Meatless Monday: Spicy Grilled Cheese

Another week brings you another recipe and yes, it’s Mexican inspired again. I can’t help it!

Lately, I’ve been wanting super spicy foods, but hold off with Mila. She tends to like what I’m eating more than what’s on her plate. I wish I could understand her toddler brain. Anyways, during her nap one day this week, I thought I’d experiment. I’ve had a spicy grilled cheese in mind, but haven’t had a chance to make one.

At first I was skeptical and didn’t know if I was going to share, but after tasting it and knowing how simple it was to make, I knew you guys needed it in your lives.

Spicy Grilled Cheese:

  • Pepper Jack Cheese
  • Green Peppers
  • Taco Seasoning
  • Bread
  • Butter

Yes! That’s all the ingredients I used. If I had red onion, I probably would have thrown some in too.

Directions:

First, cut and sauté your green peppers. I like mine to have a little crunch, so use your judgement here. While they’re cooking. Shred your cheese and butter your bread. I always use extra cheese, so again, do what you like best. After you’ve buttered your bread, sprinkle taco seasoning on the buttered sides. I’m probably the worst recipe maker, but I just eyed up how much I put on. Next, lay your bread butter/seasoning side down on the pan. Layer the cheese and peppers, then put the other slice on top. Cook like normal grilled cheese after!

I ended up putting sour cream on top of the sandwich and a little avocado ranch.

You guys, this was SO good. It would’ve been a little too spicy doe Mila at the moment, but maybe when she’s a little older. Normal grilled cheese is one of our go to’s though, so I could easily sneak making both and she’d never know!

I’m going to try really hard this week to make something more complicated or a dinner meatless. I usually just roast veggies, make rice, and add chickpeas for meatless dinners. We’ll see what I can come up with this week.

Meatless Monday: Fiesta Bowl

Let’s discuss my weird obsession with Mexican food. I feel like I’m always craving it and it’s easily adjustable for meatless Monday’s. Maybe it’s my love for rice and avocados, but any time I look for a new recipe, it’s usually what I find.

After a busy day yesterday and a swollen ankle (I hurt it a few weeks ago and it hasn’t gotten any better, actually it’s been worse this last week), I knew I wanted to try something quick and easy. Usually I go to recipes I’ve made before, but last night I was feeling inspired.

A quick look on Pinterest led me to a crunchwrap recipe. Mila and I both LOVE crunchwraps when we go to Taco Bell. I figured I’d give it a go… how hard could it be?

I got all my ingredients ready and even spiced up the rice. Everything was tasting and looking amazing. Let’s just say, I was feeling proud of myself. Until, I got to the wrap and folding part of the meal. Then it all went bad.

Okay. I’m just going to be very blunt, I failed miserable. For about ten minutes, I tried different ways to wrap it. Each time, everything in the middle would fall out making more and more disappointed. After twenty different tries to keep it all together, I gave up. I tasted everything and realized it was all good. Maybe I didn’t need a wrap… so I created what is now known in our family… The Fiesta Bowl.

Since COVID has been here, I’ve realized I’m just amazing at gathering ingredients, seasoning them, and throwing them in a bowl.

The Fiesta Bowl:

Ingredients:

  • One can of black beans
  • One tomato (I used Roma because it’s what I had in hand
  • 1 medium green peppee
  • 1 medium avocado
  • Mexican shredded cheese
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Avocado ranch (optional)
  • Seasoned brown rice (spices used: salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, oregano)

It’s a pretty simple recipe and standard ingredients I use all the time. As you can tell if you’ve looked at some of the things I’ve posted. The spices in the rice were amazing. They completely changed the taste of the almost crunchwrap. Unfortunately I didn’t have cumin, but I’m actually glad I didn’t because it tasted so good. The fresh vegetables were refreshing and we have leftovers for lunch!

The longest part was cooking the rice (and figuring out I couldn’t fold tortillas), but it was easy for me with Mila and Max running around. After it was all thrown together in the bowl, I realized I needed to name it something fun after the craziness. Plus, it did really taste like a fiesta in my mouth too.

Another positive with this recipe and really these ingredients in general is Mila loves it and I know a lot of other toddlers who approve too.

Meatless Monday: Spanish Rice

This is a tiny bit of false advertisement. I’m going to give you two recipes because when I made my Spanish Rice, I also added some chicken thighs with it too. It tasted amazing! Mila loved it as well.

So Mila and I LOVE different types of food. Last week, with Cinco de Mayo, we made different Mexican food and this Spanish Rice dish. I will admit, we did order out for Cinco de Mayo, which was…. interesting to say the least. Turns out, you should call waaaaay beforehand when ordering Mexican on Cinco de Mayo, during a worldwide pandemic. Who would’ve known?

Anyways, so this recipe was given to me a couple weeks ago and I figured I’d try it. I love recipes that are easy to make and that are tasty. It’s something I could throw together and walk away from while attending Mila’s daily dinner crisis. This recipe would have worked great without the chicken thighs I added, they needed cooked, so don’t blame me. I also added black beans, which could have just been the protein for the meal. Without going on forever, here’s the recipes.

Without me chatting too much, here’s the good stuff…

Spanish Rice Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes and chilies
  • 2 tapblespoons of taco seasoning mix
  • Shredded cheese (optional)
  • 1 avocados (optional)
  • 1 can of black beans (optional

Combine rice, water, tomatoes, and taco seasoning in a large saucepan or pot (like I did). Bring it to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and cover, simmering for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let it stand for 5 minutes. If you’re adding beans to your rice, I’d do it before the 5 minute warning so they can get nice and heated up. Fluff the rice up with a fork and add in your extras if you choose so. If not, enjoy as is!

Taco Chicken Thighs:

  • 3 chicken thighs, skinless and boneless (use as many as you need and adjust accordingly, this is what I had left)
  • Olive oil (I didn’t measure. I’ve never claimed to be a top chef, guys!)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Taco Seasoning Packet (what you didn’t use with the Spanish Rice)

Preheat your oven to 400. While it’s preheating, rinse your chicken thighs and pat them dry. Once they’re dried throw them in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and the taco seasoning. Make sure there’s seasoning covering the thighs and place them on a baking sheet. Once the oven is preheated, cook them for about 20-25 minutes. Once they’re done, you could shred them or cut them in strips. I did the latter, which was amazing for us.

This really is a quick and simple recipe you can make if you’re busy. Just set timers for everything and it’ll cook itself, really. Mila really enjoyed the chicken thighs (it’s not fun to convince her to eat chicken breasts) and rice is one of her favorite meals. Yes, rice is considered a meal for Mila. Some days are just a win when she’ll eat anything. It’s a toddler world and I’m just living in it.

So, although I didn’t completely go meatless for this meatless Monday recipe, there’s a lot of options to take the core of this meal and make it a meatless one.

Meatless Monday: Tomato and Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

Another week in isolation means another recipe I’m going to share.

I’ve been low-key obsessed with grilled cheese lately. It’s to the point where different cheeses aren’t even cutting it. In my head, I’ve been coming up with different ingredients to add in my routine quarantine grilled cheese. Sure, there’s probably a recipe like this on Pinterest, but this time… it’s all me (totally hyping myself up at this moment).

Without making my head too big, enjoy this quick, easy, and delicious recipe that I know you’ll love too.

Tomato and Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

Ingredients for two sandwiches:

  • Roma Tomato (2)
  • Fresh Mozzarella
  • Bread (4 slices)
  • Butter
  • Italian Seasoning (to taste)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • Balsamic Vinegar (Optional, but highly recommended)

First things first heat up the pan you’re using while cutting up your mozzarella and tomatoes. I made two sandwiches and used two tomatoes and one ball of fresh mozzarella. Salt and pepper the tomato and cheese for extra taste. Butter one side of each piece of bread (normal with any grilled cheese, obviously right?). To elevate this sandwich, put Italian seasoning on the butter side. That way the flavor sticks to the bread and butter. It just seeps into the bread and might be one of the best parts. Place your bread, butter side down on your pan, and layer your cheese and tomatoes too. I did like three little layers: mozzarella, tomato, mozzarella. It stacked up a little high, but after the first flip, I smashed it down a little bit to make it more manageable. At this point, I did think there might be a melting issue, so I turned my oven on 350 F and took out a baking sheet. After the other piece of bread was grilled, I personally didn’t think my cheese was melted enough, so I popped it into the oven for about five minutes until I thought it was melted to my liking. This is a total preference though, but I felt like it made my sandwich way better. After, I diagonally cut my sandwich and drizzled balsamic vinegar over it.

Mila and I ate these way too fast. She’s not a huge bread person, but she made sure to eat her fair share of tomatoes, cheese, and all the balsamic drizzle. We will definitely make this again in the future and I’m planning on trying it with shredded mozzarella cheese. BUT, I’m going to play around with another grilled cheese recipe in the next few days. Think a little spicier, but (hopefully) just as yummy!

I hope you’re able to try this recipe! I’m so proud of how it turned out and was excited to share it with you guys. Before my next grilled cheese recipe comes out, I have another recipe that I didn’t make meatless, but is adaptable to be meatless. So I’ll be sharing that this coming week. Anyways, let me know if you tried to make this and how you liked it!

A Letter To Bereaved Mother’s Day Past.

Dear Danielle,

It’s been almost exactly four years since your first Bereaved Mother’s Day. I know… it hurts. You’re not sure what happens next or how you’re even supposed to go on after everything has happened. If I could somehow go back in time and just sit with you, I would. I’d listen and let you talk about Jensen, letting you cry or smile or however you felt in those moments. It’s what you needed then and you still need it now.

I’m sorry we had to find out what loss and grief was all about; especially losing him. There’s been so many times in the last year where I’ve thought how I wish I could go back and take those moments for you.

If there’s one thing I’ll always be thankful you did, it’s starting this.

Our memory is awful now; four years of grief will do that to a person. Its been awhile since I went back and read anything from that first year. The way we write… I can read through it now. We’re harder now. When we talk about Jensen or how bad death hurts, it’s a lot more blunt. There’s a blog post we listen to now and they say, “fuck politeness,” pretty often. We’ll get there, I promise. Anyways, I read this post: “Honor Your Motherhood.” Twenty-five whole days of being a mom… you’re doing your best and that’s all that matters.

I remember this was the first time in our life that it was hard to order my thoughts. They rushed around and I couldn’t ever catch them, that doesn’t go away, fyi. So finding a prompt really helped order everything. I’m going to answer them again. Mainly to show future Danielle who’s going through whatever how much we’ve grown and how much she’s grown too.

What does it mean to you to “honor your motherhood?” 

Motherhood has changed since that first year… We have Jensen, and we always will. We’ve experiences loss again. We have Mila now too. Since it’s grown and changed, we honor it differently too.

I’m not sure how it is for people with more than one living child, but for us it’s like having a bigger heart. We have Jensen times and we have Mila times. Mila takes up a lot of our time. When she’s awake we’re focused on her and cleaning and taking care of ourselves and keeping up with family and friends and whatever else there is to do. In some ways, the craziness is a way I honor my motherhood with Mila and Jensen. I know this is how he would want us to keep going. It’s funny because even in the craziness of our life, we can always picture where Jensen would fit in.

Honoring our motherhood with Jensen is still one of the most special things. On that first Bereaved Mother’s Day, you did the things to remind you of him. I love that. You helped put Jensen in every room of our home and on our body too. See, that’s a lot in four years. We were a lot more literal in those early days. It was our way to scream to the world that we had him and he means so much. He still does. We honor our motherhood with him by still saying his name, sharing him with Mila (the way she says his name, the cutest thing), and including him in ways that are special to use, but in quieter ways.

Mixing both parts of our motherhood and just by simply moving onward is honoring our motherhood. There’s been so many setbacks in this time period, but you keep going. If that isn’t a strong mother, I don’t know what is.


What would help you feel like your motherhood is being honored?

I remember being so afraid everyone would forget about Jensen. When we first saw this prompt, we wanted everyone to know about Jensen, not necessarily that we were a mom. I think all moms put their child ahead of their wants and needs, but when there isn’t a child physically there, it’s hard to do that. It’s hard for other’s to see and understand that you’re still constantly thinking about your child and wanting the best for them. Honoring our motherhood then felt like making sure our motherhood was concrete. It was, even without him there in your arms. You’re still a mom. That space you hold in your heart and mind for him make you one.

I’m so sorry he wasn’t there to hold and love on. Just like I’m sorry he’s not playing around the house right now.

Honoring motherhood now… gosh, it’s changed so much, but the core of it remains the same. I think we honor it every day. We show up and do our best, mostly with a smile on our face. Mila’s happy, Jensen will never be forgotten, and we have grown. In the calm moments, we take a step back and realize what we have, what we’ve lost, and where we want to go. Wanting to go forward and keep doing better is the best way we honor our motherhood now.


What can you do today, on Bereaved Mother’s Day, to honor your motherhood?

Since Mila’s been born, it feels like Bereaved Mother’s Day is a day to honor our grief in motherhood. I think the best way to honor and connect with that part of motherhood, I’m setting time aside to sit outside and take in the moment. We’ll say his name and look through his pictures with Mila. Maybe I’ll read more of your posts to honor us and this crazy journey we’ve been on.

If I could end with anything or scream through time, I’d let you know that the version of us that you’re living right now is the strongest one. I think future Danielle would agree too. You, we, I, or whatever is easier to conceptualize, will always be Jensen’s mom. Your motherhood will always be valid and honored. I’m sorry that this had to happen to us, but I’m so thankful he’s ours.

You’re doing amazing.

Love,

Danielle

Dear Fellow Bereaved Mothers,

I feel like it’s been awhile since we’ve talked, but I see all of you and your babies gone too soon.

Whether this is your first Bereaved Mother’s Day or fiftieth or somewhere in between, I want you to know that your child and the way you mother them is not unseen. I know some days are harder than others and maybe you’re in a long line of hard ones, but you are doing the best you can do. Please reach out on this day or any of the difficult ones you have. There are so many of us here to remember our babies with and to lift each other up when we need it most. And if you’re having a good, gentle day, I’m so happy those moments are here for you. You are so deserving of them.

I’m so sorry that we know this deep of a loss and the tidal waves of grief that comes after. There’s nothing quite like it. On the other hand, there’s love. That love you feel for them, oh, it’s so powerful. This love powers through death, not that anything could tear apart the love a mother has for her child.

Like everyday, say their name. Share a memory about them with someone who knew them or someone new. I know how proud you are of them. They’re proud of you too.

So today, and everyday, I want you to know, I see your motherhood and your child matters and is loved by many. And you, beautiful mother, for as much love as you pour out, there is so much coming your way.

Love,

Danielle

Forever Jensen’s Mom

At the beginning…

At the beginning,⁣
darkness was ever present. ⁣
Then, he showed me light. ⁣

It’s the start of a new month and with May brings a lot of different things. One, that I’ve tried to do since Jensen has been born, is May We All Heal.

Usually I end up starting strong, then something pops up and I get off track. Since we’re stuck at home, I’m hoping to be creative each day and maybe even have Mila join in.

Today, I wrote a haiku. I’m not the best at poetry, but I felt like this poem spoke to my heart. Losing Jensen was the hardest moment of my life and the grief after has been life changing. It was all darkness, but slowly, he’s led me to healing and becoming stronger through love.

I’ll forever be grateful for him.

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Quesadillas

There’s been two things I’ve learned about myself since the COVID lockdown: I love to cook and I’m a terrible food photographer.

Some days I make these amazing recipes and try to document along the way. Then when I’m done and have already ate, I realize the pictures I’ve taken are awful. It happens and it’s life, but today you’ll be getting badly taken pictures of food and a yummy recipe.

Normally on meatless Monday’s, Mila and I fail on the breakfast part. She loves sausage and eggs, but this morning we had raspberry yogurt and Cheerios on the trampoline. I felt pretty confident tackling the rest of today’s food choices.

After a while of playing outside, we came inside to eat. As you all know, I’ve been obsessed with Pinterest lately so I followed this recipe.

The ingredients I used:

  • Sweet Potato
  • Canned Black Beans
  • Corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocado
  • Queso
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Tortillas

A lot of these items can be substituted. Or if you like all the main ingredients and want to make nachos or a burrito bowl, that would be really good too. We normally eat a lot of rice or quinoa, so it was a good change of pace for us.

I followed the recipe as close as I could. Instead of flipping the tortilla over on itself, I just put another one on top. It sort of looked like a Mexican pizza that Taco Bell sells. I still let each side go on the pan to make the cheese melt and get perfectly gooey. It didn’t take long to make or eat. Mila even loved it!

I dipped my pieces in salsa and sour cream. She preferred ranch. Both tasted great.

This meal could definitely be made for dinner. It’s filling and makes you feel warm. We love to go out for Mexican, but since we can’t go right now or if in the future we’d rather just stay home, I’d make this meal again.

I have no idea what’s for dinner, but fingers crossed I can keep our Meatless Monday going.

10 Things I’m Grateful for This Week.

This week has went so quick, but has felt like a lifetime with all the things that have happened. Since Mila kicked me off our new toy, I’m reflecting on all the pictures we took this week. During this time we can all use a little happiness, so I just wanted to share ten moments that have made me the happiest.

Mila Cuddles

I’m unsure if she knew my heart has needed them, but Mila has been so cuddly lately. She’ll come sit on my lap to watch movies and at night she wants me to lay right by her while she plays with my hair. It’s made my heart feel so full lately.

The Piñata Beatdown

All of Mila’s second birthday was the best, but watching her spear the piñata… I don’t think anything can top that. If you didn’t see her second birthday blog post, go back and watch it. I giggle the whole entire time. By the way, the piñata is still being used. It’s broken, but can still be hit multiple times.

Constant Singing

Two has also brought all the singing. Throughout the day, she’ll just start singing as loud as she can and want me to join along. Her favorite song to sing is the intro to Frozen, the ‘nah nah nah nah.’ If you’ve watched the movie or have an obsessed toddler, you know. I’ve also been listening to “My Favorite Murder,” which is a podcast, and she sings the intro tune for it too. Maybe I should mute that when she can here, oops.

An Organized Fridge/Snack Drawers

This is the smallest things and no one really thinks about, but this week, I cleaned out my fridge. I feel like a new person. Now I know all the food I have in there and everything has a spot. Mila even has her little snack and juice corner that she has complete access to. It’s the little things that make you happy and life go a lot smoother.

Gardening

I’m officially a plant mom. I check my little plants multiple times a day to see what else has sprouted. Anytime I see they need watered, I have my little squirt bottle and go to town. I didn’t know how seeing that sort of growth would make me smile so much. It gives Mila and I something to look forward to doing every day. A new part of our routine!

New Recipes

If quarantine has shown me anything, it’s my Pinterest addiction. I’ve found SO many new recipes to make now and try in the future. This weeks new recipe was this bacon cheeseburger grilled cheese meal. Oh my goodness, it was amazing. I’ve been craving grilled cheese lately, but this new recipe is just so good. I’ve also found new vegetarian recipes to make on Mondays and whenever I’m not feeling meat. It’s gotten to a point where I want to share all the new recipes I make, but that would be bombarding.

Mila’s Crafts and Independent Play

For the last few weeks, Mila’s started to play more independently. I’m unsure if it’s because I’ve put more thought into her activities throughout the day or she’s just getting older and her imagination is growing. We do an art craft or experiment almost everyday then talk about it, which she looks forward too. Then we read all the time, but she’s started ‘reading’ to her stuffed animals and Max. Another contributing factor is she got a lot of independent play toys for Easter and her birthday that have worked. I’ll try to write a post about toys she likes and maybe that could help another parent in deciding what to gift their two year old (or around this age) for whatever. One thing she’s gotten that has been used multiple times a day is her new easel. I love seeing her creative side.

Playroom Art

This venture will definitely be a blog post… or two. I’m converting Jensen’s room into a playroom. It’s been hard, but I know it’ll be worth it in the end. Again, I’ll save this for a future post when the playroom is completely finished. ANYWAYS, I recently found a college student who makes this artwork from pictures. It’s like she takes a photo of you and sort of makes like pop art. There’s bright colors, the outline of the bodies, and the details in the clothes, but all other details are blurred. It’s so beautiful and I’m thankful I found her!

Almost Finishing Spring Classes

If you didn’t know, I’m so close to finishing all my classes to teach full time. After this semester is finished, I’ll only have four more classes and student teaching. Not a lot at all! But, I still have to finish the two classes I’m in right now. Anyways, the stress of everything going on right now has made it hard to work on my finals. I kept putting them off, but as of yesterday, I’m done writing papers for the spring semester. That’s something to celebrate!

Trampoline Time

The new toy I Mila kicked me off of is a trampoline. It was put up last night and it was a birthday gift for her from my mom and dad. Every time she saw a trampoline, she’d tell us she wanted to jump on the ‘lean.’ Mila is so active and even though she’s a little young to have one, she’s obsessed. While we were putting up the safety nap, she was on there jumping and all day today, she’s been jumping. I love that she’s so active and seeing her get more comfortable with her body makes me happy. It’s crazy because it seems like she excels at whatever she tries to do. No matter if it’s gymnastics or running or doing defensive basketball slides, she’s just naturally athletic. I can’t wait to make memories and watch her make them on her trampoline. This is only the beginning.

I hope all of you can find many moments you were grateful for this week. Just a reminder that we’re all doing our best.

Its just an inch, but feels like a mile.

Today we made a memory. One that isn’t going to go away any time soon either. I marked Mila’s height on one for the doorways in our house.

Through this little mark, I learned two things. The first, Mila is actually pretty tall. I didn’t realize it until I stepped back and saw how high it was compared to a door. When I see her running around, I still see a little girl. I know she’s getting tall, but wow. The second thing… how much I’ve healed in four years.

I know that probably sounds silly. How does a little mark show growth? For me it’s the permanence of the mark. When I was pregnant with Mila and for so long, I thought I was going to lose her. I thought she was going to die so many times during pregnancy and that first year. Then I thought she’d be taken away with the psychological mind games that were played with me.

It sounds dramatic and overboard, but it’s true. She’s mine and no one can take her away, but I never believed she could stay. I felt like if I let myself believe it, something would happen. It’s been an awful battle. But she’s not going anywhere.

When I look at that little mark, I can picture the next sixteen years of measuring her. You know if she lets me and all. But I’ve never been able to see past so many years ahead. I’ve always thought I just had today. Those intrusive thoughts with parenting after loss are hard and can suck the joy out of everything. I’m really trying though.

We made a memory today and the physical memory is about an inch long. I know when I look back on those hashes, I’ll see Mila wanting me to remeasure her and the shock in her face that mama drew on the wall. I’m sitting here picturing how tall she’ll be next year and thinking I’ll write what she wants to be when she grows up beside them too.

I’m so happy about her growing and progressing. There are so many moments I wish I could pause, but I want her to keep getting older and growing as big as she’ll get. I know what it’s like to not have my child grow and have their hashmark on the doorway. Jensen has taught me so much about life and myself and Mila is teaching me how to move forward and grow. One piece of information doesn’t shadow the other. The light and heavy are always present in my life. I’m just doing my best juggling the both of them and making sure they both know how much I love them.