Thursday, July 26, 2012

Double Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Growing up, I remember my mom making chocolate-covered frozen bananas during the summer, and they were one of my favorite treats! I love the combination of chocolate and banana, but for some reason don't do a whole lot with it in my baking. Well, this recipe took me right back to those good ol' days, and is different enough from regular banana bread to make it a real treat.

If you're looking for a tasty twist on a traditional favorite, this recipe is definitely for you! The cocoa powder in the batter gives a hint of chocolate-y-ness, and the chocolate chips are a surprise burst of more intense chocolate flavor that help the bread stay nice and moist. But, have no fear, the chocolate doesn't overwhelm the banana flavor; it enhances it and makes that delicious combination.

I made a few changes to the recipe, so you can either follow the link to the original, or make it as I list below. I hope you enjoy this one as much as my family and I did! (I even doubled the recipe and stuck one in the freezer for later - an added bonus to making banana bread is that it freezes so well!)

Double Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (original recipe can be found here)
1 c. coconut oil (if you don't have this, feel free to sub. vegetable or canola oil)
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. mashed bananas (about 4 medium)
1 c. light sour cream
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
4 Tbls. cocoa powder
2 c. white whole wheat flour
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease 2 9x5 loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, bananas, and sour cream.
3. Stir in salt, soda and cocoa powder until combined.
4. Stir in flour until just combined, followed by chocolate chips (don't overmix once you add the flour, or your bread will be tough).
5. Divide batter evenly between pans, and bake for 55-60 minutes. (1 hour was perfect for mine)
6. Let sit ten minutes in pan, then run a knife around the edges and turn loaves out onto cooling racks to cool completely. (I couldn't wait to let mine cool all the way so I dug in and ooooh was it a moist, melty treat!)

Hugs and cookies,


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Baby Story: The First Trimester

That's right, folks! Baby Reese #3 is due January 30, 2013! So, in my case, that probably means I'll be a week overdue and have to be induced. :) We're super excited and, frankly, a tad nervous to add another one to the mix. Asher will be about 3 1/2 when baby comes, and Aiden will just have turned 2 - so we'll be kept on our toes, that's for sure.
13 weeks
I'm 13 weeks today! The biggest difference I've noticed with this pregnancy vs. the other two is that I started to show a lot sooner . . . At least to myself. I tend to dislike the first trimester for a variety of reasons:
1) We don't really tell anyone other than family until the first trimester is over in case of miscarriage, and I'm always impatient to share the news;
2) I have morning sickness which consists of nausea which comes frequently at all times of the day (still no vomiting);
3) I just look like I'm gaining weight and it's uncomfortable and unattractive.

I realize that last one is pretty very superficial, but it's uncomfortable when your clothes don't fit right and you feel like they should. But, like I said, I seem to be showing earlier with this one, so hopefully I won't have to wait until week 20 to actually feel like I look preg-o. Minor details, I know. :)

The nausea has abated for the most part, now, but I really hate when it comes. The best way I can describe it (and maybe I've said this before) is as follows: You know the day after you've had the stomach flu? You feel a million times better, and actually start craving food again because your stomach feels completely empty. So you eat something, but it doesn't really help, or at least not for very long. That's what my morning sickness feels like. I feel nauseous, but with a completely empty stomach, even if it's not. So, I'll eat something hoping it helps, and it usually does for 10-20 minutes, but then I feel crappy again. Thank goodness it hasn't lasted the entire pregnancy for me, yet. I feel so bad for the women who have morning sickness the whole 9 months!

So far, so good, though! I got to hear baby's heartbeat at my appointment last week (it was 160) and that's always such a huge relief! My doctor always says it's not uncommon to not be able to hear it at 12 weeks and it doesn't necessarily mean anything is wrong; but, we've heard it with both the boys so I was extremely anxious as she moved around my uterus trying to find the heartbeat . . . trying to find the heartbeat . . . trying to find the heartbeat . . . THERE IT IS! Nice and strong. Thank you, God.

I'll keep plan to keep y'all up-to-date throughout this pregnancy on feelings (physical and mental), how baby's doing, and how the boys are doing - or if they're even aware of what's going on! Praying this pregnancy, labor, and delivery go as well as the first two did!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Caramel Puffcorn

Remember when I told you about our family tradition of watching a movie with the boys every Friday night? The boys and I love, love, love popcorn, so I decided to change things up from our usual butter and salt and make something that reminds me of my own childhood.

This wasn't a tradition at my family's house (actually I don't think I ever had it there), but I remember having it at friends' houses (I can't even remember whose anymore . . . I think I was in elementary or middle school) and I absolutely loved it. I couldn't get enough. And when I made it recently, it was just as good as I remembered.

I love using the puffcorn in place of popcorn just because it adds a different texture and flavor. Don't get me wrong, I love me some caramel corn too, and think this recipe would be smashing if you subbed regular popcorn, but the puffcorn is a nice touch. You can find it in the chip aisle of your grocery store, and I just get the butter flavored bag of it. I think the butter flavor is part of what makes this a tad different than regular caramel corn, so if I use this recipe with popcorn, I might use buttered popcorn . . . A little extra indulgence never hurt anyone, right?

I should note that the boys weren't as big of fans of this as plain popcorn, but I think that's because it's a little harder for them to eat - the pieces are bigger, and the caramel is tougher to bite through than plain popcorn. That being said, I'm sure they'll love it when they're a little older, and in the meantime I guess I'll just be packin' on the pounds devouring it by myself! :)

Caramel Puffcorn (original recipe can be found here)
1 pkg. puffcorn - I think it comes in 8 oz bags
1 c. butter
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. light corn syrup
1 tsp. baking soda
1. Grease a roasting pan and preheat oven to 250 degrees. Pour puffcorn into greased pan.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup to a boil and boil for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda (this will cause your mixture to foam up, so don't panic!)
4. Pour caramel over puffcorn and stir thoroughly.
5. Bake 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to make sure it's evenly coated and doesn't burn.
6. Remove from oven and spread on waxed paper to cool. Break into pieces once it's cool and store in an airtight container.
*I stupidly made this when it was 100 degrees outside . . . I don't recommend that unless you have super AC in your house/apartment because it's hot.

Hugs and cookies,


Monday, July 23, 2012

A Baby Story: The Aftermath of Aiden

Immediately after Aiden was born, the doctor was concerned because I was bleeding more than I should - not necessarily an alarming amount, but more than is considered "regular." That meant a lot of pushing on my uterus to try to stop/slow the flow. It was uncomfortable, and hurt some of the time. It took maybe 5 minutes and then that worry was done.

No one tells you that nurses come in periodically through the day and night to push on your uterus to make sure everything's still going alright. It is not pleasant; especially if you've had a C-section. Seems minor after delivering a baby, but after the 8th time they've done it, I've usually had enough.

My mom was staying with Asher at our house, and she brought him by that evening to meet his brother. I was so excited to see our little big guy because I had never been away from him for too long, and was missing him! He walked in with my mom, and I was still hooked up to IVs, although I was able to be sitting in a chair . . . and Asher didn't want to come near me. He started crying when my mom and Dusty tried to coax him over. Well then I started crying, of course, because . . . Well, I don't know why - I guess my feelings were hurt? So, it fell to Dusty and my mom to comfort me because clearly it was a scary situation for Asher having never seen me like that before. And even though I knew that, it was still sad for me because he was always my snuggle buddy. He warmed up to me again shortly after, but those minutes were heart-breaking!
Checkin' out his bro and making sure he's okay!

Luckily, the rest of the hospital stay was uneventful for the most part. Aiden was circumcised, which I still dreaded, and tended to like to be awake after he ate during the middle of the night (with our second baby we didn't feel as guilty having him go to the nursery after being fed so we could catch up on sleep at night).

Nursing still didn't go as smoothly as I thought it would after how well his initial feeding went, but we powered through and eventually it got a little easier; and, it wasn't nearly as painful as it was with Asher.

When we were home, things fell into place, and it was then that I realized my reaction to this birth was a lot more healthy than what I went through with Asher (I can keep that in my database for future pregnancies/deliveries). Asher gradually warmed up to Aiden, although it was hard for both him and I to adjust because we didn't have as much time together as we used to. I felt guilty at first, but knew it was important to spend that time with Aiden, too. We tried to read books together on the floor, and sometimes he'd sit next to me while I nursed Aiden. Asher got a lot of quality time with Daddy, too, which was good for both of them. And, since Daddy's way more fun than Mommy, it was okay. :)
First family picture!

Dusty was a champ, just as he always is, and helped in any way possible. It's a wonderful feeling to not have to dread your husband's reaction when you ask him to run upstairs to get something for the 10th time in an hour, or if he could run out to the store for something minuscule. He never complained, and never showed any annoyance or frustration. What a guy, what a guy!
Daddy getting in some prime cuddle-time.

Aiden was an easy-going baby right from the beginning, but extremely demanding once he wanted something. He didn't cry frequently, but once he decided he was hungry, he went from 0-10 in about 2 seconds . . . There was no distracting him with a pacifier or walking around or doing silly things. When he wanted to eat, he wanted to eat. He's still like that. :) I think the grumpiness when he's hungry might come from me . . . I've been known to get cranky if I'm hungry.

I was still in pain, of course, after being able to deliver Aiden naturally, but not nearly as much as I had been with my C-section. Everything about it was just better for lack of a better word. I felt better both physically and emotionally, and am so thankful for that because I know Asher would have sensed it if I had been depressed in any way.
Kisses for his brother.

Having the two boys was/is a challenge, but they are the best gifts Dusty and I could have. It's amazing how similar they are in some aspects, yet complete individuals in others. They amaze me each day. I can't believe it's been a year and a half since Aiden was born. He actually just had his 18-month check-up today and was in the 95th percentile for height, 87th for weight, and 94th for head circumference. He's a big boy, just like his big brother!

As I look at him now as he's running around the basement with a grin on his face, looking for mischief, it makes me a little short of breath to see just how fast he's changing and growing. Each stage of his life has been a marvel (with both pros and cons), and we are so thankful to God for giving us our second, healthy, vibrant little boy!
One of my favorite pictures of the boys - Asher's sharing all the books so nicely :)

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Baby Story: Labor and Delivery with Aiden

We checked into the hospital around 7:30 a.m. on January 18, 2011, and my induction was underway shortly after that. I remember being pretty impatient to get things going because I wanted to meet this baby boy!

They attempted to break my water with the hook, but since baby's head was so far down, there was too much pressure - it was distinctly uncomfortable, which I found odd because it wasn't at all for my induction with Asher. Since that wasn't working, they inserted a tiny wire that makes a small hole, causing a small leak, which is supposed to eventually break your water. Well, it worked, but it took a while and it was frustrating waiting for things to get moving.
Our first picture together . . . Glad I'm looking my best ;)
Finally it broke! They gave me a small dose of pitocin and I walked the hallway about 2 times before calling it quits. It wasn't distracting for me (I know that strategy works well for a lot of women) and the nurses kept getting signals that they couldn't get the readings of baby's heart-rate while I was walking around. Back to the room . . .

Once contractions started, they moved pretty quickly. I had been 3 1/2-4 cm dilated before they induced me, so when the doctor checked me and said I was at 5 cm after 3 hours I felt a little depressed. I (for some unknown reason) assumed the labor and delivery would fly by and we'd have our baby by early afternoon. Nope.

I had an epidural, and they noticed baby's heart-rate was a little lower than they like it, but it would steadily come back up between contractions so they weren't concerned (thank goodness, because I was having flashbacks to Asher's labor and delivery and didn't want another C-section). Things were progressing smoothly, and it was finally time to PUSH!!!! It was a glorious feeling to have gotten to that point.
Perfect little peanut

I was patting myself on the back because with the first few pushes my nurse was saying, "Wow, you're a really good pusher, good job!" So, again mistakenly, I thought I'd push for 15 minutes and have a baby! Forty-five minutes later my epidural started to wear off. I was in horrible pain, to the point where I couldn't push during contractions. Our nurse stopped me from pushing until the doctor came in because she was concerned my uterus might be rupturing (cue terror in Dusty and myself). She was wrong.

The doctor came in and, in not so many words, said "Toughen up, Nancy, that's what labor feels like." It was the kick in the butt I needed. When Dusty and I talked later that night he said he didn't know if her attitude would annoy me or motivate me; thankfully, it worked as a motivator in this case! After about 5-10 minutes of pushing with the doctor in the room (which we had to wait for because she was delivering someone else!) little Aiden William was born! My foremost emotion right when he came out was relief because the pain had stopped and I was exhausted from pushing. Then, they laid that goopy baby on my chest and I fell in love.

At 8 lbs 2 oz., and 21 1/2 inches long, he was a little chubbier than his big brother, and 1/4 of an inch shorter. He was beautiful. He had round cheeks and dark, dark hair, like his daddy. God had given us another little miracle!
First picture with both boys . . . Asher is less than enthused about his brother.
In fact, he's playing with Dusty's Ipod . . .

Come back to find out how we all adjusted to life with little Aiden as part of our family! And to see if Asher took more interest in him. :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

S'mores Bars

Summer = S'mores, right? Right. These bars are great for summer because they're literally a portable, less messy s'more, and you can make them in the winter to remind you of hot summer days. (Although, I wouldn't want to be reminded of these brutally hot, unforgiving days we've been having lately!)

These were so good I made them twice within a week's time, with a slight variation. The first time, I made them with Hershey's bars as the recipe calls for, the second with Reese's PB cups. Both were delicious Mmmmm, yummy.

If When I make these again, I'll make a couple changes: 1) I would double the original recipe instead of just doing 1 1/2 times, and 2) I would use two jars of marshmallow creme instead of just one so you can really taste and see the marshmallow-y goodness! The recipe below is how I made it both times - the suggestions above would just make it a little better and/or easier, in my opinion.

I apologize that there aren't any pictures!!! Apparently they were so good that I never got any . . . If you follow the link to the original recipe, she has great pictures of what they look like. So sorry about that! I could have sworn I took some. Weird, but not surprising . . . at least for me. I had to post the recipe anyway because it really is a winner!

S'mores Bars (original recipe can be found here)
3/4 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. + 2 Tbls. flour
1 1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 regular Hershey's bars or 16 Reese's PB cups
1 jar of marshmallow creme
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 pan.
2. Beat butter, sugars, eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and salt approximately 3 minutes on medium speed.
3. Add flour and graham cracker crumbs and mix until combined.
4. Divide dough in half and spread one half in the bottom of the pan - it will be a thin layer.
5. Place the chocolate evenly over the top, then spread with marshmallow creme.
6. Take remaining dough and roll it between two pieces of waxed paper until it is a 9x13 rectangle. Peel off the top layer, then place the dough on top of marshmallow creme and gently peel off the bottom layer.
7. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool before cutting . . . Or just dig in and experience gooey, delicious, s'more messiness.

Here's what kept the boys busy today . . .

 They moved literally all of their toys into their little pup tent and played in there together for about an hour! And apparently Aiden wasn't happy to be interrupted for pictures. :)

These are the times I'll remember most when they're older!

Hugs and cookies,


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Baby Story: Pregnancy with Aiden

We had only lived in our new house a week or two when I noticed something womanly was missing . . . Asher was only 9 months old at the time. I vividly remember taking a pregnancy test after Dusty left for work one morning, and it was more to satisfy my own curiosity than from any real conviction that I was actually pregnant.

Well, I was wrong! (Dusty can tell you that doesn't happen very often, wink, wink.) I had only bought an individual test, but immediately loaded up Asher to get another one just to be sure. Positive again. Initially I was in utter disbelief. There might have been a little shock involved, too. I. Could. Not. Believe it.

Neither could Dusty. I think both of us didn't even know how to react. There was excitement, of course, but I think that came a little later. We looked at little Asher who wasn't even crawling yet, and wondered both aloud and to ourselves how we would manage two little ones so close in age, not to mention the numerous financial aspects.

Once we got over the initial shock, we were elated. I couldn't help but imagine the two of them playing together as they got older, practicing sports together, laughing together . . . It was so fun to think about.

The pregnancy was really similar to Asher's - morning sickness/nausea during the first trimester, but after that I was pretty much home free. It was definitely harder though because I had a little one to take care of during the periods of nausea. It's hard to find energy during those times, that's for sure!

I also went back to work part-time from Aug.-Dec. of that year, so I think that played a part in my exhaustion. But, seeing Asher at daycare the first time made me really excited for him to have a sibling to play with.
20 weeks along
We decided to find out whether we were having a boy or girl the second time around, so at 20 weeks we found out we were having another little boy. It was so exciting (and frightening) to think that we would have two boys so close in age.

The only major difference between pregnancy with Aiden vs. Asher, was that with Aiden I had a lot of lower back pain. I attribute most of that to the fact that I was still carrying Asher around a lot, and Dusty and I took turns at his bedtime rubbing his head for 15-20 minutes until he fell asleep . . . That was hard on my back, too. (Although it eventually forced us to take measures to get him to fall asleep on his own!) Luckily, I had a willing masseuse in the form of my amazing husband. :)

As hard as I tried to avoid it, I got the stomach flu when I was about 7 months along, and that was miserable. I also got the worst cold of my life over Christmas - to the point where I almost couldn't breathe from a stuffy nose and a horrid cough. And, of course, being pregnant, my options were really limited as far as what I could take to combat it. November and December were particularly rough months.

I think Dusty was a little more concerned with this pregnancy because I had had an emergency C-section with Asher. Reliving what that was like added to his natural tendency to nervousness. I had decided to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) this time because I really wanted to experience natural childbirth. Dusty was nervous because it's an added risk to both mother and baby if the scar ruptured during labor/delivery. My doctor was very reassuring and realistic. She told us that while there was a risk, she didn't feel there was anything keeping me from trying it. I had had smooth pregnancies with both babies, and there was nothing telling her to not allow it.
32 weeks, or thereabouts

Well, surprise, surprise, the due date came and went . . . And I was scheduled to be induced a week after the due date. Having had a C-section, my doctor wouldn't allow me to go more than a week past my due date because it increases the risk of something rupturing as the baby gets bigger and your stomach and uterus continue to expand. So, we kissed little Asher goodbye and headed to the hospital around 7:30 a.m. on January 18, 2011 to add another munchkin to the mix . . .

Stay tuned for Part 2: Labor and Delivery

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Gourmet Style Cookies at Home

There are few things better than the fresh, big cookies from a bakery, unless you can recreate that in your own kitchen! These cookies use the same base as my favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies, but with the addition of cashews, toffee pieces, and chocolate chips, they become something truly special. I brought some to my parents' house this past weekend and heard nothing but good things, and I'm sure you will, too!

I love cashews; they're my favorite nut. But, if you're partial to something else, feel free to substitute those - pecans would be delicious in that mix of toffee and chocolate, too. Anyway, with the addition of a few special ingredients, these cookies will make you feel as though you're enjoying a special treat at an expensive bistro or bakery somewhere.

And, as it's the fourth of July today, it seemed appropriate to post a recipe for chocolate chip cookies, considering they're a staple of American life . . . at least for me. :) Hope you all have a wonderful Independence Day, celebrating our freedoms and the troops that fight for it! One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Gourmet-Style Chocolate Chip Cookies
3 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
28 Tbls. butter
1 1/2 c. dark brown sugar (I use light because it's usually all I have on hand)
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbls vanilla
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 c. chopped cashews
3/4 c. toffee pieces
1 1/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
2. Heat 20 Tbls. of butter over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling the pan continuously until butter is dark golden brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Transfer butter to large bowl and add remaining 8 Tbls. of butter and stir until melted. 
3. Add sugars, salt, soda, and vanilla and whisk until incorporated. 
4. Add egg and egg yolk and whisk until smooth. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat this twice more. 
5. Stir in flour until just incorporated, then mix in the chocolate chips, toffee pieces, and cashews. Spoon dough onto parchment-lined or greased baking sheets and bake for 10-14 minutes - the cookies should look puffy and golden brown.

I hope you all enjoy these!
Hugs and cookies,


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Parenting Blunders

Tell me I'm not the only one . . .

As I was writing a blog post the other evening, my husband was laying on the floor checking his iPad, Asher was looking at Green Eggs and Ham, and Aiden was playing nicely with a toy tool set . . .

Or so we thought.


I jerked my gaze away from the computer screen to look at Aiden, only to find him covered, and I mean covered, in Desitin cream. We keep a big tub around because when Aiden gets diaper rash he gets it pretty severely. Apparently he either discovered how to twist the cap off (which wouldn't surprise me, the little MacGyver) or we didn't screw the lid on tightly. Either way, Aiden's hands were covered in the thick, white, gloppy stuff, and he must have tried to use it like lotion because both of his legs were covered, too.

His clothes didn't escape unscathed either, but that's not what concerned us. Horror of horrors, I saw white on his lip. Yep, he ate some. I wiped his mouth out as best I could, and we gave him some milk to drink. It didn't seem like much was in there, but you can never really know for sure.

Dusty and I both jumped on the internet to do some quick research on side effects, then I called poison control just to be sure. The nurse I talked to assured me that kids get into Desitin all the time. Well, I felt a teensy bit better, but not a whole lot. But, she did reassure me, saying that if he ate a mouthful or less, it's non-toxic. If he ate more, we could see vomiting, diarrhea, and/or nausea, but that would be the extent of it.

PHEW! That was a relief. Aiden must not have eaten much because he had zero side effects. Thank the good Lord for that!

It just goes to show that right when you think your little one is at an age where you don't have to keep quite as close an eye on him, well, you're probably wrong.

Lesson learned.