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African Chickpea and Peanut Butter Soup (Gluten and Dairy Free)

March 30, 2017

Happy Spring friends! Over in my neck of the woods, things don’t feel completely Spring-like, but there is a definite freshness in the air that wasn’t there two weeks ago when we had a historic snowstorm that kept us trapped in the house. Well, except for when my husband went to the grocery store to buy pie. Clearly, we did not plan well for Pi Day this year, and clearly we take food very seriously in this household. Don’t hate though, that Price Chopper pie kicked butt and I did not have to do any work for it. My husband brought it to me on a plate, heated, and with fancy whipped cream. Praise hands.

So, while I didn’t bake any pie that day, I did finally make this lovely soup that my friend introduced me to months ago. I saw this soup in a picture on her instagram and knew that I had to have it! It did not disappoint. It is unique and delicious and- you can totally use the veggies you have in the house to customize it and clean out your fridge.

I figured I better post this recipe now in case anyone wants to make it before the weather gets too warm for soup. We’re having a moment of rare quiet  in our house. Nine month old baby Indy started crawling last weekend, and if he isn’t sleeping, he is following me around the house, trying to eat dog hair and random carpet fuzzes, and touch the outlets and the cable modem. How does he know? Are babies born with the capability to zero in on gross and dangerous objects? Anyway, that little love bug is currently napping off a party he had in his crib at 2 am. I’ve already had too much coffee to do the same- but that’s lucky for you, because now you get this soup!

I used this recipe, and made only a few minor changes, based upon the ingredients that I had in my house at the time/ what I thought would taste good! Plus, this one mentioned using tomato paste instead of crushed tomatoes, so I did that as well, because I wanted a thicker soup. I will also mention that I’ve seen pictures of this soup served over rice and garnished with peanuts and cilantro. There are so many different ways to serve this.

African Chickpea and Peanut Butter Soup

Ingredients

Olive oil (for sautéing)

1 medium white onion, diced

2 cloves minced garlic

2 carrots, pealed and diced

1/2 big bag of spinach (like the ones that come in prepackaged salad bags at the grocery store)

1 15 oz can of chickpeas

1/4 cup of peanut butter

1 and 1/2 6 oz cans of tomato paste

2 cups of vegetable broth

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon of parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Start off by heating the oil in a pot (I used a pan because I wasn’t thinking, and enjoy doing unnecessary dishes apparently) and sauté the carrots. Once the carrots begin to soften,  add the onion and garlic and sauté until everything is soft.

Add the chickpeas, and sauté them with the veggies, just to give them some flavor.  Sprinkle on the cayenne pepper, and mix everything together.

In a blender (or food processor if you have one) blend together the peanut butter and tomato paste, then add in the broth and blend until everything is smooth.

Add the peanut butter mixture to your pot and stir everything together. Once the soup is heated, add the chopped spinach and cook just until it wilts nicely. Sprinkle in the parsley, and add the amount of salt and pepper that your heart desires.

I hope you guys try this soup! It really is delicious. It’s nice to be writing again.

Talk to you next time my baby naps;)

 

 

 

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Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes and Comfort Food

October 5, 2016

Whenever we buy bananas at our house, I may as well assume that we will have two or three leftover in the fruit bowl- squishy and overly ripe. It happens every time. They are perfect for banana bread, but I’ve played this game too many times recently…and impossible though it may seem, I am tired of banana bread. Banana bread and I are on a break, although I was feeling guilty and wasteful for potentially throwing away food. However, I remembered the delicious banana and strawberry pancakes that our friends made us when Indy was born. They were healthy and rather filling, not like fluffy buttermilk pancakes (which are obviously very good in their own right). I remember being very full after eating only one. Our friends also pre-wrapped and froze them for us, so that we could defrost one whenever we needed a convenient breakfast.

With all of this in mind, I hunted down a recipe that I thought seemed similar. I found this one on pinterest and adjusted it slightly to make more, and I added a little olive oil and substituted milk for an almond/coconut blend. The recipe came out great, and its simplicity ensures that you probably have most of these ingredients in your home right now. I hope you try it the next time you are making a lazy Saturday breakfast or on a Sunday night for make ahead breakfasts during the week. These pancakes are indeed the ultimate filling and comforting breakfast to eat on a chilly morning!

Speaking of comfort food, what have you been cooking recently? My husband and I have been cooking at home a lot more often recently, and it has been so nice. We’ve definitely fallen into the habit of eating around the coffee table in a hurry, so its nice to slow down and set the table and just sit, eat and talk. Two of our favorite meals have been The Pioneer Woman’s BBQ Meatballs (very kitschy and not for the food snob- I am warning you!) with mashed potatoes and crockpot chicken and biscuits (made with a roux, not with cream of chicken soup). I used the crockpot for the chicken and veggies, and made the roux on the stove with the chicken and veggie broth from the crockpot. I recommend making homemade biscuits, or using bisquick. When I decided to really cheat and use a can of biscuits, the bottoms got soggy and never cooked properly.  The next comfort foods that I am craving are vegetarian chili and butternut squash soup with garlic bread.

Although this season of life has been busy, it has also been wonderful. Our boy is growing quickly and developing a sweet and social little personality. Sadly his really good newborn sleep habits have regressed, so we are doing some gentle sleep training. It’s more of a fuss though and learn to connect those sleep cycles than a cry it out situation. The weather has been really cool and pleasant, and there have been fun things going on around town despite the fact that summer is officially over. We are relishing our last few outdoor Green Markets, and I recently took home a big grocery bag of books from the library book sale for $2! I am currently reading Nora Ephron’s first novel Heartburn when the little man lets me have some down time.  So far, I am finding that it is darkly funny and lends itself to being picked up for only a few minutes at a time, which is usually all I get. As for television, Outlander has been very good, and I’ve been indulging in my guilty pleasure Married at First Sight. It’s seriously addicting, and before you judge…two couples from season one are still happily married. Has anyone started watching This Is Us? Mandy Moore and Jess from Gilmore Girls are in it. I’ve cried during both episodes. Ugly crying, and this show has lots of twists.

Anyway, we are looking forward to doing some apple picking this weekend! I have applesauce to can before Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving! Anyone doing any canning this fall? img_3944  img_3916

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I made lemon bars, and you should too.

August 30, 2016

Anyone else feel like they still have one foot in summer, and the other in fall? I won’t lie, my pinterest boards are filled with pumpkin recipes and ankle boots, but part of me has just begun to enjoy the summer now that it’s no longer 95 degrees out! My husband and I feel a little bit as though we’ve skipped summer. We just didn’t see the point of dragging our newborn out into the brutal heat. However, a recent trip to Lake George with family has us wanting to squeeze every last bit of enjoyment out of the summer season. This means walks at night with Indy and our dogs, and afternoons spent sitting on a blanket on the lawn, drinking a beer and watching our little guy kick around. We’ve been able to shut off the air conditioning and open the windows wide, sheer curtains billowing about in a scene that always reminds me of The Great Gatsby.  Do you remember the part when Daisy and Gatsby see each other for the first time in years, and she is lounging around, trying to stay cool with her friend Jordan? Fitzgerald mentions the curtains blowing around in the breeze, and although it isn’t important, it is an image that always stuck with me. So, until pumpkin spice lattes return to Starbucks, I’ll be over here ignoring the siren song of mums on front stoops, fuzzy socks, and chili in the crockpot. Well, mostly ignoring (surreptitiously sips iced pumpkin coffee from Dunkin). Those days will come soon enough!

In the spirit of enjoying summer, I’d like to share a recipe for lemon bars. To me, they are a summer dessert- probably because they remind me of lemonade. It’s the perfect time to bake them now that the temperature has dropped slightly. I’ve been thinking about lemon bars since a sweet friend from church brought us some for dessert after baby boy’s birth. This isn’t the exact recipe she used, but it is a good one. I made these for my husband over the weekend, and we’ve been enjoying them! I’m sharing the link for the original recipe that I made, but also, the alterations that I made today to make these lemon bars gluten and dairy free to accommodate members of my family who have dietary restrictions. I also made a version with lime juice to change things up! My husband and I found both versions to be delicious- but the gluten and dairy free version is a little less rich, with a more crumbly crust. I may need to experiment with different types of flour to make the crust comparable to the original recipe. Does anyone have any suggestions? I also may add a drop of food coloring to the lime bars next time or top them with lime zest so that I can tell the bars apart! I’m excited to share them with family soon. Give these a try and enjoy the last bits of your summer:)

Lemon Bars

For the crust:

1 cup of soft, but not fully melted coconut oil (or butter for the dairy version)

1/2 cup white granulated sugar

2 cups of gluten free flour (or regular for the wheat version)

For the lemon filling:

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups of white granulated sugar

1/4 cup of gluten free flour (or regular for the wheat version)

2/3 cup of lemon juice

powdered sugar for topping

or a Lime Version:

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups of white granulated sugar

1/4 cup gluten free flour (or regular for the wheat version)

2/3 cup of lime juice

1 table spoon of lemon juice

powdered sugar for topping

Directions:

Line a 9×13 pan with tin foil, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together your crust ingredients and press the dough down flat in the pan until the whole thing is covered. Bake in the oven for about 18 minutes. While the crust is baking, mix the lemon filling in a stand mixer or blender until the filling is frothy. When the crust is done baking, pour the lemon mixture over the top and bake for 20 minutes.

Once the bars have cooled, chill in the refridgerator for two hours. Remove the bars from the pans, and peel off all of the foil.  Right before you serve the bars, cut them into squares and top them with powdered sugar.

 

 

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The Truth About Cloth Diapers

August 25, 2016

 

Hello friends! Now that my son has been wearing cloth diapers for almost two months n0w, I feel like I can give you an honest review of what cloth diapering has been like for us. I did promise to share the good, the bad, and the ugly! Please excuse my fuzzy iPhone photos! I slowly began transitioning to mostly cloth diapers when my son was about a month old, and he stopped pooping a zillion times a day! This was also the time that little Indy began to chunk up a bit to fill out the diaper. I no longer have anything to worry about in the chunk department- this kid is a 13 lb 11 week old!

Honestly, cloth diapers are a little bit more of a pain than disposables. You need to prewash brand new cloth diapers before the first use according to their instructions. Disposables have easy tabs, and that telltale line that turns blue when the diaper is soiled. They are super convenient to use when you have a newborn and are tracking the number of dirty diapers.  You take them and throw them into the trash when they are soiled. They are more absorbent for longer periods of time than cloth. But…

I noticed that Indy stopped getting diaper rashes quite as frequently when we switched to mostly cloth diapers. I think maybe the chemicals in the disposables were irritating his already sensitive skin. And…

there are so many different types of cloth diapers that it is easy to find out what works best for your baby and your lifestyle.  I definitely recommend trying a few different ones if you get the opportunity to. I was lucky to be gifted a stash of gently used diapers before I gave birth. This has allowed me to find my favorites, and purchase more of what works for us in larger sizes. The diapers I purchased can be worn from about 8-35 lbs.  I am a big fan of the Bumgenius All In One diapers. All In One means that they have no separate parts or inserts. I love that there is no stuffing or prep required. I think I will like them even better once Indy is a little older and they aren’t quite so bulky on him! Be aware that these diapers are pretty bulky and will make newborn clothing tight before your baby has officially outgrown that size! Indy has been filling out some larger sizes of clothing while wearing cloth.

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I also like Thirsties and Flips diaper covers. With these, you simply place an absorbent insert inside and change that out when it is soiled. Then you can wipe off the cover (as long as it isn’t too messy) with a wipe. It’s pretty cost effective because you get more uses out of each diaper, and inserts are cheaper than diapers. These sound like they would not hold as much- but both brands of diapers recently contained two really big messes without leaks! I also love the fact that these are not nearly as bulky as other diapers. Pictured here are two covers, one with the insert, and one without.

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The other style of diapers that I have tried are pocket diapers. For now, I think that these are okay. They work well, but they have the bulk of an All In One without the convenience- because they must be stuffed. The inserts are stuffed inside, so once the insert is dirty, so is the entire diaper. However- I’ve heard people say that they love these and find them to be more absorbent because you can stuff them with whatever type of insert that you want, and you can add more inserts for a heavy wetter. I am keeping an open mind about these because I may find that I love them once Indy starts wearing cloth overnight. The brands that I have tried are Rumparooz, Thirsties, Fuzzibuns, and Bumgenius.

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Once I got into a good routine, cloth diapering baby boy turned out to not be quite as big of a pain as I was expecting. I have a wet bag inside my diaper pail, and one in my diaper bag for when we are going out. The wet bags have done a good job of containing the mess and smell so far, and I simply throw them into the wash with my diapers. My wash routine is simple, and I do it every other day. I use Bumgenius detergent, and do a warm wash, a heavy duty hot wash, and then a cold rinse. I’ll throw a little bleach in the hot wash about once every few weeks. I hang dry the all in one diapers and covers, and throw the inserts into the dryer. If a diaper is extra messy, I will spray it off in the toilet before I throw it in the pail. I do plan on investing in a diaper sprayer shield due to some recent splatter!

All in all, I am really pleased with cloth diapering. We are definitely saving money, and the amount of work has not been a huge impact to our lifestyle. I still use disposables on trips and overnight, but I am hoping to start trying cloth overnight once my little guys habits change a bit!

Cooking Uncategorized

Our Favorite Enchiladas

August 13, 2016

Oh man, guys. This is one of our favorite meals ever. We make them at home, and order them out at Mexican restaurants.  Any excuse to eat enchiladas and we are all over it. Make these enchiladas for someone, and you’ll have a new best friend instantly. They are that good! I first made these for my husband’s 24th birthday the first year we were married. I was still learning to cook and I was shocked that I successfully completed a seemingly complicated recipe.  I used the Pioneer Woman’s Recipe from her first cookbook as a guideline, but over the years, we’ve changed things up a bit- and you can too! I’ve made these with meat, vegetarian, and dairy free with vegan cheese. Once you get the general idea- its so easy to customize your filling. It’s all good! Even though making enchiladas is quite the process, it really is not difficult once you establish a system. There are a lot of steps- but they are all easy!  Bonus points if you have a buddy help you because you can create an assembly line- but you can do this alone.

 

You’ll Need:

1 Rotisserie chicken, completely shredded  (or you could use black beans or lentils)

1 small can of green chiles

Half of a pepper, diced

half of a small onion, diced

1 small bunch of cilantro, minced

Penzey’s Taco Seasoning

1 package corn tortillas

1 large can and 1 small can of red enchilada sauce

shredded mexican blend of cheese (or vegan cheese for the lactose intolerant among us- or just skip the cheese)

Vegetable oil (for frying)

Start by sautéing the diced pepper and onion.

Once they are soft, add them to a big bowl. Mix in the chicken, can of chiles, and a half cup of the cheese. Add a tablespoon of the minced cilantro and a tablespoon of taco seasoning.

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Next, heat vegetable oil on your stove top and bring it to about medium heat. You can always adjust the temperature if things are cooking too quickly.

While the oil is heating, pour some enchilada sauce into a shallow bowl. Add some of the sauce to the bottom of a casserole dish. Take the tortillas out and set them on top of the bag. Put your bowl of enchilada filling on the counter next to that. Now it’s time to grab some tongs and start frying!

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Fry both sides of a corn tortilla. I usually wait until one side puffs up, flip it, and fry the other for about 30 seconds. I would like to add that I always end up breaking one of my first tortillas. If this happens to you, don’t be sad. Just go easier with those tongs! Next, use the tongs to transfer the tortilla to the bowl of sauce and dunk it in.

I always end up burning my fingers a little because I grab the tortilla out of the sauce with my hands, because the tongs always rip them at this point. Do this at your own risk! Place the enchilada in the casserole dish, add some filling, and then roll the tortilla over so that it is pinned closed by its own weight. Then you get back in there, and do it again until you run out of filling or tortillas or both!

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Once your casserole dishes are full and your fingerprints are sufficiently burned off, douse your enchiladas in a generous amount of enchilada sauce and an unholy amount of cheese.

The next step is to bake them at 350 until everything is melted, and maybe a hint browned on top- about 15 minutes. Add some fresh minced cilantro to the top and serve! If you are making these ahead, you can stick the casserole dish in the fridge and just bake them a little before you intend to serve them.

These go great with a shredded lettuce salad, a side of refried beans, and maybe some spanish rice! They  are also great on their own. Or with a Margherita (if you do this- only a little sour mix guys- mostly tequila and lime juice, and just have one because we are responsible adults.) At the very least serve them with some chips, salsa, and guacamole.

Enjoy!

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Uncategorized

Sleepy and Thankful

August 5, 2016

Hello friends! It has been quite awhile since I’ve posted. That’s because I have been busy taking care of a tiny newborn who has grown into a chunky, happy two month old! I can hardly believe it’s been two months since my week overdue baby boy arrived on a Friday night. My husband and I could hardly believe it when the doctor put a squirming grunting, 7 lb, 3 oz baby boy on my chest. I immediately took in his dark hair and eyes, and the tiny little birthmarks on his eyes that the doctor called angel kisses. The night we became parents changed everything- but in the most wonderful way.

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I’m feeling very thankful lately.

Thankful for a healthy, handsome baby boy, whom my dad nicknamed Indy (as in Indiana Jones).I think that’s what I’ll call him on this blog.

I am thankful for family who helped us out before and after Indy’s birth, and everyone who sent well wishes and gifts. I am thankful for friends who brought us meals for two weeks so that my husband and I could lay around with our baby and binge watch shows together, and just stare at our tiny boy. We’ll remember those first few weeks forever. I know that people call a “Baby-moon” a vacation you take before baby’s arrival, but we truly feel that we had one the week after our son was born.

I’m thankful for first smiles and bright eyes, and fur babies who have been nothing but sweet and gentle toward the new tiny human in our home.

I’m thankful whenever I see my husband cuddling our son and for all of the feedings and diaper changes he does.

I’m thankful that Indy now usually wakes up only once a night and for the cold brew coffee (more on that soon) that gets me through sleepy afternoons.

I am thankful for at home date nights with a glass of wine, and our tiny boy nestled in his bassinet nearby.

I’ll try to get better at this blogging thing. I’m thankful to Indy’s wonderful Aunt Ilana for holding down the fort and writing so many awesome posts! I’m hoping to share more as I begin to discover the new normal for my life now that I am a mom. I’ve slowly begun cooking more, and Indy finally fits into his cloth diapers- so that has been an interesting transition!

Thanks for reading. I’ll leave you with a photo of this caprese salad that we enjoyed last night. We just substituted peaches for tomatoes, and kept everything else the same. So, so good.

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Talk to you soon:)

 

Gardening Uncategorized

Gade Farm

May 24, 2016

I don’t know about where you live, but the weather in upstate New York is finally getting mild and sunny. After what seemed like weeks of rain, we’ve finally gotten enough sun to sit outside, sip cold drinks, and watch the dogs run around the yard. And, when those aforementioned dogs get me up because they need to go outside at four in the morning (help me), I hear birds cheerfully chirping away. It is also light out by the time my husband leaves for work, which is nice.

Now that I have, for now, a little more time on my hands, I’ve started to think about doing a little landscaping and yard prep for the summer. I’m waiting for our car port to be cleared out so that I can complete the long anticipated patio makeover. While I wait, I’ve been bargain shopping and window shopping for lights and an outdoor carpet. We also want to start a vegetable garden , but with a new baby on the way, we’ve decided to keep things pretty simple this year and buy a few plants at some point. We’ll probably plant tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, and various  herbs. Although I do not have the greatest green thumb, we have had decent luck with those three crops in the past, and our zucchini seems to practically take care of itself! I don’t know why, but it does. Luckily, even if we don’t harvest our own huge bounty this year, there is always plenty of fresh produce at the Green Market on Sundays. My husband plans to remove the boxes he built for our little garden two years ago and just dig out a nice patch of our yard to fence in.

With other projects on hold, I started thinking about our window boxes. There is something about coming home and seeing your window boxes heaping with flowers that feels so cozy and nice. The first year we lived in our house,  I planted marigolds that I sadly killed by watering at the hottest part of the day- but you live and learn! I can’t remember what exactly I planted last year. There were red, white and yellow flowers that lived very happily in the sun and absolutely flourished for most of the summer once I started watering them before it got too hot!

This year, I was uncertain about what I wanted to buy, but I knew I would shop at my favorite place to buy plants,  The Gade Farm. If you’ve been reading this blog for the past year, you might remember me mentioning this nursery and country shop as home of hands down the best apple cider donuts I have ever had, and delicious fruit pies that they import from Mourningkill Bake Shop. It also has one of the most beautifully arranged nurseries that you have ever seen! If I am ever feeling down, or uninspired, there is something about walking through that gorgeous rainbow of plants and flowers that immediately puts me in a good mood. I figured that Gade’s would be the perfect distraction from feeling like my baby won’t ever come!

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Initially I was a little overwhelmed by the large selection of full sun plants- and the crowd- it was insane for a Monday morning! I guess I wasn’t the only one intoxicated by the sunshine and mid 70’s! I also think people are probably getting their yards ready for Memorial Day weekend this week. Despite the crowds,  I quickly made my way over to the flowers that were $2.99 a pack. I love nothing more than a good deal- and I figured that I could buy a bunch of flowers and still stay within a reasonable budget! I chose orange marigolds, purple crawly flowers called Verbena Imagination, and red Salvia.  The staff was very helpful and friendly and even loaded everything into the back of my car for me. Between a large bag of soil and all of my flowers, I spent about $47. I bought 11 packs of flowers to cover my five window boxes. Honestly, I ended up buying way too much- because although the boxes look a little sparse now, if all goes according to plan- they will fill out like crazy once they get better established.  Knowing how things took off last year, I did not want to overcrowd the boxes. The rest of the flowers ended up in little pots that are now decorating my front stoop. Before I left the nursery, I also stopped into the country shop and bought a delicious very berry crumble top pie! So worth it!

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I am so glad that I took the time yesterday to do some planting! There is nothing like getting your hands into the soil and spending time outside. Plus, although today is mild, the sun is currently hiding behind some clouds, and I don’t know whether it will come back out today.

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What have you guys been planting so far this year?

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Life Parenting Uncategorized

Hi, I’m Kristen, and I’m planning to cloth diaper my baby boy. Here’s why.

April 13, 2016

When I first heard of cloth diapering years ago, my first response was, “Eww why?” I guess college Kristen was blissfully unaware of the cost of living in the world as an adult, as well as the environmental factors. My only worries were student loans, homework, and how come my boyfriend won’t text me back (It was because I ran out of minutes on my Virgin mobile flip phone).  I also had never laid eyes on a cloth diaper. When I actually saw a cloth diaper while working in childcare, I was surprised by the bright colors and easy to use snaps. I’ll admit, I still rolled my eyes a bit-after all, don’t daycare workers already have enough to do? My friend who was a teacher in the toddler room at the time explained that really, the parents do all of the hard work. Her job was simply to remove the cloth diaper and put it into a bag for the parents to wash when they got home. It’s not like she was washing diapers at daycare! Not so bad after all!

A few years later, I happened to reconnect with a college friend who cloth diapers, and I made a new friend who also happened to cloth diaper her daughters. They explained that it really was not that difficult at all, and that they were really pleased with how it was working out for their families. I was definitely intrigued, and asked my husband what he thought about trying it once we had our own little one. He was surprisingly interested as well! When my good friend recently gave birth to my unborn child’s future best friend (no pressure boys!), I had yet another experience observing cloth diapering up close. After a few weeks of trying it, my friend confided- “It’s easier than I thought. The biggest complaints I’ve heard from people about it are from those who have never tried it.” I can relate, as I’ve definitely gotten some criticism when I’ve mentioned our choice to people as well. However, it  hasn’t bothered me much because I remember my opinion of it all not too long ago! If you don’t know what it’s like today, the phrase cloth diaper conjures up the image of a white towel and safety pins.  Although my mom is never one to criticize, I think she felt relieved when a friend from her church showed her the cloth diapers she uses for her daughter. My mom liked that they looked easy to use and thought that they were very cute! There are definitely way more options available now than there were years ago! If you haven’t seen one, google “cloth diaper” or the “Green Nursery”. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by the different terms and types. I still am! The silly brand names had Ilana’s husband amused. He was like, “Bumgenius, Rumparooz, Thirsties…really?”

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My pup Hamish is investigating the cloth diapers and wet bag! He has been very curious about all of the baby gear we’ve brought home recently!

So, why the decision to cloth diaper?

Well, first of all, its definitely a way to save money. After I have baby boy, I will be working very minimally doing billing, or possibly not at all if baby is too grumpy to take into the office (as my boss has generously offered to allow me to do). My income isn’t much, but we will be essentially adding a person to our family and living on one salary- so I am going to do whatever I need to in order to budget so that we can still save money. I’ll admit, the initial cost of cloth diapering is expensive- you can spend around $350 building a stash- but if you do the math about how many disposable diapers you’d use over the course of around 3 years- you are absolutely saving money! To me, best kind of cloth diapers are the ones that grow with your child so that you can use the same diaper from infancy to potty training. Plus, if you treat them appropriately, you can use them for future children- and they have great resale value. There is a huge market for gently used cloth diapers. You can shop the sales and giveaways, and you can look into buying a gently used stash. It sounds gross- but diapers that were washed and treated appropriately will look like new. I know, because I was recently gifted a large stash from a sweet friend of Ilana’s. My husband thought they were brand new! I also recently got two brand new Bumgenius Freetimes from a good friend of mine! As you can see from the picture above- I practiced using them on my son’s teddybear!

Our second reason for cloth diapering- we also like the idea of not filling up landfills with years worth of diapers. I in no way criticize those who use disposables, in fact, we plan to use them when baby boy is an infant- unless he happens to weigh enough to fit into cloth right away.  We also plan to use them when we are traveling. I think that the only way this will work for us is if we are flexible. This is supposed to be a small step to help the environment, and our finances- not an excuse to feel like a failure or lay on that “mommy guilt” when I put my kid in a disposable. Baby steps, guys. This is just one way to help that works for our lifestyle. I fully recognize that this is not for everybody! There are always a million decisions to make about parenting and childbirth.  Cloth diaper, disposable diaper,  epidural, home birth, formula feeding , breastfeeding- don’t hate! You never know what someone else is going through. Don’t feed into the mommy wars! I recently learned about this when I joined, and unjoined a cloth diapering Facebook group!

Right now, I am still a newbie and in the learning process! There is a ton for me to learn as far as types of diapers, and the washing routine. There are detergents that are cloth diaper friendly, and ones that are not. There are also certain diaper creams that can be used and creams that will ruin your diaper’s ability to absorb. I’ve recently learned that coconut oil is safe for cloth diapers.  I’m also currently shopping for a diaper sprayer. As I learn more from experience and friends, I’ll update you on how this is going. I’ll share the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Do any of you cloth diaper? I’d love any feedback or advice if you have it!

 

Life Uncategorized

A Few More of Our Favorite Spots in Schenectady

April 7, 2016

Hi there! Kristen here. Remember a few months ago I wrote a post about my favorite spots to eat and drink in Schenectady? No? Well, not only did that happen, but I also promised a Part Two. So here it is for your reading and hopefully eating pleasure. This post will focus mainly on coffee and dessert! And breakfast.

Perreca’s – I first discovered Perreca’s when I went there for breakfast with friends for our book club. It’s a church book club, because we are cool like that. It’s located on a small block that is called Schenectady’s Little Italy. A few years ago, Hillary Clinton made that official. There is even a sign on an archway that says so. Anyway, initially I was not super thrilled with the choice because I could not find breakfast anywhere on the menu. I’m the kind of weirdo who likes to look at a menu ahead of time because I really love food and planning what I am going to eat. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised when we walked into the restaurant. Its a cute little Italian place with a bakery where they make their famous bread right next door. The menu includes complicated dishes, like Eggs in Purgatory and various breakfast pizzas, as well as simple breakfast choices. I ended up being so impressed with Perreca’s that for months I bugged my husband to go there with me. We finally went about three weeks ago, and he liked it so much that we went again on our Friday off together. We both got the breakfast special-coffee, eggs, potatoes, sausage, and that famous toast! Our bill was a grand total of $11 for a breakfast so large that we had trouble finishing it. Somehow, we managed. Afterward, we went to the bakery next door, and got a loaf of bread for Easter Sunday. We ate it all in two days. So much for that. It was awesome, though. Go there.

Villa Italia– If you are looking for a large selection of gelato, and a ton of Italian pastries, Villa Italia is the place to go! It is a bakery, but it also has little groupings of tables so that you can sit inside or outside with a cup of coffee and an authentic rainbow cookie. They do have a lunch menu as well that I have not tried yet- but everything I’ve had there is good- so it seems promising. It is one of the best places to get dessert in the area- or to grab a snack before walking over to the movie theater. My husband and I take turns surprising each other with boxes of their pastries after important life events. I got him treats after he passed a final, and he got me a box when I started teaching preschool.

The Happy Cappuccino– I remember shortly after we moved upstate and discovered the wonders of Jay Street, I was dying to try this place due to the name alone! It’s a cute little coffee shop, kind of dark inside and filled with estate sale furniture and board games. When you go there, a Jay Street hipster will most likely be serenading you outside. It’s a nice place to sit and talk, or just a good place to grab a coffee before walking down to the Green Market. They offer a few baked goods at the counter, but this really is a better place to get a latte than dessert. My drink of choice is an iced green tea matcha latte! It’s pretty amazing if you are into that sort of thing. Apparently The Happy Cappuccino just opened up an Albany location, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Puzzles Bakery and Cafe– I get extra excited about Puzzles because they train and employ adults with developmental disabilities. I worked as a job coach right out of college, and I’ve seen this exact type of endeavor very poorly run- but Puzzles seems to be the real deal! The Schenectady bakery is the first of what will hopefully be many locations. Every time I have gone into Puzzles, all of the staff members were courteous to customers, and seemed to be friendly and respectful to one another. The food was also delicious! I have tried their desserts, and their chili during the Schenectady Soup stroll this past winter. I’m definitely looking forward to going back and trying more items on their menu!

Top’s– Top’s Diner is about three minutes from my house, so we find ourselves going there pretty often! It holds a special place in my heart because we ate there with my in-laws, including Ilana, the first weekend we moved into our house. I remember sitting there, dead tired after moving boxes all day and eating dinner at 9 pm. The guys were even more tired than us because they all started tearing down plaster in one of the bedrooms. Remember how I recently wrote about how we decided to restore the damaged plaster in our home? That’s why! Anyway, back to Tops.  They offer a huge menu and make just as good breakfasts as they do dinners. All of their omelets are huge and delicious, with the most amazing home fries. I also love the Eggs Florentine- kind of like Benedict, but with spinach. I’ve also committed the sin of ordering Italian food from a diner- and guess what? I have not been disappointed yet. You can get just about anything there from wraps to risotto or a nice steak- and it will be delicious. They also have an assortment of cakes and pies. We end up taking home pie or a slice of rainbow cake to eat almost every time we go. I can’t wait until Key Lime is back in season!

So there you have it, more recommendations for places to eat in Schenectady! We’ve had fun eating out a little bit more because we know tiny baby boy will most likely have us cooped up at home for a bit! We’ve already started a little freezer meal prep! So far, we have frozen chili, next up- lasagna! Does anyone have any good freezer meal ideas? We’d love suggestions!

At least the weather should be warm by then. I say SHOULD BE because we just got about four inches of snow on Sunday night- and it’s STILL HERE. I’m dreaming of eating gelato and taking the baby for long walks in the stroller next month! Unless baby comes in June instead. Who knows:)

 

Baking Cooking Recipe Uncategorized

Irish Soda Bread and an Easy Crock Pot St. Paddy’s Day Dinner

March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Maybe treat yourself to a Guinness and some Irish Soda bread today. Better yet, throw an easy corned beef and cabbage dinner in the crock pot before you go to work so you can kick back, relax, and watch The Quiet Man later instead of hanging out in the kitchen.  This recipe is nothing fancy (or photogenic!), nor is it health food- but we look forward to it every year. It’s also a pretty lazy kind of recipe. I pour a beer over it, scatter on the seasoning packet that comes with the corned beef and call it a day! You can easily customize it to make it more interesting, but we like it as is! Be forewarned, the cabbage cooking will smell kind of stinky, but cabbage actually has a pretty mild flavor. The soda bread is a little more labor intensive, and requires an hour to bake- but I promise its worth it!

 

Corned Beef and Cabbage in the Crock Pot

1  package of corned beef (ours was a little over 3lbs)

5 potatoes cut into large cubes

1 large onion, halved and cut into slices

5 carrots, cut in half

Half of a small cabbage, cut into wedges (wondering what to do with the other half of cabbage? Make this yummy cole slaw. I’ve made this dairy free by making “fake” buttermilk with nondairy milk and vinegar or lemon juice, and reducing the amount of sugar doesn’t hurt either! Change nothing else!)

Beer of your choice, we usually use a Guinness or a Bass

 

Place all of your chopped veggies, except for the cabbage at the bottom of your crock pot. Next, place the corned beef on top of the veggies, and then nestle the cabbage around it. Pour the entire beer on top of the layered meat and veggies, and then carefully scatter the seasonings from the flavor packet over the top. Funny story- this year I somehow bought a package without the seasonings. I improvised with a generous sprinkle of black pepper, parsley, and a little of Penzey’s Northwoods seasoning.  Cover the crock pot and cook everything on low for about 7-8 hours.

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When it is finished cooking, remove the meat and cut it into slices against the grain, and place the cabbage around it. Using a slotted spoon, strain out the vegetables (they will be hiding in all of that liquid), and place into a bowl.

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I like to eat this dish with a side of applesauce and Irish soda bread, and my husband likes spicy brown mustard instead of applesauce. Do whatever appeals to you! Please note: Corned beef leftovers make good sandwich meat for lunches during the week!

 

Now for the Irish Soda Bread Recipe! This is actually a recipe that my mom passed down to me from my dad’s mom, my grandmother. Its pretty special to me, and I hope you enjoy it! I always think of my Nana when I bake it. She was a pretty amazing lady. She and my Grandpa immigrated from Ireland and raised 10 children together! I remember climbing the trees in her front yard and having sleepovers at her house. I was always running wild, and she tried to get me to comb my hair. I really miss her, and wish she could meet my son.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups of flour

3 tablespoon of sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

3/4 teaspoon of baking soda

1 tablespoon of baking powder

6 tablespoons of butter

2 eggs

1 and 1/2 cups of buttermilk (once again, you can make your own “fake buttermilk”, although the recipe does include butter, so it won’t be entirely dairy free)

1 and a half cups of raisins (I actually cannot stand raisins, so I always leave them out!)

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then mix all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Next, cut in the butter by hand. Beat the eggs in a small bowl, and then pour most of it into the mixture, reserving a little to be an egg wash. Add the buttermilk and stir until everything is combined. Once the mixture is well combined, add the raisins. Form a loose ball with the dough (if it feels too wet, its fine to add a little more flour at this point), and then place into a greased pan (I use a round cake pan).  Use a brush or a spoon to coat the dough in an egg wash. Feel free to crack another egg if you didn’t have enough leftover. Lastly, use a sharp knife to cut a cross into the bread, and place in the oven. The recipe says to cook the bread for an hour and 20 minutes, but I usually keep a close eye on it after an hour.

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Once your bread is cooked and cooled a bit, spread with butter and enjoy!

I hope everyone has a fabulous day and enjoys this easy dinner!