Travel Often

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.” — Rosalia de Castro

Love Deeply, but Laugh Along the Way

"Happiness is only real when shared." - Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

View Marriage as an Adventure

"Love is a flower which turns into fruit at marriage." ~Finnish Proverb

Fuel your body with GOOD (It's the only one you get)

He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything. - Arabian Proverb

Open your Soul to Motherhood

A Grand Adventure is About to Begin - Winnie the Pooh

A New Kind of Love is Born

Mothers hold their children's hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Girlfriends' Guide to Baby Gear - Month 5

week 20

I think my friends on Facebook and Twitter were getting annoyed with me asking for the best strollers and baby products out there. Finally two friends suggested I go out and get The Girlfriend's Guide to Baby Gear by Vicki Iovine. So I did.

Okay, great advice. This book has been wonderful because after reading it, I realized there are many things I don't need. Plus, things I thought I needed that are totally not safe (i.e. a lot of borrowed items from family, friends, garage sales, etc.) and this book names off the really great products that have busy mom's talking.

For instance, I'm not a mom (yet). I have no clue how having a baby is going to add to my already crazy, busy life, but this book helps. It reminds you that most of the time you'll have maybe one hand free, so why get the crib that requires two? The book was written by moms who have already been there, done that.

For instance, I have a really hard time picking up packaged food right now in the baby food section thinking, "I'm going to feed our baby something that has a shelf life of a couple years???" I don't even make those types of packaged foods for Karl and myself to eat. So I was really excited to come across the site Kid Co Inc, thanks to the book. I will be purchasing this awesome Baby Food Mill for sure. And with luck, I realized they are sold in Edina at Amma Parenting Center! Will be checking out this store.

One other thing is a lot of people will offer to lend you their stuff, but there are always recalls. Tons and tons of recalls and big time safety issues. It's a MUST to buy a brand new car seat and crib. Though expensive, these are where a lot of injuries happen and you just don't mess around. Also, I read that most of the cribs sold at places most of us register at are kind of, uh, crap... Sure, the book was written in 2003, and maybe these stores have improved the quality of their products, but I'm not sure I want to risk it. I will need to venture out and focus on department stores or furniture stores and look for labels like, Child Craft, Legacy, Simmons, Sorelle, Morigeau-Lepine, Pali and Ragazzi. So that'll be our next project. Maybe I'll be taking grandma for a little shopping trip when she and grandpa are here next. :)

Things that I registered for that I should take off - (However, I'm really getting fed up with Target's website. This is the third time I can't get to our registry to make changes to it.)
  • Car seat toy bar (dangerous)
  • Any car seat head and seat padding (they test these things without the padding for a reason)
  • Wipe warmer (kind of a waste)
  • Powder (bad for baby's lungs)
  • Jumper that hangs from door or ceiling (danger, danger) 
Items I really need to look into more:
  • A big and small diaper bag (needs to be waterproof just in case something leaks or explodes - easy clean up. They suggest Lands End but I didn't find any I liked... or else www.babystyle.com, www.bellybasics.com or www.mobilemoms.com). And the cool part is the author lists everything that needs to be IN the diaper bag. Phew! I will say the "backpack" seems to be the clear winner. Frees up hands... Seems to be the common theme here...
  • Umbrella stroller (for those quick trips...they are light and simple and Maclaren, Combi and Peg Perego are the way to go).
  • Baby Bjorn (way better to carry baby in front than back).
  • 4 side-snap shirts (yes, annoying because they slide up but baby doesn't like umbilical cord getting all rubbed on that first week or two by onesies).
  • Graco Pack N Play with the bassinet and changing table (easy to travel with and easy to leave on another level of the house...good because we have three levels!)
  • Bookshelf for all those awesome books coming!!
  • Diaper Champ (or one that doesn't require you to go out and buy specific garbage bags. It gets expensive. The reviews I read about Diaper Champ aren't good, so I'm still stuck. But I read I will be changing over 100 diapers a week. OMG.) 
  • And some sort of net laundry sack for delicates like socks and things that laundry machine will have no problem chewing up.
So love this book!!!! Did you read anything that helped you through your pregnancy?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Triple Tomato Orzo

Triple Tomato Orzo
serves 4
recipe found in Health Magazine, May 2011 (recipe developed by Nadia G, host of Bitchin' Kitchen)

I used red bell peppers instead because they were on sale!
1 cup dried orzo
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small red onion, minced
1 red chile, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can whole tomatoes
12 sun-dried tomatoes, minced
4 basil leaves, torn
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6 kalamata olives, minced
1/4 cup minced parsley
4 large tomatoes
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375°. Cook orzo until al dente; set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic 1 minute. Add onion and red chile; sauté 6 minutes.

With clean hands, crush canned tomatoes; add to pan.

Add minced sun-dried tomatoes, basil leaves, brown sugar, sea salt, and pepper to pan; bring to a simmer. Cook until most of liquid is cooked off (25-30 minutes).

Add olives and parsley to pan; remove from heat. Add orzo to sauce, mixing well. Core tomatoes; stuff with orzo-and-sauce mixture. Top each tomato with 2 tablespoons mozzarella. Bake for 30-35 minutes.


Karl's reaction: "Ohhhh, I like this a lot. This is really good babe."

My take: This was excellent. Will be making again...even with red bell peppers!!!

Chicken Couscous

Chicken Couscous

serves 4
recipe found in Fitness Magazine, October 2011
Chicken Couscous
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup sliced almonds
3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 carrots, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 cup canned chickpeas, drained
1/2 lemon, zest peeled into 1/2-inch- thick strips, juice to taste
1/3 cup raisins
3/4 cup whole-wheat couscous
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. Warm the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the almonds; toast until golden, 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a bowl.

2. Season the chicken with the salt and black pepper, add to pot and cook until browned, 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a plate. Add the scallions, zucchini and carrots; cook 6 minutes. Mix in the cinnamon, cumin, coriander and turmeric; saute 1 minute.

3. Add the chicken stock, tomato, chickpeas, lemon zest and raisins; bring to a simmer. Return chicken to pot, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and vegetables to a serving bowl. Season with lemon juice. Cover and keep warm.

4. Add the couscous to the liquid remaining in pot, cover and turn off heat. Let rest 5 minutes; fluff couscous with a fork. Serve chicken and vegetables over couscous, garnished with almonds and parsley.

Karl's reaction: "The house smells really good. This looks awesome. I wish there were more raisins in this. Wait...is there curry in here?" So my husband hates Indian food and curry. There was no curry in here but for some reason he thought it tasted too Indian. Sigh.

My take: I liked this. Seemed like there could be more juice to it though, but I'd make again (without Karl being around).

Spinach-Tomato Pasta Shells

Spinach-Tomato Pasta Shells
serves 4
recipe found in Health, July/August but developed by Guy Fierie (host of three Food Network shows)

Spinach-Tomato Pasta Shells (sooo good)
 3/4 pound whole-wheat medium pasta shells
1 tablespoon butter
1 thinly sliced shallot
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (5-ounce) package baby spinach
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8-ounce) container grape tomatoes
Garnishes: 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, additional grated cheese
I also added Jennie-O Italian turkey sausage to get more meat in the recipe (it really added good flavor too)

Cook pasta shells according to package.
 
Meanwhile, heat butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add sliced shallot and crushed red pepper; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 1-2 minutes or until translucent.
 
Add spinach and chicken broth; cover and cook for 1 minute. Add half-and-half, 1/4 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese, and black pepper. Stir to combine, and cook for 3 minutes.
 
Add grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise, and the cooked pasta; toss. Garnish with flat-leaf parsley and additional grated cheese. Serve.

The meal all put together.
Karl's reaction: "Ohhh, I like this one a lot. Might be a titch too spicy for me, but I do like it."
 
My take: I love this recipe. Really good. Tasted better the next day even.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Introducing Your Dad - Month 5

week 19

Your baby weighs about 8 1/2 ounces, and measures 6 inches, head to bottom — about the size of a large heirloom tomato. The hair on her scalp is sprouting. This is a crucial time for sensory development: Your baby's brain is designating specialized areas for smell, taste, hearing, vision, and touch. Some research suggests that she may be able to hear your voice now, so don't be shy about reading aloud, talking to her, or singing a happy tune if the mood strikes you. 

Me at 19 weeks!
Baby K,

This is a letter to you. I wanted to talk about someone super special - someone who is dying to meet you.

He's your dad, Karl.

He felt you for the first time on Sunday. We'd come home from a weekend at your Grandpa and Grandma Koester's cabin (yes, your dad got another buck!) and we both wanted to take a nap. We were lying in bed, watching the Minnesota Vikings lose badly and then started watching the Chicago Bears win big time (I'm totally fine with you becoming a Bears fan by the way), and you started kicking (or punching) - I haven't figured it out quite yet.

I had your dad place his hand on my belly and you kicked right away. You literally took his breath away. He gasped. And then this huge smile broke on his face (kind of like when I told him I was pregnant with you). And I looked over at him again and a single tear spilled down his cheek. The moment was really something special and I could just tell he was thinking all sorts of things about you.

Sometimes he talks to you too. He tells me to butt out of the conversation, but I have a tendency to eavesdrop because your dad makes me laugh. Just warning you but soon he'll start making you listen to Weezer now that he knows you can hear. He really can't wait to meet you. Sometimes he says he's scared - I say that too. But that's because we don't know what to expect. Will you cry all the time? Will you sleep okay? Will you throw up all over your dad....causing him to throw up all over me? He kind of doesn't like puke very much. Or poop. But I think he's past the poop part thanks to your mom and Gpa-Bear in Illinois. Honestly, we don't know what's to come and that sometimes can be scary. But what we do know is we're pretty excited to meet you and can't wait to see where things go. I want to know who you're going to become.

You should've seen your dad when we were registering at Babies R' Us. Off he went to the Lego's and then off to the Matchbox cars. He was pulling me in every direction like he had sacks of gold to show me. He couldn't believe all the cool toys out there. He was going on and on how he can't wait to build the best race tracks and Lego houses with you.

Yes, I do have to remind him that you could end up being a girl. And that's going to be just as awesome because, well, I'm a girl. And your father loves me very much. Sometimes I can just tell by the way he looks at me or how he calls me right away when he's done with work to let me know he's coming home and to make sure I made it home safe. I like that. Plus, the cool thing about being a girl is I'm really close with my dad...we even played catch quite a bit in the yard together. He even told me the best days of his life were watching me play volleyball. Mine too.

Sooo...to start...I met your dad at work in 2006. It was funny how that all started. I really think God was behind it all because how does a girl from Illinois end up at an engineering firm that tests soil in Bloomington, Minnesota?? So because of how we met and how I feel about your dad, I have to believe God does work in all of us and wants the best for us. That freewill stuff kind of gets in the way sometimes though. We like to make our own choices and decisions and sometimes they are the wrong ones and lead us in directions we never intended to go. But if we keep trusting in him, we get back on track and good is waiting for us. Sometimes it's easy to forget about God, but he really does know best. That's the greatest lesson I can teach you. Believe in him and you will get very far.

Now...getting back to your dad. He was shorter than me and had long hair. Sometimes I wondered if he had just rolled out of bed, walked into the shower and forgotten to dry his hair when I saw him walking the halls at work. He'd usually have a coffee cup in hand and baggie jeans with these crazy funky shoes. Sometimes the coffee cup had breakfast in it... Ramen noodles. But there was something about those eyes of his. They sparkled. And then he laughed. That was it for me. That, and there on his face was the cutest dimple ever. I knew I had to know him.

Your mom and dad's first night out - a work party in 07
Soon we began talking and your dad sure talked about your grandpa like he was the President of the United States. I could tell he loved your grandpa very much. Then I started sharing stories about my family and how I loved to travel with your Uncle Mike and how your Uncle Mark was always making me laugh with all his crazy shenanigans. And how lucky I felt to have such a close family, but how crazy we could be when we all got together. I couldn't quite explain what was happening inside me, but I knew I needed to know your dad more and more. I couldn't get enough of him.

He also started making all these weird origami things...and putting them in my cube. I'd get a new one every day. Pretty soon I had a collection. I never had a guy pay so much attention to me in such a unique way. I don't think the CEO ever understood (as the bathroom was right next to my cube and he was able to see your dad's art collection every day)...or else he thought I was just another weird engineer who was fascinated by origami.

The origami your dad made me at work
Then your dad and I sat by each other at an event that the company put on. We had to dress up all nice and your dad could've sat anywhere at this really fancy golf resort, and with anyone, but he sat by me. And we sat close to one another and everything in the world felt really great. I couldn't stop smiling. We couldn't stop talking. We even sampled each other's food. There was so much to talk about. And he looked good that night with his long hair and suit coat. I didn't want the night to end. But it did.

We were both dating these duds at the time, so we couldn't really start anything more. So we continued having really great conversations with one another.

Then one day my shower broke. The dud I was dating told me to go look it up online and figure it out. Your Uncle Mike was off traveling in some exotic place, so he was out. And then for some reason I decided to call your dad. And he took me to Home Depot. He even came into the town home you are coming home to after you're born and fixed the shower.

So then I had to ask myself...how could I resist a man who dropped everything for me? And was so nice to me? And was handy? I knew I had a small window of time to share how I felt, so over a slice of pizza I told him if he were single, I'd scoop him up in a second.

I wasn't very nervous like I would have been with any other guy. The words felt right. And he seemed to like what I said. But a couple weeks went by and nothing. (Well, he did lead me on a scavenger hunt around the office to some dead roses, but that's a story for a different time.) Then Valentine's Day came. My doorbell rang and your dad was on the front steps. He asked me if I'd go out with him that Saturday night. I invited him in but all he wanted to do was ask me on a date in person. So I did what any women would do...I fell in love with him. And I have been ever since. Over and over.

I just want you to know how lucky you are to have a dad like Karl. He is amazing. And I mean amazing. And he already loves you and hasn't even met you! He's working extra hard right now so his career takes off in another year or two. You should see all the cool legs and arms he makes for people. He really is talented. I can't wait for you two to meet and to watch the bond grow between the both of you. It's going to be fun to watch. Your dad and I love each other very much and can't wait to have you join all our fun adventures...cuz we have many!

Love,
Mom

P.S. Oh, and this is the big buck your dad got. Probably the biggest he'll ever get. He even made the front page news. Your dad's kind of a big deal....

Your dad with "The Freak"





             

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Registering for Baby - Month 5

week 18

Head to rump, your baby is approximately 5 1/2 inches long (about the length of a bell pepper) and weighs almost 7 ounces. He's busy flexing his arms and legs — movements that you'll start noticing more and more in the weeks ahead. If you're having a girl, her uterus and fallopian tubes are formed and in place. If you're having a boy, his genitals are noticeable now, although he may hide them from you during an ultrasound.  (info found on babycenter.com)

I know...seems a bit crazy to be registering this early. I mean, anything could happen yet. I'm trying to stay positive and give all my worries to God. Still hard when really sad things have happened to my friends at 21 and 22 weeks. I hear the super safe zone is after 26 weeks... I have some weeks ahead of me yet. But I do feel baby moving around more and more. Such a great feeling. I so can't wait for Karl to feel the baby! We also asked both our parents to come to our 20-week ultrasound. We moved the date to a Friday so my parents could come. So on December 2, we'll all be checking out baby K in action. Bring the tissues!!!

Back to registering stuff... My mom wanted to have a shower for me back home in Illinois before she and my dad leave for Arizona and we all head to Vegas as a family for my younger brother's 30th birthday! Makes sense, and if invites were going out in December, that meant Karl and I had to get our act together. The rest of November is full of Thanksgiving dinners with family or crazy Black Friday (who in their right mind would want to register then??). So we went to Target and Babies R Us last weekend. But before we could even begin I had to turn to friends and family for advice.

My question: What are baby must-haves?

There are a million products out there for babies (Karl and I were beyond overwhelmed) and I wanted to make sure I was getting the necessities. I'm so over having the house full of "stuff". Life is so much less complicated when there is less stuff and more time for loved ones and adventure. I learned the hard way, thinking cute outfits and fifty different Bath and Body Works lotions and tons and tons of stuff would make life better. Wrong. It's just more to clean or more things to take up space and create clutter.

Anyway, I thought it'd be cool if I post some of the best must-haves that were recommended to us and then once baby is born, go back and pick the top five or ten from the list. And Karl and I got lucky. While at Target, we ran into a mother of six and a mother of two. Both walked us through the bottles, diapers and swings. Both were on the same page with each product, so we went with what they said.

Here are the products in no particular order:

1. Best bottles (was told these prevent gas big time). Both women raved that they've tried every one out there and these kicked butt.


2. Best swing (was told by woman she went out of her way to buy this because it was so amazing and her baby finally started sleeping.)




3. Stroller (BOB - best for tall folks and runners!!)




4. Car seat (Best ones out there that fit into BOB stroller and are ranked high all across the board...I'm going back and forth between the Graco SnugRide 35 and the Chicco Keyfit 30. I can't decide. But I was told to buy an extra base whatever I do because once it's in your car, you don't want it to come out.)




5. Car Seat Accessories - It's cold in Minnesota. Slip cover is a must have (even in April)





6. Baby Monitor - I know times have changed but I hear the video monitor is the best!!! I hear Summer Infant is a good brand.



7. Mealtime
Medela for breast feeding (heard that some insurance companies will pay for this so call and check)





8. Boppy helps place baby when breast feeding


9. My Breast Friend (also helps place baby in good spot for breast feeding)




10. Good Seat to have and for meal time - Bumbo Baby Seat


11. Bouncer - hear these are good to have (by the bed too when you're too tired to get out of bed and go far)
12. Sleep time - Halo Sleep Sack



13. Wrap em up - Aden and Anais have some amazing swaddle wraps


14. Carrying baby - Moby Wrap



Okay moms...what are your favorites and must haves out there? Please share! I'm torn between a good Pack and Play and bath tub right now. Any suggestions? What am I missing? Also I heard that Gerber clothes shrink once washed and Target sells a lot of these. Is this true?
               

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

I'm not quite a baker but these were excellent (and kind of good for you too...the real pumpkin part!)

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
serves 16
recipe found on Babble.com - I think it's a Martha Stewart recipe

Pumpkin Swirl brownies....ummm...yum
1/2 cup butter
6 oz (6 squares) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or 1 cup chocolate chips)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F and butter an 8×8-inch or 9×9-inch baking pan.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over medium-low heat, stirring until smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla for a few minutes, until fluffy; beat in the flour just until combined.

Divide the batter between two medium bowls (about 2 cups per bowl) and stir the chocolate mixture into one bowl. Stir the pumpkin, oil, cinnamon and nutmeg into the other bowl. Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan, smooth the top and gently spread with half the pumpkin batter. Drop large spoonfuls of chocolate and pumpkin batter on top, then gently swirl the two batters with the tip of a knife (just a table knife, so you don’t scrape the bottom of the pan with a sharp tip) to create a marbled effect.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until just set. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Makes 16 brownies.

Karl's reaction: You never bake. These are frickin good! I had two pieces for breakfast. So good.

My take: LOVE THESE. For one, they aren't super sweet. AND they are so moist. Really good. Will be baking these again!

Pork Loin with Apple-Cranberry Chutney

This was my favorite recipe of the week. Maybe even month. SO GOOD!

Pork Loin with Apple-Cranberry Chutney
serves 8
recipe found in Health Magazine - October 2011

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 (2 1/2-3 pound) boneless pork loin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 slices reduced-sodium bacon, sliced into 3/8-inch thick pieces
1 medium leek, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick pieces (1 cup)
3 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced (3 1/2 cups)
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon honey
1 small sprig fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Season pork with salt and pepper. Add pork to skillet, turning to brown on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet (reserve skillet); roast 45-55 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 155°. Remove from oven; transfer pork to a plate.

3. Meanwhile, add bacon to skillet; cook over medium heat until bacon begins to crisp and fat has been released, about 3-4 minutes. Add leek and cook, stirring, until tender (about 8 minutes). Add apples, cranberries, honey, rosemary, lemon juice, and water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes or until apples and cranberries partially break down and sauce thickens. Discard rosemary. Slice and serve pork with chutney and green beans or broccoli.

Karl's reaction: "Holy cow this is good! What's all in here? Is there bacon in here? This is really good babe. Really good! Yummmmm."

My take: I love this. Tastes a little like Thanksgiving but better to me. I'll be making this again!

Fettuccine with Shrimp, Garlic and Broccoli

Fettuccine with Shrimp, Garlic and Broccoli
serves 4
recipe found in Fitness Magazine - November/December 2011 - by Anna Berman

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 garlic gloves, thinly sliced
3/4 pound frozen medium shrimp, thawed
8 ounces whole-wheat fettuccine
3 cups broccoli florets

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; saute 5 minutes. Add Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes; cook 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic; reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally. 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, peel shrimp and remove tails; set aside. Prepare pasta according to package directions, adding broccoli florets to the pot for the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain and set aside.

3. Add shrimp to the tomato sauce; cook 2 to 3 minutes, until opaque.

4. Serve shrimp and sauce over pasta and broccoli.

Karl's reaction: "Ohhh, you took the tails off the shrimp. This is good. I like it."

My take: I'd make this again. I'd add maybe basil or something...or cheese. Seems like it's missing some type of flavor. Or, maybe I made too many noodles.

Healthier Holiday Fish

Christmas Cod
serves 4
recipe found in Shape - December 2010 
Christmas Cod....so many good flavors!
2 tablespoons plus
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 white turnip, peeled and diced
1 parsnip, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced, divided
1⁄4 teaspoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
1 bay leaf
1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch kale (about 1 pound), stems and center ribs removed, torn into bite-size pieces
4 4-ounce center-cut cod fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved

Instructions
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high; add veggies and half the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add pimentón and bay leaf and cook for 2 minutes, then add beans and cook for about 3 minutes or until just heated through. Add remaining garlic and kale and cook for 4 minutes.

Season fillets with salt and pepper. Heat remaining oil in a sauté pan over medium-high. Lay cod in pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until a brown crust forms. Flip, then cook for 2 to 3 minutes more; remove from pan.

Divide vegetable-bean mixture among four bowls and top with cod; finish with a squeeze of lemon.
 
Karl's reaction: "This is really good babe. Is this a turnip? This is good. Real good."
 
My take: I'll be making this again for sure.

Healthy Taco Salad

Flat-Belly Recipe that Packs a Punch

Taco Salad
serves 4 (depending how much you make...below might be just one serving)
recipe found in Women's Health - December 2010

Yummy taco salad - healthy too!
4 oz lean ground turkey cooked with taco seasoning
1/4 cup black beans
2 Tbsp salsa
1 1/2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1/4 cup chopped yellow peppers
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp guacamole

Mix together and serve

Karl's reaction: "I would have this for lunch every day if I could. Yum!"

My take: Right now I'm craving avocados so this was delicious. I will make again. Super easy to make.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hearing the Heartbeat Round II - Month 5

week 17
Your baby's skeleton is changing from soft cartilage to bone, and the umbilical cord — her lifeline to the placenta — is growing stronger and thicker. Your baby weighs 5 ounces now (about as much as a turnip), and she's around 5 inches long from head to bottom. She can move her joints, and her sweat glands are starting to develop.

I'm now entering month five!!! So crazy. And I've gained close to ten pounds. Zoiks. Fun stuff. But I feel really good (just not on the days after playing volleyball at 9:15 p.m.) Just two more late games left until I retire for a few months.
Me (17 weeks) in the bathroom at work taking a pic for my brother
Now, for the cool stuff. Karl and I went in for our second doctor appointment with Dr. Druckman at Park Nicollet - St. Francis.

Things discussed -

1. Is it okay if I start taking calcium/magnesium? My legs have been cramping a lot and that happened last summer when I was low on cal/mag and these vitamins from Lifetime Fitness helped with that. Wanted to check first. Doc says that stuff won't make a difference but yes, I can...and I should drink more water.

2. Do I really have to avoid soft cheeses and some of these other foods I have been reading about? Doc says use good judgement and I'll be fine. I cooked with cojito cheese the other night. And I seem to be okay still....

3. Is it normal to see stars and feel super faint a few times? Yes. This is the week/month in my pregnancy where my body is adjusting to all that. My heart is working harder. Blood is pumping more. Totally normal. But drink more water.

4. Do I need a flu shot? (Karl just had to ask this). Doc says YES. Grrr. I've never gotten one ever, nor have I ever had the desire to. But I had to think about baby here. Sigh. So I did. Arm hurts now. And did Karl? Oh...noooo...of course not.

5. Is it weird for things to come out of me from time to time? Doc says yes and to look forward to more weird yuck. Cool.

After all the questions, we heard Baby K's special little heartbeat and Karl filmed this time!!!!!!!! Listen in and watch. SO very cool!!!!!!

video



New food cravings: I LOVE FOOD, period. Anything really. I'm back to cooking a lot more and make sure I'm cooking up really good foods. I cooked with parsnips, kale and turnips for the first time. And it's weird but now when I go out for food, I realize I like my own cooking a lot better more times than not. I never thought I'd think that. But at least when I cook, I know everything that's going into the recipe.

Thoughts/Feelings: I'm getting more excited. I have some cool creative ideas for the nursery (hoping my younger brother and dad can help me make this a reality).

Yes, I do get scared and nervous still about the future. I worry about the losing major sleep part and losing that one-on-one time with Karl I love so much. I seriously love our marriage right now. I worry about money and wondering how we're going to afford it all. I worry about our health, baby's health and our parent's health. I want everyone to be around and I know how things can happen in an instant. I pray we all get to build many awesome memories together. I worry about the daycare part, but I swear something is going to work itself out.

But I get happy thinking about the three of us going to the park together or for nature walks. I get excited about getting our families together and just feeling the love and all that goodness. That seems to be outweighing the fears. Even though my pants are getting tighter and I'm slowly adjusting to my side profile, I just want baby to be healthy and can't wait to meet him/her.  

That's it for now! The big ultrasound is scheduled for Monday, November 28!!! But we won't be finding out the sex. Nope! Unless something pokes through...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chunky Bean and Chicken Chili

Another not super healthy recipe, but Karl and I love this one, especially when it's cold out. It packs lots of flavor.

Chunky Bean and Chicken Chili
serves 4
recipe found in Better Homes and Garden
I love this recipe!
3 cups tortilla chips
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut in bite-size pieces
2 teaspoons cooking oil
2 19 ounce cans cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
6 ounces shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers (1-1/2 cups)
1 4 1/2 ounce can diced green chilies
1 14 ounce can reduced sodium chicken broth
Sometimes I add a can of cream of corn for kicks
Fresh cilantro (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat broiler. Coarsely crush 2 cups of the chips.

2. In 4- to 5- quart Dutch oven brown chicken in hot oil over medium-high heat. Add beans, 1 cup of the cheese, the chilies, broth, 1/2 cup water; and crushed chips. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Meanwhile, for tortilla crisps, place remaining 1 cup chips on baking sheet lined with nonstick foil. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Broil 6 inches from heat for 1 to 2 minutes, until cheese is melted and begins to brown. Serve chili with tortilla crisps. Sprinkle cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

Karl's reaction: "Oh yes!!! I love this recipe. I love the cream of corn, babe. You can make this again anytime."

My take: I really do like this recipe. It's easy and filling.

Ham Dinner to Split Pea Soup in the Slow Cooker

Karl and I had a tasty ham dinner and then I took the bone and extra meat and made split pea soup in the slow cooker! Delicious.

From this....
Healthy ham dinner
Slow Cooker Split Pea Sausage (I used ham...) Soup
Serves 6-8
recipe found on All Recipes

1 pound dried split peas
10 cups water
1 pound smoked sausage of your choice, sliced (i used ham and ham bone)
5 cubes chicken bouillon
1 1/2 cups chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1 onion, chopped

To this....

Delicious Split Pea Soup with Ham bone
Directions
 
1.In a 5 quart slow cooker, combine the peas, water, sausage, bouillon, carrot, celery, potatoes, garlic powder, oregano, bay leaves, and onion.


2.Cover, and cook on High for 4 to 5 hours. Remove bay leaves before ladling into bowls.

Karl's reaction: "Not totally a fan of split pea soup, but this is actually good babe. Mmmmm."
 
My take: I loved this recipe. Will make again. So easy to make!!!

Seared Pork Tortas

A nice little sandwich, except don't do what I did and burn the baguette. I had to improvise with buns!

Seared Pork Tortas
4 servings
recipe found on My Recipes

Don't burn the bread....
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 (2-ounce) boneless center-cut pork loin chops (1/4 inch thick)
1 (12-ounce) baguette, cut in half horizontally
1/2 cup canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons refrigerated fresh salsa
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
1 large tomato, cut into 8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 ripe peeled avocado, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices
Directions

1. Preheat broiler.


2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine cumin and salt; sprinkle evenly over pork. Add pork to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Let stand 5 minutes; cut into thin slices.

3. Hollow out top and bottom halves of bread, leaving a 3/4-inch-thick shell; reserve torn bread for another use. Place bread halves, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Broil 2 minutes or until golden brown.

4. Place beans and salsa in a small bowl; mash with a fork until almost smooth. Spoon bean mixture into the bottom half of baguette. Top with pork, cheese, onion, tomato, jalapeño, avocado, and top half of baguette. Cut into 4 pieces.

Karl's reaction: "Not bad babe. Lots of flavor. Hey...what did you do to the bread??"

My take: Very good. Mad about the stupid bread, but love the spice to this sandwich, and the avocado.

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables

A bit of a pain to make, but Karl and I love this recipe. It's really fresh tasting and makes our house smell really good when all the veggies are roasting in the oven.

Orzo with Roasted Vegetables
serves 6
recipe found online (Better Homes and Garden)

Love this stuff. Who would've thought eggplant could taste so good?
1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound orzo
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 scallions, minced (white and green parts)
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts), toasted
3/4 pound good feta, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
15 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
(I also add chicken for more protein. A rotisserie works great!)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.

2. Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

3. Add roasted vegetables to the orzo, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from roasting pan into the pasta bowl. I add chicken at this time too.

4. For the dressing, combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper and pour on orzo and vegetables. Cool to room temperature. Add the scallions, pignolis, feta, and basil. Check the seasonings; serve at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Karl's reaction: "Ohhh babe, I love this recipe. I always forget how good this tastes. Yummy goodness in my tum."

My take: I really do love this. It's a pain in the butt to make, but the outcome is worth it.

Chicken Enchiladas

Okay...okay....not the healthiest but these are so GOOD and serve a ton of people! My church usually makes these during Lent.

Chicken Enchiladas
serves 12
recipe from Barb Halverson and Jim Wright (Transfiguration Lutheran Church members)

Best chicken enchiladas on the planet
1 (20 oz.) package of chicken breasts (I use a rotisserie chicken)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 (10-3/4 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
1 (19-oz.) can of enchilada sauce
1 (8-oz) carton sour cream
1 small can chopped green chillies
8 oz shredded taco cheese
1 package of 10-inch flour tortillas
Pace Picante sauce

Directions

1. Cook chicken or pull meat and chop into bite size. Saute onion. Add into a large mixing bowl with soup, enchilada sauce, sour cream and chillies. Set aside 1/4 of this sauce mixture.

2. Spray baking dish with Pam for easier cleanup. Lay out flour tortillas. Add some cheese, a strip of sauce mixture, then chicken. Roll the tortilla and place in 13 x 9 baking dish, seam side down. Keep repeating until dish is full.

3. Cover tortillas with remaining sauce mixture. Cover with remaining cheese.

4. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve with Picante sauce.

5. If made in advance, keep in refrigerator. Cook 40 to 50 minutes.

Karl's reaction: "Yesss, you made these!! Love these!"

My take: I get these crazy cravings for this recipe. What can I say? It's tasty.

Roasted Salmon Recipe - Mediterranean

Mediterranean Salmon
serves 2
recipe found in Snacking in the Kitchen blog

Awesome salmon recipe
Olive oil
2 4-6 ounce salmon fillets (skin removed and wild over farm raised)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tomato, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
10 green olives, roughly chopped
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
fresh dill
1 lemon, sliced
2-4 tablespoons of wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)


Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut out 2 large pieces of parchment paper (about 14 by 14"). Lightly coat one half of the parchment with olive oil. Place one salmon fillet on half of the parchment paper. Season with salt and pepper. Top the salmon with half of tomatoes, bell pepper, olives, shallot and garlic.

2. Drizzle the salmon and vegetables with a little bit of olive oil. Cover with sprigs of dill and lemon slices. Drizzle the fish with wine.

3. Now make a pouch out of parchment paper. Fold the parchment paper in half, covering the salmon. Start folding from one end, going all the way to the other end. Be sure the fish is completely enclosed and secure. If needed, use staples to hold the parchment shut.


4. Place the parchment pockets on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes in the oven. Be careful when serving - opening the parchment pockets will release a lot of steam - don't get burned.


Karl's reaction: "This is really good! Are these green olives in here? This is different. I like this recipe."

My take: Will be making this one again for sure. The parchment paper is a bit of a pain but this is so easy to cook and put together! You can't help but feel healthy after eating this. Loved the dill.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Getting My Workout Groove Back - Month 4

week 16
Get ready for a growth spurt. In the next few weeks, your baby will double his weight and add inches to his length . Right now, he's about the size of an avocado: 4 1/2 inches long (head to rump) and 3 1/2 ounces. His legs are much more developed, his head is more erect than it has been, and his eyes have moved closer to the front of his head. His ears are close to their final position, too. (info found at babycenter.com)

This must be the time when my belly really starts growing if little K is going to hit his/her growth spurt after this week. Fun stuff!!! I kind of accepted now that my body is going to change, and it's okay. I'm carrying and creating life, which is just crazy to think about. I haven't stopped taking care of myself. So it's okay that I'm gaining weight. I still eat well. I'm working out (again!!!) and I get lots of sleep. I'm just happy I'm not craving sweets and desserts. Then I'd be doomed!!!

I met with my personal trainer Josh for an hour on Sunday after church for a new workout program. I was nervous since I haven't really lifted since week five. I wasn't sure how my body would handle. Josh put together a nice simple workout with a variety. And yes, I was very sore the following day but at least I know even simple workouts (if done right) can really work the muscles. It's pretty cool.

Stability ball workouts (squatting with the ball behind my back with weights and also sitting on it doing core and breathing exercises) and push ups on a bar and a lot of core focused exercises on the mats (no lying flat on back though). I need to remember to pull my belly button in and breathe from my stomach not my chest.

I felt pretty good after the workout and went to Lifetime Fitness again yesterday.  I did 15 minutes on the stair stepper and about 50 minutes of lifting. I left the gym on a high. Working out really makes me feel like me, and gives me the energy I need. I felt like a new person. And I swear I felt baby K move when I was on the stepper.

Josh also gave me some reading material (from the American College of Sports Medicine) on being pregnant and exercising, and I thought the information was too good not to share. Some of the benefits:

  1. Reduction of chances of getting gestational diabetes (especially if BMI is already over 33).
  2. Reduction in risk of developing pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH).
  3. Fewer obstetric interventions (vacuum extraction, forceps).
  4. Reduction in the 'active stage' of labor (the time from 4-10 cm dilation).
  5. Research has suggested that the incidence of cesarean section may be lower in women who exercise during their pregnancy.
  6. Increase in maternal well being.
  7. Increase sense of control.
  8. Increase energy.
  9. Improved sleep.
  10. Improved self-image.
  11. Quicker return to pre-pregnancy weight.
  12. Control of excess weight gain.
  13. Increased likelihood of continued postpartum exercise.
  14. Decreased incidence of loss of bladder control during pregnancy and postpartum.
  15. Reduction in bone density loss during the lactation state
  16. Reduction in common pregnancy complaints (hemorrhoids, leg cramps, back pain, etc.)
Then, there are even benefits to the infant!!!!
  1. Infants have less body fat at birth, possible connection to Cardiovascular Risk Profile in adulthood.
  2. Infants are less cranky, have a reduction in the incidence of infant colic.
  3. Greater neurodevelopments scores in oral language and motor areas (tested at age 5).
How can you not just want to get up and work out, even when you'd much rather snuggle up on the couch? Even 15 minutes helps!!! How do you get yourself to the gym when it's the last thing on your mind?