Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Universe Hates Me... or at least just the Sleep Gods

So, I am writing today to let you guys know that I have been doing a pretty good job with cooking a new recipe once a week. I just haven't been doing a good job getting it posted. Here's what my February has been like.

Charlie - double ear infections followed by respiratory/sinus infection, and he has realized after 3 weeks of being in a "big boy" bed that he can get out of it and come and wake mommy up any hour of the night/early morning. It can take 2 hours at bedtime now to get him to stay down and then we don't know if he will make it through the night or not. I am praying that this is mostly due to him being sick and not sleeping as deeply as he normally does. Oh, and then there is the couple of nights that I gave him a cough medicine that I figured out was making him crazy and very revved up instead of slowing him down. OOPS! It's just very frustrating that the week he started getting out of bed was the week that Caroline FINALLY started sleeping through the night, hence why I am convinced that I am being punished and a good night's sleep is something that I will never have again.

Caroline - she has had roseola, cutting 3, maybe 4 teeth, and now has the horrible cough and runny nose that Charlie had and the week that she slept through the night - NOT HAPPENING ANYMORE. So, I have 2 kids that are likely to be up at least once a night, each.

Here are the things we have had and I hope to get posted soon....balsamic chicken risotto made in the slow cooker, lime crusted tilapia with mango salsa, tuna spinach pastry puff (this came about because of our lack of groceries - it was one of those what can I make with what's in my house), and for the super bowl I made South Carolina Gold Chicken Wings. The sauce is my attempt to recreate my favorite BBQ from Bessingers in Charleston, SC.

Hope everyone is well and your kids are healthier than mine. I am looking forward to being on the other side of all this crud!

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Small gains add up to big success....

Some of you know that over the past few months we have started Charlie in speech therapy and physical therapy based on recommendations from his teachers. This led us to the Early Intervention program and we couldn't be happier. We see so much happening in Charlie right now, that it gives us confidence that we have done the right thing but we can see he was going to get there anyway - just on his timeline. Charlie has been on his own timeline since the day he was born.
The last few weeks have been the hardest 3 weeks with Charlie. I can't count the fits, the tears, the screams, the hits, the bites and the toys thrown across my house and of course there was the double ear infection that added it's own challenges to whatever possessed my child. I tell you all of this, not to concentrate on what was going wrong, but to tell you we have had the most amazing morning.
Charlie is enrolled in soccer class and usually his time spent during class is 30% crying, 30% running around and 40% doing what is being asked of him to the best of his delayed gross motor skill ability. Today was awesome!!!! No fits, no tears and he was happy! At home, he has tried to play with Caroline today and really include her in his activity. He has hugged and kissed and followed directions and reminded me of normal life again. This is my child!
It's crazy to me how a little child can go through something that effects everything, his physical therapy sesssions were off, his speech sessions took a step back and his behavior at school was off again. I wish I could get inside of him and tweak and fix the little nuts and bolts that come loose at times.
Here is the best part, last night started this positive turn and his speech was crazy good. Phrases, sentences, clear words and great listening and answering questions. Today has been even better. We are even seeing him start to finish sentences when we read books with him.
I love this child and I can't wait to continue telling you all the wonderful things he is doing.

On the food front....Today is Wednesday which is a speech day and making dinner is tough. It's become a crock pot or make ahead and throw it in the oven kind of day. During nap I made a pan of chicken lasagna. Basic, regular old lasagna but instead of beef, chicken and all low-fat or fat-free cheese as well as whole-grain noodles. We are committing to 80-90% of the time eating whole grain, non-processed, good for you foods and these are my tweaks to lasagna to make it a little more healthy. By no means is this some original, amazing recipe. It really is pretty basic, just healthier ingredients.

Here's what I do...

I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts and boil them in a pot of water until cooked through. Boiling them makes them very tender and you are able to pull it apart by hand or with 2 forks. One package of 2 large breasts or 3 small breasts is plenty. Once chicken is cooked, break apart into small pieces and put back in pot with 1 1/2 jars of your favorite marinara sauce. Let simmer while you make the rest of the dish.

Bring large pot of water to a boil. Boil 12 whole-grain or whole-wheat lasagna noodles according to package directions, usually 8-9 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

Mix together one package of low-fat ricotta cheese, 1 cup low-fat or fat-free mozzarella cheese, 1 1/2 cups of reduced fat grated parmesan, one package of cooked chopped spinach, 2 eggs lightly beaten and then season with italian seasoning, basil, garlic powder and salt and pepper. I don't have measurements for the seasonings - I just do it to taste or what looks right to me.

Lightly spray a 13 x9 inch pan and then take the a small amount from the 1/2 jar of sauce you didn't use with the chicken and spread a light layer on the bottom of the pan. Line pan with 4 noodles, slightly overlapping. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over noodles, top with 1/2 of the chicken mixture and repeat layers. Take your last 4 noodles and top off the pan. Pour the remaining sauce over this top layer and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil. You Bake this on 375 for 30 minutes, remove foil and continue baking for 10 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

I made my lasagna during naptime and baked for 30 minutes. When it's time for dinner I will bake for 10 minutes at 375, remove foil and bake for at least 10 minutes or until heated through. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Since I haven't started the workouts yet....

Why not post the best cupcake I have ever made! I cannot take any credit for this recipe. I found it on my obsession, Foodgawker. This was posted on Foodgawker from a food blog called the Baking Robot. I made these cupcakes for a Christmas party, so I wanted to share since they seemed to be a party favorite. The cinnamon buttercream will change your life!

Chocolate Pomegranate Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Cupcakes 
adapted from Hershey’s Kitchens

2 cups sugar

1 3/4 cups flour

3/4 cup cocoa

1-1/2 tsp baking powder

1-1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup boiling water

1 cup pomegranate seeds (about 1 pomegranate) * see below for a tip on using pomegranates

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake tins with baking cups.
2. Combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla and stir until combined. Stir in boiling water. The batter with be very thin. Fold in pomegranate seeds.
3. Fill baking cups 2/3 of the way full. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, rotating halfway through. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.

Frosting 
adapted from TidyMom

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

2 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

4 cups powdered sugar

2 tbsp light corn syrup

1. In a large bowl, beat butter, milk, and vanilla on medium-low until smooth and combined.
2. Add cinnamon. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time on low until combined, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary. Add corn syrup and mix on medium-high speed until combined.

*** I had never worked with an actual pomegranate prior to making these cupcakes. I found the best thing to do is to cut off the crown, then score the pomegranate with a knife (cut down the sides, maybe 4-6 cuts just piercing the skin) and then you soak the pomegranate in cool water for about 5 minutes. While it's still in the water, break it open and the seeds will fall out to the bottom. You may have to use your fingers to help some seeds to come out. I learned my lesson in not breaking the pom open out of the water. It will squirt out a lot of juice and ruin your new favorite blouse! If you do it in the water then the juice that squirts out only goes in your bowl.

I really hope you guys enjoy these. Bob and I definitely did. I can't repeat what he actually said when he took his first bite, but I immediately knew they were a hit.

Enjoy!!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

New Year's 2012 - Slow Cooker Pork Tacos and my list of resolutions

This New Year's was spent with family and friends playing games and celebrating another year gone by and the hopes we have for the year ahead. I have more goals this year than I have had for the past few and I look forward to getting my butt in gear and starting my plan to accomplish them.
My goals:
1. Learn to cook more foods and share my experiences (hence this blog)
2. TONE TONE TONE - I've lost the baby weight but would like to go a little further and get stronger.
3. Dates with Bob
4. More crafts and organized activities at home with Charlie
5. Reinforce what Charlie is learning in his speech and physical therapy
6. Take a family vacation
7. Learn to better pick my battles
8. Less TV in the Milhizer house
9. Wake up early enough before the kids to be dressed and ready to start the day
10. Increase variety of foods Charlie eats
11. Continue to develop new friendships in Chicago and continue to meet friends
12. Become more involved as a family with our church/schoool
13. Regular bible study and prayer
14. More mindful of my spending habits
15. ORGANIZE my house
16. Run at least 1 race this year

It's a long list and a lot of this will be a work in progress throughout the year, but I'm excited about it.

For our little New Year's Eve party I made slow cooked pork tacos with mango salsa. It's a recipe adapted from Food Network. The original recipe calls for ancho and passilla peppers, but I had a bad experience trying to use the dried version of these peppers. I followed the directions and placed them in a bowl with garlic and microwaved for 2-3 minutes. Let's just say they burnt and I could have kept many criminals at bay with my own homemade pepper spray that filled our house for a few hours. I tossed them and substituted jalapeno pepper and serano peppers. For the original, go to foodnetwork.com and maybe you will have better luck. I also use a little more broth than it originally calls for.

Here is the recipe:
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1. serrano pepper, seeded and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 2 to 3 chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 medium white onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder (untrimmed), cut into chunks
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Corn tortillas, warmed, for serving
  • Assorted taco toppings, for garnish

Directions

Add the pepper, garlic, chipotles, onion, 2 tablespoons olive oil, honey, vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt and the oregano to the blender; puree until smooth. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat; add the chile sauce and fry, stirring, until thick and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Pour in the broth and reduce until slightly thickened.

Season the pork all over with salt and pepper and transfer to a large slow cooker. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon stick, then pour in the sauce. Cover and cook on high until the meat is tender, about 5 hours. (Or cook the meat in a large Dutch oven, covered, for 1 hour 45 minutes at 350 degrees; uncover and cook 30 more minutes.)

Discard the bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Shred the pork with 2 forks; season with salt and pepper. I like to put the meat back into the sauce in the crock pot while serving dinner. It ensures the best flavor, keeps the meat moist and adds sauce for the tacos. Serve the shredded pork in the tortillas, along with toppings.


Mango Salsa:
Peel and cut up 2 mangos, dice 2 tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 jalapeno, 2 avocados, cut up a few handfuls of cilantro, season with salt and pepper and squeeze in the juice from 1-2 limes. This is a salsa I make without a recipe, so these are guesstimates as to how much of each I use. Use your best judgment as to what taste best to you.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Here I go again....

Obviously, this is under construction but seeing that January is almost half over, I felt I need to get started so I can fulfill a goal I set for myself.
I have decided to walk away from Milhizer Mania (to the 2 people that read it, I'm sorry). I am creating, A Full Plate, to challenge myself not only as a mom who needs to share and vent at times about family life, but also needs to hone and improve a hobby of mine, cooking. Many of you know that I love to cook and I love to cook for groups of people. Well, I am in a rut and my skills are diminishing in the kitchen. One resolution for this year is to make a new recipe once a week. I am almost 3 weeks behind, so I have some catching up to do but by February you will be able to find 4 recipes and my experience of making it for our family (by our family, I currently mean me and Bob. Charlie doesn't eat many different foods and Caroline, well, she's 6 months old). Now, for any of our close friends in Chicago, please feel free to insert yourself into these dinners at any time for I find it a lot more fun to feed a group than just the 2 of us - no offense Bob.
I also plan to post some oldies but goodies from time to time that I have made before and gotten good reviews. If you have a request and want the recipe, let me know and I will post it.
My intentions have been announced so let's see if I follow-through this time. Be February 1st the design and "groove" should be in place. I hope you will enjoy reading about 2 of my favorite things, my family and cooking.
Happy New Year!