Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Healthy and AMAZEBALLS Spaghetti Squash Carbonara

I have the most awesome recipe to share with y'all but I don't have a picture of it. Let's use our imaginations.

Nutty spaghetti squash, creamy sauce, thick bacon, savory (and healthy) kale and loads of garlic. Check check check check! Also it's 90 calories per cup, low carb, probably low sugar.

Ha, I actually have no idea how many calories it is because I am way too lazy  extremely busy to figure that out. But it's a far healthier choice than traditional spaghetti carbonara.

The cream sauce is all over the internet; you've probably heard of the amazing cauliflower alfredo sauce, originally blogged here at Pinch of Yum.

I simplified her method because it was taking me too long (shocking).

Since I don't have any pictures of food, I will leave you with some cute ones of recent weeks.

Baby boo and me

Playing with the tornado at the science center

Heath's first snow

Baby and cat doing what appears to be yoga

Also, a question for my audience (do I have one?). Does anyone like unsweetened chocolate? I am a baker but have never really liked chocolate very much, except during pregnancy. Then I accidentally tried unsweetened chocolate and for goodness sakes, I can't stop eating it. Most people I speak to think this is gross. There has to be someone else. If not, help me because I'm horribly addicted now.

OH! One more thing. Get the hand blender (you know, the one I should be making commission on) for this recipe. I could never imagine taking the time to use a food processor for something this simple.

Healthy Spaghetti Carbonara

1 medium/spaghetti squash, cut in half, seeds scooped out
4-5 strips thick sliced bacon, cooked to desired crispiness, chopped
3 cups of raw kale, chopped
1 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2-1 cup milk (We like whole milk, I really don't think this will work with almond or coconut)
2-4 tablespoons EVOO
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded pecorino ramano or parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, put squash halves on a baking sheet and roast them for about 70 minutes. I like mine really soft because I like to scoop out the spaghetti as fast as I can. Once the halves are done cooking, set them aside to cool until you can handle them.

Place the cauliflower in a large pot or dutch oven, and cover it with water, then add the kosher salt. Cover and let it simmer until it's tender, about 10 minutes.

While it's cooking, melt the butter in a medium pan over medium heat and add the garlic. Lower the heat to medium low and cook it for 5 minutes until it's very soft, but not burned.

Once the cauliflower is tender, drain the water and put it back in the large pot.

Place the kale in the pan in which you cooked the garlic. Toss it over medium heat until it's slightly wilted.

In the large pot with the drained cauliflower, add the garlic, butter, a half cup of milk, and a tablespoon or two of EVOO. Using a hand blender or food processor, puree it until there are no chunks and the cauliflower is smooth.

If your sauce is still thick, add a bit more milk and EVOO, continuing to puree until you get your desired sauce texture. Fold in the parmesan cheese, chopped bacon, and kale. Then, scoop out the spaghetti using a fork into the sauce and gently fold it all together. To serve, sprinkle it with more cheese. And eat up! It's good for you :)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

GF Almond Quinoa Cookies


Let's get personal today.

In our house, we generally eat gluten free. We never committed to a gluten-free diet, as many have. However, eating gluten-free is the result of the kind of diet (or lifestyle, or whatever you want to call it) we have. Yes, I know I've posted some very sugary and sweet recipes, and also pizza dough, but truthfully, I rarely eat that stuff. Since I do eat it on occasion, I don't consider myself gluten-free.

For meals, we eat always have some sort of protein and tons vegetables. We snack on things like raw nuts, fresh fruit, and sliced peppers or carrots. For this reason, it irks me when people say that eating or cooking healthy takes a lot of skill. Although I do spend my Saturday nights doing food prep for our very busy weeks, most of the work involved is slicing or chopping. I don't really cook at all during the week. I cook everything on Saturday and Sunday, package it all up into containers for lunches, and generally spend more time cleaning up the mess than I did actually cooking.

I've been wanting to introduce the baby to some sort of "bready" food, as he is totally obsessed with cat food. He fights the cat for it, by crawling over to his food bowl, throwing the bowl at the cat's head, and then eating the pieces of food off of the floor. I was hoping to wait until he was closer to a year to introduce grains since toddlers are obsessed with crackers and similar-like crap. I guess it could be worse.

Yea, that's concrete. Right now my battle is sleeping past 5 am, so this will be fought later if necessary.

I came up with this recipe before I realized it was GF, as I said before, most of my cooking is just by the way we eat. It is truly delicious, and can easily be made to accommodate a baby as well as a kid. I made a few cookies for baby by simply removing the honey, cranberries and almonds (because he doesn't have teeth, and honey is dangerous for babies under 12 months due to botulism). Although I don't think he liked it as much as he enjoys cat food, he did eat it. And the toddler devoured them! I really think they taste amazing, so I hope you enjoy them too!

You can easily swap out eggs for some other kind of binder like applesauce, pumpkin, and I'd bet a nut butter would work too. We've been giving our baby eggs for awhile now, as he decided to try them (and peanut butter) at only 7-months old right from his brother's hands (hey, better than concrete, right?!). #Secondchild #NoOnePaysAttention #CanYouHashTagABlog?

GF Almond Quinoa Cookies

Yields approximately 15-17 2.5" cookies

2 cups of cooked quinoa, cooled (1 cup of dry quinoa cooked in one cup of water)
1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil, melted
3 eggs
1/4-1/2 cup almond flour (play around with desired moistness)
2-3 tablespoons honey (to desired sweetness, we were happy with two)
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup dried craisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or slipmat.

Mix the quinoa with the melted coconut oil, eggs, 1/4 cup of the almond flour, honey and extracts. The batter will be wet but you should be able to press it into a patty without it totally falling apart. If it doesn't hold together, add more almond flour. Fold in the coconut, almonds and craisins. Take the batter in your hands and form a ball, then a patty, and put it on the parchment paper. They won't spread so don't worry about the spacing.

Bake for 20 minutes, then take them out and flip each cookie, and bake them for another 7-10. They should be slightly golden but not hard or tough. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tedious Tasks and Healthy-ish Pumpkin Pudding

Every year, I go to the pumpkin patch, pick out pumpkins, roast them and make homemade pumpkin puree, divide it up and freeze it to use throughout the year. Every single year it is something I say I will never do again. It is beyond tedious and annoying. Why do I continue to do it, do you wonder? Well, it turns out, homemade pumpkin puree is like worlds better than the canned stuff. The canned stuff you can't eat on a spoon, because it quite frankly tastes like metal. So every year, I do this, and then I say it sucks ass and it's not worth it. Except the puree lasts the entire year, and for sure through Thanksgiving and Christmas, and is so versatile for cooking and baking, that I end up being so glad I stuck it out another year.

So as annoying as this stuff is to make, it is so delicious that you could quite literally eat it plain the way you would any roasted vegetable. As my little Heath did today while we did this "together".

Method for roasting and pureeing the pumpkin: You will need an oven (obviously) preheated to 350 degrees, a sharp knife, baking pans lined with aluminum foil sprayed with cooking spray and either a food processor or a hand blender/immersion blender. I highly recommend forking over $40 for one of these puppies if you spend any time at all cooking anything because it is a life changer. I love my food processor but making things like soups and purees can be super messy and annoying with it. The hand blender has only one part to clean up, and takes up little space in a cabinet.

Here's the arm workout and super annoying part! Using a large knife, lop off the top of the pumpkin around the stem, then cut it into fourths. Then cut the pumpkin up into large triangle pieces, and place them on the baking pans with the insides touching the foil. They can be on their sides so you can put more of them on the pan, it doesn't matter. Put them in the oven for about 45 minutes, then take them out and turn them onto another side and put them back in for another 15-20, or until they're really tender. Let them cool completely (about an hour) so you don't get burned!

Most bloggers will tell you that the skin of the pumpkin should easily be pulled off at this point. I'm calling their bluff and telling you the really tedious part is here, where you must scoop the pumpkin out of it's peel, and get pumpkin all over your kitchen and hands. Taste it though ... it's delicious, right? At this point you're likely doing what I do and saying you're not sure if it's worth the time and you'll probably never do this again. Anyways, scoop it out and put it in a big bowl.

After all the pumpkin in scooped out, take your hand blender and stick it in there to puree it. If you're using a food processor, you may have to add in some water to get it pureed evenly, and that may take away from a bit of the flavor. But it will still be OK... just even more tedious. When it's all finished it should be a nice lumpy looking puree. 

Now for the tedious part (wait... did I already go over the annoying parts of this process? It must be that the entire thing makes you want to never do this again): Scooping out pumpkin to save and freeze. I like to do one-cup portions because most recipes call for about that much. Look how messy and tedious this is. I am totally not doing this ever again. EVER.

Except I know by Thanksgiving I'll be glad I spent a few hours on this because I can just pull out my awesome pumpkin and whip up some delightfully autumn-inspired food. Which leads me to my recipe! Healthy pumpkin pudding, tried and tested by my now 33-month-old son Colton. This stuff looks a bit gross, so I'm surprised he eats it, but he does and I feel good about it. The addition of honey or sweetener of your choice kind of subtracts from the healthiness factor, but I can't give him something called pudding and then not sweeten it a little bit.

By the way, if you're wondering who my kids look like and what happened, don't feel bad. Now that I'm not pregnant anymore I am once again getting the "Whose kids are those?! They are so cute! Are they twins?". Even though one is grunting like a gorilla and the other is yelling in full sentences, I get this question a lot.


Healthy-ish Pumpkin Pudding

1/4 cup raw chia seeds (I bought these last time)
3/4 cup homemade pumpin puree
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or coconut milk, or cows milk if you prefer)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2-4 tablespoons raw honey or brown sugar/agave nectar if you don't have honey
cloves, nutmeg and ginger to taste
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut (optional)

Whisk the pumpkin puree, almond milk and flavorings in a medium sized bowl. Add the chia seeds and mix until it starts to thicken. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for four hours or overnight. Enjoy for breakfast or as a healthy-ish snack! For a bit of a treat, whisk some heavy cream in a cold bowl and top the pudding with it!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I Love To Write

FACT: I love writing. I love blogging. I love exercise, food, cooking and baking.

FACT: I have almost no time to get on my computer anymore. All email, Facebook or any other correspondence is done on my phone. When I am on my computer it's generally to get up to speed on my latest Body Attack or Step release.

FACT: Two kids is more than twice the work of one kid. Especially when you have two boys. It's basically 24 hour/day murder-suicide watch. People warned me about this when I was pregnant and I didn't understand what they meant. OK, I get it now. When does it get better?

In conclusion, I don't want to stop blogging. Please don't confuse my absence for not caring about the blog. I do love the above mentioned items.

Last "FACT": I love my life. My kids are awesome! They are just so little and needy, but they are so sweet and loving. And different! And yet also similar. They look like twins. But that's where any similarities end. My oldest was such a social and interactive baby. He could care less about mobiles and toys. He never crawled, and was extremely trepidatious about being on his belly and in new places. He would cry if I wasn't holding him at only 10 days old, but loved the swing, car seat and stroller. He loved his damn pacifier and ended up almost exclusively drinking from a bottle the first 7 months of his life. I pumped all of his milk and was constantly frustrated by this. He said his first words at 7.5 months old and by one year was staring to talk in 2-word sentences. He's got very blonde hair, hazel-green eyes, and I get asked frequently whose child I am watching.

My younger son wouldn't let anyone put him down for the first 10 weeks of his life. It didn't matter who was holding him, only that he was being held. The swing, car seat, bouncy seat, all of that has gone virtually unused as he had some strange issue with being held. He still screams when first put in those contraptions. He's interactive, but obsessed with things that dangle and laughs at the walls. He'll get annoyed if you try and get in his face and interrupt his interaction with the wall. He rolls around on his belly to grab toys and tries to crawl. He gets bored easily. You have to walk around to different places while holding him. He refused to take a pacifier until he was 2.5 months, then finally agreed to it for moments here and there, until I finally gave up on it all together. He under no circumstances will take a bottle. He's starved himself for 9 hours and then spent 48 straight hours nursing to make up for not eating. It sounds bad but it's actually not that stressful. I never pump; I have no idea how much milk he needs or gets and I just nurse him when he wants and I don't think about it at all. It's a bit annoying when I have to get somewhere for a doctor's appointment or for work, but I trust him and my body to do what it needs to do and that seems to be working well for us.

The two of them are BFF. At times, my older son finds his younger brother a bit boring, but I can see how this is going to eventually develop into something awesome. My 5.5 month old swiped broccoli from his brother's hand the other day and the next thing I know, they were fighting over who got to eat broccoli. A mama's dream come true :)

I have more I want to write. But I think I'm going to go to bed now... Thank you for reading and catching up with me!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ooey-Gooey Cake Batter Bars

Confession time! I don't really like chocolate. Except when I'm pregnant. I don't think it tastes bad, but it's kind of, I don't know... Blah. My husband is the opposite. There is never enough chocolate in any dessert, ever. There could always be more. All chocolate desserts need improvement with the addition of more chocolate.

But let me tell you I do love cake batter anything. By cake batter I mean buttery yellow or white cake that is quite sweet. I love the way boxed cake mix smells but it tastes horrible! I'm also not a huge fan of the texture of actual cake. It's not dense enough. I don't like its fluff.  I've wanted to create a dense, moist and intense dessert that would satisfy my crazy love for cake batter for close to six months now. I've tried making it in cookie fashion and have come close but it still wasn't moist enough for me.

I finally sat down, wrote out my idea, and made it by slowly adding ingredients to get the flavor I was looking for. When it was finished I was very impressed with myself... BAM!

This is the kind of thing we eat after my kids go to bed and they will never know about until they're tall enough to reach the top shelf in the fridge (which will be soon, some of you may know that I'm married to a giant). So indulgent.

But... my husband wasn't a fan of what he described as an aftertaste of either salt or some other ingredient. A few nights ago, I made a few different batches of these bars and we concluded that the taste he was talking about was baking powder. Baking powder is a leavening agent but it also adds flavor to baked goods when there is an excess of it in proportion to the flour and liquid ingredients. When I created a few different batches, we tried it with less baking powder and more. I like both versions but you may not. I suggest adding the smallest amount and then if you're feeling brave slowly adding a bit more.

I don't eat a lot of dessert or processed food at all, but I have an addiction to baking and making something great is as much fun - if not more - for me as actually eating it!

I hope you like it as much as we do!

Ooey-Gooey Cake Batter Bars

1 cup flour
1-2 teaspoons baking powder (start with 1)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter - softened but not melted
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter extract
4 oz well-chopped white baking chocolate: no white chocolate chips!
1/4 cup sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Line an 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray generously with non-stick baking spray.

In a small bowl, mix together the first three dry ingredients and whisk together. Start with only one teaspoon of baking powder!

I softened the butter in the microwave by first cutting it up into chunks and then heating it on power level 2 for two minutes in a large, microwavable-safe bowl. I then added the sugars and mixed it with a wooden spoon. You can also use a mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat it until the butter is creamy, then add the egg and beat it in. Add the extracts and continue to beat until mixed. Taste the batter! Can you handle more baking powder? If so, try 1/2 teaspoon extra.

Stir in the chopped white chocolate (do not even attempt this recipe with white chocolate chips because they won't melt and don't add any gooeiness to anything!) and sprinkles. Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake it for approximately 20 minutes. It will be very soft. Let it cool to room temperature (about an hour) and then put it in the fridge to finish setting. It should be ready in a few hours.

Hide from children. :-D

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Happy Cinco de Mayo... it's May already? And Mexican Portabella Mushrooms with Spicy Creme Fraiche

Hi world. I've been in a tunnel. It's the surviving-with-no-sleep-and-living-with-only-babies tunnel. I just downloaded all of the pictures off of my iPhone since late Feburary and I had over 1,000. Many of them were this.

and this

My 27-month-old takes pictures of himself. A lot of them.

My 11-week-old is really big now. Yay for growing! Boo for growing too fast.

 He's a really easy baby. He cries when he's tired or hungry, usually just tired though. He likes to sleep a lot right now. He also laughs a lot. I love them so much it hurts! My older one is adjusting sort of. He seems to like the role of older brother.

Anyways, I made something tonight for Cinco de Mayo which is Mexican Independance Day. I have no attachment personally to this day. I'm Jewish and my husband is a mutt of English, Irish and German, but we both like Mexican food a lot. Especially my husband. I would say he likes Mexican the way I like wine and cheese. Always up for it, breakfast, lunch and dinner! It was inspired by this burger I had at the Abbey Burger Bistro right here in Baltimore. It was also so easy that I have to share. And somewhat healthy.

Do you love all of the crap in the background of the burgers? A size 1 diaper, a glass of wine, the Mac which I finally brought upstairs, a stack of Body Attack stuff and a toy. My life, in a picture.

Happy Independence Day, Mexico!

Mexican Portabella Mushrooms with Spicy Creme Fraiche

4 large Portabella Mushroom Caps
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
4 oz creme fraiche

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle kosher salt and pepper on both sides. Turn them over, add half of the cheddar cheese, then a layer of chopped spinach, then another layer of cheese. Top them with the chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Bake them for 6 minutes. Then broil them on high for 4-5 minutes or until the cheese is browning a bit.

While they're broiling, add salt, pepper, and 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the creme fraiche. Drizzle the creme onto the mushrooms, and serve hot.

Miss everyone! I hope this post makes sense!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Roasted Eggplant Bites with Asparagus, Sopressata and Goat Cheese

I miss blogging! And the world. Life is a blur right now as we adjust to two kids. I'm getting almost no sleep because my now 6-week-old is still in the wrong time zone and screams daily from 1-6 am, and then my 2-year-old is awake around 7:15. When the older one was this age he had his witching hours from 7 pm to 2 am.

At the very least my younger son decided the day we brought him home from the hospital his bedtime would be 7:30 pm and no later - which is when we would have made it since older bro's is at 8 o'clock. This leaves my husband and I almost nightly with a chance for date night! Mostly we scramble to clean up our house and get ready for what the kids will need the next day - but we have also decided "screw responsibilities" a few nights a week, and cracked open a bottle of red wine and cooked dinner. So really I bring you this amazing little concoction of mine thanks to my little baby and his desire to go to bed early. And also thanks to my husband who managed to get him to finally settle down to sleep at 6:15 am this morning; so instead of trying to pump breast milk while holding a wiggly, crying baby, I have a quiet dark room and free hands to type out this post on my phone.

I don't know where I came up with this. I may have ran across some recipes and parts stayed with me but I don't recall when or where so I have no one to credit. Hopefully I won't get sued for claiming I made it up. Enjoy!

Roasted Eggplant Bites with Asparagus, Sopressata and Goat Cheese

2 medium-sized purple eggplants
Olive oil to drizzle
Kosher salt for sprinkle
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
One bunch (approximately 1 pound) asparagus, cut into one-inch pieces
1/2 cup pine nuts
10 oz (preferably pre-cut) sopressata
4 oz goat cheese, lightly crumbled

Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat. Lower the temperature to medium low and add the onion. Stir it around and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then stir again and continue to let it sit and caramelize.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the eggplant into 1-inch thick rounds and place them on a rimmed baking pan lined with foil and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Drizzle both sides of the eggplant with olive oil - not a lot because you don't want it soggy. Then sprinkle it with kosher salt. Put it in the oven to roast for 20 minutes.

While its cooking add the garlic, asparagus and pine nuts to the skillet. Toss and turn it every few minutes. Make sure the onions aren't burning but are slightly browning which will give them a sweet flavor.

When the eggplant is done, remove it from the oven and set your broiler to high. Place 1-3 slices of sopressata on each piece of eggplant, then scoop out some of the asparagus mixture and place it on top. Top it with a bit of crumbled goat cheese. When all the eggplant is covered, place it on the high rack below the broiler for 3-5 minutes to toast the goat cheese.

Although I haven't tried it, I'm sure this would taste great grilled instead of broiled. If we ever see spring or summer hopefully we will be able to grill this year!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Coconut Chocolate-Chip Breakfast Quinoa

I need to make a huge complaint.

Nestlé chocolate chips: what the eff is wrong with those things? When I bake with them and want them to melt, they never do but they turn rubbery. I figured they would be perfect, then, for the recipe I created this morning, and then they went and melted! I use more expensive brands of chocolate for baking but this project doesn't call for anything special.

So I'm left with showing you what looks to be a disgusting bowl of processed mush, when actually it was delicious. Meet coconut chocolate-chip breakfast quinoa. Oh and I didn't edit my pictures because I am writing this from my phone.

Not that I ate more than 3 teaspoons. Trying to be all low-sugar low-carb now that I don't have pregnancy as an excuse to eat whatever I want anymore and I wanna get back in fighting shape ASAP. I made it specifically for my 2-year-old who was throwing up yesterday. Prior to me knowing he wasn't feeling well I was irritated about him not eating lunch. I can't tell the difference right now between him testing us to get attention and him not feeling well, especially when he's so energetic he's climbing on everything. Here he is on the cat tree.

I felt bad about yesterday and decided breakfast needed to be fun this morning.

Well, after just a few bites (maybe smaller than mine) he demanded some fruit. He has a history of doing that. He sure does love fruit. More than chocolate.

I love fruit, maybe not more than dessert, except in the glorious fermented form known as wine. My husband and I love us some wine and cheese (and veggies). The night we went out to dinner a few weekends ago, my son promptly ordered his "own red wine" when our server came to take our order! Hilarious. Our family likes what we like!

Evidentially that's not always sweet, rich goods.

Whatever - this is good stuff, and my husband agrees! It's dessert for breakfast; don't let the quinoa fool you into thinking its remotely healthy.

When I get back to the gym I can't wait to treat myself to a little more than a few teaspoons. Hope you like it too!

Coconut Chocolate-Chip Breakfast Quinoa

Proud to call this a Jax-Original Recipe

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 tablespoon salted butter or coconut oil
1.5 cups canned coconut milk (I guess you could do lite)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Melt the butter or oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the quinoa. Stir it around to mix and let it sit about two minutes to toast. Add the coconut milk, bring it to a light boil, cover it with a lid, lower the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about 13 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed. Stir it occasionally to keep the quinoa from burning. Once it's finished, turn off the heat and add the rest of the ingredients except the chocolate. Let it cool a little more before adding the chocolate (or not, if you want your dish to look anything like mine).

If your chips stay in chip form, let me know how you did that.

Please don't let me know how good it is. That's just mean.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bacon and Brussels Salad

Hey everyone! Guess what?! I had a baby! A beautiful little boy born on Valentine's Day. In typical Jax-tries-to-do-too-much-fashion, I spent a good few days pushing through what I thought were Braxton Hicks contractions, and I did a Body Step class just a few hours before my water broke. The endorphins temporarily eased the intense pain until the water broke, and after that I was in full-blown labor. I came somewhat close to delivering my baby in my bedroom but luckily we made it to the hospital on time. Whoops! It worked out great - he's healthy and I'm doing well too!

A good lesson that I learned though, and think is important to share, is that evidentially labor can feel different and act differently between women and even for the same woman in different pregnancies. I was having contractions for nearly six weeks, but they always went away after an hour or so. The last few weeks of my pregnancy, they were pretty painful. I couldn't talk or walk through them. But they felt different than they did during my first pregnancy. They would always go away and never had any regularity to them. I taught my last Body Attack class at 39 weeks, and I could barely get through it. But you know me. I always like to try.

Anyways, I'm at home and my husband is with me for the next few weeks as we adjust. Two young kids is hard work! Logistically speaking, especially difficult. There is almost no down-time during the day. Yes, I am nursing as I type this. I look forward to seeing the rest of my baby weight come off as I attempt to juggle the two of them solo next week. I have about six extra pounds on me from my pre-pregnancy weight, so nothing crazy.

The weekend before my little dude was born, we all went to this cute pizza place near our house. They had the most awesome brussel sprout salad! Their version has coppa and ricotta salada, which would make this super expensive, so I changed it up just a little. Bacon and brussel sprouts, goat cheese, almonds and EVOO - simple, but what's not to love?

Please don't confuse me for awesome for cooking when I just had a baby. I use a baby carrier constantly to nurse and soothe my newborn while attempting to juggle everything else. It is the ONLY way I can get anything accomplished. My newborn son always has food stuck to the top of his head from me eating and drinking while he's in the carrier. Today I found lettuce and balsamic vinegar in his hair. Yup!

Here's my angel last week at one week old. Love him!

Bacon and Brussels Salad

Inspired by the Chopped Salad at Hersh's Pizza

1 pound raw brussel sprouts
1 pound extra thick bacon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (the higher quality, the better)
2/3 cup slivered almonds
5 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Bake the bacon according to directions and let it cool (Have you ever tried this method? Because if not, you're missing out. So much more fantastic).  Shred the brussel sprouts. I used my food processor with the grater attachment. Once the bacon is cool, chop it coarsely. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Keep it refrigerated, but warm it up for about 30 seconds in the microwave before serving it.

Very easy and simple. See? I told you I'm not awesome. But make this because it's really good.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Cookie Monster Cupcake How-To

My son turned two years old a few weeks ago and we celebrated with a cookie-monster themed birthday party. Him and I were both sick, but I wanted to shower him with as much love as possible before his baby brother turns his life upside down in a few weeks. So, I made this cookie-monster cupcake in his honor. It may have been my last attempt at doing something I'm very proud of, because I'm pretty tired these days.

Trust me when I say, if I can make this, you can make this. I am very artistically-challenged. I think that part of my brain never developed properly. I can't draw stick figures any better than my 2-year-old, and I remember I couldn't draw a heart until 1st grade.

Because of my condition and the fact I was also throwing a party the next day, I decided to use a cake mix for the cup cake. I made the icing from scratch because I needed it to be a particular texture to create Cookie Monster. The taste of the cake was absolutely disgusting. I am so used to baking my own desserts that I can't stand boxed cake mix at all! The icing was great. I used a standard American buttercream recipe and food coloring to turn it blue.

My son's reaction: he kissed it, told me to kiss it, took one bite, told me it was good, and promptly demanded a bowl of fruit. He is so my kid.

I'm now 38 weeks pregnant and looking huge! I've gained about 20 pounds, which is ten pounds less than I gained my first pregnancy. Something to be happy about! I was teaching Body Attack pretty well up until last week when what seemed to be out of nowhere, I was experiencing tons of pain during the impact. So I started team-teaching a few days ago and doing much of the class low-impact. Because I'm so far along, it still feels like a workout, but I feel safe about it.

My son got peanut butter on my already crappy camera, so we are still using our iPhones to take pictures. Unacceptable for when the baby comes... please... if you have a camera you love (other than the Canon Powershot), let me know what it is! Here is what I look like at 38 weeks pregnant. Is it just me, or does this baby look like he's sitting in a chair in my stomach?! Believe it or not, his head is down. I can't wait to meet this pointy butt!!!

The Cookie Monster Cupcake How-To

Technique adapted by NicolaBakes on this video
American Buttercream recipe from Savory Sweet Life

This makes a ton of cake and icing. If you don't want any leftovers, reduce the recipe, especially for the icing.

Chocolate cake batter or chocolate cake mix, follow directions to create the batter
Chocolate chip cookies - anything will do
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature. Let it sit for a few hours to be sure.
3-4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
approximately 2 tablespoons of milk or heavy cream (I used heavy cream)
blue food coloring
4-6 jumbo marshmallows
4-6 chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli for the wide shape)

You'll need a standard cupcake tin AND a jumbo cupcake tin. You could opt for a standard cupcake tin and a mini one, but I think that would make a really small monster and may be harder to work with. You'll also need a pastry bag with a wide, star-like tip, but you could easily just pipe the icing with a plastic ziplock bag with a corner cut off. It just won't work as well.

Watch the video before attempting this project! I simplified their method and ended up with the same result, so I recommend my adaptations for time-saving.

Bake the cupcakes in both the jumbo and standard cupcake tins. To give yourself some room to mess up, make at least four jumbo cupcakes. Let them cool completely, and then remove the muffin tops with a knife so the cakes are flat on top. Set them aside. I made mine two days before I made Cookie Monster.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter on medium speed with a paddle attachment (hand mixer will work just fine) for about 3 minutes until fluffy and soft. Slowly add the sugar on the lowest possible speed so it doesn't blow everywhere. I added 4 cups. When it's fully incorporated  add the salt, vanilla, and milk/heavy cream. You can add more milk/cream if you want your icing thinner, but you will be thinning it with food coloring and you will need this to be a formidable frosting. After the frosting is made, you can add your food coloring until it's your desired color.

Take the jumbo marshmallows, place them on a plate, and use a small amount of icing to "glue" a chocolate chip in the corner of each "eye". Place the plate in the fridge to set.

Place the buttercream in an icing bag with a wide, star-like tip. Use the frosting to glue the bottom of one small cupcake to the center of a large one. Then, pipe it around the entire cake until the smaller cupcake is completely covered. Using an offset spatula (or a butter-knife), smooth the frosting as much as you can and remove any spaces.

Take a small knife, cut a portion of the cupcake/icing towards the bottom of the icing where you want Cookie Monster's mouth to be. Remove the excess cake and icing. Place the cupcake in the fridge for 15 minutes to set. After it sets, cover the cupcake in more frosting by dotting it around the entire cake. Don't forget to do it around the mouth, and don't miss any spaces! Then, using a fork, fluff the icing further to create a more wild-haired look. Place the marshmallows on the top of the cupcake and gently push them into the frosting. Then take a cookie and place it in the mouth of cookie monster. If it doesn't fit, don't force it. Just cut it to size and keep the rounded portion of it on the outside. Put Cookie Monster back in the fridge for another 15 minutes to totally set! Then enjoy watching your little one's excitement!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Crispy Kale Goat Cheese Pizza

Oh. My. God. I just made something so fantastic that I am actually mad at myself for not having thought of it before. Feast your eyes on this.

I try not to eat much pizza because of the whole bread-makes-me-fat thing, but at this juncture in my life, I don't have reasons to cut corners. Besides, kale is super good for you. We love kale at our house and eat a ton of it on a regular basis. Everything from kale chips to kale frittatas, and I'm happy with it just steamed on a plate and drizzled with olive oil.

I was inspired by the idea for this pizza a few days ago by another recipe, which did not involve kale, and I had my heart set on making it for dinner tonight. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I'm entering my ninth month of pregnancy and some days I'm not sure if I'm going into labor because everything hurts so bad. I was literally bending over the stove meditating through contractions while making this pizza. All I could think was, "Even if this baby is coming tonight, I really want to finish making this pizza". I may be crazy but it was so worth it.

I know people are very afraid of kale. I guess it does look scary, being that it is very green and curly. It screams "HEALTHY" and it seems like many people equate that with gross. But kale is such a versatile vegetable, and I encourage you all to incorporate into your diet. Famous for being the second healthiest vegetable on the planet - topped only by collard greens - kale is how your kids should be getting their calcium, not milk, as rumor may have it. Calcium (and other vitamins and minerals) in kale are much more easily absorbed by the digestive tract than through milk. Get your kids into kale. I don't know if this pizza is the trick to that, because of the goat cheese. But my almost-2-year-old is a huge fan of goat cheese and I know he's going to be shoving this down his throat for lunch tomorrow like there will be no more.

His fears may be accurate though, because I'm not sure how long I will be able to knowingly keep this pizza in the fridge when it could also be in my mouth.

So, here are the conclusions of this post. Eat kale. Lots of it. Make this pizza. Even if you're in labor.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

Crispy Kale Goat Cheese Pizza

Dough and recipe inspired by How Sweet Eats Meyer Lemon Pizza

For the dough
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 and 1/8 cup very warm water (I run my tap until it gets as hot as possible)
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the pizza
3/4 cup chopped onion
4-5 cups of kale, washed, stems removed, torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
Salt to taste
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus a little more for sprinkling
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled (or about 4 oz)

To make the dough: Mix the first four ingredients together in a large bowl and set it in a warm place for about 10 minutes until the yeast mixture is very bubbly. Either using a mixer or a wooden spoon, add the flours and salt, and mix until dough forms and can be made into a sticky ball. Remove the dough, knead it on a floured surface and roll it into a ball. Oil the bowl with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil and place the ball in the bowl, covering it in the oil. Cover with a warm, wet towel or saran wrap, and place it in a warm place to rise for 1.5-2 hours (I heat my oven to 170, then turn it off, and then place the bowl in the oven).

When you're ready to use the dough, roll it out on a well-floured surface and then place it in a pizza pan or a rimmed-baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray, then let it rise in a warm place again for about 10 minutes.

For the pizza: Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet. Add the chopped onions and cook them until they're amber brown (about 15 minutes), then add the kale and continue to cook on medium-low heat. Let the kale wilt, and keep stirring the onions around to caramelize them. When they turn a dark-amber color they're sweet. Keep cooking the kale until it starts to get a little crispy, about 10 minutes. It will get crispier in the oven, don't worry.

While the kale is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add the minced garlic, then the mascarpone cheese, and when that's melted add the parmesan cheese. Add a dash or two of salt to taste. Turn off the heat, add the caramelized onions and kale, and mix everything until incorporated  Spread the mixture on the pizza, then top it with the sun-dried tomatoes. Sprinkle a bit more parmesan cheese, and then the crumbled goat cheese. Bake the pizza on 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the dough is soft but cooked through.