Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Half birthday!

It is my beautiful, precious baby boy's 6 month birthday. I can't believe how fast he is growing! He has been changing so much, especially over the past month and learning a ton. As of 4:34 AM my gorgeous son has been making our lives so much more fun and exciting for half a year, and causing an awful lot of trouble! Here's a little flashback of his first 6 months:

Here's what our little guy has been up to for the past 6 months:

  • Rolling both ways
  • Lots of babbling and even more raspberry/bubble blowing
  • Sitting up unassisted
  • Eating rice cereal, baby food, and the occasional banana or avocado in a mesh feeder
  • Smiling and laughing
  • Army crawling all over the house
As you can see, we've been busy! Boston is so smart and such a joy. I can't imagine life without him, he's just perfection. Here's our little guy at 6 months!

I am so excited for all of our upcoming milestones, but I need time to slow down! Happy 6 month Boston, we love you so much <3

Friday, March 23, 2012

Breastfeed like Beyonce

I am loving all of the positive feedback coming about Beyonce choosing to breastfeed her daughter in a restaurant. I don't know if maybe I'm just more aware now that I myself am breastfeeding, but it seems like there has been a lot of stigma and controversy lately about whether it's appropriate to breastfeed in public, and I'm so happy to see this positive coverage of a celebrity breastfeeding in public. Having the confidence to do that is hard! I feed my son in public all the time, pretty much anywhere but it is very nerve wrecking for me, even still after almost 6 months. I don't use a traditional cover but I am always covered with a receiving blanket and I usually choose as discreet of an area as I can. I feed him in the car once we've parked a lot because I feel more comfortable there knowing I won't accidentally show more then I want, and that I don't have to worry about being judged. I have been really luck so far that I've never had anyone make a comment about it and I think I've only experienced one time where I felt like someone was judging and mean mugging me about it. I won't ever be shamed into feeding my baby in the bathroom but sometimes it's tough to sit at a restaurant and feed him, knowing the waiter will walk up shortly or to feed him at the mall with tons of people walking by. Even though I make sure nothing is showing, I feel very exposed and vulnerable! And I think that has a lot to do with how other people perceive it, the backlash saying it's indecent and inappropriate.
I am ecstatic to see some celebrities being open about breastfeeding and doing so in public. They have such a huge influence on people and I'm hoping it helps remove some of the stigma. Better yet, I hope they bring it mainstream. I am not the most confident mama out there but the more support I see, the better I feel and the easier it becomes for me. I think it's so important for women to try and find that confidence because no one should feel trapped at home just because they choose to breastfeed. And I certainly don't have to worry about paparazzi! I hope I, and other breastfeeding mamas can learn to be bold like Beyonce. Mamas, find your inner diva and don't give a damn. That's what I'm going to try to do from now on. If you need some tips, here's a great article with some pointers on feeding in public: http://vitals.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/06/10593546-how-to-be-like-beyonce-and-breast-feed-in-public

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Starbucks Iced Lemon Pound Cake

My ideal day out for coffee would be at the Starbucks in Barnes and Noble with my best friend, drinking a skinny vanilla chai tea and eating iced lemon loaf. I can't think of a better way to relax. I have looked around for a copycat recipe for their lemon loaf for awhile and never found one that had good reviews or looked right. Today someone pinned this recipe and I literally pinned it, went and got the ingredients and planned to make it just a few hours later. I was so excited! And it didn't let me down. I love this pound cake. It had just the right amount of lemon, the icing was perfect, and the cake itself was light, so moist and just delicious! I'll be making this time and time again. And it was so easy! Literally dump the ingredients into your mixer bowl and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. This would be a great treat for company and I'm going to attempt to freeze the second loaf (minus the icing) to have another time. 

Starbucks Iced Lemon Pound Cake Copycat
1 box yellow cake mix
1 3.4 oz package lemon pudding
1/2 cup oil
4 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
8 ounces sour cream
6 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer until well blended; about 1 1/2 minutes. Pour mixture into 2 well greased loaf pans. Bake 40-50 minutes until golden. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes, then drizzle with icing. 
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
Mix well until it reaches a thick consistency you can drizzle. Drizzle over the cakes and let set about 20 minutes until hardened. 

Make this cake! It's delicious! If I had my Chai tea, this would be the best night ever. I've already eaten 1/3 of the loaf and don't plan on stopping. 

Cookies & Cream cake

We went to Illinois this past weekend for my mother in laws 40th birthday. 22 hours of driving with a nearly 6 month old, who did amazing. I asked her what kind of cake she wanted and she just requested that it be made from scratch so I decided to do a cookies and cream cake. I had made this cake as cupcakes in the past and they were a hit so I thought I'd see about doubling the recipe and making a 9x13 cake and it worked out wonderfully. I forgot to take a picture of it once it was cut so you could see the Oreo cookie bits inside, but if you've seen any of the recipes for Oreo cupcakes floating around on Pinterest, then you have an idea of what the inside looked like. I topped the cake with cream cheese frosting and used Oreo halves and crumbs to decorate.
I am not a cake decorator and kind of did this on the fly so I'm happy with how it turned out but had I had more time to think it over, I'm sure I could have done a better job.
Cookies & Cream Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
4 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
16 tbs unsalted butter at room temperature
3 1/3 cups sugar
6 large egg whites at room temp
4 tsp vanilla
2 cups milk
Roughly 1 1/2 cups Oreos, chopped
Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl with mixer, combine sugar and butter and beat until light and fluffy; about 2 minutes. Blend in egg whites one at a time beating well each time. Blend in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, beat in half the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Add milk and blend just til combined, then add remaining dry mix. Gently fold in Oreo, being careful not to overmix. Pour batter into a lightly greased 9x13 cake pan and bake for 30-40 minutes.
Adapted from Annie's Eats/
12 oz cream cheese, softened
12 oz butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
About 4 cups of powdered sugar
Combine ingredients and beat with an electric mixer, adding the powdered sugar gradually until it has reached your desired consistency.

The cake was a hit! It tasted great and was just sweet enough without being overbearing. I'll definetely be making it again.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New England Aquarium

I have been neglecting my blog. We were busy for a few days and then last weekend my husband and I came down with the norovirus (which felt like certain death) over the weekend. He felt better after about 12 hours or so, it took me a solid 48 hours to get it together again. So bad we had to have family come take Boston for us for several hours. But much better now!
Last Friday, we made our first trip to the New England Aquarium with our aunts and Boston. I thought it might be a little early for Boston to enjoy it but boy was I wrong. He loved it! His eyes lit up, his little hands were reaching and touching the glass as often as possible and his little feet were kicking all over the place in excitement. I couldn't be much happier with our experience.
I enjoyed the aquarium, they had a lot of great exhibits including sea lions, a huge penguin section, giant sea turtles, a touch tank with stingrays and sharks, and of course a million kinds of fish. I think Boston's favorite were the tanks considered boring by others. One in particular was the herring exhibit, and he loved how fast the fish swam back and forth. He even got a little upset while leaving that one.
I hate to do this because I feel like I say this about everything, but I do feel like the sea life center in Alaska is better then this aquarium. But only a little! I did love the NE one, but I kept looking at exhibits like the penguin and sea lions and thinking it would be better if they showed an underwater portion so you can see them actually swim and play. Which is something they do at the sea life center in Seward, Alaska and it's amazing! There is an upper floor where you can see the tops of the tank and then a lower floor where you cans see all the seabirds and sea lions swimming around. So I wish that was a little different because as nice as their penguin and sea lion areas were, once they went into the water you couldn't see much.
If you find yourself on your way to visit the New England Aquarium, here are some things to consider:
Admission is high, currently $24.95 per adult. Plan to spend your day there if possible!
There is a cafe inside however it's typical cafeteria type food and since the aquarium is in downtown Boston, there are a ton of other options! If you want to do that, the aquarium staff will give you a hand stamp that gives you admission until closing.
They have a stroller parking area if you choose to use it. They give you a number card to get your stroller back when you're ready. This was great for us because we could park it and carry Boston around and get him much closer to the displays and not have to fight through people with a giant stroller. This is a free service too, btw.
The sea lion exhibit is outside and a little chilly in the spring/winter so bring a coat!

Here are some pictures from our trip.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vanilla Pumpkin Muffins

I love pumpkin, I can't wait for it to be season appropriate and the second it's considered fall, I'm so anxious to start making pumpkin inspired food! This past year we moved to the east coast and were here for the hurricane. It wasn't too bad in our area but others were hit really hard. I had heard over the radio that because of all the damage caused by the hurricane that there would be a pumpkin shortage this past season. I immediately panicked, I mean how was I supposed to make gooey butter pumpkin bars?! My grandparents were in Indiana at the time visiting family and were going to be driving out to see us in October so I asked my grandma if she could please bring me a couple cans of pumpkin puree so I could at least bake a couple dishes for the holidays. My grandma always goes overboard and they brought me 16 cans of pumpkin!! I was so stoked but I'm still working on using it up because my husband can't take too much of the same flavor for long so I've been spacing it out. But it's been awhile and I thought it was time for some more pumpkin in this life.
This recipe is beyond easy, I suppose it's hardly a recipe. Cake mixes are becoming so versatile and the more I read through blogs, the more I realize how much you can do with a cake mix! I've been making cake mix cookies for a few years now but I've never made muffins. These have a fairly mild pumpkin flavor but it's there enough. The muffins themselves are very light and fluffy and much more cake like then your typical muffin. I will absolutely make these again. They're my dinner for tonight!

Vanilla Pumpkin Muffins
1 box vanilla cake mix
2 egg whites
1 15oz can of pumpkin puree
Preheat oven to 350. Lightly beat egg whites in a large bowl. Stir in cake mix and pumpkin until combined. Divide into cupcake liners that are lightly greased with oil or cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes and you're done! That's seriously it, and I'm letting myself believe that since this is a cake mix and you only use pumpkin and egg whites, that it's fairly healthy. It's gotta be better then a muffin with cups of sugar and a stick of butter, right?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Homemade baby food

Boston is starting solids and has enjoyed pears so far. Tonight we start veggies, and I thought I'd try carrots first. The pears we bought but I've heard making your own baby food is fairly simple so yesterday I gave it a shot and it was easy! I made him apples and carrots. The apples were really easy because my grandparents had canned some for us, so they had already been cooked in a pressure cooker and were ready to blend. The carrots needed to be cooked. So for anyone who thinks this task may be daunting, I'm here to tell you it is not! Here's step by step what I did for the carrots. First, I bought a bag of the big normal carrots; I've read in several places that the big ones are better then baby carrots because there are more nutrients. Sounded good to me, plus a pound of those are cheaper then the baby carrots. I peeled, washed, and chopped them until they were in small bite size pieces. Then I put them in a steamer bag and microwaved til they were soft. I dumped the whole thing into the blender and pureed them. Now, with the apples I didn't have to add any liquid, they had enough that it was fine but the carrots weren't blending well enough. So I added water, just a couple tablespoons at a time until it had reached a thinner, smooth consistency. Don't add anything else though! Just water, no sugar or spices.
This is the apples once they were pureed
You may think you need a food processor or one of those fancy Baby Bullets to make baby food, but you don't! Any decent blender can do it too. I have a hard time making a good margarita in mine and it did just fine with baby food. 
After it was blended, I ran it through a strainer to make sure there were no chunks. This is extremely important! It may be a bit of a hassle because it took quite a bit of time to shake the food all the way through, but you don't want little one to choke. After straining, I divided it into smaller portions. I used ice cube trays and spooned the food into the cubes, filling it to the brim. Then I covered the trays with saran wrap and put them in the freezer. 
Here are the carrots, portioned in ice cube trays
Once they are frozen through, I dumped them into a quart size freezer bag, labeled the contents and dated! When you're ready to use them, take a cube out and either let it thaw in the fridge or I heated mine in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds, then let it cool til it was okay for Boston to eat. From what I've read, the amount of time they food stays good for while frozen, but it seems to be pretty consistent that you should try to use it within 3 months. As far as what type of food or using a deep freezer, I'm not sure but we're just going to stick with 3 months or less to be safe. 
Labeled and ready to go!
It was ridiculously easy. Depending on what you're making and if it requires cooking will decide how long it takes but even with the prep work for the carrots it took about an hour or less from start to freeze time. It's also very budget friendly! With a little less then 1lb of carrots, I got 18 servings of baby food. Freezing is also a great option if you prefer to purchase your food but your little one can't finish a whole jar. We bought a pouch of pears to start with, which needed to be eaten in 2 days. There was no way Boston could eat that much since we're just starting solids, so I poured the rest of it into the trays and froze for later. No waste! I am excited to make his food now and look forward to trying new foods and cooking methods. 
If you're still unsure, check this site out: wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com It's a great resource in preparing and storage, and also what kinds of food to consider depending on your baby's age and stage. Don't forget to give your little one 4 days or more to adjust to each new food and make sure they don't have any allergies or sensitivities before introducing something new!
I'm excited for food, are you?!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Crockpot Honey Chicken

Army Wives returns tonight! Are you stoked? Because I am! Only a little over an hour to go. I am a little hesitant though because the previews are making it seem like they are going way over the top with their hurricane situation. Not that Army Wives hasn't pushed reality before but I think they may be trying a little too hard this time. Either way, I can't wait!
Knocking another one off my Pinterest to-do list, I made crockpot honey chicken today. I liked it... but I had a few friends make it and they were all pretty ecstatic about it, saying it was phenomenal but I just thought it was good. I'm going to give it another shot in the future because the sauce on mine didn't look as thick as in other people's photos and I didn't get a heavy honey flavor. It was good though and my husband enjoyed it. I had seconds! This chicken reminds me of one I've tried before, brown sugar chicken by A Year of Slowcooking. One really great thing about this meal is that not only is it one you throw together in the crockpot and leave, but you can cook it fairly quickly. I did mine on high for about 2 hours and it was done, which was perfect because I originally planned to cook it on low but things got ahead of me, I spent more time running errands then expected, and next thing I know it's damn near dinner time. I served mine with white rice, however it would be good with any type of rice and probably with most noodles.
Crockpot Honey Chicken
3/4 lbs chicken (I used chicken breasts but you can use any)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup ketchup
1/8 cup chopped onion
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 clove minced garlic
Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper, then place into the crockpot. In a small bowl, combine honey, soy sauce, ketchup, onion, oil, and garlic and then pour over the chicken. Cook on low for 3 hours or on high for about 1 1/2 hours. Cut or shred chicken into bite size pieces and return to pot and coat with sauce. Serve over rice.
I also spooned some extra sauce over the chicken and rice, and it was pretty good!
Adapted from Mmm...Cafe

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Twix Brownies

I truly hadn't stopped thinking about chocolate in days when I finally caved and made these Twix brownies. They were just what I needed! I'll be honest, I didn't use nearly the amount of Twix that was called for and I should have, but I didn't intentionally skip out. My lovely husband munched away on them while I was doing the other prep and by the time I realized, it was too late and he'd polished most of them off. So my batch only had a slight addition of Twix, but I did like the caramel topping. These would be a great brownie recipe without the additions, they were really chocolatey and sweet. However if you're looking for a more fudge like brownie, these aren't for you as they are fluffier and more cake like. I still really enjoyed them but I love most brownies. I know for some people the whole point of a brownie as opposed to cake is to have that dense, fudge like texture.
I don't know if I would make these again or not. I did like them, but they weren't over-the-top special to me. Of course had I added the correct amount of Twix I might feel differently.
Anyway, I took pictures but mine look like regular brownies, not anything special but here is the recipe and if you want to see what they look like, check out twopeasandtheirpod
Twix Caramel Brownies
1 cup of butter
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs
3/4 cocoa
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups chopped Twix bars
1/3 cup caramel ice cream topping
Heat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 pan and set aside
Place butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and melt. Remove from heat and add sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well each time. Add cocoa and stir til well blended. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and stir until combined. Stir in Twix pieces. Pour batter into pan.
Drizzle caramel evenly over brownies, then use a toothpick to swirl the caramel into brownies. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until brownies start to pull away from the pan and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Have I ever mentioned how much I despise recipes that require me to wait until the dessert is completely cool before I eat it? Half the time I don't actually wait... this time I did though!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pinterest Challenge

I am a pinning maniac. I love Pinterest and have so many recipes pinned it's ridiculous. I have made several recipes I've found on there but there are many, many more to knock off my list. So I'm going to make it a goal to make at least 8 Pinterest inspired recipes a month and post my results, good or bad. I've had a really tough time narrowing this months choices down, but based on what I've been craving and what I have available in my fridge already these are the choices I've made:
-Twix caramel brownies Done! 3/3/2012
-Salmon pierogies (I'm really excited about these because I've never had a pierogie and I don't have enough recipes that call for smoked salmon)
-Crockpot white cheddar chicken pasta
-Pumpkin muffins Completed 3/6/2012
-Strawberry scones with Meyer lemon Completed 3/5/2012(I've never used Meyer lemons!)
-Crockpot honey chicken Completed, 3/4/2012 (I've had a couple friends rave about this already)
-Hawaiian crunch halibut
-Peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

I think it's a good balance of the types of meals and level of difficulty. I'm super stoked for the brownies, I can't stop thinking about chocolate. I wish I had all the ingredients right now.

On with the Pinterest challenge!

Pizza Bites

Anyone living in the Northeast, I hope you're staying warm and safe at home! We're having a pretty intense blizzard right now and have gotten about 8" of snow since yesterday evening. My husband's classes were cancelled today so we're bumming at home, watching The Challenge: Battle of the Exes and eating awful food. And by awful, I mean awfully awesome and not good for you. This snow feels like nothing to me, being from Alaska we didn't pause for anything less then a foot. But it is a big deal here!

My husband loves pizza and could eat it in all forms. I tried this recipe during the NFL playoffs and loved it, plus it's super simple and with the most basic ingredients. It would make a great appetizer or fun, kid-friendly (or in my case, husband friendly) meal.

Pizza Bites
1 batch of pizza dough (I used pre-made)
Mozzarella or your choice of cheese
Whatever filling you want, I went with pepperoni and Italian sausage
Olive oil
Italian Seasoning
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9" cake pan. Pull of small chunks of pizza dough, about 1 1/2" diameter or so and flatten. Stuff cheese and your choice of fillings inside, wrap dough all the way around the filling and pinch closed. Place seam down in cake pan, placing each "bite" snugly next to each other. Repeat until you've used all dough. Brush the top of the bites lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle Parmesan and Italian seasoning on top. Bake about 16-20 minutes, until golden. Serve warm and with pizza or marinara sauce to dip!
Adapted from Annie's Eats


I have a serious chocolate issue. And I'm okay with that but sometimes I know I go a little overboard. I get antsy and sad when we don't have chocolate in the house, or if I've gone more then a couple days without something. It's sad really. I've always loved chocolate but it reached a new level when we were living in England. Having access to the amazing products made by Milka, Kinder, Galaxy and Terry's at a cheap price changed everything for me. I literally had a bowl of chocolate bars by the bed and on our coffee table that I'd munch on all the time. I have really missed the chocolate I enjoyed so much in the UK, so much so that I emailed a local company today in search of some of my missed products. I'm hoping they carry everything on my list, but a few items would be enough for me! I thought today I'd share my favorite chocolate products from my time in the UK. And if you ever find yourself living in or vacationing in Europe, you should look for these!
Galaxy Orange & Shortcake
Galaxy Orange & Shortcake was fairly new when we were leaving. I find most Galaxy chocolate to be tasty, it's really rich and creamy and just excellent chocolate. This bar has a slight orange flavor and little chunks of shortcake cookie mixed in. I love a chocolate and orange combination, and the shortcake helped balance the richness of the chocolate.
Kinder Chocolate
Kinder Riegel is a milk chocolate bar with a milky center. Living in the UK actually wasn't the first time I had these, I was lucky enough to try them a long time ago when my aunt's mother sent them a package from Germany. These bars seem to be a bit more prominent and actually aren't too difficult to find in the US but still require a specialty store usually.
Kinder Surprise Egg
Kinder Surprise Eggs were my husband's absolute favorite. We'd have to get a ton of these, and even bought cases at Easter time. The chocolate is good but with the choices we had, I wouldn't rate it the best. It's just a thin chocolate egg with milk chocolate on the outside and white chocolate inside. Inside of the egg is a toy. I think this is why my husband loved them, because he's got the heart of an 8 year old. However, these toys make the eggs a choking hazard, which is why you'll be pressed to find them in the US. I've heard mixed reports about whether they are banned in the US or not.

Kinder toys
Here is an example of the types of toys you'd find inside the eggs. Most of them were just little plastic figurines but some were toys with several pieces you'd have to build, stickers to put on them, and other embellishments. I do wish they had them in the US because they make great Easter gifts!
Milka Strawberry Yoghurt
Milka Strawberry Yoghurt bars were one of the first German products we got to try when we moved because they were carried in our Commissary. I have seen a few other varieties of Milka products in Walmart, but not the strawberry yoghurt which is clearly the best one. It has a light milk chocolate coating, and inside is a creamy, sort of fluffy layer of strawberry yoghurt. I used to love to freeze these and then eat them. I'm patiently waiting for Walmart to catch on that these are much better then the regular, white chocolate, or hazelnut version.
Terry's Chocolate Orange Bar
And last but not least, my favorite, Terry's Chocolate Orange Bars. I know Terry's makes regular chocolate oranges and even in a few different flavors, but they aren't that easy to find unless it's Christmas. And the actual oranges are pretty expensive compared to these bars. I've seen the oranges for $3 a piece, while I could get a 5 pack of these bars at Sainsbury for 1 pound, which at the time was about $1.40 US. I'm not sure what the exchange rate is anymore. Plus, I find the bars to be more satisfying then the oranges. The chocolate seems richer and creamier, and it's in the shape of little orange slices and easily portioned. Lastly, I'm telling you the orange flavor in the bars is much more prominent then in the oranges you crack. I have not stopped craving these since we moved almost a year ago. I am desperately hoping they carry them at the British store I emailed today but I'm not getting my hopes up because there are US variations available and the legit orange ones you crack for Christmas. But maybe I'll get a positive answer.
I guess there is one plus to not having easy access to these treats anymore. I'm a good 5 lbs lighter then I was in the UK, and that's post baby so that's something! But to be honest I'd rather have the chocolate. Wish me luck that I get a great email saying they carry all of my favorites!


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