Monday, October 19, 2015

Souper Sunday

Fall is upon us and this October our family is so excited to be cheering on the Cubs this post-season.  The game times have wreaked a bit of havoc on my dinner schedule, but some early prep work has paid off.  We've managed to eat on time and watch our beloved Chicago Cubs!

The night of the one game wild-care match-up, we enjoyed some delicious Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup.  I'm always on the prowl for new soup recipes to add to my Souper Sunday collection and this one was a winner.

I found this recipe on Damn Delicious and adapted it a bit.  If you are looking for something on the healthier side that's easy to make, this is your soup!  Enjoy!

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Soup

1 T. olive oil
1/2 rotisserie chicken, cut into pieces
salt and ground pepper
2 T. unsalted butter
1 1/2 t. minced garlic (found in a jar)
8 ounces mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
4 c. chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 c. half and half

Melt butter in stock pot over medium heat.  Add garlic, mushrooms, onions, carrots and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until tender.  Stir in thyme.

Whisk in flour until lightly browned.  About one minute.  Whisk in chicken stock, bay leaf, and chicken.  Cook stirring constantly until slightly thickened 4-5 minutes.

Let simmer for 20-30 minutes until all vegetables are cooked.  Add half and half and heat through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Nut-Free Fall Treat: Apple Crisp

The dip in the temperatures today sure makes it feel like fall has arrived.  The little lady and I decided to stay snuggled up in our warm, dry house today and naturally, bake something yummy!  Today we opted for one of my favorite fall treats:  apple crisp.

My mom always made amazing apple crisp and I must admit, I have been able to follow in her footsteps.  This yummy dessert is nut-free and the topping is so delicious you'll have a hard time stopping at one piece.

So, from our house to yours, here's our version of apple crisp.  Enjoy!

Apple Crisp

6-8 apples (4 cups), peeled and thinly sliced
1 c. sugar
3 T. flour
1 t. cinnamon

1 c. quick oatmeal
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. flour
2/3 c. butter (not straight from the refrigerator, but not too soft)

In a bowl, mix the apples, sugar, flour, and cinnamon.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, mix oatmeal, brown sugar, flour together.  Chop the butter through the mixture.

Lightly spray or rub oil in a pan.  Put in apple mixture, sprinkle topping mixture on top and back for 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Top with Cool Whip or vanilla ice cream.

*May also substitute cherry pie filling or rhubarb for another yummy option

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Managing a Nut Allergy is NOT Fool-proof

A few years ago I wrote this post about our life managing our son's peanut and tree nut allergy.  With a new school year around the corner, I always find myself feeling a little nervous and weary about his safety at school.  We are fortunate the school he attends has become much more accommodating since our initial struggles, but it still doesn't take the anxiety away about the potential for a slip-up to happen.

You see, despite our best intentions, managing an allergy is simply not fool-proof.  We learned this lesson the hard way this summer and it has caused my anxiety level to increase a bit more than normal as we enter this school year.

We spent a lot of time on the road vacationing this summer.  With this brought meals in hotels and restaurants and though we check labels and ask questions, one evening we had an unfortunate mishap at the hotel happy hour.

As usual, we scanned what was available for people to eat:  fruit, cheese, vegetables, chips, salsa, and some canisters of various cracker mixes.  We scanned the mixes and noted that one very obviously contained a tree nut, the second was questionable, and the third contained Goldfish crackers.  They also had a few bowls of candy-gummy worms and Reeses Pieces.

We avoided the obvious dangers, Reeses Pieces and snack mix containing the nuts, and opted to let him munch on the Goldfish crackers and some pineapple.  Seemed like a safe choice.

After a bit we realized we had a problem.  Our son began to complain the outside of his mouth was itching and burning.  One look was all it took to know he was having a reaction.  The red, itchy rash quickly spread all around his mouth and he then told his stomach was upset.  Both tell-tale signs of a reaction.  When he said his throat felt funny and made a squeezing motion with his hands, we decided it was time to administer his Epi-pen, give him Benadryl, and call 911.

This was the first time we had experienced a nut reaction since the original incident when he was only 20 months old.  My husband administered the Epi-pen and though our son may have been scared, he was very brave.  The ambulance came and took him to the local ER where he was monitored for a few hours to make sure he had stabilized.

Later that evening he returned with my husband to the hotel.  He handled it all very well and we were relieved all turned out fine.  All-in-all, we followed the emergency plan.  We were prepared and had his Epi-pen and Benadryl on hand, so we were able to treat him in a timely manner.

While I can't say we are happy it happened, we were relieved (once it was all over, of course!) all went smoothly.  We all know what to expect now and our son did a fantastic job communicating the symptoms he was experiencing.

This unfortunate event really goes to show how diligent we have to be.  We learned a few lessons from this experience.  We should have asked for a new bag of Goldfish crackers to be opened rather than taking them out of the canister and wiped down the table with a disinfectant wipe before eating anything.

We still aren't sure if the container was cross-contaminated or the table had some nut residue on it.  Either way, this experience solidifies the importance of advocating for his safety at school and all of the small steps it takes to avoid him coming into contact with his allergens.

I'll give my little PSA regarding allergy awareness and safety at the beginning of the school year.  If your child has anything containing nuts for breakfast, please have them wash their hands with soap and water before they head off to school.  If your child has a student in their class with a nut allergy, please be respectful and follow the school's nut-free policy without complaint.

It's the little things that make a huge difference.  We all wish this wasn't the reality for our kids, but it's the hand they've been dealt.  By being mindful and working together we can all do our best to cut down on the risk of exposure and, if all goes well, avoid an allergic reaction.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Kid-Friendly Recipe: Taquitos

There are times in life when we have a bit too much on our plate and activities we enjoy get pushed to the side.  My blog is one of those activities.  I am so thrilled to have recently made the decision to step away from a commitment that was sucking up my time and energy, which will allow me to get back to the things I really love:  trying out new recipes, baking, DIY projects, projects for my kids, and more!

To get things rolling again, I want to share a taquito recipe my kids have come to love.  It's quick, easy, and budget-friendly.  My kids can be a bit picky at times, but they devour this finger food recipe.  Let me know what your family thought!


1 pound ground beef
1 clove, garlic
1 cup salsa, more for topping
2 t. chili powder
Shredded cheddar cheese
Flour tortillas
Olive Oil

Brown ground beef and garlic.  Add chili powder and salsa and heat through.  Place a few spoonfuls of the mixture in tortillas and add some cheddar cheese.  Roll up and place seam down in a square baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Continue until all meat is used up (I usually make 8 taquitos).  Brush with olive oil and bake in the oven at 400 for 8-12 minutes, or until golden brown.  They should be a little crispy and easy to pick up!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Allergy Awareness: Please Help Be A Shining Light

Next week we are heading to the pediatric allergy clinic in Iowa City with our little guy.  It's been a few years since we've taken him to the allergist so we are all a bit anxious about what is to come. Since his allergy is severe, we do not have to take him to be re-tested each year as it is unlikely much will have changed.  It sounds strange, but I am relieved we only have to do this every few years.

When testing for allergies, the doctor performs a skin test where they put a liquid substance on his skin and watch for a reaction.  At our first appointment, back when he was 20 months old, they had to wipe it off soon after application.  The reaction to the peanut quickly spread up his back, where it was originally placed, all the way to his ears.  They generally wait ten minutes:  this took no longer than 2.

A few years later we participated in a family allergy study at the Children's Hospital in Chicago. They opted to not even do the skin test since his first reaction was so bad.  Instead, they just completed the blood test and I was so thankful he didn't have to experience it again.

At our last appointment, the allergist applied the substance to his forearm.  Within minutes he had a huge raised reaction.  When it continued to expand to the size of a ping pong ball, we asked for it to be wiped off.  No fun for our little guy.

Unfortunately, peanuts are not his only allergy.  Several tree nuts and shell fish are also on the list. We will see how Iowa City will want to proceed.  These appointments are hard, as they cause much discomfort for him and I know he feels much anxiety about the process.  Heck, I do, and they're not touching me!

Visiting the allergist every few years is a minute part of his care.  Keeping track of any change, even if it is for the worse, helps us manage his allergy on a daily basis to the best of our ability.  We also always hold on to some hope these appointments will lead us to an opportunity where he can be treated for his allergies.  There are many trials going on all over our nation and worldwide, but all in an experimental stage and not readily available to everyone.

These appointments also confirm, from a medical standpoint, that his allergy is real and something to be taken very seriously.  As silly as it sounds, there are many people in this nation who believe food allergies are made up.  They scoff at the idea of nut-free classrooms and schools, imply parents of children with allergies are being overcautious, and make tasteless jokes about people suffering from this serious, and potentially deadly, problem.  It sickens and infuriates me.

I am not one to be shushed on this matter.  In fact, I am quite outspoken.  I am willing to educate people and advocate for not only my son, but others in his position.  When it comes to life-threatening food allergies, ignorance is not bliss and when I come in contact with people unwilling to understand the seriousness of his condition, I press harder and bring the level of education and awareness to a whole other level.

While I don't expect those who haven't walked in our shoes to fully understand, I do hope they are willing to look outside of their own desires and see the big picture.  It is time for the insensitivity in this nation to stop and for the narcissistic behavior to end.  Food allergies are real, the rate of people affected continues to rise, and people can (and have) died from them.  It is no laughing matter and those who drag their feet and do not accept the seriousness of this condition frustrate me.

If you've made it this far, thanks for staying with me.  I am going to challenge you to be a light in the life of people who must manage this condition diligently each day.  Next time you hear someone complaining about nut-free snack lists, classrooms, or activities, speak up.  Be a voice of support and empathy.  Positive influences outside of those living with a food allergy are needed.  If each person who complained was met with one of support for these children and their families, it would begin to make a difference.

My son is an amazing young boy who happens to have life-threatening food allergies.  He is kind, loving, creative, and thoughtful.  He should not be defined by his food allergy and excluded from activities because of it.  He should live in a society of acceptance and one of empathy and kindness, rather than one of hostility and cruelty.

We have been blessed with a wonderful support system of family and friends.  My son's peers have rarely viewed the modifications made for his allergy negatively.  Sadly, at times, it has been the parents who have struggled.  Since preschool, he has been blessed with peers who have been aware of the dangers of his exposure to nuts and very protective of him.  I hope, as he grows older, this continues.  I pray the lights in the children continue to shine and the next generation is filled with kindness and acceptance of those who may be a bit different than them.



Friday, January 30, 2015

Missing My Angel

Seven years ago, about this time, we were driving to our OB's office with our baby boy cozily snuggled in his car seat in the back.  My husband and I were silent, a rock in both of our stomachs, preparing for what we feared the most:  that we had lost the baby I was carrying.

I so vividly remember nearly every moment of those few days.  We were watching American Idol when I felt something strange.  I went to the bathroom to find I was spotting.  My heart immediately sunk.  At that moment I just knew our baby was gone.  I called my OB and she tried to reassure me this didn't necessarily mean anything, but we should come in the next day to see what was going on.

After a restless night of sleep, we took that drive.  I sat in the waiting room hypersensitive to the other pregnant mother trying to distract myself by snuggling with my baby boy. Thankfully it didn't take long to be called into the ultrasound room.  We nervously took the short walk and I tried to mentally prepare myself for the news.

This ultrasound was so much different than the ones I had before.  The large screen was turned off and the monitor was turned away from us.  She didn't cheerfully show us our baby and point to all of their body parts or the beating heart.  There was no beating heart.  Instead, she quickly turned off the machine and directed us to a room down the hall.

It was in that corner room where our doctor confirmed what we already knew.  Our baby was gone. The doctor who we saw that day had delivered our son almost one year from that day.  I remember thinking, "Wow, he has seen us through the circle of life."  With an encouraging smile and a hug we were sent on our way.  The tears didn't come at the doctor's office.  We packed up our son and quietly headed out to our car.

I am not sure if it was shock or denial, but it took a few minutes for those tears to come.  We tried to be brave.  Tried to convince ourselves it was just not in God's plan and it happens to many other people, but once we had to pick up the phone and call our parents the true sadness engulfed us both. The tears finally came and it took days for me to turn them off.

We had made the decision to let nature take its course and hopefully miscarry at home rather than have a surgical procedure.  In the wee hours of the morning nearly two days later it did.  I was not expecting the physical pain to be so intense.  I silently sat through those hours with tears streaming down my face willing for it all to be over.  Once it was, the relief I expected didn't come.  Instead it was just complete and utter sadness.

My mother-in-law had come to help care for our son.  I spent several days lying in bed crying and resting.  I was angry with God and wondered why we had to endure this pain.  I was so very sad and felt so very alone.  It was a very dark time and took a long while before I could see the light again.

That light came 6 months later when we learned we were pregnant again.  It happened to be about a week before our angel baby was due.  It was a bittersweet moment.  I was so happy to finally be pregnant again, but so sad for the baby we had lost.  Getting through the due date was so very hard, but once it passed I was able to nervously embrace my pregnancy.

Thankfully our sweet little girl was born healthy on Easter Sunday.  Looking back I find this day of her birth to be of great significance.  Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead.  A day filled with hope and promise.  A day darkness turned to light.  For us, the light shone so much brighter that day and continues to today.

On that day we lost our baby, but we gained a guardian angel.  I think of that baby often and still struggle through this time of year several years later.  I was nearly twelve weeks into my pregnancy, that so-called "safe zone," when we found out our baby was gone.  For almost two months we were able to rejoice in new life and love our little angel.  While I cannot physically hold and love that baby, in my heart I do each day.

So many people experience the sadness and grief of miscarriages each day.  Losing a child is so very, very hard.  One may think since we were never physically able to hold our child it might be easier, but it is not.  The hope and promise of new life began the day we found out we were pregnant and so did the love we felt for him or her.

Today I will hold my kids a little tighter and thank God for the four blessings he has given us on Earth.  I will thank Him for blessing us with our little angel we affectionately named Peanut the day we found out I was pregnant.  Today I will cry and grieve for the baby we never met, but I know someday I will meet our angel.  Until then I will carry him or her in my heart each day.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

I've had this recipe saved in my Pinterest meals to try folder for months.  A few weeks ago we finally gave it a try and it did not disappoint.  My kids loved it, we loved it, and we ate the whole pot!  I made a few adaptations from the original recipe found at Cooking Classy.  The biscuits are a must, so make sure you make them, too!  Enjoy!

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Rotisserie chicken, chopped in small pieces
5 1/2 T. butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion (I used half an onion)
3 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots (3 medium), peeled and diced
1 15 oz. can chicken broth
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced 1/2 inch
1/2 t. dried parley
1 t. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1 c. frozen or fresh peas
2 1/2 cups milk
6 T. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/2 t. lemon juice

In a soup pot, melt 1 1/2 T. butter over medium high heat.  Add in onion, celery, and carrots and saute for 3 minutes.  Add chicken broth, potatoes, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring soup to a boil, then reduce to medium heat.  Press vegetables down into soup and cover with lid.  Cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and stir in chicken and peas.

In a medium saucepan, melt remaining 4 T. of butter of medium high heat.  Slowly stir in flour and and cook for 1 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly.  While whisking, slowly pour in milk and whisk vigorously to smooth lumps.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat while stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream.

Pour milk mixture into soup pot, making sure to stir constantly.  Add lemon juice.  Remove bay leaf and serve with warm Parmesan drop biscuits (recipe below).

Parmesan Drop Biscuits

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. black pepper
1/4 t. garlic powder
6 T. butter
2 oz. finely shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. heavy cream

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and garlic powder for 30 seconds.  Stir in parmesan cheese.  Add butter, and using your fingertips, rub butter in mixture until evenly distributed.  It will come together like the size of peas.  Pour in milk and heavy cream and stir with a wooden spoon just until combined.  (Batter should be lumpy and sticky).  Drop using a large soup spoon onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Best when eaten straight from the oven!