Thursday Thoughts #5

Thursday ThoughtsToday my perfect baby boy is one week old!

As I’ve posted a Thursday Thoughts about my pre-term labor scare, I thought it’d only be fair to share my true labor story.

On July third I was scheduled for inducement. That’s right, after multiple pre-term labor scares and one month on bedrest my little one was 5 days late! We joke that he follows “Stuart time” – my husband’s definition of “a couple minutes” is at least 15 and “soon” could mean anywhere from 10-60+ minutes.

I was so nervous about having a holiday baby. Because I tend to obsess over holiday parties and themes I knew that I would struggle with having to share a birthday and holiday. Especially one of my favorite holidays! With my arrival time at the hospital of 4am I had 20 hours. (Of course, I knew that whatever day I finally became a mom wouldn’t matter. It’s definitely my new favorite day of the year!)

Here is the story of how Wesley entered the world:

At 3:15am I was eating a homemade waffle. And I had a cinnamon donut from Dunkin in the car on the way. At 4:00 we were checking in to the hospital. I absolutely loved my nursing staff and an IV was placed effortlessly. Hundreds of forms were signed and my food allergies recorded.

Around 5:30am they started the Pitocin drip at a rate of 2 miliunits/minute. After an hour that rate was increased to 4 and at 7:30 a resident came in to break my water. It was now at this point when I could feel the contractions.

I allowed the majority of my fluids to leak before changing tactics. I left the bed and bounced on the birthing ball. My mom rubbed my back through almost every contraction and I couldn’t be more grateful. As I was most definitely experiencing back labor, her efforts did not go unnoticed.

My biggest desire for “D-day” was to labor in water. In discussing this wish with my doctor earlier in the pregnancy I was informed that I could labor in the tub, but that I couldn’t deliver there. After a quick cervical check, my nurse informed me that if I wanted an epidural now would probably be the time. (I declined.) Additionally, if I wanted to get in the tub I’d have to do it now and have only 30 minutes before being asked to get out. This moment might be my favorite of the labor process – I was elated at my progress and knew that my chances of needing a c-section were slim-to-none.

After the bath my Pitocin drip was decreased from 6 back to 4. My contractions were back to back and the hospital team didn’t want to “over heat” my uterus! I returned to the birthing ball and also tried a few different positions in bed. The Pitocin was yet again reduced to 2 miliunits/minute before being cut off entirely.

I went quickly from 8 to 10 centimeters dilated and it was time to push at 1:00pm. The Pitocin drip was restarted to provide my contractions that extra oomph to help me push.

Pushing was such a frustrating and rewarding experience. It took at least 30-40 minutes for me to learn the technique. But two hours later, at 3:07pm it was all worth it.

The doctors lifted my baby up towards my husband and had him discover and declare, “It’s a boy!” My son was then placed skin-to-skin on my chest and Stuart cut the umbilical cord. I had to ask for my glasses back just so I could see this tiny person we created! As elated and proud as I was, I could only imagine what that moment was like for the newest dad!

Induced, Natural Delivery

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

Today is my beautiful sister-in-law’s birthday. Audrey is another member of the Auburn family. She is finishing up her last year in Hotel & Restaurant Management. I have to admit, I am jealous of her path. She absolutely loves her classes and her job (working at the Auburn University & Dixon Conference Center. With her experience working the both hotel & restaurant sides of the conference center, the whole world is open to her following her graduation. Literally. She’s expressed dreams of running a hotel in Vegas, of working on a cruise ship, or even moving overseas. And here’s for my big head-in-the-clouds dream: Someday she’ll open up her own hotel and I’ll be the chef in her restaurant. 😉

AudreyWedding Photography by Cher Hanna

When I asked Audrey what recipe she’d like featured on Sew You Think You Can Cook for her birthday she responded with “Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole.” There wasn’t any hesitation, there wasn’t any doubt. This dish is her favorite – and I can see why! The creamy chicken casserole uses few ingredients, is easy to assemble, is full of flavor, and definitely qualifies as comfort food. We served it with broccoli and crescent rolls to sop up the extra sauce.

This recipe comes from one of my mother-in-law’s friends and looks to be an adaptation of a Paula Deen recipe. I made a few tweaks – I halved the recipe and it fed 3 perfectly. (To serve 4 I’d add another chicken breast but keep the sauce quantities the same.) The recipe I have calls for cooked, shredded chicken. But we decided instead to cut chicken breasts into tenders, brown, and then layer into the casserole dish. If you opt to use shredded chicken I highly suggest serving this casserole over rice. We liked the adjustment of chicken tenders because it gave the illusion of a lighter meal, providing the opportunity to have as much or as little of the sauce as desired.

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 2 large chicken breasts, cut into tenders
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 C sour cream
  • 1 can (10 oz) cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 – 1 sleeve Ritz crackers
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Season chicken with S+P. In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat brown chicken in olive oil.
  3. Place chicken in a lightly greased 7×11″ casserole dish.
  4. Combine sour cream and chicken soup. Pour over chicken.
  5. Place crackers in a plastic bag to crush into crumbs. Add the poppy seeds and combine. Top casserole. Drizzle with melted butter.
  6. Bake 35 minutes, until bubbly.

Note: This recipe feeds 3. To feed four add another half or whole chicken breast but keep the remaining ingredients as indicated.

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

Greek Eagle, a T-shirt quilt

Today my Mom’s little Valentine, my brother, turns 24! As it’s the 12th it’s like his double golden birthday!

Louie and I are 18 months apart and have always gotten along with each other. Sure, there was a stretch there when I was 2-3 yrs old and very bossy. We have home videos of me stealing all the bath toys telling him, “These are mine.”, of me pushing him off a lawn toy so I could ride it, and my absolute favorite – replacing his Looney Toons umbrella with a strap for my girly, pink strapless one. But he never seemed to mind, he always wanted to do what I did.

When Harry Pottercame out Mom would read us a chapter on the couch before bed each night. When we were old enough to read the series on our own, I’d actually read aloud to Louie. I have memories of reading with him after school and reading on vacations.

At middle school and high school age, on nights when one of us couldn’t sleep we’d sneak into each other’s rooms and play board games – Chinese Checkers, Sequenceor Harry Potter Mystery At Hogwarts. (I know, watch out, we were bad kids!)

Louie even followed me to Auburn to pursue his degree! He now has a Bachelor of Sciences in Business Administration and a Masters of Accountancy. My senior year, his sophomore, we actually lived together. My only regret is that we’d lived together sooner. It was absolutely my favorite living situation. We both had busy schedules and different circles of friends, so were never on top of each other, but were still able to enjoy childhood nights playing Monopoly Dealand watching movies. We got along perfectly, and he loves to vacuum!

I am one proud big sister of the hardworking man he’s become.

Image

For this blog post honoring my brother I present to you his t-shirt quilt! This weekend it will be sent to the quilter’s and I hope to get it back in April or May. Again, this quilt followed the method by Andrea T. Funk.

Quilt from College T-Shirts

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. 

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Today is my husband’s birthday! Some of his coworker’s know I’m a food (mostly) blogger and are always complaining that Stuart doesn’t bring in enough leftovers at lunch for everyone. So today I’m sending him to work with cupcakes!

I wanted to make them from scratch instead of using a box. I was trying to decide what flavor profile to do and decided to go with a play on his favorite candy bar: the Almond Joy. The frosting recipe called for coconut extract, but because I have a coconut allergy I didn’t want to buy a bottle to use 1/4 tsp. I looked up how to make my own, but doing so requires a fresh coconut. I decided to substitute vanilla extract, and trust that the coconut milk used to make the frosting will keep the coconut flavor alive. They’re additionally topped with shredded coconut (and an almond).

If you notice, the title of this blog post is Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting, not Coconut. That’s because I typed up the post before I made the frosting. The frosting did not turn out well. The texture was all off – it wasn’t smooth and almost looked like glitter.

So I switched it up and decided to go with peanut butter frosting. (It’s a good thing I got the new glass KitchenAid bowl for Christmas so I didn’t have to do dishes in between frostings, thanks parents!) I asked, “Can I just pretend Reese’s are your favorite candy?” “Yes, I like Reese’s!” Also, instead of pretending to be perfect, you get to know my Plan B secret! I followed the frosting recipe I used on my Caramel Filled Chocolate Avocado Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Caramel Frosting, omitting the caramel.

Chocolate Cupcakes Peanut Butter Frosting

Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Peanut Butter Frosting

Ingredients for cupcake:

  • 2/3 C cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 C butter, melted
  • 1/3 C vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 C sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 1 3/4 C flour

Ingredients for frosting:

  • 1 C salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 C canned coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • 1/8 C + 1 tsp milk
  • 1/4 C peanut butter

Steps:

  1. Boil 1 C of water in the microwave. Mix together cocoa powder and baking soda. Whisk in the boiling water and whisk until the mixture no longer bubbles and is smooth. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat melted butter, oil, vanilla, sugar, and salt with a hand mixer. Add in the two eggs and beat until combined. Repeat with the egg yolks. Add the cocoa mixture and heavy cream. Once combined add in the flour in batches, mixing after each addition.
  3. Pour cupcake batter into 2 dozen cupcake tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes clean when inserted. Let cool.
  4. Make the frosting: Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and coconut milk until fluffy. Mix in the extract. Slowly add in the powdered sugar until a frosting is made! In a stand mixer beat together sugar, butter, and milk. When combined fully add in the peanut butter.
  5. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting. Top with shredded coconut and an almond, if desired.

*The cupcake recipe is adapted from Jaclyn at http://www.cookingclassy.com/2013/02/chocolate-cupcakes-with-coconut-frosting-almonds-almond-joy-cupcakes/*

Chocolate Cupcakes Peanut Butter Frosting

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Last week we were invited to a friend’s surprise birthday party. I knew I was going to bring something edible to the table, but had to decide on what that was going to be. I thought about doing my Corn and Black-Eyed Pea Dip but as it’s fall decided to go with something heartier.

I decided to do some recon on the birthday girl’s Pinterest boards and saw that she had posted a Buffalo Chicken Dip. I stopped searching there and decided on this recipe.

Every Christmas Eve my brother’s fiance’s family has a party. My future sister-in-law makes this dip every year and it’s a crowd favorite. Two years ago for Christmas she gave me a fantastic cooking gift basket filled with Giada DeLaurentiis products as well as a recipe box, including her Buffalo Chicken Dip.

Unfortunately this food post does not have a photograph to accompany it as I forgot to snap a picture before the party. We were running late and it completely slipped my mind. Next time I make it I’ll add it to this post.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Ingredients:

  • Approx 3 lb chicken, cooked and shredded (Kelli boils hers, I baked mine)
  • 12 oz hot sauce (Kelli uses Crystal and so did I)
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 16 oz blue cheese dressing (I used Ranch)
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine cream cheese and dressing. Stir until the mixture is smooth and cream cheese is melted.
  3. In a large bowl combine cooked chicken, hot sauce, and the cream cheese mixture. Pour into a casserole dish.
  4. Cover the casserole with the shredded cheese.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes until the mixture is bubbly and cheese is golden.

Busy Day Chocolate Cake

Today would have been my grandmother’s 81st birthday. In honor of her I made a cake from her recipe box – Busy Day Chocolate Cake. My brother always requested this cake for his birthday.

Busy Day Chocolate Cake, as the name suggests, is a chocolate cake that can be made on a busy day. It only takes 5 minutes to make the batter and 30 minutes in the oven. The longest process is letting the cake cool before frosting it.

Busia must’ve been helping me recreate her recipe because for the first time ever my cake came out of the pan cleanly and easily.

Busy Day Chocolate Cake

Busy Day Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 1/3 C flour
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 C vegetable shortening
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 1 egg

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt chocolate: microwave 30 seconds, stir, microwave another 30 seconds or until melted.
  3. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Cut in vegetable shortening, and mix in buttermilk and egg. (I literally used a knife to mix in the shortening.) Add melted chocolate until combined.
  5. Pour batter into a greased and floured 9″ round cake pan.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes, until a knife/toothpick slides through cleanly.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp salted butter
  • 4 tbsp cream cheese
  • 3 C powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • milk, if needed

Steps:

  1. In a stand mixer, cream together butter and cream cheese.
  2. Add 1 C powdered sugar. Mix until combined. Add in 1/2 tsp vanilla. Mix until combined. Repeat until all ingredients are used.
  3. If needed, add a little bit of milk and/or more sugar.
  4. Frost cake and enjoy!

Busy Day Chocolate Cake

Hawaii: The Big Island: Ka’u

I thought it would be fun to check out the three different colored sands on the Big Island – black, white, and green. South Point, in the district of Ka’u, is the home to one of only four green sand beaches in the world. I wish I could tell you that the olivine sand is stunning, but regrettingly I cannot.

To get to the green sand beach you must drive ten miles down South Point Road. At this point you can continue to go straight a couple hundred yards and stand in the southern most point of the United States or you can go left for a mile to park for the green sands beach Papakolea.

Once you park your vehicle it’s a 2.5 mile hike to hit the green sands. If you decide to take this trek, don’t do it in flip flops, and have water with you. Even though we had a beach day planned, we were still prepared with hiking boots in the car. The walk is windy but beautiful. The color of the water is unrealistically turquoise and the power of the waves stunning. So the trip wasn’t a complete loss. Note: These photographs have not been edited or changed.

Turquoise Waters

Our day to the southern tip of Hawaii was the day of my birthday. And I’m going to admit off the bat that I was a big birthday baby. I had really wanted to sit by the hotel pool and have a couple daiquiris, but at the same time I didn’t want to waste a day either! So we decided that we’d come back to Kailua-Kona before dark; which actually put me back into my rush rush rush mentality. But on the way to the car from breakfast we found sea turtles Seth and Sandy! (previous post) An hour and a half later we finally hit the road. 

South Point

About a mile into the walk to the green sand beach I’d called it quits. There was another beach I’d wanted to see that was known for sea turtle spottings and still wanted to get back before sunset. The sand we’d been trekking through was a greenish-yellow, if that counts?

At Punalu’u I was relieved to see a turtle feeding in the rocks and laying on the beach and another laying on the beach. This sand was the blackest of the previous two black sand beaches we’d seen on the trip. It was what Stuart pictured in his mind. 

Punalu'u Turtles

PhotoGrid_1378952743416After the beach and after coming to terms with missing sunset in Kailua-Kona, we decided to stop at the Southernmost restaurant in the US, Hana Hou, in Na’alehu. It was here that we tried the Hawaiian fast food Loco Moco. Traditionally Loco Moco is white rice, brown gravy, hamburger patty, two over easy eggs. There are variations that change out the meat choice. Our waitress said that their best was with shredded pork. Stuart and I shared a large plate of it, and still couldn’t finish it – serving sizes in Hawaii are huge! I wasn’t completely convinced by the ingredient list, and it’s not the most beautiful of dishes, but let me tell you – it’s surprisingly delicious, and comforting.

The day may not have gone as I’d planned, but a “bad” day in Hawaii is never a bad day. And a day seeing sea turtles is a good day. The sea turtle, or honu, is a symbol of longevity and is the guardian of family.

Honu

Key Lime Pie

As I’ve gotten “older” my sweet tooth has gotten smaller. When a craving hits, it’s usually for something salty – like popcorn. But there is one dessert that I can never say no to. And because today is my 25th birthday, I am going to indulge.

Key Lime Pie is my absolute favorite dessert, and Publix (sorry to anyone not in the South!) makes the best one! …. Or so I thought. I am very proud to declare that I now make the best Key Lime Pie. I’m particularly excited for this because I now know that I can have perfect key lime pie even when we leave the land of Publix.

A couple years ago I made a key lime pie for my brother’s fiancé’s birthday as it’s also one of her favorites. (Her favorite is actually pumpkin pie but my brother hates it, and her birthday is in July anyway.) I had actually squeezed the juice out of actual key limes! That pie was unbelievably tart. I don’t even recall which recipe I used.

This time I found Nellie & Joe Key West Lime Juice and happily used that (no funky ingredients involved). I would love to say that this was only my second attempt at key lime pie. But that’d be a lie. I made two pies for my birthday. The first was a complete disaster. My can of sweetened condensed milk had expired. And I didn’t notice it until I was emptying the contents into the egg yolk mixture. I immediately went to the internet and established that I should still be okay to use it. 

IMG_3072

So I carried on. Key lime pie is not naturally green (but if you want it to be by all means add a drop or two of food

coloring), but it’s definitely not supposed to be marigold. 

It’s not supposed to smell overpoweringly like sweetened condensed milk either. I did still taste it – the texture was a little off and it was still just a little too sour. So I went back to the store and back to square one. 

That failed attempt was actually a blessing in disguise because I found the perfect, better-than-Publix recipe! Third time’s the charm. 😉

Key Lime Pie

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white, beaten until frothy
  • 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • zest 1 lime
  • 1/2 C key lime juice
  • 9 in graham cracker pie crust
  • 1/2 C heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp powdered sugar

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Using a hand mixer, beat egg yolks with lime zest and sweetened condensed milk. Add in lime juice. Add the egg white.
  3. Pour pie filling into pie crust. Bake 15 minutes. Allow pie to cool to room temperature for at least an hour before covering and putting in the fridge.
  4. Using a hand mixer, make the whipped cream. Beat the heavy cream until it starts to get thick, then add in the vanilla and sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Top pie with whipped cream right before serving. Note: I don’t like my whipped cream to be too sweet, so feel free to add more sugar/vanilla to taste.

*This recipe is adapted from The Big Cheese at http://www.food.com/recipe/traditional-key-lime-pie-109918*
Key Lime Pie 1

Key Lime Pie 2