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Monday, November 25, 2013

The Only Spaghetti Sauce You Will Ever Make From Now On

I'm serious.
After using this recipe you will never go back to canned sauce again. This is from my parents, I grew up thinking all spaghetti was this good. After I realized that was a lie, I refused to order or eat it anywhere but at home.

This recipe is super simple and can be adapted depending on what you have at home. It's also GREAT for lasagna. This recipe makes enough for four people, so when it's just my husband and me I will either freeze half of it for later or make a lasagna to freeze for another night.

Again, I don't cook with exact measurements so I am sorry if that stresses you out.

The key to this recipe is Johnsonville Sweet Italian Sausage. You can make it with other sausage or meat, but it's just not the same. My husband and I make an effort to cook with whole, unprocessed, and organic foods as much as possible, but I sacrifice for this comfort food.

Spaghetti Sauce

1 package Johnsonville sweet italian sausage (about 1 lb)
2-3 cans tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes (if you like a chunkier sauce use 2 cans diced tomatoes.)
1 can of tomato paste (You can use the whole thing or just a few spoonfuls.)
-to make the sauce go further you can add another can of sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken stock or water.
1 onion
2-3 cloves garlic (more if you love garlic)
1/3 cup good red wine (optional)
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp ground thyme
1 tbsp sugar (This is also optional. The sugar helps cut out some of the acidity of the tomatoes. You can also use chopped carrots for this purpose.)
1 bay leaf
red peper flakes (to taste)
chopped fresh basil (or ground)
parmesan for serving

* A note on the spices. I rarely measure them out and will add them once when browning the meat and then again with the liquids. You can also use an italian seasonings mix. Whenever possible, fresh herbs are always better :)

In a good pot,
 brown the meat. For some reason I like to use the sausage in the casings but the ground sausage is fine as well. Remove the casings and break up the meat with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle some of the spices on the meat. I like the meat to be pretty brown but as long as its not pink in the middle it's fine.

At this point either remove the meat with a slotted spoon or move it to the outside of the pot. Drain some of the grease out leaving enough to saute the onion. Cook the onion until translucent. Add in the garlic and cook till fragrant.

Add the sausage back to the pot then pour in the wine to deglaze. Reduce the wine for a few minutes scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. This is the time to add water or chicken stock for more volume.

Add in the rest of the spices, reserving some of the fresh basil for the end. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer for 30 min to an hour. The longer this simmers the better. This can be made in a crock pot after browning the meat and onion.

Let me know what you think!

Leftover Options:

*Freeze leftover sauce for an easy weeknight meal.
*Pull together a lasagna with leftover sauce and freeze.
*Save for lasagna soup (just add chicken stock and lasagna noodles.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

20 Breastfeeding Tips for the Stay at Home Mom

I'm not writing this as any expert, (I've only been at it 8 months) but wanted to pass on any helpful tips I could to my many wonderful prego friends!

1. It might be hard.

2. It might not be hard.

3. It WILL be worth it.

4. Call a lactation consultant ASAYHP (as soon as you have problems).

5. Don't be ashamed to use a nipple shield (do whatever it takes to get milk from point A to point B).

6. Don't feel guilty if after everything has been tried, you just aren't able.

7. Drink LOTS of water. I bought a cute, large water bottle and made an effort to drink half of it each nursing session.

8. Relax. Stress can inhibit milk production. Put on a movie or tv show you like or listen to music. Or just stare at the amazing human being you helped create.

9. After baby is eating every three hours instead of every two start pumping 4-5 times a week. It's best to pump in the morning after your first nursing session of the day when you have the most milk. This will help aid your milk production and give you a little back stock of milk in the freezer.

10. Introduce a bottle around 4-6 weeks. Waiting too long can result in refusing a bottle, starting too early can cause nipple confusion.

11. Every time the baby gets a bottle, you have to pump. That means no sleeping through a feeding and having daddy feed a bottle. Your milk production relies on supply and demand. Skipping a feeding can mess with that. The best way to get the most sleep is to have dad get baby up, change him, hand him to you, then take him when you're done and get him back to sleep. Aaron would sometimes take Eli upstairs to get him to sleep because he knew I wouldn't be sleeping if I could hear him crying.

12. Nursing can be exhausting at the beginning so don't feel bad about taking naps. Your body is working much harder than its used to.

13. Don't buy an expensive pumping bra. Take an old, or cheap new one, and cut circles out where your nipples go and voila!

14. Your boobs may become different sizes. For a while my left one was considerably bigger than the right... I was terrified that it would always be that way. They are back to "normal" now. This is usually caused by baby, or you, favoring one side.

15. Get an app to help track feedings. There are several simple apps, we have the baby connect app. Its $5.00 but tracks everything from feedings, to doctor visits, to moods. At the beginning it was very helpful to be able to double check when he ate last and what side I needed to start on. When you are sleep deprived it's so much easier to just check your phone.

16. If you dont use an app, you can put a breast pad in the side you started on last. This can help remind you what side to start on. I generally just leak during let down on the opposite side I start on.

17. You will need to wear a bra or nursing tank pretty much 24/7 while nursing. The motherhood maternity tanks are great. I can finally sleep without a bra (halleluah!) now that Eli is 8 months old.

18.  Make sure you have the support of your husband. If he knows how important it is to you to be successful he can be a great source of support and encouragement.

19. Reach out to your been-there-done-that friends for help. Most breastfeeding mamas want to help others succeed and will be there ASAP if you need it.

20. Don't panic if you feel like your supply is dipping. A lot of times it's just your body adjusting to what baby needs. Make sure to get rest when you can, drink lots of water, eat well, and add a nursing or pumping session.

Our breastfeeding journey has not been easy, you can read more about it here.

GREAT resource:

Favorite Nursing Gear:
My Brest Friend: I liked that this was flat which was more support for his tiny body. It was also nice for walking around the house while nursing.
Nursing Scarf: This thing is genius! I wore it on the plane which made nursing much easier. It may be difficult to manage while you're just starting out, but for later on its very handy. For the crafty mom it would be super easy to make.
Reusable nursing pads: you can buy disposable ones to keep in the diaper bag or purse but you will need them for months so definitely buy reusable ones.
Motherhood Maternity nursing tanks: I LIVE in these. It took a while (8 months) before I could go without a bra. These are comfy and do the job. If you are more well endowed than I am you may need a sleep bra under it.
Maternity tank top: Another thing I live in. Maternity tank tops are stretchier than normal ones and are easy to pull down to nurse. I wear these under everything when I know I will be nursing in public.
Nursing Bras:
 Lamaze sleep bra: Best for sleeping in or wearing around the house. Super thin so not great for leaving the house in (your nipples will be out in force for a while.)
 Bravado bra: This is the only regular nursing bra I wear. Its really comfy.
 I can't find the Lamaze sports bra I wear almost all of the time. It's a razor back which keeps straps from falling down. I also wear it to run and ride. I don't fit in any of my pre-baby bras... Here is a similar one.
Things to keep in mind when buying nursing bras: Comfort: You will spend a lot of time at home and because of engorgement and leakage wont be able to go without a bra for months. Brands I like: Bravado, Lamaze, leading lady, La leche league. Zulilly has a lot of sales on nursing bras, keep an eye out.
Even after pain and tears breastfeeding is one of my favorite parts of the baby stage.

                                                                 You Can Do It!! 

Favorite baby items months 3-6

Here are a few of our favorite things for ages 3 months through 6 months. Some of these are repeats from my 0-3 month list, but that just means we really loved them :)

Ergo: This is just so handy. It's super easy to put on and is small enough to have on hand. It was most useful for our recent cross country plane trip to Washington. Most airports let you wear baby through security and then just right on the plane. Eli gets tired of it after a while, but as long as I'm moving he does ok. *I have heard that there are some impostors out there so be careful when buying online.

Links: These are so so useful. I have them attached to everything (swing, stroller, high chair etc). They were also great for the plane. Eli actually really loves to play and chew on them without being attached to a toy.

PPB Boxy Backpack: I've referenced it before, but its worth noting again. So great. I am considering trading for the city carryall though as they backpack is a little bulky for everyday use. I also have the wallet which fits perfect in the side pocket and I carry into the grocery store etc when I don't take the diaper bag.

Baby Einstein play mat: We used this daily up until he could sit up. It's so easy to change out toys and it would entertain him for up to 30 minutes. Even now that he is sitting up he will still crawl over and play with it.

Bugaboo Cameleon: Another repeat, but I truly love this stroller. Now that he has grown out of his infant carrier we have been using the bassinet and toddler seat attachment. It's so easy to fold up and put together. My favorite part lately is being able to roll it up to a table when we're eating out and moving the handle bar out of the way so it becomes a high chair. We got this used on craigslist and paid $300 (way less than new.) Plus its already 5 years old and is still in great shape.

Plastic Bins: This is Eli's favorite thing to do right now. I put him on the floor with all his toys in the two bins and he tips them over and takes all the toys out. I like that these are plastic so he can chew on them and I don't have to worry.

Sophie the Giraffe: Such a great teether. It may seem "trendy" and expensive but is for a reason. This is so easy for them to hold and chew on. I literally haven't met anyone who's kid hasn't loved this. They have a new one too that is a little smaller for babies who teeth sooner.

Lamaze Moose and firefly: There is a whole line of toys and they are all great. We have two of them which is great for the stroller and the house. They all crinkle and squeak and have great colors. The Moose one is one of the first things he could grab onto. Get one for the stroller, the house, the car seat etc.

Sassy toys: We got these as gifts and they have been some of his favorites. Basically anything this company makes are great. I highly recommend that newborn set. Eli is 8 months now and is still playing with those toys.

Baby Einstein Toys: We have a few of these and is slowly playing with them ore and more.

Dr Browns bottles: We haven't used anything else and I don't think we will.

 Pool floatie: We borrowed a friends at a pool party and loved it right away. I plan on doing swim lessons but this was good for the beginning stages of being in the water. The one in the link is way more expensive than when we bought it. On sale right now!

Summer infant booster seat: Such a great seat. We use it on the bar counter in the kitchen, the dining table and chairs, as well as many tables away from home. I love that it attaches to tables and chairs. The only downside is that its fabric so needs to be machine washed instead of just wiping down.

Rainforest Jumperoo: This is such a favorite of Eli's. He can be entertained in this for 30-40 minutes at a time (great for breakfast and dinner prep time). He likes to sway instead of jump in it and I was surprised at how much he likes the toys that come with it. I would consider this a must have for the pre sitting up and crawling stage. For a while he would play in it for half an hour! Great for mornings while I ate breakfast and at night while getting dinner ready.

                                             Fisher Price Rocker: This has been so so useful.
                                            He would be content in this for so long as a baby
and I can still put him in it while i'm in the shower and he stays entertained.

Mesh Feeders: I love these as a teethers. Early on I would put an ice cube in it for him to suck on. Now its great for fruit because he likes to bite off big pieces. Great for the diaper bag to keep baby busy while eating out too.

Taggie Mirror: This was a LIFESAVER on the 5 hour plane ride when he was 5 months old. It's soft and folds up in the diaper bag. I just set it up on the tray table and it kept him busy for a good amount of time. I LOVE it!

Huggies overnight diapers: We have tried all sorts of diapers and the huggies little movers are the best for blow outs and the overnights are the only thing we use at night. Now that he isn't having blowouts we have been using Target brand during the day. I got a tip about Walgreens diapers for nighttime that I haven't tried yet.

Huggies wipes: The ONLY wipes I will ever use. Seriously, nothing else comes close. You can buy them on amazon $8 for 800 sometimes.

Amazon Prime: We became prime members on accident because we were doing the free trial and forgot to cancel. We ended up keeping it for the 2 day free shipping. With a baby we are constantly needing little things that are always cheaper online than at the stores. SO handy.

What are your favorite items?