Friday, October 31, 2014

Oktoberfest Mac & Cheese

The Germans know how to do hearty food. They also know how to do beer. And when those two worlds collide, it's a beautiful thing. This is a healthier version of Beer Macaroni and Cheese, adapted from this recipe

Photo from -recipe adapted from

I love Beer Cheese Soup- and this Oktoberfest Mac & Cheese with beer has a similar flavor- with the strong sharp cheddar and lager, it's delicious. 

It's actually pretty easy to whip together. If you're making it for a party beforehand, keep the noodles and sauce separate and warm both and toss together right before serving. 

You'll Need
Macaroni Noodles- 16 oz. 
Flour- 3 tbsp.
Butter- 3 tbsp.
Semi-dark, flavorful Beer- 1 cup (I used Yuengling Lager)
Milk-1 1/2 cups (or more as needed)
Greek Yogurt (or cream cheese)- 1 cup. (4 oz.) 
Sharp Cheddar- 2 1/2 cups 
Seasonings: nutmeg, cayenne pepper (or red pepper flakes), garlic powder, salt & pepper

Boil water and cook and drain pasta. 

Meanwhile, melt butter in deep sauce pan or pot and mix flour until you have a paste. 

Add in beer, stir. Then add in milk and stir. 

Bring to light boil and then turn down to simmer, stirring frequently. Add greek yogurt and mix until melted. Stir in cheddar and mix until melted. 

If it it too thick, add more milk, a tiny bit at a time. 

Season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and garlic powder to taste. I only did a tiny bit of garlic powder. 

Pour the sauce over the drained pasta and mix well. Serve hot! No baking necessary! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

apple pie oatmeal

I suggest making this apple pie oatmeal on a Sunday and enjoy it throughout the week. It'll make your house smell like yummy fall heaven while it's cooking. 

Image from:

All oats are pretty healthy, but I've been using steel cut oats because they are the best and most complete form. I was confused the different kinds, instant, rolled oats, etc. But steel cut oats are whole oats that have been chopped. The other forms aren't the complete oat.

Makes 8-10 Servings

You'll need
Steel cut oats (can sub regular)- 1 1/2 cups
Apples- 3, peeled and cubed
Milk/water- 3 cups (vanilla soy/almond milk is great!)
Lemon Juice- 2 tbsp. 
Brown Sugar- 1/4 cup
Cinnamon- 1 tbsp. 
Sea Salt- 1 tsp. 
Cloves or Nutmeg- pinch, if desired
Chopped walnuts or pecans- optional 

Can cook on stove top or in crock pot. 

Stovetop: add all ingredients to large pot, bring to boil, then simmer 15-20 minutes or until oats are cooked through. 

Crock pot: add all ingredients, cook 2.5 hours on high (stir often!) or 3-4 hours on low. 

Rehydrate leftovers with a splash of milk, stir and reheat. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

new mom tips

Thankfully, the year before I got pregnant I knew like six women who were pregnant. Work friends, family... so I got lots of advice knowing we were going to start trying soon. Lots of super specific advice. About everything. And I loved it. 

And of course, along the way I learned lots of good little tidbits that had me saying, "Who knew?!" So now I'm sharing with you a list of tips, tricks and rules I felt like I would have never known about... maybe you know these things, maybe you didn't. But I hope they make at least one new mom's life easier or make you say, "that's good to know!" 

1. Babies aren't supposed to wear thick coats in their car seats. 

Those super warm thick, down winter coats? Eh eh. Nope. Too thick. It creates too much space between baby and the straps and they could FLY OUT on impact! I believe a fleece jacket is okay, you can figure out if your coat is too thick here. You're just supposed to drape a blanket over them or turn the coat around and put their arms in it backwards if it is.

2. You aren't supposed to put the baby carrier on top of the grocery cart. 

I see everyone doing this, but don't be a follower. I know it's inconvenient, but that's life now. You're a Mom. Thousands of babies go to the emergency room after falling, and sadly- some even die after falling and cracking their heads on the floor. You might say you can trust yourself, but most babies fall because someone else bumps into the cart, or a child bumps the cart. Put the carrier in the cart, fill your stroller bottom with groceries, or wear your baby in a wrap as you shop! Why risk it?

3. 0-3 months clothes are the same as 3 month clothes- and same with 3-6 and 6 month and so on. When tags just say, "6 months" it really means UP TO 6 months. Otherwise, technically he'd only wear it for that one month. 

4. Don't microwave breast milk. It zaps out nutrients and can also create hot spots that can burn the baby. We microwave water in a glass/ceramic bowl or mug and set the bottle in it for a few minutes. It really doesn't take that long. 

5. Don't shake breast milk in a bottle. Stir it gently. It's very sensitive. 

6. Nursing shouldn't hurt. My cousin first told me this and it was a relief to hear that sore, chapped, cracked, bleeding nipples didn't have to be in my future. I had always heard it hurts the first few weeks and you're sore and you just have to wait for your nips to "toughen up," but the Lactation Consultant also echoed the remark that, "if the baby is nursing correctly, it should not hurt. It should feel like gentle tugging." If it does hurt, baby probably has a bad latch. Break it with your pinky and try again. If you're still feeling discomfort, talk to a Lactation Consultant. Don't hesitate to call, they're great.

7. Watch this video to see the easiest way to put long sleeve onesies on a baby, it changed my life. (Actually it also applies to short sleeves, but long sleeves are the real problem.) There are Youtube videos to show you all sorts of tricks and shortcuts.

8. Onesies are made to be pulled down over the bum, especially when they get poo and pee on them. Then you don't have to try to maneuver over their face. (Yuck.) This is one I felt sort of dumb learning, but man was it helpful! Also-if baby has a wet diaper, but is sleeping peacefully- you don't have to wake him/her.

9. Put medicine in a bottle nipple and let baby suck it out. We took a spare nipple and cut the hole to make it bigger. Then we put the medicine in the syringe to measure the amount and just put it right in the nipple. This avoids the sad fight, trying to shove a syringe in baby's mouth- only for it to be spit out. So much easier and baby is so much happier! 

10. Always ask Babies 'R Us if they have a 20% off coupon available. If you don't have one, they usually will give you one! 

11. Put waterproof pads down on your pretty changing pad cover. I was under the impression that you just bought multiple pad covers and was surprised by how often my little girl was peeing and pooping on it. (I thought the peeing was just a boy thing.) Then a few Moms told me they're just to cover the plastic. You're supposed to put down a pad on top. So I then went out and bought like 9. They're also great to use for changes around the house. 

Trust your own instincts and don't stress. While it's nice to read some books and ask for advice to prepare, there are certain times when there is no right or wrong and everyone has a different opinion. So don't overanalyze and just go with your gut. (But that shopping cart thing is for sure wrong :)

Please add your own tips in the comments!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

healthy m&m lactation cookies

When I first started nursing, I had a wicked good supply. The Lactation Consultant at the hospital even called me a "Milk Goddess." Buuuut.... fast forward a few months when I headed back to work and I've been seeing a steady decline in my pumping output. I've read that your pumping output does not indicate your supply, but Little Cubby has been chugging 5-6 oz. per meal and suddenly I'm not pumping that much. So... I am fighting!

To increase my pumping supply I'm trying the following: drinking an insane amount of water, eating steel cut oats for breakfast, ditching that hands-free pumping bra, pumping before bed and bringing a burp cloth or something with baby's scent on it to work...and these "lactation cookies!"

A lot of the recipes I found though had a stick of butter and a ton of sugar, so this is my  healthier version. I almost didn't want these to be too good or I'd eat them all at once. I want them to be like a healthy snack. But they ARE good. I've already eaten 4 fresh out of the oven. :)

I haven't bought brewer's yeast yet, but I hear that will increase production a lot too. So if you find it, use it. But a warning, that I did not use brewer's yeast. My cookies did not expand much either. They're very dense and stayed in the shape I put them in.

You'll Need:
Brown Sugar- 3/4 cup
Coconut Oil- 2/3 cup, softened
Eggs- 3
Vanilla Extract- 2 tsp.
Whole Wheat Flour- 2 cups
Flax Seed- 4 tbsp. (or flax seed meal)
Salt- 1 tsp.
Baking Soda- 1 tsp.
Brewer's Yeast- 1/4 cup (no other kind)
Oats- 3 cups
M&Ms- 1 packet

Preheat oven to 375.
Blend together sugar and coconut oil (I used a hand mixer). Add the eggs and vanilla extract.

Next add your dry ingredients (you can pre-mix separately if you like). Add the flour, flax seeds, salt, baking soda, and yeast. Mix well.

Then STIR in the oats and M&Ms. I actually used my hands to get them really incorporated well.

Roll into balls (mine were about 2" wide, but you can do however you like) and place on baking sheet. Like I said, mine did not expand much at all. Maybe because I didn't use the brewer's yeast. Bake for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

homemade reese's ice cream cake

My husband loves ice cream cake. Last year I bought him a standard ice cream cake from Dairy Queen and was shocked at it's $30-something price tag for such a small cake. This year, I asked him what he wanted for his birthday and threw out the idea of a homemade ice cream cake filled with all of his favorites:

A brownie bottom topped with Reese's, Crunch Bars and fudge and vanilla ice cream. How could it be bad?

Not only was it more delicious, it only cost about $13 to make! 

The best thing about these homemade ice cream cakes are that you can customize them with your favorite candies and ice cream flavors. Heck, you can even substitute a cake bottom instead of brownies. 

You'll Need:
Brownie/Cake mix and necessary ingredients to make
Candy (Reese's & Crunch bars)- chopped 
Ice Cream- 1.5 quart 
Cool Whip- one tub

First bake your brownie/cake in a 9x13 pan (can do smaller depending on party size). Let it cool completely. You can do this the day before. 

Then smear fudge all over the brownies. Sprinkle the candy all over the fudge, reserving some of the candy for topping. 

Then pack ice cream on top of the candy. You're going to top it with Cool Whip, so it's okay if it's not smooth and pretty. 

Then spread the Cool Whip evenly on top. I use the back of a spoon or a plastic spatula. Then drizzle fudge on top and sprinkle with more candy if desired. I saved 2 Reese's and carved out 30 in them. I'm not the craftiest person, so I was pretty proud of this. 

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

16 reasons why i don't want an epidural

16 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. (Most of these stats are from The Guide to Natural Childbirth or The Business of Being Born, but please research for yourself :) 
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. Lower NICU rates. Baby being in NICU can then also interfere with breastfeeding.

4. 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... or even 40 hours (as long as all is well obviously).  I think it's best to just give it time and let your body do it's thing. You can't artificially force your body into the biggest event it will ever go through! (See The Business of Being Born free on YouTube for more on this- Pitocin could have it's own post.)

5. 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.

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. Epidurals increase the risk of fever, which can lead to distress and c-section. See more here. 

10. 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.

11. 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. Ask around, the horror stories all seem to come from interventions, not from an unmedicated birth. 

12. 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. 

13. 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.

14. Faster recovery. This is in large part due to having less interventions. But even with an epidural you have to lay flat for hours. I was up walking around fine. I was definitely sore for a few days, but I felt almost completely normal within like three days. 

15. It's much cheaper! My total hospital bill was only $1,200- we were there the standard two nights, but probably could have left earlier. I've heard that the bill for the anesthesiologist is about that much alone. I know you're not going to $kimp when it comes to your health care, but it's just a nice little perk. 

16. Women have done it since the beginning of time just fine. Horses push out baby horses... with 4 hooves! The baby will come. It's not going to stay in there forever. 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. 

So what do I do?
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. Talk to your dr. see what their views and intervention rates are. Ask lots of questions! 

I also highly recommend a doula. They are 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. They are there to advocate and support you throughout the birth. They usually meet with you a few times prior and once or twice after birth to see how nursing and everything is going. Mine was amazing. 

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