Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cheesy Quinoa Bake

This is adapted from the Creekside Cook. It's hearty, cheesy and delicious! The perfect fall or winter side dish or main entrée. I think this might become my new go-to dish to bring to a party where I know the main entree is meat and I only have potatoes and a roll.  

It's a lot of veggies to slice, so I recommend buying a bag of fresh pre-cut veggies if possible. Giant Eagle by me sells bags of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots so I just buy 2 of those. The main differences from the original recipe is I upped the grains so that it's more filling and less empty cheesiness. 

You'll Need
Quinoa or Brown Rice- 2 cups
Broccoli florets- 1 1/2 cups
Cauliflower florets- 1  1/2 cups
Carrots- sliced if large, or use baby carrots- 1 1/2 cups
1/2 onion- chopped 
Garlic- 2 cloves, minced
Corn Starch- 1 tbsp.
Vegetable Broth- 2 cups 
Milk- 2 cups
Cheddar Cheese- 1 cup
Breadcrumbs (Panko or regular)- 1/2 cup

On medium heat, drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil and saute onion until soft, about 4 minutes. Add broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Preheat oven to 350.

Add quinoa/rice and garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in corn starch and coat all vegetables. 

Stir in vegetable broth and milk, bring to simmer. (Do not boil.) Stir in 3/4 of the cheddar cheese. 

Put in oven covered at 350 for 30 minutes. 

Remove from oven- top with rest of cheddar and breadcrumbs, bake 5 minutes more. 

Let sit 5 minutes before serving. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

cute maternity style

Why is it so hard to find cute maternity clothes? I know I'm becoming a Mom, but most of the maternity clothes at Old Navy, Gap, Motherhood Maternity and such are so... Mom-ish and boring. :/ The best places I've found found for maternity clothes were ASOS and H&M. H&M had nice maternity pants and surprisingly I liked their nursing bras the best too. 

Here are some inspirational looks I used to put together my maternity outfits. I like to emphasize the bump, because why not? You're pregnant! This is your time to show off your beautiful bump! You are gestating life! You are Gaia, Mother Earth! (And you finally don't have to worry about sucking in!)

Start with the basics. I got maternity tank tops, t-shirts and long sleeve tees in black, white, grey and some stripes. Then layer cardigans, button downs or kimonos over top.  

Crop tops are a cute way to emphasize your bump. Layer them over maternity tops and wear with jeans, over a dress (to hide extra boobage) or over a maxi skirt, pulled up over the bump.

Pull a maxi skirt over your bump. Top it with a crop top, like the one above...or tuck a shirt into it and add a belt. 

Flowy maxi dresses make you feel like a glowing goddess. I wore regular (non maternity) maxi dresses throughout. When it gets super hot, throw a pair of shorts on underneath! 

Or try a cute maternity kaftan, like this one from Etsy

Borrow your husband's button-down or pick up an oversize one from a consignment shop (or this one from The Hatch) for a chic, cute look. Pair it with leggings or skinny jeans. 

I love the classic look of this polka dot tent dress. It's not as form-fitting as the other looks, so I'd only wear this once I was clearly pregnant- like third trimester. 

Wear blazers over maternity dresses or tops. I wore regular ones and just didn't button them. 

Add statement jewelry or scarves to your plain maternity tops.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

12 reasons why i don't want an epidural

12 Reasons Why I don’t want an Epidural (or Pitocin)…

To my surprise, several people have point-blank asked me, “Are you getting an epidural?” I planned on keeping it to myself, but when I tell them no, I find myself rattling off the list below to defend myself (and avoid eye rolls) and make them understand it’s not about being a hero or “the baby being on drugs” or anything like that. 

This is a quick list of the highlights to explain why crazy women choose to decline an epidural and other interventions. I just wanted to bring to light all of the complications and risks that can come with being induced and getting an epidural because I feel like too many women aren’t aware of them and think we're just trying to be tough. 
1.Epidurals commonly cause the baby’s (and/or Mom’s) heart rate and blood pressure to drop- creating a panic to “get baby out quick!” Which leads to episiotomies, suctions, forceps and c-sections. These also lead to pain afterwards and longer recovery times.

2. You’re 3x more likely to tear or need an episiotomy because you can’t feel how hard you’re pushing, as opposed to a natural birth where you can slowly ease baby out as it feels right. (Think about if you were trying to poop while numb and just pushing as hard as you can when someone told you to… not great.) :/

3. Pitocin (what they generally use to induce you) causes your contractions on average to be 3x more forceful (ouch, ouch OUUUCH!) than natural contractions. If baby is very overdue (generally past 42 weeks unless there are other complications), they may need to induce, but today it seems like almost everyone gets put on Pitocin immediately  just to “speed things along” without much more explanation than that. Another reason pitocin gets pushed on women is if their water has been broken "too long." My midwife said she 
probably wouldn't start to recommend pitocin until I'm well over the 24-hour mark... more like 40 hours (as long as all is well obviously). She said a lot of women get put on pitocin prematurely. I personally can think of several people that all got put on pitocin less than 10 hours after their water broke. I think it's best to just give it time and let your body do it's thing. (See The Business of Being Born free on YouTube for more on this- Pitocin could have it's own post.)

4. Botched epidurals. Sometimes they have to poke you 6 times and you start to feel nauseous, sometimes epidurals only numb half of your body… sometimes they don't work at all. Sometimes they wear off, leaving you stranded. Sometimes you might remain numb afterwards… for weeks. Super scary.

5. Epidurals slow birth down. A big myth is that they speed them up, but it’s the exact opposite. Pushing isn’t as effective and takes on average, longer than unmedicated birth. I hear of 4-5 hours of pushing with an epidural, while unmedicated is usually less than an hour, (or sometimes just a few good pushes!) Many women will be progressing just fine until they receive an epidural, which kind of brings everything your body was doing to a halt, and can stop or slow down the birth process. 

6.  Epidurals increase the likelihood of a cesarean by 2.5x. Using a midwife vs. an OBGYN can lower the likelihood of c-section. 

7. Epidurals can cause spinal headaches, in which case you need to lay flat for hours and get a blood patch. This also then interferes with and delays the very important first feeding for baby.

8. 1 in 5 women have pain at the sight of the epidural for years.  The thought of a “catheter” in my spine alone makes me feel sick. As long as I don’t have Group B Strep, I won’t even have to have an IV! 

9. I want to feel in control of my body and what is happening. I don’t like the idea of being numb and feeling out of control and disconnected. I also like that I'll be able to move around however my body tells me to to help aid the baby out.

10. Every person I know who has had a unmedicated birth and birth with an epidural chose to go unmedicated again. I even searched things like "reasons not to have a natural birth" to try and find negatives, but I really can't find any. I see it as pain during the birth with natural, or pain later with an epidural. 

11. Epidurals could make breastfeeding harder. Baby is more likely to be drowsy or a "lazy eater" right after birth with an epidural, making latching harder. Plus, any of the interventions mentioned above could interfere with breast milk production or feeding. 

12. Women have done it since the beginning of time just fine. Horses push out baby horses... with 4 hooves! We’re made to do it and if we are confident in our bodies, we can do it and it can be a good experience. We're ALL tough enough. :) 

 One intervention seems to lead to another and another and they all just snowball into a big hectic disaster. (For example: Pitocin->epidural->vacuum>cesarean) Many times we don't connect the dots between complications during birth, especially when minor, and the unnecessary complications that caused them. 

If you’re considering declining an epidural I strongly recommend you look into working with a midwife (instead of an OBGYN). They can do everything an OBGYN can except perform a c-section, but an OBGYNs can step in if that were to become necessary for some reason. They're much less "intervention-happy" and supportive and informed about unmedicated birth. I also have a doula, who is not a medical professional, but a birth coach that you hire personally (usually for just a few hundred dollars). I also learned a lot and was inspired by Ina May Gaskin's book, Guide to Natural Childbirth. 

Do your research so you’re educated either way, good luck Mamas! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

sweet potato + black bean enchiladas

Like most things I make, I'd say these are fairly healthy, but it's all about the ingredients you pick. If you choose high protein, whole wheat wraps instead of flour burritos, that's obviously much better for you. If you skimp on the chedda, you'll also save some fat. But I like everything in moderation. :) 

These veggie enchiladas are actually very filling with the sweet potato. Don't be afraid to try sweet potato in Mexican food, it's very common and very delicious! It goes great in savory dishes with corn, black beans and avocado! 

You'll Need: 
4 Sweet or Regular Potatoes, sliced to cook faster
Frozen Corn- 1 bag 
Black Beans- 1 can  (can also use refried or pinto beans) 
Large Burritos- 8 
Cheddar Cheese- as needed 
Enchilada Sauce- green or red, 1 can (I prefer red in this dish.. you can also use Taco Sauce)

Fill medium pot halfway with water- bring to boil, add sweet potatoes. Set timer for about 15 minutes. Stab with fork to make sure they're soft and cooked. When they're done, drain, put back in pot and mash up a little. 

While the potatoes boil- cook the corn in the microwave.

Drain and rinse the black beans. Place in a bowl with the corn and salt & pepper them. Add cilantro if you want to be fancy. 

Preheat oven to 350. 

Fill each burrito with: cooked sweet potatoes then corn, black beans, cheddar cheese, sprinkle with hot sauce if desired. 

Fold in burrito sides, then roll up from bottom to top, sort of tight. Line up in baking dish. 

Dump the green enchilada sauce over top, spreading so it's even and nothing gets dry. 
(You could top with a sprinkle more of cheese if you want).

Bake for 15 minutes. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

zucchini + potato hash

This zucchini and potato hash has a hearty taste without being too heavy. It's the perfect fresh summer breakfast to cook after a trip to the farmer's market!  

Serves 2

You'll Need
1 Large Zucchini- halved, quartered and sliced
3 Red Skin Potatoes- cubed 
1/2 Onion- chopped or sliced 
Eggs- 2 

I chop my potatoes first and throw them in a pan to start cooking while I chop the onion, then toss that in, followed by the zucchini. Seems to work out well with timing. 

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large (pre-sprayed) pan and cook potatoes & onion for about 7 minutes. Then add zucchini  and cook for about another 7 minutes- or do above and just guesstimate. 

Cook until everything is tender and slightly browned. Season with salt & pepper. Taste the potatoes to make sure they're cooked through. Keep an eye on the heat level, if things are browning to quickly, turn it lower. (You can always turn up higher once they're done to quickly brown them.) 

Once everything is cooked, crack 2 eggs over top and cook over-easy. The runny egg yolk makes a yummy sauce! (The first time I made this dish- I emptied the zucchini hash out of the pan and cooked the eggs alone so I could flip them. Then I added one egg to top each plate.) 

Also yummy with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes or hot sauce! 

Friday, December 6, 2013

italian cream cheese poppers

These Italian Poppers are a delicious vegetarian party appetizer- with a blend of spicy and sweet with the banana peppers, cream cheese, sundried tomatoes and olives. They're easy and quick to make and always a favorite.

Makes 16

Filling Amounts Are Flexible
Reduced Fat Pillsbury Crescents- 1 roll of 8 dinner rolls
Cream Cheese
Sliced Banana Peppers (I use jarred)
Sliced Black Olives
Sliced Sundried Tomatoes or Sundried Tomato Pesto (I use jarred)

Preheat oven to 375 (or as package directs.)

Rip each crescent roll in half and spread out in sprayed muffin tin.

Place a slice of cream cheese in the bottom of the cup.

Then top each cup with banana peppers (2-4), a tiny spoonful of sundried tomatoes and a few olives. (The top 5 are a new variety I was trying out. Sauerkraut, Cream Cheese & Dijon Mustard... also delicious!)

Fold pieces over or pinch to close. It's okay if they're not totally covered.

Bake according to directions- about 11-13 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool 1 minute & serve!

Monday, November 25, 2013

simply succulent braised asparagus

This braised asparagus is tender, full of flavor and doesn't require any butter or extra salt. It makes a perfect veggie side dish for Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter. And it's so easy to make! 

You'll Need:
Fresh Asparagus Spears- one bunch (about 25 spears), rinsed
Vegetable Broth or Vegetable Bouillon dissolved in water- 1 cup
Olive Oil- 1 tbsp.

Coat pan in olive oil- heat to medium. Add asparagus spears and toss to coat with oil. Cook 1 minute. Add broth. (Cover optional.) Stir every so often-cook until tender, about 10-12 minutes. 


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

10 tips for traveling abroad

Here are some helpful tips I find myself giving friends who ask about planning an international trip. These are things I have found to be true on my travels abroad to the UK and Europe. I've been to Ireland, England, Scotland, Belgium, Germany, Austria and all over Italy. These are some of the things I've learned.

1. Arrive with local tender. 

Exchange some cash for some Euro, Pounds, whatever- before you leave. You might need some cash right away for things like a train or taxi in to town. On my first trip to London, I thought I would get some Pounds at the airport, only to find that Chase had turned my debit card off for security purposes. I didn't even have money to make a phone call to tell them to turn it on. Bad situation. 

2. But don't carry too much cash. 

Just in case. I used my Visa for as much as I could because they automatically converted it and at the bank's rate. ATMs over there can have high rates in addition to anything your bank charges. Check to see what exchange rate your bank charges- I believe Amex and CapitalOne don't charge any extra fees.

3. Get an international phone plan.
I have Verizon, and it was only $25 for an international data plan and then a small charge per text/photo on top of that. If you don't get a data plan, your phone will ring up huge charges even if you aren't online because it is finding the satellite in roaming... err something like that? 

4. Learn a few phrases of the native language (or more if you can). 

"Excuse me," and "Sorry" are great to have ready as you're making your way through a crowd. "Thank you" and "Can I have the bill?" are other useful lines to memorize. Even if the locals understand English, it's nice not to perpetuate the ignorant, arrogant American stereotype... a few key words can show that you're making an effort. 

5. Research what foods shouldn't be missed. And don't ask for American things, like ketchup, if they don't offer it. Enjoy the food and drink the way they do.

Me and my bestie eating Belgium Waffles in Belgium... probably one of the more obvious foods to try. :)

UK- Sticky Toffee Pudding 

6. Keep a travel journal. Write down where you stayed, what you ate, who you met, what you did, how people dressed, how you felt, what the weather was like... sketch the layout of the piazza... All things you will forget much sooner than you think. 

.  Also keep receipts, train tickets, pamphlets from tourist attractions, menus, napkins, coasters, beverage labels... as keepsakes.  They prove to be very useful when a friend asks for recommendations (and you can add up your total $ spent). 

7. Learn the names of cities in the local language.

For example, when you're on a train looking for your stop or reading street signs, you might need to know that Kilkenny is Cill Chainnnigh or that Vienna is Wien. Or London in French is Londres. Some are easier to recognize than others. 

8. Understand military time. Train schedules, etc. will be in it. (I subtract 2 from the second number, for example 16:00 is 4:00pm, 23:00 is 11:00pm) 

9. When to tip:

Taxi Drivers- they do not expect a large tip, simply round up to the next Euro (€13 bill would go to €14). If they drive you in circles, skip the tip. 

Dining- Check your bill to see if there is a Service Charge already included. If not, a tip of 10% is considered generous in most countries. Or some Europeans tip 1 or 2 Euro per person. 

Bartenders in most countries do not expect a tip (unless maybe you have a large party). Cheers to saving dinero!

10. Overall- talk to locals, immerse yourself in the culture and get a little lost. 

Don't forget:
  • Adapters 
  • Chargers & extra batteries 
  • A camera (besides the crappy one on your phone)
  • To give your bank a head's up about your travel plans so they don't block charges
  • Multiple debit/credit cards (when I was in Europe they didn't accept Discover)
  • Comfortable, cute walking shoes
  • Take pictures of your hotel (inside & out)- one thing I forget quickly
Did I forget something? Let me know!