Sunday, December 18, 2016

Roasted Butternut Squash, Carmelized Onion, Goat Cheese and (optional) Bacon Tart

This is a recipe I made up after scrolling through Pinterest and not finding just the right appetizer for this year's Thanksgiving. It came out so delicious that I wanted to share it here. It takes some time to make, but doesn't require much actual work. The recipe makes 2 tarts. For my vegetarian/omnivore family I would do one with bacon and one without. You can make the onions and squash ahead of time and then just bake the tart prior to your event. It would also keep overnight, and makes EXCELLENT leftovers. Though if your guests know what's up, there won't be any.


1 onion (red or yellow)
1 tbsp butter

1 butternut squash
olive oil
salt & pepper
sage & garlic powder

2 cans crescent roll dough (or crescent roll sheets)
8 ounces goat cheese (two small tubes)
6 slices pepper bacon, cooked and crumbled


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Carmelize the onion. Follow the directions here. Basically: Peel and slice the onion into strips. Melt the butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes. Continue cooking low and slow until the onions have fully carmelized. You can make a bigger batch as long as you're making them, and use them later for sandwhiches, pizza, etc.

3. While the onions cook, prepare and roast the butternut squash. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler. Cut the top and bottom off, and cut the bulb from the neck. cut each piece lengthwise. Remove the seeds and stringy guts. I like to use a grapefruit spoon. Dice into 1/4" to 1/2" cubes. Toss in olive oil and season with salt, pepper, sage, and garlic powder. arrange on cookie sheets in a single layer and roast for 25-35 minutes, or until tender. Depending on the size of your squash, you may end up with extra - it would be great with some quinoa and black beans, or as a first food for baby!

4. You can store the squash and onion until later, or continue on immediately. Lower the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

5. To assmeble the tart, unroll one crescent dough on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Pinch the seams to secure. Down the center one-third of the sheet, arrange the squash and onion until it looks like it's a good dough-to-filling ratio, as well as 4 ounces of goat cheese and 3 slices of bacon (both crumbled). On each side of the filling, slice strips. Alternately wrap the strips around the filling, creating a braided effect. Seal off the ends. Repeat with the second can of crescent rolls.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Surviving Travel with Babies and Toddlers: Pro-Tips from a Road Warrior Mama

I've traveled a lot with my two little guys. Sometimes my hubby comes along.  Sometimes the dogs come along. It's always an adventure, usually with some stress and always with great memories. Because we're road warriors by now, I've got some tips for what you might expect on the road (and in the air) with kids. Since I'm often asked for my advice, I thought I'd put it here to have it as an easy reference.

Before kid number two arrived, we flew everywhere. Hubby was traveling a bunch for work, so frequent flier miles were abundant. Since the second baby arrived, we acquired a mini van, and have been road-tripping like crazy. In the first year of his life the baby accumulated more than 10,000 miles in his car seat on family trips, flown on two round trip flights, and has been to 15 states. (Big brother went to an additional 4 states - including Hawaii, by air, and racked up 5,000 more road miles in the 2 years before the baby arrived). 

BABY #2's Travels in his First Year

Road Trips

  • Load up on snacks and drinks, some new car friendly activities, and patience.
  • Plan for it to take 1.5x the time of whatever the gps says.
  • We stop every 2 hours or so. At EVERY stop make sure everyone in the car: small, grown and 4 - legged has food, drink, and bathroom/diaper. Or you'll be pulling over at the next exit
  • I breastfed both boys. Pumping and bottle feeding didn't work great for us on the road (or ever). Both babies liked to be held to eat and needed a chance to stretch, so we had to stop anyhow. They also weren't used to bottles so that didn't help matters. But they do make travel warmers, and your milk should stay good in a cooler for the duration of a drive, so you might try feeding the baby in the carseat. Just don't bank on ir (see my first point).
  • Little babies are great to travel with because they mostly just sleep... until about 45 minutes from wherever it is you're going (no matter if it's 4 hours or 14. They know.)
  • Anticipate one long stop mid-day to stretch out. When they're a little older a nice mall play area & food court or Chick-fil-A are great options.
  • Pack a small tote bag with a change of clothes for EVERYONE in the car, so when the baby inevitably explodes out of some orifice, you don't have to unpack your whole suitcase
  • Pack extra diapers. You think that's enough? Great, add a dozen more. Leave them handy in the car as they will be used often.
  • Expect baby digestive troubles the day or two after driving. Being squished in a car seat messes up their digestion, as can a breastfeeding mom's strange diet of gas station burritos.

Air Travel

  • If you have a lap baby, you need to get a boarding pass for the baby at the baggage check-in counter. If one of the adults you're traveling with has any kind of status: pre-check, priority boarding, whatever... get the baby's boarding pass attached to their ticket. Unless you're flying Southwest, then have that person scurry ahead with the bags and secure great seats for everyone. You'll get to board with family pre-boarding which nowadays falls somewhere between first class and the goats and chickens.
  • There is a best way to deal with baby gear when traveling. Then there is the way we've done it. 
    • Car seats- take your pick.
      • We generally check the car seat at the baggage check. They make big car seat bags that look like laundry bags you'd use in a dorm. Checking a car seat may invalidate its warranty so check with your manufacturer.
      • It's better to gate check the car seat, but then you lug it through the airport. They make little rolling carriers for car seats that you can wheel through the airport and even strap the kid in. 
      • It's best to use an FAA approved car seat on the plane in the baby's own seat (that you paid for).
      • Older than two and you need to buy the kid a seat on the plane. You can use the FAA approved car seat in the seat, or buy a CARES harness, an FAA approved adapter for the plane's seatbelt, or just let the kid sit.
    • We often bring a stroller, but it is used mostly for carrying stuff not kidsI But if the stroller is more than 20 lbs you'll need to check it when you check your bags, so i suggest one of those frame bases that the car seat clicks in to or an umbrella strollerYou will need to get a special tag at counter at the gate for a stroller or car seat you plan to gate check.
    • Buckle all the buckles on anything you plan to check. they can get smashed. 
    • If you will be traveling to a home where no kids live, and your baby sleeps in a crib, it's economically sound (and more convenient) to buy a cheap (or used - try Craigslist or local facebook garage sale sites) pack n play and keep it there (or resell it after one visit). One round trip with the extra checked item will more than cover the cost. Grandmas or other accommodating hosts may also find you a high chair or booster seat at a garage sale or on loan from a friend. 
  • Baby wear, y'all. It's better than a leash. You can baby wear through security if your carrier doesn't have metal parts. They will swab your hands and send you on your way.
  • You can bring liquids and food through security for your kids. That includes pouch food, breastmilk, ice packs to keep the milk cold, formula, water to make formula, juice, whatever. Just let the TSA agent know - it's for the children. If they give you any problem - direct them to their own website. They might stick a little strip in the liquid and then into a machine to make sure you're not carrying contraband in the Kool-Aid. Alternately, bring a water bottle and those powder drink mix tubes, then fill up at the water fountain to save time at security.
  • Depending on the length of your trip, you might consider shipping bulky consumables like diapers and wipes ahead to your destination. Amazon Family FTW (Join Amazon Family 30-Day Free Trial)
  • Many airports now have play areas for kids like in malls. Great way to pass the time before a flight or during a layover. Ask around. Dallas, Boston, O'Hare, Nashville, and 
  • Nurse (or give a bottle or paci) on takeoff and landing to help baby's ears pop. You'll probably be asked to remove the baby from the carrier if he's in one.
  • Please don't be shy about nursing or pumping on a flight. I know several flight attendant breastfeeding moms and they all do it. Go for it!
Hope this helps. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I'll reply!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Pre-order New Mom Comics Today!

Have you been online in the last year? Then you may have seen these comics on Huffington PostUpworthy, or shared on my facebook page! In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, we have a giveaway for you!
New Mom Comics are spot-on depictions of life with a baby from breastfeeding and pumping, to diaper blowouts, babyproofing, phantom cries, and all the other hurdles of Mom Life. Without exception, when artist Alison Wong posted her weekly comic on her facebook page, my response was "Ha ha! Yup!" Now she is self-publishing a compilation of the comics from her first year as a mom into a book, which is available for presale to ship in time for Christmas. The perfect gift for a new or expecting mom
Alison Wong is a friend I love to name drop (Have you used the Heinz Dip and Squeeze packets or the Orville Redenbacher pop-up popcorn bowl? Thank Alison. Remember that show The Big Brain Theory, hosted by Kal Penn? Then you saw Alison.). A decade and a half ago she was drawing comics for The Tech, MIT's campus Newspaper, and I was her editor. Now we are both moms and may or may not be wearing clean pants! Time flies, so does food off a high chair! For this reason, I am so excited for the opportunity to give out copies of her book.

New Mom Comics: The First Year

The book is compilation of a year of comics drawn by Alison Wong about the adventures of being a new mom.  It’s a humorous guide on what to expect as a new parent.  “I created this series because it’s what I wished I had during the first year – like a friend to tell you how it really is, with humor and love.  My husband and I always try to look for the humor in each day, even in tough parenting moments, as it helps us laugh and remember them so fondly.”

Perfect if you are an expecting, new or experienced parent, or love kids. They make great gifts too! 100+ pages paperback, 55+ comics, with some color. Currently taking pre-orders, $15 plus s&h.  Delivery in Dec before the holidays. 


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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Vegan Soyrizo Tacos

We had family over tonight for dinner, and I made this up on the fly using ingredients we had in the house. It was a hit with the vegetarians and omnivores alike, and had folks going back for seconds! I typed up the recipe to recreate again sometime! The two specialty ingredients in this really made it. One was the Soy Chorizo from Trader Joe's. I was anticipating the kind of chorizo that is a sausage you can slice, but I was thrown off that this was like a ground meat product once you removed the casing as instructed. It ended up being a blessing as it converted a boring grain dish in to TACO TUESDAY! It was really flavorful, with a strong salt and cumin flavor that meant the whole dish required no additional seasoning.
The second special item was a bag of "Earthly Grains Quick Cook 5 Grains" from Aldi. It has spelt, barley, wheat, rice, and wholegrain oats. I've seen these at a couple Aldi's, but as with all things Aldi they are ephemeral and you might not find them. Any healthy grain - quinoa, farro, freekeh, wheatberries, brown rice, etc. would do nicely, but I'd recommend some of the larger. chewier ones for the texture. 

Vegan Chorizo (Soyrizo) Tacos

1 package Earthly Grains 5 Grain Blend (or 1.5 cups dry grains of your choice)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch fresh spinach, stems removed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 package Trader Joe's Chorizo
1 bag (10 oz) frozen corn
1 can (~16 oz) great northern beans (or canellini beans/white kidney beans)
1 tomato, chopped
1 can (6 oz) black olives, sliced
20 small taco size tortillas (flour or corn)
Grated soy cheese, as desired

Prepare the grains according to the package. While the grains cook, in a large pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook the spinach until wilted, and set aside. Add another tablespoon olive oil and sautee the onions on medium until slightly translucent and browned. Add the green pepper and cook another few minutes. Remove the casing from the soyrizo and add to the pan, stirring to break up the crumbles. After a few minutes add the frozen corn and cook until thawed. Add in the beans, tomato, olives and spinach, stirring to combine. Add the chorizo mixture to the grains and fill tacos with the mixture and top with cheese.

This made a LOT of food, and I bet it would freeze well rolled up burrito style to reheat later. Speaking of reheating, I'll have to add a picture of the final product when I have the leftovers!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Vegan Banana Blueberry Lactation Muffins

My nursling has a sensitivity to both eggs and milk, which means I've had to cut them from my diet. Because of that, I can't have most standard baked goods and really miss those sweet treats. I was having some moms over for a meeting to plan our upcoming expo in support of World Breastfeeding Week, so I made some lactation cookies. But since I had some over-ripe bananas, blueberries, and the galactagogue trio of flax meal, brewers yeast, and oatmeal on hand, I thought I'd try to make some muffins, too. Fun fact: flax meal soaked in water is a good egg replacement! I couldn't find a recipe online that exactly fit the bill for what I imagined making, so I modified a few I found online. The cookies came out okay, but the muffins were the real hit. I was a little short on flour, and the muffins were a little TOO moist (if there is such a thing), so I'm modifying the recipe to include a little more flour than I used. I also threw in all the blueberries we had left, which was slightly more than the cup the recipe calls for.

Vegan Banana Blueberry Lactation Muffins
Yield: 12 muffins

2 tbsp flax meal
4 tbsp warm water

1/3 cup cocount oil
2 medium ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup unsweetened almond (or other non-dairy) milk

1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup quick oats
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp brewers yeast
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine flax meal and warm water. Allow to soak while you prepare the remaining ingredients, at least 5 minutes. In another small bowl, microwave the coconut oil until liquefied. Combine the dry ingredients (sugars, flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, brewers yeast and salt). In a medium bowl, mash the bananas, Add the remaining wet ingredients (vanilla, milk, oil and flax meal slurry). Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and combine. Fold in the blueberries. Pour batter in to a greased or lined muffin tin, approximately 1/4 cup batter per muffin. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Simple Teething Pain Relief Solution

My sweet infant is three months old now, and I am pretty certain he's begun teething. He's drooling, chewing his (and my) fingers, and has bouts of uncharacteristic fussiness. Having been through this before, I preemptively armed myself with baby Tylenol, clove oil, Orajel, and chewelry, and an amber necklace. Because folks, teething is NO JOKE.

But my favorite teething pain remedy, and the one that I share with all exhausted parents, is the paci-pop. So quick, so easy, so soothing. Ready? Here's the secret technique:

Take a pacifier (MAM, Playtex, etc. - The Soothie brand ones won't work). Better yet, get a bunch.

Pinch the nipple.

Submerge the pinched paci in water (you can even run it under the tap)

 Unpinch the paci, slowly, allowing the bulb to fill with water,

The nipple will fill with water.

Put the pacifiers in the freezer. Pat yourself on the back and get yourself a bowl of ice cream while you're in there. You deserve it.

Then when your baby wakes up from his nap and is all fussy with sore gums, pop one of these bad boys in his mouth and enjoy the sweet sound of silence.

PS Put a bib on your kiddo (I recommend THESE), as the ice melts it will dribble out of the binkie and all over his cute clothes.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Toddler painting keepsake - masked stencil canvas wall art

My two year old son loves to paint and draw. I end up with stacks of scrap paper covered in scribbles that I don't know what to do with, and they usually end up in the trash. Some of his projects make it to the fridge where they live for a month or two before being filed away in a box in the garage. Every so often I like to do a craft that is a little more of an "heirloom" - something that demonstrates where he is developmentally, but is also nice enough to have on display for the long-term. The kind of project that might become a gift for his loving family and friends.

About a year ago (when he was still one), I saw on pinterest a way to use masking tape to make a painting. In that example, you simply tape out a letter shape with masking tape, allow your child to paint the whole canvas or paper, peel away the masking tape, and voila! Instant art! It acts as a sort ot reverse stencil.

I made one of those paintings with my kiddo, on a small stretched canvas, of the KLAW's first initial and hung it in his play kitchen.

My pal Darcy, of Moonlady's Kitchen, saw our project and totally cranked it up a notch. Instead of simply using tape as-is to make block letters, she began using sheets of tape to make stencils of different shapes, and from there we took off to all sorts of projects. Here is a tutorial on how to make a variety of cute DIY wall art with your toddler.

1. Start with a stretched canvas or flat canvas in the size you want. You can either use regular acrylic craft paint (I buy mine at Walmart for 50 cents a bottle - and let the little guy pick out a new color every so often) or washable paint and then protect it with a clear coat of spray paint when you're done.

2. If you want a background color, begin by painting that. For the horse, We did the blue for the sky on half the canvas, let it dry, taped off the area that was blue with a design to make it look like a rolling field, and painted the bottom half green. I've found that putting blobs of different color paint on the canvas and letting the kiddo smoosh it around with a paintbrush is a good way to get full coverage, pretty patterns, and control where the paint goes.
PRO TIP: Choose colors that are within about 3 to 5 segments of each other on the color wheel for each design. If you glob on orange and blue, or red and green, you'll end up with a muddy brown mess. Stick with all cool colors or all warm colors; add in a little white, or use a variety of intensities (bold to pastel) to get a nice variation of color to create texture.

3.  Download simple line art/clip art of the design you want. Print out the images, scaled to fit on your canvas. Or, if you're super artsy, you can free-hand a design later. But tracing, for me, yields great results. (I suppose if you have a fancy Silhouette Cameo machine, you could probably have something cut out by that, too...)

4. Apply masking tape in overlapping rows to a piece of parchment paper. It will be pretty transparent so you can trace the design you printed out on to the tape or parchment.

5. Once drawn, with the tape still attached to the parchment, cut out the design. I used scissors, being careful that the cuts on the outer portion were tidy, but chopping up the poor tape horse.

PRO TIP: If you have a cutting mat and an Xacto or rolling cutter, that would work and you would be able to preserve the inside design to use as a reverse stencil on another project. Darcy has even used the tape peeled off from that reverse stencil type project to make an additional craft, such as a greeting card (on the right). (Thanks, Darcy!)

6. Peel the stencil off the parchment and apply to your canvas (once the background paint is dry). Use additional tape to mask of any areas not covered by the stencil. Use your fingernail to press around the edges of the design so they are tight against the canvas to minimize seepage.

7. Repeat the painting process used for the background- putting blobs of paint in the design area and allowing the child to paint. Make sure the whole design is filled in.
What my child painted
 8. When the paint is dry, remove the tape to reveal the design.

What the result looks like
9. Finish with any details you may want to hand paint, such as the faces I added to these cardinals and the branches on which they are perched.

Here's one more we made, for which the little guy selected a bold color scheme.
There are so many possibilities with this technique, and it doesn't have to be exclusively for toddler art.  This blogger used sheet music (scrap paper) as the background and adhesive stencils available from Michael's. The beauty of the masking tape method, though, is that it is CHEAP and quick to do with items on hand - which is key when you've got little ones running around.

Sheet music stencil on
  Here's another blogger's version that looks very trendy! Cheap and easy update to your decor.

Chevron art from
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