Naptime Cooking: Brown Butter Asparagus Risotto

Finally…! A cookbook that caters to the needs (and time restraints!) of a stay at home mom. I LOVE cooking. Since having my second babe, it’s been tough to find the time to shop for, prep and cook good meals that the whole family will love. I found a cookbook on Amazon (because I pretty much ONLY shop online) called The Naptime Chef, by Kelsey Banfield. What I love about it, is that each recipe gives you the prep and cook times so you can plan when you do the prep work, and then know how much additional time you will need to cook. Most of the recipes are 45 minutes of total time, which is great for me and the ingredient lists are minimal, and usually include things I keep around the house anyways. I’m pretty lucky, my babies take naps at the same time for the most part, so I usually have 2-3 hours to myself. My mom comes over once a week to help with the kids and also helps me with the shopping for the week, so all I have to do is cook. It’s pretty amazing. I picked out 4 new recipes to try this week. The first one I tried tonight was the Brown Butter Asparagus Risotto. First of all, brown butter. yum. Secondly, risotto is one of my most favorite foods in the whole world, so I knew this would be a goodie…and it was. Second helpings were had by all. (Okay, this nursing mama may have had 3 helpings…) However, I did have to tell Marielle the asparagus were green beans, and the rest was cheese. Because she loves cheese. And green beans. It’s okay to lie about food to your toddler. I promise. Plus, she loves anything in her bright green Oogaa bowl! Have I mentioned how much I love these bowls? Microwave, freezer, dishwasher, heat safe, OVEN safe, BPA free…virtually unbreakable, which is great for those days when Marielle doesn’t like what I make her and she throws it and her bowl on the floor…but this recipe, she loved! Happy bowl, happy mama, happy Marielle.

I prepared the onion and asparagus during naps, and started cooking when Brendan was on his way home. It was ready the minute he walked in the door. Perfection.

Adapted from Kelsey Banfield’s The Naptime Chef

Ingredients (some modifications made)

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 medium sweet yellow onion
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine ( I used Sancerre…pick a wine you love because you need something to sip on while you cook the risotto for 20 minutes!)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste


  • Bring a wide pot of water to a boil over high heat.
  • Heat the broth in a saucepan over medium heat (don’t boil)
  • Break off the tough ends of the asparagus.Β  Add the asparagus to the water and cook for about 4 minutes until tender, but not mushy. Remove from the heat and cut into 1-2 inch pieces. I did smaller pieces so my toddler could easily eat them.
  • Heat 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Allow it to bubble and turn a golden brown color. Keep stirring the butter so it doesn’t burn. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent, stirring frequently.
  • Add in the rice, then carefully pour in the wine. Cook until the wine is almost evaporated. Ladle the hot broth into the pan in 1/2 cup increments cooking and stirring each time until it is absorbed before adding the next. Use all the broth. Risotto should be soft and tender, but still have a bit of a bite to it.
  • Stir in the cheese until melted, and then add the chopped asparagus. Top with additional Parmesan and freshly ground pepper.

Brown Butter Asparagus Risotto IMG_8871IMG_8876

Cheesy Veggie Tortellini Bake

I’m just going to go ahead and caveat that this is not exactly the healthiest of recipes…I mean, it is overflowing with yummy vegetables which is wonderful, but they are definitely hidden in a rich, cheesy carb party…but it’s definitely a party I want to attend. This dish is super family friendly. My toddler absolutely loved it! She could eat it with her fingers which is great… because in her awesome toddler world, we are boycotting forks. Anyways…I found this recipe on Pinterest of course, and the original recipe can be found here.

I used a few different veggies than the original recipe, but you can pretty much use whatever you have in your fridge, that’s what I love about it. I have written the ingredient list below with my modifications…but please visit the original recipe developer’s blog for step by step instructions! Enjoy!

  • 1 package (19 ounces) frozen cheese-filled tortellini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced zucchini
  • 1 cup trimmed sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup baby bella mushrooms
  • 2 cups of bell peppers (we love bell peppers…so we did more than the original recipe called for)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup of frozen corn
Creamy base:
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
Top it off:
  • 1/4 cup freshly-grated mozzarella cheese
  • 3-4 tablespoons freshly-grated Parmesan cheese

Veggie Tortellini Bake 2

Veggie tortellini BakeVeggie Tortellini Bake 3

10 Things That Happen After Having The Second Baby

1) You stop wanting to wear real pants. Seriously. After my first baby was born, I couldn’t wait to squeeze back into my skinny James Jeans. After Alex was born, anything with a waist has gone unworn. Two babies in under two years wreaks havoc on your body…i.e your abs literally split down the middle and have less of a chance of fusing back after the second. I can’t remember the last time I put on a pair of jeans. I’m not ashamed that my daily wardrobe consists of Lulu Lemon pants and a Lucy zip up. I know there are those who have a problem with women who wear yoga pants as clothing. To that I say, grow two humans in your body, push them out, and then talk to me about wearing real pants. Also, have you ever chased a toddler and worn a newborn across your body while wearing jeans? Good luck. Plus, flowing dresses. LOVE dresses.

2) Mommy brain is real and it becomes more severe the more children you have. You may walk out of the house without shoes. Yep, it happened to me. More than once. Being a stay at home mom, my standard footwear are my Ugg slippers and on more than one occasion, I have walked out of the house wearing said slippers, arrived at my destination and realized I wasn’t wearing real shoes. Oh, and a note about real shoes…those strappy stilettos make their way to the back of the closet and ballet flats become the norm. But mostly, slippers.

3) Mornings no longer belong to you. Remember when you used to watch the Today Show with a cup of coffee? Say goodbye to Matt, Natalie, Savannah and Al…Hello Daniel Tiger and Team Umizoomi. Oh, and by cup of coffee, I mean 4.

4) Leaving the house takes twice as long as it did with one child, which took twice as long before you had zero kids. Basically, allow at least an additional 30 minutes per child.

5) You need your mama friends more than ever. They are the ones reassuring you that you’re doing a great job when the tears start to flow in the middle of the playground. They are the ones who will push your child on the swing while you nurse your newborn, physically remove her from the playground during her temper tantrum when it’s time to get back in the car, and chase her down the sidewalk because you’re toting your other little in the front pack. These women are invaluable. And amazing.

6) Screen time = Me time and I’m not sorry about it. With the first, you were diligent about screen time and wouldn’t dare let your impressionable as a peach toddler watch more than one 30 minute educational program a day. If that. Now with your second arrival needing your attention, you depend on Peppa Pig to keep your toddler occupied so you can 1) Go to the bathroom, ALONE. 2) Nurse the newborn without the older one expressing her jealousy 3) Curb a temper tantrum that will wake the newborn from his nap…etc. The list goes on. Look. I watched Sesame Street and Mickey Mouse Club as a child and I’d like to think I turned out just fine πŸ™‚ A couple programs throughout the day isn’t going to ruin their college aspirations and abilities.

7) You stop sweating (some) of the small things. Things that you were intimidated by with one child become easier and less scary once the second one arrives. Nursing in public? No problem. Target and grocery runs? What’s one tantrum when you can have TWO! The pacifier dropped on the floor… better pick it up, wash it, microwave it and boil it before giving it back to the baby. Baby #2…a quick rinse will do the trick πŸ™‚

8) Your body does not and will not bounce back to its original glory after the second. It just doesn’t. I lost all my baby weight and more after my first and continued wearing my teeny bikini. With my second, I’ve embraced the mommy tankini and boy short bottoms. It’s actually quite nice to not have to worry about eating too much before heading to the pool. And you know what? Who cares. Growing a baby is one of the most amazing things you can put your body through…be proud of your new shape and scars. And try not to take offense when the door to door salesman asks when your due date is 2 weeks after giving birth…Yep. Happened to me.

9) You realize that babies don’t need to wear shoes. I know, they are cute and we all fall victim to purchasing several pairs of them before our little one even enters the world. Marielle has pairs and pairs of unworn shoes from her infant years, and yes, they are still cute and perfect because they have NEVER BEEN WORN. But don’t worry. Once they start walking, they will grow out of shoes faster than you can say Zappos.

10) Your heart expands bigger than you ever thought possible. When I gave birth to my daughter, I loved her so much I couldn’t even imagine loving another little human being as much as I loved her. What I didn’t know at the time, was that a mother’s heart is meant to expand and grow with each child you create. When Alex was born, I could literally feel my heart overflow with love for him. A mother’s love is truly endless.

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10 Unexpected Truths About Raising a Toddler

1) Toddlers can be meaner than Regina George discovering you wore pink before Wednesday. I never thought my 18 month old baby girl could possibly bring tears to my eyes besides tears of joy. False. I have endured more emotional and physical ouchies from my toddler than I ever could have imagined could have come from that sweet faced little monster in a onesie and Tiny Toms. I’ve been spit on, slapped, screamed at in the highest pitch sound only a dog could hear and have had more food and water tossed in my face than a soap opera star. Apparently, they do this to the ones they love most.

2) You will spend entire days trying to feed your little foodie and you will take offense when you slave over what you think is a delicious homemade meal that you spent perfectly steaming, chopping and sauteing just for them and it ends up on the floor, in your face and in the dog’s belly all with a resounding “NO!” to go along with it. It’s okay to give up, cave in and hand over the food pouch, yogurt or applesauce for the 8th time that day. Oh and the next day, she will decide she hates that same food pouch, yogurt or applesauce and go on a food strike all together. She is your worst food critic and can make you feel like you just read your own horrible restaurant review in the New York Times. Just keep telling yourself, It’s not personal. She’s a toddler.

3) The terrible two stage actually starts around 12 months. And no, no one tells you that. Right after throwing her a Pinterest worthy one year celebration, your precious one year old will manage to flail herself face first on the floor…screaming, kicking and contorting her body into crazier back arches than an acrobat in Cirque du Soleil.

4) Your toddler will manage to take out the most obnoxiously loud toys just as you put the new baby down for a nap. She hasn’t touched them in weeks…but the baby is sleeping, so obviously this is the best time to rediscover them, then see how close she can sit by the sleeping baby with said obnoxious toy.

5) You will put toys and books on “vacation.” When you feel like you just don’t care about what Brown Bear sees anymore or you just can’t listen to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer in the middle of summer for the 19th time on repeat, you will conveniently misplace said book and toy and plead the 5th when she wanders around like a crazy person asking where “Brown Bee!!! BROWN BEE!!!” is. Don’t make the same mistake I did and forget to childproof the “vacation” drawer. Brown Bear came back from vacation earlier than expected.

6) It doesn’t matter how much they love something and for how long, one day they can decide they hate it.Β  Marielle LOVED taking her baths. She would come running down the hallway giddily screaming, “BAA! BAA!” and excitedly watch the tub fill with water and bubbles. Then one day, Marielle part 2 decided she HATED baths and would run the other direction down the hallway screaming, “NOO BAA! NOO BAA!” I’d eventually just place her in the tub and she’d flail around like a fish out of water, screaming at the top of her lungs impairing my hearing for the remainder of the day.

7) Toddlers have multiple personalities that have the ability to show all of their sides in the same episode. When you turn off Daniel Tiger or Bubble Guppies before she decides she’s done watching, you will either a) get the remote thrown at you or b) smacked in the tummy with her out of control little chubby hands. When you give her the eye and tell her no, that hurts mommy, her lip will quiver, she will start to cry and then demand a hug and kiss. Oh, you do love me. I couldn’t tell from the toddler smack down you just gave me.

8) You may take it personally if your toddler doesn’t cry when you leave her in Baby and Me class for the first time. You may cry (even when you’ll just be in the room next door) but she may not. And that’s okay, it’s a good thing actually, You want her to be happy with her little toddler friends and comfortable with you not being around 24/7. And they do actually miss you as evidence by the big hug you will get 45 minutes later.

9) You will rediscover the world through a toddler’s eyes. You will laugh, sing and dance to Raffi and Baby Einstein. Find sheer joy watching them giggle and delight at the sight of the animals at the zoo. You’ll find yourself having the time of your life swinging on the swing set along side your little one, and take pride the first time they go down the playground slide alone. You’ll run through sprinklers, splash in the pool and dance around the kitchen. You will think everything they do is Instagram worthy and you’ll stop caring if you’re the obnoxious mom posting a million photos of your toddler doing the same thing over and over again.

10) But if there is one thing that I could never have imagined, it’s how much love you have for your little one. No matter how much they hit you and scream at you, make you worry, make you angry or make you sad. You are the center of their world and they are yours. They aren’t toddlers forever. This stage will end, and then you’ll forget it ever happened. Maybe that’s why everyone forgot to tell me about the terrible 12 month stage??

Your heart will melt, over and over again when they do unexpected acts of kindness. When they hand you a tissue when you cry, when they kiss their baby brother on the forehead just because, when they come up behind you and wrap their tiny arms around your leg, when they feed you their last precious strawberry with their chubby little fingers, when they look up at you with those big, bright baby blues and sweetly say, “mama.” Just, mama. Raising a toddler is the hardest thing I have ever done, but it’s worth every tantrum and sleepless night.

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Preparing Marielle for her Little Brother

McCarthy_Maternity_Baby_Boy-61Marielle may only be 16 months old, but she’s definitely starting to get the idea that something big is about to happen to our family. And by big I also mean that at my appointment yesterday, baby boy is already over 7 pounds…Anywaaays….

We have scattered the baby things around the house so Marielle can explore them. The bassinet is out, the MamaRoo, the infant car seat and soft baby blankets. She has really taken to her infant car seat. At first she wanted to sit in it, but now she wants to put her own baby doll in it. She lovingly places baby in the car seat, “buckles” her in, and rocks her back and forth. Baby boy was given a brown Jelly Cat bunny (just like her pink one) that she has decided is hers for right now. This is good. At her age, it’s best that she doesn’t feel like there are things that only belong to the new baby. We frequently make trips into the baby’s nursery to look at his things, and explain to her that baby will be sleeping in this room. “Baaaaby?” She says, every time we go in there. She smiles. She is constantly giving “kissies” to my belly, and lovingly points at my belly.

We read books everyday about new babies and becoming a big sister. Although she has no idea what that concept means at her age, it makes me smile when she points out all the babies on the pages of the books. We’ve had our friends over who have new babies, and she is very interested in them. She stares at them, rocks them in their car seat and gives them her bunnies. I am thrilled she has exhibited such positive behavior towards little ones. I can only hope this stays the same when her brother arrives in a couple weeks.

I read in one of my books that it is important that daddy is the one holding the new baby when Marielle first meets him. This allows her to first come see and snuggle with mom and know that I am still here for her, and know that mama’s arms still belong to Marielle as well.

I have started putting together Marielle’s Big Sister hospital bag. This is a special bag that I have put together full of things to make her feel special when she comes to meet her brother at the hospital. Here is what is inside.

Personalized Canvas Bag – Pottery Barn Kids

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 9.55.52 AMBig Sister Shirt – Oh Baby!


You’re Getting a Little Brother! – Book

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Big Sister Photo Album – This soft photo album allows her to have photos of just her and her baby brother, hopefully starting that special brother sister bond. I put photos of her and the baby still in mama’s belly inside to start.

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Doodle Pro Drawing Tablet – To keep her busy at the hospital when she most likely loses interested in the new baby after a few minutes πŸ™‚

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V-Tech Little Apps Tablet –Β  Maybe she won’t want my cell phone anymore?? πŸ™‚ Wishful thinking.

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Snacks. Lots of snacks. Pouches and special treats to make her feel special especially when mommy has to feed the new baby. I’ll make her favorite banana blueberry muffins in a few days here, and freeze them so they are ready to pop into her bag when it’s time.

I know that because she is so young, this transition may be difficult for her. She may resort back to needing her paci during the day, needing extra love and attention, reverting back to wanting a bottle over a sippy cup and potentially refusing naps and bedtimes. This will all be temporary and we will need to be extra aware of her needs and feelings. I am keeping Marielle’s schedule as consistent as possible. We will still do our mommy and me classes together on Wednesdays, we will still have organized play dates so she can see her friends (and mommy can see her friends too!)Β  and she will still have her special one on one times with mommy and daddy and special outings with the grandparents.Β  Thank goodness for family πŸ™‚ Everyone has told me the first 3-6 months will be extremely difficult…so I’m prepared for that, but I look forward to watch the relationship between her and her brother grow over time.

Berry Oat Buttermilk Toddler Muffins

Berry Oat Buttermilk Toddler MuffinsI think we can all agree that the majority of muffins are essentially just cupcakes that are acceptable to eat in the morning. Although I don’t see what’s wrong with eating a cupcake in the morning…? πŸ™‚ There is the same amount of sugar in a muffin as as most cupcakes, minus the frosting. Although I’m fine feeding these to myself, I would rather my daughter not ingest that much sugar. Toddler muffins are made with limited ingredients and usually include lots of fruit as the sweetener. I have made a few recipes that Marielle has loved and my most recent one features strawberries. Now, if your toddler can’t eat strawberries, you can certainly use any berry you like! I just happen to have a whole container of strawberries that were pretty much out of season, so baking them brought out their juicy flavor. Most recipes for toddler muffins call for no sugar, or very little. The cinnamon banana muffins I call for 2 Tablespoons total and make 24 mini muffins and my berry oat buttermilk muffins call for 1/4 of a cup of sugar and make 48 mini muffins. You can alter this amount as much as you like. If the berries are already sweet, or you throw in a little banana to the mix, you may not need much at all. Here’s the thing…my daughter eats these “cookies” made with buckwheat and practically no sugar and you’d think they were Oreos with the way she puts them down! Most kids, especially toddlers, don’t notice the lack of sugar.

Oats are always a great way to add texture and nutrition. The make the muffin chewy and hearty. I recommend using buttermilk as a substitution for regular milk, but if you don’t have buttermilk, whole milk works great as well. If you really want to pack these full of nutrients, use whole wheat flour.
Berry Oat Buttermilk Toddler Muffins

Makes 48 mini muffins


  • 2 eggs, room temperature (quick tip: crack the eggs into a bowl while you prep the strawberries, they will warm up quicker)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • ΒΌ cup of vegetable oil
  • ΒΎ cup of buttermilk or whole milk
  • 2 cups of old fashioned oats (don’t use instant)
  • 1 cup of all purpose or whole wheat
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup of finely chopped strawberries or other berry of your choice. Raspberries and blueberries don’t need to be chopped.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray or use mini muffin liners
  2. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, sugar, oil and buttermilk and mix well to combine
  3. Add in the oats and mix
  4. Add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon (optional)
  5. Carefully fold in the chopped strawberries until just combined
  6. Fill each mini muffin well 3/4 of the way full
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the muffin bounces back up when pressed

You can freeze these muffins in an airtight container or freezer zip lock and take them out as you need. Perfect for breakfasts, snacks and play date treats!

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A Different Type of Pregnancy Brain

FullSizeRenderYesterday marked 28 weeks in my pregnancy and 12 weeks (more or less) until Baby Boy McCarthy makes his entrance into our family. When I saw on my pregnancy app that I had 12 weeks left, a little bit of panic set in and a string of thoughts entered my mind. It’s a different type of pregnancy brain and It goes a little something like this.

I can’t believe I only have 12 weeks left of just mommy and Marielle time. How is she going to handle this? How am I going to handle this? I’m never going to have 5 minutes to myself…will he be a good napper? Will Marielle still nap as well as she does now? Will they ever nap at the same time? What if he’s a fussy baby? We were so spoiled with Marielle. How can I make sure I am giving baby boy the one on one attention he deserves? Will I be able to take all the baby and me classes I took with Marielle? How will our play dates be different? Target runs are going to be a nightmare, I’m totally going to have to push two carts at once! I haven’t been good about taking my weekly pregnancy photos, I’m a bad mama already. How do I ensure Marielle is getting the attention she needs and deserves, and Brendan too? When will we ever have a date night again? I was just starting to get back into cooking every night…I can say goodbye to that one. I miss traveling. Maybe we’ll go next year. Maybe wait another year until the baby is 2. A 2 and 3 year old on the plane? I didn’t even want to take Marielle on a plane at age 1. Leave the kids with grandparents and go to Europe on our own? No, we agreed we’d travel as a family. Goodbye relaxed travel happily sipping my champagne, hello attempting to keep 2 kids quiet on a 9 hour plane ride with puffs flying through the air, sippy cups and snack traps rolling down the aisles and attempts at diaper changes in tiny airplane bathrooms…


I often have to stop myself from these trains of thought about the future and start thinking about the present. Think about how truly wonderful it’s going to be to hold my tiny baby in my arms, how excited I am for baby and me time during those middle of the night feedings when all is quiet and calm, just me and my son. How amazing it will be to watch Marielle take on the role of the older sister, giving kissies and hugs to her little brother. How wonderfully full our hearts will feel with our new addition. The joy I will feel when I watch Brendan with his new son. How lucky I am to have two beautiful children so close in age. There is plenty of time for sleeping, traveling, cooking and time for myself. I never really completely understood the meaning of taking advantage of the newborn stage, because it goes by so quickly and you’re so sleep deprived you just wish away the newborn stage so you can finally take a shower in peace and quiet.Β  Those words have so much more meaning now as I look at my 14 month old baby girl and remember what it was like to hold her when she was just under 7 pounds. It’s totally normal to have anxiety when in just a few short weeks our lives will change and we will have two under two. Of course, my biggest concern is Marielle and how her life will change, but I know that after those first couple months of no sleep, sporadic showers and take out dinner, we will settle into family life as a family of four and watch as our two babies grow up together.

Pure happiness.
Pure happiness.