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Banana Muffins of Perfection

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I got this recipe from my friend, Staci, and have made them twice in the last month. They were originally called “Banana Nut Muffins” but Dennis insisted on this new title and since it makes me laugh, I obliged him.  They really are perfect, so much so that I’m thinking about turning this recipe into a loaf and entering it into the fair this year.  Such a nice, soft, texture!

I shared them with an old co-worker and she deemed them the “best muffins ever.”  The base recipe is a good one that results in a tender, moist muffin with great banana flavor.  These are now my favorite thing to make with bananas!

Banana Muffins of Perfection

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2 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups mashed ripe bananas
1 cup mix-in’s

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in mashed bananas. Add dry ingredients all at once, stirring just enough to moisten. Gently stir in mix-in’s. Spoon into greased muffin tin, filling 2/3 full. Bake in 350F oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden. Makes 15-18 muffins.

Staci’s & V’s favorite mix-in’s: chopped nuts, diced prunes, chopped strawberries, blueberries, dried cranberries, chocolate chips. Staci also likes to add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom, but doesn’t measure so you’ll have to figure out how much you like if you add them. I’d add a teaspoon total of spices (max) if it was me, but you might like more or less.

I make mine nut-free to keep them easy to chew for Joshua. My two favorite ways (so far) are with blueberries (above) and dried cranberries (first picture)! I can’t wait to try them with FRESH cranberries come fall. Oh my!

Joshua’s Birth Story

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I’m not sure if anyone is interested in this story, especially since it has been nearly 17 months, but a friend recently asked me if I ever posted Joshua’s birth story because she still didn’t know if I’d gone without an epidural, as I planned, how long my labor was, etc.  I figured it was about time I post it not only for anyone interested, but so I can remember every magical, disgusting moment.  It’s quite long, just to warn you. And of course includes all the fun stuff involved with childbirth, so if things like blood and reproductive systems aren’t your favorite thing to read about, I suggest you stop now. :)

I wasn’t one of those “I’m so tired of being pregnant, I wish this baby would come right now!” mama’s. I wanted as much time with my baby inside me as possible and if I wasn’t diabetic, I’d have been hoping for a 41 or 42 week gestation. I wanted more time to prepare (procrastinator) and to have as much “just us” time as possible before things changed forever.  So when I woke up Friday, November 22nd of 2013, a little over two weeks before my due date, and figured out that my water was leaking, I freaked out.  This was not how it was supposed to happen!

My amniotic fluid had been a little low at my appointment the previous day, and my OBGyn had told me to come with hospital bag packed to my appointment the following week because if it was any lower, he was sending me straight over to the hospital to be induced. So at least I had some warning that things might progress sooner than I anticipated.

After waking, I went to the bathroom to pee. When I stood up to flush the toilet, more pee trickled down my leg. I’d managed to make it to nearly 38 weeks without having any bladder control issues, and I wondered if that was now starting for me in my final weeks.  I sat back down but had no more I could pee. But when I stood up, again, I leaked. That’s when it clicked. That I might be leaking amniotic fluid.

I called my mother, and asked her if her water broke before she went into labor. It did with me, but it was a big gush, not a leak like this.  I called Lacey to see what her experience was, and she said hers never broke so they had to break it in the hospital.  So I went a-Googling and decided to do the lay-down test.  Lay down for half an hour with a pad in, then stand up and see if the pad was wet.  While I laid there, I prayed fervently for God to calm my anxious heart and carry me through what was to come.  I felt 90% NOT READY.

Once I determined that I was most likely leaking amniotic fluid and not peeing myself, I considered going straight to the hospital because I knew full well you were supposed to if your water broke (complications can arise from low fluid, such as infection).  But I didn’t want to go without Dennis, who wasn’t due home for another four hours, and since it was a slow leak I thought I’d just wait until he got home.  I hadn’t yet packed a hospital bag (procrastinator, remember?), so I got to packing my bag but mostly chatting online with friends about what was going on.

When Dennis got home,  my bag still wasn’t packed, and I still hadn’t started the postpartum padsicles I’d wanted to make to help me heal after my return (procrastinator to the end!).  I’d started feeling contractions around 4pm, nothing very impressive and not at even intervals.  When he arrived he was floored when I told him my water broke and we needed to go to the hospital. His jaw just dropped, utter astonishment.  At least I wasn’t the only one unprepared for early delivery!  But I felt fairly calm (thank you, Lord) and that kept him calm.  I asked if he could help me pack a bag and if we could go get something to eat before we went, because I knew they wouldn’t let me eat while in labor.

So we packed two bags, ate at West Street Burgers and called my MIL to let her know we stopped for burgers just like she had predicted (she had joked that Dennis wouldn’t recognize the urgency and would probably want to stop for burgers when I went into labor, and we both laughed that it turned out to be me that wanted to stop for burgers).  While we were there, my contractions started being strong enough to qualify as painful.  But I didn’t want to go straight to the hospital. I knew I wouldn’t want to make the padsicles after giving birth and while taking care of a newborn, so we went back home and Dennis helped me make 24 pads coated with aloe gel and lavender witch hazel, which we wrapped in foil and popped in the freezer.

We finally checked into the hospital about 8 pm, seven hours after I first started leaking.  They confirmed I was leaking amniotic fluid with a test, and I was admitted into L&D. I was only 1 cm dilated, so they first tried to kick my labor into gear by inserting a foley bulb that inflates to slowly dilate the cervix to 4 cm.  We both decided around midnight that Dennis should leave to go walk Jessie since she hadn’t gotten her usual late-night walk, and my sister, Danielle, came to be with me while he was gone.  He got to be absent for most of the fun lol.

The foley bulb did start my labor going a lot stronger, and my sister, who has never had children and doesn’t ever want to, just shook her head every time I had a contraction and kept telling me I should just get an epidural.  I was determined to try and have a natural birth, and her insistence that I just give up was not what I wanted to hear.

I felt awful, and like I was trapped to that table – I wanted to be up and moving and I really wanted to bend over on my hands and knees to help relieve the enormous pressure & tension I felt in my back with each contraction, but I was hooked up to all kinds of monitors since I was high risk, plus had the foley bulb up my hooha, and just felt like I couldn’t move even though they told me they could unhook me and let me move if I wanted. I should have said YES but I didn’t.  At that point I couldn’t imagine myself contorting into weird positions b/c it would have been so embarrassing. *sigh* REALLY?! What about childbirth isn’t embarrassing?

Momma Donna showed up after her shift was over, about 1 am, and was even more hell bent on me getting an epidural.  Obviously neither one liked me being in pain, which is nice, but it wasn’t helpful to me.  I was in the most pain of my life, but felt I had very good reasons not to get an epidural, and I had two women working against me instead of helping me through it.  While they were both trying to convince me, I had a contraction so bad I vomited from my chest all the way to my toes, all over the bed.  So much for delivering on a full stomach! You think maybe they know what they’re doing, not allowing food during labor?

The nurses got the bed changed and gave me a new gown to change into.  I continued puking and dry heaving with contractions and Momma D was ready with the trashcan and bed pan each time.  I so wanted Dennis there and wanted these women out of the room.  I’m so grateful that I wasn’t alone, but really just wanted my husband.

He finally returned around 2, and not long after Danielle and Donna were gone, I told him I was going to request an epidural and although he hadn’t been there long before I told him that, I could tell he was greatly relieved. Poor guy, lol.  I hadn’t decided on the epidural because of Donna and Danielle, in fact I probably would have never gotten one if they stayed b/c they ticked me off trying to persuade me to do something I didn’t want to do, and my stubbornness might have won against my desire to ease the pain.  But without them there, and with Dennis there ready to support me in whatever I wanted, I couldn’t take it any more.

I was really disappointed in myself b/c I’ve always thought of myself as a strong person, with a high threshold for pain, and it was hard to realize what a wuss I really was.  Nevertheless, it was a huge relief once the pain started to subside.  By this point I’d been in labor for ten hours, though most of that was tolerable.

After the foley bulb had done it’s work, which was finished before the epidural, they had to start me on Pitocin because my labor still wasn’t progressing fast enough.  They checked my temperature every hour and I was running a fever almost from the beginning, so they finally antibiotics to my IV, in case of infection.  I had been on a saline drip from the beginning to keep me hydrated.  (The next day my legs were swollen stiff up to my thighs from all the extra fluid they gave me!) They kept increasing the Pitocin until they reached the max dosage and my cervix continued to dilate at what seemed a snail’s pace.  I could tell when I was contracting because my stomach would turn into a rock hard ball, but I couldn’t feel it internally.  I wasn’t able to sleep at all, even with no pain, so I stayed on Facebook all night while Dennis snored beside me in the chair that folded out into a bed.

Finally, finally, by 3 pm the next day I was 10 cm, 100% effaced, and ready to start practice pushing.  It’s so funny because I’d been so worried about being hungry, when food was the last thing on my mind the whole time and I never felt hungry until the next day.  They called my OB for the delivery and in the mean time we practiced.  Dennis was on my right side, and a nurse on my left.  When each contraction started, they would pull my knees backwards toward my head, and I would lean forward between my knees and push.  I learned quickly that what I thought was strong pushing was not the least impressive, and learned that even more when my OB arrived and threatened to use suction if I couldn’t push any harder.  He also said that Joshua was face up and he tried to move him while still in the womb to face downward but couldn’t.  I asked if that was a problem and he said no, but it was generally more difficult to give birth to babies that were sunnyside up.  Oh goody.

Joshua’s hearbeat was starting to decrease after pushing, so they gave me oxygen after each contraction to help him.  They brought a huge mirror out so that we could see the baby’s head as it emerged, and it was freaky deaky so I didn’t really look that much. I’m sorry but whatever, birth isn’t beautiful. It’s a bloody disgusting mess.  Dennis thought I was going to give birth to a huge hair ball when he saw the top of Joshua’s head, but thankfully didn’t say that until after I’d given birth to a normal human baby, and it was actually funny. LOL

After my OB threatened the suction, I pushed like I didn’t think possible, and funny man that he is, informed me I was going to have some hemorrhoids while he was watching them pop out on my butt.  And finally our baby was born at 4:30 pm on 11/23/13, face-down. Doc had been mistaken, which is good because it was hard enough to deliver him facing the right way!  I had been taken off the epidural (it was a continuous drip through my back) an hour before, and I did feel the birth, which felt painful to me, so I can’t imagine how painful it must be without an epidural at all.  I have mad respect for my mother and all the women who’ve done it drug-free.  Dennis cut the cord in one try, which impressed my OB because guys usually underestimate how strong the cord is and have to try two or three times to get it cut all the way through.  They took Joshua briefly to clamp his cord stump, and then handed him to me.  The little guy I’d waited my whole life to meet.

I wish I could tell you the heavens opened up and I heard choirs of angels singing, and I fell instantly in love.  But, no.  I was kind of in a daze, and overwhelmed. Twenty-eight hours ago, I was still under the delusion that I had two weeks before his arrival, and I don’t deal with change well, even a change I’d been waiting my whole life for. He looked funny to me, I mean come on, babies are ugliest right after birth, and his eyes were flickering and rolling all around.  I worried I had messed him up with the epidural.

My main reason for not wanting an epidural was that it could affect how well breastfeeding started off, and since I wanted to breastfeed due to the nutrition and the cost (free, which is wonderful when you’re planning to quit working and stay at home!), this was a big deal to me.  The nurses helped me position him and allowed him to nurse for an entire hour after birth while the doctors were sewing up my second degree lacerations.  I think they only usually allow half an hour of skin-to-skin time before taking the baby to put gunk in their eyes and all the other fun stuff they do, but they said they don’t interfere as long as a baby is continuing to nurse well.  I wouldn’t say he nursed well, as he actually gave me a hicky on my boob where he’d latched off the nipple, but he was pretty diligent at least. LOL

After they gunked up his eyes, weighed him (6 lb 14 oz), measured him (18 1/2 inches), and swaddled him, Daddy finally got to hold him. That was probably the moment I started to fall in love with Joshua. Seeing his Daddy hold him was so amazing.  He held him like he had been practicing all his life, like Joshua was the thing that was always supposed to be there.  I definitely fell in love with my husband deeper than ever before, which I hadn’t even thought possible.

I had to pee and the nurse said she would bring a bedpan but I could feel my legs and thought I could walk, so she agreed to help me stand to see if I could make it to the restroom.  She helped me to the toilet and was going to stay there b/c she was worried about me falling off the toilet I guess (lol) but I asked her if she could leave because peeing after giving birth felt so scary and I knew I couldn’t pee with her there.  I think it took me like five or ten minutes, but I finally figured out how to pee. LOL!  With the epidural and all the pushing combined, my kegal muscles were probably like, “Seriously, you want us to do what? We’re on vacation for the next month!”

She gave me a huge ice pad and the awesome stretchy mesh hospital underpants and it felt so nice to put that on and sit with an ice pack between my legs. I was so glad I had the padsicles waiting at home!  (Though I will tell you, the ones at home were WAY TOO COLD and didn’t feel nice at all but they were perfectly cool at room temp so that’s how I wore after I about freezer burned myself with the first one.)  I went straight into a wheelchair and I was handed my sleeping, bundled up baby and cradled him all the way to the room we would stay in for the next day and a half.  It was pretty surreal and I was still in a daze and honestly can’t tell you the moment the daze wore off and I realized I finally had my wish come true and fell madly in love with him. It happened without me being conscious of it, during the struggles of becoming a parent.

The first week was very little sleep, lots of stress, tears and heartbreak as he was hospitalized in the NICU for jaundice after having him home just one full day to ourselves, and finally taking him home for good a week and a day after he was born.  I think it was when I had to give him back to the hospital that I realized how much I loved him, because it hurt SO much not to have him with us at home any more, and I was SO scared of losing him (his bilirubin was high enough to cause brain damage).  And the second time we got to take him home, by then he was definitely imprinted on my heart forever.  And I have only fallen deeper in love with him every day since.


Thank you, Lord, for entrusting me with such a precious soul.  I pray I raise him right by You.


Apricot & Pineapple Jam

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This is yet another winner from my Foodie Mama’s cookbook (I think she still has a few available, just let me know if you’re interested) that she has not only won a blue ribbon for, but included it in a coffee cake recipe and won a blue ribbon for that as well. She’s pretty much unstoppable. :)

I don’t know what to tell you about this jam other than it’s really good! The pineapple isn’t very pronounced, but does decrease the intensity of the apricot a little and make it more exotic.  If you do adult Easter baskets like our family, this would be a wonderful addition.  A certain Mother-in-law may be getting one from the Easter bunny this year! :)

Apricot & Pineapple Jam

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 lb. dried apricots
1 quart warm water
6 cups sugar
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, undrained
5 whole cinnamon sticks
5 pint jars

Soak apricots 3 hours in warm water. Process in a food processor with blade attachment until finely ground. Place apricots and the undrained pineapples into a medium pot. Add sugar and cook rapidly until thick, stirring often. Pour into prepared jars. Insert one cinnamon stick to each jar and processes with simmering water bath about 5 minutes. Cool jars completely.

Veronica’s notes: I didn’t measure my soaking water, I just put the apricots in a very large bowl and covered them with twice as much water as the line they came to in the bowl. I let them soak for 8 hours, just because I was too busy to get back to them any sooner, and then drained before processing. I also did my canning the cheater way I learned from Suzie and Erin, which doesn’t include processing the jars in a water bath. I just put the jam in the sterilized jars and screwed on the caps and the heat from the jam sealed them all, as it always does. I only do this with jams or cranberry sauce, basically stuff with lots of sugar in it (which if you didn’t know, is an incredible preservative), and have never had any go bad within a year, though I’m not making any guarantees here and this certainly isn’t FDA approved. There’s my disclaimer so try it at your own risk. :) And perhaps it was because I didn’t process my jars in a water bath and reheat them once the cinnamon stick was inserted, but I couldn’t detect any flavor that the stick imparted so would likely just skip that ingredient unless I was going to can them properly. I might even try stirring a little cinnamon directly into the jam next time, which sounds so lovely to me.

Recipe source: Splendour In My Kitchen by Marina Castle

Daddy’s Boy

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a baby/toddler update, and even longer since I shared a video.  I took this one recently and I love it so much that I just had to share. I think it’s my favorite video to date. Joshua has suddenly turned into a Daddy’s boy and calls for his Daddy all day while he’s gone at work. This particular day, Dennis went in very early to work and Joshua didn’t get his usual morning time with him.  When I put him to bed, he woke up crying every 15-30 minutes for two hours until I finally allowed him to stay up a bit longer and wrestle with his favorite person.  You can tell he missed him. This just fills my heart so much.  Oh, and don’t be frightened by Den’s appearance, he was utterly exhausted but he got to sleep 12 hours the next day and no longer has those awful sunken eyes.

Sausage Minestrone

I’ve been making the most amazing soups this winter.  My secret? I finally gave up following recipes! I never thought I could cook without a recipe, as I’ve never been what I think of as a “natural cook” – someone who can just keep adding things to a dish or pot until it tastes amazing. But I decided to give it a shot, and have surprised myself with the results.

Sadly, a lot of the delicious things I’ve made, I didn’t measure anything and didn’t take notes, so I can’t share recipes or even make them exactly the same way again.  But this one turned out so good that I immediately wrote down exactly how I made it so I could duplicate and share it.  I’ve made it twice in the past month – we love it so much! It’s also quite nutritious and low in fat, which is a big bonus in my book, as many of my favorite meals are huge calorie bombs. Not this one. Enjoy the flavor, guilt-free. :)

Sausage Minestrone

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 (8 oz) package baby portabella (“bella”) mushrooms, sliced
1 (20 oz) package Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
8 chicken bouillon cubes*
8 cups water
1 (15-16 oz) can white cannellini beans
1 (15-16 oz) can dark red kidney beans
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes with basil, garlic & oregano, undrained
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large zucchini, cut in half & sliced
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 cups kale, hard stems removed and chopped into small pieces

Cook the mushrooms in olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until they are cooked down and soft and a darker color. Scrape into a stock pot. In the same skillet, brown the turkey sausage, breaking it up as it cooks to make crumbles. Once cooked, add to the pot. Add the remaining ingredients except for the kale, and bring to a boil over high head. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, 15-30 minutes.  Add kale and cook another five minutes.

*Veronica’s notes: you want the smaller size bouillon cubes, the ones that need only one cup water each for broth. If using the bigger ones that need two cups, use only 4 cubes. You can use 8 cups chicken broth instead, omitting the water from the recipe, and add salt to taste.  The second time I made this, I added in 3 stalks of celery and a pound of fresh green beans. Feel free to add what you like, and just add more seasoning to taste, if necessary.

Easy White Chicken Chili

Nana D brought us a batch of her White Chicken Chili last winter when we were sleep-deprived new parents, and let me tell you, not having to cook and eating this chili was a big slice of heaven.  It’s now one of my favorite winter meals, it’s just so ridiculously over-the-top delicious.  The big bonus is that it’s so easy to make – the only prepwork is opening cans and chopping an onion. Can’t beat that!

Easy White Chicken Chili

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

3 (10 oz) cans chicken chunks
1 (15 1/2 oz.) can great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can corn, drained
2 (4 oz.) cans chopped green chilies, undrained
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 C. whipping cream
1/4 C. Pepper Jack cheese, shredded
Cilantro for garnish (optional)

In large soup pot, combine all ingredients except sour cream, whipping cream and cheeses. Bring to a boil over medium high. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream, whipping cream and cheeses. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Serves 6

*Veronica’s notes: I use bouillon cubes plus water for the broth, which adds a little more flavor. Donna’s recipe called for 2 teaspoons chili powder, which I omitted to keep the color white (hers has an orange hue), and the flavor didn’t suffer, but it’s really good with the chili powder too if you’d like to add it. If you like things spicy like we do, you can use all Pepper Jack cheese, and half an 8 oz block is plenty, so that you can have enough to make another batch, or a double batch. :)

Recipe source: Donna B.

I served this and the Curried Red Lentil Soup with Honey Beer Bread – so delish!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I just couldn’t resist sharing this V-day card I made on PicMonkey just now. You may not be able to tell, but Joshua’s been very sick all week with a tummy bug and has lost a lot of weight. Today he’s starting to feel better and has his smile back. Best Valentine’s Day gift ever!


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