Friday, August 17, 2012

The Aftermath

I've been pretty quiet for a long time. It seems that despite my best intentions, hopes, and dreams, I can't seem to build the motivation to share a recipe.

It's not personal, please understand. And I have been cooking, not to worry. 

It's just that since this tiny little cherub was thrust through my womb I am a little, how do you say, "off balance." It feels akin to being slammed against a wall, turned upside down and the entire contents of my home turned on their end and left with picture frames, rocking chairs, and small throw pillows littered willy nilly throughout my entire emotional and physical space.

There are moments, and hell -- let's just me honest, whole days, that I sort of 'forget' that I even really exist other than breastfeeding, changing, soothing, gurgling, and washing.

I really tried to be prepared, whatever the hell that means. I really have no idea how I could have done any better. I had the nursery ready, the diapers, wipes, and clothes in the right places, and my heart was set on having this sweet little baby.

Then he came and my home became unrecognizable. And after nearly four months it remains devastated and I stand without excuses in the rubble of my former self.
He laughs and my heart swells so big I think it might explode and he cries and it is the loudest saddest song I have ever endured. But when he sleeps, oh, when he sleeps, there is no better quiet.

Overwhelmed may be a good word to use here and feeling a little under qualified is another way to put it. But most of all I'm honored to have been chosen by this little cherub to serve as his mother for the rest of my days.  

I will find my footing again and share recipes and thoughts. I've even started blogs thinking that I would be posting a recipe, then found doing nothing and staring at the wall so much more apropos to the day's survival.
I am sending my love and light this morning as my new family sleeps. And I think I will join them in their quiet slumber.

I guess you can say I am still cleaning up my home. 

Patience... it truly is a virtue to behold. I appreciate yours and pray for my own daily.

Note: These were taken almost three and a half months ago. He has grown so much (see below)! And well, gosh, so have I.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

There are a few things I've figured out thus far in my life:

1) Peeps need to eat,
2) Pees love to eat homemade meals they don't have to cook, 
3) Peeps love lasagna, it's a classic, 
4) And, most people don't say peeps, but I'm not one of them (obviously).

I've figured out how to cook with a one month old in tow. This basically means cooking one handed or putting him in his vibrating chair and talking to him while he watches me cook. Let me say this again, he has a vibrating chair. Need I say more? How could he not be happy? I don't have a vibrating chair and I'm his MOTHER!

His vibrating chair is exactly how I was able to make this delicious Chicken and Spinach Lasagna my honey to show my gratitude for all his middle of the night diaper changes, water fetching, and general great daddy-liciousness. 

This recipe encompasses easy and delicious. I got the first half done while my little home sliver was napping and finished it after he was done nursing while he sat vibrating. 

This lasagna is a little different because I used chicken instead of the most commonly used beef and I didn't use ricotta and instead combined mozzarella and Parmesan cheese to make that ooey gooey cheesey layer. 

I also only used two layers of lasagna noodles making this less carbohydrate focused and more filled with more 'good stuff'.

What came out of the oven was shear bliss. It had delicious flavors of creamy cheese, moist chicken,rich oregano notes and a slight sweetness from the tomatoes. 

What I'm saying is that this meal was perfect. The great thing is that we got to eat it twice. Two meals for the price of one! Now that's what I'm talking about when I say easy recipes for busy people and especially new moms. 

Not to mention it's nutritional and also loaded with lean protein and fiber! Great for the whole family!

Now on with the recipe!

Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

5 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
5 Cloves Garlic; Minced
1 Tbsp. Dried Oregano
1 (28 Ounce) Can Crushed Tomatoes
1 Large Jar of Pasta Sauce (approx 3 Cups)
1/2 lb. Mozzarella Cheese; Shredded
1/2 Cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 Box Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles
4 Cups Fresh Baby Spinach
Basil for garnish (optional)
1. Make sure all the fat has been removed from the chicken breasts. Then place them in a food processor and process for about 20 seconds or until the chicken is broken into small pieces.
2. Heat a skillet with the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and the chicken and oregano. Saute over medium-high heat stirring constantly until the chicken is cooked through. It will take about 4-5 minutes.
3. Combine the tomatoes and the pasta sauce in a large bowl and stir with a spatula. Set aside.
4. Shred the mozzarella cheese and combine with the Parmesan cheese in another large bowl and set aside.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
6. Grease a 9 X 12 baking dish with cooking spray. Place 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan then add 5 of the lasagna noodles covering the entire bottom. Layer the cooked chicken breast on top of the un cooked pasta. Then add the pasta sauce on top of the chicken, then half the spinach and a third of the cheese. Then top with pasta sauce. Add another layer of chicken, using it all. And top with the remaining spinach and another third of the pasta sauce and cheese.
8. Top with another 5 pasta noodles covering the entire top of the lasagna. Top with the remaining pasta sauce and cheese. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until it bubbles all over! Serve with a nice salad with balsamic dressing and you have a great meal ready to go whenever you need it!

Servings: 10

Nutritional Skinny:

288 calories / 8.4 g fat / 28 g carbohydrates / 5.4 g fiber / 24.4 g protein

Mental Health Tid Bit: Casseroles and lasagnas rank right up there with crock pot dinners in terms of ease of delivery. It involves loading lots of delicious ingredients into one dish and cooking. It doesn't get easier than that. This lasagna can also be made and baked ahead of time, frozen for up to three weeks, and baked in a 350 degree oven for 50-55 minutes. Perfect prep for a busy week ahead or a nice gesture for a busy family! Now eat on!


Monday, May 21, 2012

Baby Boys, Breast Milk, and Burp Cloths

That's what my life is filled with now a days. I delivered a healthy baby boy named Colton Lee on April 26th at 6:11 am. And let me tell you.. my life is nothing like it used to be.

My days are filled with dirty diapers, spit up, and of course lots of boob juice. My little man is already a boob man. As I type right now he's is hanging off my chest in his baby Bjorn that is one of the ways that I can actually get him to take his naps. 

In my new world as a mom, I do at least one load of laundry a day, cook with one hand (if at all thanks to my honey), and change numerous diapers and then there's plenty of midnight snacks, sweet cries, and loads and loads of memories being made.

It's a world so filled with love that nothing could have prepared me for it. Absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the all consuming love that was waiting for me when Scott placed him on my chest seconds after his delivery. 
He's now almost one month old and I hardly have time to turn around to see where the time went.

Recipes will follow. I am hopeful that I will get the use of both of my hands back... eventually.

Just wanted you all to know that I'm cooking up some great recipes and also a strong, centered, sensitive and happy little man! 

Much Love!

This Hot Mess Momma in Montana

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Simple Popovers for Easter

Easter is tomorrow! What does Easter represent for you? 

Is it all about chocolate bunnies, baked hams, and sugar coated techno-color marshmallow shaped chicks? 

Or is it about gathering with family to eat a large meal? 

Or just sitting in the sunshine watching kids search for Easter eggs?

My family celebrated Easter as a child, even though I was born and raised a Buddhist, I still got to participate in the Easter egg hunts, dying of the Easter eggs, and of course those grossly colored marshmallow shaped chicks called Peeps. That for whatever reason were my favorite.

Easter was also a time when we gathered at my grandparents with my aunts and uncles and cousins. It was a simple time for me. Lots of chocolate, lots of hugs, and even more sugar than our parents knew how to keep us away from!
Our meals always included some type of potluck theme. Everyone would pitch in, but my grandma usually made the juicy ham. I remember one year making Popovers with my mom to bring to the dinner. She must have found the recipe in some magazine and it seemed easy enough to her.

Being the interested mini-chef that I was, I volunteered to help and what ensued was nothing short of hilarity. I remember the first batch fell. It was my fault because I kept opening the oven door. Note: Don't do that.

Ruined, we moved on to the second batch which my mom let me measure out. I must have done something horribly wrong with the measuring because the batter was thick and the Popovers never really 'popped'. They looked more like hockey pucks after baking.

Determined, we tried for a third and final time. Thank Goddess my mother was so patient. And the third time was a charm. They turned out light, fluffy, and puffed up with air.

The keys to great Popovers that we learned the hard way are:
  • Beat the batter just enough, but don't over do it,
  • Let the oven come to temperature with the muffin tin (or tins) in the oven to heat them too (just be careful removing them from the oven to avoid burning yourself),
  • Only fill the muffin tins half full (this leaves room for the 'popping'). 
  • And last but not least, DO NOT open the oven door until the timer goes off!
That Easter I remember there not being a Popover left after dinner. They are the perfect light and fluffy compliment to a juicy ham dinner. A great and easy side to bring to your Easter pot luck! Just follow our keys to success!

If you're doing a low key Easter this year or just looking for something easy to serve your family the day before Easter, these Popovers also go great with the Creamy Tomato Bisque (for the recipe click HERE). Nothing like a warm bowl of soup with a warm Popover!
Now, on with the recipe! 

I hope you all have a sugar-filled, chocolate coated Easter!

Simple Popovers

3 Tbsp. Smart Balance Butter; melted
1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Cups 1% Milk
4 Large Eggs
1/2 tsp. Salt

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place a clean muffin tin into the oven to allow it to heat as well. This will help give your popovers extra fluff and airiness.
2. In a large bowl whisk together the butter, flour, milk, eggs, and salt. Don't over mix, you just want the batter to be thin and smooth. It slightly resembles a pancake batter, only just a little bit thinner.

3. Remove muffin tin from the oven carefully and pour the batter into the muffin cups until they are half full. I got a little over zealous with mine, but they still worked. 
4. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 30-35 minutes. Don't even think about opening the oven door before 30 minutes to check! The popovers with collapse! Serve immediately! 
Servings: 12

Nutritional Skinny:

98 calories / 3.2 g fat / 13 g carbohydrates / .25 g fiber / 5 g protein

Mental Health Benefit: These popovers only have five ingredients! Would could be better for your mental health than that! I know I'm always searching for easy things to make and bring to friend's houses when we're asked over for dinner or lunch. These are perfect because I almost guarantee that you already have all the ingredients on hand. These are great served with a brunch slathered with Homemade Apple Butter (for the recipe click HERE) or you can add cheese, chives, and crispy cooked bacon to the batter for a savory treat! 

Happy Easter Y'All!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Cheese Soup

We're still having some chilly weather so I'm enjoying excuses to throw easy soups into the crock pot while I still can. 

I love the crock pot. I really do. 
It doesn't ask much of me, I can over load it and it still provides me with a delicious hot and soothing soup no matter what. And it doesn't ever complain.

And neither will your family when you serve them this Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Cheese Soup. Loaded with fresh cauliflower and potatoes makes this super comforting and the cream and cheese make it creamy and mouth watering. 
I made this for my honey's parents when they came to visit and we ate this after they first arrived and had been on the road for four hours. They each ate two bowls exclaiming how great it was. They loved it so much that his mother even offered to clean up after dinner. 

Okay, so that had more to do with my huge belly full of baby, but whatevs.

The added bonus is that this literally took me about 20 minutes to throw together into the crock pot and then I went about my business cleaning the house and getting ready for company. Six hours later this Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Cheese Soup was ready to eat after adding a little cheese and scooping into large bowls. 

Delicious simplicity.

My favorite kind of dinner.

I served it with Cheesy Bread Sticks that I made by simply stuffing shredded cheese in Pillsbury bread sticks rolling it up with some oregano and garlic salt and baking. Slice the bread and dinner was ready. 

But somehow it felt like I cared enough to make something home made for these guests that traveled to see us. 
And I do care. Dinner doesn't have to be complicated, but it does have to be filled with love, which this Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Cheese Soup is loaded with.

So, on with the recipe!

Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Cheese Soup

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion; Chopped
3 Cloves Garlic; Minced
1 Cup Celery; Minced
4 Cups Cauliflower; Chopped (about 1 head of cauliflower)
1 Large Potato; Washed and Diced
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
4 Cups Fat Free low Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1 (12 Fl Oz) Can Low Fat Evaporated Milk
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/4 Cup Green Onion; Diced
1. In a large skillet heat the olive oil, then add the onion, garlic, and celery. Saute until onions become translucent and fragrant, about 3-6 minutes.
2. Transfer to a large crock pot and add the chopped cauliflower and potato. 
3. Stir to combine, then add the salt and pepper followed by the stock and evaporated milk. Stir to combine and cook on low for 6-7 hours.

3. After the 6 or 7 hours, pierce a potato with a fork to ensure tenderness. Place half of the soup in a blender and pulse until smooth. Add the blended soup back into the crock pot and stir. This will add more creamy texture and retain some of the chunks of potato and cauliflower as well. (You can skip this if you want it chunky or blend the whole thing if you want it smooth. 
4. Add the cheddar cheese and stir and allow to cook for another 15 minutes in order to melt the cheese. Then spoon into large bowls and serve topped with extra cheddar cheese and sliced green onions! Delish!

Servings: 8

Nutritional Skinny:

147 calories / 5 g fat / 20 g carbohydrates / 3.1 g fiber / 10.4 g protein

Mental Health Benefit: This is a great recipe for a busy weekday or hectic weekend filled with activities and to dos. Plus it's loaded with fiber and protein and not so loaded with fat. And using lots of cauliflower instead of lots of potatoes saves lots of carbohydrates and adds lots of soluble fiber. This meal couldn't be any better for your heart or your mind. Dig in!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken with Potatoes

I found this recipe for Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken and Potatoes in one of my Taste of Home magazines one Sunday afternoon and immediately put it on the top of my pile of recipes to try.

I actually only made two adjustments just because I didn't have all of the necessary ingredients on hand.  So a made a few minor swaps that worked.

And amazingly, it turned out just as delicious as it sounds. I mean really, you HAVE to try this. Plus, the bonus is it's compiled on one cast iron skillet and into the oven it goes and out comes this gorgeous skillet filled with lemon and garlic infused chicken topped with roasted rosemary potatoes and crispy skinned and succulent tomatoes. 
One skillet and about an hour of prep and cooking and dinner is on the table ready to go. Not to mention mouth-watering aromas are floating about your house for those 45 minutes getting your family salivating in preparation for the amazing meal ahead.

And that's it. Dinner is done and done. Perfect recipe for busy families, which as I know is pretty much all of us!

It has been promoted to one of our favorite easy week night meals in record time.

While we were eating, my honey made several comments such as, "Nice job honey, this chicken is really good." And he doesn't usually talk while he eats so this is something special. Nor does he usually comment on the food unless he as a suggestion for improvement. He's sort of my advocate and adversary in the kitchen.
But no constructive comments for this meal. I served it with fresh warmed corn muffins and it was the perfect sweet soft bite to accompany the Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken with Potatoes. 
Now all we need is someone else to come do the dishes and it would be a perfect evening!

Okay, on with the recipe!

Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken with Potatoes 
1 tbsp. Olive Oil, Divided
2-3 Lemons, Thinly Sliced
4 Garlic Cloves, Minced and Divided
1 tsp. Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp. Salt; Divided
1 4/ tsp. Pepper; Divided
4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts; 8 Ounces Each
1 Pound Red Potatoes; Cubed and Washed
1 Large Tomato (or a bunch of cherry tomatoes); Chopped
1/4 tsp. Fresh Rosemary; Minced 

1. Add about half of the olive oil to the cast iron skillet and preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Slice the lemons into thin rounds and place them on the bottom of the cast iron skillet making a thin layer of lemons.
3. In a large bowl, place the chicken breasts and add the garlic, lemon juice,and half the salt and pepper to the bowl. Toss the chicken breasts to coat them with the seasonings. Then place them on top of the sliced lemons in the cast iron skillet.
4. In a separate bowl, add the chopped red potatoes, minced rosemary, tomato, and the remaining salt and pepper. Toss to saturate the potatoes with the seasonings and then layer them evenly over the chicken breasts in the cast iron skillet.
5. Bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes, checking after 45 to see if the potatoes are tender to the touch. Meaning they pierce easily with a fork. If not leave in for another 10 minutes and continue checking every 10-15 minutes. Climate, oven, and altitude will determine how long this takes.
6. Then remove from oven carefully (the skillet is HOT) and scoop onto large plates with a corn muffin and enjoy this simple rustic meal.

Servings: 4 Main Courses

Nutritional Skinny:

400 Calories / 8.7 g fat / 25 g carbohydrates / 3.3 g fiber / 50 g protein

Mental Health Tid Bit: This dinner is not only easy and super delicious, it's also great for the whole family. It's loaded with lean protein great for growing bodies as well as mature bodies to keep our engines running throughout the day. And it also is low in fat and has a significant amount of fiber. This is a meal you can feel good about throwing in a skillet and serving to your family. Not to mention the great healing qualities of licopene and it's cancer fighting agents from the tomatoes. It's a show stopper and a health bounty for sure!