A Nursery Rhyme Baby Shower

I love throwing a party. Like, love it. I get giddy over flower arrangements. I squeal when I see the vision I have in my head for a theme come to life. My co-hosts typically think I’m nuts. I am – I embrace it.

So my latest soiree was a baby shower with a nursery rhyme theme. I hosted this shower with a few of my colleagues to honor our co-worker who’s expecting a baby girl this fall.

Here’s how the nursery rhyme party went down:

We had all the guests sign a Mother Goose nursery rhyme book as a keepsake for the mommy-to-be.

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We decorated with framed nursery rhyme prints (courtesy of a quick Google image search) with little knick-knacks that went along with each rhyme.

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I arranged small flower arrangements in a mix match of jars and set them at each nursery rhyme scene. nursery-rhyme-shower4nursery-rhyme-shower5nursery-rhyme-shower6

[oversight note – I forgot to set the clock to 1 :/]nursery-rhyme-shower7nursery-rhyme-shower8

For food, we catered to the pregnancy cravings and served mini cheeseburger skewers, BLT pasta salad, bacon wrapped dates, goat cheese dip, shrimp salad and fruit salad. Delicious.

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And here are a couple of the recipes…

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Gluten Free BLT Pasta Salad
[disclaimer – there’s no L, but BT pasta salad just didn’t seem right]

1 lb gluten free pasta (I used corkscrew), cooked according to the package
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
3/4 cup sour cream
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery salt
1/2 tsp pepper
5 green onions, thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced (I used a little more)
1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled (I baked mine on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for 30 mins)

1.) In a small bowl, mix mayo, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, and seasonings.
2.) In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, sauce, green onions, tomatoes and bacon.

Adapted from The Country Cook’s BLT Pasta Salad

fruit-salad

Fruit Salad with Honey, Lime and Mint

2 cartons fresh strawberries, halved or quartered (depending on the size of the berries)
1 pint fresh blue berries
1 lb red grapes, halved
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

1.) In a small bowl, whisk together honey, lime juice and mint.
2.) In a large bowl, add fruit and stir in sauce and coat the fruit well.

Adapted from Epicurious’s Fresh Fruit Salad

And because I’m a firm believer that if you don’t play a game, it wasn’t really a shower, we played a fun rendition of “Baby Mad Lib” to tell the birth story.

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Me and the beautiful mommy-to-be!

Thai Quinoa Salad

Thai Quinoa Salad

Quinoa. We dated a few years ago. I couldn’t commit. We parted ways.

Then I was introduced to the quinoa salad at Zoe’s Kitchen (ahh mazing!), and I realized that perhaps I shouldn’t ditch this little grain just yet. Perhaps I just needed to find some better recipes. Perhaps quinoa is really a keeper. Perhaps.

So I found this recipe scouring the depths of Pinterest. The sauce was reminiscent of one of my fav dishes (Simple Asian Peanut Noodles), and so I felt like it had some real potential. Y’all – this stuff is good.  As Blake described it to Brogan last night when he asked what was for dinner: “Pure deliciousness.” And it is. I hope you enjoy!

Thai Quinoa Salad

1 cup dry quinoa, cooked according to the package and drained afterwards
3 cups of shredded (or sliced very thin) cabbage
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup diced green onion

Sauce:
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
6 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tbsp)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp water

1) Add all the salad ingredients into a large bowl.
2) In a small bowl, mix the sauce ingredients until peanut butter is fully incorporated with the sauce.
3) Pour sauce over salad and toss until well combined.

Adapted from Sweet Peas and ABC’s Rainbow Thai Farro Salad

Mushroom Stroganoff

We’ve been trying something new in the kitchen lately – adding some vegetarian dishes to the dinner rotation. And the craziest part of this menu modification is that it was my husband’s idea [gasp!]. The meat eater of all meat eaters actually suggested that we add some vegetarian meals to the line up (thank you Netflix and the documentary Cowspiracy).  While I love meat, I like to mix it up and so I saw this as an opportunity to try out some new recipes. Yay!

So let me introduce you to Mushroom Stroganoff. This dish is ahh-mazing. I’ve always been a stroganoff fan, but mine had always had beef. I thought it was the beef that contributed most of the flavor, but I was wrong. This dish is full of flavor and hearty as well. My kiddos loved it too – Brogan actually said it was one of his favorite dinners ever! I’ll take it! Hope you enjoy!

Mushroom Stroganoff

Mushroom Stroganoff

1 tbsp butter
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
8 ozs white mushrooms, sliced
8 ozs baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp flour (I used gluten free)
1/4 cup white wine
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (if you want to be 100% vegetarian, use soy sauce)
2 tbsp whole grain mustard (I used Grey Poupon Country Dijon)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 lb pasta (would prob be best with egg noodles, but I used gluten free penne), boiled according to package

1.) In large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter and sauté onion and garlic until translucent (about 5 mins).
2.) Add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Sauté until mushrooms are soft and browned (about 8 mins). Stir in tomato paste and cook a few minutes longer, continually stirring.
3.) Add flour and stir, scrapping the bottom of the pan as you do. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add white wine to deglaze. Continue stirring and scrapping the bottom. Once wine is mostly evaporated, add vegetable broth, Worcestershire (or soy) sauce, mustard and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.
4.) Remove sauce from heat and stir in sour cream. Stir in cooked pasta and serve!

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Adapted from the Cookie Writer’s Mushroom Stroganoff (Vegetarian)

Getting Patriotic!

I took my youngest son out today to “test run” my ideas for my 4th of July mini sessions next weekend, and let’s just say I’m feeling pretty patriotic! This little guy was the perfect model and it was some great one-on-one time. I may be biased, but I think he rocks red white and blue.

Easter Minis!

Yesterday was Easter Mini Session day! After a day-before forecast of 80% chance of rain, the day ended up being perfectly overcast (a photographer’s dream!). With the help of some friends, we came up with this sweet shabby chic theme and the set turned out even better than I had imagined.   I’ve got to thank Trader Joe’s for the perfect tulips, Hobby Lobby for the perfect Easter eggs and God for the perfect weather!

And like the icing on the cake, I got to photograph some of the cutest kiddos ever! Easter Minis were a success! When do I get to do this again??

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Getting back to normal

Dare I say it… but things are getting back to normal: Berkley finally likes people who aren’t named mommy, I get a few hours of “adult” time each evening, and [knock on wood] I’m even getting to sleep through the night again – well, sometimes.

Yep, I’m getting the hang of this mommy-of-three thing. I’m feeling like myself again. A better version of myself, actually. Excuse me while I start reciting clichés, but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s true. I’m proof. In the last year, I’ve had to grow and pick up a few more life skills – how to control less, how to stress less and how to enjoy the little moments more. I’m Type A and so this was hard. Real hard. But I’m trying.

I’ve learned with three kids there’s not a lot that I really have control over. For the planner in me, this is terrifying. But I live in a world where there is 3 times the chance that some part of my “plan” is going to get uprooted. And there are 3 tiny humans with little to no self control who have their own agendas at work. With them there are two outcomes: behind door #1 there’s “I get what I want when I want it how it want it precisely” and behind door #2 is “tell me no and I will go batshitcrazy on you”. What I want is behind door #3 where “the children obey, don’t ask why and don’t throw themselves violently on the floor”. I hear one day we may get there, but honey, we ain’t there yet. So my point – I’ve learned to surrender to the fact I can’t plan for everything and the kids don’t give a crap about my plans anyways.

Stressing less means that when my kids do go batshitcrazy, I don’t care. Kick your legs like a maniac, go on. Throw your sippy cup across the room. I don’t care. Scream your head off in the grocery store – you’re still not getting that candy bar. And I don’t care what people think of my parenting either. See, I used to think there were some parents who had it all figured out. I thought that those “lucky” ones had cracked the code and were raising consistently obedient children that didn’t throw fits or talk back or require bed-sharing for 11 months. It’s a lie. There are no perfect parents and there are no perfect children. The third child has taught me that 50% of this parenting thing is a crap shoot. So am I apathetic? No. But do I stress about the fact that my child just screamed in public that I’m the poopiest mommy ever? Nope. And he still isn’t getting that candy bar.

Looking back, I don’t think I took enough time with my boys just enjoying them. I was wound up too tight. I couldn’t wait for them to start eating solids or sitting up or crawling or walking. I did a lot of time thinking about their next milestone and not enough cherishing their “now”. But with Berkley it’s been different. Perhaps it’s because she’s our last. Perhaps I’m smarter and know that she’s easier now than she will be at three. Whatever the reason, I have just cherished her little moments. And I’ve been being intentional about doing it with my boys now too. I’ve learned time goes by so fast and they’re not little forever.

For me, normal means I can exhale. It means I can enjoy our life. It means I’ve got energy to spare for my marriage and myself.  I’ve only gotten back to “normal” by surrendering, by reflecting on the craziness of the past year+ and by learning from my mistakes and doing better. Yes, my life is loud and chaotic, but there’s also a calm to it.  It’s contentment knowing that our family is complete. And it’s peace in knowing that God made me the mommy of these precious children.

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Simple Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

This dish is so. stinking. good. I’ve been making it for almost a year and am ashamed that it’s taken me this long to write about it. When we learned early last year that my middle son’s allergies would be keeping dairy, egg and gluten off the menu, I started trying more Asian recipes because they were typically conducive to our restrictive diet. This one was by far the best. The base of this recipe is the noodles (without the chicken). I’ve made it in the past topped with roasted shrimp and grilled chicken, but it would also be awesome as a vegetarian meal too. Tonight was my first attempt at this style of chicken and I loved it. Side note: I’m picky about chicken. I like grilled, I like roasted, I like boiled and shred… but I don’t like to cut up raw chicken and cook it because it typically gets too chewy. So I’ve long been perplexed about how the chicken at Asian restaurants is so tender. So I plopped some random phrase into Pinterest about how to get unchewy chicken for Asian recipes and wouldn’t you know there’s a technique: you “velvet” chicken. It’s really a thing. Well I tried it and it worked as advertised – delicious tender chicken pieces that went perfect with these noodles. So here you have it, my current favorite dinner for the fam (which, by the way, they all LOVE!) – hope you enjoy!

Simple Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

Simple Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

1 lb gluten free spaghetti noodles, cooked according to instructions
1/3 cup gluten free soy sauce
1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter – or more to taste (if you have creamy, just add chopped peanuts)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 scallions, sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp sesame seeds

1) While the pasta water is heating, add all ingredients (except pasta) in a small bowl (I used a 2 cup measuring cup). Stir well until ingredients are fully incorporated.
2) Pour over hot pasta. Add chicken (or other protein such as shrimp) – see below. Stir well until pasta is completely coated with the sauce.

“Velvet” Chicken
1 1/3 lbs chicken breast, cut into thin slices
2 tbsp canola oil (divided)
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 large egg white
1/4 tsp salt

1)  Whisk in 1 tbsp oil, cornstarch, vinegar, egg white and salt in a medium bowl. Add chicken and coat well. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes.
2) Place 1 to 2 inches of water in a sauté pan and heat on high to boil. Once rapidly boiling, place the chicken pieces one at a time. Once the pan returns to boil, boil the chicken for 1 more minute. Remove with a slotted spoon. Set aside and cover to keep warm.

This recipe makes enough for my family of 5 with a little leftover. We love edamame with this dish too!

Velvet chicken

Velvet Chicken

Soy Peanut Sauce

Soy Peanut Sauce

Simple Asian Peanut Noodles with Chicken

Adapted from The Comfort of Cooking’s SIMPLE ASIAN SOY-PEANUT NOODLES and How to Velvet Chicken