Saturday, January 13, 2018

Lessons from a 5-year old

I have always said I get the best of both worlds being a teacher. I am essentially a stay-at-home mom in the summer, and a working mom during the school year. Is one harder or better? Definitely not. They are both challenging in their own rights and whatever choice women make is best for them and their family and not to the judged as it is not your life. Do I prefer one over the other? Definitely. I can say from staying at home much of the last year that it is not for me. I really like working and I feel that I am a better mother when I am. I think that time out of the house and organization of time it takes to balance the mom/work/fitness/wife chaos is more my style and makes me feel like "me." Spending this past summer home with Charlie I tried to really be present and appreciate my time with her- it was already different than expected because I was still pregnant. I had expected to have a baby in April and then roll into summer with Charlie. After our loss, that plan changed, and so did my expectation of summer- I didn't want to be busy like we were the summer before running from camps to sports, etc. I just wanted to enjoy my last summer with her as my only child. It is amazing the innocence, observatory nature, and honesty that children have and I will be so sad when that is ruined by life.

As school started, we got back into the hustle and bustle of life and three weeks after I went to work we brought a new bundle of joy home. So here I am again, a stay-at-home mom to an infant and a kindergartner. As I sit up at night feeding Mila I have some time to reflect. Looking back on my time with Charlie this summer, I realized I learned so much from my independent, smart, 5-year-old. Things I wanted to take into my future as a mother of two now, especially after I will be coming home stressed from work and exhausted from having an infant in the near future.

Right now I have to drive 30 minutes+ each way, twice a day, to take Charlie to school because I am home on maternity leave and I school-of-choice her to the district where I work. If we leave even a few minutes late we are stuck in horrendous traffic. I have an one month old baby screaming at me, usually, and there we are, stop-and-go all the way to school sometimes taking over an hour one way.
I think one of the most frustrating things I have experienced as a parent is trying to get out the door in the morning. Between getting Charlie out of bed at 5:45am to breakfast, getting dressed, hair done, and putting shoes on, while also getting a baby nursed and into the car, when I am exhausted from no sleep at night is a lot. My oldest child, like many others, has absolutely no hustle, literally none. I feel like we are always running late to get to work/school and being late is a pet peeve. I end up raising my voice and losing my temper trying to motivate her to get moving and once we are finally in the car I feel bad about how we left the house.

My ah-ha moment started when we were heading to school. On this particular day we were stuck in awful traffic, we were actually going to be late to school, and she made the comment I make so many times, 'I wish we lived in Rochester,' which is where her school is. I turned around and snapped at her that I wish we did too but we can't move right now, blah blah blah and the look on her face broke my heart. Her eyes got big as she was startled at the volume and tone of my voice and I could see the tears welling up in her eyes. That's when it hit me, I am blaming a child for us running late when I won't see her all day, and she likes being with me on the drive and innocently wants be a part of a conversation. I apologized and told her I loved her and she of course forgave me, but that was the moment I realized our joyous summer was taking a bad turn and I need to take a step back and appreciate my little girl and what she is innocently teaching me...

My behavior is reflected in her, whether that is good or bad. I love when she mimics me working out and that part of what I am teaching her by example is how to lead a healthy life and be a physically and mentally strong woman. However, I don't appreciate when she gets a tone with me. But where did that come from? Me. She honestly sounds exactly like me. The tone she has when I don't understand something right away is the same tone I have when I am sick of repeating or explaining myself. I shouldn't talk to her in a disrespectful way or raise my voice, regardless of if I am the parent. I have made a conscious effort to communicate with her the way I do with Matt, my husband. I don't use a tone or raise my voice with him when I am frustrated, annoyed, stressed, mad, etc. so I really shouldn't with her. It doesn't accomplish anything and creates a situation where I am correcting a behavior that I created.

I need to slow down and take a breath. Case-in-point, our walks with Annie (the dog) and Mila. Our walks together are more like stop-and-go traffic because we look at everything and play at every park in the neighborhood I need to take a deep breath and relax. It's ok that we don't "just walk" on our walk. She is enjoying spending time with me and exploring things about nature and playing. It won't be long before she doesn't want to walk with me and tell me about her day. When we are trying to rush out the door in the morning- slow down. It's ok, we are almost never actually late and it's really not a big deal in the grand scheme of life. That's not how I want to start my day or how I want her heading off to school- stressed.

I need to remember children are innocent and it is my job not to ruin that, there is plenty of time to be a grown up. This is particularly apparent with Charlie's father. She did not ask to be in the situation where I am not with her dad and she now changes houses all alone at age five. Although she doesn't know any different, it still takes a lot of maturity, adaptability and confidence on her part. As much as I want to say, "I don't care if that is allowed at his house it's not allowed here..." sometimes when she does something I don't like, I need to remember she is the navigating two homes with two different rules and two very different families and it is not something I should get upset with, or put on her. I can correct the behavior without criticizing the other household. She is allowed to love her dad even if I cannot stand him. She needs to feel loved and not yanked in two different directions trying to please people.

Do what you love and who cares what people think. Children are amazing at this. They dance and sing and wear what they want, they're happy and they like it. I can't tell you how many times Charlie has come downstairs all dressed up in something I would never pick out and I ask, "is that really what you are wearing today?" and she very happily says yes. Why at some point do we stop doing this? Why do we suddenly stop doing what we like because we are afraid of the judgement of others? I am guessing because middle school girls are mean :) But seriously, I need to remember it's okay to be confident in doing what makes me happy- like my Charlie dancing to Lady Gaga in her finest dress in the living room.

The more she grows the more I appreciate what a wonderful, smart, funny, loving child she is. Thank you for teaching me what's important in life my Charlie-girl.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Pumpkin Pie Granola

Thanksgiving time is over and we are quickly moving into the winter holidays. Yay! I love this time of year! One thing I don't love? Food waste. Hate it. So after thanksgiving I had partial cans of pumpkin puree leftover and I know that they are not expensive, but its the principle... what to do with partial pumpkin? I made Against All Grain's pumpkin spice latte and then decided to make some granola with the remaining little bit... turns out it is so delicious and I couldn't stop snacking on it! I ate it plain, ate it with yogurt, milk... pretty much every time I walked into the kitchen. Bonus! It makes your house smell good :) 

Pumpkin Pie Granola

- 1/3 Cup Pumpkin Puree
- 2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
- ¼ Cup Maple Syrup
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- 3 Cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
- ¼ Cup Ground Flaxseed
- 2 Tbsp Chia Seeds
- ½ Cup Pecan Halves or Pieces
- ¼ Cup Mini Chocolate Chips
- Pinch of Salt

Preheat Oven to 300 Degrees
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, pie spice, syrup and vanilla. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until everything is coated.
2. Spread the mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using another small piece of parchment, push down on the granola making a flat and even layer - the more together it is now the better the granola “chunks” will turn out.
3. Bake for 40 minutes. Do not stir or flip or do anything during this time aside from rotating the pan if necessary. Let the granola cool completely (about 30 min) before breaking it apart into large pieces, or whatever size you want. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Homemade Holiday Coffee Creamers

It is common on social media to be inundated with people who post pictures of their children- like 5 pictures of them doing the same thing every day- and for others to unfollow said people. It's honestly too much. We get it, you love your child more than anything ever, going to work everyday is the worst thing ever, and your child is the first one ever to ever do anything and we need 1343432 pictures of it. (I'm being sarcastic and dramatic with that statement, kind of) Maybe it's just me, but it used to bother me that I didn't feel that way, almost a guilt that I didn't mind, and almost looked forward to, going back to work or needing time away from my children. Over time I have come to realize that a) social media provides a false sense of reality and b) motherhood looks different for different people. I have not shied away from the fact that being a mother does not complete or consume my life. Don't get me wrong, I love my children more than I can explain so it is complicated, but when they were born my world didn't stop with all-consuming love that made me change who I am. My friends, family, husband, job and working out are also part of my balance that completes me.
My entire pregnancy I was grateful she was doing well and healthy, but it is the beginning of becoming more selfless because your body is not yours- you can't do or eat or drink like you used to because there is another life to think about. Therefore by the end, I was looking forward to feeling like "me" again. When I had Mila I was excited to finally have my body back and enjoy a glass of wine and workout like I want. I was wrong in my thinking. Since I am nursing I can't be away from her for more than an hour because sometimes she eats that frequently- so she is always with me- no alone time. I am up all night, exhausted and limited on time when I workout, and have to be careful what I eat and drink still. That glass of wine I wanted so desperately when I was pregnant? Yes, I can have it now, but the cruel thing is that you're not supposed to have a lot and a glass, or two, of wine makes being up in the night more miserable. Well played life. Is formula an option? Absolutely. I think, despite the immense pressure on women to breastfeed, fed is best. But I told myself that if it went well this time I would stick with it. Nursing, the supposed most natural thing, is so not natural for me. It is going so much better this time versus Charlie, but I am not going to lie, I hate it. You will never see me post a picture of myself breastfeeding (which, by the way, will probably horrify said pictured children in the future) and those pictures almost made me not want to nurse- ask my sister, she feels the same. But I am going on week 8 and am currently pumping and nursing to build up a frozen supply when I go back to work- so exhausting! Not only am I hungry all the time, but I feel like it consumes my life.

Since I am sleep deprived and hungry, I am dying for two things- caffeine and sugar. I don't have a sweet tooth and I have no idea what is happening, but suddenly somebody who never used to eat a cookie, and drank her coffee black, is ordering the most sugary drink on the Starbucks menu daily and baking five dozen cookies a week. Not good. I figure the caffeine thing is not going to stop as long as I am not sleeping at night and the spending money at Starbucks can be alleviated slightly if I can make this fun drinks at home. So I give you some of the creamers I have made. Use as little or as much as you want! If you put them in the blender with coffee you get a lovely foam :) 

Mocha Mint Creamer

(makes about 2 Cups)

- 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Water
- 1 tsp Mint Extract (or oil)
- 1 tsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla
- 1 1/2 Cups Whole Milk (or half and half)

In a small sauce pan, or in the microwave, heat the sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cocoa powder and stir while it is still warm to avoid clumps. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Keep in a sealed container or, like me, in a small mason jar. Shake before using.

Salted Carmel Creamer

- 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Water
- 1/8 tsp Sea Salt
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla
- 1 1/2 Cups Whole Milk (or half and half)

In a small sauce pan, or in the microwave, heat the sugar, salt and water until the sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla and milk. Keep in a sealed container or, like me, in a small mason jar. Shake before using.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Wake-Me-Up! Protein Shake

Good Morning! 
It is crazy how much you forget about babies! I am still adjusting to getting up every 1-2 hours in the night to nurse, then I get up before 6am to drop off Charlie at school in the morning, pump so I have milk for when I stop nursing, and attempt to make it to the gym or workout at home, all while keeping a newborn happy. Phew! It has been discovered that my typical egg and potatoes will not be happening for me right now, therefore I am looking for alternative options that combine my coffee need with my need for food and my lack of time. So here it is! My "wake-me-up" protein shake combining protein, carbs, and coffee... perfect to make, store in the fridge, and drink on the go so I can do everything that needs to be done for my two girls and me in the gym all before 9am.  

It is made with a few ingredients to help my milk supply because I am nursing and pumping extra for later- brewer's yeast and ground flax seed- but neither will hurt if you aren't nursing, obviously :) and both are great for someone working out! I know there is a warning against drinking too much caffeine while nursing, but I also need to function so oh well. I have been making this as my afternoon "pick me up" but it is also great made the night before and is ready to grab in the morning. 

Wake-Me-Up Protein Shake 

- 3/4 Cup Room-temp or Cold Coffee (preferably strong)
- 1/4 Cup Milk 
- 1 Scoop Protein Powder (I use a Whey Chocolate)
- 1/2 Very Ripe Banana (frozen preferably)
- 1/4 Cup Rolled Oats
- 1 Tbsp Peanut or Nut Butter
- 1 tsp De-bittered Brewer's Yeast*
- 1 tsp Ground Flaxseed*
- 1 tsp Chia Seeds*

*Optional* but nutritious! 

Put everything in a high-powered blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy right away or keep in the fridge until morning! 
Nutrition Facts
Servings 1.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 449
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 14 g21 %
Saturated Fat 3 g15 %
Monounsaturated Fat 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 5 mg2 %
Sodium 308 mg13 %
Potassium 461 mg13 %
Total Carbohydrate 42 g14 %
Dietary Fiber 8 g32 %
Sugars 13 g
Protein 42 g84 %
Vitamin A3 %
Vitamin C10 %
Calcium22 %
Iron14 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Apple Recipes! Fall Skillet, Dutch Apple Pie, Amish Oatmeal

We went on our annual apple picking trip last week, Mila in tow in her carrier only 3.5 weeks old, and came back with a bushel of apples... that's $45 worth of apples...eek! So what does one do with over 100 apples?? 

I gave some to my mom, everyone in my family eats one every day, and I tried my hand at some savory and sweet recipes. All were hits with the family- yay!

Fall Skillet

This recipe smelled like Thanksgiving and looked like Fall... the ingredients are in season for the most part and it was heaven in a bowl on this perfect, sunny, 60 degree day. When you are prepping, try to cut everything the same size so it cooks evenly. 

- 3 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 Medium, Sweet Potatoes, Peeled and cut into 1/2"-3/4" pieces
- 3/4-1lb Brussel Sprouts, bottom cut off and quartered
- 3 Apples, Peeled and Diced (I used Honey Crisp)
- 1/2 lb Bacon (5-6 pieces)
- 2 tsp Fresh Thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
- 1 Cup Chicken Stock (divided)
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- Salt and Pepper
- Garlic Powder*
- Onion Powder*

*You could use a small sweet onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic instead. Since I am nursing I can't eat those, so I use powders- Mila says no*

1. In a large cast iron skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove from the skillet and chop into 1/2" pieces. Drain all but about 1 tablespoon of grease.
2. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the chicken, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until cooked through, stirring frequently. About 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet. 
3. Add the brussel sprouts and sweet potato. Cook, stirring constantly, from about 10 minutes until they are cooked through and have 'char marks.'
4. Add the thyme, cinnamon, apples, 1/2 cup chicken stock, a sprinkle of garlic powder and onion powder. Cook until the liquid is evaporated and the bits come off the bottom of the pan. About 2 minutes. 
5. Add the bacon and chicken back in along with the remaining 1/2 cup stock. Taste for seasoning. Enjoy! 

Dutch Apple Pie

- 4-5 Apples, Peeled and Thinly Sliced (about 5+ cups)
- 1 Pre-made Pie Crust
- 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1/3 Cup Sugar
- 1/3 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/4 Cup Flour
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- Pinch of Nutmeg
- Pinch of Salt

- 3/4 Cup Flour
- 1/4 Cup Sugar
- 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/4 Cup Butter, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 375 Degrees

1. Mix the apples and pie ingredients together in a large bowl. Set Aside. Press the pie crust into an ungreased pie plate. Pour in the apples. 
2. In another bowl, mix the topping ingredients using a pastry cutter or fork to cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly onto the top of the pie.

Bake for 45-50 minutes. Until Bubbly.  

Amish Oatmeal

Unlike my other baked oatmeal recipe, this one includes eggs and chunkier pieces of apple. It still can be made ahead. I like it cold with milk, like cereal. 

- 1.5 Cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats (not quick-cooking)
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- Pinch of Salt
- Pinch of Nutmeg
- 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1 1/4 Cup Milk
- 1 Egg
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla
- 2 Tbsp Butter, melted
- 2 Apples, peeled, cored and diced into small pieces

Preheat Oven to 325 Degrees

1. Grease a 8x8 inch baking dish. Add the apples to the bottom.
2. In a bowl, mix the oatmeal, baking powder, spices and sugar. Whisk the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl (I use my measuring cup.) Stir the wet ingredients into the dry. Pour over the apples.
3. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden and slightly giggly. 
*If you are making this ahead and baking it into the morning, store it in the fridge overnight and it will need to cook about 10 minutes longer.*

Monday, October 9, 2017

Frozen Meal Prep!

It has been a long time since I posted... going back to work and then having an infant will do that, right? But before I went back to work I took some time to get some meals ready for when this time came. It is not that I am opposed having people help, I just like to do things on my own, because I can and it's a challenge... ok, I can't lie, I am opposed to asking for help, I am my Mother's child. So I spent two hours and $200 on a Sunday, without children or husband, to prepare 13 meals that can be stored in the freezer until I am ready. It is actually a great idea to do whenever you are making a pasta dish, or crockpot meal... make two and freeze one! Crockpot meals are the best because you literally have to thaw the bag and dump it in. So easy to make two like that.

 In preparation I made a big list of what I needed and divided it into Costco and the regular store. Costco is so much cheaper for buying meat in bulk... and anything I didn't use can also be frozen until it's needed. 

Hints to Successful Frozen Prep

Make a detailed grocery list and write out what you are making ahead of time
-  Double Bag Everything- Each recipe is double bagged in two freezer bags just in case of leaks
- Write the directions and what the bag contains or needs on the bag
- Thaw overnight
- Get as much air out of the bag as possible when prepping 

So here's what I made...

Spaghetti Sauce- 

This I freeze in mason jars that are easy to pull out when it's spaghetti night. I eye-ball the sauce recipe and taste as I go, sometimes using one 28 oz can of tomato and a 15 oz can, depending on the thickness of the sauce I want... but the basic recipe is:
- 1 lb Beef
- 1 lb Pork
- 1 Sweet Onion, finely chopped
- 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 2 28-oz Cans Crushed Tomatoes
- 1 Small Can tomato paste
- 2-3 tsp Italian Seasoning
- Salt and Pepper
- Sprinkle of Sugar

Lasagna x 2-

To make two of these you will need to double the recipe below.

Sauce, from above
No-boil Noodles 
- 12ish Oz Part Skim Ricotta
- 10-oz Frozen, Chopped Spinach, thawed and squeezed
- 1 Egg
- Parmesean Cheese
- Mozzarella Cheese

Mix the ricotta, spinach, egg and a sprinkle of parm together. 

Start with a layer of sauce in a 13x9" dish (I use the disposable, aluminum kind for freezer prep) Add a layer of noodles, top with 1/2 the ricotta mixture, top with 1/3 sauce, more noodles, the rest of the ricotta, 1/3 sauce, more noodles, rest of the sauce, top with mozzarella. Cover with tin foil and freeze.

When you are ready to eat, defrost over night or during the day in the fridge. Bake, covered, at 375 degrees for 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes until the top is bubbly. 

Chicken Meatball Casserole x 2

Recipe is for two 13x9" pans. 15 Meatballs in each. 

- 2 24-oz Jars Marinara Sauce
- 2 lbs Dried Pasta, rotini, ziti, whatever you like
- 2 lbs Ground Chicken
- 2 Egg
- 1/2 Cup Milk
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 Cups Bread Crumbs
- 1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
- 2 tsp Italian Seasoning
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
- 4 Cups Mozzarella Cheese

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 

In a large bowl, combine the chicken through pepper. Using a spoon or a cookie scoop, form the meatballs. About 1-1.5". Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. 

While the meatballs are cooking, cook the pasta according to the directions, cutting it short about 1 minute.

Combine the sauce, the noodles and 2 cups of cheese. Spray two 13x9" pans, add half the noodle mixture to each. Top of the rest of the cheese and nestle the meatballs (15 in each) on top. Cover with foil and freeze.

When you are ready to eat, thaw during the day or overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until the top is bubbly and it's heated through. 

Flank Steak x 2- 

it is in it's marinade minus the beer.... recipe HERE

Beef Stew x 2-  

I don't measure this... I just eyeball what looks about right... I try to get equal parts of carrot/beef/potato. I don't put any liquid in because there is enough liquid formed in the cooking process.  

2ish lbs Stew Beef
Flour, about 1/4 cup
Carrots, peeled and sliced in 1/2" pieces
Yukon Gold Potatoes, cut in quarters 
Garlic Salt, heavy sprinkle
Black Pepper, heavy sprinkle
Thyme or Rosemary (fresh if you have it!)

Chicken Pot Pie x 2

Double this if you want to make two...

- 1-2 Chicken Breasts, cooked and shredded (about 1.5lbs)
- 2 Carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 Small Onion, chopped
- 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1/3 Cup Butter
- 1/3 Cup Flour
- 1/2 tsp Fresh Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Dried Thyme 
- 1 3/4 Chicken Stock
- 2/3 Cup Milk
- 1 Cup Frozen Peas
- Salt to taste
- 1 -  9" Unbaked Pie Crusts (use two if you like a "top" and a "bottom" in our house we leave it top-less)

 1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion and garlic. Saute until tender (about 5 minutes.) Add the flour and whisk. 

2. Slowly add the stock while whisking to prevent clumps. Add the milk and whisk the same as before. Add the black pepper and thyme. Bring to a boil and whisk until it thickens, this should only be a matter of minutes. Taste for salt. Turn off the heat, stir in the chicken and peas. Set aside to cool. 
Preheat oven to 425 Degrees. 
3. Press one of the pie crusts into an ungreased pie pan. Pour in the filling. 
Bake 30 minutes until bubbly and golden brown. 
(if you want to freeze this and bake it later, just don't bake it, put it in the freezer as an unbaked "pie" )

Crockpot Verde Chicken Chili

Recipe HERE

Thai Pineapple Curry

Recipe HERE