Monday, January 30, 2012

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

My Grandma and Grandpa Nelson gave us a huge butternut squash so I've been coming up with different ways to use it.

I made a double batch of winter-squash rolls and made the seeds into one of my favorite snacks, sweet and spicy seeds. This really is the best recipe for pumpkin seeds, or any kind of squash seeds. I always eat half the batch myself and have a really hard time sharing.

But I digress. After some research, I decided to try a new way to use the butternut squash in Macaroni and Cheese. It sounded like a good way to add something of nutritional value to a, generally, unhealthy dish.

So I first cooked the squash in the oven and it was so big I had to use two different pans.

Basically you cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and strings like a pumpkin, rub a little oil on it,  add some water to the dish, and bake for an hour or so.

After it's baked, the squash is soft so I scooped it all out, set some aside for my rolls, and pureed the rest.

It made so much that I actually had double what I needed and so I poured the extra into a ziploc that's now in the freezer ready for another recipe in the future.

Now for the actual mac & cheese. Cook your noodles according to package directions - drain and set aside in a pan. Then combine milk and the pureed squash in a pan on the stove and stir over the heat to combine.

Then add some mustard, salt, and pepper.

After you add the spices and let it simmer for a couple of minutes, you get to add the best part: CHEESE!

I added lots of cheese.

Once the cheese is melted and the mixture is nice and creamy, you pour it over your noodles and spread it around until all the noodles are covered completely.

Because I combined two different recipes, I also added an extra layer of toppings that consisted of seasoned bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and an extra handful of cheddar cheese.

Then it all goes in the oven to bake. When it comes out it looks like this:

We served it up with some peas.

I will have to say that butternut squash made it very creamy. I loved how creamy it was. It also made it a sweeter macaroni and cheese that threw me for a loop at first. You don't really taste the squash flavor but it is sweeter. I got used to it that night and decided it was pretty good. No one else was bothered by extra sweetness. However, when I heated up the left-overs the next day I didn't taste any sweetness at all, only cheesy, creamy goodness - it was AMAZING!

So it's one of those recipes that's better on day two but still good on day one. I'm definitely going to make this recipe again.

If you want to try it out, I actually combined two different recipes you can find here and here. You don't actually have to cook a butternut squash because you can also buy it packaged in frozen cubes. However, it's easy to cook a squash and do whatever you want with it afterwards. Eat it, mash or puree it, freeze it, or set it aside for whenever you want to use it.

The recipe made so much that I froze the other half of the dish for a different night. So now I have frozen pureed butternut squash and and frozen butternut squash macaroni and cheese. Butternut squash all around.  Not a bad thing, considering how healthy it is for you.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dancing the Pounds Off

Christmas was a killer. I'm surprised the pounds of junk I ate, and have continued to eat, haven't stopped my heart yet. I haven't been able to get my eating back on track. Finally, yesterday, when I finished the last of the ice cream in the freezer, I gave myself the OK to really call it quits with the crappy food.

I'm off the junk.

And while Christmas was really bad in the food department, it helped a little in the exercise arena. Not only did I get a new work out program for the Wii that I've been using, but we also got Just Dance 3.

It's been perfect for the nights that I feel gross, from eating too much or from inactivity, to pop in and groove away. We already had Just Dance 2 and play it all the time, but it's been nice having new songs to sweat my guts out over. There's a few songs that are really fun and really a work out.

The best part is that I'm enjoying myself so much trying to figure out the moves, that I don't really notice how much exercising I'm actually doing. I know I look like a fool because I can't actually dance and I'm only matching the moves in my head, but I don't care. It's fun, I'm moving, and the beauty of it all is that I can do it in the privacy of my own home - where in my mind, I'm dancing the night away.

With that little plug for the awesomeness of Just Dance, the other night I was thinking about the very first dancing game that I ever owned and played religiously. The nostalgia quickly won me over and I actually pulled it out and set it all up. Anyone else remember Dance Dance Revolution?

Oh the hours that I used to play this game and the entertainment I had with my family, roommates, and husband. Now that we have the more advanced dancing games, the movements of DDR are laughable. And yet, it was so much fun! Once I started playing it the other night I couldn't stop. 

The memories that assaulted me while playing had me pulling out my camera because I knew I was going to have to document DDR before it's completely forgotten by everyone except me. 

And it was a decent work out. Jumping around to match you foot to the correct arrow at the right time can really get your blood pumping! Because this game takes a lot less coordination and actual dancing skills, I'm pretty alright at it and I guess I get pretty intense about it because one of Brigham's favorite things is to just watch me play.

So now that I've got three different dancing games, and go to Zumba once a week, soon I'll be an awesome dancer. Probably not. But I will have fun and get a good work out. So if you need to work off some pounds, like me, and want to have some fun looking like a fool, or perhaps just watching a fool, come on over we'll dance off the weight and have a great time doing so.

And just like DDR recommends: Stay Cool!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Food Snob

As we try to transition Ammon from a diet consisting mostly of formula to a one made up of regular food, we've had some challenges. I've noticed that he does not like a lot of textures; he'd much rather eat something pureed. He also prefers anything sweet or made up of bread and will do a lot to get out of eating his vegetables. The constant cookies at Christmas time (thanks Grandma and Grandpa Nelson) did not help this trend.

His temper comes out STRONGLY when trying to give him anything he doesn't want to eat. I never even knew he had such a temper until a few unfortunate occasions with green beans. It's a combination of scary and hilarious.

Here's an example of his eating habits. On his birthday I gave him some apples and this is what happened:

Apparently apples are boring.

I tried to wake him up and get him to eat more but this is what happened instead:

He fell asleep again -only in a different position - and yes that is an apple hanging out of his mouth. When I went to remove it, I found he had a whole bunch of chewed up apples sitting in there.

I relieved his suffering, put him down for a nap, and when he woke up I gave him a graham cracker for a snack. Here's his reaction to that:


He's so happy. This is the food group he prefers. Carbs loaded with sugar.

Oh he looks like such a big boy here.

He's been doing better lately with some hard work and lots of patience, but he still is rather picky. I have to keep reminding myself that he just turned one and has a long time to learn about the deliciousness of all types of food.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Party of the Century

With Ammon turning one, we had a little get together to celebrate and had some pizza, cake, and presents.

Despite being newly bathed for his party, he decided to rub his greasy pizza plate all over his hair to make sure he looked really good the rest of the night.

He really liked his new toys that were given to him...

But he was mad when someone gave him clothes because they weren't nearly as cool as the toys. He definitely didn't want to sit on my lap and look at clothes- especially when he prefers being naked anyway and all his new fun things to play with were surrounding us.

I made his cake in the shape of a one.

I thought I had a yellow cake mix, but found out later I only had strawberry so his cake was pink and brown. However, it was DELICIOUS. I would know because no one ate the cake and I had to eat it all myself these last couple of days. You guys really missed out.

Maybe it was because you were too busy eating these peanut-butter, chocolate-cookie sandwiches I made to go with it - which were also delicious.

After we sang to Ammon and he cried while I blew out his candle for him, (poor guy had five shots earlier that day and was pretty tired and cranky by this point)

We cut him a big piece of the cake and let him have at it. He approached it in stages.

First he didn't really like getting his hands dirty and kept trying to lick all the frosting off his fingers.

Then when he realized it was hopeless, he decided to just go for it.

Then he realized how delicious the cake was and completely dug in...

With his face! He went crazy and buried his face in it over and over again. Who can be bothered with using their hands while eating cake anyways? 

The whole cake eating process ended up taking it's toll on the little man and by the end he was pretty wasted.

:) This picture is right before he lost it, started crying, and was done for.

Luckily, he was easier to clean up than I thought he would be, and after a bottle and the removal of clothes, he was happy once again.

I loved having family there to celebrate Ammon turning one. It was a raging party. Thanks for the gifts, the help, and for just being there! 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, I was called in early to the hospital and was induced four days overdue to deliver a new baby boy. It was beautiful.

These pictures show our joy in welcoming him to our family much better than I ever could. Words really can't describe how much I love this boy. I was terrified of raising a boy into a man and I still am, but he has captured my heart so completely that it's all worth it. When he smiles it lights up my world and I can't help but smile back. This birthday is bittersweet because we've come so far and there's much to celebrate, and yet I don't want my little Ammon to grow up. Ever. But, he will no matter what I do and so:

Happy Birthday my little boy! I can't believe I get to have you as my son and I'll love you forever.
Love, Mom

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Baby Ties

Some of my most favorite things are baby boy church clothes. Nothing like a little man all dressed up in his big boy church suit. So, of course I've set out to make sure my little Ammon is set in that department. Only problem is those tiny itty-bitty clothes are so dang expensive! So I've set out to find alternative routes to get what I want!

Luckily, I found a a great website that taught me how to make little boy ties! And for Christmas I made five for Ammon and five for my nephew soon to be born.

I am so impressed with these ties because, they take a small amount of fabric, are easy to make, allow room for sewing error, and are adorable. You also can tie them so they are longer or shorter and grow with your baby. I made them out of cotton, which is great because now when Ammon drools or spits up or spills on them I can just throw them in the wash. Score!

Thanks to this project I also discovered my sewing machine has a button-hole maker, which I never even knew existed! I was so impressed and that just shows you what a juvenile sewer I am. Apparently sewing machines usually always have a button-hole setting and I am just clueless to what half of the things on my machine mean. Too bad I lost the instruction manual somewhere.

You could always skip the buttons and just sew on Velcro instead, but I like how buttons look and my smart friend Brittany pointed out the baby boys wouldn't be able to pull off the tie if it were buttoned. Considering how Ammon loves to rip his bibs off, I figured it was the way to go.

He's already had a chance to wear three different colors of his five new ties and I love how they look! I don't know what it is about a boy in a tie, but I'm a fan of all ages :)

Monday, January 9, 2012


The day before we returned home to Utah, I decided to finally do something I've been meaning to do for a long time.

I took this:

And I made it this:

Yep I cut off over ten inches of hair. 

I was sick of my hair for so long and wanted something new. So I found a bunch of pictures and basically said, make me look like that. It was cut a bit shorter than I wanted but after a few days of adjusting to such a drastic change I've decided that I think I like it. I miss the ease of a ponytail, but I like how I can style it so my fine hair doesn't look so thin. It's different that's for sure, but I think it's working out and it was fun to surprise everyone back home.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Year the World Ends

Now that we've been home a few days, I've had time to reflect on the past year and the new year ahead of me. I can't believe how fast this last year flew. I remember when it arrived I was relieved. 2010 was quite possibly the worst year of my life and I couldn't wait to start new in 2011. I have to say that, although it had a few ups and downs, 2011 was much better than the previous year. A few highlights:

  • January- Ammon was born 1/12/11, four days overdue and one day later than planned. I still get mixed up and tell people he was born on the day I wanted him to be born rather than his actual birthday. I mean 1/11/11 would have been the coolest birthday ever!
  • February- Not much happened besides adjusting to being a mom of two and dealing with Ammon's reflux problems. I was seriously at the doctors every week. Not fun.
  • March- Lydia turned two and Ammon was blessed on the same day. My brother Scott also received his mission call to Brazil.
  • April- Both my kids were hospitalized for almost a week with RSV, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia. Thankfully, they have both fully recovered. It was a horrible nightmare and I'm grateful for priesthood blessings, good insurance, prayer, and Primary Children's for helping us make it through.
  • May- I quit work at Chase Bank and became a full-time stay at home mom. It was an adjustment at first, but a good one, and I love my current job.
  • June- We pretty much relaxed at Taylorsville Dayzz and we threw my dad a surprise 50th birthday party when my parents came out to visit.
  • July- I turned twenty-four, and then we traveled to Washington where we spent a month with my family for the summer (except for Brigham who only could stay part of the time because of work). While we were in Washington my brother Kyle got married on the same day that our niece Abbigale was born. Lots of new family all in one day!
  • August- We finally made it back to Utah to resume our normal lives. 
  • September-  The BYU football season started so it was a glorious time. 
  • October- I ran my fastest 5k time ever at the BYU Alumni Run and we hosted our annual Halloween party. It is my favorite Halloween party yet. 
  • November- I cooked a lot of new things, crafted some new things, and expanded this blog to tell you all about it. Brigham also turned twenty-seven, but don't tell Lydia because I convinced her that Brigham turned from three to four.
  • December- My kids met Santa for the first time, Ammon got his first haircut, and we traveled back to Washington for more family Christmas adventures.
After review, this past year pretty much evened itself out. It was stressful with so many doctors visits and problems from Ammon with his reflux, supposed allergies, hospital stay, ER visits, and eczema. And yet, it was full of lots of extra time with family that I usually miss out on. I really have so much to be grateful for from 2011. A new son, lots of family, improved health, and much much more. 

Since last year was better than the year before, I'm thinking this year is just going to continue the trend of improvement. And speaking of improvement, I've set some goals to work on to improve myself and my home:
  1. Faithful visit-teaching and help my husband become a faithful home-teacher.
  2. Write in my personal journal more often. 
  3. Keep excess weight off and start a healthier eating lifestyle.
  4. Teach Lydia to read.
  5. Teach Ammon all the basics that a one-year-old should know like animal sounds and such.
Those are a few of the goals I'm welcoming 2012 with. Brigham and I have many decisions to make this year and as I sense change on the horizon and adventures to come, I'm ready to begin.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Gingerbread Houses, Family Nativity, Christmas Morning, and A Bit Extra.

Wow, did we have fun during our two week Christmas vacation with my family in Washington. We basically played games and ate for two weeks straight. I'm happy to say there were no barfing episodes on the plane this time and our trip was generally smooth.

Due to a mass of photos, and the desire to spare everyone from mass posts, I broke our trip down to the main events. I'll pretty much let the pictures speak for themselves:

Gingerbread Houses

I'm always in charge of gingerbread house decoration with the kids during baking day and boy did we have fun this year! Lydia loved her "sparkly" walls. Usually we buy pre-made houses but this year Kyle did a great job building them from scratch with graham crackers.

Family Nativity

We always act out the Nativity on Christmas Eve. I'm the narrator and in charge of costumes while the rest of the kids fight over the other various rolls. This year Lydia was a shepherd with Sadie, Kyle and Katrina were Mary and Joseph, Kayleen was the angel, and Brigham, Kenny, and Ryan were wisemen. Ammon was supposed to be a sheep with our dog Shadow. After the Nativity Scene, my dad did a nice presentation about Christmas on the projector and then we watched all the new videos the church put out about the Savior online.

Christmas Morning

Christmas morning was wonderful. We all got ready for church, ate breakfast, and then opened presents. Lydia loved her Polly World doll house and Ammon liked crawling around trying to destroy things. I don't think he cared much about his new ties or clothes. There are few things that can beat Christmas morning with my family.

A Bit Extra

As for the bit extra, I couldn't leave out Ammon in his new church outfit and tie, Ryan playing his clarinet for our Christmas Eve program, Ammon passed out on the floor, baking day goods, and the kids playing at the airport waiting to board.

I'm sad it's over but happy that it happened so I can store this year away as yet another wonderful Christmas. I hope everyone had wonderful times celebrating the birth of our Savior!