Friday, September 28, 2012

Baby's Choice





I thought this was a great poem to end the week with.  I hope it inspires all the parents out there to appreciate their little bundles of joy even more. Perhaps you were hand picked by your little one to be their parents. Perhaps they saw something special in you and wanted you to be their parent. 





Baby's Choice

Did you ever think, dear Mother,
As the seeds of me you sowed,
As you breathed new life inside of me
And slowly watched me grow,
In all your dreams about me
When you planned me out so well,
When you couldn't wait to have me there
Inside your heart to dwell,

Did you ever think that maybe,
I was planning for you, too,
And choosing for my very own
A mother just like you?
A mother who smelled sweet and who
had hands so creamy white,
A tender, loving creature
Who would soothe me in the night?

Did you ever think in all those days
While you were coming due,
That as you planned a life for me
I sought a life with you?
And now as I lay in your arms,
I wonder if you knew
While you were busy making me,
I was choosing you!

~ Colleen M. Story ~

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Beef Stroganoff Guest Post







    I am very honored to have been able to help out and do a guest post on the wonderful blog, Musings From A Stay At Home Mom. So to check out my yummy, homemade Beef Stroganoff recipe head on over to this blog, here is the link

                                   Musings From A Stay At Home Mom



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Six Month Mark






    We have made it to the halfway mark. Halfway through Xavier's first year of life. Halfway through babyhood; which apparently is only the first year. I cannot believe how fast the time goes. It is true what they say. I have to admit we were thoroughly warned to treasure every second because it goes by so quickly. They were right it does. The days seem long, but weeks, months and I suspect years go by quickly.
   It is funny though that unlike most things in my life I do not long to go back to the days when Xavier was younger. Many times in life you say "oh I wish I could go back to...." because that was the best time. However, with Xavier I do not feel that way. I have to admit as far as the first six months. Things seem to get better and better each month. Although I have loved having a baby the entire time. I am much more in love with Xavier now and I appreciate him even more now then I did when he was younger.
   When Nick and I are asked about Xavier's first months we really do not remember much. The first month in general is one giant blur. Someone asked me once when his umbilical cord stump fell off and I said "I have no idea, sometime during the first month, must have went with a diaper probably in a sleepwalking diaper change situation". The first few months were a big adjustment for Nick, Xavier and myself. Everyone is healing and adjusting and getting to know each other. Not to mention babies suck a lot out of you at first and do not give a lot back. It was not until he really smiled at me that you realize how great it truly is to be a parent. You know that you are the one they turn to. That no matter how many smiles, laughs, hugs and kisses they give their aunts, uncles, friends, grandparents, etc. nobody compares to their parents. They turn to their parents when they want to love and laugh and show off their accomplishments to. They want to get your approval and enjoyment. When your baby does that to you, you will melt and it makes all the pain, sleepless nights and messy days worth every second.
      I am totally in love with Xavier now. Six months is so much fun. He is truly happy all the time and does not cry much. He has his own personality now and likes to try to talk to us and show us things. It is amazing to watch him learn. Right now he is doing "the worm" all the time on the floor trying so hard to crawl. He is very ready to move.
    I do hate that his monthly milestones are met with shots at the doctor. Luckily, we take his monthly pictures before the doctors appointments as he is sick afterwards. My poor baby got five shots today, as we opted for the flu shot as well. Before we even put him to bed he was miserable. As much as we hate to see him miserable and sick, I do not mind as much that at least I know what it is and how to take care of him. I have made sure there is little to do tomorrow so I can spend all day cuddling, coddling and nursing him to help him feel better. I'm sure by this weekend he will be his usual bouncy and fun self again. That is what is so incredible about babies they have an amazing ability to bounce back from whatever ails them. It is something we all should remember as adults to forgive and bounce back.


Xavier at one month
Xavier at two months

Xavier at three months
Xavier  at four months
Xavier at five months
Xavier  at six months

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cocoa Cake With Chocolate Buttercream Frosting






  I am not a big cake person, but this Cocoa cake is one of my favorite recipes. It does not taste like your typical cake.  It is a lot smaller then regular cakes, but it is much richer in taste. It is extremely easy to make and with the chocolate butter cream frosting you are in for a big treat.

Note about recipe:
- I prefer to make my cakes in one 9" spring form pan as opposed to the standard 2, 8" round pans. You can do either for this recipe, but the pictures are of the one 9" spring form pan.

Cocoa Cake

Ingredients:

- 3/4 cup of butter or margarine
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 2 cups of flour
- 3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa
- 1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/3 cup water

Directions:
- Cream butter or margarine and sugar until it is light and fluffy.



  Add eggs and vanilla, beat for one minute at medium speed.  Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, add alternately with water to creamed mixture.



 Pour batter into greased and floured cake pans.






Bake at 350 degrees for 35- 40 minutes.








Chocolate Butter cream Frosting

Ingredients:

- 6 Tbsps butter or margarine
- 3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa
- 2 2/3 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:
- Cream butter in small mixture bowl, add cocoa and confectioners sugar alternately with milk, beat to spreading consistency (an additional tablespoon of milk may be needed).  Blend in vanilla. Makes about two cups of frosting.






Monday, September 24, 2012

Xavier's First Mabon








     We have been very excited to celebrate Mabon/Autumn Equinox this year. Although  Xavier has been around for a few other holidays now that he is almost 6 months old he can really participate. The last couple of months we have really noticed that he actually tries to do things other then eat and sleep. It is neat to watch him try to play with toys or figure out our pets or even notice everything we do. So we were very  excited to celebrate a holiday with him so "into" everything. Of course this is now the holiday season so we will have tons of chances to celebrate from now on.
    Autumn in general is very exciting in our life. Not only is it big in our Wiccan religion, but it is also Nick and my favorite time of year. We love the colors, leaves, food, festivals and best of all the cooler weather. We love fall so much we made a point to get married in November.
    Mabon is also the first Wiccan holiday we have been able to celebrate with Xavier. I have been reading a lot of parenting books and magazines to get fun ways to celebrate and teach our religion to our children. As one thing about our religion is there is no Sunday school so it is up to parents to teach their children. We decided to keep it simple for now.
   First, we read about what the Autumn Equinox is and what it means. Then, Mabon also celebrates animals/pets so we did a pet blessing to our dog Vito and two cats Yuna and Zeus. This was particularly fun as you were to sprinkle your pet with salt water and say a nice blessing. Vito, our black lab, loved the water and extra attention. The cats, Yuna and Zeus were not so enthusiastic, even though I made their sprinkle extra light. Perhaps next year we will have extra treats for them all. Next, we lit candles and said what we were thankful for.  We ended the evening by a wonderful relaxing night on the porch followed by a Mabon staple of baked apples. Since Xavier is getting ready to start foods soon, I decided to let him have a pinch of smashed apple. He seemed to enjoy it immensely so I am definitely looking forward to starting solids soon. (Stay tuned for that blog post).
     Holidays definitely have new meaning with a child. You really make sure you celebrate and make them memorable. I know I have lots of memories of great holidays with my family. I can only hope that Xavier will have the same.


Friday, September 21, 2012

White Chocolate-dipped Almond and Lemon Biscotti


 Even though I  am Italian, I have actually never made biscotti, nor do I have a good recipe for biscotti. At least until I found this recipe. This recipe is from the Food Network star Giada DeLaurentiis' new book Weeknights With Giada. It is very easy to do and they taste amazing.

Note About Recipe:
- She has you heat the white chocolate chips on the stove so we can dip the biscotti in them. I could not get the chips to melt correctly and ended up just frosting the biscotti. You should melt the chocolate chips according to the directions on their package and if it does not turn out you can frost the biscotti instead of dipping, they still taste amazing.

Ingredients:
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons grated lemon zest (from 3 or 4 lemons)
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped whole almonds
- 2 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.



In another bowl, beat the sugar and eggs with an electric mixer until pale yellow, about 3 minutes.



Mix in the lemon zest and then the flour mixture, and beat until just blended. ( The dough will be sticky ). Stir in the almonds. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.



Divide the dough evenly into 2 equal mounds and place on the prepared baking sheet. With moist hands, space the dough evenly apart and form into 2 loaves, each 9x3 inches.



 Bake for 35 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes.



Using a serrated knife, cut the logs crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick diagonal slices.  Arrange the biscotti cut side up on the same baking sheet.



 Bake until the cookies are pale golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.



Pour the chocolate chips into a heat-proof bowl. Place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the bottom of the pan does not touch the water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth, about 3 minutes.

                                          This is the best I could get my chocolate to look.



Dip t he end of each biscotti in the chocolate. Transfer the dipped biscotti to a wire rack, set over a baking sheet, until the chocolate has hardened. Store in an airtight container.













Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cooking Tips With An Infant







  People have been asking me how on earth I am able to cook with an infant. It is no easy task, and by no means am I an expert.  However, I figured from the little experience I have gained I can offer a few tips that can help new moms out.

Tip #1
- Plan, plan, plan if there is one thing I have learned since being a mommy, it is that the more you plan the easier things get. This is especially helpful if you are cooking. Read your recipe first, even if it is one you've made a thousand times, it's much different with an infant helper. Get out all ingredients, bowls, and pans and mixers out a head of time. Make sure baby is fed, and has a clean diaper and something to entertain him. Also, have a back up so if baby cries and wants to do something else, already have in mind your next place to move baby.


Tip #2
- Carrying baby does not work as well as you think it might. Xavier loves being in his wrap on me and I thought this would work very well. I was very wrong, he got bored since I was standing in the same place a lot. His arms were out grabbing things, not good around a stove. Finally, when he is facing forward there is drool that drips that could end up in your food. ( Luckily, I caught that before it happened ).


Tip #3
- Try to involve baby as much as possible. I realize that baby is too young to really cut out cookies and decorate them with you but you will be surprised just how much babies do like to do things when you cook. Many times, I let Xavier smell ingredients. ( He doesn't eat solids yet, so can't let him taste ). I also try to do as many things at the table as possible and he likes to sit in his seat and watch. He loves if I am cutting up things and adding them to the bowl, the many colors and shapes seem to light up his eyes. Also, fun noises help, he likes the mixer and food processor as well. Now that he can grasp things I also give him things he can play with such as a wooden spoon or a whisk.




Tip #4
- Expect delays. Yup, everything takes longer with an infant; including cooking. Plan that even your easiest recipe will take longer and know that going into to it. You will start sauteing on the stove and baby will cry. Or your hands will be gooey with raw meat from meatballs and you will have to grab baby immediately.  I always add at least 20 minutes on to every recipe.



Tip #5
- Wash Wash Wash your hands!!! I am sure you do when you cook, but with a baby you need to even more. Remember to wash your hands before touching your baby, especially if you handled raw meat or eggs. Also, remember when you go back and forth from baby to food, make sure you wash your hands again. Go ahead and stock up on soap.



Tip #6
- Make light of a bad situation. Do not stress cooking with your little one. Try to enjoy yourself, relax and just make light of the situation, no matter how good or bad it is. Also, remember if you need to lighten the mood a little music goes a long way for both you and baby!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Easy Tuna Noodle Casserole



 A cheap, easy and great comfort food in my family is Tuna Noodle Casserole. You can buy all the ingredients for under about $3, plus it's easy, and is great for cold nights. Try it out next time you need something easy for dinner.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Ingredients:
- box of macaroni and cheese ( and what you need to make it on the box, usually butter and milk )
- 1/2 cup of milk
- cream of mushroom soup
- one can of tuna fish in water
- breadcrumbs or corn flakes

Directions:

  Make a box of macaroni and cheese as it says on the box.


Pour made macaroni and cheese into a 2 quart baking dish. Add the cream of mushroom soup, tuna fish and 1/2 cup of milk and mix well until it is all evenly distributed.



 Top with breadcrumbs or corn flakes.



 Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until bubbly.  Serve hot. Makes 2-3 servings.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hugs and Smooches






     One of the thrills of being a parent is watching your child learn new things everyday. I have to admit that this is the best perk of being a stay at home mom. You get to see every little discovery and every single milestone. I have not missed anything. There have even been things that I have seen that do not seem like a big deal but I can tell they are a big deal to Xavier and therefore are a big deal to me as well.
   One thing that Xavier learned early was how to kiss. We have been over joyed since the moment we found out I was pregnant with the thought of having him, so the second he was born he has been nothing but smothered with kisses from my husband and I, not to mention the rest of our family and friends. I started playing a game with him that was "eyes, nose, mouth, SMOOCH!". I'm sure you can guess what I did. I would simply touch each part and then kiss him on the mouth. He liked it so much that by nose his little mouth would open for "smooch".
    When Xavier discovered his tongue he loved "smooch" even more. He not only would open his mouth but also stick out his tongue to lick you as well. It then, got to the point we did not even have to do the other parts, you could just say "smooch" and Xavier would open his mouth and stick out his tongue to anyone who wanted a sloppy baby kiss. ( who doesn't?) He learned this at about 3 months.
    Now, at five months he now added his own twist to "smooch". He does not even wait until you say "smooch". When he wants to kiss you he grasps your face between his two little hands and pulls himself to you and opens his mouth, sticks out his tongue and gives you a big "smooch". It warmed my heart the first time he did it to me. Since he has been smothered with kisses since he has been born, it is now payback for him to smother us with kisses instead.
    What I think is my favorite, is he has also learned how to hug. He does not do it as often, but each one gets tighter and longer. When you are holding him he will just throw his entire body against you and throw his arms around your neck and squeeze you tight and rest his little head against your shoulder. It really makes you feel good to know that one of the first things your child learns is how to so freely give love to not only myself but to other people as well. It is a shame that people lose that free spirit as they get older. I definitely think people's days would be much brighter if they got more hugs and "smooches".


Monday, September 17, 2012

The Joy of Raising A Baby



Thought this was cute and would make you smile. Something that is always needed on a Monday.


The Joy of Raising A Baby
By Karl and Joanna Fuchs

We're glad you joined our family,
Yet some things make us wonder;
How can a little package like you
Have a voice that's loud as thunder?

You are so small and oh so cute,
But you are never very shy,
For whenever you want something brought to you,
You just open your mouth and cry.

First you moved on hands and knees,
Then you were up on your feet.
We're chasing you all around the house;
We're tired; we need a retreat!

Your food is smeared over the table;
Your food is on the floor;
Seems the only place food didn't go,
Is in the baby we adore.

Diapers here and diapers there,
Stinky...smelly...Whew!
Diapers would have done us in,
If we didn't love you as we do.

We're glad you joined our family,
You're a unique and wonderful treasure.
So, despite the work of raising you,
Being your parents is a total pleasure!


Friday, September 14, 2012

The Shower

    
     If you have an infant and have not tried showering together yet; here is some advice. It does not work very well. We usually bathe Xavier in his infant tub in the sink. We love this arrangement as does he. He lounges in a bubbly bath while we scrub him and have a towel all ready to whisk him to his lotion rub down and massage.  ( Life is rough for a baby ).
   Yesterday, I tried a different approach. We have blowouts very often right now ( for information on what a blow out is read my August post of The Ick Factor ). Xavier was sitting on my lap in the living room. We were laughing and playing quietly. I picked him up to give him a big hug and kiss and as I turned him around there it was. What had to be about the grossest moment since having him. Poop! All up his back and all on my lap and legs. ICK! Many times I yell for my husband to help when it is a blowout, one of us bathes baby the other gets to shower. However, he was not home during this occurrence. Not entirely sure what to do with such an enormous blowout ( I can usually handle normal ones on my own but this was no normal blow out ). I striped Xavier and I and threw our clothes in the washer and both of us got into the shower together. I did not want to do a bath as I was afraid the poop would just be floating in the tub. So we showered. I have such a great baby. He actually loved the water and showering with me. However, it was very slippery. He was sliding all over me and I could barely hold him without dropping him. I am pretty sure you are not supposed to shower with an infant. I knew it would be hard, but I was hoping just continually keeping that in my head would help, but not so much. Luckily, Xavier just thought it was fun to be sliding any which way around and me trying to grab any little piece of his body I could to keep him up. It was a very funny scene. Afterward, at least we were both clean and ready for nap time. I now know not to attempt that again for a very long time.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Traditional Parmesan Chicken






      There is  nothing more popular in Italian cuisine then Chicken Parmigiana.  It is a favorite at our house.  I have a great recipe for Chicken Parmigiana that will make you rethink any other type of Chicken Parmigiana. This recipe has been in my family for a very long time and it is easy to see why. One of the ways this tastes better then most Chicken Parmigiana is that it is baked not fried. The chicken is allowed time to bake in the juices so it comes out moist and tender not dried out; which you usually get when fried. Traditional Parmesan Chicken does not actually have the sauce and mozzarella cheese. I will tell you when it is the traditional and also how to add the sauce and mozzarella cheese that we have been so accustomed to putting on Chicken Parmigiana. I hope this is a favorite in your family as much as it is in mine.


Traditional Parmesan Chicken

Ingredients:
- 2 1/2 - 3 lbs. of boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup of flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/8 tsp. paprika
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup of milk
- 2/3 cup of Parmesan cheese (grated)
- 1/3 cup of fine dry bread crumbs (plain or italian style work)
- 4 Tbsp. butter or margarine ( unsalted if using butter)
 - shredded mozzarella cheese
- marinara sauce

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt the butter and pour it into the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking pan.


 Mix flour, salt, pepper and paprika in a shallow bowl large enough to dip chicken pieces in.


 Whisk together the egg and milk in another shallow bowl large enough to dip chicken pieces in.


 Fill a third shallow bowl big enough to dip chicken pieces in with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.



 Coat chicken pieces with flour on both sides, then dip in egg and milk mixture on both sides, finally roll in breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese mixture.




 Place coated chicken in pan. Bake for 30 minutes then take out and flip chicken and bake for another 30 minutes.

You have now succeeded in making Traditional Parmesan Chicken


If you would like to add the mozzarella and sauce here is how to do it.

I typically use about 4 cups of mozzarella cheese and a large jar of sauce (either homemade or store bought).
After cooking chicken, put half of the shredded mozzarella cheese on the chicken.


 Next add the entire jar of sauce over cheese and chicken.


 Finally add the rest of the shredded mozzarella cheese onto the chicken.


 Bake at 400 for another 10-15 minutes or until cheese is thoroughly melted.


 Serve hot.
This serves about 4-6 people.

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