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*)



Wednesday, March 21, 2018

There's No Shame in my Quitting Breastfeeding Game

I know in writing this the backlash that might come just by reading the title. I know that some people are completely against formula and will disagree with me for my honesty, but someone has to say it... IT IS OK TO NOT BREASTFEED- or honestly to stop whenever you want. A fed and loved baby is most important whether it is formula or breastmilk. I completely understand that science behind "breast is best" and we were designed to nurse our children, but the thought that it is the only and correct option is not alright. Take away the women who struggle to produce enough, the couples who adopt, etc. there is still a group of women who could nurse and choose not to. I am one of them and I feel to shame in saying it.

After my frozen milk supply is gone, it is ok that my child will be on formula. What is not okay is judging other women for their choice to not nurse for whatever amount, or lack of amount of time. Formula feeding my baby is not going to limit her potential to be a successful and healthy human. I do not feel I need to further explain my decision to stop or why I "can't just do it for 12 months" and will ignore any evil eyes I get for pulling a bottle of formula from my diaper bag. It's my body and my baby and my decision.
Before Mila was born I made the decision to try and breastfeed again despite how poorly it went with Charlie 5 years prior. My goal was that if it went well I would continue until she was 6 months old- 3 months when I was at home, and 3 months when I returned to work. Why 6 months? Mainly because babies start eating more solid foods by then, making breast milk slightly less necessary, and because if we want to try for another baby possibly before she is one, I need a break. I need a break from being pregnant and nursing where my body is mine.
To understand my decision, here's some background- with Charlie I hardly made it 6 weeks nursing- I hated it. I openly still hate it. One of the most natural things for a woman was not and is not natural to me- I don't like the feeling or the act of nursing. All of the breastfeeding selfies honestly made me not even want to do it at all this time around because I was grossed out. So why try again? Because I know it is best for baby, it's free, I wanted to give my new baby the best start possible, especially being born in flu season, and mainly because I am stubborn. I am sure all of you have noticed a huge push to "normalize breastfeeding" and make sure everyone and their mom knows that it is best for baby and that you are going to breastfeed wherever you want and whenever you want and take pictures of it and display that on social media. I feel like I was pressured into breastfeeding the first time as members of my extended family criticized, in front of me, those that quit or didn't nurse. This pressure leads to guilt that you are failing or not as good of a mom if it is not going well, you're not producing enough, etc. and therefore have to supplement or choose to stop. The moment I switched to formula with Charlie was the moment she stopped crying every night for hours. In my head I had to continue to breastfeed, but in reality I was starving my child. She was most likely crying because she was hungry and as a new mom I had no idea what I was doing and didn't know that sometimes they cluster feed at night, and what hunger cues are. I have several women in my mom-group that have acknowledged the same- they had no idea they were not providing enough for their crying child and chalked it up to colic. Stopping nursing with her was one of the best things I did for our relationship and my mental and physical well-being. I feel that we should definitely support those that want to breastfeed, but I also think there is no shame in those that don't and they also need support, not shaming.
With Mila, nursing is going well. I am a damn cow, but I am still choosing to stop at 6 months and am counting down the days. I am so stubborn there have been so many times I wanted to quit but refuse because I said I would make it 6 months. Going well or not I still hate it and work has perpetuated that. As a teacher I can't leave my class and pump when I want, so I pump (hands-free) while I am driving, eat alone at my desk while I pump, and sit in my car and pump in the car pool pick-up line. Don't even get me started on maternity leave as a teacher (and several other occupations) being so short women go back to work so quickly and are put in a situation like I am where continuing to nurse/pump is harder. I am starting to resent Matt for not being able to help and Mila for needing so much milk that I feel constant stress to produce enough and make sure I have time to pump and privacy.

It is starting to hurt my relationship with both of them and that's why it is officially time to be done. I may be criticized for being selfish for quitting, I may be called a wimp because even though I was tough enough to labor without drugs, I am not tough enough to continue nursing... but I think I am strong- strong enough to not give in to pressure and to realize what is best for my baby and me. I really hope that other women feel like they can do the same.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Instant Pot Recipes! (Steel Cut Oats, Meatloaf and Mashed Poatoes, Hoisin Chicken, Chicken Fried Rice)

My mom-game was strong last weekend when we headed to a CrossFit competition to support Matt, my sister, and some friends. Mila rocked her new headphones and Charlie was a good cheerer! I love my little girls... and I love that they are growing up seeing how strong women can be, mentally and physically, and not falling into the stereotype that girls should be weak in any way, shouldn't lift, or shouldn't have defined muscles.



The balance of the ever-changing world of a mom/teacher/athlete/wife/homeowner is still a work in progress- sometimes the balance tilts too far one way throwing off everything else. I am no expert in any of this, and some days/weeks are harder/easier than others- we all have different family dynamics, responsibilities, and goals. Mimicking what works for someone else will only get you so far. That being said, I thought I would share about the one new device that has made my life easier since heading back to work... the INSTANT POT! 
Matt and I received an Instant Pot as a Christmas gift this year, along with a cookbook... although Pinterest is full of great ideas, I am someone who really prefers a hard copy versus looking on a screen. I know they were a hot item this year, so I will give you my take on what they are and if they are "worth it" as far as buying one...


What is it?

Essentially a pressure cooker and slow cooker all in one. "Instant Pot" is a brand like "CrockPot" is to slow cookers.


What do you cook in it?

Everything from frozen chicken, to rice, to hardboiled eggs, to full meals of meatloaf/mashed potatoes in it at he same time.


Should I get one?

That depends on your lifestyle and how you cook. You can make anything you would make in a slow cooker in under an hour which is great if you are not great at planning ahead. 
- Super busy but want to eat healthy? yes! Frozen chicken breasts are done in under 30 min and I have pulled some of my freezer slow cooker meals out, put the huge chunk in the Instant Pot without thawing, and it was done in 60 min. The forethought that goes into thawing and baking is taken away. Some days just get so busy, you get home and think, 'what's for dinner?' If that sounds like you, then yes! I love that I can get home, throw stuff in it, set it to run, clean bottles, catch up with Charlie, get a quick workout in, or whatever without having to stand in front of the stove and in under an hour... poof! Dinner is done!
-If you use your slow cooker a lot but suck at planning- yes! You can cook any slow cooker meal in it using the 30 min MANUAL setting and the meat is just as tender as if you were there all day.

- If you like to chop/prep/stir/bake/plan and get dinner ready for your family the night you're going to eat it and that's part of what works for your family- no. This would sit wasting away in your cupboard as you saute, grill, bake or stand over the stove preparing your family's meals. 


I heard they explode...

Only if you do not follow the directions and use it properly and are a moron. If they really exploded all the time you would hear about it more than the one article floating around facebook scaring people.
The steam release is intense, but if you shouldn't have your kids near the stove when it's hot and the same here... either do the natural release where you will have no steam, or tell the kids to stand back for 30 seconds like you would with anything dangerous and release it.


Learning Curve?

Yes, definitely.
First of all recipes don't give you the total time... if it says 30 min that does not included the 10-15 min it will take to pressure and the 10-15 min it will take to release pressure when done if you are doing a natural release, so plan accordingly.
If you have an 8-quart pot things will take longer... most recipes are designed for a 6-quart.
You MUST use at least 1 Cup of liquid
If your chicken, or whatever else, is not done, only add 3-4 min and try again... minutes go a long way in this thing!

I have been so busy I didn't even take pictures of these... oops... but here are some of my current Favorite Recipes...


Steel Cut Oats

These I have struggled to perfect on the stove, they are good, but always a little chewy and take care when making them... in the Instant Pot they are perfect and ready for my toppings!
The main difference between steel cut oats and regular or quick cooking oats is the process in which they are cut and the texture when finished cooking... nutritional value is almost the same- they have slightly more calcium and protein :) They are also lower glycemic index because they take longer to digest and about twice the amount of fiber.

- 1 1/2 Cups Steel Cut Oats
- 4 1/2 Cups Water
- Pinch of Salt

Toppings or add-ins... vanilla, dried fruit, apples, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, etc.

SPRAY YOUR INSTANT POT WITH COOKING SPRAY! Then add the water and oats and pinch of salt. WIPE THE EDGE OF YOUR POT to remove errant spray so it seas properly.

Turn your pressure cooker on to "Manual" or "Porridge"... make sure the pin is in the "sealing" position ....and cook on HIGH for 11 minutes (up to 13 minutes if you want creamier oats)

Allow the pot to naturally release (aka don't do anything when it is done except hit "cancel") for 10 minutes. Release any of the remaining pressure and you're done! Add your tops or store in the fridge for up to 5-7 days.


Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes.... in the same pot!

A family favorite at our house! I bought mini disposable bread pans at the store that fit perfectly, but you could easily use aluminum foil and make your own! I recommend two mini pans because one large one seems to need more time cooking.


Meatloaf Ingredients...

Feel free to use your own family recipe!
- 1.5-2lbs Lean Ground Beef
- 1 Egg
- 1 Cup Italian Bread Crumbs
- 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1/4 Cup Ketchup
- 1 tsp Onion Powder
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- Salt and Pepper


Potatoes

- 2lbs Yukon Gold, skin on and cut into 2" chunks
- Butter (a few tablespoons)
- Milk
- Garlic Powder
- 1 Cup Broth/Water

1. Mix the meatloaf ingredients together and press the meat into 2 mini bread pans.
2. Place the potatoes in the bottom of the pot with 1 cup of broth/water. 
3. Place the metal insert/rack that came with your pot on top. Put the meat loaf pans on the rack and squish them if necessary to make them fit. 
4. Make sure the pin is in the "sealing" position. Cook on Manual, HIGH, pressure for 25 minutes. 
When finished, do a "quick release" of the pressure. Remove the pans and add the butter/milk/garlic salt and mash in the pot with a masher until the desired creaminess is reached. No need to drain the potatoes! 

Chicken Fried Rice

- 2 Chicken Breasts, cut into 1" or smaller pieces
- 1 Tbsp Oil
- 8oz Frozen, Mixed Vegetables- carrots, peas, green beans, corn (1/2 typical bag)
- 2 Cups Rice (not instant!)
- 2 1/2 Cups Broth/Water
- 2 Eggs
- Soy Sauce

1. Turn your Instant Pot on to the "SAUTE" function at high heat. Add the oil and chicken and cook until the chicken is browned but not all the way cooked. Press "CANCEL"
2. Add the water/broth, veggies, and rice. Secure the lid, turn the pin to "Sealing" and cook on MANUAL/high pressure for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, press "CANCEL" and let it naturally release for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, finish releasing the pressure and open the lid carefully. Fluff the rice with a few dashes of soy sauce, if it is sticky it will loosen as you stir it. 
3. At this point you can either cook the eggs (scrambled) separately in a pan and stir them in, or push the rice to the side and add a bit of oil, turn the pot on SAUTE (medium) and cook them, but I found that mind stuck to the bottom of the pan this way. 

Hoisin Chicken

I make my own hoisin sauce... see recipe here... but you can find this in any Asian section of the grocery store. 
This is quick and so easy to get done when I first get home from work. Served with rice and green beans or broccoli it is fast and perfect. 

- 2/3 Cup Hoisin Sauce
- 1/4 Cup Soy Sauce/Water
- 2-3 Chicken Breasts (about 2lbs)

Add everything to the Instant Pot and set the pin to "SEALING" cook on MANUAL/High Pressure for 12 minutes. Use the instant release. Shred inside the pot or take the chicken out to shred it. I use the sauce as is, but you could make a slurry of arrowroot powder/cornstarch and water, turn on SAUTE and thicken it. :) 

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.