BAM Family

BAM Family

Monday, October 27, 2014

Happy 2nd Birthday, Silas!

I can't believe my baby boy is TWO!! Wow, the years fly by.
My handsome little man
Silas is our little sunshine. He is such a happy boy and loves to make people laugh by performing, imitating people, and being silly.
My silly squwinchy picture face!
Just tonight at dinner he did all three:
Dancing to Pandora music (complete with head-wagging, squwinched up eyes, and mouth wide open!)
Imitating Daddy after a big burp (lovely. Also, one of his favorite things to imitate)
Pulling his bib half way up over his face and pretending it was a "mask"
Probably my most recent picture of him. He is going to be a dragon for Halloween.
That's our Silas!

I actually was a terrible mom on his birthday. We didn't even do cake and candles! (I KNOW! TERRIBLE MOM!!!) His birthday was on a Friday and I was at the tail-end of two frantic weeks of work and volunteering. I was wiped out.

In a perfect world, I would have made him Shepherd's Pie (one of his favorite meals) and chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing. And we would have eaten dinner as a family and sang to him and taken pictures while he blew out his 2 candles.

But, instead, I was laid out on the couch in all my 7 month pregnancy glory, nursing aching hips and back, waiting for my husband to get home from an out-of-town golf tournament at 7:30pm. I ordered pizza and let the boys watch "The Swiss Family Robinson." (odd...I feel a strange kinship with the mother in that movie). And the batteries in my camera died so no pictures....:(

Wait! I had ONE redeeming moment: I made Silas a puppy for his birthday and he LOVES it.
He named it "Puppy!" and it has become his new essential sleeping partner, along with his "Cat-Cat" and "Ki-Ki" (Blankie). So, win for mommy! (I think I am still -100 though).

So, who is Silas Edward Meng at 2 years old? Here are some of his favorite things:

Food: Scrambled eggs, sausage (or SAUSAGE!!! as he calls it) banana (which he call "la-lan-na"), fruit/veggie pouches, cheese sticks, Lucky Charms cereal (aka. he eats the marshmallows out of the 1/4 cup I give him), chocolate milk (he will specifically ask for chocolate (a tsp of Ovalteen), peanut butter and jelly, and POTATOES! He is a good eater (most days)
I love chocolate...chocolate milk, chocolate chips, chocolate Popsicles...
Shows: Signing Time and SuperWHY (which he calls "Boy-Boy." Go figure). Also, when we watch Netflix on our Wii, he has to hold a Wii remote himself. Typical male--has to have his own remote.

Favorite toys: "Cat-Cat" (his stuffed kitty), and anything that looks like or can be made into a gun. The child can make his own guns out of lego blocks. Seriously. Make it stop!! :o

Favorite books: The Foot Book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, and In my Little Blue Bed. Silas loves to read!!

Special things about Silas: He is SUPER observant. He will run and tell us if anything is "off" in his world: the oven timer is beeping? Quick! The microwave display is flashing? OH NO! Fix it!!  Daddy shaved his beard? He will mention it 7 times a day for 2 weeks.
I LOVE to help mommy cook! I sit on the counter every day while she is making dinner. I am very good at letting her know that the timer is going off NOW.
He also will bring me or Aaron our shoes when it is time to go (or he wants to go). He is great about finding a matching pair and will bring them to us wherever we are in the house.

He will also tell us right away if he made a "mess! mess!," whether he spilled cereal or paper clips, or colored on his arms or the wall with marker. Thankfully, he is usually a good sport about cleaning up too (usually).
See the "mess! mess!" I made with mommy's mascara?
Recent New Words: Saying "Wha-?" when we call him.  
Saying "'mere! 'mere!" when he wants someone to come look at something (come here!)
Saying "Shiiiny" in a really funny (and slightly creepy) voice when he finds something sparky or shiny that he loves.
He is saying new things every week! This age is so much fun.
I love playing outside!!
Of course, with a 2 year old, there are the obvious not-so-fun things too. He throws a typical amount of fits for a toddler over the usual things:
My granola bar broke. Woe is me!
I asked for milk and you gave me milk. WAHHH!
I do not want to come. I will run away.
I want to eat all the things 10 minutes before dinner is ready--banana? cracker? chocolate? fruit snack? Please? no? Bahhhhhhh!
Mommy must hold me standing up. It is not the same when she sits. STAND UP, woman!
Brothers want to watch their movie and not Signing Time even though I have watched Signing Time all day long.
Chocolate cupcake eating. Did I mention that I like chocolate? 
You know, the typical things. Thankfully, he has a sweet disposition and takes discipline to heart very quickly (a quick time-out in his bed and he is all "sowwy" and hugs) so that is really nice.

We all pretty much adore this little guy. He is loved 1000% every day by his mommy, daddy, and  big brothers.
I love Micah! He always makes me laugh!
We love you Silas!
Next year, I PROMISE to make you cupcakes, ok? xoxo little man!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Nod to Cincinnati Chili"

When I was growing up, one of my favorite dinners was "Three-Way Chili" otherwise known as "Cincinnati Chili."

Did you know that Cincinnati Ohio has their OWN chili? They even have restaurants dedicated to this chili, called "Skyline Chili." I wish I could recommend that you go eat at one of these little diners the next time you are in Ohio but...from my experience, nothing beats homemade "Three-Way/ Cincinnati/ Skyline" Chili.

The reason is is called "Three-Way" is that you eat this chili on top of spaghetti and topped with cheese (Three components). There is also Four-Way (add beans) and Five-Way (add raw, diced onions). But the Arpke family always loved "Three-Way" the best. 

My dad makes the best Three-Way ever. In fact, I used to say that I wanted to eat this chili at my wedding. Considering my nick-name was "Slop-Slop" while growing up, it is a good thing that I chose NOT to eat this in my wedding dress when I got married.

The thing is, my current Meng family doesn't LIKE "Three-Way." It was too spicy for them and the spaghetti was just weird to my husband (Psh, husband!).  

 So this recipe is a "Nod"to Cincinnati Chili. There are a few secret spices that make me think of my dad's chili but otherwise, it is just an absolutely delicious (non-spicy!) meat, beans, and tomato chili.

Or, as I have been told at a potluck I took this chili to: "This is the best chili I have ever eaten!"


 So here it is: My "Nod to Cincinnati Chili"

1 large or 2 medium onions, diced
1 lb ground beef
1 lb sausage (breakfast? Sage? spicy Italian? your choice!)
3-4 cloves of garlic (minced) (or a heaping tablespoon from a jar of minced garlic) 
3 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans petite diced tomatoes, not drained
2 (8 oz) cans of tomato sauce
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
5 cups water

Spices: (here's where it gets special)
Magic Spices (not pictured: Brown Sugar).

3 TB Chili powder
3 TB brown sugar
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa power*
1 tsp cinnamon*
1 tsp ground cumin 
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp seasoning salt
1-2 bay leaves

See those stars above? It's the cinnamon and cocoa powder that give this chili the Cincinnati kick! If you want to make this chili with a packet of Chili seasoning from the store, go ahead! But don't forget the cinnamon and cocoa powder (and a bit of brown sugar!)

Make it! (start early in the afternoon so your chili can simmer away for a few hours)

Brown meat and onions in a large skillet over medium/high heat (or you can use your soup pot. I just find that it is easier to cook the meat in skillet). Drain fat and dump into a large soup pot. Key word: large.

Over medium heat, add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add beans, tomato products, and water. Stir.

Add spices in a small bowl and mix until combined. Or just dump them in the pot. I just like the step of stirring all the spices together and then pouring such a delightful mixture into the pot.

This is where the magic happens. Your chili will turn from a tomato-red to a deep, dark, delicious, chili red. The cocoa powder is the key here to such a rich, dark color.

Bring your chili to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cock a lid over the chili, allowing a vent and simmer that baby for 2-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Your chili should get nice and thick. Before serving taste and adjust salt if needed.
My chili is simmering away on the stove. See that deep color? Mmm!
(I have made this in a crock pot too (cook meat and onions first, then dump everything in) but it doesn't get as thick as simmering it on the stove. Still yummy though!).

Enjoy the way your house smells all afternoon as you breathe in the heavenly scents.

Serve your chili plain or, the way I like it:  topped with sour cream, shredded cheddar-jack cheese, and a handful of fritos.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Meng Menu: Recipe for Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice casserole

Sunday: Homemade pizza night, salad,
Monday: Chili, rolls
Tuesday: Sausage and Kale pasta
Wednesday: Egg muffins, hashbrowns, fruit salad
Thursday: Helman’s chicken, Parmesan rice, green beans
Friday: Out to eat
Saturday: Chicken, rice and broccoli casserole (See recipe below!)

Sunday: Potato soup
Monday: London Broil, baked potatoes, green beans
Tuesday: Pork loin, stuffing, peas
Wednesday: Spaghetti, salad
Thursday: Sausage, kale and potato soup, rolls
Friday: Out to eat
Saturday: Fried rice w/ peas, carrots, and pork

Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Casserole is a real crowd-pleaser. My family loves it; I've made it for company (very comfort-food-esque), and it is my go-to for taking a meal to friends who have had surgery, are going through sickness, had a new baby, etc.

I hope you try it and enjoy!

Chicken, Broccoli, and Rice Casserole

2-3 cups of cooked chicken, cubed or shredded (depending on how many people you are serving)
2-3 cups cooked rice (2 cups, serves 6-8. 3 cups 8-10)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/3-1/2 cup sour cream
onion power
garlic powder
Smoked paprika (if you have it!)
Two cups lightly steamed broccoli florets (I used a bag of frozen, steamed in the microwave, or cut up a head of broccoli and steam it in the microwave for about 3-4 min).
1-2 cups favorite shredded cheese (cheddar, Colby jack, etc).

In a greased 9x13 casserole dish, layer rice, chicken, and broccoli.
Mix soup, 1 and ½ cans of milk, sour cream, and seasonings to taste. Whisk until combined and pour over rice/chicken/broccoli.
Using a spatula, make “pockets” in the rice mixture all over to let the soup mix get down to the bottom. Top with cheese.
Bake at 400 for 20-30 min until bubbly and cheese starts to brown.

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