Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Well, it's been a while....and also Osso Bucco in the Instant Pot

Hi (she says sheepishly...)

I know. I KNOW. I'm the worst. It's been 8 months. Or something. I don't math.

Anyway. I have valid reasons. Scattered along with laziness, sickness, and "this all just sucks right now"- ness.

Here's the short scoop- my health has been taking a nosedive for over a year now. My back, then constant nausea and dizziness, then we added in headaches, threw in some stomach flu (which fixed everything for approximately 2 weeks, then it all returned with a vengeance), and for the grand finale, an allergic reaction that led to my cheeks, lips, and tongue swelling up for mysterious reasons. That was a bit terrifying. Which led to allergy testing via a million skin pricks, which brought out THE WORST allergies I've ever had in my life- itchy eyes, itchy mouth, crazy sneezing, and now a complete inability to wear eye makeup. (For those that know me, I have NEVER LEFT MY HOUSE WITHOUT MASCARA EVER EVER. because I look like a hairless cat. And I've now gone out IN PUBLIC. TO FUNCTIONS. INCLUDING NEW YEAR'S EVE without any on. which makes my vain self weep).

I digress. Obviously, I tried to figure out all the things that could be making my poor body suffer this way. And in asking on our neighborhood facebook page, someone suggested we have our air conditioning ducts cleaned. So I set up the appointment- because Lord knows the previous owner was a hot mess and probably never had it done. And what did we discover?

MOLD. Mold all over and through our ac units, airducts, and vents. FRICKING. MOLD. And funny enough, you know what all those skin prick allergy tests showed? That I'm allergic to indoor mold. I'm in the fun 25% of the population who, when exposed to mold, instead of their bodies attacking the spores and making me healthy, my cells start attacking my other cells. Leading to crazy amounts of inflammation (hello unexplained inflammation found in my gut after a stool test- high levels are 100-200 and mine was 465), dizziness, headaches, lack of remembering things, lack of developing (hi from my almost 3 year old non talker). ALL OF IT.

I'm not gonna even get into many details- that's for another post, when I can address all the things we've done, and are still doing, to work this mold out- because we're still in the throws of making sure it's nowhere else in our house, and detoxing from the YEAR AND A HALF that mold spores blew down on us constantly. It's a long, and crazy expensive process.  So yeah. looking forward to writing that post.


I finally listened to my gut, and got little man blood tested for food allergies. He only poops once or twice a week, he's become really picky about food and fights eating, he has that red ring around his little butt hole, and he has patches of bumpy skin- not a rash or red, just raised. And we discovered that he is off the charts for gluten, wheat, bran, and really high for coconut, peanuts, eggs, chia seeds. You know. All the stuff he eats and bathes with.  Perfect.

So, in the midst of evacuating our house a million times (mold, hurricanes, Thanksgiving....) we got an Instant Pot. Which has been A-MAAAAYYYYYY-ZING. And now, I get to figure out how to make all the things that boyfriend can eat.

So here is my first (intentional) gluten free meal- Osso Bucco. I, as usual, like to borrow recipes from my (in my head) friends at The Chew and The Food Network. (Yes I daydream about being besties with all of them, and being on The Chew and cooking with Michael Symon would complete my whole life- #squadgoals).

Michael Symon's Osso Bucco. It looked so amazing, but I was super feeling a more tomato based meal. So I stole some of his elements and added them with Mario Batali's Osso Buco. (Side note: I have no idea why they are spelled differently. It's one of the things that drives me slightly batty about The Chew website. However, their recipes are always without a doubt the most delish way to cook food ever ever, so I forgive them).

So between that, and using my knowledge of how the IP works, I came up with this:

- a big hunk of pork butt (who even has the money for that much veal after Christmas? And pork is fattier- my fave). I used 4 pounds and cut in half to brown better
- 1/4- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 jar (18 oz) whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 cup bone broth
- squirt of anchovy paste- literally a drop or two of it
- 1 tbsp capers
- 1 sweet onion (it's what I had), chopped up
- handful baby carrots, cut in half
- a few cloves of garlic
- dried thyme, to taste (didn't have any fresh on hand)
- 2 tbsps butter (always always always Kerrygold- it'll change your life)
- extra virgin olive oil
- zest of one lemon
- 1 parmesan rind (cause I had it and it sounded good)

Before I tell you the steps I will say it was a hair more liquidy than I would've liked, so I might not add quite as much liquid as that. And as much as I super love chunky tomatoes in things like this, I think using crushed tomatoes might have served me better here, to spread out the tomato flavor throughout. I mean, it was DELISH. But everything can be improved on.

So I throw in some olive oil and brown up the salt and peppered pork. Then remove. Throw in a tad more oil and the butter and add my onions, carrots, a little more salt and pepper, and the thyme.  Let it go for a few minutes then add in the garlic (here's my fun, garlic trick, so it's always easily and readily available- it's the 2nd half of the post. and also a trick I learned on The Chew. Shocking), and the anchovy paste (usually sold near the tomato paste. and I don't like fish at all, but it does add a nice depth of flavor. a little bit goes a long way.) A little tomato paste at this point would also work really well if you felt so inclined. Let that cook for a minute, then throw in your white wine and deglaze- make sure to scrape all the good bits up off the bottom of the pan. There lies all your flavor. Add the bone broth and the tomatoes (Jovial is my favorite brand- tomatoes from Italy, organic, AND they don't add in any flavors. I LOATHE when every single stupid brand adds basil. WHY!?!? WHY DO THEY DO THIS!?!?). Zest your lemon right in there, then throw the pork, and all the juices that accumulated in whatever holding vessel it was in, and add the parmesan rind.

We decided to let this slow cook for about 6 hours while we were out. We came home and discovered that it was delicious, but not as fork tender as we would like. (that was at about hour 5). So we pressure cooked it for about 25 minutes. That did the trick.

Then I hit saute to get the sauce to thicken up a bit.

And made my polenta while waiting. I still make it on the stovetop. I have reservations about making it in the Instant Pot, because I like to control the thickness- I love a creamy polenta. Also, I only have one instant pot. So here's my no fail base for polenta/ grits. It's Robert Irvine's recipe, and it's always a winner-

1 cup bone broth (or stock)
 1/2 to 1 cup milk (or heavy cream)
good hunk of butter (tbsp or 2)
about 1/2 cup of fine ground corn meal (DON'T add all at once- I don't think I ever actually need that much).

I throw in the broth, milk and butter and bring to a gentle boil. Then I slowly slowly slowly whisk in corn meal little by little. It thickens up a lot as it cooks so when I say slowly, I mean about 1 or 2 tbsps at a time, whisk well for a minute or 2, then add a little more.  Once you get it to the consistency you want, add in your salt and pepper, and any cheese you would like to use. For this, we used pecorino romano (you can get a giant hunk of the Locatelli one at Costco. SO GOOD.)

And then. Plate.

Unbelievably good.

So I hope that was helpful. I'm an Italian cook for sure- everything is "quanto basto" (to taste).  So maybe writing recipes isn't really my forte. Ha!


Monday, April 11, 2016


So this has been a long time coming. I have been SUCH a slacker about this blog. There have been a few times were I made something that was deliciously fantastic, and started to blog about it, and didn't get around to finishing. I just have not had it in me.

The scoop. Last April, while we were house hunting, I was ergo wearing my 1 year old. For at least 10 hours a day. While standing and looking at homes. On the plane ride home I noticed that my back was killing me and would not settle down. Our chiro tried working on it, but nothing was really helping. He said he thought it could be a disc issue....but then we moved to Charleston, and I started to see another chiro.

After about a month, my new chiro, Dr. Kukes of Elite Health solutions, said the same thing and I went for an MRI in early September. And what he said was "I have never seen an MRI this bad with the amount of flexibility and movement you have." Basically, it's because I have 2 toddlers and zero choices about being able to move around and function. I wasn't letting it effect my life. I was just pushing through the pain and doing what I needed to do.

With 3 bulging discs, but still able to walk, stand, and do life, I was doing all the natural things I could think of to fix the problem.  I drank warm lemon, cayenne pepper, black pepper, & turmeric water every morning. I took 4 fish oils (omega 3's), 3 hemp oils, 2 BCQ supplements, and a raw vitamin d supplement to help stop inflammation. I did all the stretches I'm supposed to, I foam rolled, I stayed as active with walking as I could. I did acupuncture. I drank all the anti-inflammation smoothies. I did not, however, stop picking up my son. I also occasionally still stuck him in the ergo because desperate times and all. I did not stop DOING ALL THE THINGS, or even slow down doing them, because of pain.

By Christmas time, it was definitely not feeling great, but I thought since we were going up to Jersey for 2 weeks and the hubbs was off from work that I'd get a nice relaxing break- no cooking, no cleaning, help with running after the small one. I also got a super intense deep tissue massage right before we left. Christmas break was supposed to be my saving grace.

Instead- the massage made me a little achey. The tightness in my hip was apparently keeping everything in check. And the cold weather seeped into my bones, and I suddenly started to notice where they said my disc had completely degenerated in the form of a bone-deep, arthritic ache that nothing could touch.

The drive home was unpleasant. And during those 12 hours, hubbs and I discussed our plan forward for life. By the end of the Jersey trip, in order to stand up straight and walk, I had to lay down and stretch for at least 10 minutes. Even after I would just go to the bathroom- any kind of sitting meant I had to start all over again with the stretching to get me totally straight again. But once I got walking, I was fine. But we both decided that it wasn't really feasible to continue life with 2 active kiddos that way. And we agreed that perhaps now was the time to call in the hail mary and get the cortisone shot. We thought, just one and done, and I can continue to get my back into shape with exercise and supplements, but still be able to do all the things I need to do.

We make plans and God laughs.

I made an appt with the Spine Institute right down the road from my house. They saw me for about 15 minutes, looked at my MRI from September, told me I should get the shot, sent me downstairs for it, and in I went. I asked not to be sedated (which was just what they typically did). They gave me an IV in my arm "just in case" and sent me into a waiting area. It was all very assembly line like. The doctors administering the shot were joking about vacay time and stuck me in the back with a giant needle and sent me on my way. They said it could take up to 14 days to feel the effects so they would see me back in 2 weeks.

Enter my own personal hell.

It did not feel any different when I left. Which I thought was a little weird. But whatevs. That night was pretty bad, but I took some ibuprofen and was able to get a little sleep. The next day the shit hit the fan in a big way.

I was writhing on the floor in pain, after attempting to come down the stairs and make breakfast for my kiddos. Pretty sure I threw a bag of crackers at them, grabbed my phone and sobbed to the nurse. The pain was like nothing I had ever felt before. She said it was normal and she would have a prescription waiting for my hubbs to go pick up and fill.

It was, of course, for a pill that not only was NOT an anti-inflammatory, but also was not a great one for a nursing mamma- something I told them multiple times that I am. Awwwwwweeeeeeesome.

So I scoured our medicine cabinets and found a bottle of oxycodon from my c-section with baby boy. They were old, but it was almost full and I knew it was safe for nursing. So those kept me alive that week. I couldn't move. I could barely crawl out of bed to go to the bathroom, nursing positions were agony, sitting, standing, laying down- all of it were just the most pain I have ever been in. I would rather have a c-section EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK then go through that pain again. I called the nurse every day to tell her how bad it was and that I didn't think it was normal (and neither did any one else) but she said it was fine, and that if I was still nursing then I could just take ibuprofen. Super super helpful.

I went to my chiro in the hopes that he could do something, anything to help relieve the pain that the oxy was only taking the edge off of. I was literally bent over in half trying to walk into his office. He told me that my back was in such a severe spasm it was no wonder I was like that. He used a heating pad with moisture to try and relax the spasming. He had to do that 3 different times that week, and I finally bought one so I could do it at home. We also started using a TENS machine in the hopes that it would help tame the inflammation and spasming. I also bought one of those.

My acupuncturist tried to help as well, and it did for a bit, but this pain was ridiculous and would not be killed. Hubbs took the rest of the week to work from home so he could take care of the kids, and my mom flew down over the weekend, because it was pretty clear that I was unable to be at home alone.

The 2 week mark was approaching, and I went ahead and cut off any other appointments with the Spine Institute. It was pretty clear they had no interest in individual patients, and they didn't really know what they were doing, since they essentially paralyzed me for 2 weeks. The pain started to back off a bit, but there was no walking happening. There was barely standing. Sitting didn't feel that great either.

 I scheduled an appt with back specialist Dr. Bright McConnell, but he's crazy busy (because he's amazing) so it took 2 weeks to get in to see him (and it was only that soon because of a cancellation in his schedule). In the meantime, I tried to do the TENS machine, and ice and use the moist heat whenever I could, and I tried desperately to get around, even though it was completely hunched over. I used the stroller to lean on as much as possible. And then I realized. I needed a cane.

That's right. Big old, blingy cane. And yes, I managed to go out for a girl's night because it had been almost 2 months of me laid up in my house and I wanted to get all pretty again. I, of course, did that sitting down (which drying your hair in bed is strangely relaxing). But I did it. I was not super prepared for the staring (or maybe I just thought people were staring) but whatevs. It is what it is. So I rolled with it.

And also. Yes. That is the absolute most I could stand straight up. And I was pushing it so I could get a decent picture. I was full queen of the tilt.

And I was still under the impression that this was an easy fix.  I've known plenty of people who have bulging discs and they bounce back pretty quickly.

And then, the day before my first appointment with Dr. McConnell, I was sitting on the couch, and suddenly, everything from my hip down went all pins and needles. It felt like a waterfall inside my leg. I got up to go to the bathroom, and on the way back, I remembered what my mom had said about the heel and the toe test. If you can still walk on just your heels, and just your toes, then it's fine. So I tried it. And when I tried to walk on my toes, my whole foot rolled . Tried again. Same story. So I cried, and called my mom, who told me to call my chiro, who had me come in.

Turns out, I have nerve damage. I didn't have nearly as much feeling in my left foot and calf as I did on the right (couldn't really tell the difference between a sharp pokey thing and a dull one). This raised the stakes considerably. Because if I didn't get this crap worked out, and soon, I would probably have permanent nerve damage.

So I went to the doc and had some scary conversations and then was scheduled for another MRI. Apparently, everyone and their mother must be breaking themselves in Charleston, because between all of the Imaging places, the soonest they could get me in was 1 week. And then another almost full week to go back to the doc to talk about it. And yup. Between September and February, I had absolutely done more damage. My S1 was now invited to the party, not just L4 and L5. Thank you hip, for crapping out on me, too.

So we scheduled me to see Dr. Goltra, who is basically brilliant, and not only does he do cortisone shots, but he also is the guy that reads the MRI's to tell you what's going on. It took FOREVER to get in to see him (again- super popular and brilliant), but when the nurse heard I could barely walk, had 2 toddlers to take care of and it had been almost 2 full months of me being non-functional, she stuck me in a cancellation slot.

It, of course, was the week the hubbs got sent to Seattle for work. So my parents drove down to take care of me. Seriously...who can even live without them??? Filling my freezer with SO MUCH FOOD and taking care of the kids. Dropping their lives to help me out. They are just the best.

So in I go. And he tells me that I have a mild spinal stenosis. Which means my spinal column is too narrow, and over the years it gets more and more narrow. Which means, if I have bulging discs, it will affect my nerve a lot more quickly because it doesn't have very far to go. AWESOME. He also tells me that it is fully pushing on my nerve (cue foot falling asleep all the time, 2 toes that are constantly pins and needles, and peg leg if I try to walk for more than 10 minutes at a time). I stand up and turn around and he says that he can physically see that my nerve is swollen- and if he can see that through my clothes and skin it means I've REALLY managed to piss it off. It's no wonder I'm in this much pain, why on earth did I go to the Spine Institute, and he knows he'll be able to help. And also, NOT to go get surgery. He said "If anyone tells you you need surgery, you come talk to me."

And then he gives me 2 shots. One is the typical cortisone shot. The other he's putting basically directly on my nerve to tame it out, otherwise I'd never be able to do any sort of rehab on my back.

It works IMMEDIATELY. I can stand up straight. I walk to the car. Dad drives me home. I try and walk up the stairs. My leg is now complete jelly (I was warned this may happen) and Dad is behind me, trying to make sure I don't fall while I'm cracking up because no matter what I do, my leg refuses to listen to me. Novocaine of the leg for sure.

I make an appointment for 3 weeks later. I am told that I am still not to push it. No real walking, not too much standing. Basically what I've been doing for the past 2 months, to allow the shot to heal me. I *try* to listen, but let's face it, I don't. I mean, I kinda do, but I pushed it a bit. And I felt it.

So 3 weeks later, I get the 2 shots again. And I'm given the all clear to start physical therapy. Where I'm currently 2 weeks in. Doing traction and stretches. Not much else. Walking, with a stroller or some sort of support, until my foot starts to go numb (which is currently about 6 minutes). If the numbness is still occurring that means the nerve is still aggravated, which should be worked out by the traction after a while. And THEN I can FINALLY do strength training and yoga.

HOLY LORD it's been a loooooong process. The original shot from hell was mid January. It's now April, and I still can't do things like bring my kids anywhere by myself without doing some serious damage to my back. And yes. I've tried. BECAUSE I NEVER LEARN THINGS.

In the midst of all of this, my amazing friends sat me down (well, I was already sitting, wrapped up in my blanket because apparently I was now cold all the time as well), and they said "we know it's hard to accept help. But we're sistering you. And you have no choice. Just take it." Which is basically the best thing that anyone could ever say. Cause they're right. If they asked what they could have done for me, I would have said "Nothing. We're fine. But thank you." And then hubbs, who was doing all the things all the time, would've cheerfully choked me. But they didn't ask. They told. And they brought us meals. And they played with our kids. And they brought me chocolate and magazines. And they hung out in our driveway so that I wouldn't have to walk anywhere, just sit in my chair wrapped up in a blanket.

And I read a whole lot. And I realized a whole lot. I realized how very blessed we were to move into a community a few short months prior, and to have made such amazing friends, who were there when I was down for the count. Most of whom lived in my cul-de-sac. God put us exactly where we needed to be. I also realized that PERHAPS the reason we were in this mess is because I super super suck at accepting help, never mind trying to ask for it. Little Miss I-Can-Do-It-By-Myself learned some serious lessons in humility. And also, the beauty of leaning on your village.

There was a night when hubbs got some weird 24 hour pukey bug, and there was a crock pot of food sitting on our high countertop. I almost tried to reach up to put it in the fridge but realized that if I ever wanted to get better, I had to start acknowledging that I could no longer lift ALL THE THINGS. I texted my neighbor Kirsten for assistance. I admit, it was hard to ask for help. But she, and later, hubbs, both agreed that if I had tried to lift that crock pot, there may have been a throw down. And after she left, I realized I was a little proud of myself for finally reaching out. And I've tried to be good about it since then. Tried being the key word.

I'm just starting to get back into the kitchen. I'm not making any fancy pants things. I don't always make bread- sometimes I allow him to buy the organic fresh baked stuff from Whole Foods. Hubbs always has to help. And most of the time, I do as much as I can sitting down. We hired a cleaning crew to come every other week. I actually hired Kirsten's niece to watch the kiddos when I go to physical therapy. I mean, WHO EVEN AM I!?!?!

Most days, I'm ok with all of this. Some days, I feel like I'm failing at life since my whole job in life is to take care of the kids and the house. But I'm trying to give myself some grace. This is just a season, and keeping all the people alive is my job-  the clean house and yummy food is a nice benefit for all. (Please see "Cleaning up is not my destiny" by my brilliant friend, Michelle).

And maybe it's all the reading of all the books I've done (hello Jen Hatmaker, Shauna Niequist, Glennon Melton, and THE BIBLE)- but I'm noticing a softening of my heart. There's way less anger and rage. Way more compassion and grace. Which is interesting for this blog, as it's based on raging about all the ways I hate Monsanto and how our government is poisoning us. Which I still believe. I'm just not into yelling about it as much anymore. I'm trying more of a gentle nudge approach. So there's that. At some point there'll be a whole post on that. I've got other things on my mind currently...

So, yeah. You haven't heard from me in a while. And this is why. I'm still healing. I actually tried to write this post a month ago. I got a ways through it, and then my computer decided not to save it. And I was all done with that nonsense.

And also, this is a better place to leave it.

Taking this stuff one day at a time. Trying to find the humor. Hoping I haven't broken myself permanently. I'm not gonna win any awards by paralyzing myself trying to do it all alone.

I have really smart friends (near and far) who have gently beaten that into my skull. And I'm a slow learner, but I'm getting there.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Holding- a Toddler Poop Story Part 2

Well. Those were the longest 2 years of my life.  In case you didn't read part 1. In short, girlfriend started holding her poop after our trip to Disneyland (while I was about 20 weeks preggo with boyfriend) and I became a poop doula. Since we do everything as naturally as humanly possible, that meant there was no dosing her up with miralax. It meant using prune juice, flaxseed, and greens to make the poop soft, and if she held it for more than 3 days, getting in a hot soapy bath with epsom salts and coaxing her to push the largest poops in history out. We also recently found at Whole Foods a brand called Buddy Bear that has a "laxative" (it's just an amped up pruned juice, it doesn't actually force them to go) and one called "Digest" that we started using. Sometimes it meant getting in there and breaking it up a bit. And sometimes it meant enema. Any way you slice it, these were not good times for either of us.

It seemed that this past April we were finally finally over it. But we had a few relapses. When family came to visit, or we were out all day long, or the wind blew a certain way... And she absolutely refused to push them into a potty.  Le sigh.

So I found a book.
Yup. This book. It actually used the idea of someone missing a family (we used Nemo since we were all about that movie). Percy the Poop wants to see his family that lives in the toilet bowl. We were obsessed with this book....but still no poop in the potty. UGH.

Enter Halloween. We trick or treated a little bit, and she did not ask to eat any of her chocolate. She just wanted a dum dum lollipop (because of course she wanted red dye and sugar nonsense. of course she did). She loved it. The next day, in Whole Foods, they had Halloween candy on sale. A huge bag of organic lollipops for 99 cents. So I bought it, since my ice cream, chocolate, buy anything she wanted motivation wasn't working at all. We got home. I said "Look I got you some lollipops, but you can only have one if you poop on the potty." She grabbed it, ran to the bathroom, and took a dump. ARE. YOU. FREAKING. KIDDING. ME.

So. yeah. We found the golden ticket. And she has gone on the potty every day since then. Just like that. Potty trained.

The most insane roller coaster of emotion finally coming to a close. A very happy 4 year old who loves to poop on the potty now (with or without a lollipop), and a mom who finally feels less judged about her older toddler in diapers, and a freedom from obsessively counting poops and praying there wouldn't be any scrubbing out the bath tub moments each week. Suddenly, we're over it.

It was a long journey FOR SURE. But honestly, I would rather take this journey than have filled her full of a laxative so that she couldn't trust her body to do what it needed to do. And who knows at the young age what that could do to a developing gut. Lord knows I have enough stomach issues (I was also a holder as a kid) and I'm just hoping this will result in a healthy gut and a healthy attitude about poop.

And also. She loves it when I draw Percy. She asked me to draw his brother. Then she drew his sister. I just super heart her.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Nights in Morocco...or maybe just food from there...

Listen, I'd love to spend some nights in Morocco. But for now, we'll have to settle for the one in Epcot Center. Not so sure the 19 month old would fully appreciate all the nuances of different cultures, so we'll give it a few years before we start traveling internationally.

I digress.

Chicken thighs.

Honestly, I just super don't enjoy cooking chicken. Mainly because almost every time I do, the response I get from the hubbs (and myself if I'm honest) is "meh".  I mean, it's tasty. But it's not like beef or bacon tasty. The poor chicken. Not enough fat. Not enough flavor. Everybody's diet food.

So I've been experimenting. And I happened upon a recipe for Moroccan chicken thighs and lentils. Score! I have a crap ton of lentils that I haven't ever used. And it calls for dried apricots. Score again! We have a bag of dried apricots.

Wait. Just opened the bag. Ummm....did you know that dried fruit can ferment? Well. It can. And it did. Good thing I have some yellow grapes on hand. Close enough.

So. Here's the recipe I used as a base. I changed a few things...because of course I did. So. For the rub for the meat, I didn't use garlic powder. I don't have any. As a rule, I super hate garlic powder. I'd rather go ahead and put the real stuff right in there. And with my roasted garlic trick,  it's easy peasy to use fresh garlic always.  I also only used a portion of the cumin they say to. because I really don't care for cumin. I get that it's the base of so much of the food that I love....but I would rather taste the other stuff and cumin is SO STRONG. I also used smoked paprika. That stuff is amazing. And I was heavy handed with it. I threw in a little crushed red pepper as well for a kick.

I added whole peeled tomatoes (Jovial brand is my favorite- glass jars for the win!) I did not add ketchup. I just added a splash of red wine vinegar and some brown sugar. I probably should have added some tomato paste as well, but oh well. maybe next time. I was gonna add almonds too, but my brain is not firing on all cylinders. Whatevs, it's delish. 

And finally, I only had green lentils. So that was it.

I rubbed the chicken, browned it, removed it, sauteed the onions, then added the lentils and gave them some nice color and flavor. Then I added the garlic, and then I added the liquid stuff. Then threw the chicken back in, brought it all to a boil, and threw it in the oven for about an hour and 15 minutes at 350. BOOM.

 The browned chicken in a bowl, while the onions caramelize in the browned chicken goodness bits.


The smell in my house. Can't even explain.

And now. Onto the flatbread. Yes the above recipe is gluten and dairy if you need that then you're all set.  But me??  I prefer the Moroccan way. Which is...use flatbread as utensil. YEEEESSSSSS.

Here's the flatbread recipe.  Other country's measuring units are dumb. The hardest part about this was figuring out how much of everything to add. And, since I make bread a lot in different places, I know you can't just add ALL the flour they say to. You have to add slowly as needed.

So. I started with 2 1/2 cups of flour, a little more than half a tablespoon of salt and yeast, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1 1/3 cups of warm water. Then I added flour as needed until it developed a ball in the kitchenaid mixer. It ended up about 3 1/2 cups I think.

Follow the directions to let the dough rise. Then cut it into 12 and roll them out. Get a cast iron pan really really hot, add olive oil and go ahead and cook em up. It's ridiculous how good these are. I ate the first one with nothing on it. Just straight up ate it.

And the two together???

This meal is magical. No joke.

Perfect warm and cozy food.

Friday, September 18, 2015

So this whole blogging thing...

Apparently, I'm not very good at it. It was SO. MUCH. EASIER. with just one kiddo. That second one. MAN 2 kids is a time suck vortex. I have zero ideas how people with more than 2 even handle life. Kuddos. For reals.

Anyhow, this is basically a post just to say I'm still alive, sometimes just hanging on by a thread, but here. I'm still navigating our crunchy lifestyle in the south. I'm meeting new people and getting some really good info which I'm stoked about....cause Whole Foods for everything is getting a little boring. I need a little variety in my life.

I'm also posting a lot less on FB. Not intentionally.....well kinda intentionally. I'm trying to just maybe not be on social media as often. Although the beginning of September was girlfriend's birthday party, my birthday, parents visiting, and all sorts of fun shenanigans so OVERPOSTER for sure. But I'm trying to hold back a bit now. And outside of the food pics I've put up, it's been some fairly lame repeats for the past month. Still yummy, just not exciting picture worthy foods. I would love to get back to doing new things almost nightly and blogging about all my fun discoveries...but we live on this AMAZEBALLS cul-de-sac and right around 5pm, all the kiddos are home from various schools and the mammas are home and it is time to get our play on. That used to be primetime dinner prep, but you know? Chilling out is way more important. So I braise some stuff during boyfriend's nap (and let's be honest....braises don't photograph well), and that way I can hang. I hover right in between introvert and extrovert and after a full day with just the kidlets, I SUPER DESPERATELY NEED TO TALK TO LOGICAL BEINGS. FOR. THE. LOVE. Otherwise, I end up talking to the hubbs like he's a child, and that works out for no one.

So there's my litany of excuses of why I suck at blogging right now. And possibly for the foreseeable future. Although....light at the end of the tunnel- perhaps I can start sneaking away once boyfriend falls asleep and type a little. He loves to snuggle, but lately big sister has been his target, and I'm all in on that train. We shall see.

In the meantime, I've found a few life hacks that have been helping budget wise and "I just can't find it out here" wise. For starters, we get INCREDIBLE bacon. This bacon is life affirming. It's black forest bacon from whole foods. There's also some seriously delish hickory smoked bacon from Ted's Butcherblock. Both are thick cut goodness, and render out some serious fat. We pour it into mason jars and BAM. Lard. Because I cannot find organic lard. And I need it to make tortillas and carnitas and fry potatoes in and just in general I need lard in my life. Trying to use all of the animal and all. Totally worth it.

Also trying to heal from 3 bulging discs. Apparently, my son hit the tipping point of how much weight I could carry on my front for hours on end while standing around and I went and ruined my lower back and hips. Awesometastic. So I've been trying to naturally get rid of inflammation using food, stretching, and foam rolling instead of cortisone shots. I'm also getting regular massages from a massage therapist and gonna give acupuncture a go. Frankincense oil has been so fabulous to rub right where the pain is- way better than any OTC ibuprofens or muscle rubs. I've been taking BCQ supplements (Bromelain, Curcumin, and Quercetin). I'm adding a lot more turmeric into my diet as well (curcumin) but since bromelain is from pineapples and I'm allergic to them, I have to stick to these supplements. Also omega 3 fish oils and vitamin d for absorption. I'm also drinking bone broth. Not gonna lie- I do not love it. It's not horrible but I'd rather make food with it than just straight drink it. If all of this works to heal my back I'll write a more detailed post about it, since I have had a hard time finding info on it, but I know I don't want to just take a shot of something to make me feel better but that ultimately will weaken the ligaments and not promote the healing of these discs. Meanwhile, I'm trying to convince my son that strollers are awesome....he's currently not buying it.

I'm also reading a poop book. BECAUSE OF COURSE I AM. I thought we were all done with the holding back in April. It seemed we were completely on board to just poop when you have to poop. We even started holding back a bit with the prune juice. And then. Potty training. So girlfriend has known how to pee in the potty for a year and a half. She never goes over night, rarely has accidents in underwear, and loves to announce to people that she's a big girl and always pees and poos in the potty (which is just not accurate- she's pooped once in the potty). So there are days she asks to wear underwear. And on those days, she REFUSES to poop. Doesn't talk about it or anything. Just holds it in. And then, we're right back to me poop doula-ing it out of her after 2 or 3 days, sitting in the bathtub and cheerleading it on. UGH. No one enjoys this. And it's been 2 years now, so I'm just OFFICIALLY OVER IT.

So I bought the book "It's No Accident- Breakthrough solutions to your child's wetting, constipation, uti's, and other potty problems" by Steve Hodges.  Not gonna lie. Don't love his love for miralax. But he does have a lot of good advice in this book, and insight. And I am totally gonna do an enema on girlfriend because I have a feeling if we x-rayed her we'd find a pretty good sized poop mass. I'm hoping we can clear her out, and then get a fresh start with the pooping and the potty training- leaving out the miralax and keeping things soft with more fiber and more prune juice. It's just all a work in progress right now.

So yeah. That's where I'm at. everything comes down to poo.


Friday, August 28, 2015

CHERRY. FLIPPING. MAZURKAS. or, how my life got infinitely better with 1 bite

I wondered around my whole life. Thinking I knew exactly what my favorite dessert was. Knowing there was a song about it. (pretty sure that's about something else ENTIRELY, but didn't know any better in middle school). My very favoritest pie. Cherry. Nothing was better. It was red and sweet and tart and amazing and heavenly and it wasn't always available but when it was. BAM. Game on. Love love love.

When we hopped on the real foods train, I thought I'd have to leave it for good. We don't eat processed nonsense out of a can, and the only cherry pies I had ever had were processed cherries out of a can. Do not ask me why I did not think to just buy cherries and make the filling myself. I just didn't. Leave me alone.

And then, yesterday, I was happily scrolling along my instagram feed, when Shauna Niequist posted a pic of some cherry mazurkas she made. Mazurkas?? What the heck is that? And did she say cherry??? And also- WOMAN POST THE RECIPE!!

Raspberry Mazurka is one of the only recipes I could find that looked even similar to Shauna's, and another commenter posted that recipe and said she really liked that one. Shauna said that one looked better than hers and so. I got to baking.

It just so happens that on a recent jaunt to Costco I grabbed a huge frozen bag of organic cherries. Pitted and everything (WOOHOO LESS WORK!). However, I didn't notice that they were sweet and not tart cherries. So I threw about half the bag in a pot with some lemon zest (because when making fruity compotey things ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS add lemon zest and juice. trust me. and Carla Hall, cause that's totally her jam. literally.)  And I added just a teeny bit of sugar. Make it to your taste and you can't go wrong.

Put em on a low heat and let em simmer and break down, and you can help it along with a potato masher. I like a chunky jam so I don't need to smash that much. Then at the end add a little cornstarch to thicken it up a bit. (organic please- non organic corn is full of nasty).

I probably could've eaten the entire pot. But I didn't.

Meanwhile, get your crust together. I used the raspberry mazurka as a base recipe above but tweeked it a bit. I needed to use 1 1/2 cups of melted butter to get the consistency I wanted. And I threw in a little salt for good measure because I used raw, unsalted walnuts. I also was a leeeetle short on coconut flakes, but that didn't seem to matter because it's still perfection. And grease the pan with melted butter. Because just through away your "cooking spray". Nonsensical garbage. It made WAY too much. I used the size baking pan she suggested, and I STILL had enough to make a mini mazurka to freeze for sometime this fall when I'm lazy and want pie. (they say it's like a granola bar, but that's straight up nonsense. This is like the most fantastic form of a pie ever).

Lay down the crust (similar to a cheesecake crust, the way you need to compact it. I let it ride up the edges of the pan so that the cherries didn't all dribble out the sides. Then sprinkle the layer over the top and lightly pat that. I like the top a bit crumbly so no need for compaction there.

Had I not been bombarded with tiny people, this would have taken about 20 to 30 minutes to prep. Alas, that is never the case when I'm in the kitchen. And I have a tendancy to royally screw up new recipes by not reading correctly and being generally brainless, so I took my sweet time. About an hour.

Then you throw it in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees. And then you're supposed to wait an agonizingly long time for it to cool before you cut it. I of course did not wait. Because warm baked goods.



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Beach Living. Or, How I got back to me

Well. I've lived in South Carolina now for a little more than a month. We're still working through the busyness- busyness of getting the house finished, of making friends, of exploring our new community, of getting our kiddos used to this heat. Our days are swallowed up in busy. And trying to ensure I'm not resorting to the "go watch a movie while mamma finishes her to do list" mantra which has been the story of our lives since mid April. Moving with small people is HARD y'all.

And amid all of that. Amid the daily and the busy and the fun and the WORK (for the LOVE all the work). It seems as though I'm finding me again.

It's a bit weird, this discovery. Mainly because I didn't know I was lost.

I know for sure that moving to Seattle from the Jersey Shore was scary huge terrifying something I had never planned on ever. Doing that one week after getting married did not help matters. All the big scary coming at me- complete career change, zero amounts of family or friends in our first home, dealing with this person who I thought I knew but now that I lived with realized was going to take some serious work to get along with. Not to mention that he spent at least half of the first year of our marriage on business trips to California. So. Yeah. Not super easy. No sunshine, no friends, no family, a job at Boeing (anyone that knew me in high school is going "WHAT THE HELL???"). And then my health started to fall apart. All in the space of a year.

I obviously worked it out. I made friends, found a fabulous church, figured out the health thing, learned how to live with a traveling hubbs, mastered life in general....  After girlfriend's arrival, I knew I found my calling as a stay at home mamma. It just felt right, after a long time of feeling wrong. And as she settled into her toddler years, I felt like I was getting a me back that I hadn't seen in eons. I took her to her first concert- Indigo Girls at the Woodland Park Zoo. We went everywhere together. I wouldn't have had it any other way. I finally felt like I was rocking this mommy gig.

And then I discovered I was pregnant. Which for most normal people would have been fabulous. For me? I freaked out. And got pissed. And freaked out some more. I was only going to have one. My body clearly showed me that it was not capable of bringing life into this world like a normal body and so I wasn't going to tempt fate. I wasn't going to put myself through being terrified for, well for however long my body decided it would be pregnant this time, and then what if it didn't work out well this time? I was a hot mess. And the hot mess ness did not stop once I had our little man. It took a really long time to stop crying all the time. To really fully embrace the beauty of two kiddos, instead of just going through the motions. To not be so damned frustrated about having to do all of it without the help of family around. That was probably the hardest. I loved the community and family we built out there...but we also lived 40 minutes away from our church, and pretty far away from most of our community. And I super suck at asking for help. I also super suck at accepting help that's offered even when I don't ask. (Please don't ask the hubbs about the ridiculous "WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU TURN DOWN OFFERS OF PEOPLE MAKING US FOOD" argument of 2014. He had a point. Food after new baby was born would have been nice. I super suck.)

So. Here we are. Almost 16 months after boyfriend was born. Almost 3 years since we were originally supposed to move to Charleston. The kiddos and I miss our buddies in Washington desperately, but are adjusting really well to life in the sun and water. My body hasn't felt this good in decades! My allergies are gone, my stomach has WAY less flair ups than it used to, and without dieting or exercise (because for reals, who's working out in 95 degrees??) I'm down to the weight I was when I met hubbs. I never in my life thought I would see the numbers on the scale this low. I was 22 when I met him. That's just crazy sauce.

And every day, more me sneaks in. The tanner I get, the more Jersey I re-become. The me that drank 15 cups of coffee a day. The me with natural blonde throughout her summer hair. The me that wears bathing suits as outfits. And is constantly barefoot. The one that drives like this:

At my heaviest (and sickest)-  I don't even have pics of that. Here's one that's pretty close to my of the few full body shots that I have.  It looked, and felt, like I was swallowed up by someone else.

And it's not ALL about the weight. But it's a little about it. Because it was something I was obsessed with for such a long time. I didn't recognize that person. I didn't feel like me. But man, that Disneyland castle is pretty...

And here we are, hitting up the Sullivan's Island beach for the first time!

But THIS. This is me. Sun and sand and salt water run through these veins. The smell of Hawaiian Tropic is nostalgia (no. I do not use that stuff anymore. It's complete garbage. But that smell....that's my teenage years). Beach hair. Barefoot. Sand between my toes. Driving to the ocean at night to breathe in the salty air and read a book with a nice cup of coffee. That's me. (I'm still waiting to get that one back. Pretty sure I'm gonna need a few years for that to happen....)

I find it a little disconcerting that my living location plays SUCH a huge role in my self-concept. I kinda thought I got over that after picking up everything I ever knew and loved and moved 3,000 miles away. I guess I'm not the tower of unshakeability that I thought I was.  But it's truth. And with 37 creeping up on me, I'm glad to be discovering this now.