Friday, August 24, 2018

Bread Making 101

If you are public on social media it is not uncommon for trolls to come out... reminds me of the bullies I see in the high school I teach in. It is so much easier now to be mean because you are hiding behind a computer. I have also noticed an increase of tantrums when people don't get their way and forgetting that freedom of speech does not mean there are not ramifications for what you say. The anonymity of the internet seems to make people think they can say whatever they want no matter how rude or uncalled for. So from the guy who recently told me that I am too thin and need to eat a hamburger (?? ummm I didn't ask for your opinion on how I look, I do eat them and thanks for missing the point of my post) someone else said something to me the other day that I found fairly rude. 

She was trying to get me to join her "team" of beach body coaches and said since I post about fitness anyway (but don't and never will do beach body) and I should make money off the people I motivate and the money I could make could help me leave my job and then I wouldn't have to leave my child every day in daycare for someone else to raise. First of all I don't need a monetary award for inspiring people, it is not my intent in the first place... second, I like my job, I don't want to quit.... and third, I think daycare is good for my children. They are socialized, taught, and loved there, but know damn well I am their mother and no one is "raising" my kids for me. They are just being raised in a way that is different than if I were at home, which I think is better for all of us and works for my family. Charlie is social, loving, confident, independent, and smart... and she progressed from daycare to school without issue and I love the child she is today so I don't I raised her poorly by being at work 10 months of the year and I assume the same will be true for Mila. Go back to your hole trolls.

On to the positives! This summer I have gotten really into two things... 1) growing "sprouts" or microgreens with Charlie and 2) Bread making. I had no idea it was actually quite easy and the only issue is the time it takes. I have been making around 2 loaves a week for over a month now, along with other things like pita bread, and so I thought I would share my favorites!

I read so many blogs and websites trying to find the best method for bread making without kneading forever. I also didn't want to let the bread rise overnight because that's honestly annoying. So I came up with my own recipe using fast-active yeast so that the bread doesn't need a second time to rise, and it can be ready in under 2 hours... don't worry, most of that time is waiting :)

Fast No-Knead Crusty Bread

This dense and crusty bread is a favorite of Charlie's with homemade tomato soup... I highly recommend Cookie and Kate's version, found on her blog or in her cookbook "Eat Real Food." 
*If you would like it less dense, use more all-purpose flour and less whole wheat. 

- 2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
- 1 Cup All-purpose Flour
- 1 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1-2 tsp Honey, or Sugar, or Maple Syrup
- 2 1/4 tsp Dry Fast-Acting Yeast (one packet)
- 1 1/2 Cups Warm Water (heated to 120 degrees, I do this by feel- it should be really warm but not "hot" because you don't want to kill the yeast)
- Olive Oil

1. Add the honey and yeast to the warm water and set it aside. Whisk the flours and salt. 
2. Add the water mixture to the flour and stir gently until a dough starts to come together. If it is too sticky add a bit more flour. Once it become dough-like I use my hands and knead it lightly just until a ball is formed- kind of sticky is ok! 
3. Drizzle olive oil around the bowl and roll the dough in it so it doesn't stick to the sides as it rises. Cover with a tea towel and set it aside for about an hour until it doubles in size. 


*After 30 min*
Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees and place your dutch oven inside while it is heating. 


*After another 30 min*
Carefully dump the dough onto a lightly floured piece of parchment. Take the dutch oven out of the oven and lift the parchment (with dough on it) carefully and place inside the dutch oven. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 10-15 minutes. 


Notes- I have added a quarter cup of oats to this bread and that was also yummy! 

Keep the bread in a bread box, or plastic (unsealed bag)- remember there is not nearly as long of a shelf life for homemade bread and you don't want it to get moldy! 

Due to the texture this bread is much better toasted... I have a different recipe I use for sandwich bread! 



We have also made pita bread using this recipe- 


https://www.melskitchencafe.com/homemade-pita-bread/

So good with tandoori chicken!

And our go-to sandwich bread is here- 


https://smittenkitchen.com/2015/09/oat-and-wheat-sandwich-bread/


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Pesto!

Charlie is gone for her second week with her dad for the summer. Sad face. As many times as I have been without her it really never gets easier. As a stay-at-home mom in the summer, I need a break sometimes, not because it is hard or I hate it, just because being at home with children is relentless... but I need like 20 minutes, not a day or an hour or a week. I feel like Charlie being gone so much is the reason I have never spent the night away from Mila yet, and she's almost 10 months old! I am trying to look at the positive of the situation, and as a parent, you never stop worrying about your child, but I am hoping this will make her a resilient, adaptable, and independent person. I know it is harder on her to toggle back and forth with different beds, homes, rules, diets, etc., but at least she doesn't know any different, she's loved both places and being with two families means she is taking a lot of vacations! This summer has already felt chaotic with her gone so much. I signed her up for farm camp the week we got out of school not knowing she was going to be with her dad basically the next three weeks due to the Fourth of July holiday. But staying positive- she absolutely loved camp! Milking cows, gathering chicken eggs, swimming in a lake, riding horses... it was so much fun to see how happy she was every day when I picked her up. Full of things to tell me and so filthy- signs of a great childhood day!

With summer in full swing I try to use as much out of my garden as I can. Even if you don't have a large spot, herbs are easily grown in a pot. This year I am growing a plethora- peppers, basil, rosemary, cilantro, egg plant, squash, yellow beans, pumpkins, strawberries carrots, blueberries and tomatoes. My gardens are not big enough to negate me shopping for most produce, but they are fun to maintain and Charlie and I enjoy caring for the plants and pickings things as the ripen. It's our thing and I want to teach her that food doesn't come for a box- not to mention, fresh foods are always SO much tastier. 



When she leaves she always draws me a picture on our big window and makes me promise I will care for our plants and dog and fish and tortoises. She is also helping me grow broccoli sprouts so stay tuned for those!!


Herbs are one of the things in my garden that I tend to have too much of.... those and tomatoes!... so I am trying to come up with new ways to use them and taking advantage of having fresh herbs. I know I can freeze my basil, but it just isn't the same. 


Pesto is delicious and aside from using it in its typical ways I was trying to be creative... enter Pesto Meatballs! I make the pesto a little differently here, because of the fat content of the beef, I don't add olive oil to the pesto itself. These can be served alone, with pasta or zucchini noodles and a bit more pesto and cheese, and freeze wonderfully so you can make a big batch and save more for the future.


Pesto Meatballs

Makes 24-30 meatballs

- 2lbs Lean Ground Beef
- 2-3 Cups Loosely Packed Basil
- 2 Garlic Cloves
- Juice from 1/2 Lemon
- Salt and Pepper
- 1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan (optional)
- 1/2 Cup Bread Crumbs
- 2 Eggs

1. In a food processor, pulse the basil, garlic, lemon and a sprinkle of salt and pepper (and cheese if using) until well a combined "pesto" is formed.
2. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, including your pesto. Using your hands, mix well, but don't over mix!

- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees-


3. I use a tablespoon, but feel free to eye-ball, and start rolling your meatballs into a size a little smaller than a golf ball. Place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until they are firm to the touch and starting to brown on the top. Serve immediately, or let them cool completely and freeze....enjoy! 



July 7th just passed and every year I am reminded of a special day... my close friend and cousin, Emily, went into labor with her Charlie and I was there for the big day! The day is special to me not only to witness something as incredible as childbirth, but because it made me want my own baby and 10 months after her Charlie was born... my Charlie was born! While I was staying with her waiting for baby we were coming up with creative ways to use her basil growing wildly on her front porch... and viola! This most fabulous pizza was created! I have posted about it before, but I thought it deserved a re-post! Matt and I have been grilling pizzas and this one has been making a regular appearance since summer and fresh basil came into our backyard. 

Sun dried Tomato-Pesto-Chicken Pizza

Pizza Dough- homemade or store bought... 

It really is easy to make your own dough... try it! This recipe makes 3 pizzas based on the size of my pizza stone (about 12" in diameter)

- 2 Cups Warm Water
- 4 1/2 tsp (two packets) Fast Active Dry Yeast
- 2 tsp Honey
- 2 Cups All-purpose Flour
- 2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour (or more all-purpose)
- 2 tsp Salt
- Olive Oil

1. In a small bowl (or your measuring cup) add the yeast and honey to the warm water. Let it sit while you get your dry ingredients together. 
2. In a large bowl, whisk your flours and salt. Pour in the yeast water and mix with a spatula and then eventually your hands. The dough will be slightly sticky, but if it is too sticky add a bit more flour 1/4 cup at a time. 
3. You can either leave it as it is and separate it later, or separate the dough into three "balls" in three separate bowls now. Drizzle a tablespoon of oil over each ball (or just 2-3 tbsp in the big bowl if you kept it as one) and roll the dough in it so the outside is covered. Cover the bowls with a tea towel and let sit for 1 hour, or less, until the dough has doubled in size. Dump it onto a floured surface and roll it out to your desired thickness and size. 


Basil Pesto- 

  • 3 cups Loosely Packed Basil
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • ¼ cups Pine Nuts
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons Black Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese

Pesto:In a food processor, combine the remaining olive oil, basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt and pepper. Pulse until the pesto is your desired consistency, adding more water or olive oil if needed.

Toppings-

- 1-2 Cups Cooked shredded chicken 
- 1 Cup Sun dried Tomatoes, chopped
- Mozzarella Cheese
- Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

Putting it all together-

Keep the oven at 425 degrees...
 1. Top the pre-baked crust with the pesto...



sundried tomato...

chicken....and then the cheese and pepper flakes if you are adding those!




.......bake until the crust is crispy and golden and the cheese is bubbly- about another 10ish+ minutes

Viola! Beautiful! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Making Baby Food Part 2

Life, man. Phew! There have been so many transitions lately! Every time I feel like I am settling into a routine something new seems to make me have to adjust. This school year was a tough one and I can't wait for it to be over. From maternity leave, to teaching AP classes, getting back into shape, adjusting to having an infant again, Charlie going to kindergarten, court with my ex husband, leaving my gym to train at home... so many things to constantly balance and adapt to. With this balance, to relieve some of the stress, I have made an effort to be more present in all my endeavors- focus on quality over quantity because my time is stretched- I have made an effort to be off my phone more at home, not bring work home to grade, work hard during my workout instead of working out longer, and interacting and getting to know my students as individuals. I am going to carry a lot of these plans into summer as I adjust from working mom to stay-at-home mom, now of two for the first time. I am really looking forward to it. For so long it was just my Charlie girl and me during the summer days this will definitely be more interesting.

Although going back to having an infant has been easier this time, it has made me think and reflect back on when Charlie was little. I will openly admit, like most new moms, I didn't have a clue what I was doing and don't remember a lot because I was so darn tired. But, one of the things I did do when she was little, that was worth repeating, was to make my baby food. It is so easy, doesn't take hardly any time, and is exponentially more cost-effective. A pouch or jar of babyfood is roughly 30-50 cents/ounce. When you make your own, is is less than 1/2 that depending on what you are making. I wrote a post back in 2014 (see it HERE) sharing some of my favorite recipes, so I thought I would do that again. I really hope most people consider it in the future with their own kids- I know I didn't nurse for 6 damn months just to give my baby some stuff in a jar I hope is what they say it is. I don't buy any special equipment- I use baby beeba jars someone gave me just for convenience- just my normal kitchen pans, ice cube trays and a Vitamix blenders. :)


Mila is 8 months old now, but I started her baby food at 4-5 months with simple, one-ingredient purees like sweet potatoes, carrots, pears, banana, etc. I like to peel, dice and steam whatever I am making until it is fork-tender and then puree it until very smooth in a high-powered blender, adding liquid from cooking until it was a consistency she would enjoy. I freeze all my foods in ice-cube trays and move them to labeled, large ziplocks when they are frozen. When it's time to eat I pull 2-3 cubes out and heat them in the microwave, stirring often and tasting them (usually 30-45 seconds.) 


Mila still has no teeth, and although I give her some finger foods, she still really likes her purees so I have added more variety. Below are a few of her favorites....

Corn, Sweet Potato and Carrot

- 1 Tbsp Butter (I use Kerrygold)
- 1/2 Sweet Onion* Optional
- 1 Sweet Potato, peeled and large dice
- 2-3 Carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 Cup Low-Sodium, Organic Chicken Stock (or homemade)
- 1 Cup Corn, fresh or frozen


1. In a large skillet with a lid, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes and carrots (and onion if using.) Saute a few minutes until they start to soften and get some color. Add the stock and turn up the heat to a boil. Turn the heat to a simmer, cover and cook 8-10 minutes until the potatoes and carrots are fork-tender. Add the corn. 


2. Puree the mixture in a high powdered blender until smooth, add more stock or water if it is too thick for baby. Yum!

Chicken, Apple and Sweet Potato

- 1 Tbsp Butter (I use Kerrygold)
- 1/2 Sweet Onion* Optional
- 1 Sweet Potato, peeled and large dice
- 1 Apple, peeled and diced
- 1 Chicken Breast, diced
- 1 Cup Low-Sodium, Organic Chicken Stock (or homemade)

1. In a large skillet with a lid, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chicken and saute a few minutes until it starts browning. Add the sweet potatoes and apple (and onion if using.) Saute a few minutes until they start to soften and get some color. Add the stock and turn up the heat to a boil. Turn the heat to a simmer, cover and cook 8-10 minutes until the potatoes  are fork-tender and the chicken is cooked through. 
2. Puree the mixture in a high powdered blender until smooth, add more stock or water if it is too thick for baby. Yum!

Blueberry, Avocado and Banana

(This is also a good one to make "thin" so when you reheat it you can add baby oatmeal...yum!)

- 1 Avocado
- 2 Bananas
- 1-2 Cups Fresh or Frozen Blueberries
- 2-3  Ounces Formula or Breast Milk

Depending on the age of your baby you may want to cook the blueberries first- it helps break them down and is easier for a younger baby (4-5 months old.) I put mine in a small pan over medium low heat and cooked them until they started bursting, stirring frequently. 

Puree all the ingredients, adding more milk or water until the consistency is right for baby. 


Monday, May 14, 2018

The BEST Clustery Granola

Life, man. Phew! There have been so many transitions lately that I feel like I am drowning. As soon as I get into a routine something seems to change that throws off everything and the balance needs to be restored. Between kids, holidays, events, laundry, cooking, working out, work, etc. life just seems overwhelming most days. Instead of trying to keep swimming like is usually my motto, I decided maybe I should just tread water a bit until I can swim again... I just keep reminding myself there are 5 weeks until summer, I can do it!  

To make our lives a little less hectic, Matt and I decided to train almost entirely at home. I was noticing that forcing myself to make it to the gym because we pay so much was becoming more stressful than it was stress-relieving, not to mention I had about 20 minutes there on a good day and Matt and I were exchanging kids in passing and not seeing each other or spending time as a family. Switching to train entirely at home has been an adjustment, but it's what works for us at this time in our lives. It saves over an hour of driving for each of us and allows both of us to get training in and spend time together. It's not as much fun as training with people, but friends come over and we can push each other. Bottom line is the pros outweigh the cons with leaving the gym. We joined Street Parking- run by Julian and Miranda Alcaraz- it gives us some competition and a virtual community... I highly recommend it if you train at home! There are always options for equipment and scaling and the workouts are deceivingly hard. Follow them on Instagram for some great workout ideas! 

I have been making Paleo granola for years, but since I added grains back into my diet I wanted to play around with new recipes. This is by far the best clustered granola I have come up with. Is it healthy? Not so much, but wow is it good! It is sure sure coming camping with us this summer. 

The BEST Clustery Granola

- 4 Cups Old-fashioned Rolled Oats
- 1 Cup Chopped Raw Pecans (or almonds) 
- 1 Cup Dried, Unsweetened Cranberries
- 2-3 Tbsp Chia Seeds
- 1/3 Cup Melted Coconut Oil
- 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/4 Cup Maple Syrup (or honey)
- 2 tsp Vanilla
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- Heavy Salt Pinch
- *Optional* 1/2 Cup Unsweetened Coconut Flakes

Preheat Oven to 300 degrees

1. Melt the coconut oil, stir in the brown sugar and heat again (about 30 seconds in a microwave.) Combine all the ingredients in a larger bowl. Mix well.
2. Dump the granola onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes... on the final stir- press the granola with a spatula, this will ensure good clumps. 
3. Remove from the oven and let it cool at least 15 minutes- it will become harder as it cools. Break it into pieces and store in an air-tight container. 

The perfect school snack

A treat in Charlie's lunch with yogurt

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Fast, Lower-carb, Weekend Bagels

Ahhhh spring break... this time of year tells me we made it... the school year from here on out is winding down. Any hope I had of keeping my seniors focused is about gone after this as they are in "college mode" and senioritis has definitely set in. This year I was not looking forward to spring break as much as usual... it's the first time since Charlie was born that I don't have her for the break and with Easter being the same week I am going 11 nights, 12 days, without her. This is the longest we have ever spent apart and I am counting down the days until I see her again, trying to keep busy and looking forward to asking if I can talk to her. This part of divorce never gets easier, especially since I am not at work so sitting at home with one child and not the other is heartbreaking. I look back at pictures of her when I miss her and that helps a little. I also try to get ahead in life so that when she does come home, and it's after work/school we are not as busy and can spend quality time together. 
Every time Charlie is gone for the weekend or a break, I have her draw me a picture on our bay window with window crayons- It makes me miss her a little less and has become one of our things so she knows I am thinking about her when she's gone


As with any household when two people work, fitting in things like laundry, cleaning, cooking, shopping, working out, family time, etc. all have to be done in the few hours at night and on the weekends. Matt has always been excellent at helping with household things, but it's still a lot to get done and when I am not working I try to pick up more things so when he gets home we can relax sooner in the night. During school breaks I try to capitalize on my time- it's like a game- at 5am I know I have at least one hour before the kids wake up... how much can I accomplish? Go! Even when the house is awake, if I am not at work I know that my house-tasks are slower, but at least I can keep the laundry moving and go shopping at less busy times which takes some pressure off. Some of the things I do during break include prepping more meals to keep in the freezer- stews, chilis, chicken and steak marinades, lasagna, etc., making baby food that is also freezer-friendly, deep cleaning one room a day, organizing and sorting piles that have accumulated, and whatnot. 


Mila helps with meal prep 
(don't worry- Matt was right there and only stepped back for the picture, I know babies in bumbos on elevated surfaces are a no-no... )

This break is no different- I am staying busy so I don't miss my Charlie and doing things that will make life easier when she gets homes- I did my big Costco trip and stocked the freezer with meat and meals, made enough baby food to last weeks, made all the dr./vet. appointments so those don't need to be done for a while and organized most of the house. Feels good. :) 

Charlie likes Cinnamon Sugar

One of the things we like to do as a family on the weekends we have Charlie is make a big breakfast. A favorite on the list lately have been bagels! I have made (and posted) about New York style bagels, but those take over an hour. These are done with five or less ingredients, and bonus, they have 1/2 the amount of carbs and fat and double the protein! There is no need to let them rise, no boiling, and no yeast involved. Are they as delicious? Matt thinks so, I am still on the fence, but they are no doubt a really awesome and fast substitute. 


Weekend Bagels

(Makes 4 Bagels)
Cal- 140
Fat- 0.5g
Carbs- 24g
Protein- 10g 

- 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour* (you could also use all all-purpose or all whole-wheat)
- 1/2 Cup All-purpose Flour
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 Cup Non-fat Greek Yogurt (the thicker the better)
- Water/Egg wash and Toppings (I love Trader Joe's Everything Bagel seasoning or Cinnamon Raisin!)


Preheat oven to 450 Degrees

1. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl. They may look crumbly. Dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead 20-30 times until it comes together (add more flour if it is too wet, more yogurt if it is too dry.) 
2. Split the dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece into a 3/4" "snake" bringing the ends together to form a bagel shape. 
3. Place each bagel on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with water or egg wash. Top the bagel with whatever you want. Bake for 15ish minutes until golden on top. Let them rest 5 minutes when they come out of the oven. 
(*this recipe was adapted from BellaGetsWaisted.com*)