Welcome, December

12.03.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Well, we sufficiently stuffed ourselves with turkey and pecan pie. We bid farewell to the last of autumn’s leaves. We packed up the pumpkin decor and have started to deck our house with nutcrackers and snowmen and garland climbing the banister. Yes, December has arrived.

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Welcome! It’s going to be a busy one, but let’s not forget to enjoy the quiet, magical moments.

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Nini Visit

11.21.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Not a day goes by that I don’t wish we lived closer to family. For spontaneous weeknight dinners, to help with appointments and errands, for conversations that don’t involve cellphones and computers. Maybe one day we will be so lucky. But for now, we will cherish the time we do have together.

Last week we were fortunate to have my mom, Sam’s Nini, spend almost a full week with us. Perfect timing, too, because Nick was gone three of the four weeknights, plus the entire weekend.

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Nini came with us to Barnes and Noble story time, Kindermusik, and swim class. We shared bagels at Panera and take-out pizza, and we enjoyed a popcorn and movie night. And it probably goes without saying that Sam was one spoiled little grandson!

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Nini brought a “fun bag” filled with craft projects, books, puzzles, and a few new toys. I swear that the two of them ran upstairs every other hour to pull something new from the bag.

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I also got to spend an entire day by myself! I sipped a peppermint mocha in the car while listening to real adult music; I got my haircut and my eyebrows waxed; and I tried on clothing without having to wrangle a toddler into the dressing room with me. Also? Sam barely noticed when I left, or when I returned.

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Thank you, Mom, for choosing to spend your vacation with us. We miss you already!

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Orecchiette with Sausage Sauce

11.18.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

This pasta dish is a favorite weeknight meal of ours. It’s hearty and tasty and comes together in less than 30 minutes. I’ve had four requests for the recipe since I posted it on Instgram, so I figure that makes it blogworthy. Enjoy!

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Orecchiette with Sausage Sauce

(Print the Recipe)

Serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage
  • 1/2 lb hot Italian sausage (or just use 1 lb sweet)
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup beef broth (or red wine)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lb orecchiette
  • 1 big bunch spinach
  • Parmesan cheese for topping

Directions

  1. Remove sausage from casing, crumble, and cook over medium heat until brown, about 5 minutes. Remove cooked sausage from pan and place on a separate plate lined with a paper towel.
  2. Add olive oil, chopped onion, and chopped garlic to pan. Saute for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add sausage back to pan, plus tomatoes and broth/wine. Season with salt and pepper. Set heat to low and simmer sauce.
  4. Meanwhile, cook orecchiette according to package directions, about 11 minutes. Add spinach to sauce when you have about 4 minutes left on the pasta.
  5. Toss pasta with sauce and serve with cheese.

Halloween 2013

11.17.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I realize that Santa arrived at the mall two weeks ago and at least half of you have already set your Pandora station to holiday tunes, but I must recap our Halloween for posterity sake. So here we go.

We chose a simple costume for Sam this year — one that required no additional purchases except for a new white shirt, which he needed anyway. The pants came from last year’s local consignment sale; we got the hat when we met Thomas; and I found the red handkerchief at the bottom of a dresser drawer. Easy-peasy!

Allow me to introduce our mini train conductor.

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Sam learned to ask for “treats, pease” followed by “dank doo” just in time for Halloween. We enjoyed several festive playdates, and we spent a Friday evening at the mall with at least 1,500 other kiddos where Sam ate no less than five lollipops. The weather on October 31st was cold and rainy, but we managed to make it around the cul de sac and fill his felt pumpkin bag with lots of goodies.

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Holidays are so much more fun with kids!

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Bumpdate: Weeks 27-30

11.05.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Another month closer to meeting our baby girl! People often ask at this stage: How do you feel? And I almost always reply: Pregnant. That is not a bad thing. It’s an amazing thing. But it means that, these days, I feel pregnant in every bone in my body. When I lift Sam out of his car seat, when I bend over to I fill Lucy’s food bowl, when I spend 20 minutes on the floor constructing a Lego tower, when I collapse into bed at the end of every day.

I need to constantly remind myself to slow down. There is no need to wash and fold four loads of laundry, vacuum the house, and chop six different vegetables for a pot of soup before Nick gets home from work. I just can’t do it all — plus keep up with Sam and Lucy. And that’s okay. Because I’m growing a baby, and that’s my priority.

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Afternoon naps have returned, and I am embracing them. The leftover Halloween candy stood no chance with this preggo in the house. I’ve also been craving Pepperidge Farm cinnamon toast and big, juicy cheeseburgers. Surprisingly, I’m holding steady at just over a 20-pound weight gain. I bought a new pair of flats and a new roomier winter jacket. And I finally purchased fabric for baby girl’s nursery. These are just a few highlights as we ease into November.

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In addition to slowing down my every day, I’m committing to a quiet holiday season. We do have travel plans for Thanksgiving (and it will be an emotional one to celebrate since it will be the first without our dear cousin, Lauren), but after that we’re going to bunker down here at home. There will be a tree and cookies and lots of toddler crafts to complete, but there won’t be the over zealous fanfare that typically accompanies Christmas. And that’s fine. Because our most important Christmas present is due to arrive just two weeks later.

Letter to Samuel: 25 Months

11.04.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I wasn’t planning to write monthly updates after Sam’s second birthday, but there are just so many moments that I want to remember. And so here we go. Sam’s 25th month.

Likes: Music. You love to sing and dance and march through the house with a drum strapped around your neck. | Water. We started swim class this month. And you love it! You are the only kid in the class who will jump into the water without holding Mommy’s hands. | Art. Coloring, painting, holiday craft projects. You are currently into it all. | Stickers. You have become very, very good at your sticker books. We love to sit on the couch and match the stickers to the correct pages. | Work. You still love to help with projects around the house. This month, you helped to paint your baby sister’s room (the color “purkle”) and hang crown molding in your room. | Frisbee. It’s actually Lucy’s frisbee, but you are surprisingly good at throwing it!

Dislikes: Baths. You now prefer “showers.” Which is fine with your pregnant momma because it means I don’t have to bend over the tub to wash your hair and your toes. | Walking. You would much rather run everywhere. And it’s often difficult to get you to hold my hand while crossing the street. You think it’s much more fun (and funny) to clasp your own hands together. | Leaving the house through the garage door. You now request to go out the “back” and “meet Mama” at the car. | And, as always, you strongly dislike when I tell you it’s time to come inside. You say “no, play outside, please” no matter if you’re covered in mud with a runny nose and cold, rosy cheeks.

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Favorite Foods: Cucumbers coated in Ranch dressing; naan bread with hummus; sausages and bratwursts; tacos; and all things pasta. Also, juice. You now often request “juice” instead of water or milk. I usually dilute it, and, fortunately, you don’t know the difference. You also often request “mac and cheese” for lunch. Not to mention “cookies” “candy” and “happy cake.” Oh, you’ve also figured out how to open the freezer and have been caught several times with a carton of ice cream and a spoon.

Favorite Books: Little Blue Truck; Muddy Paws; Goodnight Construction Site; Kisses for Daddy; Little Quack’s Bedtime; and Trucks (a lift-the-flap book). We read between 3 and 5 books together every night. And sometimes you continue reading to Ricky and Baby after we turn out the lights. You’ve also become much more interactive during story time. You pick out the “big duck” and the “widdle duck.” You tell me that “Pop” is driving the tractor and “Pete” is driving the mail truck. (Ironically, our mailman’s name really is Pete.) Oh, and that the dump truck is filled with “poop.” (We have Pop to thank for that reference.)

Favorite Toys: Your “doc” kit; the “pizza” set for your kitchen; Legos and wooden blocks; your train table; cars and trucks; and your Little Tikes car that you “pack” and take on trips around the house — you say “bye” and then announce “I’m back.”

Favorite TV Shows: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Jake the Pirate. We allow you to watch about three episodes per day, and one of these two is always your pick. In fact, you now know most Mickey episodes by name: “Minnie picnic” “Mortimer” “Donald airplane” and “Pluto moon” to name a few.

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Communication: Your vocabulary is expanding at an incredible rate! You say new words every day, and I can no longer keep track of how many words you know. It’s amazing to have real conversations with you and to have you respond to my questions and to hear you tell Daddy about our day when he gets home from work. You also now speak in short sentences. Like “dog collar off” (when you reminded me to remove Lucy’s collar before putting her in the car) and “throw money in water” (when you told Daddy that we threw pennies into the fountain). You almost always say “please” and “thank you” and “I welcome,” which makes me one proud momma. While riding in the car you say “I see bus … pumpkin … tree … bike.” You say “Momma, watch” when you want my attention and “Ricky, look” when you have something to share with your best stuffed buddy. And sometimes you respond with “yeah” in this deep man voice, and it’s hysterical.

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Sleep: No real complaints here. You are typically in bed by 9pm and awake around 7am. You nap between 2 and 3 hours every afternoon. And you rarely put up a fight. But we do have a challenge to tackle in the very near future — operation ditch the binky (which you currently only use for naps and bedtime). I am not looking forward to that one.

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Sam, you continue to impress us with your memory and entertain us with your imagination. I can’t wait to see what adventures await us!

White Chicken Chili

10.23.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I love fall for so many reasons. Sweaters and boots; pumpkin pecan waffles and apple crisp with vanilla ice cream; crunchy, colorful leaves; college football; and soup. Yes, soup season is here, and I want to share with you one of our favorites.

In my opinion, a good soup is thick and hearty, a little bit spicy, and leaves you feeling warm and full. This White Chicken Chili is all of those things and more. I got the recipe from blog friend Sarah, and I have made it at least a dozen times since she shared it with me last year. (Side note: Sarah’s husband is assistant brewer at Gunpowder Falls Brewing in New Freedom, PA. And Nick has been thoroughly enjoying the case of Dunkel I bought for his birthday!)

Now back to the chili. The list of ingredients is simple: chicken, smoked sausage, two types of beans, onions and garlic, spices, and corn starch for thickening.

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You can cook the chicken in advance, and chop the sausage, onions, and garlic. Then store it all in a big Ziploc bag. I do this if we are expecting company, and I don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen after they arrive.

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Once everything is prepped, it takes less than 30 minutes to simmer and thicken. Topped with Monterrey Jack cheese and a big dollop of sour cream and served with a side of tortilla chips, it’s a perfectly comforting fall dinner.

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White Chicken Chili

(Print the Recipe)

Serves 8.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 lb smoked sausage, diced
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans (15 oz) great northern beans
  • 2 cans (19 oz) cannellini beans
  • 1 can (4.5 oz) diced green chiles
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp pepper (preferably white, but black will work)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • 4 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • Monterrey Jack cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips for garnish

Directions

  1. Add olive oil to a heavy pot or dutch oven and cook the chicken over medium heat, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from the pot and set aside.
  2. Add onions to the pot and cook until they start to get translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and diced smoked sausage; cook 3-5 minutes more.
  3. Add chicken back to the pot, along with the diced green chiles, cumin, white pepper, and cayenne pepper; stir and cook 1-2 minutes.
  4. Raise the heat to high and add chicken broth and beans. (Drain and rinse the beans before you add them.) Bring the pot to a boil.
  5. In a separate small bowl, mix together cornstarch and water. Add to the chili and simmer until it reaches desired thickness, about 20 minutes.
  6. Garnish with cheese and sour cream and serve with tortilla chips for dipping.

Transitioning our Toddler to a Big Boy Bed: Part 2

10.22.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We had been planning to transition Sam to a big boy bed before baby sister arrives in January, but our little acrobat had his own timeline in mind. So we made the big move about a month before Sam turned two. Now here we are two months later, and I can honestly say that I am very proud of how our toddler handled the transition. Yes, there were a few bedtime battles, and he fell asleep on the floor more than once, but we’re all sleeping better — and safer — now.

Before Sam was born, we decided to purchase a convertible crib with the full size bed conversion kit. So as soon as he learned to climb out of his crib, we started to shop for a mattress. Every sales associate from every store we entered directed us to the cheapest options with the lowest coil count. But I decided that if there was any chance I’d ever have to sleep beside our son — or quietly climb out of his bed and stumble back to my own room in the middle of the night — I wanted something that didn’t creak and wake our sleeping angel. We finally settled on a firm, mid-priced mattress. And we plan to keep him on it until he turns 18!

While we waited for the mattress to arrive, we installed a safety gate at Sam’s bedroom door and secured all of his furniture to the walls. I bought soft jersey-knit sheets and a polka dot comforter for his new bed. And one week later, Nick picked up the mattress from the warehouse, and we were set to begin the transition.

Sam dusted the pieces of his crib that would become the headboard and footboard of his new bed, and he helped to hammer the wooden slats into place, and he only protested slightly when we removed the bird mobile that had hung in his room since the day he was born.

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When the full size bed was assembled, and the box spring and mattress were in place, it looked gigantic. And very intimidating to our 27-pound kiddo.

I almost regretted our decision to skip the toddler bed until I learned that we could ditch the box spring, making its size much more manageable. (Check with your bed manufacturer and mattress dealer to find out if this is an option for you.) This, of course, created a subsequent problem.

Sam is a very active sleeper, and I worried that he might fall out of bed in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, the bed rail I had purchased did not work without a box spring. So I did some more research and found a great foam bumper that easily slides under the fitted sheet. I also put a pool noodle between his bed and the wall for a little extra security — and, I admit it, to prevent his binkies from disappearing!

With every piece finally in place, we were ready for our first night in the big boy bed. We talked with Sam about his friends and cousins and uncles who sleep in big boy beds and asked if he wanted to be just like them. Of course he did. But that didn’t stop the tears from falling when I attempted to tuck him in and leave the room. Two hours later — after a bowl of yogurt and a cup of water, a stack of books and puzzles, several songs, and at least a dozen times in and out of bed — he was finally asleep.

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I felt like a new momma that night, waking up several times to check the video monitor. But he surprisingly stayed curled up in the corner with his stuffed frog until 7 a.m. the next day. Yes, he only slept for 8 hours when he typically sleeps for 10, but I deemed it a success.

The second night was a different story. He woke up crying at 2 a.m. and insisted I lay beside him. We talked and sang songs and read books. He tossed and turned. And before I knew it, it was 4:30 a.m. So I told him I had to go back to my big girl bed, and after about 15 minutes of crying, he fell asleep.

Nights 3 and 4 were challenging, too, and afternoon naps were all over the place. But by the fifth night, we had found our new routine. This new routine includes an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse after bath, followed by at least three books in bed, two songs, and about five minutes of talking about our day. He typically doesn’t fall asleep until about 9pm, which was a difficult adjustment for this momma, but there are no longer tears or ridiculous requests or pleads for me to stay.

Change is never easy. But it is necessary. And I’m so happy that Sam is fully settled in his new bed months before baby girl arrives. Next mission? Ditch the binkies. Advice welcome!!!

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Life Lately

10.16.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

October is moving right along, as expected. We’ve been enjoying fall festivals, leaf jumping, hayrides, early trick-or-treating, and all things pumpkin.

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Know what else is moving right along? This pregnancy. My belly is getting bigger by the day. And baby girl continues to thrive and make her presence known with strong kicks and some pretty sweet dance moves.

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Our two favorite football teams won last weekend! Sam was especially excited about Penn State’s thrilling quadruple overtime victory over Michigan.

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We’ve been hosting playdates and dinner parties.

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Here is Sam with his cute little blonde dinner date.

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We spent a Tuesday evening with our local firefighters at a community event. Sam was most impressed with the “biiiiig ladders.” He said “whoa” and “wow” at least 24 times.

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And, finally, we got very sad and unexpected news about the passing of my family’s nine-year-old Golden Retriever. Sadie was our stubborn one. Fiercely independent, adventurous, and a risk-taker. But she loved unconditionally. She was a compassionate companion and left our family far too soon. RIP Sadie Girl. You will be greatly missed. A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.

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Bumpdate: Weeks 23-26

10.07.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

This bumpdate marks the end of the second trimester. Whew! What happened to the last 13 weeks? Seriously. And I believe that life is going to get even busier. Fall festivals, family visits, Thanksgiving, holiday parties, Christmas, New Years, and then … baby girl, you will be here!

You are growing bigger by the day. In fact, you now weigh about 2 pounds. And your movement has become much more significant and noticeable. I can feel kicks and punches and your head and your rump. Along with these new movements has also come aches and pains and cramps in my lower abdomen.  But I will take any amount of discomfort to know that you are thriving.

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I got a nasty cold this month that turned into a sinus infection. And so I must apologize for the constant coughing and sneezing. Every night I used the netty pot, at least 25 tissues, vapor rub, and aquafor on my sore nose and lips. Thank goodness that is behind us. Although, we did get to enjoy quite a few chocolate peanut butter milkshakes. Thank you, Daddy.

Speaking of my sweet tooth, I have my glucose test next week. Hopefully those milkshakes + Sam’s birthday cupcakes don’t skew the results. I will also start the see the doctor every two weeks after next week’s appointment. Hard to believe we’re here already!

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I know that you and my belly still have a lot of growing to do. But, wow, simple tasks are already becoming difficult. Like painting my toenails and tying my shoes. My back hurts if I sit on the floor for too long, and I’m constantly bumping my belly against the kitchen sink and Sam’s changing table. Of course, we have so much to look forward to! A nursery to paint and decorate. Pretty pink clothes to wash. Baby gear to pull out of storage. 26 weeks down, and only 13 more to go!