Saturday, May 23, 2015

Disappearing Turkey and Black Bean Enchiladas

A few weeks ago, my dear friend Christina offered to take over the blog for a guest post during my maternity break. She is gearing up to marry the love-of-her-life in just over a month and was really eager to try out a recipe post of her own! As a little bit of background, Christina and I have been friends since we began our freshman year at the University of Notre Dame over 10 years ago. We have been through a lot of highs and lows together and have shared many laughs and tears over the years. She stood up for me as a bridesmaid on my wedding day and has always played a supportive role as I started my family. You can learn a bit more about her on her little corner of the internet Waltzing in Beauty.


Hello, Monica's devoted readers! While Monica is away on a much deserved maternity break, I am taking over A Beautiful Mess for the day.

Many of my memories with Monica involve food in some sort of way. What can I say; we enjoy the good things in life, especially delicious food! I was thrilled when she told me that she was beginning to blog and share her love of food and family and I have been drooling over her recipes ever since.

I did not have to think long or hard about what recipe I wanted to share in Monica's absence. One of my favorite things to do is give gifts and often that gift is to deliver a meal to a family during a time of sorrow or joy. If we were so blessed as to live in the same city, I would for sure be showing up at Monica's doorstep with a cooking reprieve so the family could focus on cooing at new little Lucy. These Disappearing Enchiladas would be exactly what I would bring along.

I would highly recommend making a recipe for you and your family or preparing this on a full stomach. Once this starts cooking, the smell will make it extremely difficult to give it away or to avoid inviting yourself over for dinner.

Disappearing Turkey and Black Bean Enchiladas
Adapted from Skinny Taste 

1 lb extra lean ground turkey
15 can black beans, drained
4 oz can chopped green chiles
14 oz can diced tomatoes (I use Red Gold with chipotle)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (I prefer fresh, but dried works just as well)
2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp chili powder
8 flour tortillas (the recipe calls for 6 inch, but I have used larger ones)
1 cup (reduced fat or whole fat, whatever you desire) shredded Mexican cheese
Coconut Oil

For the Enchilada Sauce:
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp green chiles
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3/4 cup fat free broth (I use Imagine Vegetarian no-chicken broth low sodium)

In a medium saucepan, sauté garlic in a spoonful of coconut oil. Add the chiles, chili powder, cumin, broth, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.

In a large skillet (extra-large is nice because it will get crowded in there) brown the turkey. Add the onion, garlic, black beans, cilantro, green chiles, diced tomatoes, cumin and chili powder. Mix well and simmer on low, covered for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer an additional 5-10 minutes to reduce the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 13 by 9-inch disposable tin baking dish or glass baking dish with coconut oil.

Scoop about 1/2 cup of the turkey mixture into each tortilla. You will want to place the mixture closer to one end of the tortilla. This will help you roll the enchilada more tightly which will help them fit in the baking dish snuggly and serve easily. 

Do not worry if you have some meat fall out on the edges, you can stuff it back in or reserve for another enchilada. The remaining mixture is great for using in a taco salad or eating with chips and salsa another day. Place the enchiladas on the baking dish with the seam side down. After all the enchiladas are snuggling in the dish, top with enchilada sauce and cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil. 

If you are delivering the dish to a family, instruct them to bake the enchiladas covered on the middle rack for 35-45 minutes. The baking time will differ depending on how cold the dish is prior to baking. If making at home while the meat is still hot you may only have to bake for 25-30 minutes. 

For extra brownie points bring along some sour cream, cilantro or scallions. 

I call these disappearing enchiladas, because they are so yummy that you will not have enough time to take a picture of the final result to share before they are all gone. Or such was the case in my house. 


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Introducing Lucia Therese

Lucia Therese made her dramatic appearance on Sunday, May 17th at 8:31 PM. 

She is the largest of our babies in terms of weight at 8 pounds, 1 ounce but the shortest in length at just over 19 inches, a whole 2-3 inches shorter than her two siblings! She is a precious, beautiful, content little bundle and we are so happy that she is finally here!

If I'm feeling brave, I just may post her birth story in the coming weeks. It's a pretty good one.

Thank you for all the love, prayers, and support! She was certainly worth the wait!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Want to Know What 42 Weeks Pregnant Looks Like?

I am large and so very not-in-charge! At least not in charge of this pregnancy because if I had my way, I would have delivered a couple weeks ago. In the meantime, baby girl is still sitting pretty in her snuggly little space. This is what I get for being such a good baby vessel.

I scheduled an induction for earlier this week and then chickened out because I hate pitocin and medically speaking there was no reason to induce. I'd rather things start as naturally as possible. So, I'm trying not to complain too much about my misery (heartburn, tiny feet in my rib cage, the inability to tie my shoes, crouching down to pick up a toy and then getting stuck and requiring Paul to rescue me...the normal stuff) because I could have ended it if I wanted to!

Come Out Soon!!!

In the meantime, meals have been quick and easy because Paul and I have been on edge that any day could be the day for a while now. Here is a meal we made the other day that was awesome. I failed to snap a picture of it because I sat down to eat, saw my camera staring at me from the living room, and then decided the walk was too far for my tired, swollen, feet to waddle over and retrieve. But, I'm not complaining.

And here's a photo of my hugeness from earlier today for posterity. Or enormity.

And my little headaches...

Asparagus Carbonara
from Confections of a Foodie Bride

8 ounces spaghetti
1 tsp olive oil
4 slices of bacon, cut into cubes
3/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper (less if you are black pepper-intolerant like Paul)
1 large bunch asparagus (~1.25lb)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish

Bring a large pot full of 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and stir. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions for al dente.

While the pasta cooks, trim the woody ends from the asparagus. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon pieces and cook the bacon pieces until crisp. Remove the bacon from the grease with a slotted spoon and let drain. Add the asparagus to the hot grease and cook until fork tender (about 5 minutes).

Drain the pasta, reserving 3/4 cup of pasta water before draining.

Whisk together the egg, yolk, 2/3 cup Parmesan, and 1/4 cup of the hot pasta water (splash the pasta water in gradually to temper the eggs). Add the drained pasta, the asparagus and bacon grease (deglaze with a bit of the pasta water to get all that salty bacon grease into the pasta), and black pepper. Toss well, adjusting the consistency with splashes of reserved pasta water to create a creamy sauce. Serve hot, topped with extra Parmesan!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Chicken Burritos Mojados

Move over Chipotle and Qdoba, there is a new burrito in town!

Cinco de Mayo is kind of a big deal around here because it is the one faux-holiday that Paul has marked and ready to go in his calendar. Although this year, he actually asked me: "When is Cinco de Mayo?" I still am not sure whether he was kidding or not.

See, it is not Paul's deep-seeded love for the rich, cultural history of Mexico nor his passion for the language. I'm pretty sure the only Spanish words he knows are enchilada, quesadilla, queso, and pretty much any other Spanish word that can be found on a Taco Bell menu.

No, Paul just loves Mexican food. I'm pretty sure he never met a burrito he didn't like. He would gladly polish off a gigantic bowl of guacamole for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Whenever I serve anything hispanic for dinner, I get an extra kiss and the exclamation: "Kids! Your Mother is a great cook!" Add in a dessert course of Mexican flan and he is an even happier man.

So, for Cinco de Mayo this year, I decided to make this recipe that I spied recently on Josie's blog. Reading the description made my mouth water: chicken cooked in a red chile sauce, mexican rice and pinto beans, fresh avocado, and cilantro wrapped in a gigantic tortilla and then smothered with three sauces. I was sold!!

There is a bit of prep required for this recipe, but nothing is difficult and it all comes together pretty quickly and smoothly. Plus, the burritos bake in the oven for a good 20-30 minutes allowing time for clean-up, table setting, and child corralling.

I cannot stress enough how good these were! Seriously, way better and fresh than anything you can buy out at a restaurant. Paul was obsessed - he stuffed himself to the gills the first night and then enjoyed the leftovers for a couple days afterwards. Emma thought they were delicious. The only holdout (big surprise here) was Matthew, who thought they were "too spicy". I assure you, they were not. We're working on him. Regardless, this recipe is a keeper and will definitely be repeated! (And SOON!)

Chicken Burritos Mojados
found on Pink Parsley, originally from  ATK's The Best Mexican Recipes

2 1/4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup long grain white rice, rinsed to remove starch
1 (15-oz) can pinto beans, drained
4 tablespoons chili powder
salt and pepper
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 large white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
2 (8-oz) cans tomato sauce
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
6 (10-inch) flour tortillas (BIG tortillas)
2 avocados, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2inch pieces
8 oz Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups tomatillo salsa
1/2 cup sour cream, thinned with a bit of milk until it is of drizzling consistency

Bring 1 1/4 cups of the broth, rice, beans, 2 teaspoons of chile powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until the rice is tender and the broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, and allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered.  Stir in the scallions and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook until it's just softened, 4-5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, remaining 3 Tbs chile powder, and cumin, and cook until fragrant, about one minute.  Stir in the tomato sauce and remaining 1 cup of broth and bring to a simmer.  Nestle the chicken breasts into the sauce, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook until the chicken is cooked through and registers 160 degrees, about 10 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, and once it's cool enough to handle, shred or chop into bite-sized pieces.  Taste the red sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the rice and beans mixture, chicken, 1/4 cup of the red sauce, 2 Tbs of the cilantro, and cheese.  Season with salt and pepper and stir well.

Wrap the tortillas in a damp kitchen towel and microwave until they are warm, about one minute.

Working 1-2 tortillas at a time, mound 1 cup of the chicken and rice mixture in the center of each tortilla  Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of avocado.  Fold the sides then the bottom of the tortilla over the filling, pulling back on it to tighten around the filling.  Roll tightly into a burrito.  Place the burrito seam side-down on the prepared baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining tortillas.  Cover rightly with foil, and bake until heated throughout, 20 to 30 minutes.

As the burritos are cooking, microwave the tomatillo salsa until hot, about 1 minute.

To serve, distribute the burritos to individual plates.  Pour the tomatillo sauce over half of each burrito, and pour the red sauce over the other half.  Drizzle with cream, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


We are on baby watch around here. Like my other two children, this baby is showing no interest in meeting her mother. I tried to have Emma baby talk to my belly to see if maybe her sweet little voice would encourage some progress. Obviously, our efforts were in vain but now Emma is constantly pulling up my shirt and trying to speak to my stomach - not really a great new activity when grocery shopping, at the library, or in church. Emma is also convinced that my stretched belly button is baby Lucy's ear. What strange, disturbing thoughts that child has!

In the meantime, we will continue to wait. I am trying to take things easy - hence the lack of activity on this blog. We are enjoying the warm weather, the sunshine, and the opportunity to get a few chores and projects accomplished before Baby Lucy finally decides to arrive.

Some of the highlights from the past week:

1) I had a fantastic birthday thanks to my wonderful husband and children. Well, Emma was actually a bit of a grump the entire day, but Matthew was so sweet and caring that it warmed my heart. This is the first year that one of my children legitimately cared about whether my birthday was special or not. Matthew loved getting preparations ready with Paul and was especially concerned about my presents and cake. At the end of the day, he came up to me, leaned against me with his arm around my shoulders and asked: "Did you have a good birthday, Mommy?" Such a sweet boy!

2) Paul replaced the trim around the garage door. It was an all-day affair, but it was something that needed to be done and had been bugging him for ages. The kids enjoyed watching him work and "helping" on occasion. Emma loved hammering the concrete.

3) Matthew and I had a mother-son date night and went to see his best friend in "Beauty and the Beast." It was the cutest show and Matthew laughed and clapped his way through the entire production, telling me at several points during the program: "I like this play, Mommy!" He was quite perturbed when the show ended and we had to go home.

4) I took the kids on a shopping outing and we picked out some clothes for my upcoming "fourth trimester" as well as some sunglasses for Matthew. Of course, he chose ninja turtle glasses. Both kids also replaced their bubble machine from last summer with two "bubble guns" that blow hundreds of bubbles at the push of a button. The toy has been a big hit, especially with Emma who asks to play with hers all the time.

And in the midst of the beautiful weather, the closing of the school year, and the promise of a summer full of fun activity, we wait impatiently for our third baby to grace us with her presence. Hurry and come, baby Lucy! We can't wait to see you!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Matthew's Preschool Progress Report

Preschool graduation is looming on the horizon and I am happy to report that despite my fears about how this year was going to go, Matthew will be graduating to Kindergarten with flying colors. Academically, that is.

When we had our first conference with Matthew's teacher, she was quick to say that he is very, very bright and always a step ahead on the lesson. However, because of this, she thinks that he gets "bored" pretty easily and then feels the need to entertain himself in disruptive ways. He likes to tease the little girls in excess, rap out music on his desk, stomp his feet to make his tennis shoes light up (I never should have bought those things), request to play puzzles during song time and then pout when refused, and so on.

Every day, I dread opening his folder to read his behavior chart because I never know what I am going to find. Some days the comments might read like this:

"Matthew was so helpful today. An absolute joy to have in the class!!!"

Or, on less than stellar days, they might read like this:

"Your son told a girl he didn't like her repeatedly because she sat in his usual spot during circle time. Then, he shook the table while trying to be funny during snack and caused everyone to spill their drinks. He was chasing the kids around in the gym pretending to be a spider and scaring some of them."

Picking him up at the end of the day is always so stressful. Paul and I have been trying so hard to reiterate to Matthew that he is at school to learn and the best way to learn is to LISTEN and OBEY his teachers. Every day when I drop him off, I ask him: "What are you going to do at school today, Matthew?" And he'll reply: "Listen and Obey!"

Some days, that message gets through a little better than others.

His behavior drastically improved after Thanksgiving and we did not have any negative days until March. Then, his behavior began taking another dive. Mainly, Matthew was refusing to practice with the class for the preschool graduation program and his teacher was worried that he was going to ruin it. So, we had another meeting with the teacher who reiterated that he was probably bored and she noticed also that he really is very sensitive to noise (with group singing activities in particular) and that we might want to get that checked out. We already knew about that one since he always plugs his ears during the music at Mass, when a car drives by, while going through the car wash, etc. We have brought it up with his doctor before and he said that Matthew will probably grow out of it. Since the meeting, Matthew's behavior has been great for the last couple weeks - he has consistently received all greens on his behavior chart!

However, I had to laugh at and share the most recent comment from his teacher here with you all because it perfectly sums up our strange little child. He received a green on this day, with the following note:

"Good day today. He did growl at the principal though. I talked to him about using words not sounds to talk to people."

Oh, Matthew. What are we going to do with you?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Perfect Irish Soda Bread

I know that I'm really late for Saint Patrick's Day, but this loaf of bread is a treat that should be made more than once a year anyway! I found this recipe in an article I read while waiting for a work meeting to begin about six years ago - before I had my children! I copied the accompanying recipe down and made it for Saint Patrick's Day as a treat for my co-workers. We loved it so much - and so does everyone who eats it - that we have been making it ever since! It's something that Paul and I look forward to snacking on together for breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night snack, etc.

This is not a true "soda bread" because it is more cakey and sweet than most traditional Irish recipes. That's probably why, in my opinion, it is the best version of soda bread you're going to find. Paul and I have always "enhanced" the recipe by soaking the currants and caraway seeds in Irish Whiskey overnight to incorporate just a mild amount of that luxurious flavor throughout the loaf. Of course, this step is optional - but it's so good. Also, the caraway seeds may seem like a weird, savory component to be putting in a sweet bread, but their flavor compliments the currants very, very well so I would recommend trying the recipe with them first. If you're hesitant about the amount of caraway in the recipe, feel free to cut back on them by 50% or so. I always added less caraway the first couple times I made this recipe because it scared me, but now I am obsessed with caraway and add the full amount.

Also, be sure not to overbake this loaf. It is huge, gigantic, and takes a while to bake. However, it goes from being "just underdone" to "overdone" in a manner of minutes so be sure to keep an eye on it towards the end. You want the interior of the bread to be very moist and not at all dry.

Irish Soda Bread with Currants and Caraway
from an article seen in the New York Times 2009

Optional: Place the caraway seeds and currants in a small bowl and pour over about 3-4 tablespoons of good Irish whiskey. Allow the mixture to sit, covered, at room temperature overnight, tossing occasionally. When ready to use, just fold into the recipes as instructed.

5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups raisins
3 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Generously butter heavy ovenproof 10- to 12-inch-diameter skillet with 2- to 2 1/2-inch-high sides. Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Add butter; using fingertips, rub in until coarse crumbs form. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. Whisk buttermilk and egg in medium bowl to blend. Add to dough; using wooden spoon, stir just until well incorporated. The dough will be very, very sticky.

Transfer dough to prepared skillet. Smooth the top, mounding slightly in center. Using a small sharp knife dipped into flour, cut a 1-inch-deep X in top center of dough. Bake bread for about 65-70 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Begin checking at the 1 hour mark and if the bread is over-browning, cover the top lightly with foil. Cool bread in skillet 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely. Leftovers may be stored, wrapped very tightly in plastic, at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the freezer for one month.