My Valentines

02.18.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Sweet and simple. That was our Valentine’s Day. Chocolate treats, a few gifts for the kiddos, and a husband who had just returned home from a four-day business trip.

valentines1

Lots of love in our house this year!

valentines2

valentines3

Chipotle Pork Quichelettes

02.12.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Chipotle Pork Quichelettes. Sounds pretty fancy, right? Well, just call my husband Mr. Fancy because this was his contribution to the second annual Appetanza Extravaganza. And it was the winning dish!

Not only was it full of flavor and perfectly savory, Nick received bonus points for grinding his own meat and making his own pastry. Yes, he was in it to win it this year.

But he assures you it’s not at all complicated. In fact, he managed to prepare it while sipping multiple glasses of red wine. He’s such a multi-tasker. Enjoy!

appetanza2

Chipotle Pork Quichelettes

(Print this Recipe)

Makes 20 quichelettes.

For the Tart Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 11 tablespoons (5.5 ounces) butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Filling:

  • 6 ounces lean ground pork
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup half-and-half cream

1. For the Tart Crust: In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, butter, egg, and salt with a wooden spoon, or with a hand mixer set to the lowest speed. Mix until dough comes together and can be formed into a ball.

2. Grease muffin tins. (This recipe makes 20 quiches, so you will need multiple tins.) On a floured work surface, roll dough into a log about 15 inches long. Cut log into 20 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and flatten it slightly with your palms. Place flattened dough into greased muffin tin, and use your fingers to press it out and up the sides of each well.

3. For the Filling: Preheat oven to 375°F. Add ground pork to a skillet, season it with ground chipotle chile and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and cook over medium heat until no longer pink.

4. Add pork, cheddar cheese, and chives to each quichelette crust. In a bowl, beat eggs, cream, and remaining salt together until combined. Pour the mixture over the pork until it reaches the top edge of the crusts.

5. Bake quichelettes for 26-28 minutes, or until slightly browned. Cool for about 10 minutes, and gently lift them out with a butter knife and serve warm.

(Adapted from La Fuji Mama)

The Winning Recipe

02.10.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Last Christmas we hosted the inaugural Appetanza Extravaganza. We came up with the idea just days before our family arrived for the holiday, which didn’t allow much time to prepare. This year, however, everyone knew about the event weeks in advance, and it showed by the caliber of recipes.

appetanza1

We chopped, braised, baked, and sampled all eight creations over four hours. We scored each dish on creativity, taste, and presentation, and we crowned a winner the next day.

Here’s a picture of the winning dish.

appetanza2

And the winner, himself.

appetanza

Recipes coming later this week!

Letter to Nora: One Month

02.06.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Nora Kathryn,

Oh, what a doll you are! You are the most content baby girl, and you are not at all phased by this crazy family of ours. You sleep soundly through toddler squeals and canine barks, ringing doorbells and a revolving door of excited visitors. And I do believe that your calm demeanor is contagious. Because I feel so much more patient and more flexible than I expected to feel as a new momma of two.

1month1

How quickly I had forgotten some of my favorite things about the newborn stage: the way you sigh while nursing and coo while sleeping; how you arch your back and curl your legs when waking up; the hiccups and the squeaks; the way you throw your arms into the touchdown position and how you kick your legs during diaper changes; the sweet smell of lavender lotion and Dreft laundry detergent.

Then there are the things that are unique to you: your silky hair; your longer fingers and slender feet; your sweet, chubby cheeks; the rolls under your chin and around your thighs; how you hold onto my shirt and look into my eyes while nursing.

1month2

You are most happy wrapped tightly against my chest while I cook and clean. You don’t mind when Sam drives his cars across your belly or when Lucy sniffs your itty bitty toes. You transition easily between my arms, the pack’n’play, your swing, and the car seat. Though your favorite position is upright so you can take in your surroundings with those big blue eyes.

You encourage me to slow down and be more present. I feed you when you’re hungry (typically every 2-3 hours) and let you sleep for as little or as long as you like (sometimes 20 minutes and sometimes 3 hours). I know the day will come when we will find a routine that works for us, but for now, I’m enjoying this relaxed pace.

1month3

You latched and nursed like a champ from day one. And I’m grateful it’s been so easy for us because I’ve had to feed you while sitting on the floor and playing blocks with Sam, while walking to the back door to let Lucy out, while eating my dinner with one hand, at Barnes and Noble and at Chick Fil A and while Daddy tried on shoes at Macy’s. But I also look forward to and savor the quiet moments we share in your nursery and sneak as many extra snuggles as possible while someone else is chasing your brother around the house.

At your one-month well visit, you weighed 9lbs 4oz and measured 23 inches long. Though the doctor would like to see a higher percentage of weight gain between now and your two-month visit. Doesn’t he realize that you’re already wearing three-month clothing?! But we’ll listen to his orders and continue to plump up those already incredibly kissable cheeks.

1month4

You are such a strong girl! You have had no problem holding up your head and following the sound of our voices since the day you were born. You don’t mind tummy time and even lift and turn your head from side to side. We spend at least an hour every day on your activity mat and you especially love when Sam lays beside you.

Speaking of laying beside you, Sam insists that you join us in his bed every night for story time. He tucks you in and holds your hand, and it is one of my favorite moments of our day.

1month5

Big brother Sam is also an amazing helper during bath time. He washes your belly button and your toes and drains the water from the tub when we’re finished. You are so wide-eyed and content during this time.

1month6

I couldn’t be happier to have a daughter to love and spoil. Nora, you just fit so perfectly into our lives, and it’s already impossible to remember our days without you.

1month7

Newborn Nora

02.05.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We are so fortunate to have such a talented photographer as (almost) family. Mandy is the soon-to-be sister-in-law of my sister. She’s taken so many special photos for us, but Nora’s newborn photo shoot is (obviously) my favorite yet.

Mandy visited with my sister a week after Nora arrived and spent countless hours with our baby girl to get the perfect shots. She even exhibited incredible patience with our stubborn toddler who was in no mood to have his photo taken with baby sister.

You can see more of Mandy’s and her partner’s work at Mudpies N Butterflies. (Also, shameless plug, I recently redesigned their website!) Thanks again, Mandy!

resize-norafb-0143  resize-norafb-0104  resize-norafb-9740

resize-norafb-9751

resize-norafb-9783

resize-norafb-9792

resize-norafb-9795

resize-norafb-9842

resize-norafb-9848

resize-norafb-9858

resize-norafb-9896

resize-norafb-0086

resize-norafb-9963

resize-norafb-0046

resize-norafb-9970

P.S. I saved my absolute favorite for the birth announcements. Coming soon!

Letter to Samuel: 28 Months

02.04.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

28months

This month brought so many changes. Most significantly, you are now a BIG BROTHER! You absolutely adore Nora and have been such a good helper. You love to wash her belly and her toes during bath time; you bring diapers and powder when I ask you to; you pick up her pacifier if she drops it; and you insist she lay in bed beside you and hold your hand during story time. I can’t wait to watch your relationship with her continue to grow!

28months4

Of course, with all big life changes, come challenges, as well. I’m not sure which challenges are directly related to Nora’s arrival and which are typical for all 2-year-olds. You continue to exercise your independence and express your opinions — from the clothes you want to wear to the food you want to eat — and have frequent meltdowns if you don’t get your way right away. But we’re working on it. I ask you to take a big deep breath, and we talk through it together. I’ve learned that time-outs don’t really work for you at this age, and so we’re exploring other options. Mostly, I’ve found that if we give you enough attention and provide enough opportunities to burn off your crazy toddler energy, we’re all a whole lot happier.

28months2

Despite these challenges, you are such an awesome kiddo! You have a ton of personality and make us laugh all the time. You are on a major superhero kick (thanks, in part, to The Incredibles movie). You call yourself “Super Sammy” and insist on wearing your “super shirt” (an Under Armor shirt from Uncle Stephen), “super pants” (gray sweatpants), and “super socks” (navy blue with lime green stripes) almost every single day. And you make up stories about your super adventures. Sometimes you ride a green motorcycle (which you pronounce “moh-ker-set”) and sometimes you fly your airplane to the beach. Sometimes you will just declare “dinosaur is coming!” and start running circles around the house. You have such an amazing imagination, and we absolutely love it and encourage it!

You have identified favorite characters (Lightning McQueen) and Matchbox cars (the “hot fire car”) and scenes from movies (the dragon scene from Shrek and the rocket scene from Toy Story). You have become quite adept with the iPad — favorite apps are Endless ABC, Monkey Preschool Fix-It, Train Puzzles, and Clicky Cars. You will sit beside Daddy and “work” on your mini laptop (thanks, Emma!). You still love stickers and insist we work on a few pages every night before bed. Current favorite books are: The Diggingest Dog, Seven Little Postmen, and Little Blue Truck. Some nights, you prefer to read to us. You clear your throat before beginning and lick your finger to turn the page. (We still have no idea where you learned that!) Then you “read” mostly gibberish with about every tenth word one that we understand.

Speaking of bed, whew! I believe we are finally back into a good sleep routine. But for a solid two weeks, you entertained/drove us crazy with your bedtime shenanigans. From pushing down your gate (and declaring “hooray, I did it!”) to covering yourself in diaper rash cream to undressing yourself to removing every item from your dresser … most nights you did not fall asleep until close to 11pm. We slowly eased back into a 9pm bedtime with afternoon naps that start by 1pm. Wow, what a difference sufficient sleep makes!

28months3

It’s amazing how much bigger and more mature you seem now that Nora is here. When I hold you, the bottoms of your feet hit just below my knees. You have outgrown nearly all of your 2T shirts and now wear size 8 shoes. You ask questions and answer ours and demand to be part of every conversation. But, at the end of the day, your hugs and kisses are as sweet and innocent as ever. We love you, big guy!

40 Weeks

02.03.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I always suspected Nora would arrive before her due date. Just as I predicted Sam would arrive after his. I also always felt as though I was carrying “more baby” this time. Despite having gained almost exactly the same amount of weight, Nora was nearly two pounds bigger than Sam at birth! Call it mother’s intuition.

nora1

nora2

We were home from the hospital with our healthy baby girl two days before I hit the 40-week mark. It still astonishes me how the female body can endure such change in such a short amount of time.

weekly

40weeks

I’m fortunate that I had a very easy pregnancy. But it’s still so much more fun now that Nora is on the outside!

nora3

Sibling Love

01.18.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Just hours after Nora was born, we prepared for our two! children to meet for the very first time. We had looked forward to this moment for nine months, and it was even more amazing than we had imagined.

Nick held Sam’s hand as they walked down the hall towards our room, and we heard big brother singing “baby sister, I coming!”

siblings01

Sam had picked out a stuffed animal just for Nora, and he clutched it tightly as they walked into our room. He stopped when he saw me in bed with the baby and a great big smile spread across his face.

siblings02

In a matter of seconds, he had taken off his jacket and his shoes and climbed into bed with us.

siblings04

He talked in a high-pitched baby voice and introduced himself as “I Sammy.” He wanted to touch her hair and her fingers and her toes, and he kept saying “oh, baby Nor-wah.”

siblings03

“Nor-wah” had a gift for big brother, too: a backpack with books, stickers, snacks, a new water bottle, and a disposable camera. Not surprisingly, the camera was a big hit.

siblings05

Our first photo as a family of four!

siblings06

Nini and Pop and Auntie Laura spent the afternoon with us, too, although Sam didn’t want anyone else to hold “his baby.”

siblings07

He was sweet and gentle and pretty much obsessed. They stayed for almost two hours before we decided it was time for Daddy to take Sammy home and get ready for bed. And I learned later, that when Nick tucked him in that night, he said “I miss Mommy” and “I miss Nora.”

siblings08

My mom had planned to spend some time with us the next morning, but Sam insisted he come along. And he had to bring his backpack, too.

siblings17

Sam visited that morning, and again for dinner that night. He even held Nora while she was awake, and I swear she was staring right into big brother’s eyes.

siblings15

I have no doubt he will be a protective big brother.

silbings16

Miss Nora and I had a nice two-night stay in the hospital, but we were more than ready to come home by Tuesday, which happened to be the coldest day in recent history! Seriously, it was -9 degrees (not including the wind chill factor) when Nick and Sam came to pick us up. We even received special instructions from the doctor to warm up the car for at least 10 minutes and sit in the back with the baby to ensure the temperature was comfortable for her.

sibings11

Sam was thrilled to sit next to Nora on our short drive home. And as soon as we walked in the door, he said “I hold baby sister and watch Mickey.” And so they did.

siblings12

silbings19

Our first evening together was surprisingly quiet. We ordered pizza and spent a lot of time on the couch with our kiddos. Lucy kept her distance and only occasionally sniffed around Nora’s pack’n’play.

kiddos

Sam and Nora were both sound asleep by 11pm, which I’ll consider a success. And, oh gosh, I can’t get enough of these two in their fleece jammies!

siblings13

Sam was every bit as interested in Nora the next day. Though we did have to remind him numerous times to be careful and gentle.

siblings14

He wanted to help change her diaper and had to sit right beside us while I nursed her.

siblings19

So many impromptu photo ops!

silbings20

Yes, life is incredibly crazy right now. But it’s also a whole lot of wonderful.

siblings21

Nora’s Birth Story

01.16.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

January 5th, 2014. Three days before our due date, and nearly two weeks after I felt my first false contraction, I woke up at 4:30am (not unusual). But this time was definitely different. How could I have possibly forgotten the feeling of a true contraction?

I got up to use the bathroom and turned on my phone to start timing the contractions. I woke up Nick after 30 minutes of contractions that consistently came just 5 minutes apart. I didn’t want to overreact, but I also suspected (and hoped!) that baby girl would come much faster than Sam did. So I jumped in the shower and, by the time I had finished, Nick had made the bed, packed his bag, took out the trash, started the car, and turned on the Keurig. Daddy was ready!

I called the doctor at 6:30am and said I was pretty certain that today was the day! He said to come right in. So we called our friend to stay with Sam and made the much anticipated calls to our parents and were on our way!

Contractions were bearable, but I was so ready to get out of the car and walk. In fact, I didn’t even want to sit while registering at the hospital, and so I paced while providing my information. Before we knew it, two nurses had arrived with a wheelchair, and we were whisked up to the fifth floor.

I was just 4cm dilated upon arrival, but my doctor did not hesitate to admit me. She said she would prepare the paperwork for my epidural and be back to break my water. Wait! I said. That wasn’t my birth plan. My (very attentive) nurse explained that I wanted to do this naturally — as long as possible. And after the doc left, she apologized on her behalf, and said that was just typical routine. But not for me.

So the nurse hooked me up to an IV and the fetal monitor and said I had to lay in bed for 30 minutes. But as soon as they recorded the necessary readings, we were up and ready to walk the halls!

001

We walked and walked and walked some more and returned every 30 minutes for 15 minutes of monitoring. Surprisingly, the next two hours passed pretty quickly. Of course, the contractions steadily intensified, and by 10:30am, I had reached 7cm. I was breathing deeply and groaning through the peak of each contraction while Nick rubbed my lower back and listened to my demands for “higher” and “lower” and “harder.” And then my water broke (which it never did naturally with Sam), and I felt some sense of accomplishment.

The nurse reminded me that my window for getting an epidural was quickly closing, and I decided without hesitation that I would get one. I felt I had labored naturally as long as I could and was ready for a bit of relief before meeting our baby girl.

I endured about 15 more minutes of painful contractions before the needle was inserted and began to work its magic. Though, because I was only given one initial “test” dose, I still felt each contraction. But I rolled onto my side and was able to relax and felt grateful to still feel so present in the moment.

Within about 45 minutes, I began to feel the urge to push. It seemed fast, but I called the nurse anyway. Sure enough, baby girl was ready! However, my sister and my parents were still about 15 minutes away, and Laura really wanted to be in the delivery room with me. She’s in her final year of nursing school and had not yet had the opportunity to see a childbirth. I mentioned this to the nurse, and she said we could wait, if we wanted to. Baby girl was fine, and I was comfortable. And so we decided to wait. Which felt very strange. But also very exciting as Nick and I counted down the final minutes before our daughter joined us.

Soon we heard footsteps running down the hallway, and Laura burst into our room, breathless and thankful she had arrived in time! The doctor and nurses were right behind her. The lights dropped from the ceiling. And it was go time!

Unlike Sam, this baby girl was anxious to enter the world! Her head full of dark hair was visible before I even began to push. And after just 5 minutes and 3 really big pushes, we heard the sweet, sweet sound of her cry for the very first time. Welcome, Nora Kathryn!

002

The nurse placed her slippery, pink, perfect body on my chest while a very proud Nick cut her umbilical cord. She snuggled right up to me, her heartbeat fast and the rhythm of her breath quick and steady. And it was a moment we will never, ever forget.

003

We were quite surprised by Nora’s hair … and her size! She had slender feet and long fingers like her big brother. But those cheeks! And that belly!

004

A whopping 8 pounds 5 ounces! Nearly 2 pounds bigger than Sam was at birth. I had felt during my entire pregnancy that I was carrying more baby this time, but I never expected to birth an 8 pounder!

019

After a quick wipe down, Nora was placed back in my arms, and we spent the next hour staring into her perfectly round face.

010

It is true that childbirth is no less of a miracle the second time. My heart instantly expanded to make room for her, and I felt the immense joy of becoming a mother all over again.

009

And Daddy? Well, let’s just say it was love at first sight.

012

Laura was thrilled to share this special moment with us and declared it was “the coolest thing” she had ever seen. We welcomed my mom back to the delivery room to meet her first granddaughter and witness her first bath.

016

013

And then it was back into Momma’s arms. Her body felt so warm and full of life. I studied her face and her features and felt so thankful for another beautiful, healthy child.

019

Our Daughter

01.10.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We are thrilled to announce the arrival of our daughter, Nora Kathryn!

announcement

She has a full head of silky soft hair and kissable cheeks and is content despite the chaos that is currently our life. Much more to come!

cheeks