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November 28, 2011 / makingitmamastyle

Turkey Day Tales

I barely managed to drag my booty out of bed this morning, wishing instead I could snuggle into the warm cocoon of blankets all. day. long.  But alas, the very loud, very insistent holler of “MORE!!!  MORE THIS!!!” from my one year old shook me from my sheets to fetch the poor boy a drink. It had been a whole 9 hours since his thirst was last quenched, after all. He was obviously extremely parched.

Back to the real world, I suppose, but not before reliving the deliciousness that was Thanksgiving:

First up, we had a feast at Livy’s school, complete with a short Thanksgiving program:

A quick prayer to start things off. Hmmmm.. one of these kids is not like the others….

Steph helped me prep the Thanksgiving dinner decorations and we put together a pretty good show, if I do say so myself! We used mason jars as glasses, turkey coloring pages were taped on the kids’ table, and leaves strung with clear thread floated down from the light fixture overhead.

 We had a great time catching up before lunch was served (by the way, it’s a BOY for Adam and Jen!).

Then, like vultures swooping down for a carnivorous bite, everyone crowded in on me in the kitchen, waiting with baited breath for dinner to be served. It’s like they were hungry or something. Creepy.

I took my warning to get it in gear and got food on the table in a jiffy.

 We had a really fun time, the food was all delicious and we even saved a little room for dessert. Ok, really we didn’t save any room at all, but we ate dessert none the less.

I just love my family. I hope your Thanksgiving was as wonderful as ours and maybe even included a choke hold or two of love!

So many things to catch up on here in blog land. Watch for these posts in the coming days:

  • Homemade Dishwasher Detergent That Works!
  • The Elf on the Shelf. Has Yours Arrived?
  • 30 Minutes to Your Homemade Advent Calendar
  • “I Want THAT!” (How to Combat the Christmas Crazies.)
November 21, 2011 / makingitmamastyle

No Words for Nashville

November 21, 2011 / makingitmamastyle

Freestyle Spinach Manicotti

Do you ever freestyle in the kitchen?

Surely I’m not the only one who sees an empty skillet as a canvas for culinary creativity.

I like to think I can hang with the best of them when it comes to sizzlin’ up a stark skillet with an original dish not fully realized until completion.

There are pinches of this and dashes of that, all whisked together into a marriage of sensational flavors to satisfy even the hungriest belly.

If there’s one thing I hope to accomplish with my posts, it’s to share my love for cooking as an art form. Is that a little too intense and emotional? Well, ….yes, probably, but in all seriousness, cooking truly is a form of art.

Don’t be afraid to veer from a recipe. Try whatever flavor combinations appeal to you, use what you already have on hand, experiment with an new ingredient. It’s your kitchen! (And heck, if something turns out terribly, there’s always peanut butter and jelly!) 

To me, cooking becomes infinitely more enjoyable when the freeform of the tasting spoon replaces the command of the measuring cup.  Use those recipe cards as guides, follow your taste buds, and have fun enjoying the delicious dishes you create.

Don’t be too surprised when your children start licking their plates and requiring multiple baths in a day.

Yep, your meals are gonna be that good.

Spinach and Mushroom Manicotti

  • 1 box Manicotti noodles
  • 1 egg
  • 15 oz container fat free Ricotta cheese
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 6oz frozen spinach, thawed and strained
  • Jar of basil marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Boil the noodles for 6 minutes. Saute the mushrooms and garlic for a few minutes, add the spinach, cook another minute or two. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, stir together the Ricotta, egg and basil. Combine with the spinach/mushroom mixture. Spread 1/3 cup of sauce onto the bottom of a sprayed 9×13 dish.  Using a ziploc bag snipped at one corner, pipe the mixture into the noodles and place them in the dish. Cover noodles with remaining sauce and sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350, covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes more.

This can be prepared in advance and baked just before serving.

November 19, 2011 / makingitmamastyle

Crock Pot Applesauce Plus a Nashville Preview

Hello from Nashville!

First things first, I plan to camp out right here all day.

We’re at a cool restaurant/bar in downtown Nashville (by the way, this town never sleeps!) with the plan of watching college football all day.  Normally I’d be totally underwhelmed about this, but we have our own cozy little room complete with recliners, big screens, free wi-fi and maybe a Bloody Mary or two.  (Yours truly is sticking to Diet Coke, of course.)

Who knows what Steph is doing in that pic? She used to be a flag girl, so she gets really excited for college football on TV.  ;)

To my extreme delight, I’m camping out in a puffy recliner with my laptop in my lap, blogging, pinning, stalking facebooking and napping.

We’re pretty wild and crazy!

Because we are so adventurous, I thought I’d share a little excitement with you, as well. This crock pot applesauce will rock your socks off! It is so easy. It’s magical, actually. The apples just turn into applesauce all on their own.

 Start with a variety of apples- you need 8 total. I used 2 each of Gala, Golden Delicious, McIntosh, and Granny Smith. Peel, core and slice them.

Throw them in a large crock pot with 1/2 tsp apple pie spice, one cinnamon stick, one strip of lemon rind (use your veggie grater– mine didn’t peel that smoothly, so I got 3 short strips), the juice of one lemon, and 4 tsp brown sugar.

Cook it on low for 6 hours, giving it a stir occasionally if you are home.

I’ve never had warm applesauce before, but this is the absolute coziest thing I’ve ever tasted. It will be on our Thanksgiving table for sure!! Ugh, I can’t get over it. It makes about 3 cups, which would be 12 1/4 cup servings.  I don’t know about you, but I could eat a cup all by myself, so plan accordingly for your family.  I’ll probably make two batches for Turkey Day.  If you have leftovers, this would freeze well.

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November 18, 2011 / makingitmamastyle

Part II: The First Five Years

Five years: a mere drop in the bucket, yet packed with a lifetime of memories.

Having married at the tender age of 21 (don’t get any ideas, Livy), Andrew and I have not been without our ups and downs during our young first years. (Read Part I: I Thought I Loved You Then)

Living in Springfield at the time, Andrew began his teaching career while I worked toward finishing college. Living our day-to-day with hardly a care in the world, our lives changed upon realizing I was pregnant with our first baby. Excited, scared and nervous as we were to be parents, words cannot express the pain of the silent sorrow endured when our sweet baby didn’t survive gestation.

Stumbling along the path of healing, we became pregnant again not long after the first. Unable to keep down even a sip of water, I lost weight in the pregnancy until week 20, when I finally tipped the scale one pound to the positive and found out we were having a girl. 

Around the time I was able to function again without the round-the-clock sickness, we made the decision that Andrew would leave teaching and start a soccer franchise in Springfield.

Andrew plugged away at his franchise, soon finding success at great speed. His quick progress landed him an offer we couldn’t refuse and three days after Livy was born, we packed our few belongings and moved “home,” to KC.

Thrown into a world I wasn’t prepared for and without the support of friends in the same life-stage, I’m sorry to say those first few months after Liv’s birth were nothing short of terrible.  Postpartum depression reared its ugly head as I spent my days feeling sad, lost, confused, and worthless.

Andrew stayed by my side and pushed me into opportunities I would have never stepped near on my own. His pushing eventually pulled me out of my hole and life became brighter, happier and more hopeful once again.

Life began moving too fast as Livy grew from newborn to toddler in the blink of an eye.

In August of 2009, we bought our first house, complete with a money-pit pool that Andrew loves so dearly and I lose sleep over every night.

Around Livy’s 2nd birthday, we announced our big news:

and welcomed Ryan Bryce into the world in September, 2010

Life with two kids has added so much love, joy, loudness and messiness to our family and we love every minute of it.  There are sleepless nights, worrisome fevers, ruined walls and lost remotes, but there are also crazy dance parties, bedtime prayers, slobbery kisses, and endless giggles.

Ryan’s first year has proven to be indescribably ornerier than Livy’s:

But none-the-less, they both make our lives complete in the most fulfilling of ways.

and so, I eagerly await the next five years with anticipation and excitement, but constantly remind myself to enjoy each day and the experiences it brings. All too soon, the constant showering of  love tokens such as this will be distant memories of a time long ago:

November 18, 2011 / makingitmamastyle

I Thought I Loved You Then…

Part I: The day we said, “I do.”

November 18, 2006

The most perfect of days to mark the first of forever.

The perfect lyrics to describe the journey we were about to  begin:

When the rain’s blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I would offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
So no doubt in my mind where you belong

I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawling down the avenue
There ain’t nothing that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging on a rolling sea
And down the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
But you ain’t seen nothin’ like me yet

There ain’t nothin’ that I wouldn’t do
Go to the ends of the earth for you
Make you happy, make your dreams come true
To make you feel my love

 Happy anniversary, Andrew!  I love you more than words can say!

(Stay tuned for Part II: The First Five Years Monday!!)

November 17, 2011 / makingitmamastyle

How to Cook a Turkey

Does this creep you out?

Surely not as much as this:

Truth is, there’s no pretty way to prepare a turkey, nor are there pretty photos to take of it.

But, I assure you, cooking a turkey is easy and you can do it!  Are you the turkey tackler this year?  If so, read on!  I’ve got you covered.

First of all, go buy your turkey now! Those suckers come frozen and take days to thaw in the fridge.  At HyVee, I hit the “buy a ham, get a turkey free” sale and the biggest turkey in the bin this year was 13 pounds. If you’re gonna cook a turkey, cook the biggest. You’ll have leftovers to freeze for all kinds of future dinners!

Now, ahem, put your apron on (preferably over the brightest pink sweat shirt you can find). This is a dirty job.  (Oh, and don’t forget to fix your hair when you’ll be posting photos for the world to see.)

Follow the directions on your bird as far as cleaning, but basically you gotta pull out the nasty stuff inside first. There WILL be a bag of nastiness in there. If you don’t find it on one end, search in the other.  I’m sorry, there’s just no happy way to describe the process.  Take it out and throw it away! 

Do not cook with it.  Don’t.  If you do, I’ll probably de-friend you.  Gross.

Ok, rinse and dry your bird and put it in a huge roaster.  I don’t own a real one, so I use a disposable one that I set on a baking sheet for support when moving.

Now it’s time for the real fun! Heat your oven to 325 degrees.

Mix the following in a small bowl:

  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 2 TBSP garlic powder
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Ok, now, see that picture above? That’s what you’re gonna do. Slide your hands between the skin and the meat to loosen the space there. Do it. Work your hand all the way through and around the legs. Stop thinking about it, just do it. Here’s the visual again:

Now, pour your bowl of seasoning under the skin and rub it all around with your hand, once again. Get it all over that meat. This process keeps the flavor on your meat, not the skin. You don’t really want to eat the skin…  gives me the heeby jeebies just thinking about that.

Oh my gosh, these pictures are so gross.  The things I do for you.

If you have extra seasoning, rub it on top of the bird.

Pour 2 cups of water into the bottom of your pan and cover it tightly with foil. Be sure any overlapping areas are covered with an addition piece to keep things tight. You don’t want a dry bird!

Bake for about 3 1/2 hours, or until the thickest part of the thigh reads 180 degrees on a meat thermometer.  The legs will be very easy to pull around when the meat is cooked– you might even be able to work them right off the body without a knife. Start checking the turkey around 2 hours, especially if it’s around 12 pounds or so.

Let the turkey stand 30 minutes before going crazy cave-man on it:

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