Thursday, January 22, 2015

Kelly's Lasagna

I think a good lasagna recipe is a core component of any recipe collection. It's wonderful comfort food, and when you add some garlic bread and Caesar salad it makes an easy and excellent dinner for family and friends! I've stuck with the same lasagna recipe since I first made it my sophomore year of college, and I never get tired of it! It has a little bit of a "kick" thanks to the spicy sausage and hot pepper Classico sauce, and it's nice and substantial thanks to all the meat and the chunky Ragu sauce.

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Okay, so lasagna doesn't photograph well. But it's delicious, I promise. :)

Recipe from my friend, Kelly.

Recipe makes two 9x13 lasagnas. Half the recipe to make just one pan.

Ingredients:
12 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions
2 lbs ground beef, cooked and drained
1 lb Jimmy Dean "Hot" pork sausage, cooked and drained
1 jar Ragu "Chunky Garden Combination"
1 jar Classico "Hot Pepper"
32 oz whole ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 bunches of green onions, minced (whites only)
8 oz fresh spinach leaves, chopped
7-8 cups mozzarella cheese

Directions:
1. Lightly spray two 9x13 pans with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Lay 3 lasagna noodles in the bottom of each pan.
3. Mix ground beef, sausage, Ragu sauce, and Classico sauce in a bowl. Spread 1/4 of the mixture over the noodles in each pan.
4. Mix ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, and green onions in another bowl. Spread 1/4 of the mixture over the meat sauce in each pan.
5. Spread 1/4 of the spinach leaves over the ricotta mixture in each pan.
6. Sprinkle 1/4 of the mozzarella over the spinach leaves in each pan.
7. Repeat each layer (three more lasagna noodles, then 1/4 of the meat sauce in each pan, then 1/4 of the ricotta mixture in each pan, then 1/4 of the spinach leaves in each pan, and top with 1/4 of the mozzarella).
8. Bake for 1 hour, or until cheese is lightly crusted and browned on edges. Let cool 10-30 minutes before serving.

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Meat Sauce

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Ricotta Mixture

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Layer 1: Noodles!

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Layer 2: Meat Sauce!

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Layer 3: Ricotta!

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Layer 4: Spinach!

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Layer 5: Cheese!

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Ta-da!

Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Christmas 2014

I'm just going to go ahead and be the last person in the whole world wide web to post a Christmas 2014 recap on her blog. I can use the newborn baby excuse to explain the delay, right? ;)

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Best gift ever, indeed.

First things first... here's our 2014 Christmas card (which went out early in December, before we knew Connor was arriving pre-Christmas!) in our holiday card album. I went with Shutterfly this year instead of my usual go-to, TinyPrints, because I had a really good coupon code, but I was disappointed in the print quality. Back to TinyPrints next year!

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And here are our new Christmas ornaments for 2014 - one from our Monaco trip (we always buy an ornament as a souvenir when we're on vacation) and a "we're expecting" ornament. Connor has a bunch of "Baby's 1st Christmas" ornaments now too!

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Connor turned one week old on Christmas Eve. We dressed him up in a cute little outfit that was way too big for him (the poor thing didn't start to fit into his newborn-sized clothes until around four weeks old!), and spent the day with my family.

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Connor got to meet his third set of great-grandparents!

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We went to Mass on Christmas Eve with my parents, sisters, and grandparents at the church where Jeff and I got married. It's always special to go back there when we're with my parents!

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My mom did a delicious seafood boil for dinner (complete with plastic bibs!), and after we ate we all sang Christmas carols (a family Christmas Eve tradition)!

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We normally stay either in Dallas or at my parents' house on Christmas Eve, but since Connor was so little we decided it would be easier to just spend the night at home and come back in the morning. So we ended up having our first ever Christmas morning in our house!

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Since we weren't expecting Connor to arrive in time for Christmas, I didn't have a stocking for him. The little "C" stocking was a $2 last-minute Target purchase that worked just fine! I'm looking forward to making/buying us a matching set for next year!

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We may be parents now, but there definitely weren't any children waking us up on Christmas morning. Connor slept through the whole thing! 

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I bought these reindeer pajamas while I was pregnant, and I hoped against all odds that he'd arrive in time to wear them. And he did. :)

Of course, a sleeping baby didn't stop us from taking lots of Christmas morning pictures of him. :)

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My loves. :)

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Here's Connor with his Christmas gifts!

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In future years, I think we might follow the gold, frankincense, and myrrh gift-giving approach., but we decided to keep it simple this year, since he was only a week old and all (and since we were initially planning on giving gifts to an in-utero baby... haha), so Jeff and I gave him a personalized cross from SashleeCeramics on Etsy and a WubbaNub Giraffe. Santa brought him an Oball Shaker.

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He loved the WubbaNub instantly!

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Jeff and I had such a hard time coming up with anything for Christmas wishlists this year (we both just really wanted a baby, haha!). I thought I had come up with a super-thoughtful and creative gift for Jeff by ordering a shipment of wine from one of our favorite Sonoma wineries for him. It turns out Jeff had the exact same idea, and he ordered wine from the same winery for me! So now we have a LOT of delicious wine. I'm not complaining!

We went over to my parents' house later in the morning and opened gifts with my parents and sisters, then had a delicious lunch. Connor was totally spoiled by his aunts and grandparents. My mom even had a stocking all monogrammed and ready for him!

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Connor really liked his Christmas gift from his great-grandparents. :)

After lunch, we drove to Jeff's parents' house to celebrate with them. Jeff's dad was sick when Connor was born, so he wasn't able to hold him until Christmas. He was VERY excited to finally hold his grandson!

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We always open Christmas crackers with Jeff's family and wear the paper crowns during dinner. :)

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And then Christmas Day was over and we went home to hang out in our pajamas and not leave the house for a few days like you're supposed to do when you have a newborn. :)

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas season!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Parmesan Zucchini & Corn

Over the last year or so, I've developed a love for side dishes. I used to be a big fan of one-dish dinners, but in an effort to work more veggies into our diet I started cooking side dishes a lot more, and I really love them! This one's quick and easy and delicious!

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Recipe adapted from here.

Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
4 medium zucchini, diced
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/3 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
juice from 1 lime
2 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add zucchini, corn, basil, oregano, and thyme. Cook until zucchini is tender and cooked through (about 4 minutes).
2. Season with salt and pepper, then add in lime juice and cilantro.
3. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve!

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Everything cooking in the skillet!

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All cooked; adding in Parmesan!

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Ta-da!

Enjoy!

Connor's First Week

Connor's first few days outside of my cozy, warm uterus were full of lots of love and excitement. Since he was conveniently born at 4:53 pm, most of his grandparents, aunts, and uncles were able to come to the hospital after work on his birthday (December 17th) and meet him as soon as possible!

The hospital's policy is to give the parents an hour with the new baby, then take the baby to the nursery for a check-up, then bring the baby to the mom's post-partum room (at which point any visitors can come meet the baby). But our family was anxiously waiting, so when the nurses wheeled Connor to the nursery in his bassinet, he had an entourage of family members following him through the halls to get a quick peek!

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We were so happy when they wheeled him back into our room, all wrapped up in a blanket!

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Our first family photo!

We played "pass the baby" for a bit with all of our family members who were at the hospital.

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Connor meets his Grandmama (my mom)! My dad was out of town on a business trip and very disappointed that he missed the big day!

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Connor meets his Aunt Karoline (my littlest sister)!

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Connor meets his Uncle Matt (Jeff's little brother)!

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Connor meets his Aunt Emily (Jeff's brother's wife)!

We spent December 18th in the hospital. My dad came home from his business trip as fast as he could, so he was able to come meet Connor when he was less than one day old!

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Connor with his Papa and Grandmama!

We spent the day just getting to know our little boy, working on breastfeeding, and oohing and ahhing at how cute Connor is. :)

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The hospital has a newborn photographer that comes around to take photos. Connor was a bit fussy when she came so we only got a couple photos, but we went ahead and bought the images, since we weren't planning on doing professional newborn photos.

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Since Connor was technically a preemie, he had to pass a "car seat challenge" before we could leave the hospital. He looked so tiny in his car seat, but he passed with flying colors!

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The postpartum floor of the hospital was really busy while we were there, and (without getting into too many details/complaints) we were pretty unsatisfied with the postpartum care Connor and I were getting and we just wanted to go home as soon as possible. My doctor and the pediatrician cleared us for discharge around 6:00pm on the 18th, so we decided we'd leave that night. But with the lack of help from nurses, etc., it ended up being almost 2:00am on the 19th before they actually wrapped up our discharge paperwork! By that point, we were so ready to just get out of there that we went ahead and left at 2:00am! We drove home in a big rainstorm, listening to Christmas music ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" was the first song Connor ever heard!).

Jeff's mom made it to Houston late on the 18th, so she came over to meet Connor on the 19th!

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Connor meets his Grandma!

On December 20th, some of my extended family surprised us by driving eight hours round-trip from Dallas to come meet Connor! We felt so loved that they made the trip during the busy holiday season!

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Connor meets his great-grandparents! 

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Connor meets my Aunt Tracie and Uncle Chris (my godfather)!

December 20th is also my mom's birthday, and she was thrilled to celebrate with her first grandbaby!

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On the 21st, we took Connor out of the house for the first time to go to Mass! He slept through the whole thing, and everyone at church was commenting on how cute he was and asking how old he was. People were shocked when we told them he was only four days old!

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Connor at his first Mass!

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Bow tie for church!

After church, we gave Connor his first bath, and he loved it! He particularly loved being wrapped in his zebra towel.

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Connor's Uncle Tim (Jeff's littlest brother) was finishing up taking final exams when Connor was born, so he finally got to meet Connor on the 21st after he got home from college!

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Connor meets Uncle Tim!

Aunt Kristen (my little sister) came home from New York for Christmas on December 22nd, and she came straight from the airport to meet Connor!

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Connor meets Aunt Kristen!

Jeff's grandparents arrived in Houston for Christmas on the 23rd, so Connor got to meet another set of his great-grandparents!

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I took some photos of Connor under our Christmas tree. He'll always be my favorite Christmas gift! 

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If you've made it all the way to the end of this novel of a blog post, I'm amazed. :) Here are a few more photos from our first week as a family of three! We're so, so in love with our little Christmas baby!

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When I do laundry, Connor likes to hang out under the pile of warm clothes from the dryer. :)

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