The lovely transition from baby food to solids

My sweet little Zoe finally has a few teeth! Okay, one official one and one so close I’m sure it’s already useful. = )

For several months she has been eating cheerios, crackers, and scrambled eggs, as well as gnawing on big chunks of apples or vegetables. Her main source of food though was baby food (which I decided to go back to good, old store bought baby food with her and we both loved that just fine).

Now we’re working on that lovely transition where solids will become her main source of nutrition.

Cheerios in milk, blueberries, banana chunks... and coffee and water to keep mama going.
Cheerios in milk, blueberries, banana chunks… and coffee and water to keep mama going.

Baby food, solids, teaching kids to feed themselves and use utensils – these are all my very least favorite stages of parenting.

So in the spirit of trying to be thoughtful and proactive regarding this transition I’m going to write down carefully everything I feed her for a week. Or try.

It’s posted on the refrigerator to help me remember. = )


Why am I doing this?

I find it tricky to know if you’ve fed them enough. A baby food container is easy to measure. You had your fruit, your vegetable, you’re done. Usually in less than ten minutes.

But when it’s some cheerios, some blueberries, some cooked carrots, etc., I sort of lose track. And there’s the fact that it takes approximately four times as long. Or at least it did when I measured it out for breakfast and lunch today. One reason for the length of time is that I’m still actually feeding it to her. I’ve found there to be a huge benefit to your baby opening their mouth when you present something on a spoon or a fork, so I’m sticking to that method as another way to make sure she gets enough. When I put things on her tray she picks them up to eat, but doesn’t always stay interested long enough for a proper portion.

Hopefully all this will make sure she stays nice and chubby through this ten-eighteen month period that has always proved a little difficult for me.

So far, so good. Not even too bad on the neatness end.


But spaghetti’s for dinner. = )

Giveaway winner and Cookoff Recipes

Hello! I’m so happy today to tell you about our giveaway winner and to share the recipes from the Food Lion Frugal Cookoff.

First up, the winner of the $250 gift card to Food Lion is… Kelly! Congratulations, Kelly! I hope this prize will be a blessing to you this holiday season. You’ll receive an email from me soon.

And now for the recipes! Remember we came up with these with only ten minutes to plan, ten minutes to shop, and forty-five minutes to cook – wow! Malise, I love your name for the turkey burgers! She and I both prepped the meat mixture; she totally did the squash fries – you have to try them! – and I prepared the apples and onions. If apples and onions doesn’t sound good to you, I dare you to try it! Just the right amount of tart, sweet, and savory. (I actually got the idea while feverishly looking through an old church cookbook while nursing my baby before the cookoff. Ha! You never know. And Kate Troost, I owe you.)

Okay, enough history. = ) Let me know if you try these!!


Makes 4 servings
Cost of meal: (not including pork chops and spices) $15.70
Approximate cooking time: 45 minutes
Grocery List for our Complete Menu Ingredients (not including the staples pantry and protein that were provided):
Ciabatta bread
Green Onion
2 Onions
Buttercup Squash
Parmesan cheese
Fresh Mushrooms
2 Apples
1 Orange
1 bunch of Spinach
Southern Surprise Perky Burgers
These burgers are from an original recipe my mother, Perky, used to make. She was a Greensboro native and a fabulous cook for our family of 7. She always made a Southern Surprise Burger similar to this so they are named after her recipe. She was an early adaptor of ground turkey as a healthy alternative to ground beef. We always loved it and we hope you do, too. ~ Malise @CarolinaMama
1 .lb Ground Turkey
Olive Oil – coat non-stick pan
¼ c. Parsley
2 T. green onion chopped
2 T. yellow onion chopped
½ t. each Pepper, Cayenne
1T. Italian seasoning
1 t. salt
¼ c. Balsamic Vinegar
4 Garlic Cloves – diced
Topping and Surprise:
½ c. yellow onion
4 Garlic Cloves – diced
¼ c. Real Parmesan Cheese – shredded
1. c. Fresh Mushrooms – rinsed and sliced
Flour to dust
Ciabatta Bread – sliced into squares
Directions: Heat Olive Oil in non-stick pan over medium heat. Mix ground turkey and the next eight ingredients on the list. Mix thoroughly. Separately, saute the topping and surprise ingredients in the pan for about three or four minutes. (except the flour) Back to the turkey mixture, form balls that are the size of sliders/thick 3-4 inch burgers. Press the center, spoon a bit of onion and garlic into the center and then, spoon in a teaspoon of parmesean, form a ball, and dust with flour, grill evenly on both sides about 4 minutes each. Do not press burgers while grilling. Remove burgers from pan, place on bottom of Ciabatta bread, sliced in squares, take the top of the bread and wipe the pan adding the oil mixture and flavor from the pan to the bread. Spoon some of the mushroom and onion mixture on top of each burger. Add Spinach to burger. A slice of orange for color. Enjoy.
Buttercup Squash Parmesan Fries
Buttercup Squash
½ c. Parmesan Cheese Shredded, Fresh
2 t. salt and pepper
½ t. cayenne pepper
½ t. garlic powder
Olive oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pour Olive Oil onto non-stick baking pan, distribute evenly.
Slice squash open, clean and rinse. Begin slicing into long slices for french fries. Use small
slices as well. Once sliced to desired size, spread the buttercup squash onto the cooking pan,
evenly and where each slice of squash is flat on the pan, not stacked. Evenly sprinkle the seasoning including the parmesan onto the fries. Bake for 10 minutes. Take the pan out and
flip fries over with a spatula and cook for 10 more minutes. Enjoy.
Simple Apples and Onions
Green apple, chopped
Red Apple, chopped
½ of sweet onion, sliced
Olive oil
Orange Slices
Saute apples and onions in olive oil over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir. Cover and cook five more minutes. Squeeze fresh orange over the apples and onions. Remove from heat and serve. Enjoy.
Orange BBQ Sauce

(serve on burgers or use to dip fries)
BBQ Sauce, Food Lion Original
Orange Slices
Squeeze 1T of fresh orange into 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce. Stir in pepper, cayenne, and sugar to taste. Enjoy.

Food Lion Frugal Cookoff – giveaway

This giveaway can’t wait any longer!

In case you’re short on time, here’s what you need to know: Food Lion hosted a super fun Frugal Cookoff and I had the privilege of being one of the contestants! (If you’ve read this, I promise I have not turned into Pinocchio.) As a result, I get to give away a $250 gift card to one of my readers. Hooray! Who wouldn’t want free groceries? Please enter the giveaway! Scroll down to the portion in bold and follow the directions for your chance to win!

Now for the story! = )

Out of the blue one night, I received a message from my friend Malise at Carolina Mama. She has a “fun idea/event opportunity for me.” After talking to her I found out about the Food Lion Frugal Cookoff. A chance to participate in a cooking contest – mystery meat ingredient, fifteen dollar budget of Food Lion essential brand products, forty-five minutes to prepare a main course and two sides – what could be more fun than that? At this point I have to tell you that my husband and I watched Chopped for a loooooong time; and I always wanted to try it. I was so happy it worked out to participate!! Thanks, Malise, for thinking of me!

My emotions took turns being excited, being nervous, being mad at myself for getting into something where I would probably make a fool of myself, and being completely uninvolved as I went about the daily tasks of taking care of my five girls.

I found out that we would be on teams… and Malise would be my partner – yay!!

We also found out that our meat for the main dish would be one of these four choices, boneless chicken breast, ground turkey, boneless pork chop, or tilapia.

I’ve used all of these except ground turkey so I decided to “research” a little. (Ahem, Pinterest.) The only things that looked good were turkey burgers or turkey meatballs, but turkey meatballs seemed a little too risky. I looked up ideas for the other meats, emailed Malise all my ideas and thoughts and then said, “Whatever you want to do is fine with me because you’ve been cooking way longer than I have!” = )

On the night of the cookoff we were given ground turkey! Our menu consisted of Southern Surprise Turkey Burgers, Parmesan Buttercup Squash Fries, and Simple Apples and Onions. Later I will share recipes and more about the competition – it was so fun!!

And… drumroll please… we won!!!

Can you believe it??? I sure couldn’t!!!

Actually, I was looking around at everyone else’s plates thinking they looked so good, so pretty and yummy. But, when I tasted ours, I thought, Hmmm…. we might have a chance!

It was all so yummy! You’ll have to check back for the recipes!! = )

Before I finish talking your ear off about this, I have to say that Food Lion was such a great sponsor! They explained their effort to provide fresh produce, fresh meat, and quality staples, all at their very lowest prices. They have even have new lines of organic and natural products – and, they gave us a goody bag that sampled these products – yum!! You should try them!

Now for the good part: I have one $250 Food Lion gift card to give away to one of my readers – yay!!

Here’s how to enter: Leave a comment here, like the blog on facebook, or share the giveaway via facebook, or all three for three chances to win!! 

Let me know in your comments what you’ve done! I will announce the winner a week from today – next Tuesday!

A huge thanks to Food Lion for the opportunity to participate in the Frugal Cookoff! Thanks also to Malise of Carolina Mama for letting me know about the event and for being such a great teammate!

I can’t wait to tell you more of the story, show you more pictures; for now here’s the youtube clip!












The Rutabaga Report

Two nights ago, I made the rutabaga.

And this is how it went:

rutabaga editedI started about two hours and fifteen minutes before I wanted to eat dinner. Everyone says it’s really hard to peel and chop. The girls sat across from me coloring on the small counter where they could still see what was happening. Thankfully, the ordeal kept them entertained the whole time.

Peeling wasn’t actually so hard; it took me twelve minutes. And I’m sure I didn’t use the right kind of knife.

Chopping? Took forty-five minutes. Again, not with a good knife or skilled knife-user. I could never get a big enough chunk off to really chop, so it was just a glorified peeling of the whole thing. I would see a little piece sticking out and cut that off. Turn it and find another place sticking out. It got faster as I went, but my first finger was completely numb by the time I was finished. (not recommended for pianists)

But the good news was, it cooked just fine in all of it’s odd shapes and non-chunkiness.

I added three chopped potatoes to the pot and covered it all in water.

After salting it generously, I let it boil for around thirty minutes. It was definitely tender.

So I drained it and threw a stick of butter in to let it melt. (When I say butter, I actually mean Blue Bonnet. Whatever kind of imitation butter that is.)

I warmed up a cup of half-and-half for a minute on 50% power in the microwave. Added that, more salt, pepper, and a little bacon grease.

Then I ate all the bacon that I had cooked as a reward for all my hard work.

After that, you know the drill… mash it, or beat it until it’s nice and fluffy.


Sophia and Paul loved it.

Hope, Gracie, Mckayla and I tolerated it.

Rutabaga tastes a little bit like turnips to me. (Bleck: turnips are definitely the least favorite properly prepared thing I’ve ever put in my mouth!) However, these really weren’t bad! I passed them up for leftovers this afternoon, but had no problem eating them when they were fresh.

Hope’s reaction cracked me up. (Since it was her idea to buy a rutabaga anyway.) Trying to be polite, when I asked her if she liked it she said, “Well, not nes-arily. I mean it’s not like as bad as asparagus, but it’s not as good as peas and chicken. You know, I mean, like it’s okay. I can eat it.”

If I make it again, I’ll probably add more potatoes. A lot of recipes I looked at said to make the potato/rutabaga ratio equal.

The two recipes I referenced can be found here and here.

Here are the pictures I got.

The in not-so-beauty shot.

IMG_2482The wannabe beauty shot.

IMG_2490And the kids meal version.

IMG_2499What do you think about rutabagas?


Gracie’s stages: Whasfodinnuh?

Sweet baby Gracie
Sweet baby Gracie

It’s time for the next installment of Gracie’s stages!! And it is a good one!

This stage was definitely my sister’s favorite ever. It got to the point where she would text me every morning saying, “Did she say it?” But I give too much away.

We love two-year old’s around here!! I think it’s my favorite age. You can read about why here. After that post, I started writing down all of Gracie’s fun two-year old stages. You can read about some of those here and here.

A little background before I dive in to the story of this stage. Gracie lost weight from the age of six to nine months (I really took that hard) and it was a while before she got back to where she needed to be.

But now?

She’s definitely making up for lost time.

Plainly stated… the child LOVES to eat. And I’m so thankful every time I look at her chubby little body.

At some point this fall, she realized that I pretty much knew what I was going to make for dinner that night; and that if she asked me I would share that information with her. (The other girls will frequently ask about the dinner plan at some point during the day)

Gracie began to ask me, “Mommy, whasfodinnuh?”

And I would reply with whatever the choice was for that night.

To which she would reply, “Oooo!!!!” with a very excited, happy look on her face.

It was great. But it got even greater.

That question became literally the first thing she said to me every morning! For at least a month, probably longer!

I’d walk into her room in the morning, “Good morning, Gracie! How are you?”

She’d stand up (always with the most hideous case of bedhead you’ve ever seen), rub her sleepy eyes and say in a soft, morning voice, “Mommy, whasfodinnuh?”

And I would reply, and she would say, “Oooo!!!!” with a very excited, happy look on her face.

Every. single. morning.

(See how I just. did. that.? It’s a very bloggy thing to do.)

Even though she had already asked first thing in the morning, she would still ask six or seven times during the day. Just randomly walk up to me and say, “Mommy, whasfodinnuh?”

And I would reply and she would say, “Oooo!!!!” with a very excited, happy look on her face.

Didn’t matter what it was. Spaghetti? Tilapia? Chicken and dumplins? Breakfast?

“Oooo!!!!” with a very excited, happy look on her face.

Of course, I would tell Laurie about this during our daily phone conversations; so she began texting me in the morning, “Did she say it?”

It was her idea for me to ask Gracie, “What do you want for dinner?” Awesome idea. “I’ll try it tomorrow!”

So the next morning after “Mommy, whasfodinnuh?” and my reply and “Oooo!!!!” with a very excited, happy look on her face; I asked:

“What do you want for dinner, Gracie”

“Chicken and dumplins!”

She said that for at least a week; but after she said it, I would tell her what we were actually having and she would say…

“Oooo!!!!” with a very excited, happy look on her face.

I love that girl.

Gracie’s plan for the day

DSC00976A couple mornings ago, Paul was holding Gracie on his lap talking with her before he went to work.

“Gracie, what are you going to do today?” he asked.

“Eat breakthast.”

“Then what are you going to do?”

“Eat lunch.”

“What are you going to do after that?”

“Eat dinnuh.”

Well, sounds like a plan.

The cheapest meal I make: Black beans and tortillas

IMG_2034Ready for a recipe that’s not really a recipe? = )

I get to learn as a seminary wife to be very creative with our meal planning/grocery shopping. Meat can be expensive… but, I really love meat. My challenge is to find meals that are meatless that we I will still enjoy.

Here is an idea for one that I have come to love and even crave. My husband loves it (he’s much easier to please than me) and my girls eat it pretty well, too. I’ve included here the ingredients, long instructions, how much it costs, time sequence, and short instructions.


Instant tortilla mix

Bag of black beans

Can of diced tomatoes with green chiles

Salt, to taste

Long instructions:

It all started with an amazing discovery at Walmart: instant tortilla mix.

All you have to do is add water, knead for five minutes, let it rise for fifteen minutes, and roll out your tortillas to cook on a griddle. They are delicious.

Now for the black beans. I buy a bag of store brand dry black beans. On nights that we eat them for dinner, I start cooking them around lunch time because I cannot stand anything but soft beans. I follow the instructions on the bag for the quick soak (boil 1-2 minutes, then cover, remove from heat, and let stand about 1-1 1/2 hours).

After the beans have soaked, they will need drained and rinsed.

(I just realized that I’m giving you the directions from the back of the bag and acting like I came up with it. No credit here! Just lettin’ you know how easy it is. = )

Cover the beans again with water and bring to a boil; then reduce to a simmer and cover. From there, I let them cook as long as I can… at least an hour, but preferably two or three.

I wait to add the salt until the last twenty minutes or so.

Then I add a can of store brand diced tomatoes with green chiles and give it a few more minutes to heat through.

Serve with the tortillas and YUM!!

*Note: my girlies don’t care for the diced tomatoes and chiles, so I just dish theirs out before I add in the goodness. Someday they’re taste buds will grow up and then we’ll have to share. = (


If I did the math for one meal, I would guess it’s around $2.75? And that serves six (two adults and four kids) with a bowl leftover.

If you take into account how much you have to pay up front for all the ingredients (which does make a difference sometimes) I would look at it like this: $3.38 for the tortilla mix, $2 for the black beans, and $.77 for the tomatoes. Just over six dollars. If you bought another bag of beans and three more cans of tomatoes, this would make at least four meals (for a family our size), and bring the total cost to $10.50 which divided by 4 is approximately… somebody help me because I’m over my head in arithmetic now… $2.61?? (thanks for the help) Not too bad.

We eat this meal about every two weeks, and I actually look forward to it when I see it on the menu.

Time Sequence:

Here’s how the time sequence goes, at least in my house.

1:00 Boil beans for two minutes, cover, remove from heat and let soak

2:30 Rinse beans, boil again, reduce heat, cover and let simmer

@4:30 Begin making tortillas

5:00 Add salt to beans

5:20 Dish out girlies bowls (this helps them cool as well); Add diced tomatoes with chiles

5:30 Serve!

*Plan for a good 4-5 hours for the beans total, and 45 min. for the tortillas. This might sound long, but there is a lot of dead time in there where I can play with the girls, clean up the kitchen, fold laundry, etc. I love days when I make this meal; to me, it requires very little effort.

Short instructions:

-Prepare black beans and tortillas according to package directions.

-Add salt to beans during the last twenty minutes of cooking time.

-Add the can of diced tomatoes with green chiles and allow a few more minutes for them to heat through.

Let me know if you try it! What is the cheapest meal you make? Thanks, as always, for reading… have a lovely day.

Why you really should eat a good breakfast while you’re pregnant, part 3

My poor third child: where are all my newborn pictures of you?
My poor third child: where are all my newborn pictures of you?

So there you have it, my sob story. I blacked out at a funeral and had to be carried off stage from the piano because I hadn’t eaten enough that morning, or any of the previous mornings.

People began to ask me what I had for breakfast that morning. My reply of “cheerios and grape juice” was unsatisfactory.

Now before I say what I’m about to say, know this: the people in that church loved me dearly and everything they said to me was out of genuine care and concern. However, I was descended upon with advice, rebuke, and exhortation; and it stung. I clearly remember one lady telling me, “You shouldn’t go two hours without eating! Even if it’s a handful of peanuts, you’ve got to eat.” Her advice was spot on, but the way it was said still hurt.

It all was completely overwhelming and discouraging. I felt like they thought I was purposely neglecting the care of the baby; if only they could realize, I really didn’t know. I was the baby of the family, had no relatives that I lived near while they were expecting, grew up in a church where there weren’t too many people having babies, and basically had no idea about anything related to having a child develop inside of you.

I remember crying in the car next to my husband, trying to explain how I felt. He was so loving and patient.


This story will probably not relate to a large percentage of young mothers. But maybe, just maybe, someone who needs this will find their way to this post.

If you’re discouraged, confused, overwhelmed, I can totally relate.

You’ve got to change how you think about eating. A sweet friend told me (sweetly!) after “le deluge” that when she became pregnant she started eating three full meals a day.

This was helpful! I knew what three full meals were; hadn’t been in the practice of eating them for awhile… but it was a goal I could work towards. Think enough food to fill a dinner plate with the major food groups represented.

Also, I figured out that you really do have to snack between meals. Peanuts, trail mix, and granola bars were my go to.


It was awhile ago now, that this all happened. But I can still remember the fear and the embarrassment. Would I be able to care for this precious little thing inside me?

Little by little, I learned. But it all started here…

…when you are pregnant, you have to eat.