Cold Icky Day, Warm Full Belly

Cold weather has finally (and briefly) moved into the southeast. Moose is stuck at work but Lil Bit and I are busy working on things at home. Including a yummy and hearty soup that has become a family favorite. I was originally inspired by a recipe you can find here. However, none of us are fans of celery and Lil Bit has a tomato allergy so this Mommy had to creatively find a way to give the soup some flavor and acidity. You can absolutely pre-prep this and throw it in the freezer (minus broth) for a busy night and cook in either the slow cooker for about 4-6 hours or you can also cook in a Dutch oven the way I do for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The last 5-10 mins I cook I take the lid off and let it reduce just a little.

Mushroom Barley Stew (E2 Tomato-free version)

8oz Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced

2 carrots sliced (I like rainbow carrots)

1 onion, diced

1 cup uncooked pearl barley

2 cloves of garlic, minced (I am having a strange pregnancy aversion to garlic at this time so I just used about 1 tsp garlic powder)

1/2 to 1 tablespoon of salt (I tend to like it less salty because I use unsalted beef broth that still has some sodium content)

1 tsp of dried basil

1 tsp of preferably fresh black pepper

1-2 tablespoons Marsala or similar wine

6 cups of unsalted Beef Broth (if needing tomato-free for allergy PLEASE watch the label as many, many brands include tomato. I use Pacific organic brand or Field Day organic brand as they have so far been safe for us)
This is a super hearty stew and probably makes between 6-8 servings depending on size/appetite. Moose is a big guy with a big appetite so closer to 6 servings for us.

I hope you my spin on this stew. 

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Airplane Travel with Lil Bit

I told you I would let you know what worked well for us and what didn’t.

What we’ve tried:

Snacks

  • dried apple, pear and strawberry/banana slices that are in individual serving packs
  • almonds
  • carrots
  • raisins and craisins
  • a cheese stick
  • animal cookie/crackers
  • Cliff Bars

I packed most of her snacks into a plastic, clear “tackle box” that we bought for just this purpose.

Toys

  • Ipad with:
  • Her small pillow
  • Nintendo DS with a few age appropriate games
    • Nintendogs
    • Horsez
    • Cooking Mama (I even like this one)
    • Spyro
    • A few others like Mario and Kirby that she likes to try but can’t really play well
  • Coloring/activity books
  • Highlights High Five magazine x 2 (for younger kids)
  • A few small story books
  • Child headphones
  • A “comfy” animal (stuffed)

I left the tackle box in the fridge on the way to the airport but the dried fruit and cliff bars as well as the bags of crackers and animal cookies were awesome both there and the way home.

The Disney movies and iPad games were life-savers. She slept most of the long flight to Europe but on the way home really needed the iPad. Every 30 mins she was asking if we were there yet :). She did play the Nintendo some but honestly Josh and I used it to play retro nintendo games on there more than she utilized it. The coloring and activity books helped as well while we were actually in Ireland. She colored when she was up while everyone was getting ready and packing.

I don’t feel like we shouldn’t have brought any of the things we did but I maybe think there were some better choices. We also bought a lot of stuff while we were over there because it was way cheaper than we had planned for originally. I had packed an extra travel duffle and we ended up buying a second with wheels there for all of our souvenirs (many).

Our first M ‘n’ M day

No not the candies….although that does sound pretty good at the moment…

Today was our first of what I hope to be many Mommy and “Lil Bit” days. The Empress here finally got the grande ok from all persons (including herself) to go from full-time “40 hours” (truly closer to 60 most weeks) down to “32 hours” (probably actual 40 hrs a week) thus allowing more time for things like the Lil Bit, grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, sanity……

My main issue when deciding to do this was really the perception of how things were supposed to be in my head versus what they really could and probably should be. I’m not loosing (that) much monetary or otherwise by dropping down to 4 days/week, but as today already has shown me, I’m gaining so much more.

My Lil Bit and I had planned since last Thursday to go to the Toddler Time gymnastics at our gym early this morning. She’s under-the-weather with the tail end of a cold but depending on how she was doing afterwards I’d take her to the Tot Drop (that she views as a treat) and go workout a bit myself. Well those plans came to a halt when the wicked witch lady at the front desk informed us, somewhat callously, that Toddler Time had been changed to Tuesdays and Thursdays….great, now I’ve built my darling up all weekend long and am now going to deal with her crushed hopes and dreams hurt feelings. To my surprise she was upset for all of two seconds and then excited to go play with the swarm of other children who just happened to be there when I needed them today.

The rest of the day was grocery shopping, cooking dinner and hanging with daddy….at a much less rushed pace. It’s hard to describe this almost “weight-lifted-off shoulders” sort of elation I’m enjoying at the moment (although some of that may be do to my full belly and half-a-beer warmness I’m enjoying post-consumption this evening.)

So tonight I cooked my famous (at our house anyway) version of Ina Garten’s engagement chicken, I always do variations of it but it’s a quick easy dinner with lots of leftovers that I use the pulled chicken from the bone for other recipes.

The Everyday Empress’ Roasted Chicken

1 whole roaster chicken (I prefer Springer Mountain brand) 4-5lbs

2 lemons

2 heads of garlic

kosher salt or coarse sea salt (approx 2 tsp)

1/2 to 1 cup low-no sodium chicken broth (White Wine and Herb this time)

1/2 cup white wine (if not using above White Wine and Herb)

2 tbs butter, melted and set aside to cool slightly

(optional small roaster potatoes, onion in chunks or carrots, we used rainbow carrots and sweet onion tonight from our local organic co-op)

  • Preheat oven to 425
  • Remove giblets if present from chicken, rinse chicken off and dry with paper towels, salt liberally inside and out
  • cut 1 lemons into 8ths and 1 head of garlic across the top leaving the cloves exposed, removing most of the husk either cut in half or place with 8ths of lemons into cavity until full. (You can tie the legs together but I don’t find the need)
  • Cut remaining lemon into quarters and peel remainder of garlic throw into large basting pan with chicken and veggies
  • place about half of chicken broth/white wine in the pan and if desired the veggies mentioned above
  • Coat chicken with butter using basting brush
  • Cook for about 1 hr then check internal temp with meat thermometer (if you don’t have one, get oneseriously!!! cooking meat to temperature leaves you with juicy, safe-to-eat meat)
  • If top of chicken browning too quickly, place a piece of aluminum foil over it loosely to reflect heat
  • Once chicken to temperature pull it out to serving place to rest and cover with aluminum foil loosely
  • If remaining veggies not quite done, lower temp to 350’F and cook for a few more mins (5-10 usually does the trick)
  • Use drippings and veggies to pour on top of carved chicken and serve immediately
  • Remaining chicken is great to use in chicken salad, chicken tetrazzini or even to toss on top of a salad