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The “Reveal”

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Craig and I were so ready for my twenty week appointment last week!  They were going to be doing the big ultrasound where they check for any malformations and find out the gender of the baby.  Craig was so excited!  He couldn’t wait to see the “live feed” of our sweet baby.  I was mostly anxious.  I was so scared that they would tell me there was some sort of malformation with our baby, but my wonderful husband assured me everything would be ok.  And it was.  Our baby is as healthy as can be.  Praise God!

Oh, and guess what else!  We are having a baby girl!  We didn’t really care too much one way or the other what we were having as long as the baby was healthy, but I knew that Craig kind of wanted a girl first.  He is over the moon excited!  So many people had told us they were 90-100% “certain” (except apparently not) we were having a boy, that Craig and I were both in shock at first.  In fact, I made the ultrasound tech take a second picture to double check.  It is definitely a girl, and I can’t wait to meet her!

After our appointment, Craig and I stopped at the store to pick up a cute little girly onesie.  MUCH to my parents’ dismay, I refused to tell them separately on the phone what we were having, and I decided they would have to skype with us that evening when they were both home from work to find out.  My mom was dying…she wanted my dad to leave work early that day, but he was unable to.  So my mom had to wait.  It. was. rough.  Yet, somehow, she made it through. 😉 We showed my parents the onesie that night one skype (my mom was shocked, as she was one of the 90%-certain-it’s-a-boy people), and then we called Craig’s parents to tell them.  What an exciting night!  Beyond that, we worked hard to mostly keep to ourselves what we were having, because we knew that we would be taking “gender announcement” pics with my parents that weekend when we saw them in Greenville.  Craig and I were heading up there for his grandfather’s 90th birthday party on Saturday, so my parents and twin brother met us for lunch on Sunday before we had to head back to Charleston.

The pictures turned out adorable, and it was awesome to get to announce to everyone on Mother’s Day what we are having.

"Daddy's Little Princess" and pink onesie

IMG_3506 IMG_3507 IMG_3513 IMG_3526

Craig and I are so excited to meet our little Hadley Elyse!  We already love her so much, and I know that love is only going to continue to grow with each passing day!  I guess it’s time to start getting our place together and baby-ready!  Everything seems so much more real now that we are beyond the halfway point, we know what we are having, and we already have a name for her…so if this doesn’t kick me into nesting mode, I don’t know what will!  I ordered a crib for our sweet Hadley this morning, so that’s a start!  Now we just have to focus on getting Craig through USMLE Step 1 (his boards exam all students have to take after their second year of medical school), and then we can really get to work!  Craig has claimed our guest room as his “boards study cave” for now, but it’s going to be looking more and more like a nursery pretty soon!  I am visiting my parents over Memorial Day this year, so we will hopefully go fabric shopping while I am up there.  I can’t wait!

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Homemade Meatballs

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I think sometimes people don’t realize just how many foods Craig had to give up when he could not longer consume dairy.  There are definitely the obvious foods like pizza, cheesecake, and lasagna (though I did make a very tasty goat cheese lasagna last year that Craig can eat).  But Craig also misses out on a lot of other stuff that you might not necessary think of.  One of those examples is meatballs.  Basically any meatball you buy from a store or order at a restaurant has milk and/or cheese in it.  I had never really thought about it before, but I realize now that I had definitely been taking my ability to eat meatballs for granted, as my poor husband has been deprived of this for years.

So, I obviously had to rectify this problem by making homemade meatballs.  I searched through a few different recipes until I found the perfect one.  The ingredients just made the final product sound delightful, and oh, it was!  I used soy milk instead of regular milk, and I omitted the tiny bit of parmesan cheese that was in the recipe (but of course I will include it in the recipe below for all you dairy-loving folks out there).  We have had these on meatball subs as well as spaghetti, and I am sure that we will go on to use these by themselves as appetizers or finger foods in the future, because they are just that fabulous.  To quote Craig, “Now I see why the old grandmother on The Wedding Singer paid him in meatballs!  These meatballs are fantastic!” 😉

Homemade Meatballs

Recipe from: allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
    • The original recipe used extra lean ground beef, but I didn’t.  A lot of the fat ends up staying in the pan at the end anyway, kind of like when you make meatloaf.
  • 1/2 tsp salt
    • The original recipe used sea salt, but I used kosher salt, and I’m sure regular salt would work just fine.
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 dash (or to taste) hot pepper sauce
    • something like Tabasco (which is what I used) or Frank’s RedHot
    • I used “a few dashes”…It’s really just about personal preference, but I didn’t feel like one dash would do much in an entire pound of meat plus other ingredients.
  • 1 1/2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup milk
    • The original recipe used skim milk, but I used soy milk.  I really think the recipe would be great regardless of your type of milk choice.  🙂
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
    • I obviously omitted this.
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

Directions

  1. Put meat in a mixing bowl and add salt, onion, garlic salt, Italian seasoning, oregano, red pepper flakes, hot pepper sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.  Mix well.
  2. Add the milk, parmesan cheese (if using), and seasoned bread crumbs.  Mix until blended evenly.
  3. Form 1 1/2-ish inch balls and place on baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees until no longer pink in the center, about 25 minutes.
Meatball Sub

Meatball Sub!

This is obvious my spaghetti and not Craig's since it has parmesan on top...  ;-)

This is obviously my plate of spaghetti and not Craig’s since it has parmesan on top…His was already almost completely eaten when I was ready to take the picture. 😉

Zuppa Toscana Soup

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A Delicious (Better Than?) Olive Garden Copycat

Zuppa Toscana Soup

My first trimester of pregnancy was rough, but it wasn’t just tough on me.  It was definitely tough on Craig, too, and I know we were both counting down the days until it ended.  For starters, the nausea was almost unending, and if there was even a brief moment I didn’t feel totally sick, I was worried something was wrong with the baby (I will make sure to relish those brief moments the next time I am pregnant).  And O-M-G I cannot believe how exhausting it is to grow a baby!  I pulled more all-nighters than anyone I know in college, and that exhaustion seriously cannot compare to the first trimester of pregnancy.  I am now a believer that the only people who will ever know the true meaning of the word “exhaustion” are woman who have dealt with this first trimester symptom.

Craig was definitely a trooper through my first trimester.  He found time to pick up around our place and do dishes and laundry, plus he never complained about my insane napping schedule on top of needing nine hours of sleep each night.  He also never complained about the fact that we were eating pasta for probably between seven and ten meals a week because it was the easiest thing on my stomach.  And when boiling pasta became to daunting of a task for me (it takes a lot of energy to watch the water get hot and occasionally stir!), Craig took over that task, as well.  And somehow he also managed to dominate that block’s exam in med school!

Cooking and baking were just not happening during the first trimester, so when it finally came to a close at the end of March and I was starting to feel a little bit more like myself again, I decided we needed to celebrate with something new and delicious!  But what?  We had a cold front coming in, so I knew that this would probably be my last chance to cook a yummy wintry meal.  Then I remembered my trip to Ohio a month an a half earlier to visit family.  (Thankfully, my morning sickness did not start until the day after I got back to Charleston from that trip.)

It was FREEZING up in Ohio, and it snowed for most of our visit.  One afternoon my mom, aunt, cousin, and I couldn’t decide what to do for lunch.  We ended up at Olive Garden, and I had not clue what to order (it’s not somewhere I get to go often since it is mostly Craig-unfriendly).  My cousin and aunt suggested the unending soup and salad, but I couldn’t decide on the soup.  Everyone offered to me what their favorites were, when the waiter mentioned that I could always start with one type of soup and then choose another type of soup after that.  What a perfect solution for indecisive Ashley!  I started with the Zuppa Toscana soup and would move onto another type of soup after that…at least that was what I thought before I tried the soup.  It was so amazing!  I don’t remember if I had two or three bowls of it.  Yum, yum, yum!

Here are just a few snapshots from the Ohio weather we had during our visit. Our Charleston “cold fronts” have nothing on this!

Fast forward to the end of my first trimester, and I knew this soup would be the perfect celebratory I-can-cook-and-eat-normal-food-again-plus-we-have-a-cold-front meal.  I just had to figure out how to make it Craig-friendly.  So, after some researching, I based this recipe on one that I found from food.com, but I made quite a few changes based on reviews.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 2 or 3 medium to large potatoes, washed but unpeeled
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 or 5 strips of cooked bacon
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 cups of kale (veins removed and sliced thin, like ribbons)
  • 32 oz of chicken broth (one standard sized carton)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
    • To make Craig-friendly (dairy-free) half and half, buy a can of coconut milk and let it chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.  It will separate into a cream on top and watery stuff on bottom.  Then, open the can and use a spoon to skim the coconut cream off the top.  Mix together equal parts coconut cream and plain soy milk (3/4 cup of each for this recipe).

Directions

  1. Remove the sausage from its casing.  Cut into 1/2 to 1-ish inch pieces, and then brown the meat.  Set the browned sausage aside the whatever stockpot you will be using for the soup.
  2. Chop up your bacon, and put that in the stockpot, as well.
  3. Sauté the onions, and add to the stockpot.
  4. Slice up your potatoes into skinny little pieces, leaving the skin on, and toss into the stockpot.
  5. Add your chicken broth, water, and minced garlic to the pot.  Boil the ingredients in the pot for about thirty minutes, or  until the potato pieces are tender.
  6. Add the kale and half and half, mix everything together, and let the soup simmer for about another fifteen minutes.
  7. Enjoy!

Zuppa Toscana Soup - Delicious!

Exciting News from the McKs…

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Well, Craig and I certainly have a big year ahead.  Craig will be finishing up his second year of medical school this spring, and then he has to take Step 1 of the Boards!  He will spend five or so weeks studying just about twelve or so hours a day in preparation.  It does not sound like fun to me, but I know Craig is going to rock it!

After Craig’s Boards, he will get a few days off for us to do something fun together (he scheduled to take his exam a few days early so that we could have some time) before starting his third year in medical school!  No more summer vacations for Craig!  But third year will be very exciting, because Craig finally gets to spend some real time in the hospital doing rotations.  The first two years of medical school are generally spent in the classroom setting, while the last two years are spent in the hospital.  I know Craig is excited and ready for the change.

But all of that news pales in comparison to the real news we have…so I will let this picture do the talking…

Sitting in a Tree

Hmmm…what comes at the end of the song?  Oh, right!  “Then comes a baby in a baby carriage.”

It’s true, Craig and I are expecting our first baby!  Baby McK is due in September of this year, and we could NOT be more excited!

We took that picture while my parents were in town this past weekend.  My dad made the chalkboard with wood, some chalkboard paint, and a rope.  My mom wrote on the board with chalkboard markers.  It turned out so cute!  Of course, they are ridiculously creative, so the adorableness should be no surprise to me.

Aside from their jobs (my mom is a teacher and my dad owns a business with my uncle), my parents do some interior decorating on the side… “for fun.”  So of course, my parents are CRAZY-EXCITED to do a nursery for their very first grandbaby, and that is why this next picture was also so necessary…

Nursery Under Construction

My mom and her friend designed the sign together, and then my mom had it printed at a store in Georgia before my parents came down to visit.  I thought this one also turned out super cute!  This room is currently a guest room slash our condo “annex,” where we have piles of boxes that we still need to go through, so it really will be a disaster zone to get this room baby-ready.  But we are all up for the challenge!

And of course, what good would my parents’ trip to beautiful Charleston be without a trip to the beach?  So we obviously had to take this picture as well…

Baby Sandals!

We are clearly very excited for the changes ahead of us this year, but that’s not to say we are not still a little bit like, “Whoa…is this for real?” Our first doctor appointment was about a week and a half ago, and they did an ultrasound while we were there.  That’s when the whole situation got “really real” for us.  We saw the tiny little baby’s heart beating at 188 beats per minute, and we were in love.  So crazy that we can see the heart beat so early on, but it gives such value to the fact that this is not a “thing.”  It is a baby…a human life that is growing inside of me, and it is the best and craziest news ever!

So here is our “Holy crap, I guess this is for real” picture, followed by a couple of our “There’s a baby in your belly!” pictures…

Craziness!

There's a Baby in Your Belly!

There's a Baby in There!

There are so many changes and challenges ahead for our little growing McKinney family.  We are thrilled with this blessing, and we pray every day for health for our baby and for guidance as we figure out what exactly it means for us to be parents.  It’s certainly not going to be easy, especially with Craig being gone at the hospital more over the next two years, but we know that we can do it.  We are trying our best to lean on God throughout this whole process, and we have been so blessed with support from family and friends.

Yes, it is definitely going to be a chaotic year, but I have a feeling that is might just be our best year yet! 🙂

Our First Ultrasound of Sweet Baby McK

(UPDATE: Click here to find out what we are having!)

Apple Snickerdoodle Cobbler

Apple Snickerdoodle Cobbler

Craig and I both love chocolate, but every now and then, I really like a dessert with fruit in it.  Craig isn’t exactly opposed to this.  He will eat and enjoy fruit desserts, but that is only if there isn’t chocolate something to be had elsewhere in our kitchen.  His sweet tooth just prefers chocolate, and if I make a peach pie when we have chocolate cake out on the counter, Craig will eat the cake and leave the pie to me.  It wouldn’t be as big of a problem if I had Craig’s metabolism, but I don’t, so it is.  I try to either time my fruit dessert recipes for when we have company in town to help me eat it or for when we are fresh out of anything chocolate.

Thankfully, this wasn’t as big of a problem with this fruit dessert, because it’s that good.  I mean, what could possible be better than just a regular apple crisp (which I LOVE)?  Adding a cookie-type component to it!  And then you have Apple Snickerdoodle Cobbler!  Yum!

It took some time for Craig and me to come off of our holiday sugar high this year, but when we finally did, I knew I was ready to try something new.  I thought a fruit dessert would be good since it *feels* healthier than other desserts, and I was trying to block out any memory of the chocolate fest that was our Christmas vacation.  I came across this recipe, and I had to try it.  It looked so good, and the end result certainly did not disappoint.  The original recipe is from baked by rachel, and the cobbler ends up being kind of like apple crisp, but with the crisp topping replaced by snickerdoodle cookies.

Ingredients

Cookie Ingredients

  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (despite the name, this does not have dairy in it)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon

Apple Ingredients

  • 8 cups apples (roughly 6-8 apples, depending on size), peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine cream of tartar, salt, baking powder, and flour. In a separate bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the egg to the butter mixture, and then add the dry ingredient mixture.  Mix until the dry ingredients are blended into the dough well.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 3/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.  Add the apple slices to this mixture and toss to coat.  Transfer the apples to an 8×8 baking dish.

Form the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Place the coated balls on top on the apples, pressing down lightly to slightly flatten.

Bake for 45-55 minutes or until apples are tender and cookie topping is lightly golden.

Serve with whipped topping, ice cream, or plain.  Enjoy!

Baking Apple Snickerdoodle CobblerApple Snickerdoodle Cobbler

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

Charleston was a little confused this past week, as it seemed to believe it was March or April instead of January.  I have spent the past week seeing one winter storm alert after another (for other areas of the country) on weather.com, yet it was sunny and in the mid-to-upper 70s for a week straight in Charleston.  While my parents and twin brother would tell me on the phone that they hadn’t seen the sun in days, as it was raining constantly in metro-Atlanta this week, Craig and I enjoyed a taste of spring weather.  Now, I am definitely the type of person who likes to enjoy all the seasons, but let’s be honest.  Charleston doesn’t have a real winter.  There’s no snow, but instead the occasional cold rain.  So if I can’t enjoy a real winter, anyway, I will gladly take the spring-like weather in January. 🙂

We went to the beach last weekend to enjoy the weather.  It was actually probably one of the "cooler" days of our spring weather, but we had a great time walking Jada on the beach before heading out to grab dinner at a local taqueria we love.

We went to the beach last weekend to enjoy the weather. It was actually probably one of the “cooler” days of our spring weather, but we had a great time walking Jada on the beach before heading out to grab dinner at a local taquería we love (Zia Taqueria).

However, yesterday was our last day of really warm weather, and last night the temperature dropped way down (comparatively, at least), and today, it is cold.  Our high is in the 50s.  Yuck.  So, to make the transition back to Charleston-winter weather a little easier, I made meatloaf with mashed potatoes and broccoli for dinner last night – a serious winter comfort food!

I had only made meatloaf one other time since Craig and I got married, and I unfortunately lost that recipe (it was right before I started blogging, so I didn’t have it here).  I was going to use my mom’s recipe, but then I decided that I wanted to make my meatloaf in the crock pot instead.  I knew I wouldn’t really have a lot of time to make the meatloaf and mashed potatoes after work if we wanted to eat at a decent time, so the crock pot would allow me to just make the meatloaf in the morning, and then make the mashed potatoes after work.  So, it was time to try a new recipe!  It turns out that although Craig did enjoy the meatloaf I had made for him once before, he is now glad that I lost that recipe because he says this was waaaaayyyy better!  So, I figured I better go ahead and blog this meatloaf recipe so that I don’t lose it as well. 😉

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

Recipe from: Group Recipes

Ingredients

Meatloaf

  • 1.5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp sage

Glaze

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 Tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp mustard
    • I used spicy brown mustard because that’s what I had, but spicy brown or regular mustard will work fine.
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Directions

  1. Spray slow cooker with cooking spray.
  2. Combine eggs, milk, bread crumbs, onion, and sage.
  3. Crumble in ground beef into the egg mixture and mix well.
  4. Form the beef mixture into a loaf in the center of the crock pot, making sure to leave space between the loaf and the edge of the crock pot.
  5. In a small bowl, mix ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.
  6. Spoon the glaze over the loaf.
  7. Cook on low for six hours.

Making Crock Pot Meatloaf

Slow Cooker Meatloaf

Turkey Burgers

Turkey BurgerCraig and I had been eating heavy foods recently, and we really wanted to make some new and a little lighter for dinner.  I stood in front of the opened freezer, wasting electricity and hoping for inspiration, when I saw the ground turkey that had been in there for some time.  We don’t get ground turkey as often as we would like to because it’s more expensive than ground beef, and when we do, we usually use it in some sort of dirty rice dish.  However, we were not feeling the dirty rice at the time.

Craig threw out the idea of turkey burgers, and I was instantly on my computer looking for a good recipe.  We were hoping for a recipe that didn’t require a big trip to the store, because it was a rainy night and Craig had to volunteer that evening.  However, we were concerned that avoiding a big grocery trip might be too much to ask for since we were hoping for a good meal out of this.  A good turkey burger recipe is important, because without the right combination of ingredients, the burgers will turn out too dry and seem like you are eating cardboard.  Yuck!  The recipe we chose is from allrecipes.com.  It was easy and fabulous.  Perfectly moist, and full of flavor.  Craig was already asking two days later when we could make turkey burgers again!

The original recipe makes twelve small burgers (three pounds of meat).  We adjusted it accordingly since there are only two of us and we only had a little more than a pound of meat.  When doing the math for the adjustments, we rounded up anywhere necessary (e.g. a whole egg white instead of 7/8 egg white 😉 ).

Recipe

  • 3 lbs ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs (definitely not the easiest thing to find dairy-free, but we managed)
  • 1/4 cup fine dice onion
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black ground pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together, then form into patties.  Cook the patties in a medium skillet over medium heat, turning once or so, to an internal temperature of 180.

Turkey Burgers

We had our burgers on a bun with a tiny bit of mayo, some tomatoes, and avocado slices.  Don’t mind the diced tomatoes instead of sliced tomatoes (we had tacos the night before for dinner, and that’s what was left), or the mis-sized bun in the picture.  I think they add character to the look of this delicious meal!

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