Friday, March 27, 2015

Lemon Berry Muffins


Today was my last Stroller Strides class for awhile, so I made a nice, healthy breakfast treat for everyone to say thank you for being one of the best parts of our day for these past two months - the kiddos even got their own mini muffins!

Berries have been on sale at my grocery store, so I thought they would be the perfect addition to muffins! Spring is finally in the air here (sort of? minus the snow that's forecasted tomorrow), so these lemon berry muffins are a nod to the warmer weather that's hopefully on its way.



Lemon Berry Muffins
Makes 18 muffins (or 12 regular plus 12 mini)

Ingredients:
1/2 C coconut oil, melted
1 C sugar
1 C Greek yogurt (I used vanilla non-fat Chobani)
2 eggs
1 tsp almond extract
Zest of 1 lemon + juice of half lemon
2 1/4 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C berries (I used a mix of raspberries and blueberries)

Preparation:

  • Set convection oven to 325F (or regular oven to 350F). Place rack in the center of the oven. Line 2 muffin pans with tins or grease if not using muffin tins.
  • In a medium bowl, melt the coconut oil 30-45 seconds in the microwave until fully melted. Add remaining wet ingredients, except raspberries, whisking well until the sugar is dissolved.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  • Slowly fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just combined, do not overmix. Muffin mixture will still be lumpy and thick - that's good!
  • In a small bowl, mix berries in 1 tsp flour until evenly coated. This will help the berries stay suspended in the mixture instead of sinking to the bottom during baking.
  • Fill muffin tin 3/4 full. Bake muffins 18-20 minutes (for mini muffins, bake 13-15 minutes).
  • Cool on wire rack before serving.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The New Normal


I just put Wyatt down for his morning nap. This is usual the time of day now that the tears begin to flow, so don't mind my outpour of emotions here. 

I made the decision about halfway through my pregnancy to take an extended leave from work to care for Wyatt. We planned ahead financially, and we made it possible. As a first time mom, I wanted to take the opportunity, knowing I may never get it again. It was the best decision I ever made. But like all good things, it must come to an end soon. Ugh, why does it have to end?

Being a mom has been the most difficult, yet most rewarding, thing I have ever done in my life. There have been bad days - awful, no good, bad days: the early weeks where I entered into survival mode for 12 hours a day until Brent got home from work and could take Wyatt for a few minutes while I gathered myself. However, these days were always negated by a really sweet moment when Wyatt would let his love shine through: big, glorious smiles, grasping my finger with his tiny hand, nestling his head into the crook of my neck as he falls asleep. And just like that, you know you would relive every single horrible part of that day just for that one moment of sweetness. People aren't kidding when they say you forget all the bad stuff. Every week that goes by, I feel like Brent and I keep saying "this was the best week yet!" Wyatt has quickly become the absolute best part of our lives, and it just keeps getting better. It's been an amazing 4.5 months being home with him, watching him grow and develop into a ridiculously adorable, happy baby, and I was lucky enough to have him all to myself.

My heart is just so heavy these days. I feel things so much - way too much, I think. And lately, I find myself thinking about the most random things and getting emotional. Some days, as I sit there nursing Wyatt, I look down at him, acknowledging his desire to always be close to me, and I wonder how many more years I have before he quits wanting to cuddle with me. Please tell me never? Right now, I'm his absolute favorite person in the world, and I admit, I dread the day he discovers that Dad is way cooler than Mom. Or how about the day I become - shudder - embarrassing? Right now, I can kiss his little lips and chubby cheeks any time I want, but eventually, it'll probably be work just to get a hug from him.

And then the other day, we were driving home from the grocery store, and Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud came on the radio. You know, the wedding song of the year. Wouldn't you know, I found myself tearing up at the thought that someday, I will be dancing with him at his wedding. Like, seriously, Jen? Get a damn grip.

Everything just seems so final lately. I don't know how else to describe it. I find myself thinking "well, it's the last Thursday I'll ever have home with him" or "this is the last time we'll go to Stroller Strides together." I know in my mind these things aren't true; I will have plenty of vacations with him to spend weekdays together, and I plan on taking him to Stroller Strides on Friday mornings in the summer; but in the future, I'll be doing it as a working mom. Right now, I can dedicate 100% of my time to him, but after this week, that will be changing. I work early hours, so I will be able to have a few hours with him in the afternoon before his bedtime, but this will be a significant difference for both of us. I know it's going to be harder on me than it is on him, but I'm still having a very hard time coming to terms with it all. The longest I have been away from him is 5 hours. I feel guilty for having to put him in daycare and that I can't be the one home with him every day. I'm jealous that the daycare providers will get to be with him all day. I'm worried I will miss all his big milestones while he's there, and I'm at work. The list goes on.

I tell myself that many women become successful working moms and that it will be fine. It will become the new normal. In a few months, I'll probably look back at this post and wonder what I was so worried about. But until then, I'm going to go slink away in the corner with my pint of Haagen Dazs and cry.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Wyatt: Four Months



I swear, each month goes by faster than the one before. This month has been super fun as a mom to sit back and watch Wyatt transition from young, inanimate baby to a more lively infant. It's amazing to witness firsthand the intensity of a baby when they are going through a developmental milestone, such as grabbing objects or rolling over - both of which Wyatt has undergone this month. And it's pretty cool how quickly they learn to master these new things. He's now proficient at grabbing pretty much everything he so desires. The other morning, I was walking down the stairs carrying him in one arm, my water jug in the other, and I stopped to take a swig of water out of the straw, when I see two hands come out of nowhere, pull the straw out of my mouth, and before I knew it, he was shoving it into his own mouth. I stopped him before he could manage to suck up any of the water, but man, I was taken aback at how quickly he did that. Wearing hair down? Forget about it, unless you want a chunk taken out. I also have to be careful of eating anything while holding him these days. He tried grabbing my apple out of my hand the other day. We don't plan on introducing any solids until he's 6 months old, so it's going to be a long 2 months for him. Also, pretty sure he's in the early stages of teething. It's been awful. He cries in pain until he can get something to chew on, preferably of the flesh variety. Hands, particularly knuckles, are his favorite. He also finally rolled over from his tummy this month! And ever since, he's been showing signs of trying to roll back to tummy, though he still has a little ways to go. He doesn't seem to know what to do with his gigantic head. It's cute to see him try though. Proud mom over here!



I started to get Wyatt on a bit of schedule this month. I go back to work in 3 weeks - let's not talk about it - and he will be in daycare full time. Before he goes, I wanted to introduce more of a daily routine for him than what we had been doing for the first 3 months...which was basically just winging it, every day was completely different than the one before. We were in survival mode. But Wyatt started to show signs of forming his own routine once he hit 12 weeks old, so I started the Moms On Call schedule, and I have to say, it has been life-changing for us. It only took him about 2 days to adjust, and he began sleeping 10+ hours at night with 4 consistent naps during the day. He is still in the Pack n' Play in our room and probably will be for the next month or two. We started to transition him out of the swaddle this month because we could sense the ability to roll over was closing in on us - sure enough, it did - and once that happens, swaddles are a no-go. We bought a Magic Merlin sleepsuit because I had heard rave reviews about using this as a transition suit, and we love it. I still swaddle Wyatt for his daytime naps because he puts himself to sleep much faster in a swaddle, and I can watch him closely on the monitor, but at night, he goes in his sleepsuit. Once he's in daycare, he will officially be out of the swaddle entirely, since they don't swaddle for naps. Until then, I plan on using it while I'm still home.

So 90% of the time, our days go like this:
7am - nurse then playtime
9am - quick nurse then out the door to Stroller Strides, which is Wyatt's first nap of the day. Sometimes he sleeps well during class, sometimes not so much.
11am - nurse then playtime
12-2pm - nap
2pm - nurse then playtime
3-4:30pm - nap
5pm - nurse then playtime
6-7pm - catnap, usually I'm wearing him in the carrier while making dinner
7:30pm - bath time...Wyatt's favorite part of the day! Brent does this with him now every day, and it's such a great way for them to bond.
8pm - Brent feeds Wyatt a 6-7 ounce bottle of pumped breastmilk
8:30pm - bedtime
I pump between 9-10pm every night and use that breastmilk for the next day's nighttime bottle.




As time goes on, I'm finding things are getting much easier, in general. For instance, breastfeeding. I can't tell you how many times I considered quitting in the first 2 months. It's hard. Like way harder than anyone ever tells you. And then all of a sudden, it becomes this amazing thing. I think the second Wyatt hit 3 months old, he went from nursing for 45 minutes every hour or two to nursing for 15 minutes every 3 hours. I freaked out at first that maybe he wasn't eating enough, but he was still producing the same number of wet and poop diapers a day and still gaining weight like a champ, he was just becoming a much more efficient eater. I mean, look at him - dude loves to eat. And sometimes when I look at him and see how much he has grown in such a short amount of time, I can't help but be amazed that he has survived entirely on a food source produced by ME. Breastfeeding has been an incredible experience, that's all I have to say.

And while some things get easier, others get more difficult. Unfortunately, I think we're beginning to see the start of the dreaded 4 month sleep regression. For the most part, Wyatt is still a great nighttime sleeper, but over the last week or so, he's had more frequent middle of the night wake-ups where he needs to be soothed back to sleep, which is very atypical for him. And naps? Don't get me started. He fights them in a bad way these days. I find myself needing a glass of wine once he goes to bed every night as a reward for getting through the naps alone.

Other fun happenings this month included belly laughs. Wyatt loves eskimo kisses; it's almost a sure method of getting a good belly laugh from him. It melts my heart every time. He's also big into laying on his back while I hover over him so that he can grab my face. I've learned the hard way to keep his nails trimmed well for this one. Ouch. His head control has gotten remarkably better this month. He loves exploring the house now and being able to grab the curtains is just the best. He can hold a pretty decent conversation, if you're fluent in baby babble. His least favorite things are being burped, gas, and naps.



We have his 4 month appointment on Friday. I have no idea how much he weighs, but if I'd have to guess, I'd say 17-18 lbs. He's a chubster.

We're heading to Florida for a few days next week to escape the awful winter we've had. I'm interested to see what Wyatt thinks of the warm weather. He loves being outside on the few occasions it's been above 30 degrees this winter, and I was able to get him outdoors for more than 5 minutes at a time. Wish us luck on the plane down there!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Kale and White Bean Soup with Turkey Meatballs


Last week, I was stuck in an I-hate-winter rut and was badly craving comfort food. While I would have loved to go the mac and cheese route, we're going to be in Florida next week, which means shorts and sundresses. Mac and cheese is not conducive to beach bodies. It's a shame, isn't it?


So I made a hearty, yet healthy, meal instead. A bowl of this soup is an entire well-rounded meal full of protein, fiber, and delicious goodness. It's almost like a different spin on Italian wedding soup, which is one of my favorites of all time. The recipe makes a lot...thank god I loved it because a week later, I'm still eating it for lunch every day!




Kale and White Bean Soup with Turkey Meatballs

For the meatballs:
1 lb ground turkey, 93% lean
1 egg, slightly beaten
2/3 C plain breadcrumbs
5 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
5 Tbsp Pecorino Romano cheese
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
3 Tbsp milk (I used unsweetened almond)
Salt and pepper, to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Mix all meatball ingredients together. 
  • Roll 1 inch meatballs and place on parchment paper. I got about 50 meatballs with this recipe.
  • Cook for 30 minutes until browned. 


For the soup:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 celery stalks, diced
5 C kale, chopped 
1 15 oz can cannellini beans
2 quartz (64 ounces) fat-free chicken broth
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp cream sherry
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 C cooked quinoa

  • While the meatballs are in the oven, begin the soup. Sauté the onion, garlic, and celery in a large pot in olive oil over medium heat, about 5 minutes. 
  • Add the kale, cover, and cook 5 minutes.
  • Remove the lid. Add beans, broth, seasoning, cream sherry, and lemon juice. Cook for 10 minutes.
  • Add the quinoa and the meatballs. Cook for 5 minutes.
  • Serve with extra Parmesan cheese.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Diet overhaul

While I have made no attempts to diet since Wyatt was born, I have tried to make better choices about what I'm eating. But when the scale doesn't budge for 2 months, your clothes aren't getting any looser, and you find yourself perpetually starving, it's time to reevaluate. I decided to track a few days of my food in MyFitnessPal, and YIKES. While my 3-meals-a-day were healthy, all the in-between snacking (there was a lot of this) was not. And when I took a look at the macros, I was downing a sizable portion of carbs, too much fat, and hardly enough protein. I always assumed I was hungry all the time from breastfeeding, but I think it has to do with the major lack of balance in my diet. My fallback snacks became quick grab-and-go items that I could eat while nursing, like granola bars, pretzels, crackers, cheese sticks, cookies, etc - essentially, processed, packaged crap. Sure, I'd throw in some carrots with hummus, an apple, and a salad here and there, but clearly, it wasn't enough. 

So I decided to do a little overhaul in my diet by cutting out all the packaged nonsense and stop my mindless eating. I have no mental space these days for the tedious task of calorie counting, and breastfeeding complicates that; so rather than embark on some crazy calorie cutting, which could be detrimental to my milk supply, I thought I'd start with making sure I eat to stay full, and that the calories I'm taking in are good ones, coming from mostly protein, healthy carbs, and good fats. In order to reduce my hunger cravings, I knew I needed to add more protein to my diet. And in order to actually stick with it, I had to make sure everything was prepared and ready to go ahead of time so that I could just grab it out of the fridge, heat it up, and devour. Eating healthy takes much more effort. I don't have time every day to prepare each individual meal I eat, so it's easiest to spend an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon preparing my food for the week, while Brent is here to help with Wyatt. 

I'm now eating about 6-7 small meals a day - each meal has some source of protein - and I've cut out most added sugar. I say 'most' because I do still add a bit of maple syrup to my oatmeal if I have that in the morning, and the vanilla Greek yogurt I have at night for dessert contains some sugar, as well. The first 3-4 days were the hardest. I went through some sugar cravings here and there. But by the end of the first week, I was over it. I stopped feeling hungry all the time, and I've managed to erase the mindless eating. Before, I would find myself scrounging through the pantry multiple times a day to find a snack to curb my appetite - now, I find myself opening it once for the jar of peanut butter. I'm realistic and fit in a cheat meal or two during the week, but I make sure to do it on days I have got a good workout session in. 

Here is what my meals look like on a typical day:



Meal 1:
3 egg whites + 1 egg + 1 C baby spinach + 1/4 C diced tomatoes + 1/4 C diced veggies
1 slice Ezekiel bread + 1 Tbsp Teddie's peanut butter
-or-
1/2 C egg whites
1/2 C oatmeal (made with unsweetened vanilla almond milk) + 1 C berries + 1/2 banana + 1 tsp maple syrup + cinnamon


Meal 2
4 oz chicken breast + 1 C green beans
-or-
4 oz ground turkey + 1 C broccoli


Meal 3:
4 oz chicken breast + salsa + 1/2 sweet potato
-or-
4 oz ground turkey + salsa + 1/2 C brown rice


Meal 4 (Snack):
apple + 1 Tbsp natural peanut butter (I like Teddie's brand)

Meal 5 (Snack)
carrots + 2 Tbsp hummus

Meal 6:
4 oz ground beef + 1-2 C bell peppers and onions (recipe)
-or-
4 oz pork tenderloin + 2 C salad greens + 1 Tbsp dressing

Meal 7 (Dessert!):
1/2-1 C Chobani nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt

...I sometimes forego the dessert and opt for a glass of wine instead :-)


And quite possibly, the most important part...WATER. Lots of water. At least 3 liters a day, and that's if I don't run. Typically, I average about 4 liters a day when I work out. I need the extra hydration for nursing, and it's quite filling. When I'm consistently drinking water throughout the day, I find that my urge to snack goes down drastically.

So yeah, it's a lot of food prep - BUT I have to say, it is so worth it. After only two weeks of cutting back on packaged junk and eating cleaner, I feel better - even if it's all in my head. And actually, my scar feels less inflamed even! One of the perks is that I've already lost 2 lbs - so that leaves me with 8 more to go until pre-pregnancy weight! I'm hoping by the time I return to work in 6 weeks that most of my old jeans fit again. Cheers to that!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Taco Filling Sautee

Most of our meals these days are a product of throwing random things in a pan and then hoping for the best. Some nights, we fail miserably, but other nights, we hit the jackpot. This was a product of one of the good nights.

I had all intentions of making a chili-type meal with the beef and peppers, but midway through, I realized I had no more diced tomatoes in the pantry. Seriously, what kind of an Italian am I? So I had to improvise. I threw some Marsala cooking wine in there with a dash of Worcestershire and seasonings, and when I took a bite to try, I realized it tasted oddly familiar. It was like taco filling but without the taco. The Marsala adds subtle sweetness to the mixture in place of the lack of tomatoes, and the spices give a great flavor kick.

It was so good, I'm making it again this week. The best part is it's a one pan kinda meal that only takes about 30 minutes from beginning to end to make. I chopped the veggies while the beef was browning to save time. Time is a precious, precious gift in our house these days - one not to be wasted.


Taco Filling Sautee

Ingredients:
1.25 lb ground beef, 85% lean
1 Tbsp olive oil
Green bell pepper, diced
Red bell pepper, diced
Small onion, diced
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp Marsala wine
1/2 tsp Worcestershire
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 C shredded cheese, plus additional for serving

Preparation:

  • In large skillet, brown the ground beef. Drain and discard the liquids. Transfer the browned beef to a bowl and reserve for later.
  • In the same skillet over medium heat, heat the oil, then add the peppers and onions. Sauté until softened, about 8-10 minutes, and sprinkle 1/4 tsp salt over the vegetables.
  • Add the ground beef, Marsala, and Worcestershire; stir and cook 2 minutes.
  • Add the salt, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin; stir to combine and cook for 3 more minutes.
  • Stir in 1/4 C of shredded cheese of choice. 
  • Serve topped with additional shredded cheese.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day from Wyatt



Wyatt wanted to stop in and wish everyone a Happy Valentine's Day. We'll be celebrating at home over a romantic dinner with a babbling - and hopefully not crying - baby in his bouncy chair next to us. Probably rent a movie. Maybe have a glass of prosecco. And if we're feeling particularly wild, we'll stay up past 9 o'clock.

But probably not.