Thursday, October 13, 2016

Making Time for Lunch

Happy Wednesday! As a new mom, I find that one of the hardest tasks is having enough time to make lunch. It sounds so simple, but when your little one needs your undivided attention, carving out time to prepare anything complicated is unrealistic! For the past several weeks, I've relied on quick and easy to prepare lunches or have just thrown together random ingredients and called it a day - PB and J, I'm lookin' at you.

I was recently challenged by SkinnyPop to share a few lunch packing tips for people with allergies. Did you know SkinnyPop is free of all of the major allergens? I didn't! This knowledge and this challenge couldn't have come at a better time for two reasons....

1. My daughter was just diagnosed with a milk protein allergy and since I'm breastfeeding, that means saying goodbye to the dairy in my diet.
2. I've been struggling with lunches myself lately!

I brainstormed for awhile and came up with several helpful tips that have helped me in the past with going gluten-free and will continue to help as I embark on this new dairy free lifestyle as well. If you've dealing with a recently diagnosed allergy for yourself or your child, these tips will be helpful for you as well! Food allergies are tricky but they can be managed without having to miss too many of your favorite foods.

Know Your Labels/Known Products Can Change
  • The most important tip of all. Check your labels. Check your labels. Check your labels. Products change all the time and even though the product was once allergen free, doesn't mean that it still is, as manufacturing processes can always change. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 requires major allergens to be listed on the label, but you should still familiarize yourself with the lingo for your specific allergen - for dairy allergies, this cheat sheet is particularly helpful.
Explore your Alternatives
  • Swap out the allergen containing foods for other options in your favorite recipes. Can't have peanut butter? Try sunflower seed butter on that sandwich. Can't use heavy cream? Try coconut cream. Allergic to eggs and can't use mayo? Try avocado. Did you say goodbye to gluten? Try chickpea or oat flour in your baked goods instead. Missing cheese? Try almond or cashew cheeze on crackers as an alternative.  
Think Simple  
  • Pick your protein, add some veggies and wrap it all up. I love using wraps for quick and easy lunches and I'm sharing one of my easy recipes below. Other options? Pick your protein, add some veggies, something for crunch like gluten-free pretzels or skinny pop and hummus for dipping. 
Double Dip
  • Make dinners work for lunches. I love cooking chicken in the slow cooker - it's easy and quick. Throw in your protein, add a sauce, set it and forget it. Make that dinner do double duty. I'll serve the chicken with veggies for dinner, then use the leftovers in corn tortillas the next day for easy tacos at lunch. 
Now, onto the recipe....!


If my kitchen walls could talk: This wrap is so adaptable and is free of dairy, soy, wheat, peanuts and tree nuts. Remember, check your labels as cross contamination could be an issue pending the brands used. Want to take this wrap over the top? Try substituting other flavors of hummus - roasted red pepper or garlic would be divine! Vegan? Swap out the bacon for tempeh. Vegetarian? Feel free to swap out the bacon for sharp cheddar cheese. Mmmm. Serve with a side of chopped veggies - I love bell peppers with this wrap - and if you're so inclined, a side of SkinnyPop! I'm dying to try the white cheddar flavor - especially after learning that it's dairy free!

Required kitchen tools: Baking Sheet


BAH Wrap 

Ingredients

1 brown rice tortilla
3 strips bacon, crispy
1/2 avocado, sliced
2-4 tbsp hummus

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place bacon slices on baking sheet and cook 10-12 minutes or until desired crispness is achieved.
2. Wet two paper towels and place tortilla between them, microwave for 30 seconds.
3. Spread hummus on tortilla, top with bacon and avocado.
4. Gently fold the bottom of the tortilla up, then the sides, then roll as shown in the image above. Feast!



What's your favorite allergen free lunch or snack? Share with me in the comments below! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fall Fashion Favorites

Happy Tuesday! Don't you just love fall? One of my favorite things about fall is fashion. Give me all the blanket scarves, puffer vests, flannel and boots. I just can't help myself and every year I'm adding favorites to my collection. I love the cooler weather and the opportunity to layer up!


Today, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite pieces from my closet, along with those I'm craving. Blanket scarves are one of my closet staples - my newest favorite is this one. These black pumps were perfect for our first post-baby date night. This structured tote was one of my recent Nordstrom Rack finds and while I couldn't find this exact color, I've linked several others below. I don't think I've left the house in the past two years without this bracelet; it helps brighten up any outfit. My over the knee boots are a great dupe for this pricey pair; mine are from last season (sorry!) but these and these are similar.



I'm currently craving a red and black checked flannel - it would be so cute with a black puffer vest, over the knee boots and jeans - the perfect outfit to wear on a girls trip to the zoo with the little ones or a trip to the pumpkin patch! The herringbone vest is one of my closet staples, but I'm on the lookout for a cream one. While we're at it, can all of these blanket scarves magically appear in my closet? That would be fantastic ;)




What's your favorite fall fashion trend?

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Easy Spinach Quiche

Having a newborn means I'm all about simple and quick meals. Today, it's all about simplicity with this spinach cheese quiche. Just combine a few ingredients, throw them into frozen pie shells, bake and go. It's genius and the results are divine. I hope you enjoy it!


If my kitchen walls could talk: This recipe is easily adaptable - feel free to swap out any of the veggies, cheeses or meats for your favorites! It also freezes well. Simply cut into slices after baking, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze in a gallon sized bag.

Helpful kitchen tools: Nesting Bowls, Baking Sheet 

Simple Spinach Quiche

Ingredients

8 eggs
2 cups cheddar cheese
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup spinach, thawed and drained
8 slices bacon, crisp and crumbled
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 frozen pie crusts, gluten-free if necessary

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, whisk eggs until combined. Add cheddar cheese, milk, spinach, paprika and black pepper, stirring to combine. Mix in cooked bacon crumbles.
3. Place pie crusts onto baking sheet filling evenly with egg mixture. Gently cover edges of pie crust with foil to prevent burning. Bake for 45 minutes until lightly set.



What's your favorite breakfast? 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Penelope's Birth Story: Part 1

Hi friends! When I was pregnant and even before, I loved reading birth stories. All experiences are different, but each one is a miracle in itself. After our daughter was born, I typed out her birth story because I didn't want to forget a single detail. My expectations were low going into labor and delivery - in my mind, a healthy baby was my number one priority. I'm grateful that I had such an incredible experience and am so blessed to be the mom of this tiny miracle. So, here is our birth story...


Dear Penelope,

Your birth story starts on Saturday, July 30th around 4:30 am. Actually though, let's back up for a second to my last OB appointment when I thought your birthday was going to be August 4th or 5th. I went to the OB's office the previous Tuesday for my 37 week appointment, I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions all week and the OB that I saw assured me that no baby was coming anytime soon. He brought up the topic of a scheduled induction at 39 weeks. You see, at your 20 week ultrasound, there was an abnormality in your umbilical cord called a Persistent Right Umbilical Vein. A fetal echocardiogram revealed that your heart was in tip top shape, but I had extra monitoring throughout my pregnancy. Non-stress tests every Friday - I didn't mind those because I could listen to your heartbeat for 30 minutes on repeat - and biophysical profiles/growth scans every Tuesday - I loved these weekly ultrasounds to see my little peanut. The extra monitoring was stressful, but I focused on the positive fact that it let me know that you were doing well and staying safe. Factoring in all of that along with my blood clotting disorder meant an induction at 39 weeks. I have to admit, I did feel a little sad about this... what if you weren't ready to be born at 39 weeks? There were so many questions in my mind. I secretly had wanted you to chose your own birthday but in my heart though, I knew choosing what was safest for you was my number one priority. Apparently though, you had other plans and little did I know that you were going to choose your own birthday ahead of schedule...

Paul and I discussed how we wanted to spend our last weekend just the two of us and at my Friday NST, I told my nurse all I really wanted was Thai food and to relax. She laughed and told me to tell "her friend" aka Paul, that he should do anything I wanted. Friday night rolled around and we discussed our dinner plans, Paul wasn't down for Thai, so we ended up getting wings instead and heading to bed early. So, early Saturday morning at 4:30 am at 38 weeks pregnant when I heard Paul up tracking down which of the smoke alarms was chirping in the middle of the night and realized I might be in labor, I briefly considered that the induction likely would not be happening. I shouldn't have been surprised, babies in my family historically tend to come early, but I was. These cramps felt different, more consistent, than the ones I'd been having all week. I had some spotting and now I really couldn't sleep anymore so I got up to take a shower and wash my hair. I wandered around the house, straightened up things and painted my nails. I wasn't sure if this was the real deal or not but I wanted to be ready if it was!

Eventually, Paul got up and I told him I was pretty sure this was it. Our baby was (hopefully) on the way. I ate breakfast - an oatmeal pancake from my freezer stash of post-baby meals - knowing that they wouldn't let me eat at the hospital. We gathered things up around the house and I decided to call when my contractions were 3-6 minutes apart and lasting for a minute. The resident I talked to told me that it would be a good idea to come in and get checked out since it seemed like things were moving along. Paul and I wondered if this was our last time leaving the house just the two of us. We snapped one last bump shot and hit the road! As we made the drive to the hospital around 11 am, we talked about how laid back this drive was (ha ha), parked in the garage and went inside.


We went to the Labor and Delivery floor and checked in at the desk. I was taken to a triage room, given a hospital gown and hooked up to a monitor to track my contractions. My nurse brought me some ice chips and helped me settle in. The resident I had talked to on the phone came into check my progress and said I was 1 cm dilated and 80% effaced. They decided they would keep me for an hour to see if I made any progress. In between feeding me ice chips, Paul worked on his UC class since this was his last opportunity to finish it before you made your arrival. I turned on Say Yes to the Dress and tried to relax - all I wanted to do was walk around but I wasn't allowed to because of all the monitors - so I tried to focus by listening to your heart beat instead.


I started to think about getting sent home as a real possibility then decided that might not be so bad because I was starting to feel hungry and was wanting lunch...clearly pregnant girl problems. Eventually, my OB came in and said that since I hadn't made any real progress, she was sending me home. She pointed out all the benefits of being at home - at home I could shower, walk, eat and just relax. I was nervous about when to come back because my contractions were already so close together and she assured me to return when I couldn't talk through them anymore. She said she would have the on call phone until 7:30 am the next morning, so if we had any questions or concerns we could always call her. We packed up our belongings and I changed back into my regular clothes.

We began the drive back home and it turned out that I was going to get the Thai meal I wanted after all. We stopped and picked up a ginger salad, avocado roll and tofu pad thai, and turned on The Sopranos while we ate. I bounced on the exercise ball and we made periodic walks around our neighborhood, stopping with each contraction. It was a beautiful day outside and Paul held me close and talked to me during each one. Finally, I decided a hot shower sounded like a great idea and it helped me manage the increasing pain. Once I got out though, I felt like I was starting to lose it. Honestly, I was so scared to go back to the hospital only to get sent home again. Looking back, I remember reading that the time to go to the hospital is when you no longer want to go. It didn't make sense to me when I read it, but now it makes perfect sense. We called my OB and left a message and while we were waiting for her return call, Paul told me it was just time to leave. I argued for a little bit but finally gave in.


We got back in the car and made our way back to the hospital around 7 pm, only this drive was slightly more dramatic and my eyes were closed for most of it. I asked if we could listen to "Final Song" by MO and it ended up playing on repeat as we drove up to where our hospital was located. Now, whenever I hear that song, I always remember that moment. We parked the car out front and left our bags inside, just in case I wasn't going to stay this time. We made our way back to Labor and Delivery and all the nurses joked about how I had just been here earlier....little did they know this time I was going to get to stay....!


Part 2 coming soon :) 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Salsa Verde Slow Cooker Tacquitos

Hi friends! The days have been scorching hot on this last week of July. The last thing I want to do when it's over 90 degrees outside is turn on my oven for hours and hours of cooking. Enter chicken tacquitos. While this recipe does use the oven, the time frame is short - only 15 minutes. Instead, the work horse of this recipe is the slow cooker. Just throw a few things in, set it and forget it. 


In addition to being easy, this meal also happens to be freezable. If you have leftover tacquitos, allow them to cool in your refrigerator and then seal them up in a freezer safe ziplock bag. They can go right from your freezer to the oven when you're ready to enjoy them. 


If my kitchen walls could talk: Not a fan of salsa verde? Feel free to swap out your salsa and use your favorite red sauce instead! I recommend serving the tacquitos over shredded lettuce and topping with all your favorites - guacamole, nonfat greek yogurt, chopped tomatoes, jalepenos or olives! 

Required kitchen tools: Slow Cooker, Baking Sheet

Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Tacquitos 

Ingredients

2 large chicken breasts
1 cup salsa verde
8 tbsp low fat cream cheese
12-16 corn tortillas, warmed
1 cup lowfat mexican cheese blend, shredded

1. Layer chicken breasts flat in the bottom of your slow cooker.  Pour salsa verde over chicken.  Cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. After desired cooking time, shred with fork and add cream cheese, stirring to combine. Allow to cook on low for an additional 20 minutes.
2. Turn off slow cooker. Remove chicken placing about 1/4 cup on each tortilla.  Top with ~1 tbsp cheese. Roll up, place on a sprayed baking sheet face down.
3. Bake at 425 fahrenheit for ~15 minutes until tortillas are light brown and cheese is melted.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monster Lactation Cookies

Hi friends! I hope you've been well.  Nesting has taken over blogging, now that our little one is one the way. I've been doing everything I can to prepare for her arrival, including freezing all kinds of meals and snacks to make those sleep deprived days a little easier. I'm planning on breastfeeding and I'm willing to try anything to make it work. I know that it can be a challenging experience, so anything I can do to make it slightly easier is on my radar.

So, what does this have to do with cooking and freezing? Well, certain types of foods/herbs, called galactagogues are said to help with increasing milk supply. A quick google search will show you that "lactation cookies" are blowing up the internet. Do they work..? Maybe? I can't really say yet because my baby isn't here but I can tell you that either way they taste amazing and I'm sure in my sleep deprived haze, I'll be down for eating a cookie at 3 am.


The "galactagogues" found in this recipe - aka the stars of the show - are oats, flaxseed and brewer's yeast. Now, finding gluten free brewer's yeast is slightly tricky. Just like many other foods - blue cheese, soy sauce etc. - it can be grown using wheat. The trick is to buy a brand of brewer's yeast produced from beets - I used Blue Bonnet Brewer's Yeast. I also recommend using a gluten-free flour blend as opposed to a single gluten-free flour, but if you aren't gluten-free, feel free to swap out white flour and you should have similar results.  

I've been obsessed with peanut butter throughout my pregnancy, so I adapted a lactation cookie recipe from How Sweet Eats along with the ingredients for my favorite monster cookies. These cookies freeze beautifully - just allow them to cool and then freeze them in a freezer safe ziplock bag. I hope you love them as much as I do!



If my kitchen walls could talk: The beauty of Monster cookies is that you can add everything but the kitchen sink to them. Peanuts, almonds, coconut, peanut butter M&M's - the sky is really the limit. Need a nut free version of this recipe? Try swapping out sunflower butter for the peanut butter.

Required kitchen tools: Stand Mixer, Cookie Scoop, Measuring Cups/Spoons, Nested Bowls, Baking Sheets



Monster Lactation Cookies

Ingredients

1 stick butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons brewer's yeast
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups dark chocolate M&M's

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a stand mixer, cream together butter and peanut butter. Add eggs, brown sugar, white sugar and vanilla, creaming together until combined.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, flour, flaxseed, brewer's yeast, baking powder and baking soda mixing until combined.
3. Gradually, add dry ingredients to wet ingredients to the stand mixer while running on low. Stir in M&M's with a spatula.
4. Using a large spoon or cookie scoop, scoop the dough in uniform sizes onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 12-14 minutes until lightly golden brown.


Have you tried lactation cookies? Did they work for you? 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Second Trimester Favorites

Hi friends! Hope you're having a great day :) Today, I'm sharing a few of my pregnancy favorites because let's be honest, being pregnant comes with lots of unexpected joys and surprises. While I've loved every second of it, I've found with the transition into each trimester, there are some things that get a little easier and some that get a little harder....

The second trimester brought to me extra energy, a visible baby bump (yes!!) and the finale of morning sickness. However, it also brought along breakouts, trouble sleeping and itchy skin. Early in my pregnancy, I loved reading other bloggers favorite pregnancy products, so today I'm sharing three of mine that solved my second trimester problems!



Belli Skincare


  • One thing my pregnancy brought along with it that was certainly not welcome was breakouts. Unfortunately, many effective acne treatments aren't pregnancy safe. So, what's a girl to do? Enter Belli Skincare! The products were formulated by OBs and dermatologists to use pregnancy safe ingredients. I only purchased the acne serum and I can say that it truly did help clear up those pesky pregnancy breakouts. I thought it was fairly inexpensive compared to most acne products and worked wonders!  


The Snoogle 



  • One thing that's never though of is how uncomfortable sleeping during pregnancy becomes. The snoogle was and still is my sleep life saver. It helped me be able to sleep better through the night without being so uncomfortable and achy. I bought mine at Bed Bath & Beyond and used a 20% off coupon for extra savings! If you're pregnant, I recommend purchasing one as soon as possible. You won't regret it. It's also great for folding in half and supporting your back when sitting! 


Burt's Bees Mama Oil


  • I love this lemon scented oil! Stretch marks are supposedly genetic, but anything helps right? I loved and still love this Burt's Bees oil when I picked it up during my second trimester. Not only is it cheaper than a lot of the other products out there, but I haven't had any issues with it staining my clothes. It smells wonderful, unlike many other products out there, and helps keep my skin from being itchy! 

What were your pregnancy favorites? 

Friday, June 24, 2016

6.24.16 - Friday Favorites

Hi friends!!  Happy Friday to all of you :) Any big weekend plans on the agenda? I'm looking forward to spending time with my husband tonight - most likely grilling or going out to dinner - a couples baby shower on Saturday and then a family shower on Sunday. It will certainly be a busy weekend, but definitely a fun one full of celebrating our little girl.

Life In Leggings

Now, it's time for Friday Favorites!!  I'm sharing what I'm loving this Friday with all of you, but feel free to share what you're loving this Friday with me in the comments below - I can't wait to hear.


Food - Halo Top Ice Cream


Has anyone tried Halo Top yet? I saw it at Kroger and threw it into my cart with extremely low expectations. Since I barely passed my 3 hour glucose tolerance test, I've been trying to keep my sugar intake low. I felt like how good could low carb, low calorie ice cream really be? Um, amazing apparently. Like AMAZING in capital letters, followed by a million exclamation points. I'm addicted and apparently so is everyone else because my Kroger has been sold out for over a week. Run to your grocery store and buy this asap!

Find - Inexpensive Jewelry


Two times a year our hospital hosts a $5.00 jewelry sale. I'm not sure if this is just a hospital event or what - it was popular at the last hospital I worked at as well - and I was really excited to stock up on these inexpensive statement necklaces! I'm loving the blue seed bead turquoise necklace and the gold and white pearl combo. Here are some budget friendly alternatives here/here/here 
Food - Grilled Vegetables


I love grilled veggie skewers and these are so easy!! Simply thred your favorite veggies on, brush on a mix of melted butter and hot sauce and grill until cooked all the way through. I love when they have slightly burnt edges. My favorite combo is red pepper, zucchini, yellow pepper, onion and orange pepper. 

Fashion - Kimonos


I love kimonos! They're perfect for pregnancy too because you can just layer them over a tank and go. They're by far my summer staple. I've linked a few I'm loving below that are all budget friendly :) 
What are you loving this Friday? Share in the comments below!





Friday, May 27, 2016

5.27.16 - Friday Favorites


Happy Friday!!! I hope that your week was wonderful and that you've got big plans on the agenda this weekend for Memorial Day :) What is everyone up to? We're coming home from our babymoon, so I wrote this post in advance. One last getaway before our little lady gets here. I'll have a recap up soon of where we went and what we did! I can't believe that this weekend is the first to kick start summer - I can hardly believe that June is almost here. Now, in true Friday fashion... it's time for Friday Favorites!!

Life In Leggings

Food - 3 Ingredient Pancakes 


These are incredible! I made them in the nutribullet and could eat them everyday. They're high in protein and filling. Eggs + Banana + Chia Seeds. Blend them up and top with your favorite pancake toppings.

Fun - Outdoor Gardening


I plant a garden every year and can honestly say it's one of my favorite hobbies. There is nothing better than digging around in the dirt and watching those plants grow. I stocked up on my favorites this past week, so I'm looking forward to tomatoes, poblanos, jalepenos and basil (including purple basil!!). We added some experimental plants to the mix and also planted broccoli, brussel sprouts, cucumbers and melon!

Fashion - Baby Clothes


I thought shopping for my own clothes was fun (yep, even shopping for maternity clothes!), but shopping for baby clothes takes the cuteness to another level entirely. I picked up this eyelet flutter dress for our baby girl from Gap the other day! I can't wait for her to be here and to wear it. It will be perfect for the end of summer - and maybe newborn pictures ;)

Fashion - Gladiator Sandals


I love these sandals from Target! They're an incredible dupe for that Valentino pair that's floating around the internet. Let's be honest, I won't spend $1,000 on sandals, but I'll happily put down $30 for this dupe :)


What are you loving this Friday? 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pregnancy: Weeks 17,18, 19

Since announcing my pregnancy on my blog, I realized I haven't shared any updates! I love going back to other blogs and reading weekly updates in the format below, so I figured it was time to share my own. If you aren't down for the baby posts, then feel free to skip on over this one. I'm currently in the 3rd trimester, but here's a look back on weeks 17, 18 and 19! 


Total weight gain/loss
  • I think about 4 lbs total. I lost weight in the first trimester and I'm finally starting to gain. I was worried about it, but my doctors didn't seem to be, so I'm just going by what they say! 
Exercise
  • Mostly sticking to walking and the Suzanne Bowen prenatal barre DVD's. I used to love attending barre classes, but traded them out for lifting and running. Early in my pregnancy, running just didn't feel comfortable or right anymore, so I traded it out for walking. I found that some lifting exercises made me dizzy, so it was the perfect time to get back to barre. 
Stretch marks
  • They say this is genetic, but I'm still trying to prevent them! I do have one tiny one, but I prefer to think of it as a baby tattoo. 
Gender
  • Not any specific feelings either way! Sometimes I feel like baby is a he and other times a she. Only a few more weeks until we find out.
Maternity clothes
  • I ordered these Paige Maternity Jeans from Nordstrom and I'm obsessed. They have side panels in the front and feel just like my normal jeans. I've been on the hunt for work pants and placed an online order with Gap this week - I'm hoping they work! The Bella band has been my saving grace with fitting into normal pants.
Sleep
  • I'm sleeping pretty well through the night thanks to the Snoogle! My husband is obsessed with it too and is always trying to steal it. 
Belly button
  • No changes! 
Food cravings
  • Nothing yet! I have been thinking a lot about soft serve ice cream though....
Food aversions
  • Chicken. I can't even think about it. I've been working hard to get my protein in through other sources, but it's been tough! 
Symptoms
  • Still feeling a little nauseous. Hoping it goes away soon! I'm so happy to have my energy level back and would say that the majority of the time, I feel like myself. 
Movement
  • Yes!! Baby is fluttering around in there :) Sometimes it tickles. I love it!  
What I miss
  • Philadelphia sushi rolls. Sunny side up eggs - I bought Davidson's pasteurized eggs, which I've recommended to immunocompromised patients before. The pasteurization process kills salmonella bacteria, so I know they're safe, but I'm still too freaked out to use them! 
What I'm loving
  • Sleep. Barre DVD's. Workout leggings
Best moment this week
  • Feeling the baby move!
Words of wisdom
  • One day at a time pregnant mommas. Some days I feel like myself and other days are tougher. Don't compare yourself to other people, everyone is doing the best they can!

Total weight gain/loss
  • Not sure! I haven't been weighed myself this week.  
Exercise
  • The usual, walking and barre DVD's - whatever feels good with plenty of rest days as needed. 
Stretch marks
  • Still just one tiny one :)
Gender
  • Not any specific feelings either way! Sometimes I feel like baby is a he and other times a she. Only a few more weeks until we find out.
Maternity clothes
  • I bought a ton of tanks after a big sale at Gap this weekend! They're the best. I'm still wearing some of my normal clothes, but I think those days are numbered. 
Sleep
  • Still sleeping pretty well - phew! 
Belly button
  • No changes! 
Food cravings
  • Nothing major... but a baked potato with cheese always sounds good :) 
Food aversions
  • Chicken. Still. 
Symptoms
  • Sporadic nausea, but that's it! 
Movement
  • Yes!! Baby is still dancing around in there
What I miss
  • Sushi. Red wine - so random, but my husband was drinking a glass the other day and I missed it. 
What I'm loving
  • Sleeping and having a more real looking bump! 
Best moment this week
  • Feeling close to halfway! 
Words of wisdom
  • Trying to enjoy every second because I realize baby won't always be in there! Eventually, he or she will be out and crawling around! 

Total weight gain/loss
  • 5 lbs
Exercise
  • Resting, walking and lots of barre DVDs 
Stretch marks
  • Still just one tiny one :)
Gender
  • Starting to feel like maybe it's a girl - can't wait to find out next week
Maternity clothes
  • No purchases but received a bag of maternity clothes from my friend Elisa. She's a lifesaver! I've been wearing them nonstop
Sleep
  • Still sleeping pretty well - but getting up a lot to use the bathroom
Belly button
  • Starting to wonder if it will pop out eventually..ahhh
Food cravings
  • Salads! Salad all the way. 
Food aversions
  • Chicken. Still. And probably forever
Symptoms
  • None! Occasional headaches 
Movement
  • Yes!! Baby is having a major party all day everyday 
What I miss
  • Sushi. Wine. That's about it. 
What I'm loving
  • Dressing the bump! I met my husband for lunch this week and my maternity jeans were in the wash - my regular ones were so uncomfortable, even with the belly band
Best moment this week
  • Feeling close to halfway, can't wait to find out if baby is a he or she next week
Words of wisdom
  • I'm loving this baby more and more everyday :) 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Best Ever Pasta Salad

Welcome to another week! Is there anything better in the summer time than cold meals? Salads, fresh mozzarella, crunchy celery. As the temperature turns, I gravitate away from anything hot and start to favor cold foods. Soups and casseroles return to the vault and I pull out all of my favorite summer recipes. A few weeks ago, I started becoming obsessed with cold pasta salad. I haven't craved much during my pregnancy other than salads (seriously, not a joke) but I did quickly fall in love with this pasta salad. Look for some baby updates this week - I decided I should finally share some!

But first, back to this recipe - I added chickpeas for extra protein, loads of veggies and went with quinoa pasta for a higher fiber and higher protein option. It's colorful, fun and perfect for the summertime. Enjoy!


If my kitchen walls could talk: Feel free to add in any of your favorite veggies - zucchini or green bell peppers would be wonderful additions as well. This recipe is also amazing without the pasta, feel free to leave it out - just be sure to either use half the amount of dressing or increase the veggie/chickpea ratio.



Best Ever Pasta Salad

Ingredients

1 box quinoa pasta
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
2 cans chickpeas, drained
1 cup black olives
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp oregano, dried
1/2 tbsp minced garlic

1. Boil pasta according to directions until al dente. Meanwhile, chop vegetables into bite sized pieces.
2. In a large bowl, combine carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, chickpeas and olives. Drain pasta and add to vegetable mix.
3. Combine olive oil, white wine vinegar, oregano and garlic, stirring to combine. Pour over pasta mixture. Refrigerate until cold, allowing flavors to meld together.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Memorial Day Magic Bars

Happy Monday! Can you believe the end of the month is almost here? It feels like May flew by in a flash and now summer is only a few weeks away. I don't know about you, but one of my favorite things about this time of year is spending time outdoors with family and friends. I always love to bring along food (surprise!) and so I gravitate towards recipes that are easy to prepare but pack a delicious punch. Leaving the oven on for extended periods of time makes the house feel hotter than the outdoors and I would rather be spending my time poolside! Today, I'm sharing one of my favorite dessert recipes.


This is a fall favorite with a summer twist that takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and has only 4 ingredients! Who hasn't spent fall days over a campfire roasting marshmellows for smores in the backyard? Let me tell you, I bet you aren't going to be building a fire in the sweltering heat of summer, but you can enjoy smores with these classic smores bars!


You'll need a few things - gluten free graham crackers or animal crackers, sweetened condensed milk, marshmellows, chocolate chips, a baking dish and about 20 minutes. That's it, friends.


This recipe is perfect for summer parties, so make sure to pin it for Memorial Day, 4th of July or Labor Day! I can guarantee there won't be leftovers, so if you're looking for extras to have on hand, make sure to make a double batch.


If my kitchen walls could talk: Feel free to jazz up this recipes with your favorite fixings. In the mood for peanut butter bars? Use half peanut butter chips and half chocolate. Wanting a more tropical bar? Substitute coconut and dried pineapple for the marshmellows. Don't forget to line your baking dish with parchment paper - otherwise, your bars might stick!

Smores Magic Bars

Ingredients

8 oz gluten free animal crackers
4 tbsp butter
8 oz chocolate chips
2 cups mini marshmallows
14 oz sweetened condensed milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a square baking dish with parchment paper.
2. Using a rolling pin or food processor, crush animal crackers, combine with melted butter pressing into bottom of baking dish.
3. Top cookie layer with chocolate chips and marshmallows. Spread condensed milk evenly over chocolate layer.
4. Bake for 15-18 minutes until marshmallows are lightly browned. Allow to cool, then cut into bars.

What's your go-to summer dessert? 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

DIY Blush Mercury Glass Votive Tutorial

When my fiance (now husband) and I set a date for our wedding, planning mode officially kicked off. I was immediately dreaming of a blush and gold wedding, complete with blush mercury glass votives, table numbers, the works. I quickly fell in love with the beauty of mercury glass and decided that it was something I had to have as part of our centerpieces. Unfortunately, reality quickly set in when I started looking at mercury votives. My jaw quickly dropped at the prices - $25, or more, for 6 votives? We were going to need over 200 and I couldn't see spending over $800 on votives that we would never use again....with wedding season creeping up, I'm sure other brides-to-be are in a similar boat.


So, I started looking into DIY alternatives and unfortunately came up empty handed. I found a few tutorials on how to make silver mercury glass, but I wanted blush and gold. After much trial and error, I came up with the beautiful votives you'll see above and below. You don't have to be a craft wizard to complete this project, but you do need to be open to trial and error. Fortunately, with patience, = time and significantly less cash, you can create the mercury glass votives of your dreams!

One of the biggest things you'll need for this project is the votives. I recommend looking at discount factory candle stores in your city. I paid $0.25 (or sometimes less) per votive by looking up sales and using coupons I found online. The rest was easy! Second, you'll need to run by the craft store to pick up your paint. I used Martha Stewart's Transparent Gloss Glass Paint - pick a shade closest to the pink you're looking for - and Krylon's Metallic Paint. Don't try to do this project all in one day. You'll need time between steps 2 and 3, but you could easily complete it over a weekend. Ready? Let's get started!


Blush Mercury Glass Tutorial

Ingredients

Votives
Alcohol
Spray Bottle
Foam Craft Brush 
White Vinegar
Martha Stewart Glass Paint
Krylon 18k spray paint

Step 1: Prep the Surface
  • Make sure all the tags have been removed from your votives. Using an old dish rag or cotton ball, clean then thoroughly with alcohol and allow them to dry. 
  • Do not skip this step! You don't need dust or dirt in your finished product.

Step 2: Create Blush Glass

  • Pour small amount of paint onto a paper plate. Using your foam brush, lightly cover the inside of each votive in paint. Do not paint the outside. Repeat until desired number of votives are finished, refilling your paint dish as necessary. Use a second coat of paint as desired. 
  • Next, you will need to cure the votives. Let them air dry for about an hour. Line a baking sheet with foil and fill it up with the painted votives. 
  • Set the votives in a cold oven and set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, bake for 30 minutes then turn the oven off. Wait a few hours to remove - they'll be hot! I recommend opening the windows in your kitchen for this step as it can cause an unpleasant odor. 

Step 3: Create Mercury Glass!

  • Fill up your spray bottle with half water and half white vinegar. You're going to use the vinegar spray all over your votives. This will keep the gold paint from adhering in all spots and help to create that "mercury" look. 
  • I recommend completing the rest of this project outdoors or in your garage with the door open - the Krylon paint does have an odor and it's probably best to not breathe in the fumes! 
  • Working in sets of ~4, spray the inside of your votives with the vinegar/water mixture. Don't worry if the vinegar water begins to pool in the bottom - what you're looking for is an even coverage of spots on the side. Next, lightly dust the insides with the metallic paint. You just want to provide a gentle dusting of gold, so that the pink will still shine through. Remember, you can always add more gold, but you can't take it away. 
  • Repeat until all votives are finished, allow to air dry. Enjoy your beautiful votives!

Questions about this project? Feel free to ask in the comments below! 




Monday, April 18, 2016

A Twist on a Classic

Happy Tuesday! The temperature is warming up and I'm looking forward to the week. After a busy weekend and a work training on Saturday, I took Monday off to catch up on my normal weekend errands. There was a lot of cooking, grocery shopping, laundry and cleaning - and let's be real, a few episodes of Fuller House thrown in there. I'm looking forward to a slightly shorter work week and sharing this recipe with all of you! It is a dish that I have been making for years, but realized that I've never shared it on my blog. It's simple, delicious and comes together in a flash.

So, let's take a step back. You've probably heard of chicken parmesan and eggplant parmesan before as they are both well known Italian dishes. Today, I'm putting a new twist on this old favorite with one of my all time favorite vegetables. The ingredients list is minimal - a secret veggie, breadcrumbs, an egg for binding, marinara sauce and of course, cheese... so what could it be?


The star of this show is low in calories and rich in potassium - it's zucchini! Spring is here and many of us will be planting our summer gardens soon; the obvious choice being to add zucchini.  If you give that plant plenty of TLC, it will grow like crazy and you will soon be up to your eyeballs in this beloved green squash! At that point, you will start asking yourself how many loaves of zucchini bread one person can make and what else you could possibly do with this squash. While this is a beautiful spring recipe, it's also great for summer when the zucchini grows like wildflower.



If my kitchen walls could talk: The marinara sauce helps to make this dish shine. I recommend using your favorite high quality sauce (my personal fave is Rao's) or feel free to make your own marinara if you are feeling ambitious. You can also triple this recipe if you are going to be feeding a crowd. When cooking with a large zucchini, which typically aren't found until summer, I recommend cutting the slices into rounds.


Zucchini Parmesan 

Ingredients

2 small or 1 large zucchini
1/2 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 egg
2/3 cup marinara sauce, warmed
1/3 cup shredded provolone or 2 slices provolone cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice zucchini lengthwise into strips about 1/8-1/4 an inch thick and 3-4 inches long.
2. Combine breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese, set aside. Beat egg in a small bowl. Dip zucchini strips in egg, then breadcrumbs. Place on baking sheet. Repeat until all strips are used. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned, turning halfway through.
3. Remove zucchini strips from the oven, leaving 2 on baking sheet. Top with cheese, place back in over 3-5 minutes until cheese is lightly browned.
4. Layer marinara sauce, zucchini strips, cheese. Repeat until all is used, top with browned zucchini strips from the oven.

What's your favorite zucchini recipe? 

Friday, April 15, 2016

4.15.16 Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! This week flew by and I can hardly believe it's already time for the weekend. I'm looking forward to a malnutrition seminar this weekend, checking out a friend's new house and brunch with my girlfriends on Sunday. Since it's Friday, I'm sharing my favorites of the week and joining the party that Life in Leggings started by linking up. Let's get started!!


Life In Leggings

Food - Tomatoes + Mozzarella = Bliss


  • Caprese salads!!! Chop your favorite kind of tomatoes, slice fresh mozzarella and throw into a bowl with romaine and basil. I like to drizzle mine with olive oil, pepper and a balsamic reduction. The perfect spring side. 

Fashion - Skinnies and Sunnies 
  • It's full on maternity clothes over here and I'm loving these white skinny jeans from the Gap. They have a full panel and fit true to size. I was craving a pair of white skinnies for the spring time and these have been my go to! If you're pregnant and clumsy like me, definitely make sure you have a Tide pen on hand when you take these out for a spin ;) 

  • I've been wearing these BP Abbey Road sunglasses every day! They're a great dupe for pricier Karen Walker pairs and at $12 are a steal. 

Found on the Web
  • Emily's tutorial on how to clean your wedding rings  - mine have never been so shiny!
  • Jessica's chocolate stuffed oatmeal bars - I need these ASAP 
  • Julie's post on what she wished she knew before her baby was born 
  • My chocolate dream pie - full of chocolate and totally delicious! 

What are you loving this Friday? 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Back to Basics: My Top Kitchen Essentials

I focus many of my posts on recipes, but what's the key to any successful recipe? Quality kitchen tools. With wedding season on the horizon and spring in full bloom, many people are revamping their kitchens by registering or taking the plunge for new items.

When it comes to kitchen tools, quality doesn't always require spending your life savings. You can find plenty of tools at lower price points that won't break the bank. Today, I'm sharing my top kitchen essentials. Whether you're a bride-to-be planning your registry, a college graduate looking to stock up the kitchen of your first apartment or anyone looking to live a healthier lifestyle, then this post is for you! You can skimp on cutting boards, oven mitts and spatulas, but these are the items you truly need - I've linked my favorites below along with budget friendly options.


Cookware Set
  • This is your ultimate kitchen staple. You need pots and pans for making scrambled eggs, boiling pasta, sauteing veggies, cooking up that stir fry or making that large batch of risotto. If you're debating what to spend your money on, this is it. A quality set that lasts will be around for 10 years and longer if you care for it correctly. Calphalon is my favorite brand - I received a hand me down set from a family member that lasted me for years until I got married and upgraded to a new set of my own. I've found the pans cook food easily, are resistant to scratching and come with a lifetime warranty. I've listed what you should look for in your set and linked a few options below!
    • Stock pot 
    • Small omelette/frying pan 
    • Large omelette/frying pan
    • Medium saute pan 
    • Large saute pan 

Stoneware Baking Dish 
  • I use my stoneware baking dishes for everything; I'm sure you've seen them all over this blog - baked pasta dishes, casseroles, homemade fajitas, dessert bars - you name it and it's probably been cooked in a stoneware dish. They're easy to wash and heavy duty. They range in all price points - you can spend more or you can spend less, but my first stoneware baking dish was on clearance for $7.00 and I use it weekly and have for years. 

Food Processor
  • This is an absolute must have! The ultimate workhorse of the kitchen. I use my food processor for pureeing bananas for breads, chopping nuts, whipping up pizza dough, shredding cheese, chopping herbs, crushing beans, making homemade nut butters, creating salad dressings and more. Food processors come in all makes, models and sizes. You can find affordable mini food processors for around $30, but keep in mind that these have smaller motors and won't be able to perform all of the tasks of a larger food processor. Most larger food processors come with multiple blades for shredding, slicing, chopping and more. 


Pizza Stone
  • Who doesn't love pizza? It's so easy to make your own using fresh dough. A definite must have that gets use in our kitchen every weekend. I love mine because it's coated in a protective glaze and can even go on the grill - definitely on my bucket list to try this summer. 

We've covered my kitchen essentials, so now let's talk about the non-essentials that I've been dreaming of! The kitchen is one of my favorite rooms of the house and I love to spend my time there, so let me share what's on my wish list.

High Quality Gas Range
  • My dream kitchen would include a restaurant quality gas range, like these by BlueStar. I love cooking on a gas range - I feel like you can control the temperature of the food so much better. While I love our gas range, these truly look out of this world. Plus, you can even build your own dream appliance. You can pick the amount and types of burners and can even customize the color to match your kitchen, right down to the knobs!  


Vitamix
  • Is there anything this magical blender can't do? I don't think so. It purees anything, can heat up soups and makes divine smoothies. It can even puree an entire apple. Let that sink in!

Excalibur Dehydrator
  • I can't justify the price of a super pricey dehydrator, just for making my own macaroons and kale chips, but a girl can totally dream right?
What are your kitchen essentials? What kitchen items are you dreaming of? Share in the comments below!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Chocolate Dream Pie

It's Monday and the week is off to another start.....I know sometimes Monday can be a little dreary, so instead let's talk about something incredible. It's chocolate cream pie. Crisp chocolate cookies form the shell, rich chocolate filling is layered in and it's topped with homemade whipped cream. You'll never go back to the canned variety after you taste this!


If my kitchen walls could talk: I recommend doing this recipe in steps as it can be a lengthy process. I suggest making the crust ahead of time as it needs to be cold prior to the addition of the filling. Do not skip the parchment paper step or else your filling may develop a film on top. Sliced strawberries would be a colorful addition instead of chocolate if you want to jazz up this pie for summer or even use strawberries and blueberries for a 4th of July or Memorial Day pie!



Chocolate Dream Pie, adapted from Epicurious 

Ingredients

Crust
10.6 oz package chocolate creme cookies
4 tbsp butter, melted

Filling
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
4 egg yolks, large
3 cups whole milk
7 oz bittersweet 60% chocolate
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tbsp vanilla

Topping
1 cup whipping cream, chilled
Chocolate shavings/chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small food processor or using a ziplock bag and rolling pin, crush chocolate cream cookies until fine. Combine crushed cookies with butter and lightly press into bottom and sides of pie plate, about ~1 inch up the sides. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove, set aside to cool.
2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch and egg yolks over medium heat. Whisk in milk and turn up to medium high. Continue whisking until mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Continue whisking 1-2 minutes until mixture is thick. Remove from heat, stir in chocolate, butter and vanilla, whisking until smooth.
3. Place filling in a large bowl, cover tightly with parchment paper. Chill ~3 hours.
4. In a stand mixer, whip the whipping cream with the whisk attachment on high until soft peaks form. Add chocolate filling to cookie shell, top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings or chips as desired.

What's your favorite kind of pie?