Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sweet Musings: Pregnancy - Week 22!


Hi, friends! I know it's been quiet here the past week, and as you may remember I went on a road trip to Alabama from last Friday to Monday. And what a trip it was!! I've made this drive, by myself, several times before. And it's never been an issue. Some people think, 13 hours in a car?? and that I'm crazy for making the trip at all, let alone by myself. But here's the thing folks...I drive a lot on a regular basis. Maybe not long distances, but I'm in my car driving for at the very least a couple of hours each day. Austin traffic is awful, in case you hadn't heard. So...12-13 hours in a car, actually moving is a piece of cake. Usually. Making the drive 5 1/2 months pregnant is a whole other ball game, my friends.

Not that it was horrible, because it wasn't. The weather was very nice to me this time, unlike my last trip which took me through torrential downpours in Louisiana and Mississippi. It was sunny, and leaving at 4 am (yes, I said 4 am) meant that I missed any traffic in Houston that I was scared I might hit, and it was smooth sailing from there. On a typical road trip I make minimal stops. I'm fortunate to have vehicles that get good gas mileage, so if I fill up before I leave I usually only need to stop once for gas. Maybe a second time right at the end of the drive. So, I try to stop only a couple of times. You know...get food and use the bathroom when I stop for gas, etc.

That works well for me and decreases my travel time. Usually.

Let's just say that my bladder and my aching legs and rear-end had other plans. My normal 1-2 stops turned into 4-5 stops. My 12-hour trip turned into 13 hours. My body definitely felt different during this trip. I drove to Florida last May (with one of my besties) and J and I drove to Colorado the week after Christmas and it as a breeze. I convinced myself that this trip would be no different. But alas, the changes that pregnancy makes to your body are real, y'all. And I'm not complaining. Not even a bit. It was just...different. I have to realize and accept that I just can't do everything the way I always have. I get tired. My feet start to hurt. And so on. But I wouldn't change it for the world. This little tater girl baking away inside of me is the biggest blessing I will ever have in this life, and I have been doubly blessed with a very easy pregnancy thus far.

We had our anatomy scan appointment the Wednesday before my trip and it went very well. Little miss had her hands covering her face most of the time so we didn't get a good look at her face, but they did get a pretty good profile shot of her, after poking at my belly a bit to get her to move those tiny little hands.


 How cute is she?? And definitely not a little gummy bear anymore. She is every bit a little person now. Of course this particular pic doesn't show all of her...but she has cute little arms, legs, hands and feet. And we're pretty sure her mama's nose. Guess we'll find out for sure in a few months, right??

She's moving around like crazy these days, and J got to feel her move for the first time on Monday night. It's such a surreal sensation, especially for me since I can feel her inside and outside at the same time. I wish I could see what she's doing. Know what it is I'm feeling...is she kicking, stretching, turning? What part of her am I feeling?? Now that J has felt her a couple of times (it's harder for him to detect right now, since the movements are still somewhat subtle), he tries to get her to move so he can feel her all the time. Soon enough, I'm sure this mama will be asking her to calm down with the kicking!! But right now, we're enjoying every little wiggle. And she wiggles a lot.

I told J she's going to love country music like her mama (much to his dismay) because boy-oh-boy was she wiggling around  at the concert Saturday! When I finally made it to Alabama, I met up with two of the girls from my cooking board at the hotel (one of them is also pregnant!), and we got ready to go to dinner. A cute little place in Auburn, and we sat outside since the weather was nice. It was great to chat and hang out, and the food was good - of course!

Saturday we headed down to the Auburn campus to get  parked and walk around a bit before we had lunch. We knew the crowds were going to be crazy, so figured it was better to get an early start. Auburn has a really cute little downtown area, lots of little shops and restaurants, and the campus is beautiful. And yes, there were tons of people. I think I heard there were 80,000 in attendance at the concert. That is insane.


I'm not really a crowd person, so once we got in and got to our seats, I did not leave them. Not once. Thankfully my bladder was kind to me and from 5pm - 11pm, I sat right there on those aluminum stadium seats. Well, I had to stand a few times because...ouch. But otherwise, I stayed put. The concert was amazing. Old Dominion, Sam Hunt (one of my favs!), Miranda Lambert, and of course, Kenney Chesney. I came home rocking an awesome (not) tan line from the shirt and cardigan I wore that day. Farmer's tan doesn't even begin to describe the ridiculousness that are my "tan" lines.Ugh.


The entire stadium was FULL. And the floor area, too.





It took forever to get out of the parking lot, and by the time we got back to the hotel, I was way past pooped. I hit the pillow and was out. We woke up early to head out the next morning, and I started making my way to see my brother and his family about an hour away. I haven't seen them in almost three years now, so I was beyond excited. I made a quick stop to get the kids a little something, then was on my way. It was a great visit, and too short as always. I cried like a baby when I drove away, like I always do. Ugh. And then the loooooong drive home on Monday. But I missed J and the pups, so as sad as I was to leave my family and as tired as I was by the time I got home, it was nice to be there with them and in my own bed again. All-in-all, it was a fantastic trip and I'm so glad I went! And Tater girl had her first trip to Alabama and her first concert!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sweet Musings: Pregnancy - Week 21


J and I had our "20 week" doctor visit yesterday (yes, a week later) and had the anatomy scan done on little Tater girl. We haven't seen her since our very first appointment at 9 weeks, so we were super excited, of course.

I told J in the very beginning that I wanted him to go to the first appointment with me, but after that it was up to him if he wanted to go to any (barring any unforeseen circumstances or problems, of course) since most appointments are short, routine, and nothing he would "need" to be there for. He said he wanted to be there for any appointments where we could see her, so...this was the next one!

We basically had two appointments...one with the sonographer, then one with the doctor afterwards. For anyone who has ever had a baby or sat in on an appointment with someone for their anatomy scan, it's not quite as exciting as the first ultrasound. Because, these people are trained well and know how to identify all the little parts and to most of us, it's just a blob on the screen. Sure, we could make our her little head, and arm and a leg, her little heartbeat, and her legs from underneath, but the individual organs and such that they measured...we weren't seeing those the way they did. And of course our little stinker had her hands folder over her face most of the time, so we just barely got a glimpse of her little nose. The did get a pretty decent profile shot for us though, thankfully.


All the baby's parts and organs looked normal and measured on track so that is always a relief to hear. She's growing like she should and moving around like crazy. Though she was pretty still during the ultrasound, other than covering up her face!

Afterwards we went to see a daycare, and let me just tell you...trying to decide who is going to take care of your precious  baby for probably more time than you will spend with her during the week is HARD. It's not optional for us, we both have to work outside the home, and it's a big decision. And one that I think is so hard to make from a 10 minute tour of a facility. I mean, there's no glaringly obvious signs that say this place is dangerous or that the people who work there are going to endanger our precious baby, but...what place would be like that??? And in-home daycare scares me even more. Because...at least at a big box daycare there are inspections and regulations, more so I would think than an in-home facility. Granted, that's only my assumption, I have no idea if it's true but it's a very real fear I have.

So, we've seen two daycares, and they both seem suitable. One is less money and much more conveniently located, but their wait list system leaves something to be desired. Not that there is a wait list, but the way they  handle it. Like, we may not have any clue if they will have space for her until a month before. And then if they don't, we're basically S.O.L. The planner in me panics at the very thought.  The other is a bit more money and a little farther out of the way, but there is no wait list currently for the time I would need to start her there. So, how do we decide?? HOW??

In other news, I am heading to Alabama tomorrow for a long weekend. Pre-pregnancy I planned a trip with a few girls from my cooking board, to meet up in Alabama for a Kenny Chesney concert to celebrate one of the girl's 30th birthday. I will leave verrrry early in the morning (like 4am early) to make the 13 hour drive. Fortunately, I am so accustomed to driving a lot, and I don't mind long road trips alone. Granted, I would not have planned such a long trip alone if it had come up after I was pregnant, but...I am perfectly capable of travel still! And not only do I get to hang out with some awesome girls, but I will also get to visit with my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew who live in Alabama on Sunday,  before I head home on Monday.

Of course J and I discussed this trip way back when it was planned and he had no issue with me going, but I think now, with little Tater girl in tow, he's a little less thrilled about me making the long trek on my own. But, I have no doubt that we will both be fine, and the trip will be so much fun! I'm excited for the concert...Kenny Chesney, Miranda Lambert, Sam Hunt, and Old Dominion at the Auburn University stadium. All awesome artists!! And, you know the foodie girls are going to eat as much good food as we can get our  hands on!

It's been a couple of years since I saw my brother and the family so I'm super excited to see them, too. Those kiddos definitely grow waaaaay to fast.

It's been raining for daaaaays here, flooding in Houston (which I will be driving through) and just overall nasty in this area so I'm praying that the trip is uneventful and the weather is nice to me. My last trip to Alabama included torrential downpours pretty much the entire drive through Louisiana and Mississippi. I'd rather not endure that stress this time around. Did ya hear that, Mother Nature?? Be nice!

Updates on the trip next week!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Homemade Shake 'n' Bake Chicken

I know it's Tuesday and this is not in any way a taco. But...I couldn't wait any longer to share it with you all!!

Homemade Shake 'n' Bake Chicken

I don't specifically recall eating shake 'n' bake as a kid. I don't know if we ever had it or not. But I do remember trying it as a semi-adult, when I was newly on my own and trying new things, like how to make pork chop that was baked and not dry as a bone. Shake 'n' bake was involved in that effort. I eventually just gave up on pork chops - they just don't ever seem to work for me. But I digress. 

I love baked - everything mostly - and I love being able to have baked meals that resemble their fried counterparts, since we don't typically eat fried food at home. So, when I saw the opportunity to make crispy baked chicken, with cornmeal crusted okra, mashed potatoes and gravy, I was all over it. Made me remember the days as a kid eating Church's fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and fried okra. Oh my word. Love. 

And, another digression...why is Church's the only (chain) fried chicken place that has fried okra?? KFC and Popeye's do not. It's a shame, really. Because...fried chicken, fried okra, and creamy mashed potatoes and gravy = perfection. I mean, if you eat at those type of fast food restaurants, that is. I can't tell you the last time I did, but obviously I have fond memories. So, my solution? Make a healthier version of that at home!! 

J has opposition towards eating the skin on chicken - any cut - so sometimes that limits or majorly alters what recipes I can use for anything that calls for "skin-on" chicken pieces. Sometimes I feel like we miss out on trying some deliciously, crispy-skinned chicken recipes, but I adapt them the best I can. This recipe, however, needed no adapting. Because it actually wants you to remove the skin from the drumsticks!

So...no skin, crispy baked crust, and juicy meat inside?? This, my friends, is the healthier version of a country-fied meal. And it was insanely delicious. And you need it in your life, immediately!!

Shake n Bake Chicken

Homemade Shake 'n' Bake Chicken
As seen on Cook the Story

Ingredients
  • 1 and 1/2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs (I used Italian seasoned)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp of Italian seasoning (I didn't use since i used Italian seasoned breadcrumbs)
  • pinch of cayenne (optional)
  • 12 skinless chicken drumsticks - or other preferred pieces (I bought skin-on, and the skin actually pulled off really easily!)

Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a large baking sheet with foil, spray with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.
  2. In a large, resealable bag, combine the breadcrumbs, oil, paprika, sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning and cayenne (if using). Shake well to mix.
  3. Moisten drumsticks with water and add 6 at a time to the bag. Seal the bag and shake until all pieces are well-coated. Place on the baking sheet and repeat with remaining drumsticks. 
  4. Bake 40-45 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165ºF and outsides are brown and crispy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Sweet Musings: Pregnancy - Week 20!


These posts sort of fell off after the wedding era, so I thought it was high time I brought them back, with a baby on the way and all!

Yesterday we reached the 20 week marker with our little Tater and it's been such an exciting time! I started feeling her move a little over a week ago and it's….weird and awesome all at the same time. Now I'm just trying to figure out how we get her to understand that when mommy goes to bed is not the time to start wiggling all around - ha! Can I get ahead of that backwards sleep and awake schedule before she gets here? Someone tell me, yes!!

Our 20 week appointment and anatomy scan is actually next week, and we just can't wait to see our little girl again! I'm a procrastinator, at best, when it comes to working on her room, but I’m hoping that since her crib and mattress are being delivered today that it will give me a little more incentive to get in there and get some things done!! We may have a few more months until her arrival, but I’m the type of person who likes to get things done and checked off my to-do list way in advance. I'm actually surprised I didn't have it done like, 2 weeks after we found out she was coming – ha!

I did have the rooms rearranged pretty quickly though. Our guest room and office became one room, therefore all the boxes and other…stuff….remain in her room. And that is what I have yet to deal with. #lazymama

Here's a little peek of me a week ago. The baby bump is definitely there! Which is much better than that awkward phase of...my regular clothes don't fit, but maternity clothes are still too big so...yay, I just look like I'm eating a lot of tacos!!


Haha! But let's be real folks, maternity clothes (aka pants) are da bomb diggity! I mean...seriously. Why can't we wear these all the time???

The only downside I can see right now is that I have trouble getting comfortable to sleep at night. I sleep ok, but I wake up a lot tossing and turning. Which is weird because I have always been a side sleeper, and usually just fall asleep on one side and stay that way, but now...newp. Now that I'm in the second trimester and not supposed to sleep on my back, guess which way I always want to sleep and is the most comfy for me? Yep, on my back. Sigh.  Soon I'll have to get one of those wedge pillows to put behind me so I can't end up on my back - because as of now...I always do at some point in the night.

But hey, if that's my biggest "complaint", I'm doing pretty good, aren't I??  No doubt, we know how very lucky and blessed we are, and we can't wait for our little Tater girl to be here in August!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Taco Tuesday: Oven Baked Turkey Tacos

Taco Tuesday is here again!! And look…another crispy taco!! This one, baked in the oven! Whaaaa?

Crispy Baked Turkey Tacos

I try to keep a good variety going with all these tacos, not using the same protein from week-to-week, etc. And when it comes to using ground meats, substitution is usually pretty easy to do. I debated using either ground turkey or ground pork for these tacos, and went with turkey in the end. Not for any reason other than…I love me some ground turkey. And it was perfect. It soaked up those taco seasonings perfectly and for those who love ground beef tacos, you'll love these just as much!!

Baked Turkey Tacos

As I've mentioned before, one of the great things about tacos is their versatility. These tacos have a great filling already, but the topping options are endless. Whatever you love for tacos, you can put on top! I chose to do minimal toppings this round, but you can pile 'em on as much as you'd like. Sour cream or Greek yogurt, shredded lettuce, olives if you're into that kinda thing, sliced radishes, etc! You get the point. 

Crispy Taco

I'm still really enjoying crispy tacos lately, so these hit the spot just right. J prefers them as well, lately. There's just something about that crunch!

So, don't miss out on another delicious taco…make them tonight!

Oven Baked Turkey Tacos
As seen on Garnish with Lemon

Ingredients
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 10 hard taco shells
  • 1 (15-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (10-oz) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained 
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese of choice
  • Diced avocado and sliced jalapeno (and/or any other taco toppings you like) for topping, optional

Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook the turkey, breaking up with a spatula until browned. Add all of the spices and water and stir to coat the meat. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange taco shells in a 9 x 13 casserole dish (or smaller if you are eating less than 10 tacos.) 
  3. Combine the beans with the diced tomatoes and green chiles in a medium bowl. 
  4. Once the turkey is done cooking, use a slotted spoon to fill each of your taco shells about 1/3 of the way. Top with the black bean and tomato/chile mixture, and sprinkle with cheese. 
  5. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and tacos are crisp and heated through. Serve immediately with your choice of toppings!
Crispy Turkey Tacos

Monday, April 11, 2016

What's Baking: Crustless Zesty Italian Venison Sausage, Spinach, and Red Pepper Quiche

A couple of weeks back, our garage freezer went out and sadly by the time we noticed it was too late. The entire hunting season's haul of deer meat was ruined. J was devastated, naturally, and there was nothing we could do to re-stock what was lost since deer season is over. Thankfully, a co-worker of J's is also an avid hunter and he gifted us with some of his stockpile of venison. One of the things he gave us was zesty Italian deer sausage, that he had processed himself! Of course, J was anxious to try it, and since he loves crustless quiche, that seemed like a good place to start!

Crustless Zesty Italian Venison Quiche

It didn't hurt that this month's What's Baking challenge, hosted by Liz of Books -n- Cooks is also quiche!! Meant to be? I think so!

And as if the gifted meat, yummy quiche, and fun challenge weren't enough excitement, I also got to use the first crop of spinach from our garden for this recipe!! Admittedly, J and I aren't seasoned gardeners and we didn't do a lot of research before planting this year so we planted spinach. Which we now know is better planted in the fall. Thankfully, we'll be able to get some good production from it before the summer heats kills it off. We will definitely enjoy it while it lasts, and know to plant it in the fall next time. Lesson learned! 

Quiche

I've made crustless quiche numerous times over the past couple of years, experimenting with different meats, cheeses, and veggies, but the base recipe for the quiche is always the same. And it's so simple. It is probably one of, if not the only dish that I can make without having to reference the recipe. That's a big deal for me, because I pretty much have to reference a recipe for everything. Even if I've made it a gazillion times. I think it's more for peace of mind than anything. Now, that's not to say I never make up recipes on the fly, but if it's a repeat or whatnot, I want that recipe in front of me. Just in case. Ya know? 

Quiche Close-up

All that to say...I don't feel the need to do that with this quiche. The egg base of the recipe is three easy ingredients. Could even be two!! Eggs, heavy cream, and milk. The filler ingredients...whatever your little heart desires! Meat(s), veggie(s), and cheese. Definitely cheese. And a sprinkling of flour to help it set up. 


Be sure to check out Liz's blog for the round-up of posts later this month, as well as the bottom of this one for links to the other yummy posts!!

Crustless Zesty Italian Venison Sausage, Spinach, and Red Pepper Quiche

Ingredients
  • 1/2 lb of zesty Italian sausage (venison or other)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 1 Tbsp flour (I use white whole wheat)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9" round baking dish or pie plate with cooking spray, set on a baking sheet for easy handling, and set aside. 
  2. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and cook sausage, breaking up with a spatula, until browned and cooked through. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain off any excess grease and allow to cool slightly. 
  3. In a medium bowl, add the cooled sausage, red bell pepper, spinach and cheese. Sprinkle with the tablespoon of flour and toss to coat and mix. Dump the contents into the prepared baking dish and spread out as evenly as possible. 
  4. Using the same bowl, add the eggs and beat. Pour in the cream and milk and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper,  stir once more, then pour over the filling ingredients in the pie plate. Use a fork to help evenly distribute the egg mixture, if necessary. 
  5. Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Top will be a bit jiggly still and edges slightly browned. Allow to cool and set for 30 minutes prior to cutting. Once set, cut, serve, and enjoy!!
Crustless Quiche

And more yummy posts from the group! (More added as they are posted!)

Spring Veggie Quiche – The Redhead Baker
Crustless Kielbasa, Red Pepper, and Asparagus Quiche – Hezzi D's Books and Cooks
Crustless Caprese Quiche - Cookaholic Wife
Mini Zucchini Quiche - Books and Cooks
Ham and Cheese Quiche - Kate’s Recipe Box
Pepperoni Pizza Quiche - Cookies on Friday

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Baked Salmon with Herb Yogurt Sauce

Hello, friends!! We've made it to the mid-week mark, and Friday is within sight. Thank the Lord! I've heard reports of the northeastern states getting another freeze and/or snow this week and I just...can't. I'm a Texas girl, born and raised, and the thought of the northern winters just baffles me. Thankfully, it seems that we had our last little cold snap this past weekend and spring is now in full swing. Fingers crossed, anyway. I've seen it come back around and hit us hard in May so...anything could happen. Texas weather and all...

But I'm moving ahead with spring, which means light, refreshing meals using lots of fresh produce, from our garden and herb garden!!

Salmon with Herbed Yogurt Sauce

Granted, the garden has only been planted for about a month so it hasn't produced anything just yet, but the herb garden is doing well, and I'm very excited about that. Basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley and cilantro all growing strong!! It's nice to be able to just walk out my front door and grab what I need and not have herbs sitting in my produce drawer going bad because I never need the amount they sell at the grocery store. 

Salmon always makes a great meal, regardless of the season, but there is just something about pairing it with a fresh sauce or salad that just screams spring. 

And this sauce, with it's array of herbs, hint of lime juice, and creamy Greek yogurt does just that. Set atop perfectly flaky salmon and served along side a fresh spring salad, it is most definitely the perfect meal to  kick off and celebrate spring. 

Salmon with Herb-Yogurt Sauce

Whether you are already in the throes of spring or still wishing it be here, this salmon with herb yogurt sauce will give your palate just the taste of spring it needs!

Baked Salmon with Herb Yogurt Sauce

Ingredients
  • 4 6-oz salmon fillets. skin-on
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the herb yogurt sauce
  • 1 cup watercress
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • ¼ cup mint
  • 1 scallion, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and set aside. 
  2. Brush olive oil onto the tops of the salmon fillets and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place, skin-side down onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on thickness. 
  3. Meanwhile, place all the herbs in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Add the yogurt and lime juice and process until smooth and well-blended. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to use (refrigerate if it will be awhile before you use, as this can be made ahead of time as well.)
  4. When the salmon is done, use a spatula to gently separate each fillet from the skin, plate and top with a generous portion of the herb yogurt sauce. 

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