Baked Potato Soup: Comfort food at its finest

So, I found out that tackling, making, and eating one soup a week is a bit much. For starters, we as a family of 3 and a half (eaters) can not eat all the soup in one week! Even with at least two days of leftovers we still have soup for the next week. So realistically I think 2-3 soups a month is plenty!!

This week I tackled Baked Potato Soup. Yummy! Talk about comfort food!! This is delish. I actually had never had baked potato soup, but it is one of Eric’s favs so I thought I should learn how to make it:) The recipe I followed you can view here

This recipe definitely gets our stamp of approval! Perfect on these long, cold and dreary winter days.

Ingredients

1TB Olive Oil
1 medium onion ( chopped)
2 garlic cloves
5 Potatoes ( peeled/ diced)
30oz chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 TB butter
3 TB flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup shredded cheese
1 cup sour cream
Bacon and cheese to garnish

In a stock pot or Dutch oven, heat oil on medium heat. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes. Then, add garlic and continue cooking for an additional 2 minutes. Slowly pour broth, water and potatoes

20130226-204235.jpg to the pot. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat back to medium and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Or until potatoes are tender.

Reserve 2 cups of cubed, cooked potatoes and hand mash the rest in the pot. In a separate saucepan melt butter and whisk in flour. Slowly add milk and continue cooking on medium until thickened. Then add mixture to mashed potatoes. Add sour cream, cheese and spices and mix thoroughly. Lastly add cubed potatoes and dinner is served! I added bacon on top and served with a spinach salad and ciabatta bread. Perfection.

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Smoothie Amazingness

Who has trouble getting 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables into their children daily?? This girl! What happened to my garbage disposal babies who would eat anything?! Life was so easy when you could spoon feed your babies all the greeny goodness on a regular basis.  Now I have one semi-picky two year old and one, one year old who will ONLY eat what big sis is eating:/

I really can’t complain too much. Overall my girls really have been excellent eaters! They eat green veggies with lunch and dinner and fruits as often as possible. But our selection of vegetables that the girls would eat ( without protest) was quickly dwindling. Snacks were another story. Granola bars, bunny crackers, raisins and other sweet foods were climbing the list and vegetables and fruit were falling further down. I knew I needed to change this asap! Smoothies seemed like an excellent way to sneak extra servings of veggies into the girls daily. Lucky for me the girls have viewed it as a treat!

Over the past few weeks smoothies have taken the place of afternoon snack and breakfast on occasion (oatmeal is still queen of this meal). I love picking out new fruits and vegetables at the store to try in a new concoction. I don’t follow any recipes. I just eyeball amounts and try different blends and throw the ingredients into my blender. Easy peasy. I have yet to find one the girls haven’t gobbled down! My liquid is either yogurt ( so glad I’m making our own, this is a Huge savings!! recipe here) or Almond Milk ( adds the perfect sweetness).

Here are a few of our go-to blends:
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Yogurt
Spinach
Avocado
Carrot
Banana
Strawberry(frozen)

Yogurt
Spinach
Blueberry(frozen)
Beets
Banana

Almond Milk
Mango
Cucumber
Spinach
Blueberry (frozen)
Carrot

Yogurt
Peach (frozen)
Carrot
Zucchini
Avocado
Banana

Almond Milk
Mango
Spinach
Peas (frozen)
Avocado
Banana

Yogurt
Broccoli (frozen)
Blueberry (frozen)
Dates
Banana

Here are my more than satisfied customers:) image

Would love to here any of your favorite blends!! Always up for new ideas (ECP, looking at you).

Valentines Day

Valentines Day.  What does it mean to you?  Some say its a fake holiday, others say what’s the point, and some spend tons of money on flowers/chocolate/jewelry.  I say how can a day set aside for love be a bad thing?  I’ve always enjoyed valentines day.  I remember in middle school a dear friend always threw a Vday party for our girl friends.  We would make a pink craft, have delicious pink desserts and spend the night discussing our crushes and daring eachother to call one up! Oh memories.

When Eric and I started dating, almost 13 years ago, the first Valentines Day was so exciting! He was my first real boyfriend after all!  I had an away volleyball game that day and Eric surprised me in the parking lot when we came home with a little bear that was wearing a t-shirt on which Eric hand wrote sub for Eric.  He also made me my first of many mixed Cds.  It was so sweet, so innocent, so perfect.

Through the years our celebrations have varied.  Some involved dinner out, or a romantic day trip, while some a quiet night-in viewing one of our favorite Jane Austin movies. But whatever we do, the most important thing is that we are together celebrating the love we have for eachother. 

I have been so blessed by my husband.  He is truly a romantic.  Flowers are not bought on Valentines Day or birthdays in particular,but spontaneously and often.   He shows his love through the way he helps around the house and with the girls, and the way he listens ever so intently to me ramble on and on for hours on days that have been filled with too much wiggle music, and coloring, and diaper changing, and zero adult conversation:)  He makes me feel beautiful and special daily by telling me sincerely how good I look ( even on days that he left a wife in pj’s and returned home to a wife only upgraded to workout clothes;)).  

This Valentines Day Eric did not disappoint.  We decided to celebrate at home once the girls were in bed.  Eric started our evening with a delicious appetizer of shrimp tempura ( using a copycat recipe for bang-bang shrimp)

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Then he proceeded to cook up his famous filets. These are amazing!!! He sears them in our cast iron skillet for a few minutes each side, then bakes them in the oven for less then 10 minutes. And voila
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The most tender, perfectly medium, flavorful filet you could have. Seriously Ruth’s Chris has nothing on these!

This year while dinner was cooking Eric decided we should dress up. Good idea I said I was thinking of putting on earrings. Eric smiled and said no really. Like bow tie red dress, dress up. So after a quick change. We sat down and enjoyed a fabulous meal talking and reminicising about years past. Feeling blessed and loved and thankful that we took the time to celebrate a holiday of love!
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Just Sit

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As Moira’s first birthday has come and gone the inevitable question of, when will you stop nursing , has already been mentioned on numerous occasions.  Sigh. Do I really have to think of this already??  I have been extremely fortunate with two amazing experiences nursing both of my girls.  Never any trouble at all. Well, except for a brief week when Liesel was over a year and I was 10 wks pregnant with Moira.  Other than that, nursing has been one of the top highlights to being a Momma. 

The precious moments spent rocking my girls in the rocking chair, cuddling on the couch, or just sitting and watching my sweet ones.  I feel fortunate. 

When will I call it quits? Time will tell. With Liesel I nursed until 15 months, gradually eliminating one feeding at a time. This made for an easy transition for both of us ( not to mention, zero pain for me!!). But with Moira I am in no rush. There is no baby on the way, so I feel I can wait until we are ready.

Watching this little one sleep easily in my armsimage is reason enough to wait. With Liesel our time together whether nursing or not was always so special and intimate. However with the second baby life is much more hectic. Even while nursing you are multi-tasking: reading books while nursing, folding laundry while nursing, preparing lunch while nursing, potty training while nursing ( my least favorite, but such is life) and the list goes on and on. But the times during the day that life is quiet and intimate with your little one is nursing before naps and bed. These are what I can’t say good-bye to just yet. Times when I can just sit, be still, and fall deeper in love.
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Lasagna Soup

Sooo this recipe was amazing!! I saw it on Pinterest and absolutely wanted to try it!  After dinner Eric said,  and I quote, this was one of the best soups I’ve ever had! Thanks honey 🙂 and for those of you who know Eric you know he doesn’t give compliments easily.  The recipe had all the comfort and heartiness of homemade lasagna, mixed with the warm yumminess of soup.  Perfection.  It definitely received 5 stars in our book!

Lasagna Soup
For the Soup:
2TB Olive Oil
1 1/2 lbs Italian Sausage
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 c Onions, chopped
2 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
2 Bay Leaves
2 TB Tomato Paste
28oz Fire Roasted Tomatoes, diced
6 c Chicken Stock
8 oz Mafalda or Fusilli Pasta
1/2 c Fresh Basil, chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste

Cheesy Yum:
8 oz Ricotta Cheese
1/2 c Parmesan Cheese, shredded
2c Mozzarella Cheese, shredded

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Add sausage and cook until brown and crumbled. Add in onions and cook for another 5 minutes. Once onions are translucent add in garlic, oregano, red pepper, bay leaves and tomato paste. Cook, stirring, until tomato paste turns a brownish color. At this time add in stock and tomatoes ( undrained). Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, covered.
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In a separate pan cook your pasta al dente. This way you can add pasta to each individual bowl and the pasta won’t get soggy, especially for left overs! I used these adorable galletti noodles I found at Target,
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but really any curly noodle would work!

In a separate bowl combine all cheeses together.

Once the soup has finished simmering add in fresh basil and pour into bowls. Add noodles and top with your cheesy yum!!
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Enjoy another great soup on these cold winter nights.

Roll it and Pat it

First birthday cake. The dreaded sugar overload.  After over a year of making sure you are consuming the right foods to nourish your little one and at least 6 mths of making sure you are feeding her the best foods possible, it is time to give her cake?! Ugh. I remember with Liesel how worried I was when her first birthday was drawing near.  This little girl has been eating so wonderfully, does she really need to try junk food? Will there really be a day she tries, gulp, pop??? The idea made me sick.  I knew I couldn’t shelter her forever, but at 12 months I certainly still wanted too!  Then a friend of mine, who is a health food advocate, posted a cake recipe she was going to use for her daughters 1st Birthday cake.  After looking through the ingredients I loved it!! Absolutely zero refined sugar, carob instead of cocoa, raisins, mmm I had found the recipe that would eliminate my 1st birthday cake fears!

Eric, however, was not so keen on the idea.  Surely you are going to make two cakes?? Umm,  nope:) To Eric’s surprise the cake was a hit! He truly liked it, and so did our guests.  We did have ice cream, but even if we had not the cake was excellent on its own!  This past weekend we served it again for MJ’s birthday party, again everyone enjoyed it and I was a happy Momma!!

I wanted to share this delicious recipe with all of you. 

CAROB CAKE
Ingredients:

Makes 8×8 square pan

1/3 c butter
3/4 c maple syrup
1 1/4 c sifted flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c carob
1 TB Cafix- a grain based coffee powder
1 egg
1/2 c yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c raisins

Grease pan. Mix together dry ingredients in small bowl.
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In a mixing bowl cream butter. Add in syrup, egg and vanilla. Mix well.

Gradually add in dry ingredients. Once fully incorporated stir in raisins. Pour mixture into pan and cook in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.

Here is my finished cake
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And with cream cheese frosting
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Moira Jane certainly enjoyed it:)
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A cleaner Cleaner

So, I know I’m late in the game with this whole vinegar cleaner craze.  I had my doubts.   Many of you have been using it to clean your homes for a while now, and all I can say is…you were right! Vinegar is a fabulous cleaner!!  I have been solely using vinegar, water and baking soda to do all of my cleaning for a few weeks now and am loving the results.

If you are like me, you are probably doubting that vinegar really is a disenfectant.  I did some research and here are a few articles that persuaded me (#1 , #2). I have been sick and tired of using chemicals to clean my house for so long!! Even the natural cleaners have a smell that I worry its effects on my girls. When my friend, Erin, first told me about her homemade cleaners I was instantly intrigued. Not only would I be saving money but most importantly I would be keeping my family from breathing chemical infused air!

Using homemade cleaners is ridiculously easy! You are going to kick yourself for not trying it earlier. All you need is distilled vinegar, water and baking soda. With those three ingredients you can clean your floors, windows, counters, toilets, you name it! It is even safe to use on wood floors. Ok I feel like an advertisement. But it is just so great to use, I had to share.

Since I am not the biggest fan of the aroma vinegar gives off I decided to try and soak my vinegar in orange peels. This really helped and makes for a fresh clean scent! Take a mason jar fill it with as many orange peels as you can and pour the vinegar in. Close the lid tight, and leave it for 10 days. image
Once your 10 days are up, simply strain the vinegar out image
and pour your liquid into a spray bottle.
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Here I am dominating our bathroom mirror;)

For toilets, I simply pour about 1/4-1/2c of baking soda on the bowl then drizzle 1/2c of vinegar over top. I usually let it sit for 30 minutes or so then scrub it down. For tougher stains you repeat the process.

I am so glad to be rid of those disgusting commercial cleaners!! I will never go back.

Also, just a quick update on my laundry detergent. I have been using my homemade recipe for four months now and can honestly say this stuff really really works! I am also not even halfway through my stash. Looks like they were right about the 9 mth estimate. I may be able to make it even longer. How amazing is that?!