Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pico de Gallo

If you don't live in the southwest, you may not have heard of pico de gallo. Pico de gallo is a fresh salsa and is pronounced peek-oh duh-guy-oh. This dish is perfect served with chips or warm corn tortillas as an appetizer. It also adds zing and freshness to eggs, chicken, fish, and any Mexican inspired meal. If you are curious, pico de gallo means "rooster's beak" and I can't even hazard a guess why.

This recipe is for a traditional pico de gallo. However, one of our favorite variations of this recipe is to substitute the tomatoes for mango and serve on a white fish such as cod or halibut.

Pico de Gallo

4 bunches of cilantro (get it as fresh as possible)
6 Roma tomatoes or 3 beefsteak tomatoes
1 onion
2 jalapeƱos (deveined and deseeded)
4 cloves of garlic (minced or pressed in a garlic press)
1/2 lime (juiced)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt

Separate the cilantro stems from the leafy top.

Chop the cilantro removing any additional woody stems as you go. Then chop the tomatoes, onions, and jalapeƱos (pronounced holl-uh-pehn-yoz). Combine all the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the salt to taste. Makes enough for 10-15 people.

It is best to let this sit for several hours before serving to let all the flavors meld. It will keep in the refrigerator for several days, but as fair warning, it will stink up your refrigerator. Personally, I prefer pico de gallo the day after it is made. Also, pico de gallo may be an acquired taste. I grew up eating it, but it took my husband a couple of tries before he was sold. Now, he loves it!


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Friday, July 27, 2012

The Referral

I am not sure I can accurately describe the emotions when Chris called. He said, "Did you see the e-mail?" No, I hadn't seen an e-mail. He said our adoption agency had sent us an e-mail with a referral. I immediately thought, "That can't be right. Our dossier is not in China yet." So, I raced to my computer.

Sure enough, there was a congratulations e-mail from our adoption agency. We had been matched! The tears begin to flow as elation swept over me. This was our child! I started crying. This experience is not quite like finding out we were pregnant because there was a picture of a beautiful, little girl. We knew exactly what our daughter would look like!

In order to dispel concerns that this was a mistake, I called the office of our adoption agency. They stated it was not a mistake and that "Special Focus" children could be matched prior to submitting a dossier to China. This little girl was a "Special Focus" child which essentially means the agency is particularly focused on finding a home for this child due to her age, her medical needs, or a combination of both. The agency encouraged us to write a letter of intent if we thought we were possibly interested in this referral, then to take two weeks to review this little girl's medical file, and give them a final answer.

We opened this little girl's medical file and came face to face with several medical terms we had never even heard of before. We sent the file out to the girls' pediatrician and two pediatricians who specialize in pediatric care for adopted children. We also spent numerous hours Googling the terms listed on her medical report.

When we received the summary of the medical chart from the first physician, I remember curling up and crying. The pediatrician voiced concerns that not only would this beautiful little girl likely suffer motor issues due to her spina bifida, she also likely had hydrocephalus because her head was measuring larger than the ninty-fifth percentile. She pointed out that if this little girl had hydrocephalus without a shunt, she would most likely suffer brain damage, although to what extent would be unclear without a CT scan. The other adoption specialist also recommended a CT scan.

It is important to admit that I reacted to this news with a great amount of fear. When we look back, I do not want to ever think that we completed this adoption through our own strength; it will only be because of the strength of our Heavenly Father. My fear was that we would not be able to care for a child with the special needs this little girl might have. I was afraid that if we said "no" to this referral that we would not be following God's leading and I was afraid that if we said "yes" that we would be taking on more than we could handle.

Our agency told us to ask the question, "Are we able to meet this little girl's needs with the resources that we have been given?" One thing we had to take into consideration was my diagnosis of Stargadt's disease. We knew that I might not physically be able to provide long term care for a child with significant medical needs. So, we waited for the CT scan to answer our questions about potential brain damage. While we waited, we desperately prayed that we would be open to following God's direction for our lives no matter where that might take us and that He would give us peace if this was the child He had for us.

After several weeks of waiting, we received a very encouraging CT scan. The doctors were able to determine that this little girl did not have hydrocephalus. There are still some unknowns about her future medical concerns, but we were reminded that God is not the author of fear. We could become paralyzed by replaying various scenarios regarding her medical needs or we could give our fears to God and take a step of faith. We said "yes" to the referral and we rested in the assurance that God knows everything about our little girl. "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14.

With an overwhelming sense of peace, we made the official announcement below.

We have given our little girl the name Norah which means "honor." It is not a coincidence that we gave our daughter this name. God has placed adoption on our hearts for many years and we want to honor Him by following His leading. We also feel that it is a great honor to be entrusted with the lives of all of our children, including Norah.

Over the next six to eight months, we covet your prayers as we finish our dossier, raise funds, and prepare to travel. We also ask that you pray that Norah is well cared for at her foster home. It is very difficult to think that our daughter is more than six thousand miles away and we will not see her for many more months. However, we know that God is completely sovereign and He is watching over Norah.

P.S. If I get the OK from our adoption agency, I will post a picture of Norah soon!

Displaying Pictures

I love pictures, but I have a hard time figuring out how to group pictures. This is the best I can do for now! My biggest problem is that my three-year-old daughter's bed is on the other side of this collage. Every time she gets on the bed, she bumps the wall and the pictures get knocked off kilter. I need to put some kind of adhesive on the back of these pictures so they don't move when the wall is knocked. The OCD part of me spends way to much time straightening pictures on this wall! In case you are wondering, there is a frame missing from the top, right row. This spot is for Norah.

This is a set up for a side table. I like placing pictures at different heights to add some interest.

I love pictures and I wish I had more around our house (after all, what is more beautiful than the face of a child?). The biggest problem for me is that frames are expensive. I tend to buy frames when they are fifty percent off at Hobby Lobby, but they are still pricey. Does anyone have a clever way to hang pictures without relying on frames?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Breakfast with a Bang

Our mornings are about to get very busy. As soon as school begins and I start my new job, our mornings will feel like a 400 meter dash to get everyone ready, chores done, lunches made, and breakfast eaten in time to be out the door by 7:15am. Although we are no strangers to this schedule, I want it to be different this fall. In the past, mornings have felt harried and unorganized.

One of the frustrating things about busy mornings is the lack of time to cook a hearty breakfast for my girls. It is important to me to send my kids to school with a hearty breakfast that will get them through a morning of learning and play. I want to serve them a complete meal with protein, veggies or fruit, and dairy. What has happened in the past is that I slop cereal and milk in a bowl and call it good.

This year is going to be different! I have started doubling or tripling my recipes when I make breakfast and freezing the extra. Although this is a trick I have used for dinners, it never occurred to me to use it for breakfasts. So, I am stocking my freezers with hearty breakfasts so my family can start off their morning with a bang.

Here are a couple of recipes that freeze and reheat well. There seems to be quite the controversy over "hiding" vegetables in kids' food versus encouraging kids to eat the veggies on their plate. My philosophy regarding this matter is quite simple. We do both at this house because really, can kids get too many vegetables? So, you will find several of this recipes incorporate vegetables and they all have a protein, dairy, and usually a good amount of fiber.

Baked Oatmeal

This is a recipe from a dear friend that I tweaked to add veggies and fiber.

Mix dry ingredients:
2 cups of oatmeal
1/4 cup oat bran
2 tbsp ground flaxseed meal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 c brown sugar or agave (more cooking time if you use agave and cut down milk by 1/8 cup)

Add wet ingredients :
1 1/4 cup milk (I use fat free)
1/2 cup applesauce
1 egg
1-2 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla

Mix in fruit and veggies:
1/2 apple diced
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup zucchini (optional)
1/4 cup carrots (optional)

Lightly grease a 9" pie pan and pour batter in it. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. I normally double the recipe and bake in a 9x13, but will need to increase the baking time to about 30 mins.

I freeze this recipe and it reheats well!

Whole Grain Ricotta Waffles

I adapted this recipe by adding ricotta cheese for extra protein and reducing the fat by replacing the oil with applesauce.

4 eggs, beaten
3 cups skim milk
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, ricotta, applesauce, and vanilla. Beat in whole wheat pastry flour, flax seed meal, wheat germ, all-purpose flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt until batter is smooth.
Preheat a waffle iron, and coat with cooking spray. Pour batter into waffle iron in batches, and cook until crisp and golden brown. This recipe will make a lot of waffles and they will freeze great. The best way to reheat them is to stick them in the toaster.

Breakfast Omelet Muffins

This is a recipe I concocted from taking different aspects from breakfast casserole recipes and making one that is full of protein.

Preheat oven to 375.

1 bag refrigerated shredded hash browns (I use Simply Potatoes).
8 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup ricotta
1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup diced ham
1 cup shredded zucchini (or finely diced bell peppers, broccoli, or other veggie of choice)
1 tbsp dried minced onions
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp seasoning salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Spray muffin tin pans with non-stick spray. Cover the bottom of each tin with hash browns. Mix remaining ingredients together and evenly pour over the hash browns. Cook for 23-25 min. Cool and freeze. Makes approximately 16 muffins. You can make a lighter version of this muffin by using skim ricotta, 2% cheddar cheese, and Egg Beaters.

Another thing that freezes well are breakfast burritos. I have learned a couple of tricks along the way. 1. Don't freeze the salsa inside the burrito. It makes the tortilla soggy when reheated. 2. Wrap the burrito first in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. This helps keep them fresh in the freezer for longer. Just don't forget to remove the aluminum foil when you microwave the burrito! I fill our burritos with turkey sausage, eggs, cheese, and bell peppers.

These are just a couple of breakfast ideas filled with protein and veggies for families on the go. When school starts, forget sugar filled cereal that won't hold the kids until lunch. Join me in freezing wholesome breakfasts!

*If you duplicate the Breakfast Omelet Muffins recipe anywhere, please give me the credit since it is an original recipe.*

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fourth Festivities

These last couple of weeks have been emotionally draining. We have spent the last couple of weeks searching our hearts regarding questions which have arisen through our adoption process. We have spent many hours in prayer begging God to reveal His will to us. I will write more when we have made a final decision, but for now, please keep us in your prayers.

By the time the Fourth of July came around, we were in desperate need for some uninterrupted family time. Chris and I needed the time to pray together and just talk. The girls needed some undivided attention. So, we canceled plans with some dear friends and spent most of the day reveling in each other and the amazing creation surrounding us.

We went for a hike on a fabulous trail just a few minutes from our house.

It was a three mile hike with half of it up an incline. After a while, the girls looked like this.

So, we hoisted them on our backs and kept trekking.

Even though the girls didn't make it the whole way on their own, they were still troopers. They were especially excited when we made it to the top of the trail and they could explore this little, stone house.

Carrying Addie back down the trail definitely made things interesting, but I kept telling myself the extra weight was increasing the number of calories I was burning! It also helped that this was the view most the way down.

After the hike, we took long naps. Then we headed over to a family member's house to swim.

Then it was off to watch the fireworks. Even with their long naps, the girls were getting tired so they laid down while waiting for the fireworks to begin.

Once the fireworks started though, they were wide awake. Clara was very patriotic and waved her little flag through the whole show.

We ended the night by dancing to live music courtesy of Tracy Lawrence. Clara had a blast! It is so fun to see her let go and not even care who was watching or what she looked like. I should take a page out of her book more often.

It was a wonderful day and just what our family needed. Chris and I were able to spend time in prayer and take the time we needed to talk. We finished out the week feeling refreshed and that was just what the doctor ordered!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

Hope you all are having a wonderful 4th of July! We are so blessed to live in such a great country where most of our personal liberties remain intact. Freedom is not free so thank you to by brother who is currently in officer training camp for the Marines, my brother-in-law in the Airforce, and especially my brother-in-law who is in the Army and stationed in Afghanistan. Also, I am so thankful for the wonderful wives or wife to be (in my brother's case) for the sacrifices they have made while their men serve America.