Thursday, April 25, 2013

tasty thursdays

we're taking a hiatus from the crockpot meals this week to focus on some meat-tastic dinners that satisfy nick's tastebuds and appeal to my cravings for protein, protein, protein! they're not diet friendly, but balanced with lighter meals throughout the week, i think they're worth the splurge. as always, remember that  these photos are linked directly back to the blogs from whence they came. i'm also linking up to Taste and Tell's weekly round up

meatball sub casserole

Meatball Sub Casserole Recipe
image credit from taste of home

i've made several different meatball sub casseroles, some of which called for frozen meatballs. just, NO. these meatballs are so simple to make and so delicious. i confess to eating one right out of the oven before the rest get incorporated into the casserole. this dish is even better the next day when the sauce and cheese has had a change to soak into the crusty bread. (sadly, just looking at that marinara sauce gives me a little reflux... oh baby, why must you hate tomatoes???)

comfort food at its finest. the original recipe makes enough to fill two 9x13 pans, so i usually cut it in half (and if i'm doing all my shopping at my fave bottom dollar, which doesn't stock chorizo, i just use italian sausage). however, with sweet pea on the way, i'm sure i'll be making the full batch and freezing one pan for later! when i'm in the midst of stuffing each shell one by one, i sometimes wonder whether it's worth it. and the answer is, yes. 

cuban style pulled pork sliders
Cuban Style Pulled Pork Sliders

the best cuban sandwich i ever had was in the little port of St. Martin in the US Virgin Islands. the spicy sweetness of crispy ham dancing with the bright tang of a pickle and a squeeze of lime juice and washed down with a frosty local beer after a long day of sun-worshiping just sums up the bliss of vacation. so these are a welcome treat during the long winter months. as cute as the sliders are, i usually just serve them on regular-size buns (more husband-friendly).

french onion grilled cheese

from annie's eats

image credit from

i've been sitting here for a few minutes thinking about how to even describe this recipe. how do you top the unique flavors of french onion soup? if you said, "add more buttery toasted bread" -- well, then, you'd be right. it's so unbelievably scrumptious that you don't even care that strings of gooey melted cheese and slippery bits of caramelized onions are all over your hands and face. because more is always better, i serve this with a traditional french onion soup base (minus the cheese & bread) for dipping. for someone who thinks plain old grilled cheese is still pretty darn good, this sandwich is a revelation.
BBQ Pepper Jack Bacon Burgers
image credit from the peaceful mom

my only beef with these burgers (har har) is that sometimes the bbq sauce seems to make the meat mixture too moist so it doesn't hold together well on a grill pan (and might fall through the cracks entirely on a real grill). adding a quarter cup of crushed saltines or breadcrumbs saves the day, and this is definitely not a meal to miss. this recipe also has influenced how i make all my burgers from now on: that tablespoon of steak seasoning adds the perfect flair! 

now that i've made myself hungry by looking at all these photos, it's time to head off to pure barre for some much needed toning! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

ten weeks!

please excuse my t-rex arms.

bump watch: oh, it's growing! during my pure barre workout yesterday (which i adore!! it's the best of Pilates and gymnastic-style conditioning combined!) i could definitely feel more pressure in my lower abdomen while doing crunches. i'm looking foward to putting my new belly band to good use -- it looks like a tube top and is designed to be worn over your (unbuttoned) pants to help hold the pants up and provide a little extra support. and to top it all off, at our first appointment this morning, the midwife said my uterus felt more like 14 weeks' size than 10 weeks' size so obviously there's more going on than just flub! grow baby grow!
sweet pea: is two inches long, the size of a lime. which has been making me crave margaritas with a salted rim, and bud light lime (the only light beer i actually enjoy). the fingernails and toenails are starting to form. at this point, baby's head is just as big as the entire remainder of the body. and that heart is pumping fast and furiously!
so for consistency's sake, i'm staying with the weekly photo from What to Expect, but i find this depiction particularly creepy:
Fetal Development Week 11
here's another picture that looks much cuter (note the discrepancy between being 10 weeks pregnant, but being IN the 11th week OF pregnancy - it gets confusing!)

image credit from University of Maryland Medical Center

best moment: and finally, the moment i've been waiting for since we first saw those two pink lines. we had our first prenatal appointment at the midwife center today and it was fantastic. it didn't go quite as planned because the midwife was delivering a baby just as i arrived for my appointment, and had to dash out to deliver a second baby before we were done, but we got all the paperwork taken care of and she made a valiant effort to find sweet pea's heartbeat. this was also after she palpated my abdomen and remarked that it felt larger than 10 weeks', but since she wasn't able to detect the heartbeat on doppler she decided it was unlikely that my dates were off, and that there was some other reason for measuring large. (like probably the chinese buffet.) so she said the magic words: "I'm sending you for an ultrasound!" we were able to schedule the ultrasound for an hour later and i am so glad we didn't have to wait longer. even though i know it's hit or miss to be able to catch the heartbeat on doppler at 10 weeks, it is still nerve-racking to think there might be something wrong, and my brain started going wild with cray-cray thoughts about possible causes for large uterus + no heartbeat, like a missed miscarriage or a molar pregnancy.

that ultrasound calmed all of our fears. baby's heartbeat is 178 bpm and the ultrasound tech commented, "you have a very active baby!" which i take as a good sign. the sizes are right on, it's a singleton pregnancy (no twins!), and she said all looks good to her. so no real explanation for why my belly is big, but all that matters is...

here's sweet pea!

see? not all concentration-camp like that What to Expect picture. in fact, sweet pea looks downright chubby to me. and i can't get over how much that top photo looks like a gummy bear!

symptoms: make that two times that the prenatal vitamins have wreaked havoc on my stomach. other than that, i'm still feeling good. after hearing some horror stories about women that have been horribly sick, i am so thankful that i've been able to carry on with all my normal activities.

cravings: see margarita & bud light lime, above. i also caved and bought chocolate milk which has always been one of my faves. it just makes me so happy. we went out to a new-to-us Thai restaurant in Dormont for lunch today and Nick asked, "does baby like Thai food?" jury's still out on that, but i sure do!

what i miss: honestly, at this point? nothing. i am so ecstatic and grateful to be carrying this little life and feel blessed that the pregnancy gods have smiled on me thus far. also i can't stop staring at sweet pea's profile. in the second photo, you can see a little arm poking up to wave at us. hi baby! (okay, i need to stop.)
looking forward to: holding this bebe in our arms. we still have a long way to go -- 29 weeks and 5 days to be exact -- but it all feels so much more real now. we are beyond thrilled!!!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

tasty thursdays - crockpot edition, volume 2!

there are just too many fantastic crock pot meals to squeeze into one week, so here's another round up of our favourites. whoever invented the crockpot should seriously get a prize. my Hamilton 6-quart is perfect for dinner, but at some point i'd love to add a mini-crockpot to my collection (the better to serve hot dips in, my dear!). as always, remember that  these photos are linked directly back to the blogs from whence they came. i'm also linking up to Taste and Tell's weekly round up

without further ado:

cream cheese chicken

Crock Pot Cream Cheese Chicken. Photo by Sandi (From CA)
image credit from

this is super easy and super delicious. not the healthiest recipe in my repertoire by far, but it is the very definition of comfort food. i like to serve this over rice or buttered noodles.

this is a regular in our rotation -- i especially like the sweet crunch the corn adds to the rest of the flavors. it tastes even better the next day, and it's a fantastic way to use up leftover turkey or chicken. 

easiest ever coq au vin
Easiest-Ever Coq au Vin
image credit from family circle

i was a little skeptical about how well coq au vin would translate to the slow cooker, but i needn't have worried. it's certainly the classiest dish to ever come out of my crockpot, and the flavors deepen deliciously over the course of the day. i do season the chicken with salt and pepper, then brown in a little bit of oil before adding to the crockpot to help release the flavors and add to the visual appeal. bon appetit! 

bavarian pot roast

from mennonite girls can cook

image credit from mennonite girls can cook

it's sad that this recipe isn't all that photogenic, because it is scrumptious and makes an elegant Sunday supper. serve with spaetzle and a frosty liter of dunkel (sam adams' oktoberfest is an acceptable substitute!).
from family circle

Black Beans and Pork
image credit from family circle

the original recipe calls for pork loin, but i prefer to use a bone-in shoulder or butt roast and cook on low for 8-10 hours. when the pork is done, discard the bone and pull the meat apart into pieces (but don't shred). serve over rice -- i like to put it straight into the rice cooker with a tablespoon of peanut oil, then jazz it up with chopped cilantro and a few tablespoons of lime juice when it's done. not only is it packed with protein, but it's also affordable. doesn't get better than that!

see you next week!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

nine weeks!


bump watch: all the pants still fit, but it's becoming a (literal) stretch for some of them. it's a little bit amazing (and somewhat frightening) that even eating a small meal results in an instant food baby. i've heard this stage described as the "beer gut phase" of pregnancy. if only there were a liter or two of spaten or dunkel to blame this on!
sweet pea: is an inch-and-a-half long, which bumps us up to prune-sized! elbows are now formed and those little legs have indentations where the knees will be. (incidentally, knee caps don't form until children are between two to five years old.) looking at the picture below, i can't believe how much changes in a week! looking a little less alien and a little more like a bebe!
Fetal Development Week 10
best moment: this has nothing to do with sweet pea, but we got our itinerary for our upcoming trip to Europe! Nick is accompanying the men's glee club from the University of Pittsburgh on their European tour, and i'm accompanying him. see what fun things happen when you marry an organist? we'll have plenty of free time to explore the sights on our own, but it was fun to discover that the travel agency has already set up city tours and some excursions for us. 
symptoms: heartburn and acne like whoa. also, just when i was feeling like a super-preggo for not being sick yet, i up and lost my supper last night. i think it was mostly because i took my prenatal vitamin on an empty stomach and waited too long to eat. won't make that mistake again!
cravings: nothing too crazy this week! i've been noshing on Nick's leftover birthday cake (both chocolate - one with peanutbutter frosting from his parents, one with cream cheese frosting from the choir), but it's mostly because it's there. maybe it's time to freeze the leftovers instead of shoveling them in my mouth?
what i miss: that flat-tummy feeling. which is not going to be returning anytime soon.
looking forward to: seeing the Eiffel tower, eating Belgian chocolates (and their famous frites!), and exploring Amsterdam! i'm so glad Nick has been bitten by the travel bug as fiercely as i have. and now sweet pea will be off to a good globe-trotting start!

Friday, April 12, 2013

living room

we moved into our house almost two years ago, and the furnishings and decor are still a work in progress. we do have a full dining room and bedroom suite, but the family room and living room furniture are a hodge podge of pieces from IKEA, college and auctions. last summer, nick did a fantastic job painting the living room and installing crown moulding, as well as putting in a gorgeous antique mantel and restoring the fireplace, but our couch left something to be desired. 

not our actual couch, but you get the idea. 

plus we had inherited a wicker love seat with green floral cushions from the previous owners, which has become the cats' favourite perch but just adds to the crazy-lady atmosphere. 

ever since we moved, we've been looking for antique Queen Anne-style furniture to round out the look. and finally, earlier this week, Nick stumbled upon an auction with some great pieces at great prices. behold our new (to us!) living room set! we feel so grown-up. and maybe a little bit nuts for getting white furniture. and maybe a little like telling Liam and Bertram these couches do not belong to them.

nick says this looks like a fancy feast ad.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

tasty thursdays - crockpot edition

this week we'll focus on some of my slow-cooker staples. there's nothing more wonderful than walking in the front door after a long day at work and immediately inhaling the savory aroma of dinner, ready, and scrumptiously flavorful from cooking all day. my disclaimer about food photography still stands --  these photos are linked directly back to the blogs from whence they came! i'm also linking up to Taste and Tell's weekly round up

here are some of our favourites:

crockpot chicken tikka masala

image credit from wikipedia

when it strikes, the craving for Indian food (much like my unfortunate cravings for sour cream & onion chips) can't be assuaged by anything but the real thing. and this recipe certainly fits the bill. it couldn't be easier to put together in the morning, and unlike some crockpot chicken recipes, the meat stays tender even if it cooks for a full 9 hours. about half an hour before serving, i throw some basmati or jasmine rice in the rice cooker along with a tablespoon of peanut oil. when the rice finishes cooking (after about 20 minutes), i stir in some chopped cilantro and voila! 

i first made these for cinco de mayo celebrations last year, and they've become a regular on the rotation (sometimes i substitute chicken for the pork). usually i don't add the mango, but for special occasions it adds such a pop of color and flavour. inevitably i find myself standing over the crockpot eating the pork by the forkful as i "taste test" it. highly recommend the jalapeno sour cream as well!

slow cooker cashew chicken

image credit from the girl who ate everything

this is a "fake" take-out recipe that rivals the cashew chicken at our favourite Chinese buffet, and it's affordable too! since i cook a lot of Asian-inspired recipes, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce are pantry staples at our house. i will sometimes substitute powdered ginger for the fresh if i'm in a pinch, and it's still delicious. 

perfect slow-roasted pulled pork
from kevin and amanda

perfect pulled pork recipe slow roasted seasoned savory cooking blog
image credit from kevin and amanda

so i actually just made this recipe for the first time this week, but it is far and away the best pulled pork recipe i've ever had. the brine keeps the meat tender and the dry rub has a kick! the original recipe calls for roasting in the oven, but i spied a crockpot variation and made it successfully (simply cook the pork on low for 8-10 hours). the major difference between this and other pulled pork recipes i've made is that it calls for no additional liquid during the cooking process. the natural juices released by the brining process create the perfect amount of sauce (no more pork swimming in a soup of sauce that soaks right through the sandwich buns). to assemble the sandwiches, i recommend splitting the buns in half, topping one half of each pair with cheddar cheese, and popping under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until golden brown. then pile high with the pork and top with a few pickles. mm, mm, good!
from the girl who ate everything

Easy Crockpot Lasagna
image credit from the girl who ate everything 

there's something so amazing about lasagna out of a crockpot. first of all, it seems so much sturdier than lasagna baked in a pan -- none of this business with noodles slipping around and sauce sliding off and general sloppiness everywhere. second of all, it's lasagna out of a crockpot. i will say that you don't save much time in the prep work, since you still have to brown the meat, simmer the sauce, and assemble all the layers. but i love to put this all together in the early afternoon on a saturday or sunday (it only cooks for 4 - 5 hours, so it doesn't work on a weekday). just another reason why whoever invented oven-ready lasagna noodles should be given a prize. 

well, that barely scratches the surface of my fave crockpot recipes, so i'll be back with volume 2 next week!

well, that too

last night, our choir had a belated birthday celebration for Nick (our fearless conductor and my beloved husband). because of his passion for providing a beautiful, prayerful liturgy, he programs plenty of Latin motets and Gregorian chants. unfortunately, proper Latin pronunciation has been a stumbling block for some of us -- and proper church Latin pronunciation is still a stickler for me, after years of classical Wheelock's Latin where "c" always makes a hard "k" sound no matter what vowel might fall after it. 

so it wasn't entirely inappropriate that his birthday cake had a little difficulty in saying what it wanted to say. we all had a good laugh and promptly dug into the delectable chocolatey goodness (with cream cheese frosting, no less!). and Nick graciously thanked us for our efforts, as imperfect as they often are.

i now present to you: Cake Wrecks, Latin Edition

a hint for the un-discerning eye: it's supposed to read "ad multos annos". 

Monday, April 8, 2013

eight weeks!

bump watch: oh, Lord, the bloat! we still have a full four weeks to go before baby itself moves up out of the pelvis, but i definitely have some oochio-poochio business going on (emphasis on the POOCH).   
sweet pea: is an entire inch long -- apparently the size of a green olive (that's a pretty big olive!). arms and legs are moving, and the liver, spleen, and gallbladder are forming.
Fetal Development Week 9
best moment: the sweet little footed outfit nick's mom bought that says "you are my sunshine" on the chest. i'd really like to decorate the nursery in soft greys and yellows and frame a print of the lyrics to "you are my sunshine" on the wall, and now baby will fit right in! :) 
symptoms: dare i say, a little of the fatigue has lifted? it's generally supposed to persist for the whole first trimester, but i'm not complaining about having the energy to actually clean and cook and read in the evening. sadly, in its place has come a most unwelcome guest: the bloat (see above). after every meal, i feel like i've just eaten a Thanksgiving dinner. thank goodness it's getting warm out now so i can whip out the dresses!
cravings: starbucks' hazelnut macchiatos. oh-so-delicious. and yesterday, the urge for Chinese food struck (which couldn't possibly be contributing to the bloat...)
what i miss: clear, acne-free skin. also mimosas.
looking forward to: our first prenatal appointment in two weeks!! i'm hopeful we can hear the heartbeat via doppler (i'll be ten weeks, so it's definitely a possibility). the midwife center doesn't do ultrasounds in-house, so i'm also hoping we can schedule one sometime soon and get our first glimpse of sweet pea. :)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

tasty thursdays - appetizer edition

and we're back with another round-up of culinary delights - this time all appetizers that are sure to get your mouths watering. my disclaimer about food photography still stands --  these photos are linked directly back to the blogs from whence they came! i'm also linking up to Taste and Tell's weekly round up

here are some of our favourites:

spicy buffalo chicken beer dip
from plain chicken

image credit from Plain Chicken

i've probably made this recipe ten times, between choir parties and football games. it's so quick and easy, and absolutely delicious! if i have leftover cooked or rotisserie chicken, i prefer to use that over the canned version. highly recommend! 

seven layer salad

Seven Layer Salad Recipe
image credit from

so if you can get over the fact that it's 2013 and not 1982, this salad will knock your socks off. there's something about the crunch of the lettuce, the sweetness of the peas and tang of the cheese and dressing that makes it addicting. plus it looks fantastic on a buffet table.  (i have to admit, for once i could probably have managed to take a more flattering photo than the one attached...)

cheese-stuffed mushrooms
from paula deen

Cheese-Stuffed Mushrooms
image credit from paula deen

oh my land. first of all, the fact that these contain spinach practically makes them a health food. second of all, i took these to an extended family gathering and was a little concerned about how they'd go over (mushrooms? spinach? even throwing Paula Deen's name out there might not appease this largely meat-and-potatoes crowd). i shouldn't have worried. they're perfectly cheesy and delicious, just as you'd expect from Ms. Paula.

boursin sausage balls
from plain chicken

image credit from Plain Chicken

these are basically meatballs on crack. if you're frantically trying to prepare several other dishes all at the same time, they're a lifesaver: simply dump all the ingredients in the KitchenAid and let it run with the paddle attachment on medium until well combined. then form into balls and bake, served with hot marinara sauce. i recommend placing them on a wire rack on top of a cookie sheet so that the grease drains out and they hold their shape. i've also frozen them on the cookie sheet the night before a party, so then they only have to sit on the counter for a while to defrost and then pop in the oven before guests arrive. their only downfall: there are never any leftovers!

bacon ranch potato salad
from confections of a foodie bride

Bacon & Ranch Potato Salad
image credit from confections of a foodie bride

such a refreshing alternative to traditional potato salad! i like to make this a day in advance and make an extra batch of dressing to toss in just before serving. the colors pop and, well, there can really never be too much bacon. 

mm mm good! see you next week! 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

why, thank you

today has been rather hectic, with one patient presenting for a routine appointment hypoxic and needing to be set up with home oxygen and another who had a screaming toddler in tow (who was luckily appeased with some cookies and by the end of the visit was crawling up into my lap and telling me what color my shirt was). we were short staffed this afternoon too, so while the patients were a little less crazy, it was still a lot of running back and forth and trying to get things done in a timely fashion while not compromising patient care. 

fast forward to my second-to-last patient of the day. he's a retired pastor in his eighties who is the spitting image of morgan freeman, complete with booming voice (and a proclivity for tacking on "...know what I'm saying?" to every sentence). he's always asking about kaiser and swapping stories about his own German shepherds that he had growing up. at the end of his visit, i told him i had electronically sent his medication refills to his pharmacy. with a wide grin, he shook my hand and pronounced: "your efficiency is only surpassed by your beauty!"   

sure makes up for people who throw a fit when they don't get scripts for 300 tablets of  oxycodone...

Monday, April 1, 2013

seven weeks!

haha - this face is called "i want to crawl into bed right now" - nick's sadly getting to see this one a lot

bump watch: pants still fit no problem-o, and i think the little bit of fullness i'm noticing is more due to Easter feasting than baby.  
sweet pea: is a whole half an inch long! that means we're moving on up to raspberry-sized. the little nose and eyelids are forming, and fingers and toes are starting to become distinct. heart is beating about 150 times per minute (can't wait to hear it in a few weeks!).
Fetal Development Week 8
best moment: telling nick's extended family at Easter dinner, and some more members of my extended family over the phone. lots of excitement all around! nick's cousin is due with her first baby in just 10 days, so it's fun to think that they'll be growing up together. 
symptoms: my penchant for buffalo chicken and curry came back to bite me last week with some truly uncomfortable heartburn. since i've avoided spicy foods and tomatoes the past few days, things have calmed down. but ohhhhhhhhh, the acne. it's bad, folks. my typical go-to topical treatments (salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide) aren't safe in pregnancy, so i've been using belli skin care's anti-blemish facial wash, which smells like fresh lemons and sunshine and keeps some of the oil at bay. blech.
cravings: cold 2% milk. can't get enough. and for a few days i couldn't shake the urge for deviled eggs, egg salad, hard boiled eggs, basically eggs of any variety. sweet pea is a protein fiend (therefore, definitely nick's child!). 
what i miss: beer. we're planning a little outing to the hofbrauhaus to celebrate nick's birthday on thursday, and it's going to take all my willpower to resist a frosty liter of their april special dark lager, steel town schwarzbier
looking forward to: making it through the next few weeks. each day that passes uneventfully is a little prayer of thanksgiving that our sweet pea is sticking!