place in the fridge until you are ready to bake them!)  Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the meat is cooked through and the sauce is bubbly!


Questions?  Comments??

Recipe ideas or requests???

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I'd love to meet you!!  :o)

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Come say "Hi"!!


baby bjorn - an update

We got the results of Bjorn's blood test back.  He is anemic.  That explains a lot, even though it is only the first piece of the puzzle!

He was given a prescription for iron, and will be starting that today. We're not looking forward to ONE MORE medicine that has to be taken (separately from the other!) on an empty stomach!  As most of you know, a baby's stomach is rarely empty!  Hopefully we will see a quick change in his energy level though!

He spends a lot of his crawling time grunting and moaning the whole way.  I used to think it was just for fun, but now it makes more sense - he is exhausted and weak, but wants to be on the move so badly!  I would whine about that too!!

We have an appointment set up at Childrens Hospital in the beginning of March.  Hopefully it will all turn out to be fine, and just an extra precaution.  We appreciate your prayers that everything is ok!

On a more positive note:  tooth #7 popped through yesterday!!  :o)  7 down, WAY too many more to go!


simple spicy sausage egg bake

I love egg bakes.  To me they are a cross between a scramble, quiche, diner food and fancy food all in one.  All of my favorite things...  Comfort food!

And the best part is how easy it is to change them up to your liking, or to use what you have in the fridge!

This is especially a great dish for company, as it can be assembled the night before, refrigerated and baked off in the morning!  more


after all that plastic wrap...

It turns out they didn't even need that involved of a sample!  Oh, and my son does not poop on command.  Or maybe he doesn't like going with a piece of plastic wrap stuck to his bum?  I can't say I blame him for that!

So, after a long day of waiting, Bjorn decided NOT to 'perform' and so we headed off for the blood test without his other stuff along!  And it turns out we didn't even need to go through all that!!  They sent us home with a little bag and a card to smear a little 'stuff' on.
And no 30 minute rush necessary!  Why couldn't they have figured this out on the phone when I asked??

Oh well.  What's done is done!  (And now it is done!)  Ha!

Anyways, Bjorn took the blood draw like a champ!  He studied everything they were doing, and only got upset when he saw the blood coming out of the needle and filling up the vial.  But we were able to keep him still, and it was done before you could blink!

He did wanted to show you his owie though.  Or maybe he wanted to show you his cool Band-Aid?  Either way, here it is!


1001 uses for plastic wrap

Yes, that is plastic wrap hanging out of my son's diaper.  No, he is not just sitting on it in his exersaucer.  Yes, it is there on purpose!  Any more questions??  Really?  Oh, ok...  let me try and answer them all for you.

Today, I am trying to 'catch' my son's BM so that I can quickly run it (and him) into the clinic for some tests.  Hence the plastic wrap.  The BM is not supposed to touch his diaper (lest it be contaminated by the chemicals in the diaper! - makes you think twice about disposables, doesn't it??), and since it's not so easy to convince a 10-month old to go in a cup, I have lined his diaper with plastic wrap, as the clinic suggested.

Then the fun part...  I have to bundle him and myself up get us all (including said BM) out the door and to the clinic across town in less than 30 minutes.  Oh joy.  I can hardly get us out of the house in 30 minutes, let alone be somewhere 10 minutes away!!

So, the game has begun.  I am dressed and ready to go.  His clothes and clean (plastic wrap-less) diaper are ready to be changed into as soon as he has done his business.  Knowing me, I will probably get all the way there and realize I have left the goods behind!

Oh well.  He has to have a blood test also, so the trip won't be wasted either way.

Anyways, back to the purpose for all this fun and excitement in our day...  (ha!)

As most of you know (and some of you don't!) Bjorn has had silent reflux since he was born.  The first 10+ weeks of his life were miserable for us and torturous for him.  He cried pretty much non-stop, and was only content being held (in his Moby Wrap!) or nursing.

When we finally discovered what was wrong with him, we were able to try a few meds and found one that worked!  He was put on Prevacid and it made an immediate difference in the quality of his life (and ours!).

Fast forward about 8 months...  he is still on Prevacid every day, and is just not quite right.  He coughs a lot, often waking himself up from sleep.  He gags and spits up constantly.  He still wants to nurse every few hours, and often just needs to be 'comforted' for no apparent reason.  He always congested and has a persistent rattle in his lungs (to us, apparently though his lungs are fine!).

So, we are headed on a journey to figure out what is wrong with him!  We will be making an appointment with a GI doc at Seattle's Children's Hospital, which is what these tests are for.  Hopefully it will be a quick and painless process for all of us to help him get better!!

I will keep you all posted as we move forward and learn more.  At this point, we appreciate your prayers!!  (especially as I have to take him in for his blood-work later today!)  :o(  I am not looking forward to that!


mocha fudge cake

Yesterday I wanted a cake.  Not for any special reason.  I just wanted one!  I also did not have any eggs and was not in the mood to go to the store, which means I had to get creative...

So, I went to work browsing through my cookbooks (it's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it!) and found some fun looking ideas!

This is what I came up with...  A moist, fudgy mocha cake that makes it's own thick sauce as it bakes, and is wonderful served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!

Mocha Fudge Cake Recipe

1/4 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup half & half
1 cup sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar, divided (3/4 cup + 1/4 cup)
pinch of salt
1/2 c dutch-processed cocoa, divided (1/4 cup + 1/4 cup)
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 cups strong hot coffee

Preheat your oven to 400ºF.  Butter and flour a 9" square baking dish.

Stir together the melted butter, vanilla and half & half; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and 1/4 cup cocoa.  Toss in the chocolate chips, and then stir in the butter mixture until the batter is just moistened.  Spread the batter into your prepared baking pan.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup cocoa; Sprinkle over the cake batter.

Pour the hot coffee over the batter/sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top of the cake is set (toothpick inserted just into the top 1/2 inch of the cake comes out clean) and the bottom is bubbling.

Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream!


happiness is...

...hugs from Grandma!  (and Grandpa, of course!)

We had a great visit from my parents this weekend...  and Bjorn got his fill of loving and entertainment!

And in the form of milestones:  Bjorn can now hug-on-command (if he wants to that is!), kiss-on-command (also if he feels like it!), do Hi-5's, crawl all over the place, pull himself up to standing, stand on his own (for a few seconds), eat everything we eat, take longish naps in his crib, say "mamama" (mom), "dadada" (dad), and "ba" (bite), oh and "da" (Dora); and get back up to sitting from being on his tummy (one of his biggest frustrations this last month!).

He is growing up SO fast!

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