Brownie Energy Balls

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Every Friday this summer, Jack and I will be leading a hike with Hike It Baby. Since toddlers (and mamas) get hungry when working up a sweat, I decided to make treats to take with us. This week I made a variation of the recipe I came across called Five Ingredient Ginger Brownies.  I changed the recipe based on what I had in the house and what Jack likes. The peanut butter and almonds are great protein and energy. The ginger gives it a little zing for a pick-me-up. And who doesn’t love a bit of good dark chocolate!

Brownie Energy BallsIMG_4445

7 ounces of pitted dates
2 tbs almond flour
2 tbs smooth peanut butter
1 tps minced ginger
2 tbs cocoa powder
Unsweetened shredded coconut 

Blend everything but the coconut in a food processor until it comes together. It will make loose dough ball when ready.

Roll into any size ball you desire. I went with bite size.

Sprinkle as much shredded as you like onto a plate. Roll the balls in the coconut to coat.

Eat them now or place in fridge for a hour if you want them firmer.

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Pop them in a bag and enjoy them out on the trail! Or your couch….no one will know 🙂

Why I’m Night Weaning My Toddler

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I’ve already posted about all the initial struggles with breastfeeding. How I just set in my mind I was going to breastfeed and pushed through all the it all. As of this post, we have made it 14 months of nursing on demand. Whenever and wherever, I tried my hardest to give my baby milk whenever he asked. This meant learning to walk while nursing a carrier, waking up several times a night and  pumping when I was away. It was not easy, it was a seriously commit it. But I wouldn’t change it for the word. It’s created a strong and secure bond between my son and me.  He looks at me with such love and joy when he nurses—even when he was newborn. One day he will grow up and leave me, but I will always have those memories.

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Wouldn’t go back and change this for the world!

No regrets about my sleepless nights (and if you read my sleep regression posts, there were A LOT of them). I understood that having a baby meant his need come before mine most of the time. I knew it was only temporary. One day he would no longer want to suckle all night in my arms. One day he will have his own bed and I could sleep a solid 8 hours again. I just needed to get through it with love and understanding. There were nights were I cried out of frustration. There were nights my husband had to take over because I was reaching a breaking point. There were many days I just had to power through and smile despite exhaustion.  But I did it, I survived. I did everything I could to help my son sleep the best and get the best nutrition for the first 14 months of his life.

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This is a tired, unhappy mama.

However, the reason I am writing this post is because I came to a realization. In La Leche League, breastfeeding is described as a mutual relationship between a mother and baby. Mutual as in your are both agree to the terms and are happy with the process. I am no longer happy with the sleepless nights. I am ready to night wean him. This was not an easy decision. I have been talking about the idea for several months now and asking for advice. I was trying to push it off because I didn’t think Jack was ready. I follow gentle parenting, and I didn’t want to force Jack to do something he truly wasn’t ready for (physically or mentally). I talked to my husband about it, who pointed out that Jack can sleep through the most of the night—he does so about once a week on a good week. Then I realized the days after he does, I am so much happier. I take him places to have fun. I have more patience for his almost daily toddler meltdowns over nothing. I even take time to do things for myself like work on my blog or take relaxing bath.

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This is mom I like to be. The mom Jack deserves.

Then I began to think about the phrase “Ain’t no body’s happy if mama ain’t happy.” And realized I needed to think about my self this time.  So I talked to myself about what I needed to be happy. It was simple, sleep. I was exhausted from not getting consistent sleep first of all. But I also confessed something else to myself, I was in pain. Night nursing was becoming very painful (I will address why in a later post). I had just been ignoring it, but it was starting to make me resentful of son at night. My nipples would be on fire after he nursed, so much that I was automatically not offering him my breast when he first stirred from sleep. I will think, “Please don’t want milk, please don’t want milk, anything but milk!” But then he nurses, it hurts, and I lay there for at least a half an hour waiting for the pain to go away. Then I fall back asleep for a a few hours at the most, and it starts all over again. I wake up in the morning very resentful. The last part is a fairly recent development, I never used to be resentful over it. I have no idea why the past month or so this has come up, but it has. And ignoring it is not helping anyone. I deserve to be happy. Jack deserves a happy mom who doesn’t resent him. And Michael deserves a happy wife.  It’s time for mama and everyone to be happy.

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He loves his milkies, he is not giving them up easily (and I don’t want him fully to either!)

So I Googled and looked up on Pinterest “Night Weaning”. I found stuff like “How to night wean in 3 nights!” and “Night Weaning Made Easy!”. They all seemed too good to be true. And most were. One mom seriously advocated for shutting the bedroom door and letting them cry-it-out no matter what (including if they vomit out of stress). Not this family’s style. One said she just told her toddler no more milk at night and that was that! Yeah, Jack would never go for that (I even asked him if he could be a big boy and not have milk at night, he gave me a dirty look). One said just drop a feeding each night for a week and that’s it!  Others did things like don’t readily offer your breast, drop feedings one-by-one every two weeks, and have dad do all the comforting until the baby no longer wakes up. All those sound good, but I know my son, he won’t take to that much change so quickly.

I also talked to my previous La Leche League group from the Bay Area online and attending my local group’s meetings They offered various anecdotal advice like trying a pacifier or a bottle of water instead. The leaders suggested I try to figure out why he is waking up—like he is hungry, thirsty, having bad dreams, teething, or too cold/hot. If I solved that issue, then maybe he would sleep through the night. They also said I should ask myself if I truly think it’s the best decision for my family and to make sure I am not giving into societal pressure. I thought long a hard about that—like a whole month long. After one night where Jack woke up 10 times (yes, 10!) and he was a major grouch the next day, I knew we all needed better quality sleep.

"This was taken at 3 AM, the 7th wake-up of the night"
“This was taken at 3 AM, the 7th wake-up of the night”

Once I established that we needed more quality sleep, I came up with a reasonable and gentle way to get it. I do not want to fully wean him, like I said I have no problems with nursing during the day. Jack needs to learn how to put himself back to sleep without nursing. I decided to put all the advice I received into a plan according to what made sense to me. I knew he would not tolerate being cut off cold turkey. But I could start by nursing him to sleepy, then unlatching him and rubbing his back until he falls asleep. Once he okay with that, I could try dropping one feeding. So the first time he wakes up at night, rubbing his back to sleep again. Next dropping another feeding in the same way. Then another feeding. And so on. Eventually we get to no milk until the sun rises the next morning. He understands what I said for the most part now, so I will say phrases like “Night night time” and “the sleepies soon”. I will give him clear instructions so he knows what will happen, “You can have some milk, then it we will lay down together and relax. I will rub your back until you go to sleep.” Most importantly, I will explain everything to him. This is a big change, he deserves to know what is going on and why we are doing it. I will also try to ask him what he needs if he can’t go back to sleep easily. Like are you hungry or thirsty? Maybe he needs milk for another reason like the Le Leche League leaders suggested.

Michael giving Jack kisses to  and snuggles before bed.
Michael giving Jack kisses to and snuggles before bed.

We are on night five of this plan. It’s too early to give a fair assessment, I will update more later. However, I will offer some resources we are using to help the whole family adjust through this process.

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  • Nursies When the Sun Shines— A children’s book that explains how they get to nurse when the sun is shining, but get snuggles and love at night. That way they learn with visuals in a calm, happy setting. I read it to Jack before we go to bed.
  • Sweet Sleep— An awesome book from La Leche League that explains the science behind baby sleep, as well as how to work with your family’s natural tendencies to help everyone sleep well.
  • Nighttime Parenting: How To Get Your Baby and Child To Sleep— Dr. Sear’s in-depth explanation of how attachment parenting helps create a secure, loving environment that encourages good sleep.
  • No-Cry Sleep Solution— I talked about this book more in my 9 Month Sleep Regression post, and it’s still helping now. I got the idea of making a concrete plan from this book. It also has many suggestions on how to end the suck-to-sleep association. And when it is reasonable to night wean.
  • Essential Oils—I have been using some calming oils to help Jack relax when he gets overtired and to help me calm when I get frustrated. Do some research, they work!

 

TVP Pulled Pork Sandwiches

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What do you when your whole family wants pulled pork sandwiches and you’re vegan? Pull out for textured vegetable protein (TVP) and veganaise! A lovely dinner to welcome the start of summer, which is right around the corner.

This recipe is super easy. Can be pulled together in minutes—way easier than making pulled pork! But it tastes just as good as if it had been cooked hours and hours.

This recipes makes 4 sandwiches.

TVP Pulled Pork Sandwiches
 1 cup Textured Vegetable Protein
 7/8 cup of boiling water
 1 medium onion, dicedIMG_3995
 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1 tbs flax oil
1 tsp Braggs Liquid Aminos
 2 cups shredded cabbage 
(or a bag of coleslaw vegetables)
 1/2 cup Veganaise
 1 tsp Dijon mustard
 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
 Squeeze of lemon juice
 Salt and pepper, to taste
Additional BBQ, to taste
4 hamburger buns or rolls

In a large bowl, add the TVP and pour the boiling water. Add the 1/4 cup BBQ, flax oil, and liquid amigos. Stir together well.  Set aside for 15 minutes

In another large bowl, mix together all the remaining ingredients—except the BBQ and bun— to make the coleslaw. Cover and place in the fridge to chill.

Once the TVP is rehydrated, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and TVP mixture to the skillet. Cook until the onions are translucent and the liquid is mostly gone.

Add additional BBQ to the TVP if you like for more flavor.

Time to assemble! Place a big scoop of the TVP mixture on the bottom bun, top with a big scoop of your chilled coleslaw and top with the rest of the bun.

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Sweet, tangy, and satisfying! No reason you have to feel left out this summer at a BBQ.

Chocolate Mousse Parfait

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Happy (late) Mother’s Day! I hope you all had a day full of love and happiness! And I hope you called your mom!

We are finally all settled in Oregon (for now at least) and I can cook again! So I made my mom a little treat. She didn’t want a big fuss, but I love her so much that she deserves something special. I just made the recipe up. It’s similar to Chocolate Mouse I made before, but with a few more easy layers. It’s simple, no baking required, and full of protein!

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  • 1/3 cup raw pecans
  • 1/3 cup raw walnuts
  • Coconut Oil (as needed)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 block of tofu (I used firm, but silken would be better), drained
  • 1 medium ripe banana
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 cup vanilla coconut yogurt

In a food processor, add the pecans and walnuts. Grind into crumbles that pack together. Add coconut oil as needed to get it to come together. Add a pinch of salt and cinnamon for flavor.

Press nut mixture into a pan like a crust. I used a medium Pyrex bowl so you could see the layers.

Rinse out the food processor and add the tofu and banana, blend together well.

To melt the chocolate chips, add them to a microwave safe bowl and microwave them for 45 seconds. Stir and the chips should melt. If not, put it back in for 15 seconds and stir again. Repeat as needed until they are all melted.

Add the melted chocolate to the food processor and blend well.

Pour the chocolate mixture over the nut crust and smooth the top out.

Spread the yogurt over the chocolate mixture evenly.

Lastly, garnish with some nuts, if desired.

Covered and let it set-up in the fridge for at least two hours.

Then scoop out and enjoy!

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It’s nothing fancy, but healthy and tasty. Make one for your momma today!

 

 

 

Pumpkin Date Muffins

Want to know what statement that makes a cook feel horrible? “I didn’t know what to have for breakfast so I skipped it. And you forgot to make me a lunch so I just had ramen.” Most days I do feed my husband good meals. I make him nice lunches most days and make sure there is something he can heat up for dinner (usually my leftover lunch). But some days Jack doesn’t let that happen. Michael knows I am busy all day trying to care for the baby and working in the evenings. He isn’t mad, and isn’t the ‘I expect dinner on the table at 6 sharp women!” kind of guy. But I love to cook and feed people, so hearing this was a dagger in the heart. I decided to make some freezer meals. This way there is always something to eat and it would save us money in the long run. I made 6 recipes total, so look out for the rest. Also, this recipe is also good for Baby-Led Weaning, the way we are introducing solids to Jack.

So, Michael never has to skip breakfast again. I decided to make muffins that he could eat in the car or at his desk. These muffins aren’t your those fluffy cake-like store bought muffins. Do you know why Costco muffins taste so good? They aren’t muffins, they are cake. You are eating giant cupcakes without frosting. Totally not the breakfast of champions!  My muffins are sweet but dense, and full of nutrition. A great way to start the day!
This recipes make 24 muffins or one 8 in by 12 in baking pan.
Pumpkin Date Muffins
2 tbs flax seeds
4 tbs hot water

1 29 oz can of pumpkin puree

2 cups chopped dates
2 cups old fashioned oats
2 tbs vital wheat gluten (or flour works fine too)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners or spray the pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small bowl, add the hot water and flax seeds. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, add the pumpkin puree and dates. Mix well.

Add the oats, vital wheat gluten, brown sugar, flax seed mixture, nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix until combined. It should be thick and lumpy.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tin. Fill it all the way to the top, these muffins don’t rise much.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden.

Eat them hot, let them cool for later, or freeze them for the rest of the week! A tasty breakfast any time.

Cold Soba Noodle Salad

I have no idea if I got this recipe from somewhere. Maybe I made it up! I don’t recall, but it’s similar to many other Asian noodle salads. But I’ve made it for years. It’s light but satisfying. Especially on a hot summer day (though it’s September and I really over this hot weather now). Very simple to make and tastes better the longer it sits, so make a big batch for leftovers.

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, a grain that looks like a seed. It’s also gluten free so soba is great alternative to for those with a gluten allergy. Buckwheat is high in fiber and manganese, and is overall a very nutritious food. Soba noodles can be served cold like in this recipe, or hot like in a soup. I’ve tried them both ways, but I prefer cold.

This recipe makes 4 servings.

Cold Soba Noodle Salad
1 bag (12.8 oz) of Soba noodles
1/4 cup sesame oil
3 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 large cucumber, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
Other options:
1 large carrot, shredded
1 cup steam shelled edamame
1 block of extra firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 tbs toasted nori

Cook the soba noodles according the directions on the package. When done, drain well and rinse with cold water immediately. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mixed together the oil, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger and pepper flakes to make the dressing. Set aside.

Chop your veggies and add to a large bowl.

Add the soba noodles to the veggie bowl.

Add the dressing and mix together well.

Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Top with some toasted nori and enjoy!

My favorite way to make this is adding all the optional ingredients, but that will have to wait until Jack’s older. I left my basic because I was sharing with my little son. We have started to introduce solids through baby-led weaning. I didn’t think he was quite ready for tofu or edamame yet.

Baby approved!

Red Beans and Rice

One pot meals are genius invention. Whether you be busy with work, a fussy 3 month-old or both,  it’s nice to still have a home-cooked meal. And even better when there is only one dish to clean!

I  came up with this one day while Jack was napping and I had a few spare moments to think about dinner. It’s pretty much your standard red beans and rice dish, just with frozen kale instead of bell peppers.

Red Beans and Rice
1 lb bag of Kidney Beans, soaked overnight and rinsed
5 oz frozen kale (about half a bag)
2 cups uncooked brown rice
10 cups water or vegetable broth
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large white onion, chopped
1 tbs chili powder
1/2 tbs smoked paprika
1 tps thyme
1 tps oregano
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Tabasco, to taste

Combine all ingredients–except the salt, pepper, and Tabasco– into a large pot.

Bring to boil then reduce to a simmer and cover.

Cook for an hour. The beans will be soft enough to eat but still a little firm. The rice should be fully cooked. There will be a little bit of liquid left, similar to a light sauce.

Season with the salt, pepper, and Tabasco as desired!

There is something so satisfying in a classic simple meal like red beans and rice 🙂

Chocolate Pie

Last year I did a post in honor of my grandmother’s passing. Sadly, this post is for my grandpa. A few week ago he had a two strokes that he could not recover from and passed on. So needless to say these past few weeks have been very emotional. I am so happy to be bonding with my newborn son, but sad to lose my grandfather.

Like I said with my grandma’s passing, the best way I can honor his memory is to live a long healthy life. And now I need to teach Jack how to live a long life too. I need to teach him about food and cooking so he can have every advantage for his health.

My grandpa loved chocolate pie. The kind you make with Jell-O pudding. When I was little I made him one, but I accidently burnt the milk. It tasted awful, no one else wanted to eat it. However, he happily ate it. Claimed it tasted like coffee. I don’t know if it was his love for chocolate pie or his love for me, but it made me happy to see him eat it. I think that was how I discovered my love for cooking for others.

So in honor of my him, I decided to make a healthier vegan version of his favorite dessert.While the pudding mix itself is vegan, it requires milk–and it will not firm up with soymilk. So I had to go a different route. I essentially made my Chocolate Mousse recipe into a pie. Pretty easy, no baking required. And tons of protein and antioxidants.

 Chocolate Pie
1 block silken tofu
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 graham cracker crust (find one without honey)

Drain the tofu, but do not squeeze or blot totally dry.

I used my NutriBullet, but a blender or food processor works. Blend the tofu until smooth.

Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl and microwave for 20 seconds. Stir well. Repeat at 5 second intervals until it is all melted and smooth.

Add the melted chocolate, cocoa powder, and coconut sugar to the tofu. Blend until all combined.

Pour the tofu mixture into the pie crust and smooth out the top.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to firm up.

My mom bought this stuff called PB2, which if you like peanut butter, tastes great on sprinkled on top. I have to admit, it took me a few days to want to eat the pie because it made me sad to realize my grandpa is really gone. But once I did, it made me smile. He would have loved it—very chocolatey and smooth. Once Jack can have solid food, I will make this for him and tell him all about his great grandparents.

Homemade Applesauce

This recipe to accompany my last post, Vegan Potato Pancakes. Applesauce is soooo easy to make. And it tastes so much better fresh. I used Golden Delicious apples because they are my favorite, but any red apple will do. I also don’t use that much sugar because I honestly don’t think it needs it. Apples are sweet enough as it is, just a little bit more sugar makes it a treat.

This recipe makes 4 servings, but can be easily multiplied to make more.
Applesauce

6 red apples (I used Golden Delicious)
1 cup water
2 tbs of sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Peel the apples and cut the fruit off the core. Chop the apples. Don’t worry too much about size and evenness at this point, just get them smaller.
Put the apple pieces and all remaining ingredients in a pot. 
Bring it to a boil, reduce to a simmer then cover.
Cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until the apples are so tender you can’t even stab them with a fork without them falling apart. 
Remove from the heat and let it cool completely.

You can leave it this if you want it really chunky. For smoother sauce, pulse it in the blender for minute. I left a few chunks in mine.

Serve it as side dish, a snack, or even dessert!

Small Meal Ideas

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I mentioned in my last post that I am suffering from horrible heartburn/acid reflux right now. Guess my little son decided that my stomach was annoying and shoved it out of his way. As a result, I had to start eating 6 to 8 smaller, more simple meals to keep my stomach happy. I thought I would share the list of small meal ideas I came up. These are not only great for heartburn issues. Try them for kid’s lunches, party finger foods, and smaller meals for diets.

Breakfast:

  • 1/2 cup oatmeal cooked with rice milk with a 1/2 a banana mashed and 3 chopped up dates
  • Smoothie: 1/2 an avocado, splash of apple juice, handful of spinach, and 1/4 cup blackberries
  •  Burrito: 1 warmed medium flour tortilla,  1/2 an avocado, handful of kale,  handful shredded carrots
  • 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter spread on a piece of whole grain toast, and half a banana
Lunch:
  • 1 cup of my Feel Better Vegetable Soup
  • My rice cheese or Soy Cheese Quesadilla , but with salsa or hot sauce
  • Half Sandwich or wrap: 1 medium tortilla or 1 slice of bread, 2 tablespoon avocado, handful of greens, half a handful of shredded carrots, and a bit of stone ground mustard
  • 1/2 cup of plain cooked lentils over 1/2 cup rice with a bit of kale or spinach
Dinner:
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pasta, a bit of olive oil, handful of sautee kale or spinach, and a bit of salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 of cup of chopped vegetable salad with a light apple cider vinegar dressing
  • 1/2 cup whole pinto beans, 1/2 cup brown rice
  • A plain Tofu Scramble—light or no spices, no tomatoes, and no onions
Snacks:
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds or cashews
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 1/2 a banana
  • 8 dates
  • 8 carrots and 2 tablespoons of hummus
  • 1 small apple with 1 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 6 ounces soy or rice yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sliced cucumber and 1/4 cup whole wheat crackers

And remember to stay away from sugary drinks. Drink as much water as you can. Try coconut water to keep your electrolytes up.  And try some low sugar apple juice with a splash of apple cider vinegar to settle your stomach and soothe your throat.