Valentine’s Day Chocolate Bark

Valentine's Day Chocolate Bark

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I wanted to share a recipe for a homemade sweet treat that you can give to loved ones or even enjoy yourself! I don’t know if you can even consider this a recipe because it’s so incredibly easy, but I figured it was worth sharing in case you’re still searching for Valentine’s Day gift ideas last minute. When it comes to Valentine’s Day gifts, chocolates are always hugely popular, but why buy a generic box when you can so easily make chocolate of your own? Chocolate bark is beyond simple and it’s so much more meaningful than boxed chocolates because you can personalize the bark however you want, depending on what the recipient likes. It looks so pretty too! Continue reading “Valentine’s Day Chocolate Bark”

Lentil Pasta Primavera (Vegan & Gluten Free)

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So somehow it’s Friday again already. I’m not complaining because it’s my favorite day of the week (well maybe after Saturday). I’m just wondering where the days went! This week seemed to go by in a blur for some reason. Anyone else?

Anyway, I’m popping in today to share one of my favorite new-to-me recipes, courtesy of my mother-in-law, Carol. When Carol came to visit us shortly after we had Jackson (back in 2016), she made a pasta dish for dinner one night that completely knocked my socks off. It was essentially just pasta tossed with sauteed vegetables that were seasoned with olive oil, spices, and lemon juice. If it sounds super basic, that’s because it is, but don’t let that fool you! The flavor is fantastic. I was honestly surprised at how much I liked it because I’m typically much more of a tomato sauce person when it comes to pasta and never choose to order an olive oil-based dish when I go to restaurants. I liked it so much, though, that I’ve now added the recipe to my shortlist of standbys, and I request it every time Carol comes to stay with us! Continue reading “Lentil Pasta Primavera (Vegan & Gluten Free)”

Peanut Butter Banana Oat Muffins (Gluten & Dairy Free)

I’ve been dealing with an annoying sinus infection for the past few days (oh the joys of pregnancy!) and, in addition to lots of tea and soup, I’ve been craving baked goods like crazy. Go figure. I had a few bananas that were on their last leg, so I decided to whip up some fresh muffins. To satisfy my desire for comfort food, I wanted to try a version that includes peanut butter. Peanut butter is one of my all-time favorite foods, so anything with peanut butter as a main ingredient is guaranteed to be a treat! Continue reading “Peanut Butter Banana Oat Muffins (Gluten & Dairy Free)”

Mushroom, Kale, & White Bean Pizza (Vegan)

Mushroom, Kale, & White Bean Pizza

It’s pizza Friday over here in our house, my fave day of the week! Anyone else share this tradition? It’s something I just recently started up because I’ve been craving pizza like crazy during my pregnancy, but I think it may just stick around. There was a time when I avoided pizza like the plague, but I love it so much and life’s too short, so it’s back in my life in regular rotation again. I choose to mostly make it myself now though because, for one, it’s actually pretty simple, and two, I like to have control over the ingredients that go into it. Otherwise I wind up feeling stuffed, bloated, and lethargic. Continue reading “Mushroom, Kale, & White Bean Pizza (Vegan)”

Smokey Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus (Vegan, No Oil)

Smokey Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

There are certain foods that I can’t ever seem to buy enough of. Hummus is one of them.  We go through SO much hummus at my house and we always find ourselves running out before our next grocery run. I just find it to be so versatile. It’s great with veggies and crackers of course, but I also love it on a baked potato, on toast, as a sandwich spread–the list is endless! I could just load up on more at the store so that it lasts longer, but I’m trying really hard to stick to a specific grocery budget each week, and I don’t want to adjust it just to accommodate our apparent hummus obsession! I had a bad experience attempting to make hummus many years ago, and never really tried again since then…until this past weekend. I figured I may as well give it a shot because making my own is not only more economical, but also healthier. I’m pleased to report that I think this version is a winner!   Continue reading “Smokey Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus (Vegan, No Oil)”

Immune Boosting Soba Noodle Soup (Vegan)

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We’re sick with colds over here, AGAIN. That makes the second time in a month! I think we have daycare germs to thank for that. Normally a cold is no big deal, but when you’re pregnant and are so limited in what you can take to get relief, it can be pretty miserable. In my first pregnancy, I somehow didn’t get sick once, but so far in my second pregnancy, I’ve been sick a number of times and it’s not pleasant! I like to turn to natural remedies as much as possible even when I’m not expecting, but while pregnant, I don’t have much of a choice. Earlier in the week when I was feeling particularly lousy, I decided to make a batch of soup in an effort to relieve some of my congestion. There’s nothing better than a steaming bowl of homemade soup when you’re sick and stuffy! Although chicken soup gets all the glory, veggie-based soups are packed with immune-boosting ingredients to help get you well in a flash.

There’s nothing fancy about this veggie and soba noodle soup I’m sharing today, but sometimes the simplest recipes are the best. This soup contains onions, garlic, ginger, and turmeric, all warming ingredients that can help with immunity, plus carrots, kale and broccoli, which are loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients. It’s filling and satisfying without being heavy, and offers the comfort that comes with homemade soup.

One side note about garlic. I learned from my sister (who is a nutritionist) years ago that if you really want to get the most out of garlic when it comes to immunity, you need to eat it raw. I know this isn’t the most appetizing way to eat garlic, but there are ways to make it more palatable. After chopping a couple cloves into small pieces and letting it sit for about 15 minutes, which apparently boosts its healthy compounds, I like to mix it into some hummus and eat it on a few crackers. It’s pungent, for sure, but edible. Obviously when you’re already sick with something it’s not going to magically cure you, but if you eat some raw garlic at the first signs of illness, I think it can definitely help! I had some in addition to the cooked garlic in the soup for an extra boost. Bad-breath aside, it always seems to make me feel a little better. Anyway, I hope you’re managing to stay well this winter and if you decide to try this soup, be sure to let me know!

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups yellow onion, chopped (about two medium onions)
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups carrots, chopped
  • 3 tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp low sodium tamari or soy sauce
  • 8 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 8-oz. package soba noodles
  • 2 cups frozen chopped kale (I used Whole Foods’ Organic Blue Curled Kale)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 cups frozen broccoli

Directions

  1. Add a couple tablespoons of vegetable broth to the bottom of a large pot to prevent sticking (or add a bit of olive oil) and toss in the chopped onions and garlic.
  2. Let the onions and garlic saute for a few minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally, and then add in the carrots, ginger, and turmeric. Continue cooking and stirring for about five more minutes and then add in the vegetable broth and tamari (or soy sauce).
  3. Bring broth to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and let cook until the carrots are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. While the broth is cooking, prepare the soba noodles in a separate pot based on the package directions and set aside (I like to keep the broth and noodles separate so that the noodles don’t get mushy but you could cook the noodles in the soup if desired).
  5. Once the broth is about done, add in the frozen vegetables (kale, peas, and broccoli) and let cook for about 4-5 more minutes, until the vegetables are heated through.
  6. To serve, add soba noodles to the bowls and then top with broth.

*Adapted from Fork, Knife, Swoon’s Ginger Miso Soba Soup

 

Immune Boosting Soba Noodle Soup

How to Manage Pregnancy Anxiety

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Being pregnant is one of the most exciting, joyful, and magical experiences you can have in life. It’s difficult to even put into words, really. Building a life and feeling it develop and grow inside you is truly amazing. But let’s be real. Pregnancy can also be incredibly anxiety provoking, especially in the uncertain early weeks, and even more so if you’ve dealt with a pregnancy loss before. Plus, if you’re dealing with negative physical symptoms on top of anxiety, those first weeks and months can be particularly challenging.

Although I hadn’t dealt with a previous loss and was fortunate not to experience any morning sickness or other major symptoms beyond fatigue, I was incredibly anxious during the whole first trimester with Jackson. I didn’t really start to ease up and relax until well into the second trimester. I tend to be a worrier in general and pregnancy just amplified this for me.

For the first several weeks after I found out I was pregnant, I must have taken 20 pregnancy tests just to affirm my pregnancy, I kid you not (In case you’re wondering I bought the cheap sticks off of Amazon that come with a ton of tests in a pack). I kept them in a little Ziploc baggie in a drawer by the side of my bed. It was totally irrational, but for some reason seeing the positive result on the test made me feel better and assured me that the pregnancy was progressing, even though that’s not necessarily the case. At one point, when I was about 8 weeks or so along, I took a test right before running out the door for an appointment and it didn’t show up as positive. I was convinced that I was going to miscarry and spent the whole afternoon worrying about it. Again, this wasn’t rational because a test would still show positive even if I was on the brink of a miscarriage, but anxiety often isn’t rational. I took another test later that evening that was positive, and I realized that the negative test must have been defective. When I went to my next doctor’s appointment and told him what happened, he said, “You’re definitely pregnant. I think you can stop taking pregnancy tests now.” He totally thought I was nuts, and I don’t really blame him. I stopped taking tests after that but I still got nervous about every little twinge or sensation early on and wondered if it was a sign of something abnormal.

For others who may be experiencing similar feelings, I’ve compiled a list of things that either helped me manage my anxiety during my first pregnancy, or that, in hindsight, I wish I’d done or hadn’t done to keep the anxiety at bay.

1. Use your support system: Some people don’t like sharing news of their pregnancy with anyone but their significant other until they’re close to or into the second trimester and I understand why, but I recommend telling at least one person beyond your spouse who you feel comfortable talking about your experience with (and ideally who can provide helpful input). It will help to keep you sane. I told my mom as soon as I took the first test at 6 weeks, and probably talked to her about one thing or another related to pregnancy every other day for weeks. I also confided in a few very close friends who had been through pregnancy before and who could understand what I was dealing with. It was so, so helpful to have an ear (or three) to listen to my worries and help talk me off the ledge.

2. Don’t Google: Repeat after me: Stay. Off. Google. I know it’s easier said than done, but try! It’s so tempting to look up things you’re concerned about when all it takes is the click of a button but, more often than not, what you uncover on the Internet will paint a much bleaker picture than the reality. Forums are particularly bad about this! Many more people post about negative experiences they’ve had than positive, so reading through forums for answers about questions you may have tends to only increase whatever anxiety you may be feeling. Leave the medical questions for your doctor.  

3. Limit the pregnancy books: When I found out I was pregnant the first time, I couldn’t wait to run out and pick up a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Am I the only one? It felt like some kind of right of passage and I was excited to learn everything I could about pregnancy. What I discovered though was that, when it comes to things like pregnancy, too much knowledge can actually be a bad thing. In reading through What to Expect and other books, I learned about complications that I’d never even heard of, and although they are incredibly rare, I couldn’t help but worry about them. When I spoke to my doctor about books further along in the pregnancy, he actually said that he didn’t recommend What to Expect for that very reason. Who knew? One book I did find helpful, which one of the bloggers I follow, Julie, recommended, is The Panic Free Pregnancy. It’s written by a doctor and really puts risks and concerns into perspective. For fun updates about what’s happening with the baby and your changing body, I found apps to be informative without providing too much unnecessary detail.

4. Exercise: As with any type of anxiety, exercise can really help cut down on pregnancy-related anxiety. I tried to stay active as much as possible throughout most of my pregnancy and I definitely think it helped me to relax. I took a break from working out in the first trimester because I was just so tired, but I wish I’d kept up with a little something because this is the time when I needed it the most. Keep in mind that exercise can be going for a walk around the neighborhood. It doesn’t have to involve hardcore intervals at the gym.     

5. Keep busy: I was working full-time in my first pregnancy and I still managed to find time to obsess and stress about lots of things. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if I had more free time on my hands! Whether you’re working or not, I recommend distracting yourself with activities and things you enjoy so that you’re not as inclined to go down the rabbit hole of worry. Of course you need to also take it easy and rest as much as possible, since the first trimester takes a lot out of you, but to the extent that you can, I suggest keeping busy.

Looking back, I wish I could have chilled out more and just enjoyed the first part of pregnancy. Although I was beyond excited, early on, the anxiety often overshadowed my joy.  Fortunately, my second pregnancy has been much different and much more relaxed. It’s like night and day! I learned a few things the first time around and it has allowed me to be a lot more laid back.

I hope my tips help anyone else dealing with early-pregnancy nerves, and I’d love to hear what strategies worked for others!

Almond Butter Granola (Vegan & Gluten Free)

Almond Butter Granola

During my last Trader Joe’s run I discovered an almond butter granola and couldn’t resist picking it up. In all honesty, I may have liked it a little too much because it didn’t last more than two days in my house! Oops. There are certain things that I have a hard time eating in moderation (like chips) and apparently granola is one of them. Rather than buy it again, I decided to try my hand at making my own, healthier version, which I won’t be as tempted to inhale in a few sittings (or at least if I do, I won’t feel so bad about it!). The batch I whipped up uses a short list of very basic ingredients and is super tasty, but it’s free of the excess sugar and fat that’s common in traditional granolas.

Almond Butter Granola

Almond Butter Granola

I like to eat it sprinkled on top of almond yogurt with berries or even on its own with almond milk. As an aside, can I just say how obsessed I am with Kite Hill’s new Greek-style yogurt?! Have any of you tried it? I’ve never been big into yogurt, even before I decided to mostly ditch dairy, but I did enjoy Greek yogurt, and it’s something I sometimes miss. I was so excited to find Kite Hill’s dairy-free version at Whole Foods a couple weeks ago and it did not disappoint. I can’t get enough! I only buy the plain unsweetened kind because I don’t want the added sugar in the other varieties and prefer to add my own toppings, like granola! It is seriously delicious and if you’re a fan of Greek yogurt, I highly recommend giving it a try. Now, back to the granola….

Almond Butter Granola

Almond Butter Granola

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped or slivered almonds
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2.5 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  • Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix with your hands until the oats are evenly coated.
  • Spread out mixture on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove from the oven and let cool completely. The granola will be a bit soft until it fully cools.

*Adapted from Elizabeth Rider’s Easy Healthy Homemade Granola

Let me know how you like to eat granola and whether you have any tried and true recipes!

 

Almond Butter Granola

Non-Maternity Clothes That Are Cute AND Bump-Friendly

When you’re pregnant, there are certain articles of clothing that you just can’t avoid buying in maternity styles (hello pants). For both of my pregnancies, I started wearing maternity jeans before the end of the first trimester because the waistbands of my normal skinnies got too uncomfortable. But as much as possible, I try to buy regular clothing that works with my growing bump because I hate dropping money on things I’ll only wear for a matter of months. Fortunately, there are lots of regular clothes these days that work for most, if not all of pregnancy. With tunics and flowy styles being so in, it’s a great time to be pregnant! For this post I rounded up a number of tops (and a pair of jeggings) that are cute, bump-friendly, and affordable. Since I live in Connecticut and it’s currently winter, I’m focusing on colder weather options, but many of these items can be worn well into spring. 

Bump Friendly Non-Maternity Clothes (1)

1. BP. Side Slit Tee ($19): I picked up this tee at Nordstrom over Thanksgiving before I was showing much because I love its length and hi/low hem. I have a long torso and I’m always on the hunt for basic long tees that I can wear with leggings or skinny jeans. This one fits the bill!

2. Halogen Knit Poplin Mix Top ($41.40; currently 40% off!): I came across this top this week and I’m seriously considering adding it to my cart. I love the contrasting colors and billowy sleeves and the fact that it’s stylish but also seems super comfy.

3. LUSH Perfect Roll Tab Sleeve Tunic ($27.90; currently 33% off!): I actually bought this tunic after I had my first baby when I was still carrying around excess baby weight, and it’s now perfect for my growing baby bump. If you’re looking for something a little more formal to wear to work, I highly recommend this top. I may pick it up in more colors.

4. Free People Easy Goes It Denim Leggings ($58): I own these in two washes–rich blue and black–and I made it up until 20 weeks of pregnancy wearing them comfortably. Because they’re jeggings and have an elasticized waistband, they have a lot of give, way more so than any of my other jeans. And they don’t bag out! I lived in these long before I got pregnant and was pleasantly surprised that I was able to wear them this long during pregnancy.

5. Free People Lover Rib Split Back Pullover ($40.80; currently 40% off!): Another Free People pick I recently discovered.  Free People is a good bet during pregnancy in general because the brand features so many drapey styles, but I often find the pricing to be a bit outside of what I like to spend. Fortunately many of their items go on sale and this particular top is majorly discounted right now! The one I ordered, in pink, is currently sold out, but it’s still available in black in all sizes.

6. Old Navy Pintuck Lace-Yoke Swing Top ($28; currently 20% off!): The flowy silhouette of this shirt works great with skinny jeans when not pregnant, and it’s also loose enough to cover a growing baby bump stylishly.

7. Old Navy Lux Rib-Neck Tunic ($22.99): This is a great basic and versatile tee that can be dressed up or down.  

8. Sylvia Alexander Women’s Poncho Turtleneck ($34.99): I’m not sure how much longer ponchos will be in style, but you may as well take advantage of the trend while you can! It doesn’t get much more comfortable than wearing the equivalent of a blanket. I really like the color and design of this one in particular.

9. The Limited Lace-Up Shaker Stitch Tunic Top ($47.40; 40% off): I like that this tunic is a bit more form fitting but still long enough to accommodate a belly. And the lace-up sides add a chic touch.

If you’re pregnant and searching for comfortable and stylish clothing options, I hope this provided some inspiration! And let me know if you have any non-maternity faves of your own.

Quinoa, Chickpea & Veggie Bowl (Gluten Free & Vegan)

Quinoa, Chickpea & Veggie Bowl

When it’s freezing out and I’m not in the mood for soup, I often turn to a warm and filling bowl of some sort for nourishment. With grain or Buddha Bowls or whatever you want to call them, there are so many options you can throw together, and pretty much anything goes. They’re the perfect combo of easy, healthy, and delicious. You really can’t go wrong!

This version I threw together includes quinoa as the base, topped with chickpeas, garlic-seasoned cruciferous veggies, and a little bit of almond parsley pesto. I mainly chose this combination because I had the ingredients on hand and needed to use them, but I also think they go very nicely together, not to mention that they pack a serious nutritional punch!

The key to this bowl is to roast the veggies to ensure the best flavor and crunch. Roasting vegetables is almost always my preferred way to cook them; it really does make such a difference in how they taste. There’s nothing I love more than a crispy batch of Brussels sprouts fresh out of the oven! Anyone else with me? Growing up I never really ate them but now I am obsessed and I’m making up for lost time! Brussels sprouts, where have you been all my life?!

As for the pesto, it was a total impulse decision at the end and I definitely don’t think it’s necessary for the dish (I had parsley that I needed to use up), but I think it takes the flavor up a notch. Since I hadn’t planned on making any kind of pesto in advance, I had to use what I had available, and that’s why the ingredients may seem a bit random. Although it was a total shot in the dark, I think the parsley-garlic-lemon combo works. If that’s not your cup of tea though, you can skip the pesto and still enjoy a delicious and satisfying bowl.

I plan on experimenting with many more plant-based bowl combinations this winter, and I’ll be sure to post whatever I love. I’m always looking for inspiration, so if you have any favorite bowl-based meals, do share!   

Quinoa, Chickpea & Veggie Bowl

Quinoa, Chickpea & Veggie Bowl

Quinoa, Chickpea & Veggie Bowl

Quinoa, Chickpea & Veggie Bowl


Ingredients

For the bowls

  • 2 cups dry quinoa
  • 8 cups broccoli florets
  • 6 cups Brussels sprouts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • salt & pepper to taste

For the almond parsley pesto

  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup parsley
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp water
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder

Directions

For the bowls

  • Preheat the oven to 415 degrees and line two baking sheets with tin foil.
  • Chop the stems off the broccoli so that you’re left with florets. Make sure that the florets are about equal in size so that they cook evenly. Put the broccoli florets in a mixing bowl and add 1 tbsp olive oil, ½ tsp of garlic powder, and ¼ tsp onion powder. Mix with your hands until all the florets are coated.
  • Spread the broccoli florets out in a single layer on one of the baking sheets and set aside.
  • Chop the Brussels sprouts into halves or even thirds or quarters if they are very large. As with the broccoli, you want the sprouts to be relatively equal in size.
    Add the sprouts to a mixing bowl and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Mix with your hands until all the sprouts are coated.
  • Spread the Brussels sprouts out in a single layer on the second baking sheet.
  • Place both baking sheets in the oven and roast for about 25-30 minutes, until the veggies are tender but crisp. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • While the veggies are roasting, cook the quinoa. Add 4 cups of water to a pot along with 2 cups of dry quinoa (check the package to see if it needs to be rinsed first). Bring water to a boil and then cover the pot and reduce the temperature to low, letting the quinoa cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the water is fully absorbed.

For the almond parsley pesto

  • Add almonds to a food processor and pulse until ground
  • Add the lemon juice, water and olive oil, and pulse again until mixed.
  • Add the parsley, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and salt, and pulse until evenly combined.

 

Quinoa, Chickpea & Veggie Bowl