Summer Vegetable “Burgers”

Every summer, I look forward to growing and buying farm fresh fruits and vegetables. You just can’t beat fresh peas, swiss chard, kale, zucchini, string beans and those sweet yummy tomatoes as well as many other delicious produce.

When you eat freshly picked produce you can taste the difference from out of season produce from your local supermarket. It’s the best time to get creative in the kitchen and eat it all up.

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Well, unfortunately this year, we have a tiny garden. There just wasn’t enough time to get it organized and put together this spring with our new little sweet Benny boy, but that’s ok, he is our priority right now as well as all of our fun summer activities. However, that doesn’t mean we aren’t getting any garden fresh produce around here. My parents have a huge garden so they are always kind to share with us plus all the yummy stuff we buy at our local farmers market.

Right now is the time for zucchini, cucumbers and string beans. Lots of zucchini! So, I always enjoy baking zucchini bread, muffins, cookies as well as cooking fried zucchini, zucchini frittata, risotto, pancakes and now these summer vegetable burgers. These “burgers” are awesome, made with shredded onions, carrots, zucchini and garlic. You can even add in there some fresh corn on the cob and protein packed quinoa. We love eating them with oven baked “french fries” on the side and without a bun. It’s healthier that way and you get to enjoy eating more of the actual “burger”. Vegetable burgers are so versatile, you can make them with any of your favorite vegetables or beans. We also have a favorite Black Bean Burger that we make here at home. It’s also very yummy.

Enjoy!

Welcome Benjamin!

I know, it’s been quite a while since my last post. It’s been very busy around here!

We have been enjoying our new little guy as well as the end of the school year activities, birthday celebrations, softball and tball games as well as many other summer fun with my kids. However, I didn’t want too much more time to pass without introducing our new little baby.

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It’s a BOY! As you all know, the gender of our new little baby was a surprise. We wanted to have that special moment when he/she was born and it gave me something to focus on why laying on that operating table. That and praying to our little Julian and God to watch over all of us and ensure all went well and it did. I know it’s common to hear, when asked, do you want a boy or girl that all you want is a healthy baby, but to be completely honest, that has a very deep meaning to us because that is really all that we wanted, a happy and healthy little baby.

I am so happy to announce that all went great with the surgery, even though there were many, many, many hiccups along the way, baby and mommy are healthy and doing well and for that I am extremely thankful!

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So, without another moment going by,  we are happy to introduce our new little baby boy, Benjamin Thomas Cerrato. He was born on May 14, 2014 at 6 lbs 13oz. and 20.5 inches. He’s a beautiful, sweet little baby and we are truly in love and feel very blessed. Here is a recent photo from this holiday weekend. He’s growing so quickly… now almost 7 weeks.

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Our new little addition to our family…. welcomed by his big sister, Lilliana and big brothers, Lucas and Julian.

Napkin Notes

Today, I listened to such an inspiring, heart warming story, that made me cry tears of both sadness, inspiration and gratitude.

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There is a father who has written notes on napkins every day for his daughter, Emma. It’s his beautiful way of connection with her, throughout all of these years. These notes bring her such joy and inspiration, and make her feel blessed and loved. Recently, her father has been diagnosed with cancer that does not react to chemotherapy, so they are just living their lives each day and hoping he has as much time with her as possible. His diagnosis doesn’t look optimistic, but he continues to live in the moment each day. He has written hundreds of napkin notes for his daughter, that will last her through all of the rest of her school years, in case he doesn’t survive.

Here is his story on USA Today.

This story is just so motivating to each of us, as there are so many struggles in life, so many hardships, yet we are faced with life each day. So, we have to try and enjoy each day we are living here on earth. As Rachael Ray said on today’s show, “Optimism is everything. If you are here to live, enjoy it and value it!”

I have to admit that I didn’t always “live in the moment” but after Julian’s passing, it really opened my eyes to the delicacy of life. Mike and I work every day, to remind our children and ourselves, that life is truly a blessing and we should try to live it and enjoy it the best way we can. It’s easy to get caught up in life’s downs, health issues, bad days, traffic, arguments with family or friends etc, and it’s ok to say “this really sucks”, but as long as in the end, we pick ourselves back up and say, “well, it is what it is, so let me make the best of it” and just try to look at the positive, happy things in our life. We have to keep in mind, that we are the drivers of our own happiness. If we allow our unhappy, sad, angry, bitter feelings to take over our life, then we are allowing ourselves to be unhappy. We can make a difference in our own life. It’s in our hands. 

So, tomorrow when you wake up, smile and say Good Morning to your family, friends, co-workers. Whatever life brings you tomorrow, know that at the end of the day, you can choose to push through that, and to be happy.

Blessing #4

We have some big news to share with you… Michael, Lilliana, Lucas, Julian and I are welcoming a new addition to our family, a new sweet little baby. We are so very excited and anticipating his/her arrival sometime in Mid-May.

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Our family has been through such a terrible tragedy with the loss of our Julian, a little over three years ago. It has been a rough road, but we have pulled it together, as a family, and we continue to show each other our endless love and gratitude. Life is quite a journey, some days are filled with so much hope and happiness and others with sadness and confusion, but we continue to live our life, together as a family, trying to enjoy each day together.

Now, we have this new little baby on the way, and it has brought us so much joy. We welcome this baby with our love and gratitude and know that he/she is a true blessing to us.

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I have finished putting together Lilliana, Lucas and Julian’s scrapbook and am so happy to be able to share these with the new baby. I believe this baby has also been touched by his/her big brother, Julian. I can feel it. We couldn’t have gotten to this place without Julian’s love all around us. Even though he is not here physically, it’s so nice to know he is living here with us in true spirit.

Of course, it isn’t always easy, there are days of doubt, worry and concern, but that is expected. Our family works hard to remind each other of all of our blessings in life and to enjoy and savor these special moments. There was a day when I was worried about the health of the baby and Lilliana knew that and wrote me a special note and included Julian’s picture on there. That meant so much to me. My children and my husband, my family means so much to me. Without their love and support, we couldn’t make it to today, but we did and for that, I am most thankful.

Our new Baby Cerrato will be here in about 11 weeks, right in the middle of my favorite season, Spring, and right after my birthday and our anniversary. It’s a special time of the year and will be even more special with his/her arrival.

Jalapeno Popper Dip

As we all know, today is Superbowl Sunday. I don’t know about you, but football isn’t my thing, but eating tons of snacks and drinks IS my thing!

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I made this Jalapeno Popper Dip, as a special treat for my husband who loves Jalapeno Poppers, as one of tonight’s tasty treats. It is so creamy and packed with tons of cheese and the crunchy topping from the Panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese is delicious. Plus, it’s definitely got a little kick from the jalapeno peppers. If you like it even spicier, you can always add a chili pepper to this dip too.

Enjoy!

Julian: three years ago

On November 8, 2010, we welcomed our little sweet, beautiful Julian. He was born via c-section and when the doctor retrieved him from inside my belly, she lifted him up to me and said, “here’s your miracle baby” and she was right.

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When I was pregnant with Julian, I had some complications that required me to visit the antenatal unit at Bridgeport Hospital every week, for an ultrasound. They had to keep a close eye on him. Once we approached the end of my third trimester, the doctors, family and I were all jumping for joy that he was doing great and going to be born soon. It seems that my body’s complications didn’t interfere with his growth at all and I was so relieved. So, when he was born, we were beyond excited that he was finally here.

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Unfortunately, that relief and happiness was cut very, very, short. Within a few minutes of his birth, the doctors rushed him over to the NICU. We were shocked and didn’t understand what was happening, since he seemed to be fine via every single ultrasound. Since Lilliana, our first born, was born prematurely, at 34 weeks, and had to spend a week in the NICU for assistance with breathing, we weren’t too concerned. However, Julian was born on time and weighed 6 lbs 11oz. so it didn’t make much sense.

Julian loved his co-sleeper but not as much as he loved sleeping with his mommy and daddy

Julian loved his co-sleeper but not as much as he loved sleeping with his mommy and daddy

Well, at that time we didn’t know he had SMA, we only found that out a couple days after Christmas. With his illness, his health was quickly dissipating and he should have gotten progressively worse as soon as he was born. But here is the miracle part. He actually got better after a couple weeks in the NICU, he was breathing on this own and feeding from my breast and bottle. It was our perseverance and our deep, deep desire to go home and be together as a family, and our love for each other, that made him succeed through those first two weeks. He was a fighter!!! and he wanted to go home with Mommy, Daddy and his brother and sister.

My "mothers day" with Julian... just a couple days after he was born

My “mothers day” with Julian… just a couple days after he was born

Even though, he suffered through many, many more tragic episodes during our stay at home, we were able to have him home with us for several weeks, especially to celebrate Christmas together. I was able to hold him on Christmas morning, cuddling with him as his brother and sister opened gifts. It was such a beautiful morning and I will never, ever forget it. It was such a blessing and so very special to have such an amazing baby, soul, spirit with us during such a beautiful, time. To this day, I believe with my whole heart, that Julian was our special Christmas miracle.

The proud Lilliana, holding her beautiful, sweet baby brother, Julian

The proud Lilliana, holding her beautiful, sweet baby brother, Julian

Cutie pie Lucas being the big brother for the first time!

Cutie pie Lucas being the big brother for the first time!

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Even though he was here for such a very short time, he made such an impact on our entire world and to this day, we all talk about him and love him every single day. He’s still our son, brother grandson, nephew and cousin. His spirit continues to live with us (but I really do miss holding him and kissing his sweet baby face).

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So, today we celebrate and honor his 3rd Birthday. Happy Birthday to our sweet, baby Julian.

Mommy and Daddy love you and that is forever!

Mommy and Daddy love you and that is forever!

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Our home garden is coming to an end. This year, we didn’t plant any pumpkins so all we have left now are some green peppers. The other day, I found a large zucchini hanging out there too so today I made these Chocolate Zucchini Muffins, yum!

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These muffins are the perfect afternoon snack. They hit the right spot with the perfect amount of sweetness layered with a deep chocolate flavor. Plus, they are so moist from the addition of Greek yogurt, which I have been adding to all my baked goods for years now. It’s the secret ingredient to making the most moist baked goods, trust me!

So, bake some up today and not only will your house smell fabulous but your whole body will enjoy eating these sweet babies.