Sick Kids are the Worst (Vegetable Minestrone is not)

I feel like I’ve been in the trenches of motherhood. Raymond is still refusing a bottle and Ricky has hit a difficult stage of testing boundaries. Both boys (and Karl) were sick the past couple of weeks and this mama is tired. Babies with colds are just sad because they struggle to breastfeed and coughs wake them at night, which leads to mommy holding baby all night and sleeping in a chair. Toddlers with colds are awful because they turn into butt heads. Don’t get me wrong, I know Ricky wasn’t feeling his best and that is hard when you are little and don’t understand, but for some reason this also made him feel as though he could turn into a sassy pants for two weeks straight. Punishing a sick kid is tough; he was extra testy and objecting time outs, and although I didn’t want to make him scream and hurt his throat worse, I also didn’t want to condone his behavior. I ended up being a softy most of the time, which has led to what we’ll call challenging behavior these last couple weeks. He is feeling better now and we are getting back into a normal routine, so here is hoping that his behavior turns back around too. I’m also going to blame spring fever- this kid is ready to get outside and get out some of that energy!

Little Raymond is still trying to get over his cold. I’m hoping he gets back to 100% soon so we can get back to sleep training. Lack of sleep is definitely in the top 3 hardest parts of parenthood. While he has been sick, my nights have been reduced to either getting up every 1-1.5 hours to rock him back to sleep or holding him and sleeping upright. Neither is a good option. Although Karl is more than willing to help, my mamma’s boy is having none of that. Ray loves playing with daddy, but when he needs comforting it is mommy time all the time.

While we were sick, I made some delicious vegetable minestrone soup (it also happened to be a Friday during lent). Homemade soup and homemade bread are an instant pick me up in this house.

vegetable minestrone

Vegetable Minestrone Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 large carrot, diced
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth*
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 15 -ounce can low-sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup elbow pasta

Directions

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the celery and carrot and cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the zucchini, dried oregano and basil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; cook 3 more minutes.

Add the diced and crushed tomatoes and the chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in the kidney beans and pasta and cook until the pasta and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

*This could easily be made vegan by using only vegetable broth

They might drive me crazy sometimes, but I still wouldn’t trade them for the world.

Stuffed Pepper Soup and Sick Days

I know I’m not the only one LOVING this cooler weather! Bring on the sweaters, soups and cider! My sweet, sweet husband surprised me with my favorite orchard’s cider and donuts yesterday- what a guy!

We’ve been fighting through a cold this week, even poor little Raymond is stuffed up with a little cough. Sick babies are just the worst, followed closely by tired, stuffy toddlers. I decided to ignore our normal rule about tv limits yesterday and lean into a full-blown, loungy, pajama-wearing, couch day. The best thing to end a sick day is homemade soup.

Poor sick kiddo- no better cure than zoning out to some Doc McStuffins!

Poor sick kiddo- no better cure than zoning out to some Doc McStuffins!

Thank you Solly Baby for helping me out once again! Our littlest man has been stuffy and did not want to be laid down , so baby wearing was the best solution in order to actually accomplish something around the house. Not to mention, I loved snuggling him close to me knowing he wasn’t feeling his best, while still being able to make soup for my other sick baby.

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Now, onto the recipe! This was a hit with the whole family. I’m always looking for ways to get Ricky to eat more protein and this definitely fit the bill!

Stuffed pepper soup

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 green peppers, chopped
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 cup rice (cooked)

Directions

  • Brown beef and onions over medium heat
  • Add beef, onions and remaining ingredients (EXCEPT RICE) into crockpot
  • Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours
  • When there is 30 minutes remaining, stir in cooked rice
  • Enjoy!

Bowl of stuffed pepper soup

Baked Milk Challenge: Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Ever since we got the go-ahead from our allergist to do a dairy challenge, also known as a baked milk challenge, I’ve been seeking out recipes that fit the specifications given. It was suggested that we start with recipes using a semi-low amount of dairy (1/4-1/2 cup) that can be baked at 350 degrees for at least 30 minutes. These recipes are a lot harder to find than you’d imagine! So far the best options I have found are sweet breads. Since I’ve had such a hard time finding recipes, I figured others probably struggle as well, so here is the first of many to come. This is a delicious fall recipe altered slightly from this original, including chocolate chips to entice your little one!

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of ginger
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini, squeezed of excess moisture
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 flax egg (1 Tbs ground flax, 3 Tbs water)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a bread loaf pan
  • If using, make flax egg by whisking together 1 Tbs of ground flax with 3 Tbs water)
  • In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger)
  • In a separate large bowl mix pumpkin, zucchini, honey, oil, flax egg, and vanilla until well combined. Whisk in milk.
  • Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Bake for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove and cool on wire rack (in pan) for ~10 minutes.
  • Remove bread from pan and place on wire rack to finish cooling,

We have successfully passed this challenge and will continue with this amount for several weeks. The next step is increasing the amount of dairy in the recipe. After that is accomplished, our allergist suggested trying either a lesser amount of cook time or a lower temperature. Beyond sweet breads I plan to try casseroles next!

If you have any good recipes that include dairy and are baked for at least 30 minutes at 350 degrees or higher, please share!

Raymond turned three weeks yesterday and we took our first trip out of the house with just me and the boys. It only took two hours to get out of the house, so I’m calling it a success! Raymond did great (read:slept through 90% of the trip) and Ricky was super well-behaved; he must have sensed that I was not up for any two year old sass, thank goodness! I had been waiting for my Solly Baby wrap to come in the mail before attempting any big adventures (ahem…Target) and I am so glad I waited! This wrap is awesome and I am officially a fan of baby wearing!

Solly Wrap Target trip

I love having my hands this full! My two boys snuggling on my lap ❤

Full hands, full hearts!

Ricky’s 2 Year Food Allergy Testing Results

We had a VERY exciting week last week. About three weeks ago we had an introduction appointment with a new allergist, who decided it made the most sense to move forward with updated blood testing immediately rather than wait another couple of months until Ricky turned two. He said a couple of months would not make a noticeable difference and if we wanted to get everything taken care of before Baby #2’s arrival, there was no reason to delay. We agreed and brought Ricky in to the lab for a blood draw the next day. Two long weeks later and we finally had the results.

Ricky’s overall IgE numbers went down for all of his food allergens (yay!) and some of his allergens went down enough to consider food trials. Karl and I were both shocked and thrilled, to say the least. We were hoping for decreased numbers, but never thought we’d be far enough along to consider testing to see if we could introduce new, previously-allergenic foods into Ricky’s diet. Especially because our previous allergist stated they would not even consider food trials of any sort until Ricky was much older and could communicate more effectively.

Peanuts and tree nuts are still severe and we won’t be able to even consider testing for another 4 years or so. Egg was right in the gray area, so we are not going to do any testing at this point because of Ricky’s age. Ricky’s dairy numbers decreased quite a bit and are now at the stage where we can attempt to introduce baked dairy (baked into something at 350 degrees for at least 30 minutes). Our allergist advised us that he has read several studies that show the regular ingestion of baked dairy can help an individual outgrow their dairy allergy at a faster rate! Now I know that most food allergy studies are not fully tested and can’t be considered 100% effective, but they are also worth a shot as long as we’re not putting our son in danger!

The most exciting result from Ricky’s most recent blood draw was his soy results. Our new allergist suspected that Ricky’s original severe soy results (from his 1-year testing) were directly tied to his peanut allergy. Soy beans are a legume, just like peanuts, so according to our allergist soy numbers are often skewed higher for those who have severe peanut allergies. Ricky’s IgE numbers had dropped low enough for testing. Our allergist suggest an at-home food trial, which scared both Karl and I but we had faith and proceeded as suggested, with Epis in hand. SUCCESS! Ricky ate an entire container of soy yogurt over the course of an evening with no reactions, not even a hive or two! So, we can officially check soy off our list of allergens.

We went to the grocery store the next day and let me just tell you, soy opens up a whole new world of possibilities- we can finally shop for the little man in the center of the grocery store! Post to come on foods that contain soy but are free of dairy, egg, and all nuts. My mind was boggled at the amount of new foods the little man can eat! Just a little teaser- frozen french fries and bagels both make the “safe” list- what?!

Moral of the story- have hope. Also, don’t be afraid to switch allergists if you aren’t happy with your current doctor. We didn’t have any specific issues, but did not feel entirely comfortable with the responses we were getting from our previous allergist as well as his lack of a plan for the future. He was of the mindset that whatever the allergy test read determines exactly how you should proceed and there are no solutions for food allergies. Having read about OIT and other stories of kids growing out of allergies, I knew there had to be more and I wanted a plan for my son. I guarantee we would not have done any testing for soy for at least another two years at our previous allergist’s office. Even if Ricky had failed the food trial, at least we would be certain of the allergy and not have any questions moving forward. Yes, we are still allergic to dairy, egg, peanuts and tree nuts, but right now we are focused on the elimination of soy and all of our new and wonderful food possibilities!

Honey Balsamic Chicken Strips and Vacation Hopes

Happy Wednesday! This week we are in preparation mode for an upcoming family vacation with Karl’s extended family. Karl and I really struggled with the decision to attend the vacation this year. It is an annual trip and one of our favorite weeks of the year- we love his family and love spending time with them. That being said, as most allergy parents know, vacations are stressful when traveling with a food allergic child. There are extra dangers when you’re outside of your normal surroundings and in our case, we have to pack all of Ricky’s food because there is no guarantee we’ll be able to find his normal non-dairy, non-soy, non-egg, no-nut options where we are going. I don’t really mind packing the food since we’ll be driving and have enough room for a cooler, what scares me more is the potential for contact with his allergens once we arrive. The family all stays in one big retreat center, cooks in a big kitchen and eats together in a big dining hall. One obvious solution is to just stay away from those areas, which we will, but I also don’t want to entirely isolate my son from everyone. It is the family’s vacation and I fully expect everyone to be snacking all day, and understandably, not washing their hands after every time they eat. This means that I have to be extra on-guard when someone wants to play with Ricky as well as extra cautious about what toys he plays with. After MUCH deliberation, we decided to give it a shot with the flexibility of coming home early if there is more stress than fun. I’m hoping that lots of preparation and the support of immediate family members helps to make this vacation feel like a real vacation instead of a very nerve-wracking trial run for travel. Fingers crossed that when we return I can report back that the trip was amazing and there were no mishaps! Oh, and I’m also 35 weeks pregnant as of tomorrow, so let’s hope I don’t go into labor early 🙂

As promised- another delicious freezer meal!

Honey Balsamic Chicken Strips

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs chicken breast
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic (minced)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)

Directions

  • Mix balsamic, minced garlic, olive oil, honey and a bit of salt and pepper (to taste) in a ziploc bag.
  • Slice the raw chicken breasts into ~1 inch strips. Add the chicken to the ziploc bag and marinate for at least 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • When done marinating, empty the chicken and marinade into a 9×13 baking dish and bake for 35-45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through

Note- to freeze, simply mix all the ingredients per directions in the ziploc bag and freeze until ready to cook. 

Salsa Chicken and Appreciating Best Friends

This past weekend we went to one of my best friend’s daughter’s third birthday party. My two best friends and I have been close since middle school- that’s 16 years y’all! That is a long ass time and we have seen it all. We stayed friends through different high schools (two of us attended the same school, while the other left us for a neighboring school), different colleges (all three were separate), many boyfriends, losses in our families, marriage and now children. These girls are my family. We are now so extremely blessed to see our kids grow up together. The oldest just turned 3, but then there are three little ones all within 7 months of each other!

Every time we get together I am reminded of why we have stayed so close. On top of just being a blast, these girls are SO thoughtful and especially considerate of Ricky’s food allergies. When we get all the kiddos together, they are always diligent to wash their kids up after eating to make sure we have no contact with Ricky’s allergens. Birthday parties are a little trickier, though. This past weekend, no matter how many times my friend reminded her guests to wash up their kids after eating because of food allergies being present, there were still a few that paid her no mind. I truly appreciated her being courteous enough to even make the announcement AND reminders. Unfortunately though there will always be a few people who do not understand and are not willing to inconvenience themselves in the slightest to make lives easier, and in this case, safer, for others. Ah well- what are you going to do?

Food allergies aside, we got some great pictures of Ricky having a blast and me relishing time with my besties.

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Our sad attempt at getting a picture of all 4 kids together- yeah right. There was a balloon behind us and the birthday girl was way too excited about her new flashlight!

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Ricky’s favorite game- getting chased!

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The girls and our littles!

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My favorite- our affectionate boy just loves smooches from mom and dad!

Oh, and I chopped my hair! 8 inches and mailed off to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. I figured short hair would make life a little easier when Baby #2 joins us and although I prefer my hair long, it grows back, right?

Now the reason you are probably here- sorry to make you wade through that mess of family photos!

Salsa Chicken! This is my go-to week night, “I don’t feel like cooking” dinner. It takes all of 5 minutes to prepare and never disappoints. This may or may not also be the first meal I ever made for Karl while we were still in college- meaning it takes ZERO cooking skills and you pretty much can’t mess it up.

Toss a pound of boneless, skinless chicken into a ziplock bag with a packet of taco seasoning (I make my own- see recipe here) and shake it up. Place coated chicken in a 9×13 pan and cover with a jar of salsa. Bake at 375 for ~45 minutes. Serve over rice. If you want to make it extra yummy, cook your rice in chicken broth instead of water and serve with a side of corn (and some sour cream if you don’t have to avoid dairy or have a good dairy-free option).

Salsa Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 jar salsa (we use mild since neither the toddler or male adult in this house can handle spice)

Directions

  • Place chicken and taco seasoning in a plastic bag, shake to coat
  • Place coated chicken in a 9×13 pan and cover with salsa
  • Bake at 375 for ~45 minutes

Blueberry Muffins and a Weekend Flying Solo

To all you people out there who have spouses that travel- I’m sorry. Karl rarely goes away for a night without me, and when it happens I turn into a 13 year old girl- pouty and scared of the dark. He went up north this weekend for a bachelor party with some of his closest friends and had a great time while I held down the fort at home. In the past whenever he left for a weekend, I had a bad tendency of laying on the guilt pretty thick- what can I say, I’m pretty selfish about his time and HATE sleeping in the house by myself. This weekend, however, I took a page out of his book and think I did a pretty good job of encouraging a fun weekend rather than being a downer. My husband is the best. Any time I have a girls night or go out to do something fun by myself, he is nothing but sweet and encouraging, usually sending me a note half-way through the evening reassuring me that everything is good at home and to stay as long as I want. Not that I need the permission, but it is great knowing that he is not back at the house wallowing in loneliness. Like I said, I have not always matched his kindness on this particular topic in the past, but this time I was bound and determined to make his weekend more enjoyable rather than take away from it with guilt about not being home.

I don’t know if it was good karma, but this was also the first time I’ve stayed in our house by myself without being terrified. I realize that I’m an adult with a husband and a child and have lived here for over 3 years, so I should be more than comfortable sleeping in my house alone, but I’m not. Once the sun goes down, every noise in the house becomes someone trying to break in and take me or my baby. The other night I heard a couple loud thumps and demanded that Karl search the house for anything amiss. He did and I was so unreasonably afraid that I accused him of not looking thoroughly enough because he came back way too soon. Did I mention that it was 2:30 am? Turns out it was just Ricky kicking the wall and I’m a big jerk. For the record, I did apologize in the morning once my sanity returned with the sunlight. BUT, I did great this weekend (sorry for the self-praise, but this was big you guys) and I’m hopeful that in the future I’ll be able to put on my big girl pants and not give Karl such a hard time when he wants to spend the occasional (let’s be honest- rare) night away.

In celebration of Karl coming home, I figured it would be nice to have a little treat waiting for him (not to mention a house that smelled a heck of a lot better than a cabin full of boys). These blueberry muffins are amazing and completely free of dairy, egg, soy and nuts! Take my word for it and make the most of those fresh summer blueberries this week with this yummy recipe!

Blueberry Muffins- dairy, egg, soy and nut free

Blueberry Muffins
Bake at 400 degrees, makes ~8 muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 flax egg (1 Tbs flax, 3 Tbs water)
  • 1/3 plus 2 Tbs coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Grease or line muffin tin for at least 8 muffins
  • Mix your flax egg and let sit at least 10 minutes
  • Combine dry ingredients in a medium size mixing bowl- flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder
  • Mix flax egg, coconut milk and canola oil in a seperate bowl
  • Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well
  • Fold in blueberries
  • Fill muffin cups to the top and bake at 400 degrees for ~25 minutes (start with 20 and add more time as needed