Friday, January 17, 2014

My Holiday Cooking: Shrimp Soup & Broccoli Salad

Hey, Blogging friends!

I know that my blog has been focused lately on the arrival of our sweet, awesome, wonderful, fantastic, adorable, precious baby boy, so I wanted to be sure to add a new post that focuses back on another love of my life: cooking! While my holiday cooking this year was not as intense as last (due to previously mentioned baby), I was able to whip up a couple of my favorite dishes for some family get togethers, and I wanted to be sure to share them with you! If you follow the links, you will be taken to my step by step Snapguides of how to make these delicious dishes.

The first recipe is for a New Orleans classic: Shrimp and Corn Soup. This is one of my FAVORITE soup recipes ever. I could literally eat the entire pot given the chance. The first time I had it, I am pretty sure I went back for fourths or fifths, and it was only the appetizer for the meal! Everyone in the city has their own spin on it. Some people make a roux to thicken the soup, some use this while others use that...but it is always delicious. You can even customize the soup to include your favorite shellfish: crawfish, crab meat...maybe even lobster! This particluar recipe I have is divine! It is slightly sweet, devilishly spicy, and full of cajun flavor. I have NEVER made this for anyone who didn't go back for at least seconds, and at one party, the host packed up the leftovers and stuck them in her fridge before I even got a chance to offer. With the cold snaps going on all over our country right now, this is a must make item! You can thank me later.

Shrimp and Corn Soup

3 lbs of fresh or frozen shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large yellow onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 stick of butter
1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chiles, drained
1 quart of half and half
1 quart of heavy cream
2 cans of cream style corn
2 cans of whole kernel corn, drained (or an equivalent of fresh or frozen corn)
1 pound of Velveeta, cubed
2 T light brown sugar
2 t dried thyme
3 T cajun seasoning (I like Slap Ya Mama's or Tony's)
1 T liquid crab boil (I prefer Zatarain's)
Melt butter in a large pot on the stove top over medium heat. Dice your onion and finely mince your garlic. Add to melted butter and saute until onions begin to soften and garlic is fragrant. (Be careful not to burn your garlic.) Add your Rotel and shrimp. Stir until shrimp begin to turn pink. Add a capful (about 1 T) of liquid crab boil and the cream and half and half. Stir to combine and bring mixture to a boil. When it starts to boil, reduce the heat to keep the soup at a simmer. Once simmering, add in both types of corn. Toss in the cubed Velveeta and spices. Stir at a simmer just until the cheese has melted. Done!

The second recipe is for a simple Mississippi tradition: Broccoli Salad. You cannot go to a dinner-on-the-grounds at church or a family get together without having this light, crunchy, sweet and tangy salad somewhere on the table. It is a perfect compliment to really rich dishes. I love serving it with my chicken spaghetti. We had it over the holidays with a large family dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and cabbage casserole. (There are so many things right with that sentence!)

Broccoli Salad

2 heads of broccoli
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 C of mayonnaise
1/2 C of white sugar
1/4-1/2 C of white vinegar
golden raisins
sunflower seeds
shredded sharp cheddar cheese
real bacon bits
chopped pecans (optional)
To prepare the salad, chop the broccoli off of the heads into bit size pieces. In a pot of boiling water, blanch the broccoli for about 60 seconds (until bright green). Pull broccoli from boiling water and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. (You aren't trying to soften the broccoli, just brighten it up.) Drain broccoli through a strainer and allow to sit and dry a bit while you make the dressing. In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, white sugar, and white vinegar. Taste the dressing and adjust amounts as you see fit. (Although this dressing has mayo, it is more of a vinaigrette consistency than a creamy dressing.) In a serving dish, combine the broccoli, red onion, raisins, sunflower seeds, cheese, bacon bits, and pecans. Pour dressing over the salad and toss together to combine. Serve right away or (preferably) let it sit a couple of hours or overnight for flavors to develop.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do. They will make a great addition to any recipe box. They are easy to make and perfect for any occasion. Now, go forth and cook, my friends!

In Christ Alone,

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Letters to Eli #2

My dear little baby boy,

Today is your two month birthday, and my how you are growing. We took your two month picture tonight and put it next to your one month picture on the computer. It is amazing how much you have changed in just one month! I will add more after your two month check up in a couple of weeks.

I guess today you are technically two and a half months old. We went for your two  month check up, and you are thriving. You weigh 4 lbs 7 oz now, and you are absolutely beautiful! You had two shots that nearly broke mommy's heart, but you were very brave. You stopped crying pretty quick, and mommy did her best to try to comfort you.

You never cease to amaze me. You are starting to really see and play with your hands. We lay you on your playmat, and you love to swat at the toys that hang around you. You are particularly fond of the zebra. I think it is the high contrast stripes. You hold up your head more and more now. You love to look around at everything around you, and you love for mommy to rock you to bed at night.

I have been back at work for two weeks now, and I think we are doing well with it. You stay home almost everyday with someone from the family, and when you do go to daycare, you are at daddy's work. I know you are safe, well taken care of, and being loved. It helps, but it doesn't completely take away the ache of not getting to be with you. It also helps me to remember that I am not going to work and leaving you everyday because I value my job over you or care more about my career than you, but I go to work every day to provide for you. I work FOR you and your well-being. I work so you can have the things you need, and maybe someday have some of the things you want.

I still pray for you often, and my heart prays for you constantly. The prayer remains the same. I pray for God to call you to him, for him to watch over you and bless you, for him to be preparing a path for you that is rich with people who love Him and love you. You are such a bright spot of light in my life, and I cannot imagine a day without you in it! I love you more with each passing day, and I cannot wait to continue this journey of parenting with you, my son.

Love you,

Monday, January 6, 2014

Newborn-3 Months Old Diaper Bag Essentials

Hello, Blogging Friends!

I hope this post finds you well and that you have thoroughly enjoyed your holiday season thus far. :) I am soaking in every moment of being a mommy, and I cannot wait to share my experiences with you. Eli keeps me quite on my toes, so it has been hard to blog as frequently as normal. I will do my best to continue making posts that are helpful and informative in addition to my own personal posts loaded with baby pictures.

One of the last things I researched before Eli arrived was what to pack in a diaper bag. I found several helpful posts and prepacked his diaper bags using the information I discovered. As the weeks with him have progressed, I have found a diaper bag packing formula that works for least during these early months when having things like toys and teething items are unnecessary. Below is my list of diaper bag necessities with links to the products I love for each. I hope you find this useful!

I have found that I use mainly two diaper bags. I keep one large diaper bag by Skip Hop packed for long outings, and I also have a small Vera Bradley tote that I pack for quick trips to the grocery store or pharmacy. In addition, I keep a Thirty-One Organizing Utility Tote in my car with diaper bag essentials in it in case I ever get stuck out without something I need. Just make sure that as your baby moves up in diaper sizes you change out the diapers in your car stash accordingly! :)

1) Diapers and Wipes- A good rule of thumb is to pack one diaper for every hour you plan to be out plus one.

2) Extra Outfit(s)- at least one, depending on how long you will be out. (At our family Thanksgiving lunch, Eli went through three changes thanks to blowouts.)

3) Burp Cloth- I am partial to the size 2 cloth diapers by OsoCozy for this function. They are nice and big and super absorbent.

4) Nursing Cover- If you are breast feeding, this is essential. I included one in each diaper bag, and they are the ones I made in my Nursing Cover tutorial. I also highly recommend packing an Aden and Anais muslin blanket to pull double duty as a nursing cover or a baby blanket.

5) Nursing Pads and Lanolin- I keep a tube of Lanolin and about 4 pads in my bag at any given time. I prefer the Avent nursing pads. I found that the Lanolin nursing pads made my skin itch.

6) Pacifier- I waited til Eli was two weeks old to introduce a paci, but now I keep one on hand for tired in the car crying, hungry and unable to feed crying, or gas pain crying. You really have to figure out what style of pacifier your baby likes, and those likes may change as he or she grows. Eli takes the flatter Avent pacis most of the time, but he has also liked his Wubbanub pacis, too.

7) Small Flannel Receiving Blankets- These are easy to pack and have come in handy for a quick lay and play palette, a soft place for a head on a changing pad, and a make-shift burp cloth.

8) Changing Pad- Most diaper bags come with a small, thin changing pad. I also was gifted a couple that I keep in my diaper bags. In my big bag, I keep this one from Skip Hop. What is great about these is that if you are out and about all day running errands and bring your large diaper bag, you can only bring this changing station into stores with you as needed to avoid having to tote the whole bag around.

That is my list of newborn to infant diaper bag necessities. These are the things that I have found are good to keep on hand. Feel free to leave a comment about what you love to have in your baby's diaper bag!

In Christ Alone,