must-have baby items

Normally I’m not much of a “stuff” person. You’re much more likely to find me dropping off items at Goodwill than shopping for them, and my toddler’s never-ending collection of trinkets will one day land me in the mental institution.

But when you have a newborn, a few products are essentials. And now that I’m onto my second child, I know exactly what baby stuff is necessary to keep me from pulling my hair out. So in case you’re a soon-to-be parent or just shopping for one, here are the items I absolutely can’t live without.

*Photos link to Amazon. Because Amazon is awesome opossum. But I’m not paid by anyone to recommend these products.

A swing. Front-to-back, side-to-side, with music, various speeds and a mobile. It keeps Charlie happy while I shower, do the dishes and prep dinner.

A diaper bag that doesn’t look like a diaper bag. I have this one in another color and I love all the pockets, the shoulder strap, the nylon fabric that wipes clean, and the changing pad. Plus it’s big enough to carry all the toddler snacks and toys necessary for happy outings.

The “Brest Friend” nursing pillow. I call it my BFF, and it’s just that—I can nurse easily while sitting, standing, walking, and even typing (not that I’m doing that right now…*whistles*).

The Moby Wrap. Super comfy and easy for when wee ones don’t have great neck control. This handy piece of fabric allows me to get chores done with minimal baby fussing.

The Miracle Blanket, or as we call it, “the straitjacket.” A bust-proof swaddling blanket for even the trickiest Houdini baby.

A fully automatic Medela breastpump. Because a nursing mom needs time off, and there’s no easier way to get it. Hand dad a bottle, grab your purse and head out for dinner with the girls.

An easily portable rocking/vibrating chair. I can tote it from the bathroom to the laundry room to the kitchen to have a convenient place to keep baby happy and in sight.

Glamourmom nursing tanks. Incredibly comfortable and great for layering so you don’t always have to wear an easy-access top. Keeps my belly tucked in and undercover because nobody wants to see my post-partum flab. Seriously. I don’t even want to look at that.

An Ergo baby carrier. Unlike its competitors the Ergo is super easy on your back, simple to put on and adjust, and painless to get baby in and out of. An infant insert is available to keep wee ones warm and cozy. Great for long walks and trips to the grocery store.

A co-sleeper. This handy bassinet hooks onto the side of my bed so baby sleeps safely but is still close by for nighttime wakings.

And finally, a Bebe au Lait nursing cover, because I ain’t one for flashing my boobies all over town. This brand is my favorite because they’re bigger (and therefore less prone to accidental peep shows) than others and come in pretty patterns.

Oh, and I can’t forget an awesome husband who doubles as a great dad. But sorry, ladies. He’s already been scooped up.

Now tell me—what are your must-have baby items?

-RDG

 

tamale pie with bbq pulled pork

A few weeks B.C. (Before Charlie), my dear sister-in-law stocked our freezer. She handed over a tote bag full of homemade frozen meals as her baby gift to us. Among the foil-wrapped containers there was one labeled “Tamale Pie.” Curious, I stashed it in the freezer and waited for the busy day on which we would need to use it.

Weeks later, exhausted from being up with a baby all night and chasing a toddler around all day, I popped it in the oven for dinner. The smells of Mexican spices and sweet corn began wafting from the oven. Eating it was even better—spicy ground beef, peppers and onions were all topped off with a layer of light, crunchy cornbread. If this was tamale pie, I thought, I wanted more of it.

I set out to make a sort of “ultimate” version with pulled pork slathered in a spicy barbecue sauce. Barbecue and cornbread were made for each other. I’m a fan of Stubb’s, but homemade or another brand work just as well (and if you make your own barbecue sauce, send me a bottle? Please?).

Marinate a pork shoulder roast in the barbecue sauce, then cook in the Crock Pot. Shred the meat.

Next, you’ll need fire-roasted tomatoes, cornbread mix, peppers (orange, yellow, and poblano), a sweet onion, chili powder, cumin, and kosher salt. Oh, and one handsy toddler lurking in the background.

Uh oh.

And she’s got it.

Saute the onion and poblano pepper in a bit of oil until tender.

Add the bell peppers and spices, saute a bit more…

…and finish with the tomatoes. Check the spices and make sure everything is to your liking.

Assemble the cornbread (my favorite $0.53 box of Jiffy corn muffin mix requires milk and eggs, but yours may be different).

To the cornbread batter, add corn (frozen or canned is fine) and sharp cheddar cheese (or your favorite variety—pepperjack would be great as well).

Stir together the pork with the pepper/onion mixture and spread into the bottom of two 9″ pie plates or one 9×13″ rectangular baking pan.

Top with the cornbread mixture…

…and bake until golden.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream. A frosty margarita on the side is also mandatory.

This has become one of my new, go-to comfort meals. There is something soothing about these classic flavors, and since the recipe makes a large batch you can enjoy this meal for several dinners or stash half in your freezer for a hectic day. Kisses to my sis-in-law Becky for introducing me to this crazy wonderful dish (and for stocking our freezer!). Make this for yourself or for some lucky parents-to-be soon.

-RDG

Tamale Pie with BBQ Pulled Pork Click here for printable version

If you’re using another brand of cornbread mix, omit the eggs and milk and follow the directions on the package. Makes 1 rectangular 9×13″ pie or 2 round 9″ pies.

Inactive Prep Time: 12-24 hours for marinating pork, 7-8 hours for cooking pork.

Active Prep Time: 25 minutes.

Bake Time: 25-30 minutes.

  • 3 lb pork shoulder roast
  • 1 c barbecue sauce, divided
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 1 orange bell pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 boxes Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 c milk
  • 2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 c corn kernels (frozen or canned is fine)
  • sour cream for serving

1. Rinse pork roast and pat dry. Place in a large Ziploc bag and cover with 1/2c of the barbecue sauce. Refrigerate 12-24 hours.

2. Transfer pork roast with marinade into bowl of slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours. Remove pork, shred, and stir in remaining 1/2 c barbecue sauce. Set aside.

3. Dice sweet onion. Seed and dice poblano pepper and bell peppers.

4. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and poblano pepper and saute 3-4 minutes, until onion begins to become translucent. Add bell peppers, salt, chili powder and cumin. Saute 5 minutes more. Add fire roasted tomatoes and continue to saute 5 minutes more or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and stir in shredded pork. Check seasoning.

5. Preheat oven to 400F. Combine corn muffin mix, eggs, milk, cheese and corn in a large bowl and mix to combine. Grease one 9×13″ baking dish or two 9″ pie plates. Spread the pork mixture into the bottom of the pan and spread the cornbread mixture evenly on top*. Bake for 25-30 minutes (may take slightly longer in large rectangular pan) until cornbread is cooked through and slightly golden on top. Serve topped with sour cream.

*NOTE: Can be covered and frozen unbaked. Bake from frozen at 400F for 45 min-1 hr or until cornbread is done.

 

strawberries with brown sugar and sour cream

I’m back, if only for a moment. I’ve missed you all so much these past few weeks. As I’ve been going about my new daily routine (feed the baby, burp the baby, change the baby, repeat, then repeat again), I think of posts that I would like to write and recipes that I would like to make. I itemize grocery lists, plan the photos I’m going to shoot and then…it never happens. Any spare moment I have turns into a quick nap, another load of laundry or an all-too-brief television show (during which I usually fall asleep). My list of blog to-do’s just grows longer and longer.

I know that life will return to normal soon. Things will calm down and eventually I will be able to sleep (and blog) again. But for right now, I don’t have time to bake a batch of double chocolate brownies or magic bars just to satisfy a sweet tooth. Instead I’ve been relying on the quickest, easiest, tastiest dessert I can think of: strawberries dipped in sour cream and brown sugar.

No recipe required. Just choose sweet strawberries, dip in cool sour cream and finish with a bit of brown sugar. It’s easy enough for everyday but pretty enough for company.

Best of all, you can eat it one-handed. Which is essential when you have a little ball of sweet baby in your arms.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

-RDG