8.25.2012

Kick off fall early with vegan pumpkin bread!

For the last few weeks, the spirit of fall has been poking around our house. From cool night temperatures that lead to sound sleeps (well, as sound as they can be when you have to wake up 14 times a night to pee), to chilly early mornings that require yoga pants and a sweatshirt. It may still be August, but fall is creeping in all around us.

And I couldn't be more ecstatic or ready for anything in my whole life! Fall is HANDS DOWN my favorite season in the whole wide world. It brings amazing smelling candles, spices, hoodies, bright leaves, the perfect weather and so, so, so many pumpkin goodies.

Speaking of pumpkin goodies, I just couldn't fend my urge off any longer. Fall may not officially be here yet, but last night I baked my first batch of pumpkin bread so it might as well be.

This bread has some weight to it and is incredibly filling, but it's also incredibly easy and delicious, so don't be surprised if you (and everyone else) gobbles it up right away! (Pardon the cheesy plate, it was late and I had absolutely no desire to dirty more dishes!)


Pumpkin bread with cream cheese glaze
(makes one bundt pan or two loaf pans, woo hoo!)
Ingredients: 
1 15-oz can of pumpkin
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup spelt flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups cinnamon applesauce
3 TBS flaxseed to 1/3 cup warm water (let it sit for about 10 minutes to gel up)
3 tsps pumpkin pie spice blend (you can break it down and use cloves and nutmeg, but I'm impatient)
2 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 container non-dairy cream cheese spread (we've been gobbling up Trader Joe's brand)
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 stick of butter (we've been using Willow Run)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: 
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and lightly flour bundt or loaf pans (I don't own two loaf pans, hence, the bundt ring).
In a bowl, mix together pumpkin, applesauce, flaxseed/water mixture, pumpkin spice blend, and cinnamon powder.
In another bowl, mix together both flours, sugar, baking powder and baking soda.
Get out your big wooden spoon (not your handy mixer) and blend the dry ingredients into the wet ones. Don't cheat, this is bread, not cake, so it doesn't need to be mixed to fluff.
Pour mixture into desired pans and stick in the oven (easy, right?)
If you're going the bundt pan route, bake for 35-45 minutes (do the toothpick test, you want it to come out clean, and push on it with your finger to see if it bounces back some).
If you're going with two loaf pans, stick em' in together and bake for 50-60 minutes.
About 10 minutes before your bread is done, take that hand mixer you didn't use for the bread batter and blend together cream cheese (stick it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds until softened), powdered sugar, melted butter and vanilla extract. Set aside.
If you went the bundt pan route, wait about 10-15 minutes and then turn over your pan and lightly tap the bread out. Drizzle (or impatiently smear like I did) cream cheese glaze all over)! Top with nuts if you're feeling nutty.
If you used loaf pans, drizzle the glaze over whenever your heart desires (although, the sooner, the better).

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8.23.2012

Surviving salmonella poisoning 101: the toddler edition

Do you feel bad for me after reading that title? You should.

It's part of the reason I was absent from this blog for so flipping long. It's also part of the reason that I have a complex when putting my daughter in the grocery cart at the store, or say when letting her eat cantaloupe cut up at a local grocery store, or perhaps even when putting any food on any dish in my home.

I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start from the beginning.

A little under one month ago, my husband and I had a fabulous New York weekend getaway planned. In fact, it was going to be our first time really, truly away from our daughter for a whole weekend. Of course we were going to miss her, but let's just say that we were SERIOUSLY excited for it.

After waiting three long months, the morning of our trip had arrived. Chubby Vegan Dad went off to work and I woke up ready to have an easy day with my little girl (I had taken the day off because I knew we'd procrastinate and not pack). And then, the puking started.

As soon as Pearyn woke up she threw up peas and blueberries (not a pretty combination folks) from the day before. For the next few hours she then acted like her regular self and I was prepared to chalk it up to an unsettled stomach and call it a day. And then, the puking AND pooping started. The projectile, uncontrollable variety. At about noon I called my husband in tears, mainly because I knew I didn't want to leave our little girl when she was this sick and so miserable and partially because I felt guilty because I was going to make us miss this amazing weekend my husband had planned.

Luckily, before I had to say it, my husband suggested we make the long weekend a staycation and let the little one recuperate. Then one day, say, when she was 17 year old, we'd just hold this over her.

What we thought was the stomach flu lasted a mere 24 hours and by the next day, our little one was acting like her old self again and starving. She visited her doctor for precaution, where we got the go-ahead to feed her the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet and to keep pushing liquids.

We thought we'd made it through the storm. Boy, were we wrong.

For the next week-and-a-half, our daughter would randomly wake up in the middle of the night every three nights or so and throw up once. Actually, I lied, she wouldn't even wake up, she'd just sit up and vomit, then fall right back asleep.

We were baffled. She had no fever, acted fine during the day, held down the majority of her food and didn't have loose stools. What on Earth was going on.

Naturally, we called the doctor. Because our daughter wasn't running a fever, acting sick OR losing her appetite, they told us there could be a couple different culprits: her stomach could still be trying to return to normal, her two-year molars were causing excess saliva and making her gag (she has an INCREDIBLY sensitive gag reflex, yay us) or she could be having a little bit of reflux. The told us to curb feeding her two hours before bedtime and to cool it with any acidic foods or fruit. Check and check.

Again, we thought we were in the clear, so off we went to Hilton Head for our big family vegan vacation. Our best friends and their daughter even accompanied us. The first two days seemed to be moving flawlessly and then, Sunday night happened. Our little girl had a busy day at the pool and the beach, she fell asleep around 10 p.m. that night on the couch while we all watched a movie. And sure enough, two hours later, she sat up in her sleep and SERIOUSLY projectile vomited. We're not talking throw up here, folks, we're talking vomiting worthy of "The Exorcist." This time though, she didn't fall back asleep. This time, she started crying and saying her tummy hurt.

We took her to the E.R. Sure, we battled with whether we were overreacting, but ultimately we decided that we'd rather find out we were being too careful than wait a few days and find out something was seriously wrong. They ran tests, did an x-ray, cathed her and took stool samples. She ended up having a partial bowel obstruction, something the E.R. doctors attributed to her swollen intestines from having the stomach flu. We were supposed to give her a liquid diet and some medicine for nausea. They'd call us if the tests showed anything else.

For the next four days, our little girl was herself again (albeit a bit crabby from not eating). And on the eve of our last night in Hilton Head, just as we were getting ready for our fancy dinner out, the E.R. doctor called to let me know the culture grown from our daughter's stool showed bacteria consistent with salmonella.

Our daughter, our vegan, has never had a bite of raw, undercooked or cooked meat in her life, had salmonella poisoning. Because she was feeling better, he didn't want to prescribe antibiotics, we were supposed to just monitor her and if symptoms returned follow-up with our regular doctor when we got home.

On our way home, it returned. The puking and the pooping, and after three weeks of this, I was so ready to have myself committed and my daughter hospitalized, because I just wanted her better. Luckily, her doctor didn't bother with more tests and put her on a dose of Amoxicillin that Monday morning. Thankfully, we've gone 12 days without any pooping our puking episodes, but it doesn't stop me from worrying that it's going to make a comeback.

To be honest, I doubted it was ever the stomach flu to begin with. Pear had been around far too many people for it to not have rubbed off on someone else: from her grandparents, our close friends, me, her own mother with my pregnant, compromised immune system, to an infant. Surely if this was the world's longest stint of stomach flu, someone else would have caught it.

A few days after Pearyn was diagnosed, a story hit the news about every state around us (and eventually our state as well) being hit with salmonella poisoning.

From CANTALOUPE.

Pardon my language, but fucking CANTALOUPE.

Turns out, there have actually been 15 salmonella outbreaks from cantaloupe in the last 17 years, who would have thought.

I surely didn't, because I was still under the assumption that salmonella grew from undercooked poultry, eggs and raw dairy. Unfortunately, it's easily, easily, EASILY spread to fruits, vegetables and even common surfaces, like cutting boards, counters and grocery store carts.

We shopped at one of the stores that had the recalled cantaloupe, I can't remember be 100% certain that she ate it from there that day, but at this point it's what her doctor and we suspect. It's the one fruit that no one else in our family eats, let alone touches, so the only place she ever gets to have it is at the grocery store when it's cut up for samples.

Just when I thought vegan cookie dough was safe ... I can't help but think again.

8.22.2012

No one ever said this would be easy ...

It's still too early for count downs. I am officially 23 weeks pregnant and have more weeks behind me than ahead of me, it's still so far away that I don't feel much comfort yet.

In fact, I'm slowly starting to remember all that's ahead of me and I'm starting to worry. A lot.

For some reason I always thought any subsequent pregnancies to my first would be easier. (Not that pregnancy is ever easy, don't get me wrong, it's more than worth it). Generally, when you've "been there, done that" with something it makes it less scary, easier to complete and you usually feel better because you're more informed.

When it comes to pregnancy, I'm not sure it ever gets easier. If anything, I think with more knowledge comes more anxiety, at least that's how it's been in my case. This pregnancy has been a less than smooth ride, from bleeding to my placenta being in the wrong spot to all the problems I create in my own head. I dread doctor's appointments because I'm afraid my blood levels won't be reasonable,  I won't be measuring correctly or worse, I'll be gaining weight too rapidly.

I have very supportive doctors and midwives. Even during my first pregnancy when I gained my roughly 17 pounds they had never restricted me, it was more the weight class I'd put myself in. I figured I was overweight to begin with (albeit not necessarily obese), so my weight gain should be reasonable. This time around, I started out about 10-15lbs lighter than with Pearyn (I guess those early morning workouts had been paying off), so I know I have wiggle room, but it doesn't ease my conscience when I step on that scale.

It's not even a body image thing so much (which is strange, because it usually is), more a health thing I worry about. I don't want to gain so much weight that once I pop this big boy out I don't feel active enough to actually enjoy him and my daughter. I don't want to be so out of shape that I get out of breath walking up a flight of stairs. I'm not silly, I realize I'll need plenty of time for my body to recover, but in the months that follow that I worry so much about not being able to keep up with the ebb and flow of life with a toddler and newborn. I know, you probably think I'm being completely neurotic and self-involved, but I figure I've got to fit it in now because come December I won't have any time to self loathe.

I'm trying to do all the things you're supposed to do to make yourself feel better about getting gigantic. I give myself fun manicures, I spend too much money on shampoo and I try to make myself feel pretty. I try to eat healthy, but even that has it's limits because to be completely honest, it seems like all this baby wants to do is eat a crap load and punch me. I'm serious, the worst thing I'm dealing with lately is nausea, and not your run-of-the-mill morning sickness, but this sweeping kind that overtakes me every two hours because I haven't stuffed my face. I won't even be hungry, but I'll feel like I'm going to throw up, so if I have a light snack or small meal it goes away. Eating has lost so much of it's luster because I feel like I'm eating to not throw up nowadays.

And because of my silly placenta growing too close to my cervix, I'm not allowed to go back to running or spin class. I'm allowed to walk, but I know ultimately it doesn't even put a dent in the garbage disposal I've become.

With Pearyn I craved pancakes and slushies, with this one, I crave the entire contents of my grocery store's shelves, Heaven forbid I ever get pregnant again because I might eat everything in the entire United States.

I'm overjoyed to have what we believe is a healthy baby boy, I'm thrilled that things have progressed so well that I'm starting to actually look pregnant and not just fat, but at the end of the day, I'm really, really afraid of losing myself.

Strike that, I'm actually most afraid of losing my belly button. Which, I'm pretty sure is going to happen as I still have AT LEAST 17 weeks and it's already become super shallow.

I'm going to go mourn my belly button over a grilled (Daiya) cheese and tempeh sandwich.

8.17.2012

No bake thin mint bars for the busy sweet addict

While I'm a pretty big fan of minty things, when it comes time for dessert, I usually like my sweets to taste over-the-top, sugar-coursing-through-my-veins sweet. So it's safe to say I wasn't exactly a thin mint addict when I was in Girl Scouts.

Every great once and a while, however (namely, when I'm pregnant and slushies and pancakes have lost their magic with me), I get a seriously strong, have-to-have-it-now craving for some kind of minty dessert. Normally, some coconut chocolate chip ice cream will do it for me. Lately though, Baby B has been demanding something with a little more effort.

So one day while I was trolling on Pinterest, I came across a recipe from a Tollhouse chocolate chip bag for creamy, no bake thin mint bars. After looking at the ingredients, I figured it was worth a shot as I actually had them ALL on hand (for once).

While I didn't intend to, I did end up veering off the original recipe some, mainly because I didn't see anyway my mint filling was going to set like the creamy goodness they showed in the photo.

I was tempted to double the recipe and make a thicker batch, seeing as how if I was going to the trouble of making said dessert I might as well get the most out of it, but I got lazy and didn't. And boy am I glad I didn't because these bad boys, albeit delicious, are seriously chocolaty and seriously minty.
Don't say I didn't warn you!

No Bake Thin Mint Bars
(Makes one 9X9 pan)

Ingredients: 
2 sticks butter
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 block silken tofu
2 cups chocolate chips
2 cups crushed up chocolate graham crackers
1/4 cup almond milk
1 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 drops natural green food coloring

Directions:
Smash up your chocolate graham crackers in a ziplock baggie. While you're smashing those up, melt 1/3 cup chocolate chips and 1/3 cup butter in the microwave for 30 seconds (or until chocolate chips are almost melty). Mix everything together in a small bowl and then press into the bottom of a greased, 9X9 square pan. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

In a bowl, mix together 1/3 cup butter, 1/3 cup tofu, 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 tsp peppermint extract and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Add in powdered sugar and beat using a hand mixer until fluffy, but creamy. Add green food coloring.Take your crust layer out of the fridge and spread the mint layer over the crust.

In a microwave-safe bowl, mix together the rest of the butter, chocolate chips and 1/2 tsp peppermint extract and melt for 45 seconds (or until chips begin to melt). Stir together until smooth. Pour on top of mint layer and carefully spread with spoon or knife.

Let this bad boy sit OVERNIGHT. Actually, you can let it sit for a whopping hour and cut into it, the mint layer just won't be quite set (as mine above clearly was not, what can I say, I'm pregnant, I need my sweets on the giddy up). I was happy to find it in perfect, creamy condition the next morning, however.

8.15.2012

Our gender reveal party: we're having a bouncing baby ...

BOY! It wasn't as shocking to me as I thought it would be. This whole pregnancy my husband and I were flip flopping between whether we were having a bundle of pink or blue and to be completely honest, we were both thinking pink up until our ultrasound.

And then we saw our active little baby bouncing around and eating his hand. Seriously, he was eating his hand A LOT. And although he did his best to cover up the goods, our ultrasound tech was able to catch a peek at what WAS most definitely between his legs.

We didn't find out what we were having right then, that would have been far too simple. Instead, we had him seal the evidence in a big yellow envelop and delivered it to my cousin who was in charge of baking a simple pink or blue cake for us, at a simple gender reveal party with close family and friends. So when our ultrasound tech told us he was surfing through the land of genitalia, we both covered our eyes and looked away, although I think we both secretly knew anyway.

I say it was the baby's eyebrow bone that did it for me, my husband swears it was how active and opposite this baby was to our daughter, but somehow, at the end of the ultrasound we both went from team pink to a strong team blue feeling. Our two-year-old daughter insisted (and still does that it was a girl in there. Boy is she in for a surprise!)

The party was more than I ever could have asked for, and instead of just cutting into a cake and finding pink or blue, we found both. What a sneaky, tricky family we have. (Mad props to my cousin for baking this vegan bad boy!) We ended up going through a scavenger hunt to find out what we were going to be having, one that included silly string, old wives tales, pink and blue balloons and so much more. My cousin even convinced everyone that came to wear either blue or pink, as a vote for what they thought we were having. It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that most of the family and friends wore blue. A few were supportive of the fact that I was afraid I'd have a breakdown if I found out I was having a little boy (I think they're wonderful, I'm just afraid I'm going to be a terrible mother to a boy), so their sensitivity didn't go unnoticed. The baby's sex was finally revealed Chinese lantern style. We gathered around and allowed our little girl to pull the string and shake confetti everywhere. And surprise, it was filled with bright, baby blue confetti. I felt like crying and giggling all at the same time. This baby was going to be different and that was something to look forward to.

There's a large part of me that is still sad I won't get to see all of the beloved clothes I saved from Pearyn's babyhood on the next wee one we welcome. (It just might be enough to convince me to try to convince my husband to have a third, I guess we'll see). But I'm excited to welcome a little boy into the family, mainly because my husband is such a phenomenal husband, father and man, that I can't wait for him to show our little boy exactly what it means to be all of those things. Seriously, the world will be a much better place with one more man like the one I married, even if I do complain about how lenient he can be with our daughter and how much he spoils the women in his life.

All and all the ultrasound showed an incredibly healthy, bouncing, big baby boy, with a due date of December 20. Just think, if we go five days late like I did with Pearyn we'll be welcoming a serious Christmas baby. At 20 weeks he was already weighing in at 13 ounces, which is what I'll now blame the extra weight I've gained this pregnancy on. During this time with Pearyn I'd only gained about five pounds, but with Baby B I've already gained about nine. It may not seem like a big deal to most, but I've always been a bit on the thick side, so I really just want to remain healthy and healthy-feeling throughout delivery.

While Baby B cooperated beautifully, my body didn't quite as much. We have to go back for another ultrasound because my silly placenta has decided to locate far too close to my cervix. It's not super dangerous, but it's not exactly something desirable either. The doctors will keep monitoring it and we'll keep our fingers crossed that it'll migrate its merry way up my uterine wall.

All and all, we're excited, nervous and still reeling from the news. I'm just now getting used to referring to the baby as a he, him and boy, not an it. It's hard to believe that we're just a few days shy of four months away, a timeline that makes me feel overwhelmingly pumped and unprepared.

So I've been a bit MIA for the last month, we've had so much going on in our household, from a cancelled trip to New York (due to what we thought was just the stomach flu that hit our daughter), to our gender party, to a trip to Hilton Head with our best friends (that also included a trip to the ER for our daughter), to her being diagnosed with salmonella poisoning and just getting treatment nearly three weeks after it started.

Oh and there's all my pregnancy hormonal meltdowns thrown in there too, for good measure. I look forward to updating you all on the soap opera that our life has been these last three weeks, so bear with me while I get around to catching everyone up.

And once again, thank you for your kind wishes, words and support throughout this new journey.

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