Friday, December 31, 2010

Cooking Weekend night #1

I've been looking forward to having four days in a row at home for a very long time! Wednesday afternoon after leaving work I went to the grocery store and stocked up on all the ingredients to make a few things. I pored over my homemade cookbook of all the scraps of recipes I've always wanted to make and came up with this list:

Turkey Chili
Artichoke, Spinach and Feta Stuffed Shells
Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Buffalo Sauce
Roasted Root Vegetables
Cinnamon Jelly Thumbprint Cookies
Chocolate Crunch No-Bake Cookies

Yesterday I tackled the chili. It's a recipe I've used many times (and it won first runner up in the chili cook-off last year). I now have a few containers in the freezer for lunch and even included corn bread muffins! I didn't take a picture but here's the original recipe...

Turkey Chili
Serves 6

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced
2 green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced
1/5 lb ground turkey breast
2 Tbsp flour
3 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp powdered cocoa
1 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
2 Tbsp strong brewed coffee
2 14-oz cans plum tomatoes, crushed
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups cooked black beans

1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or deep skillet. Add the onion, garlic, red and green pepper; saute, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the ground turkey and saute for 5 minutes, stirring constantly and breaking up any lumps with the spoon.

2. Stir in the flour, chili powder, cumin and cocoa. Stir over low heat, stirring frequently for 3 minutes to cook the spices. Add the remaining ingredients except the black beans and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 40 to 45 minutes, until thick and the turkey is tender. Add the black beans and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

That's the recipe as written. I haven't been able to find that exact description of tomatoes so I just use the petite diced can of regular tomatoes. Maybe they are plum and they just don't say? I also add an additional red or yellow pepper as well as a jalapeno or two. And most importantly my chili is beanless. No beans for me! There are definitely two sides to the beans in chili debate and I am most definitely squarely on the no beans side. To each their own. I also will add beef that's been cooked to shreds, which helps give the flavor a bit more body. The last secret ingredient is 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter. Smooths it out just enough.

Tonight I'm making the shells and maybe some cookies. Or maybe I'll hang out on the couch and watch the ball drop in Times Square. Either way it's a pretty low key New Year's Eve around these parts.

Happy New Year to you!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Baby's room thoughts

Update June 2011, the room is done! See how it turned out...


I'm realizing more and more how much I would like to do to prepare my house for a child. Is it fine if I just paint and decorate the baby's room? Probably. But, I'd really like to have a better place for toys and crafts and storage. Plus there is a whole room of furniture in the room right now. So I've decided to use the money I had set aside to landscape the front of the house to finish the basement instead. That will add much needed storage and a great place to house toys that won't have to be put away so you can walk from the living room to the bedroom. Hopefully those front stairs will last until I have enough money to finish up outside!

Since I need some help from a contractor and Home Depot for the basement, I've turned my daydreaming to decorating the nursery. It's so hard to imagine what she will like. Is she a pink and ruffles kid? An undersea adventurer? Enchanted garden? So much to choose from! Also, since she will be almost two years old when she comes home, will she still need a crib or are we already on to the toddler bed? I'd hate to spend money on a crib that only gets used for a month or so but don't want to have the wrong bed when she gets here. Anyone have advice on that?

I know I'll be doing some kind of painting on the walls. I did my first mural at my good friend Molly's house for her twins Jack and Chase. (top banner had their birthdate, which at the time hadn't happened yet)
Pretty sure I don't want to go with the airplane theme but I found a few pictures that might be close to what I'm thinking.

I love the idea of polka dots...
Or maybe it's a garden theme...
I would love love love to be able to afford this and also have room for it. How fun is that!?
Still so much to do before the painting starts but it sure is fun to get ideas...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's a girl!

It has happened! I have a referral for a beautiful baby girl! And since I have officially told everyone who would be upset if they read it here first (and apologies to anyone I forgot) I can announce that I'm on to the next phase of waiting.

I received a call late on a Friday afternoon, snow furiously falling outside and me packing up to leave work. My office is very quiet and I didn't want my coworkers to be the first to know so I ran to the conference room to talk and then ran back to my computer to look at the photos and then back and forth. sheesh. My daughter, and yet not my daughter yet. Joy, excitement, panic, anxiety, it's all there. She's so beautiful! When I saw that her recorded birthdate matches my mother's birthday I knew it was her. She's already 14 months old, I can't wait to meet her!

So now it's back to waiting. Waiting to hear when the first court date will be (March, April-ish?) and then again when the embassy date will be (July-August-ish?). Still so far away. In the meantime, I'm trying to be positive in the face of the "helpful" opinions and advice. It's kind of like when you're ready to jump out of the airplane and everyone wants to help you through it.

You know how dangerous this is?
You know the parachute might not open?
You know the plane might crash?
You know that you might just pull the wrong cord and the parachute will come off?

You know kids are expensive? and need a lot of love? and need constant attention? and you won't know what to do? and you won't get any sleep for the rest of your life? and...and...and... You need to do this and this and this or you won't be ready.

Yes. I know these things. I know that I won't be fully prepared. As is any new mother, whether she carries her baby in her womb or in a picture in her wallet. And while I know that everyone means well, I don't need the doom and gloom of how hard it's going to be. I'm thinking enough of that in my head. And I will be as ready as I possibly can be, with or without the "help". So forgive me if I don't write down everything I'm told. I have to filter or the anxiety might just break me.

Countdown begins. So many firsts to come in the new year. Yippee for early Christmas presents!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Quite possibly I'm the last blogger from Minnesota to post about the monster snowstorm. Maybe there are others that have yet to dig out from the giant snow drifts. In any case it is definitely worth mentioning. Holy crap it was a lot of snow!

I feel slightly bad that I missed most of it. Friday night, before it started, I headed to St Cloud for the USAG Level 5 and 6 State Meet. I volunteered to drive a few judges up and we were all told that we had to stay up there on Friday night. Report time was 7:30am and it was clear earlier in the week that if you didn't go up early, you'd be stuck. From the sounds of it, only a few kids out of a few hundred competing didn't make the trip. Amazing. Weather wasn't too bad up there but the reports from home sounded like the end of the world! Then we saw the video of the Metrodome collapsing and we all wondered what we would return home to. Well here's the first thing we encountered...
My carpool buddies picked the wrong place to stash their cars! Who knew? There are actually two cars there, one parked in front of the one you can see. Obviously, we found them alternate transportation home.

Then I got home and saw my fabulous cousin and neighbors had taken care of the snowblowing and shoveling. Thank you thank you thank you! All that was left was to make a path for Riley to go outside.
What it looked like when I got home late Sunday night...
 A small path shoveled...
Riley doesn't venture too far now!
 Final tally about 19". Whew.
I feel very fortunate to live on a street that gets plowed early. We can generally shovel the driveway and the snowplow drift at the same time. With this snow, they plow more than once. This morning was another three foot drift of hard packed snow at the end of the driveway. I would have taken a picture but I was trying to get out for an early meeting. Turns out, the traffic is still insane! Last night's 7 mile commute home took over an hour (I chose routes poorly). This morning's 9 mile drive took 40 minutes. At least it's getting better. (didn't make the meeting though, oh well!)

Tomorrow is the annual shopping excursion to the Mall of America for me and my mom. This year cousin Lexi will join us. I hope she's up for it! :-) We always have a good time and I treasure having the time to spend with my mom. Oh and we get to shop too! Next round of snow doesn't start until tomorrow night. Only another 2-3 inches predicted. Not sure where we'll put any more snow!

Looking forward to springtime already...