Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pumpkin Comfort: Pumpkin Bliss Salad and Twice Baked Pumpkin Penne

Warning: For those that read further than this sentence, this post makes the art of portion control a lost one.

It all started with a massive 16-pound pumpkin on Friday. This would be the last one I would roast this season, to make both homemade pumpkin puree and some freshly chopped pumpkin to use this weekend in a variety of comfort recipes. From this:

To this:

and this

 I also made some delicious pumpkin chocolate chip cookies with pumpkin buttercream frosting. I'm sure I've far exceeded my vitamin A requirement for a pregnant and nursing mother with the amount of pumpkin I consumed in just this weekend.

My pumpkin bliss salad, I'm proud to say, was my own creation. The only thing I copied was the caramelized brussel sprouts from the Grilled Cheese Social. If you really want to indulge when making this salad, you may need to go out of your way to find goat butter. I used this kind, which I found at my grocery store a few months ago, and I've been waiting to tear it open to make something good! You'll also want to pick up some top-notch goat cheese. You've already done the hard work of cutting up a pumpkin. May as well do this right.

My 21-month-old son loved the basic ingredients in this "salad".

Twice Baked Pumpkin Penne is pretty much all thanks to this recipe from How Sweet it Is. I wouldn't have changed anything, as the recipe is brilliant, but I didn't want to use butternut squash since I spent my son's precious nap time on Friday cubing a massive pumpkin. I also couldn't find mascarpone cheese, and so I used creme fraiche instead, and I decided to throw some veggies in the mix to add some extra comfort and flavor. Yum.

This may sound presumptuous, but you're welcome.

Pumpkin Bliss Salad

Makes approximately 5 salads

1 lb raw brussel sprouts
1/2 yellow onion, chopped coarsley
2 lbs chopped pumpkin, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
1/3 cup roasted salted almonds
4 tablespoons of goat milk butter, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 cups baby spinach, raw
5-6 oz goat cheese
1/3 cup dried cranberries 
1 can sliced beets, or 2 beets, roasted and cubed

To caramelize the brussel sprouts: Steam the brussel sprouts until they're tender but still crunchy. Let them cool a bit, then cut off the bottoms and half them. Save all the leaves that fall off. Heat one tablespoon of goat butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, then add the chopped onion. Once the onion is tender and translucent, add another tablespoon of goat butter, and the brussel sprouts and loose leaves. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and wait for the sprouts to brown a little, then add the sugar. Toss and cook until the sprouts are browned.

In another large skillet, melt two tablespoons of goat butter, then add the chopped pumpkin and roasted almonds, and salt. Cover, and cook until tender, tossing every few minutes to full absorb the goat butter.

To assemble the salad, put 1-2 cups of raw spinach on a plate, add the beets, brussel sprouts, pumpkin, almonds and dried cranberries, then crumble goat cheese on top. You will not need dressing on this salad. Unless you're crazy.

Twice Baked Pumpkin Penne

Recipe barely changed, thank you How Sweet It is
Serves 10, unless you're pregnant. In that case, serves 2.

2 lbs chopped pumpkin, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Olive oil, to toss
1 medium eggplant, cut up into 1 inch pieces
3 cups spinach
1 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup creme fraiche (or mascarpone cheese as the original recipe calls for)
1 to 1 and 1/3 cup milk (start with the smallest amount, add more as needed)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
fresh sage leaves
8 oz thick sliced bacon, baked 

Toss the eggplant with a little olive oil and salt, and roast it at 350 degrees for 15 minutes each side on a baking sheet. Steam the spinach, and set them aside.

Pre-heat the oven at 400 degrees, and toss the cubed pumpkin with olive oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Lay it on a baking sheet and cook it for 20 minutes, then toss it around, and roast it for another 20 minutes.

Cook the penne according to the package directions. Drain it well, and set aside. When the pumpkin is tender, put it in a bowl and mash it well. In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the shallots over medium heat. Whisking constantly, continue to cook it until it begins to brown or you see brown bits in the pan. Add the flour, and continue whisking for a minute or so. Add the mashed pumpkin, creme fraiche, and milk and stir it until fully combined.

Pour pasta into a 13 x 9 glass baking dish, and add the roasted eggplant, steamed spinach, and top it with the pumpkin creme sauce. Carefully fold the mixture together until it's mixed throughout. Top the pasta with both the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, and then the sage leaves. Bake it at 400 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, and then top it with the bacon.

Dig. In. OMG.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Post-Race Mid-Launch

The past few weeks have been very busy for us. Two weekends ago I ran leg two in the Baltimore Running Festival, which ended up totaling 7.4 miles. I was just about 23 weeks pregnant, so my goal was to finish my leg, and if possible, finish without walking. I'm so happy to report back I not only made my goal, but I didn't do all that bad on my time either! I ran a 9:23 minute mile, which is much slower than I run not-pregnant, but much faster than I imagined I could do for the distance I was completing at almost six months along. Truthfully, I felt like the race was a bit torturous for me, mainly because there weren't enough opportunities to stop and pee, and I had taught Body Attack just about 12 hours prior to the race. But I guess it worked out, because I met my goal of not stopping! I ran a 5K while pregnant with Colton at 30 weeks, and I think that may have been equally, if not more painful. But both times, I felt super happy about doing it. The accomplishment makes it worth it!

Who loves my proof pics?!

Last weekend my hubs and I celebrated our wedding anniversary and some time off of parenting with our son gone for an overnight visit. I wish we had time to really relax and do whatever, but we spent the majority of our time off shopping for crafts for our little guy, and also looking for ideas as to how we will redo the bedroom him and his baby brother will one day share.

We have a long history of attempting to make homemade gnocchi, and have failed three times. Miserably. I found a recipe for pumpkin gnocchi with browned butter and sage, and we decided to take a risk and use some of my homemade pumpkin puree. Four times a charm, and oh. my. god. how worth it the three hours of work turned out to be. This indulgent dish is in no way, shape, or form, healthy. I drizzled some parmesan cream sauce on top just because, at this point, why not. The great thing about dishes like this is you don't need a large portion to be super satisfied. Except if you're 21-months-old. My son has been devouring the leftovers all week long!

This Monday, my Body Attack team and I began launching Body Attack 78. It is truly the most difficult Body Attack release, BY FAR, that anyone has experienced before. One of the most daunting moves includes plyometric lunges split with a tuck jump between lunges. It takes a lot of practice to master, because it's not only technically difficult but requires explosive strength and a certain amount of conditioning. After just a set or so, your legs start to feel gelatinous and swollen. Another daring move is an explosive side jump coupled with a tuck jump. This move is less intense on the legs and more geared towards blasting the heart rate.

I'm happy to say I've been able to do some of these moves, but I can't do all of the reps, and I do feel pretty fatigued from them! Looking back to 2010, I recall I felt teaching Body Attack was so extremely difficult during my pregnancy, but persevering paid off in a big way. I had no idea what kind of athlete it would make me in the future. When I returned to teaching after my son was born, with the exception of abs and tricep-pushups, it seemed like even intense workouts felt extremely easy, and it only got easier. My threshold for what I considered hard drastically changed, and I don't think I've had a single bad workout since I gave birth back in 2011, except the occasion where I've been sick. All I have to do is think about that payoff and it pushes me to continue to work, and modify as needed during this pregnancy!

I'm bummed though because I've been pretty sick the past two days, which meant I had to skip teaching tonight. I also felt pretty guilty about keeping my toddler in the house while I tried to take it easy and take care of him. We're usually always out and about, so this is something we're both not used to. We ended up making the most of it, and had a lot of fun together. This morning we used puffy paint to decorate some newborn onesies that I found while digging through my storage closet.

This afternoon was one that called for pumpkin and leaves. I had some leftover pumpkin in my fridge that was going to go bad if I didn't use it, so I decided to do a science experiment and whip up some cookies. I based it off of the toddler breakfast cookie idea that I posted a few weeks back. They turned out delicious and are so super easy. A lot of pumpkin recipes don't call for a lot of pumpkin, so if you open up a can or thaw some out, you'll inevitably have some leftover.  This is a great way to make use of it!

After painting onesies, lots of food, lots of books and a long bath my son took a nice long nap. I should have been resting, but instead worked on making him a Mr. Potato Head felt book. When he woke up, he was begging to go outside, and today was perfect for keeping him close to the house instead of going on a long walk. We played in the leaves, and of course I didn't really get much rest, because Colton demanded to, "go running with you!" (go running with me). I attempted to just power walk as we ran up and down the street, but he kept screaming "Run faster, Mama! Run faster!". Seems like no matter how much rest this pregnant, sick mama needs, my personal trainer is hellbent on keeping my butt in shape. I can't wait for the day my boys and I can run in a race together.

And by together, I don't mean in my belly.

Pumpkin Cookies

1 or 1.5 cups of pumpkin puree
1-1.5 cups of rolled oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons wildflower honey
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves (my husband didn't like this)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together until full incorporated. Place large spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fabulous Dinner: Too Long To Make a Title

There is some irony in the fact that a pregnant woman can't drink wine when it's really the only thing that would make her aches and pains go away. I am a red-wine drinker, and giving it up the first time was not as big of a deal as it is now that I've got a child. I think about how a glass or two would make my entire day at least a few times a week. It's only fair I get to indulge with my food. And tonight, indulge I did. Lookie here.

Warm Leek and Cannellini Bean Salad
I used a bunch of random ideas and recipes to come up with this fantastic meal. Nothing that I made was complicated at all, but because I decided to make so much food at once, it ended up being a bit more time-consuming than I had hoped, even though the preparation was minimal.

In addition to the leek and cannelli bean salad (I followed the recipe almost exactly, and my husband moaned upon tasting it), I made roasted beets, oven roasted goat-cheese salmon, and caramelized brussel sprouts. The prep for most of the dishes was really simple. I did it in about 10 minutes while my son sat on the counter and snacked on goat cheese, baba ganoush, and lettuce. I really have no room to complain about his picky eating because his taste is really kind of amazing for being only 20-months-old.

To roast the beets, I simply washed them, and placed them on a piece of foil on a baking sheet. I drizzled grape-seed oil on them, and covered them with another piece of foil to create a bag. For the salmon, I put it on foil as well, and put fresh rosemary, butter, salt, pepper and crumbled goat cheese on top. I covered it with another piece of foil and closed it to make a the bag, and stuck it in the fridge to put in the oven for when I came back from teaching Body Attack. Done and done.

I roasted the beets at 350 for 60 minutes and stuck the salmon in there at the 30-minute-mark so they would be done together. I had a tough time getting the salmon to cook through, so afterwards I stuck it back in the oven without the foil top for five more minutes. After the beets were done roasting, I peeled off the skin with the back of a knife, then cut them up into 1-inch cubes. I topped the beets and salmon with more goat cheese while they were warm.

The caramelized brussel sprouts were the most indulgent thing I could have eaten tonight. The recipe I used is actually one for some sort of brussel-sprout-mac-and-cheese dish that is so over the top, and I will likely be making it as I approach my third trimester. I'll post the recipe below.

Today was a better day in the land of motherhood as my son napped for an entire 80 minutes. Whahoo! I didn't feel great though, and spent most of the day dragging myself around as though I had mono, which is basically how I've felt since June. I'm a naturally very energetic person and during both pregnancies it feels like I'm constantly dragging my feet to do almost everything. It really frustrated me when I was pregnant with number one, but I learned that your body does go back to normal after pregnancy and I'm not destined to be exhausted forever. I'm trying to stay positive and not everyday is awful. I had a great workout last night taking Step even though I felt pretty tired the whole time and I was able to push myself to work despite being tired. Today I taught Body Attack, and I wasn't able to break through that wall, and that's OK. I'm going to have good days and bad days. I really hope that Saturday is a good day since I'm running a 7-mile leg for the Baltimore Running Festival Marathon Relay. I wasn't able to run more than four miles by this point the first time. Hopefully the minimal training I've done will not only allow to me to do well, but to feel great! I've already resolved I will probably stop to pee two or more times. Let's be honest though; I'm going to be 23-weeks pregnant and by no means am I winning this race!

At least I won at making dinner! :)

Caramelized Brussel Sprouts (WARNING: These are probably not healthy)

Slightly Adapted from Grilled Cheese Social
4-5 cups of brussel sprouts
1-2 cups of chopped onion
2 tablespoons of salted butter, divided
Butter Seasoning (I used Kernel Season's)
2 Tablespoons white granulated sugar

Steam the brussel sprouts until they are just tender but still crunchy. Set aside to cool.  In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of the butter up on medium heat and add the onion. Saute it until it's translucent and soft. Back to the sprouts: Cut off the bottoms and halve the sprouts, saving any leaves that fall off. Add the other tablespoon of butter to the skillet and turn the heat up to medium high. Once the butter melts, add the brussel sprouts. When the brussel sprouts begin to brown, add the butter seasoning and sugar. Continue to saute until the outer portion of the sprouts are almost completely browned. Don't be mistaken and think they are burned. That's carmel that's formed.

Good luck with portion control on this one. I may not have had my wine tonight, but my baby is definitely drunk off of this meal, as he has been hiccuping inside of me for the past hour!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sick Of Peanut Butter? Try An Eggplant

Oh the things I said I wouldn't do as a parent. I remember thinking I wouldn't give peanut butter sandwiches on-the-go, because kids love bread and peanut butter and both of those are akin to giving them a cupcake. But I give my son these things more than once a week, and it sucks because I know he's not getting much of anything valuable. As any mom feels, I'd rather be giving him more nutrition. I've found some alternatives such as hummus or mashed avocado, but they don't do as well without a refrigerator. In any case, I'm always looking for something beyond peanut butter to put on a sandwich for him.

I had an eggplant that was about to go bad in my fridge today. What to do besides just roasting it and serving it with dinner? It hit me: baba ganoush! I love the stuff, and my toddler is back-and-forth about eating eggplant. This could be a hit (or not). I had never made baba ganoush before because I assumed it was complicated. How wrong I was. It is not! Look how gorgeous ten minutes of work turned out.

I followed this recipe but modified it a bit, as I found the half-lemon, half-tahini recipe to be too lemony for my taste. I was going to sneak it on a sandwich for le toddler to try it, but he was actually happy to eat it right off the spoon. Plus, who doesn't love to say baba ganoush over and over?

Mommy, one. Le Toddler, five.
Today was really a rough day in motherhood. We'll just say that I'm happy to go to the gym now, get out some frustrations, and end one meal on a positive note with this recipe!

Baba Ganoush

1 medium-to-large eggplant
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 - 1/2 cup lemon juice (I was happy with 1/4 cup; start with the smallest amount and add to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup tahini
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt
Olive Oil, Parsley, Cayenne Pepper and Paprika for garnish

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Punture holes in the eggplant using a fork, place it on a cookie sheet in the oven for 45 minutes. Rotate it halfway through. When it's finished roasting, put it in a plastic bag or a tupperwear container and place the lid on it. Let it sit and cool for awhile. After it's cool you should be able to peel it quite easily and remove the top. I peeled it right into my food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients, tasting as you add so you can make it to your liking. Using either a food processor, blender, or mortar, blend and mash the mixture until it's smooth. In the serving bowl, spoon in some olive oil, and sprinkle with the parsley, pepper and paprika as you like. Proceed to give this to your eggplant-resistant toddler, possibly in sandwich form, and be amazed! Or, not.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Asian Lettuce Wraps and Toddler Breakfast Cookies

Damn you, Pinterest. My husband is complaining that I'm going to make him fat if I keep trying to make the deliciousness I find on the site. I'm resolving to stop pinning baked goods and carb-loaded breakfasts as of tomorrow. Thanks to exploring, though, I've made some great meals this weekend that should take us through Wednesday or Thursday of this week. And maybe some dessert that I don't need. I don't know how but I've only gained eight pounds at 22 weeks pregnant. I'm expecting to put on 30 or 40 pounds in the next four months, especially if I don't stop baking.

Weekend baking and cooking looked a little like this (click on the captions for links to those recipes).

Cheesy Quinoa with Broccoli

Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies
Easy breakfast cookies for le toddler
Recipe below
And my grand finale recipe were these Asian Lettuce Wraps. So delicious. And I think, probably very healthy.

It was a great weekend. I taught Body Attack on Friday night and besides a little calf pain, I got a nice workout, which was a change from the past two weeks. It still felt harder than normal, but I get such an adrenaline rush from teaching, I can't dial down the energy, and I feel good afterwards. Saturday morning a special guest taught my class at 9 am with my co-teacher; an actual Les Mills Body Attack presenter. They did a sneak preview of the next release, which is the absolute most insane workout I've ever seen. One daunting move (to name a few) is a plyometric-lunge tuck-jump combo. I felt so good on Saturday morning and worked out as hard as I possibly could. I was actually able to do the combination but I can't get as much height in the jump combo as I would if I weren't pregnant. 

Post-workout, I came home and we took Colton to the science center. We've just purchased a year-long membership for our family and I'm so glad we did! We barely made it through one floor of the place in two hours. Colton loved the planetarium, which was presenting Bird Bird's Big Adventure Movie, although he would NOT. STOP. TALKING. THE. WHOLE. TIME. Story of our lives. That's
ok, he says some pretty funny stuff. How cute is he, discussing Elmo and his Chinese friend jumping around on the moon?

If only he would take naps, because after all of that exercise and walking, and body was screaming for me to sit down.

Today one of my oldest friends came up to visit us and then she stayed long enough for me to cook dinner. All-in-all, great weekend.

I always joke that my husband is half Asian, for the facts that a good chunk of his friends are Asian, and also, he loves Asian food. So, I was looking forward to surprising him with this healthy, delightful dinner. I made some changes and they turned out fantastic. Also, take a look at the easy breakfast cookies I got from my mommy-friend, Sara, on Pinterest. Thanks Sara!

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Adaped from Crunchy Rock

3/4 cup cooked quinoa
1 or 1.5 cups cooked, shelled edamame
1.5-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
3-4 green onions, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped finely
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup grated carrots
1 or 1.5 cups of crushed cashews
1 can water chestnuts, chopped
1 bulb of Bibb or Butter lettuce (I couldn't find it and used iceberg, definitely not as good)

For the sauce:
5-6 Fresh garlic cloves, chopped finely
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons of water

Combine all the mix ingredients in one bowl after cooking chicken and quinoa; combine sauce ingredients in another bowl, then mix them together. If you want, save some sauce to drizzle on top of the wraps, something which I didn't do but they turned out great. Fill lettuce cup with mixture and enjoy! There was so much filling leftover with my changes, so we will be set for a few days with food.

Breakfast Cookies for Toddler

3 Ripe bananas (or Banananananana as my sweet son calls them), mashed
1.5-2 cups rolled oats
1/2 - 3/4 cup raisins
Dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, any other spices you may like

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients, then spoon large tablespoons onto cookie sheet, sprayed with cooking spray. Cook for 30-35 minutes. It took me longer to wash the dishes for this recipe than it did to actually make it. So easy!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Stuffed Awesome

Do yourself a favor, and make my Stuffed Awesome this weekend. My husband, Darren, donned the name for this recipe, which is an original Jax meal. There aren't many, because I don't have a lot of confidence in the kitchen, so usually I follow recipes. Oh, by the way, this is really easy. Wake up mommies! Take a look at Stuffed Awesome, enjoy the mouthwatering details, and then make it!

My local Harris Teeter sells vegetables which are locally grown. A few weeks ago, they were selling a plethora of different varieties of acorn squash. They were so pretty, I couldn't help but buy them, even though the only recipe I knew was the standard maple syrup, butter, and brown sugar. I couldn't help but be drawn to them, and I purchased four different varieties. I threw the stickers away so I don't know what they're called.

I've been trying to find recipes outside of the standard one mentioned above, and the only idea I found interesting was stuffing the squash. But I didn't find any of the ideas appealing. So I started thinking about what would make these taste like the essence of fall. It's OK that it was 83 degrees outside today. I'm still going to pretend it's cool and crisp outside. I was aiming for savory, sweet, and hearty. And something I could whip up on a Friday, in multiple parts, when I'm home with the non-napping toddler, and I have to rush to teach Body Attack the second my husband walks through the door.

We rarely eat beef at our house, mainly because I was vegetarian for so much of my life. I really don't eat meat more than a few times per week, and beef I eat only a few times a year. But a few weeks ago I took Colton to a farm and they were selling local, grass-fed beef, which I will not pass up. Perfect for a savory dish like this! Let me throw at you the cutest picture of my son, picking out pumpkins at this farm a few weeks back. God help me he's so handsome. Today after his non-nap, I was so irritated because he's exhausted yet he doesn't sleep, but then when I came to get him out of his crib he says to me, "I missed you Mommy!". So hard to stay mad at him. Anyways.... the baby pumpkins you see in the picture were the ones he picked out. Because this amazing recipe is just so easy, we spent the afternoon decorating them with paint, glitter, glue and letter-stickers. I love having time to cook and make my baby happy.

And so, Stuffed Awesome was birthed. Here's the process, in pictures. Recipe to follow:

Stuffed Awesome

Four acorn squashes, any variety (although they do all taste different)
1 Cup of Chopped Onion
3 Red Delicious Apples, Chopped
1 pound ground beef, or turkey of your choice
1 tablespoon salted butter
1-2 pinches of salt
1/4 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1.5 cups of Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese grated coarsely, plus 1/4 cup to top squash (I used Cabot White Cheddar and grated it myself)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squashes length-wise, scoop out seeds (please, save your seeds to make pepitas. If you don't make pepitas, please send them to my house because we are obsessed). Place them in glass bakeware, facedown, with a half-inch of water on the bottom of the dish. Roast the squashes for 30-40 minutes or until fork-tender. Remove them from the oven, drain the water from the dish, and place the squashes face-up.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Pan-fry beef in a medium to large skillet until browned. You can add a pinch or two of salt, but don't add much. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat, then add chopped apples and onion. Cook until onion is quite tender, or about ten minutes. Drain beef (I used a slotted spoon) and combine it with the apples in a mixing bowl. Let it cool a few minutes, then add dark brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1.5 cups of cheddar cheese. Fold mixture together until incorporated. Scoop out stuffing into the roasted squashes. Top with the remaining cheese. Put the stuffed squashes back in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese and apples look quite baked.

Remove them from the oven, and try not to pee in your pants from the overwhelming deliciousness. Maybe it's just me who has to worry about that these days. Happy first weekend of October, everyone.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

First Post! Introduction, and what's for dinner?

Hi! I'm going to start a blog, inspired by the many that I follow. I've blogged before, for a long time actually, but I've closed that blog and now I'm starting a new one. Here's a short introduction:

My name is Jax, and I wear many hats. My most important one is mommy to my son, Colton, born in January 2011 (he's 20 months right now). I'm also 21 weeks pregnant with another boy, due just a few weeks after Colton's birthday. I have an awesome husband and a crazy cat who is on anti-psychotic medication. Everyone around me is a boy, and my boys love to eat. And I love to feed people. Although I wanted my second child to be a girl, I guess it kind of makes sense that I'm going to spend my life surrounded by very hungry boys. My toddler eats twice as much as me and I'm supposedly eating for two.

I also love to workout. My passion is teaching Body Attack, a sports-inspired cardio, plyometric and conditioning workout class that after almost six years, continues to challenge my body and mind. The longer I teach it, the more I love it. I was listening to Body Attack music while I was in labor with my son, I swear that is how much I love it. I'm also a certified Body Step instructor and although I don't teach it as often as Attack, I love it and aim to take it at least once a week.

I work also, at a professional job, for health-related software program that enables physicians to dictate and send medical records to hospital systems.

So, being that my jobs are all related to health, fitness, and being a wife and mommy, I love feeding my family well. I also love to bake, and while that may be a paradox, I believe creatively cooking healthy meals to be a great excuse to occasionally indulge in some fantastic dessert that makes one buckle at the knees.

I'm totally fascinated by pregnancy and fitness, and my 2012 New Years Resolution was to get my certification in pre and post-natal personal training. I purchased the materials to study and then promptly discovered I had a huge surprise awaiting me - baby number two. And I forgot to study. So maybe I'll do it in 2013?!

So I want to talk about pregnancy and working out and all the (hopefully) delicious food I'll make and experiment with. I'm probably going to bore you with some of my toddler activities as well. Hopefully it will entertain some out there and inspire some ideas for how to be healthy and fun with your family.

Here's a belly picture my husband took of me today at 21 weeks. I was pretty awesome about taking belly shots with my first pregnancy, but during this one I've totally dropped the ball on it. So, it was a pretty big surprise when I saw what looked like a cantaloupe stuffed up my shirt. That's my son, Colton, creeping by. As previously mentioned he is constantly eating. I wrote down what we both ate today and he passed me by like 700 calories until he went to bed and I ate salted carmel chocolate chip cookie bars after dinner. In my defense, I almost never let myself indulge but I really wanted to. Also in my defense, as huge as my stomach looks, I've gained less weight this pregnancy than I had while pregnant with Colton.

For those that know me, I can stress about my weight and the numbers on the scale after years yo-yo dieting and gaining and losing the same 30 pounds. I seemed to get the hang of it about five years ago, when I lost the weight yet again and actually kept it off (until pregnancy). I was super stressed about gaining weight while pregnant with number one (SUPER), assuming that losing the baby weight would be same war I fought many times before. It turns out, I really did have the hang of it, and then thanks to changing a few more things in my diet, breastfeeding for over a year and a half, and Body Attack, I ended up losing 43 lbs after I gave birth. I started this pregnancy at 122 pounds and I'm lingering around 130 right now, which is still 5 pounds less than I started my first pregnancy at. I hate watching the scale go up every week, but my experience taught me that not only is losing the baby weight fairly easy, but also taking care of kids is a tremendous amount of work (who knew?!) and therefore a great way to burn calories.

People constantly ask me whose baby I'm watching, because my son looks nothing like me. Don't judge a book by it's cover though. That boy is all me. Super expressive, quite tenacious and high-spirited, this boy said his first words at 7.5 months old, and at 20-months old talks in full sentences. Except he has his pronouns backwards. Examples: "Mommy, I pick you up!" and "You're coughing, you're coughing. You're OK!", while coughing. He's also very funny and loves to say or do whatever necessary to get attention. Yesterday he told me after throwing his plate of food across the room that "Huckie is very, very bad. Huckie threw food on floor. Very bad" (Huck is the cat, and although he is very bad, he was not involved in this particular crime). One-and-a-half-years old, and blaming the cat, ladies and gentlemen. Here we are, two peas in a pod.

So I'll start my first post, what I did and ate today. Well, I spent the majority of my day up until 2 pm having my usual morning sickness and mono-like feelings, and then I started feeling better. I've had a tough last ten days working out and teaching. Two weekends ago I decided to do a long-distance run; I'm training for a 7-mile leg for the Baltimore Running Festival in a few weeks. I used to be a long-distance runner in my past life, but a bad knee injury has made it impossible for me to seriously train for anything. I've run four times since August to train for this race. I started at four miles and last weekend got to six-and-a-half miles. I assumed I would feel sore the next day or two after, but I've actually had some insane pregnancy-related blood-flow issues in my calves that got majorly aggravated by that run. I won't bore you with details, but I'm going to see my doctor tomorrow because it was so painful I thought something was seriously wrong. I haven't had a good workout since. But today I somehow got a good feeling, and I went to my weekly Body Step class, and I was actually able to workout quite a bit harder than I had in almost two weeks. I'm still not 100%, but I'm not sure if I'm going anywhere but downhill from here (see cantaloupe).

For dinner, I decided to make something that I've been thinking about for over a year, and then was inspired by something similar I saw on Pinterest. I love pizza, but one of the things I aim to do in order to keep my weight down is avoid bread of any kind. I do let myself have it, but if I can avoid it, I will. My idea was to slice up a giant, fat eggplant and somehow bake it to be strong enough to be a sort of pizza holder. The pin I found featured a zucchini but this pregnant woman has such a strong aversion to zucchini that even typing this sentence is making me gag. So gross. Anyways, I sliced up my eggplant into one-inch rounds, like so.

 I placed it on a cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet. I then brushed it on both sides with garlic-infused olive oil (I should post my technique for that), and broiled it on high for four minutes, each side, until it started looking a little dehydrated. It actually would be much better grilled, but I didn't feel like going up to my deck to do that. Plus I don't actually know how to turn my grill on. Post broiler:

After broiling I turned the oven on 400 degrees, and starting adding toppings. I chopped up some of the garlic I had used to infuse the olive-oil, added some sliced sun-dried tomatos, pizza sauce, mozzarella and dried parmesan cheese, and pepperoni. I baked the pizzas for about 13 minutes which was just enough to melt it. Normally I like my cheese almost burned and bubbling, but it was 9 o'clock and I didn't feel like waiting any longer. The finished pizzas:

You may be thinking that cheese and pepperoni is so bad for you, but because eggplant is like 10 calories a slice, I loaded those puppies up with as much of the good stuff as I wanted. Next time, I will add basil to it, which I meant to do, but totally forgot. I calculated the calories to be something like 120 calories per slice, so three pieces is only 360 calories and that's a lot of food. Yummy! Hopefully the toddler will eat it tomorrow. He loves pizza but has an on-and-off relationship with eggplant.

I'm going to take it easy tomorrow with the exercise because I'm teaching Attack on Friday night and attending a special Attack event Saturday morning. I alternate teaching on Thursday nights, and so I reserve my off-Thursdays for fun with Colton. Can't wait! 

Eggplant Pizza:

One Fat Eggplant, any size
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (Garlic infused olive oil is preferred)
Pizza Sauce
Toppings of your choice (I used chopped roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatos, cheese and pepperoni)

Slice up the eggplant into 1-inch thick pieces. Brush lightly with olive oil on each side. You can grill the eggplant, a few minutes on each side, or put a wire rack on a cookie sheet and place it under the broiler on high four 4-5 minutes each side. Remove the rack, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Spoon pizza sauce on one side of the eggplant, and add your toppings. Bake for approximately 13 minutes or until your cheese is cooked to your liking. Let them cool for a minute or two so you can pick them up and eat them like little personal pizzas!