Friday
Nov142014

Fake Thanksgiving Stuffing

Ahhhh fall. Changing leaves, crisp mornings, scarves all so nice. Then there is the food. Bring on the roasted root vegetables, squash, soup and rustic desserts - pies, galettes, crisps. Fall feels like gravy weather. Like all your food needs a nice warm blanket to cover it. The height of fall cooking comes at Thanksgiving for most people. All the favorite dishes from candied yams to green bean casserole and in between. 

But why wait - this meal is pretty awesome anytime. You can pull out all the stops and have a "Fake Thanksgiving" or just add one of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes to a roast chicken dinner. The options are endless. Who says gravy calls for grand occasion??

I have had Thanksgiving on my brain. I could not wait to taste the flavors of this amazing meal. Mr. Ramon and I have already planned most of our menu. But I needed a taste - something to get me even more excited. So with dinner guests heading over and celebrating both of their birthdays I decided to really go there with this Fake Thanksgiving. We also found out once they got here that they are going to be out of the country for the holiday so this was the only "traditional" Thanksgiving they were going to get. 

Of course I was not yet ready to handle a turkey so I decided a roast chicken would do. To round out the meal I added roasted brussel sprouts, stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy. Such a great day to cook. The babe took a couple long naps so I could get my groove on in the kitchen. The house smelled amazing with stock simmering on the stove. 

I love stuffing. Bread is my favorite thing on earth - now add aromatic bits of leek, onion, celery and kale and toss it all together with broth, sage and parsley. Bake that until the top is crispy. The crispy bits are the best. This stuffing I married all I know and love about stuffing and it was amazing! So amazing it is gone. Mr. Ramon took some for lunch and I just crisped up the rest in a pan with an egg on it. Yum!

This was my Fake Thanksgiving stuffing - my real Thanksgiving stuffing will be very similar I bet - but there will be a lot more of it!

This can be made a day in advance and baked the day of your meal. This recipes serves 6 hungry adults. 

Fake Thanksgiving Stuffing

1lb loaf of rustic sour dough bread

1 bunch lactino kale 

3 stalks celery 

1 leek 

1 onion

2 cloves garlic 

1/4 c pumpkin seeds

2 teaspoons sage

1 teaspoon thyme

2 cups stock - chicken, turkey or vegetable

2 eggs

3 tablespoons butter 

salt 

pepper

Tear the rustic loaf into bite size pieces. Place on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven until dry and crisp. Cool and place in a large mixing bowl.

Place pumpkin seeds on cookie sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 6 minutes - watch these. They can burn easily. Cool and add to bowl with bread pieces.

Fine dice the onion, celery and white parts of the leek. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet on medium and add the diced vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until soft and fragrent about 10 minutes. Pour over the bread pieces. 

Rough chop the kale removing tough stems. In the same skillet on medium add some olive oil then cook the kale until wilted and soft about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. When cool add to bowl with bread pieces. 

Mix with your hands or 2 large spoons all the cooked vegetables with the bread pieces until everything is well incorporated. 

Warm 1 cup of broth with the butter. Let cool a little then whisk in the 2 eggs, sage, thyme and salt and pepper. Pour the broth over the top of the mixture and mix again so it is well distributed. If you think the stuffing feels to dry - pour some of the remaining broth over the mixture. You can also add broth if needed during cooking or after to moisten.

Bake covered in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes - uncover and bake another 15 minutes so the top gets nice and crispy. 

Enjoy! 

Thursday
Jul242014

Life without an infant car seat

We have all seen them - cumbersome plastic buckets being lugged around by new parents, containing a well protected newborn. This is the infant car seat a device that doubles as a carrier. A modern day convenience. You can easily transport your baby to and from the car without waking them or having to hold them while trying to manage all the other baby gear you brought with you. They also snap into specially made strollers to provide you with an easy transportation option. Just click and go. Sounds like the best invention ever. Or is it. 

Sure I love convenience. It can make life so much easier. But I believe it can also be a crutch sometimes. 

Infants usually sleep well in the car - the road noise and motion lulling them to sleep. Then snug in their bucket they continue to snooze. This allows the parents to carry them in and place them on the floor or a chair at a restaurant and have an evening out without having to hold or manage their baby. I even had friends "baby sit" an infant of friends once that arrived asleep in its infant car seat. This baby slept the entire time they were "baby sitting" and so stayed in the car seat that evening. How great to have a device that keeps your baby comfy while you enjoy life. 

When Mr. Ramon and I were going through the list of "gear" that is recommended for babies car seats were at the top of the list. The first thing we needed to consider was my car. I drive a Mini Cooper. Super small car. I scoured the Mini Cooper forums looking for the car seat options that worked well in the Mini. There were several great options and even a couple infant car seats that fit in - barely. Most of the infant car seats had to be taken in and out of the car through the rear hatch - super inconvenient. This opened the conversation about starting with a convertible car seat and bypassing the infant car seat completely. 

There were some other things to consider when making the decision. One was that we would have to invest in a new car seat when baby out grew her infant seat. This could be somewhere between 6-24 months depending on which brand of seat we chose and her rate of growth. The biggest factor for me when deciding to skip the infant car seat was the carrying around baby in a bucket - not interacting with her - not holding her and letting others hold her. 

We were called crazy by a few parents - what? You are going to wake her up every time you take her out of the car. What will you do if she is sleeping? How will you go out to dinner or social gatherings? Even Mr. Ramon asked "What do we do at a restaurant?". I honestly was amazed. I have to look back at my baby days and wonder how my parents managed to have a great social life and take me everywhere they went without this device. Maybe they just held me. Crazy - but that's what arms are for I think. Especially when there is a baby - who doesn't want to hold a baby. 

Then I have to believe that being in a car seat in this position for hours at a time cannot be good for an infants body. I know that if I sit in one position for long periods I get uncomfortable. And when it comes to sleeping is this the best position for a baby? 

We knew we were going to do a lot of baby wearing when we were out and about. Research has shown how baby wearing is one of the best things you can do for your baby. Benefits of being able to connect at a deeper level with your baby, proper spine and body alignment when worn correctly and a baby that cries and fusses less. These are some fantastic benefits.  

We chose the Ergo carrier for our out and about baby wearing and the Moby Wrap for me to use mostly at home. For the car seat we chose the Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with Tiny Fit

The Maxi-Cosi is super safe and really compact for the type of seat it is. It fit great in the Mini Cooper. It fit her from the very beginning at 7.5lbs and will continue to fit her until she is 70lb. The Tiny Fit feature is for babies 4- 22lbs is what makes this carseat have a smaller footprint than most infant seats allowing for the front passenger to have more legroom.  

We are now 17 weeks into our new baby life and have managed to make it through with our convertible car seat. We have been out to numerous restaurants, shopping trips and events all without an infant car seat. We have baby carried her when walking around and when sitting have mostly held her in our lap. She has seemed to enjoy being in the action from the beginning - checking out all that these environments have to offer. 

Of course eating one handed is a skill to acquire and Mr. Ramon and I have supported each other during meals. We switch off with her sometimes or cut up one another's food. Teamwork for sure. 

Friends have loved meeting her and holding her while out as well. If she is tired she can fall asleep in arms or we baby wear her. Usually we try to respect her sleep needs and be home during those times - choosing to go out when it works best for her. 

There are times where she falls asleep in her car seat. Of course - the car seems to be her drug. Lulling her into a deep sleep we could only dream of at home. Sometimes we just have to run a few errands and she has to get in and out of her seat. She handles this well most of the time and I like to believe this helps her learn to be adaptable. If she is asleep when we get home I hope Mr. Ramon is around - he is a magician and can move her out of her seat and into the house to continue napping without a fuss on most occasions. 

So this is the path we chose for our babe and everyone has the right to choose what works for them. But I also say - do your research. What is best for the child? I would rather be a little inconvenienced if necessary to make the best decision for my child's best development. 

Monday
Jul072014

Roasted Broccoli

I recently took a personal chef gig. Sounds awesome doesn't it. And for a new mom with a 11 week old baby it is awesome. I plan menus, shop then go into my clients home one day a week and prepare several dinners for them to reheat. The menus revolve around lean proteins and vegetables. So I am always looking for ways to coax flavor out of ordinary vegetables and make them more exciting. One way to do that is by roasting. I prepare a lot of roasted vegetables in the winter but also love them in the summer and find that they are great cold leftovers added to a salad. 

This week I decided to add some broccoli into the mix. I have a slight disdain to steamed broccoli. To many nights in the early nineties, steamed broccoli was on my Weight Watchers dinner menu. I find though that if I roast it with some tasty seasoning it becomes quite magical. 

It is one of the easiest things you can do. Cut up the broccoli and toss into a bowl. Add some olive oil to lightly coat. Sprinkle with desired seasoning and lay out into a cookie sheet. I line mine with foil for easy clean up. Throw it in the oven at 375 degrees and about 30 minutes later you have transformed your broccoli. 

I love to try out new premixed vegetable seasoning mixes. Whole Foods, Cost Plus, Food 52 and the like usually have a variety of seasonings for vegetables. The one I bought recently is from Urban Accents. It is the Balsamic and Roasted Onion Vege Roaster. I found it at my local Safeway. Occasionally I will also find some great spice blends at the Marshalls near me. So look around and pick a couple up to experiment with. It can really add some depth of flavor that beats just salt and pepper.

You now have a great side dish to go with just about anything and the leftovers can be used in omelettes, salads and more.

Hope you decided to take your broccoli to the next level soon!

Thursday
Jun262014

Baby Wipe Solution

There are a lot of baby wipe options out there. We went with cloth re-useable wipes for our home. We have been diapering baby with cloth diapers since 2 weeks old. Along with cloth diapers we are using the cloth wipes I made before baby was born. I love the flannel fabric I made them from so soft. I also double sided them so they are thick and don't bunch up in your hand like the single ply cloth wipes can. 

There are several ways to moisten your wipes for use and many options of what to wet them with. Some people like to keep their wipes dry and moisten them with a small spray bottle as needed during changing the baby. I just imagined a disaster - a squirt bottle in the dark, during a diaper change. 

You can also pre moisten wipes and store them in a container near the changing area. This is the method we went with. I wash them with the diapers and take them out of the washer wet - no need to dry them if I am just going to moisten them. I fold them in half and stack them to get them ready to soak in wipe solution. 

When it comes to solutions there are many recipes out on the world wide web. Many of them contain essential oils. Some babies are sensitive to oils - so be cautious when making your own wipe solution. Your baby's skin does not really need many ingredients to clean it. In fact - many people just use water and during a really rough patch of diaper rash I switched to water and it works really well. 

I decided to go with Baby Wipe Juice. One bottle makes 2 gallons, it is organic and full of beautiful ingredients like aloe, lavendar and olive oil.

To get my wipes ready for use - I take one cup of water with a couple of teaspoons of wipe juice and stir together. I place my wipes in a bowl and pour the wipe juice water mixture over the wipes. I then squeeze them together to make sure they are all saturated. 

To make sure they stay fresh I only prepare enough for a couple of days and store them in this awesome wipe holder. The Perfect Pull Wipe Dispenser holds traditional wipes as well as cloth wipes. It seals nicely when closed to keep wipes moist and has a weighted plate to hold wipes in place when you pull one up. It also has rubber feet to keep it from sliding around when you pull up a wipe. 

Wether you make them yourself or buy them pre made, I really encourage you to switch to cloth wipes. So nice for your little ones skin and so much less waste. 

Wednesday
Jun042014

Introducing Lady Paloma


Amazing to look and see that my last post was 2 months ago. It seems like time has flown by. The last few weeks of my pregnancy I really started nesting and preparing our home for the arrival of baby girl. My actual due date was April 8 so I wanted to make sure all of my "to do" items were checked off in plenty of time. 

My due date came and went and at 41 weeks and 1 day my labor began. As the day and my contractions progressed I finished up preparations around the house for our home birth. I baked a yummy Apple Cake for our birth team and Mr. Ramon and I made a baked pasta dish for everyone to enjoy once baby had arrived. The labor tub team arrived and filled our tub in the living room. 

About midnight our doula, Brenda arrived. My contractions were about 6 minutes apart and strong. About this time I started to not remember the details of my labor. I was working hard. When my midwife arrived about 2am she confirmed I was headed toward the arrival of baby girl. I spent the night laboring hard - doing stair lunges and other positions to try and get baby girl to move down into position. 

Thursday morning - Mr. Ramon, Brenda and I walked the neighborhood and did lunges up a hill. I labored some in the birth tub, more lunges and tough positions to move baby. She seemed super content to hang out where she was even though my body and the entire house were ready to greet her. My contractions were slower and less intense - my body seemed to know that baby was in no hurry to arrive. My midwives pulled some tricks out of their tool bag and got my labor started up again - we wanted to get things moving to see if we could get baby girl to come on down! 

Thursday night - whew. My midwives and I had the big talk about what was next. I had been working for over 30 hours and baby had not made any progress. She was very happy in there and I was feeling pretty good though of course tired. I took Mr. Ramon aside to let him know that I could continue but I felt that we were not going to make any more progress doing the same things we had been doing. I wanted to make sure that any decisions I had to make would be with a clear head. I felt that it was time to explore other options. 

The tough decision was made. We were going to transfer to the University of Washington hospital. This was my ideal place if I had to go to the hospital. They work well with midwives and I knew that they would respect my birth plan. My midwives made the call and had me pre admitted. We gathered our bags and headed over. The goal was to get me some pain relief and then start some Pitosan to get strong contractions going again and push this little girl out. 

I was admitted and had an amazing nurse team to care for me. I received my epidural and was able to rest for the first time in 42 hours. I had been in labor for about 33 hours. The Pitocin was started and I was having contractions off the charts. The doctor came in to check my progress and baby was in the same position she had been in for the last 20+ hours. She sure was happy in there! 

After much discussion with the medical team and some more time to see if the contractions would do any more for my situation we knew there was only one way to get baby out. The medical team had no idea why baby was not moving. They were stumped. It was decided that our only solution was a c section. Boo. This was not what I had planned - but clearly baby girl had her own plan. 

I was prepared and taken to the operation room. Mr. Ramon joined me. The entire team was fantastic through the entire procedure. The moment baby girl was here she was taken over to be wiped down and Mr. Ramon cut her cord. She was then returned to me for some skin to skin on my chest. She was beautiful. Such an amazing moment. 

Welcome to the world Lady Paloma Josefina Alvera Vasquez! Born Friday April 18 at 6:33am weighing 8lb and 21 inches long. 

Mr. Ramon and I were over the moon in love with this little girl. After 3 days of recovery we headed home to begin our life as parents. Our lives are forever changed!