Days 10 and 11 – bottles and balls

Even though I'm not working during maternity leave, weekends are extra special because David is home with us. He i so good with her, such an amazing father, I love watching them together.

Day 10, Saturday July 12
We've been exclusively breast feeding and plan on continuing to do so for quite a while. However we will have to introduce pumped milk in a bottle when I go to work or if we ever want a date night again. On Saturday, I pumped a little to try out the bottle and to mix with her vitamin drops. She doesn't like the drops straight from the syringe. David gave her the bottle. It was magical to watch him have that experience and bond with her in a new way. As for Annabelle, she was trying to take it all in. It seemed to confuse her that she was getting her familiar food from a different person and in a different method. I love breast feeding so much, it's an incredible experience, but I'm glad someone else gets to have the joy of feeding her too.

David gives Annabelle her first bottle. The cats observe.

David gives Annabelle her first bottle. The cats observe.

Day 11, Sunday July 13
During the first two weeks at home we got to watch lots of World Cup. I've never paid much attention to soccer (excuse me Futbol) but David loves it. And it was a lot of fun to watch with him. We watched the first US game during my labor and most of the games that were on when he was home. Only during US games did we determine it was best if he didn't hold the baby. I even watched the last US game when he was at work because I'd gotten into the entire thing. Sunday was the finale and we watched Argentina and Germany play. For David it was a perfect day, he got to hold his baby, have a beer, watch soccer.

Beer, baby, soccer. Perfect Sunday for David.

Beer, baby, soccer. Perfect Sunday for David.

I also made us some soft pretzels (one of my favorite things to bake) in support of Germany. Someday soon, I'll post my recipe. I love to bake, especially breads, and I hadn't done any baking since Annabelle was born. It felt good to be baking again even if it did take a lot of energy and planning around a newborn feeding schedule!

Yummy pretzels. I made these with whole wheat flour.

Yummy pretzels. I made these with whole wheat flour.

Four more years until the next World Cup. But there's women's World Cup next year in Canada!

Days 7, 8, and 9

I was just posting my 100 happy days one day behind, and then more behind. But I don't feel guilty or obligated because I have a newborn. It's helping me focus on my many blessings and that is the point. Day 7 (Wednesday July 9th) We got our beautiful prints, birth announcements, and digital images from our newborn session. One is here, the rest you can see on our photo page. SV Annabelle newborn-28 Day 8 (Thursday July 10th) We went to Annabelle's three week appointment. After the difficulty she had gaining weight the first week, we were so relieved that she had grown one inch from birth (up to 22 inches) and now weighs 9 lbs 1 oz! She's too long for all her newborn outfits and most of her 0 to 3 month outfits even though she isn't too wide for them. Apparently our little girl is going to be tall. Here's a photo of her in a 3 month outfit. It's a little too wide but none too long. 20140711-171337-62017365.jpg Day 9 (Friday July 11th, today) It's been a calmer, quieter day today. Just the two of us hanging out at home which I needed. It's been a busy busy week. This parenting thing for a new baby is no joke. I'm exhausted and can only really accomplish one thing a day. So today what is making me happy is a freezer full of food. I prepared some meals before Annabelle was born and our friends also brought us food. It's saving our bacon because the most complicated thing I've cooked since she was born is one batch of banana bread and boiling pasta and adding already prepared sauce. Pictured is some salmon pot pies. Chicken pot pies have been my specialty and go to food for when I took freezer meals to friends who had babies. For this batch of salmon pot pies, I took David's favorite salmon chowder recipe, did a bunch of modifications, and voila these.  Super yummy. At one point we had about 10 in the freezer, but we have been eating them since then. Ignore the crust, I was having a bad crust day. 20140711-171426-62066512.jpg

Day 5: Pimento Cheese

To me pimento cheese is one of the perfect summer foods. I loved a big huge thick schmear of it between slices of bread as a sandwich, on crackers, spread in celery, or eaten straight. It's the southern in me, but it's nearly a perfect food. However it isn't that good for you so I don't make it all that often. Yesterday I made a batch to take to a play date/BBQ with Dave's high school friends. (Parties have changed a lot in the three years I've known this group because nearly all the couples have had kids. It's a fun change.) everyone seemed to enjoy it even if as Alaskans they didn't gave the immediate recognition of what it was that occurs south of the Mason-Dixon Line. It's so ubiquitous therei once ate dome from a gas station on a road trip and miraculously didn't get sick. I make my pimento cheese a bit different than my parents did growing up because I don't accept velveeta as a food and chose a real cheese. I also don't really measure so it's hard to give a recipe on a gut thing, but here you go.

20140708-105546-39346978.jpg Pimento Cheese Spread Extra-sharp cheddar cheese (60% of your total cheese) shredded, approximately 12 oz Cheddar cheese (40% of your cheese) shredded, approx 8-10 oz Pimentos, 8 oz jar, drained 8 oz cream cheese softened Mayo (or miracle whip) as needed, approx 2/3rds cup, I never measure this, just keep adding spoonfuls until it's the right consistency Salt and pepper to taste Other seasonings (I used Nature's Seasonings instead of salt and pepper which has some onion and garlic powder in it I added a smidge of cayenne pepper this time, quite yummy Mix it up. Chill and eat. Even better the second day after sitting in the fridge.

Nana’s Beer Battered Recipe

Life has been rough in our little corner of the world for the last few weeks. I've learned a lot about my fiance, his family, their traditions, and my own expectations. Mostly I've learned that they love each abundantly and I'm so blessed to be a part of their family. Quite a few Yup'ik and Native Alaskan traditions differ greatly from what I was expecting, but one thing is the same between the South and here - crisis are best confronted with copious amounts of food. Several times as the food was being planned, Nana's beer battered salmon was mentioned. However for various reasons, and various lack of familiarity with deep frying, no one was jumping in to make it. Yeah, I'm from the South, I may repress most of my emotions publicly, but I can deep fry anything. Give me that recipe. And so I made Nana's beer battered salmon. It is odd for someone from a landlocked state to fry up salmon. Salmon is precious/expensive where I grew up, but not up here. Here we have an entire freezer full, as do most people we know. Even vacuum-packed straight from the river, salmon loses moisture and usually requires a sauce/marinade when you cook it later. Frying adds back in that moisture in a most delicious way. My initial cooking instinct was that this batter was too thin. I decided to test out a few pieces before thickening it up. Glad I did because it was perfect. However it lacked seasoning. The aunts informed me that Nana didn't use much seasoning beyond salt (probably a reflection of what was available in Alaska when she was learning to cook rather than a personal choice to eschew spices). I added in Nature's Seasoning Blend (from Morton's) because it is my go to quick and safe choice, about 2 teaspoons worth. I'll be playing with different seasoning choices in the future. I know I'll be making this again and again. Now for the cooking (and this is my first time food blogging so be kind). First gather your ingredients: Beer Batter Ingredients I am using a Pyramid Thunderhead IPA because we bought a mixed case of Pyramid beers at Costco and neither of us really like IPAs. It has been also featured in a number of beer breads. The aunts let their beer go flat first, I dumped mine from glass to glass until most of the foam was gone. I deep fry in regular vegetable oil - the big container from Costco. Have someone helping you (pictured is my David, you'll have to get your own helper) cut the salmon into bite sized chunks: Salmon CleaningPlease note that his bite size chunks are really more two-bite sized chunks. They were perfect that size. When he is finished with that, have your helper finish up the remaining beer. (One beer is a bit less than two cups needed four a double batch so he gets about 2/3rds of the second beer.) While he's doing that, mix up your batter: Beer BatterI made a double batch of beer batter and we had plenty left over after cooking up three large filets. The egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks and folded in at the last moment before frying. Next set up your frying space. Fry SpaceI am a big fan of getting everything set up and ready to go before you turn on that oil. When you're frying, that is all that you need to focus on. On the right, beer batter, salmon chunks, and sliced potato (for testing if the oil is hot enough). Middle: fry pan, splatter guard, oil thermometer (the less tasty but more accurate way of testing if the oil is hot enough), metal tongs and metal slotted spoon. When I was young and stupid, I melted a plastic spoon in frying oil. Left side: baking sheets lined with a triple thickness of paper towels to put fried food. And it is time for the fun - start frying! FryingYou need to keep the oil at around 360. As I was heating up the oil, I tested it with a sliced potato. That's delicious (especially with a light sprinkle of the seasoning salt) but not the most helpful. The thermometer helps you maintain a steady temperature. It is also acceptable at this point to grumble about using an electric stove and make your partner promise to never buy another house without a gas stove in the kitchen. Flip things over periodically so they cook evenly. Try not to burn yourself too badly. Cooling Fried SalmonAlways I let the fried things cool on a triple (minimum) thickness of paper towels. Often I pat the top with another set of towels. This absorbs some of the grease and makes them healthier (probably not, but it does make them less greasy). Beer Battered SalmonNana's way of doing this had apparently been to cook them ahead of time, store in the fridge, and then pop in the oven to reheat. I did so as well. Worked marvelously though of course fresh is best. Also we had a lot of batter left over. So I beer battered some carrot sticks (out of the organic Full Circle box which I thinks makes them a health food) you see those in the smaller pans. Those were fantastic and vegetarian friendly. I was considering beer battering many other things before common sense reasserted itself. Beware once you start frying, it is hard to stop. I'm glad I didn't remember we had mini snickers left from Halloween or there might have been beer battered snickers. And if you made it through all of that - the recipe almost exactly as I received it): David's Nana's Beer Batter 2 egg whites (beaten to stiff peaks) 1 cup flour 2 tablespoons oil 1 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup beer (flat-ish) Optional: other seasonings, see note above, use your own best judgment Mix ingredients (I used a whisk). Fold in stiff egg whites just before deep frying. Moral of the story: everyone likes fried things and food is the universal language of love.

What I’ve Been Cooking Lately

This was promised to be a general life, house, cooking, DIY, crafting, knitting blog and here it goes. (No pictures this post because I didn't take any.) I don't get home most days until 7ish or 8ish when I was commuting from the Eagle River library. I also tend to want food NOW not food in an hour when I've cooked. And we're still trying to eat healthier and avoid pre-made processed foods and mixes with their crazy chemicals and loads of sodium. My solution is a combination of a few quick easy meals, cook ahead and freeze cooking, the crockpot, and leftovers. Monday is my day off. I'll usually make a large something that can be frozen in smaller batches or be leftovers for the rest of the week. (I try not to have more leftovers than we will realistically eat in a week. When in doubt, freeze it.) Monday is also my day for new recipes, more elaborate cooking, grocery shopping and prepping as much as possible for the rest of the week, not to mention as much cleaning, errand running, and housework as possible. Lately though Monday has also been my day to read as much as possible for the Newbery award. Details available here. This has meant even more crockpot and easy cooking than ever. Slow Cooker Tortellini Soup First off I made this creamy slow cooker tortellini soup I saw on pinterest. I mostly followed the recipe, except for a few changes. *I thought I had mushrooms, but I didn't. Didn't miss them though I bet they would be excellent. *I didn't measure the amount of spinach I put in, just chopped up one bunch. It seemed to be about right. *Since I had just finished a batch of chicken stock, I used a cup of that instead of vegetable broth. *And the biggest change was that I didn't have a white sauce mix envelope. I just added the ingredients from this white sauce mix recipe that would be equivalent to one quarter the total. Or to say I put in 1/4th of what was called for of every ingredients (mixing it in the crockpot). With dried milk put in twice (once in the original recipe, once in the sauce mix recipe) it was rather thick and milky so I added an extra cup of water. Worked perfectly. The only major thing I will do differently is not to add the butter in that white sauce mix recipe. It tended to separate when reheated. But this was an amazing soup and David and I loved it. Will definitely be making again. Not very healthy though with all the milk/cream based yumminess. Stovetop Easy Chicken Bake Yes this is a mostly processed food. My sister told me about this a mix of bite sized chicken and veggies mixed up in condensed soup and sour cream with stovetop stuffing baked on top. It's yummy, easy, and filled with lots of veggies. Just be aware that you're getting a ton of sodium in this one recipe and plan the rest of your day accordingly. The recipe is on the back of the box of Stovetop dressing or online here. Make it once and you'll have it memorized. The main thing I changed was to use a smaller bag of veggies (12 oz) and cut up a fresh broccoli head with them. I didn't steam the broccoli before cooking so it was relatively firm/not mushy. Delicious. David loved it. Sneaks full servings of vegetables in. Prepared in under 10 minutes. Pumpkin Poppers On the sweeter side I made these pumpkin poppers. They were like addictive pumpkin donut holes. I ran out of allspice (how does that EVEN happen?) and so I used cardamom instead. Fantastic, but next time I'm going to try upping the pumpkin and leaving out the oil. Would make them healthier and more pumpkin flavored. Both of which are good things. I ended up giving most of these away at work so David and I wouldn't eat an entire batch. They disappeared quickly. Side note about allspice - doesn't it seem like if you have that it should be sufficient for all your spice needs? I was so sad as a child when I realized that was a specific spice and not a substitute for every spice or an instruction to toss in all the spices in your cabinet. Additionally I made a weight watcher recipe (stuck behind a pay wall on their website) that was slow cooker Caribbean chicken with sweet potatoes and pineapple. Also amazing. When we had it for leftovers, we combined it with rice. Long entry, but I see everyone's pinned recipes and I always like hearing the "I tried this but changed this and here's how it worked" stories. I would (and probably will) remake and recommend any of these recipes.