Make Now and Freeze For Later

Nesting hit me this weekend.  One day it was in the form of cleaning and the next it took the form of cooking.  Here are the recipes I used to make several casseroles and breakfasts to freeze for later.  And, I have to tell you, having food and meals already taken care of, takes such a huge weight off our shoulders!

First things first, I have one complaint for the grocery stores.  Can all the products and brands get together and decide on the same quantities to offer their products in?  I wanted to make 12 muffins.  Well, the muffins come in packs of 6, the sausage in packs of 8, the cheese in packs of 11 or 20, and the eggs in packs of 12.  So I ended up making 8 muffins with sausage, egg, and cheese and 2 muffins with just egg and cheese.  The same thing happens with hot dogs and hamburgers.  Grrr, anyways…

One extra step I took for all of this was buying disposable casserole and meat loaf pans.  This will allow for easy clean up when the time comes to actually eat these dishes which will be another huge time saver once the baby is here.  It also allows me to still have the use of my glass casserole dishes, in case I actually have time to do some cooking.

The List
Turkey Sausage, Egg, and Cheese English Muffins
Turkey Meatloaf
Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf  
Pioneer Woman’s Baked Ziti
Chicken Manicotti 
Chicken Baked Spaghetti – didn’t have time to get to this one.  Will post if I get to it! 

Turkey Sausage, Egg, and Cheese English Muffins 

12 english muffins (I bought the whole grain for an extra hearty muffin)
12 turkey sausage patties
12 eggs
12 slices of cheddar cheese

-preheat oven to 350 degrees
Spray a muffin tin with non-stick spray
-Crack 1 egg into each muffin hole
-Use a fork or whisk to pop the yolk and sprinkle a bit of pepper onto each egg
-Bake in the oven for 25-30  minutes until the egg is cooked through. (The eggs will be well done.  I know we all prefer our eggs cooked differently, but because these are going to be frozen, it’s better just to bake them completely)
-Remove eggs from oven, run a knife around each edge, and the eggs will pop out easily.
Open and layout all 12 english muffins
-Add 1 turkey sausage patty to each english muffin
-Add 1 slice of cheese to each english muffin
-Add 1 egg to each english muffin
-Add the top of the english muffin to finish
-Wrap each in foil and label for later

-Optional- add the reheating directions and date to a large freezer ziplock and add all of the muffins wrapped in foil to that freezer bag.  This helps me keep the freezer organized.

Ready to Eat Directions
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
If muffins are thawed, bake in the foil for 15-20 minutes
If muffins are frozen, bake in the foil for 30-40 minutes 
*You could also microwave these, but you must remove the foil first.  Also, the upside to baking in the oven, the muffins will toast up!

Turkey Meatloaf
1 egg
3/4 cup of milk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup quick cooking oats
1/3 cup italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 pound lean, 99% fat-free ground turkey

2/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard

-Spray 2 mini meatloaf pans with non-stick spray

-In a large bowl, whisk the egg and milk together.  Then add the cheese, oats, breadcrumbs, onion, and seasoned salt…stir to combine.  Add the ground meat and mix with your hands.  (Don’t over mix, or the meatloaf will be tough)

-Split the meat mixture into 2 portions and set in the greased baking pans.

-In a small bowl, stir the ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard together.  Spoon over each of the loaves.

-Cover with foil and label with date and reheating directions

Ready to Eat Directions

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Bake uncovered…
-If defrosted, bake for 40-45 minutes, until meat is cooked through and juices run clear
-If frozen, bake for 55-60 minutes, until meat is cooked through and juices run clear

*You could easily make this into 1 whole meat loaf.  But I decided it would be better to split these into 2 different meal portions.
*I‘ve made these into mini-meatloaves also, check out that recipe here. 

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf   
Source: What’s Cookin, Chicago?
1 lb ground chicken or turkey
1 egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small onion, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup pasta sauce (homemade or store bought)
1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese blend

-Spray 2 mini meatloaf pans with non-stick spray

-In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, thyme, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. (Don’t over mix, or the meatloaf will be tough)

-Split the meat mixture into 2 portions and set in the greased baking pans.

-Top the meatloaf with pasta sauce.

-Cover with foil and label with date and reheating directions

Ready to Eat Directions
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees
-Bake uncovered…
-If defrosted, bake for 40-45 minutes, until meat is cooked through and juices run clear
-If frozen, bake for 55-60 minutes, until meat is cooked through and juices run clear
-Top with shredded mozzarella and place back in the oven for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted.
-Allow meatloaf to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving

Chicken Manicotti
With this one, I already had extra filling from the last time I made this in the freezer.  So I thawed it out, cooked some manicotti noodles, stuffed them, placed in a casserole dish, covered with sauce, sprinkled some cheese, covered with foil (labelled with date), and place it in the freezer.

Here is the entire recipe again, but the original post can be found here.  


1 8 oz package cannelloni or manicotti

4 cups finely chopped cooked chicken (32 oz / 2 lbs of raw chicken)
1 8 oz containers chive-and-onion cream cheese

1 8 oz containers regular cream cheese
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1 cup / 8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon seasoned pepper
1-2 24 oz jars of favorite marinara sauce
Top with Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of dried oregano


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.

In a large bowl, add chicken, cream cheeses, spinach, mozzarella cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic salt, and pepper. The original recipe says to stir…I say, get your clean hands dirty and mix it yourself.  Like you would a meatloaf.

Slice the pasta lengthwise on one side, through the other side (you should be able to lay the noodle flat) Spoon about 1/2 cup chicken mixture into each shell, gently roll up the manicotti / pressing cut sides together. Place, cut sides down, in 2 lightly greased 9 x 13  baking dish. 

Pour marinara sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle with dried oregano and parmesan cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until heated.

**FYI** So I bought a different brand of manicotti for the 3rd batch and the cooking directions said to boil for 9 minutes (the other brand said 7).  And after 9 minutes, those things were falling apart!!!  I still assembled the dish, but it was not as pretty as the other 2.  Sometimes you can’t trust the box directions!  
Pioneer Woman’s Baked Ziti
Source: The Pioneer Woman

When I first read over this recipe, it sounded like it would take forever and a lot of work to make my own sauce.  But, I was pleasantly surprised.  The sauce was simple to throw together and let simmer for 30 minutes.  And of course I had the added plus of my house smelling like spaghetti.  You could easily brown meat and add your favorite jarred marinara sauce to cut down on time.

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
3 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 whole Large Onion, Diced
1 pound Italian Sausage (I forgot this!)
1 pound Ground Beef
1 can (28 Ounce Can) Whole Tomatoes, With Juice
1 jar (28 or 32 Ounce) Marinara Sauce
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
Salt And Pepper, to taste
16 ounces Ziti Cooked Until Not Quite Al Dente
1 tub (15 Ounce) Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
1 1/2 pound Mozzarella Cheese, Grated
1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 whole Egg

DirectionsFor the sauce:
-Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat.
-Add onions and garlic and saute for several minutes, or until starting to soften.
-Add Italian sausage and ground beef and cook until browned.
-Drain off fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture.
-Add tomatoes, tomato juice, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.
-Stir and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
-Cut off the heat and let the sauce cool down, but remove 3 to 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down.

-In a separate large bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, and salt and pepper. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).
-Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down.
-Pour the pasta into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps.)
-Add the cooled meat sauce from the pot and toss to combine.

-Add half the coated pasta to a large casserole dish or lasagna dish.
-Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half the remaining mozzarella cheese.
-Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta, the sauce, and the mozzarella.
-Cover with foil, label with date and reheat directions

Reardy to Eat Directions
-Thaw out the casserole
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
-Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until bubbling.
-Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

A Parent’s Prayer

A friend posted this on Facebook last year and just loved it from the first time I read it.  I find myself reading back over it all the time and I would like to get it printed and framed for the baby’s room.  This prayer seems applicable to any situation you may go through with your child as they grow up.  It serves as motivation, comfort, and reassurance.  

A Parent’s Prayer

Lord, as I live this day, renew in me
the ability to laugh at my children’s antics;
the time to share their moments of pride;
the need to praise their separate strengths;
the faith to trust their growing judgement;
the patience to understand their changing moods;

the virtue to forgive their disrespect;
the openness to learn their ways and styles;
the ears to hear what they are saying;
the insight to embrace their doubts and fears;
the tenderness to understand their broken dreams;
And the wisdom to accept that their lives are built
just one day at a time.

Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Vegetables - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

Roasted Vegetables - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

Roasted Vegetables - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

Roasted vegetables, to me, is the easiest side dish in the world.  Just chop up a bunch of veggies, mix together with a marinade (optional!), spread onto a baking pan, and bake.  You can have a lot of creative fun with the ingredients that you choose to enhance the vegetables.  Like using different fresh herbs, different vinegars, or instead of vinegar try lemon juice, add fresh garlic, add different spices, etc.  Another part of the fun is, I never measure out the ingredients.  I just dash, pinch, or drizzle what seems right to me, and it has always worked out.  It is super simple to make a huge batch of roasted vegetables to eat throughout the week.  And don’t forget how HEALTHY roasted vegetables are for you to eat!

Chopped Vegetables
Olive Oil
A pinch of Salt
A pinch of Pepper
A pinch of garlic powder
Red Wine or Balsamic Vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh thyme

Mix all ingredients, except the potatoes, in a large bowl.  Cover and let marinate in the fridge for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove bowl from fridge and add the potatoes.  Stir together. 

Cover a baking pan in foil, dump the bowl of vegetables onto the pan, and spread to an even layer.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour and stir every 15 minutes.  You are looking for the vegetables to be fork tender, starting to brown, or caramelize.  We also go by smell…if your house smells delicious then your vegetables will probably taste delicious!

*Experiment, have fun, check the oven often if it’s your first time!

Hospital Packing List

We are bringing 1 carry-on size rolling suitcase and 1 extra bag for the snacks.  My goal is to bring as little as possible so I only have to unpack as little as possible.  And why not take full advantage of what all the hospital provides…you pay for it anyway!

And so I won’t have to search and create another hospital list the next time we get pregnant, here is the list I came up with to pack for the hospital.
Nursing tank top
Nursing pads
Travel size toiletries for both Mom and Dad (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, tooth brush, brush, mouth wash, deodorant)
Snack of choice for Mom (Oat meal creme pies)

Snack of choice for Dad (Nutty Bars)
Hard candy (Jolly Ranchers or Life Savers)
Vitamin Waters
3 Hair rubber bands
Small camera 

Camera charger

Phone charger
2 pairs earphones (one for Mom and one for Dad)
Iphone / Ipod Docking Station or Speakers
2 light cardigans
2 pairs pajama pants/shorts
Boppy Pillow or Breast Friend (just bring 1!)
1-2 change of clothes for Dad
Going home blanket for baby
Going home outfit for baby
Mittens for baby
Going home hat for baby
Going home socks for baby
Going home burp cloth for baby

Extra Information 
The hard candy –  once you get to the hospital, you can’t eat while you are in labor.  The hard candies you can suck on and will help take the edge off.

The vitamin waters – same reason as above.  Some hospitals may restrict you to water only…I’ve heard of some hospitals still allowing the Vitamin waters.  If not, you’ll surely drink them after you deliver!

**I’m not packing a going home outfit for myself.  I’m going to wear in what I will go home in.  Since they make you change into a hospital gown once you get there anyways.

Iphone / Ipod Docking Station or Speakers – this is optional, you don’t NEED this.  But, I’ve heard from a few friends that they were able to hear women in labor in neighboring rooms.  This could add to your stress or straight up freak you out.  So being able to jam out to whatever music or noise you choose vs. a screaming woman in labor that isn’t you… sounds like a better option!

2 pairs of pajama pants – these are for after you deliver.  And from what I’ve heard, these can get ruined.  So I bought 2 pajama pants for $5 each at Walmart.  That way, I won’t feel bad about chucking them in the trash before we leave the hospital.  I would also suggest getting black or dark pants…if you need further explanation on why…email me!

**The hospital provides a “spray” for your on-the-mend hm hm.  All of my friends have told me to make sure you do NOT leave the hospital without it!  It provides the best relief and healing.

**Some items you may want to grab once you’re ready to go to the hospital.  Keep a list of these items with the hospital bag for when it’s needed.  That way, if you are gleefully freaking out about it being time, you won’t forget something you needed!


Honey and Goat Cheese Chicken

Source:  Paula Deen

What a simple main dish filled with lots of flavor!  For those of you that are as obsessed with goat cheese as we are, this is for you.  No only is this chicken stuffed with goat cheese, but the cracker topping adds a sweet and spicy finish that is to die for!  Of course if you don’t like spicy, just omit the red pepper flakes.  This chicken is easy enough to throw together for a week night meal and fancy enough to make for a stay-at-home date night.  Something about stuffed chicken makes people feel extra special.  When I made it last night for Nate, I forgot to tell him it was stuffed…so when he cut into it, the cheese surprised him and he was very jolly when he said “Oh! It’s stuffed!!”  The original recipe calls for 6 oz of goat cheese, but our store sells it by 4 oz or 11 oz.  1 oz per chicken breast was perfect for us!  Thank you Paula for this awesome recipe!

Honey and Goat Cheese Chicken - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

Honey and Goat Cheese Chicken - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

4 chicken breasts, boneless
1 sleeve butter crackers, crushed (used Ritz)
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 oz. goat cheese, cut into 4 equal portions
3 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoon butter, melted
Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, add crushed crackers, red pepper, salt and pepper. 

Spray the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. 

Make a slit in the side of each chicken breast, being very careful not to go through the other side. (Use a sharp knife)

Stuff each chicken breast with equal amounts of goat cheese and place in baking dish. 

Press cracker mixture on top of each breast, coating evenly. 

Spray the top of each breast with non-stick cooking spray. 

Bake chicken breast for 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together butter and honey.  

Spoon honey butter over chicken and return to oven for 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Week 38

Week 38 Belly - The Not So Desperate Chef Wife

How big is baby? The size of a pumpkin! 

Baby Development FYI: Baby is about 18.9 to 20.9 inches long and weighs about 6.2 to 9.2 pounds. Her head is now about the same circumference as her abdomen.  She may have about an inch or so of hair already.    She’s slowly shedding that white goo on her skin (called vernix caseosa) but you might see some of it at birth.

My body has been invaded, how’s that going?  Feels like I’m walking around with a bowling ball hanging between my legs.  It doesn’t look like I’ve dropped, but I can definitely tell the baby has lowered.  I wouldn’t call them cramps, but I’ve definitely been feeling…activity…in the lower part of my uterus and South Dakota. When I walk around I get a funny spasm on both sides of my pelvis.  It hurts, but it makes me laugh at the same time.  Then there is the ever intensifying lightening crotch.  It happened while I was in the grocery store the other day, and it was stronger than what I was used too.  So my instinct was to grab my crotch and hold on.    Thank goodness there was another woman shopping in the same aisle who thought nothing of it!  The extreme exhaustion has hit again, but I’ve been praying for the nesting to kick in any day now.  My house needs it.

What’s been on my mind?  Whether or not to get my cervix check at my appointment this week.  A) Who would voluntarily want something or someone to go up yonder?  B) Even if you’re dilated or effaced, you could still have another 3 weeks, but I would still get more ancy.  C) If I wasn’t dilated or effaced at all, I would feel discouraged.   I decided to get checked anyway out of curiosity.  To break the ice of getting “checked” so it wouldn’t be such a shock when they do it a million times at the hospital, and honestly, it wasn’t bad at all!  And I did want to know if what I had been feeling all week was due to progress my body was making.  

Crazy Cravings:  Rolo McFlurries!!!  So dang good.  Mini chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s.  And pumpkin seeds also from TJ’s.

Highlights: Doctor’s appointment.  I’ve gained 0.4 lbs since my last visit (woo).  I’m currently 1 cm and 50% effaced. The OB said I’m measuring on the small side, but in the normal range…which I’m ecstatic about, because I really don’t want to push out something larger than the bowling ball I use (8 lb ball).  And, the OB did confirm (again) I could pop any time now!

Week 37

How big is baby? The size of a winter melon! 

Baby Development FYI: Yay! Baby has reached full term. He likely measures around 18.9 to 20.9 inches and weighs about 6.2 to 9.2 pounds. He’s gaining about 1/2 ounce each day.  He’s practicing some skills: inhaling, exhaling, sucking, gripping and blinking.  He’s getting his first sticky poop (called meconium) ready for his first diaper.

My body has been invaded, how’s that going?  Nothing new this week.  The baby is just getting stronger and more squished…not a good combo!  Nate has now been able to feel the head, butt, and foot.  I’ve heard I’m glowing, but I still don’t understand what that means.  I thought being pregnant I would figure that out, but nope, still in the dark on that one.

What’s been on my mind?  Doing things while we can.  Like going to the movies, out to dinner, and hanging out with friends.  All though it all has to be modified versions now anyway, because my energy and capabilities are so limited as it is.  But, we are enjoying everyday with just us 2 that we can!  

Crazy Cravings:  Classic Italian sub from Quiznos.  Fruit juice.  One thing strange if you know me.  At some point in the past week, my taste buds changed.  Spicy foods are actually spicy.  Which I am not used too and I keep eating hot stuff, and realizing after it’s too late.  I’ve been eating spicy foods consistently, as I always have, and seriously…something in my tongue changed in a day.  Hopefully, this will fix it self after I birth this baby!  

Highlights: Doctor’s appointment.  Everything went well.  The heartbeat was 140.  I’m at a whopping 174 lbs.  But it’s whatever, I really don’t care anymore.  I’ve accepted that if you don’t gain weight while pregnant a) you’re weird b) you didn’t enjoy your pregnancy to it’s full potential!  I definitely drove across town last weekend to pick up 2 dozens of Krispy Kremes.  Don’t Judge.

I also installed the car seat in my car and the cute head rest mirror so the baby can look at itself and I can peek at them 🙂  We still need to install the base in Nate’s truck.  

We’ve packed a hospital bag and a small bag for snacks.  We got home from dinner and a movie to an extremely hyper Maple.  Something was up and we couldn’t figure it out.  During one of my middle of the night bathroom trips I stumbled across the room in an unusual pattern, and heard plastic crackling.  Then I found there was a trail of them. What were they and where did they come from?  A whole box of oatmeal cream pies from our hospital snack bag.  Our dog managed to unzip the bag, drag out all the oatmeal cookies, get them out of each plastic wrapper, and eat them all.  So not only did our dog have a massive sugar rush, but now I need to buy more oatmeal cream pies.  Love you Maple.

Week 36

How big is baby? The size of a honeydew! 

Baby Development FYI:  She’s still in the 17.2- to 18.7-inch and 4.2- to 5.8-pound range and continues to beef up.  She’s getting closer and closer to being able to breathe on her own.  Her skin is getting smooth and soft and her gums are rigid.  Her liver and kidneys are in working order.  Circulation and immune systems are basically good to go, too.

My body has been invaded, how’s that going? By the end of the week, the switch got flipped.  Pregnancy went from fun and cute to hard work and whale.  I’m not surprised, I always figured the last few weeks would be the grand finale of all the symptoms and that is not understatement.  It is nearly impossible to find a comfortable position.  The only one that’s (possibly) comfy is lying in bed with an enormous stack of pillows on both sides of my body and below my head.  Then, once you are finally happy and cozy in your cloud of pillows…the kiddo starts having a jam session in your uterus paired with a case of the hiccups.  The hiccups will always be cute though.  I’m also feeling heavy.  Might be TMI, but just getting up from the toilet takes work!  Nate also informed me of my new dunlap.  (Definition from Urban Dictionary: When the belly of an individual “dunlaps” over their belt/waistline.)  But as Nate found out, it’s a great place for me to hide his toothbrush or pencil 🙂  With all this going on inside, I’m still trying to enjoy the last few weeks.  This baby will only be in there for that much longer and then the real work begins! So keep on kicking my tail into shape pregnancy!  Wait…please don’t. ha

What’s been on my mind?  So many thoughts throughout the day it’s hard to keep track.  We both have a lot on our minds like how much is about to change, how much we can’t wait for things to change, how we can’t wait to hold the baby, what’s left to do, what’s the hospital going to be like, etc.  I thought I would be nervous about the delivery by now, but that still hasn’t hit me.
We are excited to be full term by the end of the week.  I know with technology and medical advancements these days, having a preemie is not as life threatening.  But it is a huge relief to know that you made it this far and the amount of risks has gone way down.  SO THANKFUL!

Crazy Cravings:  Lots of fruit juice.  And I’ve decided to put down the Chick Fila.

Highlights:  The doctor appointment…besides the Group B Strep test.  HOLY COW.  Weight gain is to 27 lbs, and every pound has tasted delicious, so I’ll take’m!  Hearing the heartbeat, which is in the 130s/140s.  And the doctor gave us labor/delivery instructions as well as circumcision information.  SO CRAZY WE ARE AT THAT POINT!  We have weekly doctor appointments from here on out, and the internal exams start at 38 weeks which I am more nervous about than actual labor.  

Week 35

How big is baby? The size of a durian! 

Baby Development FYI: He’s about 17.2 to 18.7 inches. From here on out, he won’t get much longer, but he’s plumping up. He’s now about 4.2 to 5.8 pounds, and he’ll put on a pound or more of baby fat before birth. Now, his hearing is fully developed, and he responds best to high-pitched noises. If it’s a boy, his testes have probably fully descended.

My body has been invaded, how’s that going?  It’s hard to breath, horrible back pain if  I walk too much…the grocery store is too much, bending over is a chore in itself…but amusing to others, lightning crotch is no joke…it’s exactly what it sounds like if you are wondering what this is, I’ve noticed a light linea nigra below my belly button, my belly button is over to the side…also amusing to others, my belly feels really tight, and definitely waddling around.

What’s been on my mind?  Holy crap we are getting close.  It seems like we are more in denial now that we are so close to the finish line.  We have 4 weeks to go (give or take), so we are very anxious and excited.  I’ve started to pack our hospital bags…will post my list separately.  
The nursery and baby items are pretty much ready to go.  Now I’ve got the rest of the house to clean up and not sure how easy that is going to be to actually get done.  Anyone have a magic wand I can borrow?

Crazy Cravings:  I had an odd craving for something Nate would not let me fulfill.  Captain Crunch and eggnog.  

Highlights: Being home for the holidays.  It was nice visiting with everyone one last time while it is just Nate and me.  The OB cleared me to go home only because home has a great hospital.  So now I have to stay put until this baby arrives!  Ahhhh! So crazy.

Christmas Goodies

Instead of buying gifts for lots of people this year, I decided to do a bunch of baking and give out goodies.  It was so fun making all these treats and giving them to family and friends, I think I will do this from now on!  The trick is to make large batches of each goody and divvy them up into cookie tins all at once.  I found a TON of festive cookie tins from the dollar store, so I didn’t break the bank on the cookie tins.

Between the crazy baking spree, traveling, and gobbling these goodies up before I could say “have a holly jolly Christmas” there wasn’t time to take pictures.  So here are the recipes, links to originals, and pictures borrowed from the lovely bloggers with these yummy recipes!

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Balls from Praying Twice 

These peanut butter balls were a HUGE hit.  The rice krispies add a fun crunch and texture that people couldn’t get enough of.  The powdered sugar also helps these peanut butter balls not be as heavy and dense as other peanut butter balls I’ve had in the past.  My only “complaint” is how messy you get while making these and they are somewhat labor intensive.  My hands were covered in chocolate which was so tempting to lick as I was making these…but I resisted until the end…I swear!!  But because the end result is so yummy, all the work was worth it!

2 cups creamy peanut butter
3 cups rice krispies
3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter, melted
2-3 packages of milk chocolate chips, melted

-Mix the peanut butter, rice krispies, powdered sugar, and melted butter in a large bowl.  The mixture is quite thick and I found it easier just to use my hands! 

*The goal is to be able to roll the mixture into a ball that isn’t to dry or too sticky.  Just right.  If the balls are too dry and not rolling together, add more peanut butter.  If the balls are too wet and sticky, add more powdered sugar.

-Pre-roll all of the peanut butter balls and place on cookie sheets BEFORE dipping in chocolate, your hands will get messy.

-Dip each ball into the chocolate and place back on cookie sheet. 

-Let harden before packing up and you can put them in the fridge to speed up the process.

(Makes about 70 balls)

Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies from Life as a Lofthouse

Are you a fan of soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies?  This is for you!  The great thing about these cookies is how soft they are without having to pop them in the microwave (but the extra warmth still makes them even better!).  The secret ingredient aka vanilla pudding mix is where the cookies get their chewy texture.  Also the added bump of vanilla flavor makes these cookies top all others if you ask me.  Does anyone else have trouble answering the question of vanilla or chocolate?  They go together so well!

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 small package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 12 oz bag milk chocolate chips

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
-Add butter, both sugars, pudding mix, eggs and vanilla to a large bowl, and beat until creamy and fluffy
-Then slowly mix in flour and baking soda
-Stir in chocolate chips
-Drop by tablespoonfuls, onto an un-greased cookie sheet.
-Bake for ONLY 9-10 minutes.
-Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes before eating. 

(Makes about 36 cookies)

Triple Chocolate Cherry Bars from Betty Crocker

I’ve recently discovered and become a fan of Betty Crocker.  Many of the recipes are super simple and quick to prepare and all remind me of comfort food.  And if you search through the website and cookbooks, you are bound to come across real gems like this recipe!  Chocolate with cherries is one of my favorite combos.  Nate’s aunt makes delicious chocolate covered cherries every Christmas and these are similar, just in a brownie form.  And the fact that these are so quick and easy to whip up, I’ll be making these year round and not just for the holidays.

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® chocolate fudge cake mix
1 21 oz can cherry pie filling
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 container Betty Crocker® Whipped chocolate frosting

-Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan)
-Spray a 15x10x1-inch or 13×9-inch pan with baking spray
-In large bowl, gently mix dry cake mix, pie filling, eggs and chocolate chips with rubber spatula; break up any undissolved cake mix by pressing with spatula
-Carefully spread in pan
-Bake 15x10x1-inch pan 23 to 27 minutes, 13×9-inch pan 29 to 34 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
-Cool completely, about 1 hour
-Frost with frosting
-Cut to desired size bars
-Store loosely covered