Saturday, December 11, 2010

Healthy Butternut Squash Soup

I promised to post my recipe for Butternut Squash Soup, and I keep my promises. Kindly overlook the fact that I am delivering on this promise approximately one month late. Hey, you know how it is. Life gets a little insane when you're working full time, being a wife, raising a child, AND Christmas shopping for nine thousand family members. Alas, without further delay, I give you....THE Butternut Squash Soup Recipe.


Ingredients
1 (2 to 3 pound) butternut squash
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
6 cups chicken stock (please, for the love of all that is holy, get the organic, low-sodium kind)
Nutmeg to taste
Ginger to taste
Salt and pepper to taste


Instructions

Peel the squash. To make it easier, pop it in the microwave for a minute...that should soften the skin sufficiently. (Or, do like I did this time and leave the skin on! Shhh...it's our little secret. Nobody will ever notice.) Cut squash into 1-inch chunks. In a big pot (I use my big red Martha Stewart cast iron pot, which I LOVE) melt the butter. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add squash, carrot, celery and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is squishy, about 20 minutes. In batches, transfer soup to a blender and blend until smooth. (Or if you're lucky and own an immersion blender, just go to town right there in the big pot.) Return blended squash to pot. Stir and season with nutmeg, ginger, salt, and pepper. 

I like to serve it up in bowls with a dollop of low fat sour cream or just the tiniest swirl of heavy cream. It gives it the most luxurious texture! Looks and tastes so fancy, but is so easy and super healthy.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fall Yummies

I live in the hot, humid South. I love it here, don't get me wrong, but there's something so odd about seeing reports of snow in other parts of the country while it remains 80 degrees here. It's a gorgeous time of year, regardless. Usually October is dry and sunny, and far more bearable than August and September which are typically still insanely muggy. Alas, now that November is here, it's finally starting to feel like fall! The view from my living room makes me so happy. I love our yard (we literally bought this house because we fell in love with the lot), and the fall colors are vivid. I am successfully overlooking the fact that there is a layer 6 inches deep of leaves covering our deck, patio and lawn.  Poor Hubs. He's traveling (again) for work, and I know he's not looking forward to raking those leaves when he comes home later this weekend! I try to help, but Little B's not such a big fan of yard work, so I'm really only helpful when B's napping. 


Anyways. As if I could encourage the cool fall weather to stick around, I went to the market yesterday and stocked up on some of my fave fall things. 


Apple cider. To me, nothing says fall like apple cider. And when you heat it on the stove with some mulling spices the entire house smells incredible. It's my favorite thing to serve when we have friends over in the fall and winter. 80% of my girlfriends are nursing or preggers, so we don't hit the bottle quite like we used to! Hot apple cider is a great alternative to cocktails...festive & yummy! You can heat and serve it in a crock pot. Set out a little tray next to the crockpot with a ladle for serving, cute mugs (channel your inner Martha and put a cinnamon stick in each mug), and a decanter of rum for those who like a little adult in their beverage.


Butternut squash. It even LOOKS like fall! Yes, it is a bitch to peel and chop, but it is so good AND so good for you. (I've heard that some grocers offer butternut squash pre-peeled and chopped. If I could find one of said grocers, I would happily pay a million dollars a pound.) One of Hubs' fave things I make is Butternut Squash Soup. It's easy, though a bit time consuming since you have to chop the damn squash  and later blend the soup in batches, but well worth your while. I'm making a pot today - will post the recipe later this weekend! 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pump Room

In my last post, I mentioned having to pump in the “mother’s room” at work about 9 thousand times a day. In retrospect, I believe this to be inaccurate. Really, I have to pump 9,500 times a day.  And it’s hardly a “mother’s room.”

It’s an old office. They stuck a mini-fridge in there, some random old table and a couple office chairs. Really? Who needs more than 1 chair while they’re pumping? What, should I be bringing a friend? Are we using the buddy system here? I think the facilities person (obviously a guy) threw the extra chair in there to make up for the fact that it’s a crappy lactation room. “Hey, we can’t put a sink in here for washing pump parts. Let’s just add an extra rolling chair...no one will ever notice the lack of running water!”

My first day back at work I thought I’d have to pump twice. I thought I’d get 8 ounces each time. I saw a colleague outside the “mother’s room” and she mentioned that her lactation consultant advised her to pump 5 times a day. FIVE TIMES! I looked at her and said, “You poor thing” all the while thinking “that's not normal AT ALL.”

Then I pumped. And I got like an ounce from each breast. One measly ounce. I panicked. I went back to my desk and frantically Googled “how to increase milk supply”, “how to get more milk when pumping” and finally “best formula brands.”

Settle down, Miss La Leche League. I’m not giving up on breastfeeding and switching to formula, but for a brief moment I was convinced my child was going to starve if I didn’t start supplementing.

I discovered that I was going to have to pump more often. A lot more often.

So the next day, I took my Fenugreek supplement, ate my oatmeal for breakfast, drank my Mother’s Milk organic tea (all solutions uncovered during my panicky Google search) and faithfully toted my trusty pump back and forth to the lactation room 9,500 times.

And it worked! I have been getting more milk each time I pump, which hopefully means I will be able to decrease my pumping sessions next week. This is a good thing, because at some point I will actually have to do my job when I’m at the office. Pretty sure they’re not paying me to pump.

More later. Gotta go pump.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Working Mama, Part 2

Sorry I’ve been MIA for the past week or so. I started back at work on Monday, and with Hubs out of town, it’s been beyond insane. (I seriously don’t know how single mothers do it.  Ya’ll are rock stars.) Fortunately, my Mom came into town to help me with Little B for a few days. She kept him Monday and Tuesday, and then yesterday was Little B’s first day at day care. 

But we don’t call it that. Day care. We call it “school.” Don’t laugh. It makes me feel better. School is educational. It’s good for his development. Right?

As ya’ll know, I was dreading this. Just sick over it.  And you know what? It’s okay.  I’m okay. Little B is okay. Hubs is okay, wherever he is. (I can’t keep track of his business trips anymore! I think he’s in San Fran this time.)

I am definitely not the girl that was excited to go back to work. Ready for the adult interaction. Restless. Anxious. Not me. I was 100% content to stay at home and stare at my sweet baby boy. But, now that I’ve taken that step, I must admit it was nice to get back into the “real world”.

Before I go on, I should mention there was one thing I was looking forward to about going back to work.

Coffee.

Hubs, who works for the same company as I do, came home a few weeks ago and casually mentioned that they got new coffee machines. The kind that brew one cup of delicious hot coffee at a time. Ugly Mug – my favorite local, fair-trade, organic coffee company! And they have Southern Pecan, my favorite flavor! In hindsight, I believe this was a well-disguised attempt to lure me back to the office and distract me from my stay-at-home mommy dreams. It worked.

Anyways, about my first day. I got up. I showered. I actually blow-dried my hair. I put on work clothes that I hadn’t worn in a year. I sincerely thanked the good Lord for letting me fit into said work clothes. After the insanity of nursing, pumping, diapering, clothing, and generally caring for my sweet firstborn, I eventually made it to the office. I got my aforementioned coffee, sat down at my desk, booted up my trusty old work computer and attempted to sort through 16 weeks worth of unanswered emails. I say “attempted” because it literally took my laptop 5 hours to sync. Though I am prone to exaggeration, this is not one.  I thought my little computer was going to bring down the entire network.

So, in reality, I spent my entire first day waiting for my computer to unfreeze, cleaning my desk, arranging photos in my cubicle and walking back and forth to the discreetly labeled “mother’s room” to pump 9 thousand times. And I watched the clock. As soon as it was reasonably close to 5:00 pm, my butt was out of there. Work is nice and all - but nothing compares to being at home with my Little B.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yogurt Berry Smoothie










I hate yogurt.

Like, REALLY dislike it. It’s a texture thing. I know how healthful it is. And I’m all about the protein, calcium, B vitamins, potassium, and magnesium. I try to eat it, but it just grosses me out.

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about the probiotics in yogurt. Turns out, not only are they good for your belly, but they are also essential in preventing yeast infections & thrush while breastfeeding. So, for the sake of my baby boy (and my boobs) I am attempting to eat more yogurt.

Since eating it plain just ain’t gonna work for me, I’m having to get creative. After some experimenting, I think I’ve perfected the Yogurt Berry Smoothie. I should warn you, however, Hubs thinks this smoothie is too tart. If you’re with Hubs, try adding honey or substituting a banana for some of the berries.

Note that there are enough calories in this smoothie to make it qualify as a main portion of your breakfast. I drink mine alongside a piece of whole wheat toast smeared with natural almond butter. Delish.

You can experiment with whatever berries you have on hand. Frozen mango, peaches and pineapple also work...but they’re not as low in sugar or as high in antioxidants.

Unrelated Tangent: I always keep a supply of organic frozen fruit in the freezer. It makes for great last minute desserts (serve over frozen yogurt), toppings for whole wheat waffles, even yummy cocktails! Make sure you buy fruit with no sugar added...not the kind that’s soaked in sugary syrup.


Yogurt Berry Smoothie
Ingredients:
4 or 5 large frozen strawberries
small handful frozen blueberries
¼ c. orange juice
¼ c. nonfat Greek yogurt (such as Fage or Oikos)
Sprinkle of fiber powder (I like Benefiber)
1/2 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I like the Aria brand, see below)


Instructions
Dump all ingredients into your blender and blend until smooth. You may have to tweak the amount of OJ to get the consistency you want.







































Here's a link to the Aria Women's Protein I like. It adds a little thickness and a touch of sweetness to my smoothies, plus lots of protein! 

Make-Ahead Chicken & Veggie Enchiladas

As I get ready to go back to work, I’m digging up some good-for-you recipes that are easy to prepare ahead and pop into the oven at the last minute. If I don’t have healthy food on hand, it becomes extremely likely that I will end up consuming three quarters of a Papa John's pepperoni pizza. (Seriously. And if you think that’s bad, you should have seen me when I was preggers.)

This Chicken and Veggie Enchilada recipe was inspired by a fabulous dish my good friend Amy brought over for us after Little B was born. Hubs and I loved it so much that I set out to re-create it. The end result is easy, healthy, and really yummy. Best of all, you can tweak it to use whatever veggies you have on hand. I have also thought about making it vegetarian by substituting black beans for the chicky. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Healthy Chicken and Veggie Enchiladas

Ingredients
2 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Chicken stock
Olive oil
1 tsp. Cumin
3 cloves Garlic, chopped
½ of a red bell pepper, chopped
½ of an onion, chopped
1 bag of baby spinach (or more if you want...you can never have too much spinach!)
1 Cup reduced fat or fat free sour cream
1 /4 Cup reduced fat Mexican cheese + more for topping
¼ cup Cilantro, chopped
Whole wheat tortillas
Chile Verde Sauce (Note: You can find this at SuperTarget or Trader Joe’s)
Instructions
Boil the chicken breasts in chicken stock until cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board and use two forks to pull/shred the chicken. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Sauté the chopped onions & peppers until just soft. Add the cumin and garlic and sauté for another minute or two. Add ½ the spinach and toss until it cooks down. Add the remainder of the spinach and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat. Add the shredded chicken, sour cream, cilantro & ¼ cup of Mexican cheese. Stir to combine.

Divide the mixture among 6 or 7 tortillas. Roll each tortilla up and place seam-side down in a 13 x 9 glass baking dish that has been sprayed with Pam. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for a few days, if you want. When you’re ready to bake, cover with Chile Verde sauce and top with a sprinkle of cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. 

Enjoy! Oh, and P.S., leftovers are delish for lunch the next day. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Working Mama

Little B celebrated his 15 week birthday yesterday, which means I go back to work in one week. People ask if I’m ready.


His daycare forms are filled out. Approximately 9,000 boxes of unscented wipes have been purchased at Costco as instructed. My freshly dry cleaned work clothes are hanging in my closet.

I tell people I’m ready.

I tell people that we chose the best daycare in town. That it’s right down the block from my office. I can pop over at lunch to nurse Little B. I tell people that I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things at the office. That I’ve never been the type to give up my career and stay home to raise a child.

But the truth is I’m dreading it. I love my days with Little B. He’s such a delicious little baby and I spend my days luxuriating in his coos and smiles. We’ve got our own little routine, and I’m incredibly jealous that he will soon be developing a routine with someone else. And I feel so guilty. He’s just a baby. He’s supposed to be being nursed and nurtured by his Mama, and instead he’ll be getting pumped milk from a bottle and getting his teacher’s attention when she’s not attending to the other 4 babies for whom she’s responsible.

I’ve been told that every working mom in the history of the world has experienced these emotions.  I’ve been told that it’s normal to feel this way. That it’ll get easier. That he’ll be fine. And I know he will. It’s me I’m worried about.

While Hubs and I have discussed me not returning to work, in reality we’re far too accustomed to our two-income lifestyle to give up my salary. I know how awful that must sound, but hear me out. I feel that it would be selfish for me to make a decision that would take my family from very solid financial ground to somewhat shaky territory. It’s not fair for me to burden Hubs with that. On a slightly less honorable note, I have a pretty decent shopping addiction that would be borderline impossible to give up. (Hey. Don’t judge. You KNOW they make such cute baby clothes these days!)

And so, on Monday, I go back to work. I rejoin the world of working adults, and try to remember what it is I do for a living.  Wish me luck. 
 
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