Happy Adoption Day to our Mutt!

Seven years ago today we adopted this pup. He has been our only child for such a long time and sometime in the next couple of weeks his whole world is going to be rocked. But until then, we’re going to give him as much extra attention and love as we can. 🙂

with oreo2

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with oreo4

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Oh sweet mutt, you have been such a big part of our lives these past seven years. Happy birthday/adoption day, Oreo!

Love Rach

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

A few years ago I shared a recipe on this blog for lemon poppyseed muffins. I’m not sure where I initially got this recipe, but I’ve been making it again lately and it is such a winner! So I wanted to share with with you guys. 🙂

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Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp poppy seeds
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar in the raw
2 tbsp lemon zest (2 large lemons)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

1. Zest the lemons over a small bowl of sugar. Rub the sugar and zest together until the sugar is slightly moist and fragrant.

2. Add egg, melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add liquid ingredients to the dry slowly and stir just until moistened. Be careful not to over-stir. Fold in poppy seeds.

3. Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Divide muffin batter evenly into 36 mini muffin cups. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

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I made these recently for a group of friends and they were such a hit! I had forgotten  just how yummy they are and how amazing they smell as they bake!

Speaking of baking things… I will be baking today. Apparently the ridiculous number of freezer meals I have stocked up suddenly doesn’t feel like enough and I’m itching to bake and freeze some scones and waffles as well. And I’m planning to bake cookies for the nurses (to take in with us when I deliver) so I’ll pop those in the freezer until we head to the hospital. I’ve never actually frozen baked cookies before, but I’ve heard they thaw quickly at room temperature and are super delicious. So here’s to hoping!

Does anyone have experience with freezing baked cookies?

What was the last thing you baked?

Love Rach

Nursery Sneak Peak

This past weekend Christopher and I took a few photos in the nursery. I absolutely love how they turned out so I thought I’d share a couple with you guys! Plus this gets you a sneak peak at the nursery for everyone who has been asking! 🙂

Maternity Pics in Nursery 1

“Ciao Bella” means “Hello Beautiful” in Italian (or also “Goodbye Beautiful” since “Ciao” can be used for both). Our talented friend, Mandy, offered to make any sign for the nursery that we wanted so after looking at lots of options, we decided on this. Initially I was leaning toward long phrases or scriptures, but when Christopher saw the “Ciao Bella” idea, he was sold. Knowing he loved it so much made it easy for me to go with it as well! 🙂

Maternity Pics in Nursery 3

That dresser was my grandparents’ first dresser after they got married. And the crib is the one that I was in as a baby (as well as my sisters and niece and nephew). It was originally a drop-side crib so Christopher and a master woodworker from church converted it. A few coats of paint and they perfectly fit the vision we had for this nursery. I cannot begin to tell you how much I love how these pieces of furniture turned out! Also that pink blanket on the side of the crib is was made for Baby Vendetti by my Aunt Denise. She literally knitted the hearts into the blanket which just amazes me!

Maternity Pics in Nursery 2

The rocking chair I’m sitting in belonged to my sister, Holly (it was a gift from our mom). She used it with both of her babies. And the crochet blanket draped over the chair is one that Holly made for Baby Vendetti at my request. It turned out exactly as I imagined so I loved that! This book is one we had on our registry, but I love that it was my mother-in-law who ended up gifting it to us. Lots of prayers have been prayed for this sweet baby.

floating shelves

These are the floating shelves that Christopher built and installed above the rocking chair in the nursery. My mom got us that “Congrats” Willow Tree figurine. Kelsi (who I mentored when she was in high school, but is now more like a sister to us) made the “For this Child I have Prayed” sign for us. “La Dolce Vita” means “The Sweet Life” in Italian and the pink frame it sits in came from Thailand via one of my sister, Abby’s best friends. Speaking of Abby, she drew the Memphis skyline on that canvas and had friends and family add stars above it for our baby shower. And the little owl was a handmade gift from our niece, Makenzie. So much love on these shelves!

36 weeks

And finally, this shot was actually taken in our kitchen, not the nursery. But I love, love, love how it turned out so I wanted to share it with you guys as well. Christopher really does take the sweetest pictures of this bump!

There are so many other sweet elements to the nursery, but some of them include her name which we are waiting until she is born to announce. So the rest of the reveal will have to wait until then. There is so much love in this room. Everywhere we look in there, we see handmade gifts and treasured hand-me-downs from friends and family and we are reminded of how many people love this little girl already.

Love Rach

Quick Pseudo Italian Dinners

I hesitate to call either of these “recipes” because they are more like meal ideas than anything else. But they are both super delicious and both always big hits with other people. So I wanted to share them with you guys! 🙂

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So first up, French Bread Pizza. Friends, this is simple. So simple. Slice a loaf of French or Italian bread in half length ways. Cut into “individual size” portions (3″-4″) and then take a heavy tray and attempt to flatten the bread as much as possible by pressing down on the bread and compressing it. I learned this tip from Serious Eats (see link for photos of what I’m talking about) and it makes a huge difference in keeping the sides of the bread from being too curled. Pre-bake bread at 350 degrees for about 7-8 minutes and then remove from oven. Top with your favorite sauce (our recipe here!), cheese, and any desired toppings. Bake for another 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Bada boom bada bing! Dinner is served!

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If French Bread Pizza is simple, then Baked Spaghetti is practically effortless. Especially if you have leftover spaghetti and pasta sauce from a previous night. It’s really up to you how much trouble you want to go to. You can even use jarred sauce and pre-shredded cheese and this meal takes on new levels of simplicity.

For us, we usually make this with leftover spaghetti sauce (our favorite recipe here!) that we tossed in the freezer after a meal. I’ll pull it out of the freezer, let it thaw overnight and the next day all I have to do is boil my spaghetti noodles and shred my mozzarella cheese (I don’t know why, but I think the block cheese that you shred melts better than the pre-shredded stuff). I combine the cooked pasta with the spaghetti sauce and pour it into a 13×9″ pan then top with a little extra layer of sauce and then shredded mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove foil and turn oven to broil. Put pan back in the oven and watch carefully so the minute the cheese begins to bubble and turn brown, you can pull it out. Or if you don’t like bubbly cheese, you can skip that last step.

So yes, two super simple meals. Neither of which are even really Italian. More Italian-flavor inspired. 😉 But they are delicious and simple and crowd pleasers therefore definitely worth sharing in my book! 🙂

Do you ever make baked spaghetti or French bread pizza?

Do you have a favorite meal idea that isn’t really a recipe, but is always a hit?
Love Rach

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (can be frozen!)

Every Friday night that we’re in town, we make homemade pizza together and watch TV shows. We used to do pizza & a movie, but we’ve discovered a couple of TV shows that we both really enjoy so since we don’t typically watch TV on other nights, we watch our shows together on Friday nights. A few of the shows change out from time to time, but for those curious, three of our favorites are Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, and Brooklyn 99.

Anyway, I’ve shared our favorite pizza recipe on the blog before, but I realized just this week that I never shared the ultra thin whole wheat pizza crust recipe that we’ve been using almost exclusively for the past two years. Every now and then we’ll use a different dough recipe, but we like that this one (originally from Sally’s Baking Addiction) is a little healthier of an option. So I thought I’d share it with you guys!

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (1).JPGBefore Rising

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (2).JPGAfter Rising

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (3)This recipe makes enough for two balls of pizza dough. We usually freeze the second dough ball and use it for the next week.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (4)We like the crust to be ULTRA thin, but it’s also really good if you make it with a normal thickness.

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

Ingredients:

1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
3 1/4 whole wheat flour
Dusting of Cornmeal

Directions:

1. In a large mixing bowl (I use my KitchenAid mixer), combine sugar, yeast, and warm water. After the yeast begins to proof add olive oil, honey, and salt. Mix with whisk (or dough hook). Slowly add flour, 1 cup at a time until dough comes together.  Knead for 5 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.

2. Shape dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl. Cover with clean kitchen towel and set in warm place to rise until doubled in size (about an hour). After the dough rises, punch it down to deflate and then cut dough in half. Shape into two balls and let each one rest in separate bowls for 20 minutes. Since I usually freeze the second ball, I skip this step with the one I’m freezing and just put it directly in a greased Ziplock bag and right into the freezer.

3. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Grease baking sheet with nonstick spray. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Flatten dough ball into thickness of your choice. Traditionally a 12″ circle, but we like to do a 12″x17″ rectangle since that’s the size of our biggest baking sheet. We like a really thin crust! Use a fork to poke holes into rolled out dough to prevent bubbling.

4. THIN CRUST: Pre-bake crust for 7 minutes (to help prevent it from getting soggy after adding sauce). Remove from oven and add sauce and toppings of  your choosing. Pop back in the oven for another 7 minutes or until cheese is melted. We usually finish it off with about 30 seconds under the broiler to get our fresh mozzarella bubbling. THICKER CRUST: If you decide to go with a thicker crust then you will need to pre-bake for 8 minutes and then put it back in for 8 minutes as well.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (5)We typically use fresh mozzarella because we prefer the way it tastes and you can see that Baby Girl still has me craving hot stuff with those jalapenos on part of the pizza. 😉

Do you have a favorite pizza crust recipe?
Are there any TV shows you try to keep up with?
Love Rach

The Nesting…

Sometime in the next 27 days we will be meeting our daughter. I kept thinking that as it got closer I would get more concerned about the ways our life is going to change once she arrives or even being fearful of delivery and recovery. But truth be told, I’m not.

I think part of it is that we have known for so long that she might be super early that we were prepared for her to come long before now. And part of it is that I have very little control over what delivery will look like. For example, I’m not currently a candidate for an epidural so I’ve known from the beginning that I may have to deliver without one. And I also have no control over whether or not she may need to come by C-Section. So since I have no idea what direction it will go, I just don’t dwell on it. And honestly, the pain will be temporary and I just want her to be safe more than anything. I mean, I survived a kidney stone without pain relief – surely I can do this. {Someone remind me of this if I’m laboring without pain relief and feel like I’m dying, haha!}

The fact that she is still in there safe and sound at 35 weeks is just such an answered prayer. Because we knew that she might be really early we made a huge effort to get things done ahead of time. Which means that my nesting urge has been nicely spread out over the past couple of months. But this week is go-week. You see, had she come BEFORE now, she would have been guaranteed a NICU stay past when we would have gone home. Meaning that we would have had time to come home and finish up any last minute things. But now she’s at a point where she might actually get to come home with us from the hospital if she were to be born today. Which means we want everything to be ready! So this means…

parenting class

We took our Expectant Parents class this past weekend. Several people saw this photo on Instagram and thought that Baby Girl had arrived. Those are definitely some pretty realistic looking babies! Earlier this month we took a Childbirth class so between the two classes (and a couple of books we’ve read) we feel pretty prepared for delivery, recovery, and life with a newborn. Or at least as prepared as anyone can feel. 😉

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I spent all day yesterday making freezer meals. Our church is awesome about bringing dinner to families for the first 4-6 weeks after a new child arrives, but I wanted to have some simple lunch options too. I may have gotten slightly carried away. 😉 Pictured you see: Taco Soup, Chili, Lasagna Soup, Enchilada Soup, Vegetable and Beef Soup, Buffalo Chicken, English Muffin PizzasJambalayaBreakfast Sandwiches, Spaghetti Sauce, Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Balls (I just realized I haven’t shared this recipe here – I need to do that!), White Chicken EnchiladasPot Roast with Veggies (this recipe, but with chicken thighs instead of roast), Beef Burritos, and Chicken Burritos. Most of the meals I made into individual sized portions for easy lunches so I’m hoping that will be a huge help during those early weeks.

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Some people say that you get really motivated to start moving in the last few weeks because you are ready for the baby to come. But to be honest, I never actually stopped going to the gym throughout this pregnancy (other than the kidney stone episode when I took off a week). My doctors continued to clear me for exercise so while my workouts are less intense than they used to be, I still lift weights, do cardio, and yoga. It’s not always easy, but I know it’s good for both me and Baby and I hear it helps with delivery and recovery if I am able to stay active throughout the pregnancy. So here’s to hoping that’s true!

Us

We’ve been making an effort to do all the things people say are much more difficult to do after kids. So this past weekend we saw a movie (Wonder Woman) and ate out at a nice restaurant. This coming weekend we’re planning to head downtown for another nice dinner out. This August we will celebrate 9 years of marriage and these years have been such a sweet phase of life for just the two of us. We are so grateful for the time we’ve had, but we are also excited about this next stage of life that is about to begin for us as a family of three. 🙂

Love Rach

I love Mashed Potatoes!

When it comes to mashed potatoes, I am normally the peel-the-potatoes kind of girl. I love russet potatoes, gold yukon potatoes, red potatoes, and sweet potatoes. I like them with skins on and I like them peeled. I like them mashed with just a couple of additional ingredients (like the classic milk, butter, salt & pepper) and I like them with lots of add-ins as well. So when we first met our current group of friends back in 2011 and we kept seeing these AMAZING mashed potatoes show up at parties, I just knew I needed the recipe.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that these incredible mashed potatoes were made from a BOX mix of flakes. But you can’t argue with delicious. And these, my friends, are delicious. You can find the original recipe right here on the Hungry Jack website: Make Ahead Party Mashed Potatoes.

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Hungry Jack’s Make Ahead Party Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients:

1 (15.3 oz) package Hungry Jack Mashed Potato Flakes
No-stick cooking spray
6 cups water
12 tbsp ( 1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tsp garlic salt
2 tsp onion salt
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, cubed and softened
2 cups milk
1 (16 oz) container sour cream
Paprika

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with no-stick cooking spray. Heat water, butter, garlic salt and onion salt to boiling in a 6-quart Dutch oven or saucepan. Remove from heat. Add cream cheese, milk and sour cream, stirring until cream cheese is dissolved.

2. Stir in potato flakes, mixing until all ingredients are well combined. Spread mashed potato mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle with paprika and bake 1 hour or until bubbling around edges and golden brown.


These can, of course, be made with a different brand of potato flakes, but don’t get skimpy on the add-ins. There is a time and place for healthy mashed potatoes. This isn’t it. 😉

What is your favorite way to eat potatoes?
Love Rach