Monday, October 21, 2013

Macgyver Challenge Day 20....Homemade breakfast burritos

There's a bit of a joke I have with my husband and a few friends. When I was pregnant with my son, I didn't have a single craving, but I DID want a HOT breakfast daily. In fact, towards the end of my pregnancy, engulfed in hormones and feeling as big a circus tent.. and overdue... I remember breaking down in tears because all I wanted was a hot breakfast. I didn't even care what it was, I just wanted something warm in my huge belly. Now that I'm a mom, I'm finding I have less and less time for breakfast in the morning, but am still craving that hot breakfast. I've made homemade breakfast English muffins before, and that got me thinking about my one true breakfast love....
I hereby proclaim my deep love for breakfast burritos. I am not joking when I say this: I could eat a breakfast burrito every single day until I die. I also hereby proclaim my disdain for how crazy expensive frozen breakfast burritos are! $3 per burrito? Are you kidding me? That's almost 25% of my entire monthly food budget, spent on one person's breakfast daily! Since my bff breakfast burrito and I don't plan on breaking up anytime soon, I knew I had to find a way to make these little wrapped up bundles of happiness, at home.
Homemade Frozen Breakfast Burritos

-12 eggs & Milk for scrambled eggs
-2 lbs breakfast sausage (I used turkey breakfast sausage)
-One 15oz. can corn and peppers
-1 package frozen pre-cooked hashbrowns
-12 oz. of shredded cheddar cheese
-Salsa to taste
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Flour tortillas (I used a mix of large and small tortillas, so I made large and smaller burritos)

-Small freezer bags
-Wax paper

Start by cooking all ingredients that you want to fill your little wrapped pieces of heaven. I love eggs, some form of meat, hash browns, and for a little kick, I used a can of corn and peppers. 

-I cooked a dozen eggs mixed with some milk to make my scrambled eggs. Set that aside in a large bowl and allow to cool. (You could also use egg whites here to save calories).
-Cook your meat. I chose low fat turkey sausage and added a little salt and pepper. Set that aside and allow to cool. (Ideas: bacon, turkey bacon, regular sausage, turkey or chicken sausage, chorizo, or ham).

-Yes, I'm a cheater... I was not grating potatoes and cooking my own hash browns. I got the the ones you pop in the toaster, and allowed them to defrost so I could get handfuls of hash browns rather than a big patty.
My "kitchen" in the extended stay. 
If you're also doing the Macgyver challenge... don't forget to keep setting this bad boy!!

Once all your ingredients are cool, you can begin filling, rolling, and wrapping your burritos.

For mine, each burrito used about 2 tbsp of egg, 2 tbsp of meat, 2 tbsp. of hash browns, 1 tbsp of corn, a sprinkle of cheese, a shake of hot sauce, and a dash of pepper, on a warm tortilla. Wrap your burrito up, placing the seam on the bottom to allow it to seal to itself. You don't have to do anything fancy here, the weight of the burrito will help hold the whole thing together.

Once you've rolled all your burritos, it's time to wrap them each in a sheet of wax paper, then place in an airtight ziplock freezer bag. It is SUPER important that you use a freezer bag here, to prevent freezer burn. I am able to fit 3 small burritos in a small freezer bag, and one large burrito in a small freezer bag. Remove all the air from the bag, and seal. Lay flat in the freezer and allow to freeze at least overnight.

To reheat:
-Remove the burrito from the freezer bag, and wax paper for about 5-10 minutes before you need to heat it.
-Place on a microwave safe plate, or wrap in a paper towel and Heat 2-3 minutes in a microwave.
-Add topping of your choice (I use plain greek yogurt, salsa, and avocado.. or sometimes just eat it straight).

Or, like most mornings for me, throw it in your bag, or eat it one handed while lugging a car seat out the door :)

Makes about 10-15 burritos depending on the size you use. Now here's the fun part... The cost? Less than $1 each! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Zen and the art of diffusing a kitchen bomb with a piece of chewing gum.

She glances up from her newest cookbook at the two burner stove that properly functions about as often as our government. A pile of ingredients rest on the kitchen table/workspace/desk/living room table. She smirks at the tiny sink and dishwasher that does little more than steam dirty plates. Challenge, accepted.

We've been sentenced to 25 days in an extended stay-style motel room.

I've begun writing "redrum" on the outside window with my index finger and spent countless hours staring at the ceiling wondering what, exactly, IS that stain?? My husband is sleeping on the couch. Our evenings are spent staring at each other like zombies, across the single small table in the room. I've discovered cooking in this um, "kitchen" is more like an episode of Macgyver than Rachael Ray.

Thank goodness I packed a survival kit:

*My Calphalon knife set including kitchen scissors
*2 stainless steel pans
* Salt, pepper, and sweet paprika
* Measuring cup set
*2 mixing bowls
*My wood chopping block

And, my trusty crock pot. That's it folks. That's all I have. So far, we haven't died of hunger and I've managed to make a meal every single night. Here's one of the modified recipes I've made so far:

Loaded baked potato soup in a crockpot:

5 slices thick cut bacon, cut in small pieces
4 garlic cloves
1 large minced onion
1 tsp thyme
4 tbsp. flour
5 cups chicken broth
3 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Cheese, plain greek yogurt, and chives for topping.

-Cook bacon in a skillet until fully cooked through. Remove and place on a plate.
-Cook onion in the skillet with the bacon fat until translucent, add garlic and thyme.
-Add flour to the onions to coat, and cook until translucent again (about 1-2 minutes).
-Add 1 cup chicken brother and stir. Allow to cook down until the onions become sort of gooey.
-Transfer onion mixture and bacon into the crockpot.
-Add the remaining broth.
-Cook on high 4-5 hours, or until potatoes are tender.
-Once the potatoes are tender, mash in the pot and add milk and cream.
-Mix well, allow to cook for about 5-10 minutes more to heat the milk and cream.
-Scoop out each serving, top with a heaping dollop of greek yogurt, cheese and green onions or chives.
Makes about 6-8 dinner-size bowl servings.

Macgyver challenge note: I forgot my potato masher and potato peeler.. so I found myself with a fork and slotted wooden spoon mashing these bad boys up. I left a lot of cooked chunks, and it actually really added to the texture of the meal. My husband (while noticing me attempting to use the dilapidated slicer that came with the room on 3 pounds of potatoes), asked me "I guess you've never spent time in the brink?". No husband, I haven't... until just now.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

11 things I wish someone had told me about raising a newborn

My motivation to writing this post was an epic meltdown from my 15 week old son last night, a particularly rough night, and another rough morning. Today, my salvation is brought to me in the form of fresh brewed coffee and blogging.

 I was never the woman who dreamed of being a mother. I knew I always wanted children, but I wasn't "that girl" (and it's not a bad thing if you are/were), I was just more focused on attaining happiness through things of which I controlled (i.e. a career, my relationship with friends/family/hubby). I knew motherhood would be an adjustment, and I believed the women who said it would be tough. But hear me when I say: it has been the greatest, hardest thing I have ever taken on. I wish someone had told me some of the things I have posted here, as it might have saved me hours of pouring over the net and calling friends, searching for answers, and helped me better prepare for this new life.

11. Blast the GAS. For us, this means gas drops, gripe water, and/or rocking little one's hips toward his belly while he's on his back. You'd be amazed at what relief a good fart can bring to a baby. :)
10. Your body will change in ways you never dreamed possible. Yes, there's those pinterest images that say "I created life" or "Stretch marks are my tiger stripes!". I get it. But that doesn't make looking at your new body any easier. The good news is, most days you'll be so sleep deprived you won't even notice. 
9. Sleep deprivation is the devil I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Long term sleep deprivation will make you feel stupid, careless, cranky, and like you're losing your mind. I have gotten stupider in the past 3 months. Get your PhD. and memorize the entire Encyclopedia Britannica while pregnant, so when extreme sleep deprivation kicks in, you'll still be amazingly intelligent.
8. A good white noise app is your saving grace. My baby loves white noise, it helps him calm down and sleep longer. It also drowns out the sound of the fedex man knocking at the door, the dogs barking, or mommy yelling at the 49ers game in the other room.
7. Plans change. Flexibility is key. Hi. My name is Cassandra, and I have a Type-A personality. I don't choose to be this way, but this is the way I am hard wired. I actively work to not be so Type-A, but alas, there aren't many bones in my body that thrive with the "we'll just see what happens" mentality. There's a reason my nickname is "worst case scenario Cass"... I always think of every last thing that could happen in any given situation. This spells BIG trouble when you are a parent, and also when you're pregnant. Which leads me to the following:
a) Birth plans are great for day dreaming, but be prepared to wad it up and throw it at someone when it doesn't happen. The only things on my birth plan that went the way I had planned? Arrive at hospital & Have a healthy baby. Everything else went out the window, no matter how hard I tried. Sometimes you can't change the way things are going to happen.
b) Nursing? Not nursing? Again, be prepared for that to change. Read this
6. TRUST YOUR GUT. Believe me! I didn't, because my theory was that my "gut instinct" was underdeveloped, I was a new mom, and what did I know anyways? Truth is, my gut is what got my baby diagnosed with posterior tongue tie and lip tie, off the "failure to thrive" diagnosis, and healthy. I should have trusted it in the beginning, but I listened to 6 different doctors and just blindly did as they said until my gut instinct lept up and beat me senseless until I listened. 
5. Grow out your bangs. Grow out your hair. Consider lasering EVERYTHING. You just won't have time for it. Conditioner will begin to feel like a luxury item. A 5 minute shower will feel like a day at the spa.
4. Invest in multiple black t-shirts, tanks, leggings, long sweaters, and layers. When you're purchasing this, ask yourself, "If I spilled coffee all over this, would anyone notice?" If the answer is "yes", it ain't going to work, momma. Your new definition of high fashion will be going one day without being spit up on. You'll also find yourself weirdly hot or oddly cold when no one else is, and you'll need to be prepared to strip off layers or add them on. This also will help you avoid the tempting road of yoga pants as actual clothing.
3. Your relationship with your husband/boyfriend/significant other will change dramatically. Those long meals listening to Otis Redding, enjoying a bottle of wine while cooking together, and asking how each others day went are now replaced with "was that diaper poo-poo or pee-pee? What color was it? Can you watch him while I pump?". For now, those dinners are gone, but they'll return in time. Make time for just the two of you, if you can. We manage one date night a month right now, and it's our time to just reconnect. Help each other out. Realize that it's stressful for both of you, but you're in it together. AND, know that he sees you as a powerful, amazing woman... because you are the mother of his child.. and that hot little skinny blonde down the road? She doesn't even register for him. You're wonderwoman to him :)
 2. Learn a kick ass lullabye. I'm not talking Mary had a little lamb. Mine is "Dream a little dream of me" by Ella Fitzgerald. Learn the lyrics, learn to sing it well, even if you don't sing. This is for your sanity. I learned this trick a little late, but it psychologically conditions me to calm down while baby is SCREAMING and fighting sleep, again, for the 15th time today. If I had known this while pregnant, I would have sang this song over and over again while in the rocking chair to condition myself before he was born.
1. I know this sounds like a "duh" but parenting is CRAZY HARD, and any mother that says its easy is a DAMN LIAR. Yes, that sentence calls for caps. I would scream this from the roof tops if I could. Every mother has had that moment when they say, "I can't do this anymore!". And believe me when I say this, every. single. mother. has been there. You're dealing with the baby blues (I was crying one minute over how happy I was with my perfect little family, then the next second crying because I couldn't get the diaper on straight and was 'failing' as a parent.. I was pacing at 3 am off of 2 hours of sleep and afraid to give my son a paci to calm down.. crying and wanting to just run away from everything), and there's going to be those moments when you're going to go insane. I say, go insane. It's cool. Go with it. In fact, go bat shit crazy. Punch a pillow in another room while baby is tucked safely in the crib. Pass baby off to Daddy and leave the house if you have to. Go for a walk. Do what you need to in order to deal with those feelings safely and do not, not even for one second, feel guilty over initiating some self care. No one expects you to be wonderwoman. You are not a failure if your baby cries, even though you'll feel that way. No ones baby is perfect all the time, and no one person is a perfect mother all the time. If I could go back in time and talk to myself at 3 weeks postpartum, I'd say: you're not failing! Yes, that screaming SUCKS. But here's the BEST advice I've EVER read:

Being a newborn is really hard. It's your job to help your little one navigate his intense emotions, because he can't communicate and doesn't even understand what's happening to him. How would you feel if someone took away your ability to communicate, you couldn't feed yourself, and couldn't soothe yourself?

I repeat this to myself multiple times a day. Often with a screaming child in my ear. It's my job to help him calm down, it's my job to help him soothe. As anxious, tired, and stressed out as I am, my job is not to react just to my emotions, but to help him navigate his. 

 And one last piece of advice....there's no guilt in motherhood. Or, at least there shouldn't be. The last I checked, there's no real "Mother of the year" award, Pinterest isn't real life, Martha Stewart has a gaggle of assistants, no one's house REALLY looks like that ALL the time, and no one is perfect. Don't feel guilty over needing time for yourself, or a break, or feeling stressed out, or not entirely connected to your baby. It happens. I certainly don't know everything, but I wish I could have told myself these things four months ago. I wish I could have eased the pressure I put on myself to be perfect, because I was only setting myself up to feel like a constant failure. Oh, and.. when your baby starts smiling.. everything changes. Being sleep deprived at 3:34am, only to hear baby cooing.. you flip on the lights, rub your eyes, question why in the world he's up again, already, dear God can you please just sleep... and you see his smiling face looking at you??  You betcha, it's ALL worth it. 

PS... That mom on your facebook newsfeed? You know the one.. Her life is perfect, right? Her baby sleeps through the night, is such a good baby, motherhood is a breeze, its the best/least stressful thing on the planet? .....

She's a liar, and we all know it. ;)

Monday, October 7, 2013

20 day challenge: Day 1

While we patiently await the closing of our new home, we are living in an extended stay-style hotel. When I was a child, I always dreamed of how COOL it would be to live in a hotel. Oh my! I could run around, someone could clean up after me! It'd be like vacation every day! As an adult? Not so much. I've found myself living out of a hotel and a suitcase a few times in my life, as I've relocated states and been in the process of settling in. I've also come to realize the 'creature comforts' of your own home.. like an oven. Or people not taking your clothes out of the dryer early to put theirs in. Or remembering your room key anytime you leave. Or knowing there's always ice cream for sale... right down the hall. While we are in this transition, I figured I'd make it an endurance challenge... "How long can we survive in a hotel with a 15 week old, cooking meals, and without losing my sanity?"

My challenge is 20 days long, and I have a feeling our home will feel like a palace by the time we move in. By far, my biggest challenge here has been cooking 'one-dish' meals. I have realized I am the person who often uses every single pot, pan, and kitchen accessory I own while cooking these elaborate meals. Sure, I could cook up some mac n' cheese, throw some bread crumbs and chicken on it and call it a night.. every night. But what kind of challenge is that? So far, I've managed to make pork chops deglazed with cinnamon apples and mashed potatoes, and chicken tacos with guacamole and grilled onions. Tonight, it's steak (again deglazed... I have a feeling this will be my favorite new trick), with garlic couscous and broccoli.

Most importantly with this challenge, is my transition in my new role. I have 'retired' from the retail world, and am now a stay at home mom. This was a choice that I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to take, and I'm looking forward to learning this new job. Stay at home moms sometimes get a bad rap and can lose their identity in caring for their families..  I've always defined myself as a go-getter, passionate, intelligent, and ready to take on the world. I'll now be doing that with a Moby wrapped baby on me, instead of my laptop. I'm trading conference calls for baby monitor calls, corporate visits for zoo visits, and excel files for baby nail files.. and I've never felt more incompetent in my life! I'm learning how to navigate this new job, without the new employee orientation or handbooks of my previous jobs. But most importantly, I'm already loving this challenge. I'm excited to watch my son change and grow every single day, and very thankful that I'll be able to be here to see it.
I know this won't be blissful every day, but I'm looking forward to a real holiday season, where my concern is not scouring the dishes so I can take midnight sales reads and head to work, rather, scouring the dishes so I can enjoy some pumpkin pie with family. Spending Christmas eve waiting for Santa.. instead of shoppers. Singing carols about the season, instead of sales numbers. I've never known a holiday without retail, and I am SO looking forward to those moments, and making memories with my family.

Goodbye Spring Ridge love...

My husband and I have officially sold and closed on our beautiful first home in Utah, and have moved to Minnesota. I never knew I could be so attached to a possession, and I found myself recalling many fond memories while packing. This was the house my husband proposed to me in (via a scavenger hunt of all our best memories as a couple), this was the house our puppy became a full sized dog (and would run up the stairs, only to whimper because she was afraid to go DOWN them), the house we made so many wonderful memories in, and the house we literally poured our heart and soul into. As we begin this exciting new chapter of our lives, and I transition into the role of a stay at home mom, I can only hope that the next couple who owns the home loves it as much as I did. I am filled with that promise, as it was an older couple who purchased it from us, and the wife was very excited to garden in my garden (GOOD- because as you all know, that garden space was a friggin' fire pit when I purchased the home, and I spent THREE YEARS composting, tilling, and renewing the soil back into shape.. okay, rant over ;)  ). 

With all that being said, this blog will need to make a bit of a transition. Our new home doesn't have much to do for dramatic DIY restorations, which is a welcomed blessing considering our newborn currently occupies every waking moment I have. While I figure out exactly what this blog will be and mean to me, I appreciate y'all hanging in there with me. I promise to post ramblings from the midwest, and pass along whatever is currently making my life joyful, as I've always done... but it may be more casseroles and less caulking. More hot dish meals, and less hot mess walls. More fun decorating projects, and less fun remodeling while my husband is away projects (although I'm sure there's still plenty of trouble I can get into in the new house, honey!).

Sweet Spring Ridge drive, you will always hold a place of fond memories in my heart. So much love, laughter, and great times were had in this house, and you will forever be cherished!

Now... let's move into THIS house.. shall we?