Monday, March 28, 2011

New Things

I'm trying to set a goal for myself of trying some new foods, more specifically some new vegetables. Honestly, even though we eat a lot of vegetables, I push my cart through the produce section of the grocery store and always grab my staples. Asparagus, broccoli, carrots, onions, garlic, spinach, peppers, mushrooms, sometimes cauliflower or cabbage or sweet potatoes, green onions, zucchini... all delicious and nutritious, but I sometimes feel the need to break out of my box a little bit and try something new. So this week, I grabbed a bag of baby bok choy. I've never tried bok choy before, but after watching this video on youtube, I felt pretty confident that I could try it. And you know what? It was delicious! I loved it! Cory's not home tonight but I'm pretty sure he'll like it too. Eli wouldn't touch it but I didn't push him too hard, he decided not to take a nap today after a 10 minute snooze in the car so he's a bit touchy. I'm giving him lots of space. That means toast for supper. Anyway, I was so pleased that it turned out to be so delicious and that excites me. What else is out there? What world of delicious vegetables am I missing out on? I'm going to make more of an effort, especially once the farmers markets are open for the summer, to try some different things that I might not have thought of before.

After supper tonight I had a serious craving for ice cream (which is why I don't keep it in the house!), so I decided to do battle with my blender and make myself a mango lassi. My blender leaks terribly, which is why I almost never dig it out because it involves having to stuff paper towel all around the seal before using it. I asked for a new one for my birthday though (July) so I'm hoping I get that :) Anyway, the mango lassi is fantastic and very much satisfied my ice cream craving. Just frozen mango chunks, plain yogurt, honey and a squirt of lime juice. Thick and creamy and sweet. Perfect.

One last food related note: due to my blender's breakdown I no longer am able to make my favourite pancakes, but until I can start making those again I've been making a (very) adapted version of Pioneer Woman's sour cream pancakes, from her cookbook. I'm going to share it here, because I've changed the recipe enough that I don't think I'm breaking copyright or anything. I don't even think you CAN copyright a recipe actually. Anyway, here's what I do. We had these for breakfast this morning, yummy!

Whole Wheat Yogurt Pancakes
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
2/3 cup flour (whole wheat and/or spelt, I use a mixture)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat your skillet to medium and get out some butter for the pan. Place the yogurt, flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and stir together gently until just combined. Lumps are fine. In a seperate bowl or glass measuring cup, beat the eggs and vanilla with a fork. Add to the batter and stir very gently. It's ok if it's not completely combined and there's still some swirling. Using lots of butter in the pan, add by the 1/4 cup and cook 2-3 minutes per side. Keep warm in the oven while you make the rest. Makes about 10 pancakes. Serve with maple syrup.

I love this recipe because it includes plain yogurt (super good for you!), lots of eggs for protein, and no sugar or baking powder. I try to avoid baking powder if possible because of the aluminum and other chemicals in it.

I was going to write about things other than food, but I have a little boy to get into bed now. Another time...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Modern Medicine

Bear with me here: I'm going to take a few minutes to whine and complain about our health care system. Then it will be out of my system and I can go back to being grateful for free health care and modern technology.

When a woman is pregnant in New Brunswick, she is scheduled for an ultrasound to check on the baby some time in the range of 18-20 weeks. Except, in my case, I guess the doctor thought it would be more convenient for all concerned to just send me in a week or so early, to get it done before Christmas. Thinking that the doctor, of course, knew best, I went along with this plan. Showed up for my ultrasound, excited to find out the gender of the baby, only to be told once we got in that the doctor had scheduled me too early in the pregnancy and not only was it too early to find out the sex, but also several key factors of growth and development were still too tiny to be seen clearly and I would have to come back in a couple weeks. Ok, fine. What they didn't tell me was that my placenta was lying quite low in the uterus. While this is a problem that will normally correct itself, it is something that needs to be monitored because in the odd chance it doesn't fix itself, a C-section will be needed.

On to my second ultrasound - where I am still blissfully unaware of this placenta problem. Ultrasound goes well, we find out we're having another boy, technician tells us that everything looks great, we go home.

Meanwhile, I am now seeing the OB/GYN on a regular basis. I see her once or twice more after the ultrasound, where again she affirms that everything is great and doesn't breathe a word about low-lying placentas. Skip to a month ago, I go in for my routine appointment and she tells me that just by-the-way, I have a low placenta which they noticed at the first ultrasound, but decided not to tell me about because they figured it would be better by the second ultrasound, but it still wasn't quite clear so I'm going to have to go in for a third ultrasound.

Fast forward to today - ultrasound number three. In order to get there, I had to arrange for Eli to go to friends for the day, drive Cory into work, hang around town waiting for my appointment for two and a half hours, then torture myself by drinking copious amounts of water and holding it. I finally get there and get in, and the technician says "So... you're here to check on a low-lying placenta?" I responded in the affirmative, and she said "Haven't you had two ultrasounds already?" Again affirmative. "That's funny, according to my report the problem was fixed at the second ultrasound." I told her that wasn't what the obstetrician had said, and she said "Well, that's just what my report said, oh well we'll go ahead and double check anyway." She was very sweet and confirmed again that it definitely is a boy.

As far as ultrasounds go, the three that I've had this pregnancy at the Regional have all been positive experiences with kind technicians and a good system - as opposed to the ultrasound at St. Joe's last pregnancy which sucked - it's just ridiculous that they can't seem to get their act together. If the original doctor had just scheduled my appointment for the correct time, I would have avoided having the other two. If the hospital was close by and/or Cory's work schedule was more flexible it wouldn't be such a big deal, but it's a real pain to find someone to watch Eli, work out the car between us, Cory had to get time off for the first two to be with me (he didn't bother this time!), and it's almost an hour's drive from our house!

Anyway, I'm done whining. That's my story. Now I am going to be more positive and cheerful and just appreciate the doctors that I have. Even though they seem to be continually sending me for tests and blood work "just to check" when there is nothing wrong with me. If I could have a platform, it would be Pregnancy is not a Disease. 

But as my dear husband keeps reminding me, if something were to go wrong, it would be a huge blessing to have the system we have. "Modern medicine," despite its drawbacks, miscommunications and over-diagnosis, saves a lot of lives. I just have to put my foot down a little more about some of the unnecessary interventions.

And I'm done. Thankful for a healthy, growing, 3lb 13oz. baby boy in my belly. Thankful for God's blessing of a healthy pregnancy. And even thankful for doctors, despite my complaints.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cutest Moments

Today had two adorable, heart melting moments with Eli. He's growing up so fast!

The first one came when I walked into the living room and found him sitting in our blue armchair, flipping through his Jesus Storybook Bible and babbling away. This would seem pretty normal to anyone else, but you have to know that I keep that book on a high shelf where he can't reach it so that he won't destroy it, so for him to have it means he climbed up the armchair to get it, and also that Cory sits in the blue armchair with him every night and reads it to him. So essentially, he was doing his devotions all by himself. Too cute. He was very proud of himself. I still took it away from him and sent him off to find something else to do, five minutes later I found him playing with the stapler. Hint: that was not heart melting moment #2.

Heart melting moment #2 came while I was making dinner. We have a pot scrubber that he's discovered he can reach if I leave it too close to the edge of the sink (which I always seem to do) and I am constantly taking it away from him and reminding him not to touch it. In the meanwhile he manages to drip dirty dish water all over the floor. This happened again tonight, I disciplined him and put it out of reach, and he stood in the middle of the kitchen and wailed his little heart out for a few minutes. I continued making dinner. After a few minutes the wailing stopped, and I turned around to see that he had gotten the dishtowel off the oven door and was wiping up the water that he had dripped on the floor for me. This is the part where my heart melts. I've never even showed him how to wipe up water before, I've always just sighed and done it myself, but he must have picked it up from seeing me do it and thought that this would reconcile our relationship. It worked. I dropped everything and hugged and kissed him until he was thoroughly over-rewarded.



I realize that everyone thinks their child is the cutest in the world. I am no exception. I don't think I deceive myself into thinking that he is some sort of baby genius for figuring out how to wipe up the floor for me, but it's so neat to watch him grow and learn, and to see character traits develop in him. It blew me away that at the tender age of 18 months, he's able to see where he's gone wrong and attempt to correct it by himself, without being shown how. Watching a little person grow up has got to be one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had. I am so looking forward to the years and the surprises to come. And I can't wait for Baby Boy #2 to join our family and watch him grow too.
Only 10 more weeks now! Less if he's early like Eli was. Pregnancy update: back to the OB today. Another ultrasound tomorrow, apparently I had a slightly low placenta at the first ultrasound. This problem usually rectifies itself as the womb grows, they just want to double check and make sure it's out of the way so I'll be able to deliver normally. I'm not super worried about it yet, but I do want to avoid a c-section if at all possible. Not my idea of fun. I now weigh 155.2 lbs. I checked my baby book today and saw that I weighed 152 lbs at 30 weeks last pregnancy. That's great considering I started out this pregnancy 10 lbs heavier than I did last time. So I've gained less overall. I'm pleased with that. I could probably have gained even less if I could stop eating chocolate for 30 minutes. I don't get weird cravings in pregnancy, my sweet tooth just multiplies ten-fold. It's been nice being home this time around though, and making baked goods from whole wheat and honey instead of the KitKat Chunkies and Tim Horton's chocolate chip muffins I ate last time around. I've managed to stay away from those at least, even if I can't keep myself away from the chocolate chips. When I'm not pregnant, they just stay in the cupboard, I'm not even tempted. When I am pregnant? Look out chocolate chips.

And that's my update for today. My son and my pregnancy. Can you tell what my world revolves around these days?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Parenting

Oh parenting. Why is it such a guilt trip? Sometimes I wish I could be completely confident in my parenting, not worrying about whether or not I'm making the right decisions when it comes to discipline, scheduling, sleeping, eating, play time, etc. But then I think that if I really thought I had it all together, I would probably be even farther off base than I actually am.
Constant re-evaluating is good for the soul. I think that's what parenting by faith is all about. Sure I have certain ideas about certain subjects. I have my own opinion on what is permissible behavior in my child and what isn't. But I try to be open to God's leading as situations arise, and to rely on him to guide me even in little things.
After the time change I decided to try one nap a day again. It went pretty well yesterday and he's down for his one nap again today right now. This does, however, mean that by lunch time he's getting a little cranky. I was scrambling up some eggs for us for lunch today when he bumped his head or something in the dining room. I didn't see exactly what happened, but there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. I picked him up and cuddled him and he stopped wailing after about 30 seconds. This telling me that he wasn't really very hurt, I put him back down so I could finish the eggs and fix the rest of our lunch. He didn't take too kindly to this, the screams were renewed and he followed me around the kitchen as I tried to cook, wrapping himself around my legs so that every time I needed to move I had to detach him so he wouldn't be knocked over. Honestly? I felt like yelling at him. It was really frustrating, knowing that there was nothing whatsoever wrong with him except that he was cranky and felt like having his own way. But I took a deep breath, calmly detached him from my knees yet again and sat him in the corner. We haven't really done "time-out" yet, he's so far been too young to understand it at all so it would have been pretty ineffective, but the situation seemed to call for some corner time today. It worked great! No he didn't stop crying right away, if anything he cried louder, but he sat there for a few minutes until he stopped wailing, then got up and came back over to me. I gave him a hug and a few kisses, then went back to making lunch. The screams recommenced - back in the corner. This time it didn't take very long for him to stop crying, get up and get over himself. Peace again. I think "corner time" might become a more regular part of our discipline routine after today.
I've struggled since before he was one with knowing what to do with a screaming, angry baby who had no good reason to be upset except that the world wasn't revolving around him. There didn't seem to be much I could do with him but either ignore it, try to distract him or give in to him, none of which options were very effective. Now that he's 18 months, I'm hoping we can try to curb this before it gets too bad. Not that I'm naive enough to assume that I can simply correct this behavior before he's two and then never have to deal with it the rest of his life, he's a little sinner and selfishness will forever be a struggle, for me as well as him, but the screaming fits are what I'm hoping to at least minimize, if not eliminate totally.
In Baby #2 news, I continue to grow more massive by the day. I'm pretty sure this belly is a lot bigger than it was the first time around, and that's saying something. I've noticed the first few little signs of water retention around my ankles... ugh. I had elephant ankles with Eli, but that was in the middle of summer. Since this one is due to make an appearance in May, I'm hoping that the swelling won't get too bad since it won't be so hot. Also my hips have already started to spread and loosen with this one. I'll be 30 weeks on Friday, and I'm sure it did not happen this early with Eli. I'm praying that I avoid the extreme pain I had in my left hip at the end of the last pregnancy, when it was so bad I had to start walking with a cane. That was only for the week before he was born, but it was plenty long enough, and I didn't have a toddler to take care of back then. I spent the last couple weeks in and out of a cold bath tub with a good book when I was pregnant with him. That is no longer an option.

But enough blogging for now, I have to get a chicken in the oven for supper and try to straighten the house a little bit in these precious couple of nap time hours. We're leaving Eli with an official babysitter for the first time in his little life tonight. We've left him with grandparents or with families in the church before, but always at their house. Tonight we're putting him down and leaving babysitter in charge. Mind you, he'll be sound asleep and we'll be across the street at the church, and only (I hope!) for an hour or two, but it is just another milestone to record.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Another one that I must write down before I forget what I did. We love these spicy chocolate muffins, and the zucchini keeps them nice and moist. I've heard lots of people say that this is a good way to sneak in some vegetables, I'm a little dubious about this since I don't think zucchini has a TON of nutritional value, and there's only 1 cup in a dozen chocolate muffins. There are better ways to get your vegetables than hiding them in dessert, but these are awfully yummy, and sugar free and whole wheat (as always!). Cory served them to his men's Bible Study without telling them that they were healthy and they all loved them. That's the real test! Here's the recipe:

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
1/2 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
dash nutmeg
dash cloves
1 cup grated zucchini
optional:  1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (so not healthy, but soooo yummy)

Throw all the ingredients except the zucchini and chips into the stand mixer. Mix, then stir in zucchini and optional chocolate chips by hand. Drop by quarter cup into greased muffin tins (or lined with a cupcake paper, if you're lazy like me). Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. It's always 25 minutes for me. Makes a dozen muffins.

And for this one, don't skip the toothpick test. I usually just eyeball things to see if they're done, but these take a little more TLC to make sure you don't have raw batter in there.

A yummy, reasonably healthy treat great for a quick breakfast on the go, as a dessert for Cory's lunch, or a mid-afternoon snack with coffee. Yesterday Cory pulled one out, spooned Chocolate Pudding all over it and downed it. I take it as a compliment to my cooking!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tasty Kitchen

I love Pioneer Woman! I've blogged about her before, but I had to reiterate. I really, really love her website. I love "Confessions" - her random collections of thoughts about what's going on in her life. I love the recipes, the unashamed use of butter and cream in copious amounts. I love the step-by-step photos that show you how to go about making the recipe. For a newly married woman setting out to learn how to cook, this proved invaluable. I could cook when I got married, I wasn't really worried about it, but I've learned so much more from her website. A whole new world of ingredients that I had never tried, or techniques that I had never heard of. I grew up in a home where we didn't eat steak. Neither of my parents cared for it, so I never learned what a proper steak should look like, or how to cook one. This wasn't going to cut it when I married Cory. I had to learn to cook steak. Through some trial and error, and with PW's help, I can now cook a delicious, cooked-to-perfection, medium rare steak, just the way we like it.
Even though I'm not a picture taker myself, I love the photography section of her website. I usually skip on the tutorials, but I love looking at all the contest entry pictures, and I always enter the giveaways in hopes that if I DID have a good camera, I could learn to take good pictures.
I really appreciate the homeschooling blog. I am so excited to homeschool my boys when they get older, and it's good to have that blog to get me thinking about different issues that I haven't thought of yet.
And then there's Tasty Kitchen! I don't spend a ton of time on here, I always enter the giveaways (though I have yet to win), but it can be a good source for recipes as well. Today I'm sharing one of my all time favourites, this one for Chocolate Pudding. I just finished making a batch and it's chilling in the fridge. I can't wait to dig in! For once, here is a recipe that I don't have to tweak to make it healthier, it already is! Ok ok, I confess - I replace the cornstarch with arrowroot. But that's it! And for me, that's not a lot of tweaking! I just hate cornstarch... genetically modified hyper processed junk. Arrowroot is simply that, a root. Dried and ground up. No heat, no chemicals to extract anything, just natural goodness. And you can substitute it for cornstarch one to one, no need to mess with the rest of the recipe. I get mine at Bulk Barn.
Anyway, while you're checking out that pudding recipe, look at some of the other recipes that user "ericalea" has posted. She seems to be a girl after my own heart - natural sweeteners, good fats, whole wheat, etc. I already use her Favourite 100% Whole Wheat Bread recipe for all our bread, and I'm excited to try her recipes for pasta and pizza dough. I already make those things whole wheat anyway, but I always just take white flour recipes and replace with whole wheat. It might be nice to try a recipe that's actually designed to work with whole wheat!
I guess that's all I had to blog about today really. Eli has a slight cold, but it's only manifesting itself in his nose, poor kid. He seems to feel fine, but his nasal passages are a veritable faucet of lovely mucus. I've been calling him "Snot-Face Vail" since yesterday morning. He doesn't seem to mind.
He's starting to sort of say more words. We met with a speech language pathologist the other week, and while he is behind for his age, she really wasn't worried about it, and neither am I. His comprehension is just fine, I can say things like "Go to your room and pick up that shirt and put it in the laundry" and he will, it's just a matter of laziness I think. He's in no big hurry to talk since he can usually make himself understood by pointing and chirping. But in the past week he's started babbling non-stop, and even though he still mostly just says "Mama" and "Dada," I've discovered that those words have alternate meanings. "Mama" can mean just that, or it can mean "more" or "milk," while "Dada" can mean Daddy, or "dinosaur," or "dog." One of his favourite books to read is Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? and he likes the page where it says "dibble dibble dibble DOP!" so today when I was reading it to him I noticed that he was trying to say DOP like me. So cute! My personal favourite though is that he has started saying "HI!!!" very enthusiastically when Cory gets home from work. He throws his arms over his head, runs to the door and says HI! HI! over and over. Cory loves getting such an enthusiastic greeting. Who wouldn't?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chicken Spinach Lasagna

I wish sometimes that I were good at taking photos so I could include interesting pictures with my blog posts. But the truth is, all we have is a little Fujifilm point and shoot, and I'm not very good at using it to boot. So our pictures are all just so-so. This is hard when you have a little one that you are trying to snap pictures of, it's so hard to get him to smile or hold a cute pose and then just when you get the perfect cute smile or pose, that picture is blurry or dark.
But this is beyond the scope of what I actually mean to post about, the Chicken Spinach Lasagna I made last night. It was a big hit in our family and I'll definitely be making it again. There are lots of recipes out there on the internet for this, but they all called for cream of mushroom soup (which I don't keep in the house, too much corn starch and other junk!), and/or ricotta, which is wonderful stuff but I just didn't have any on hand. That being said, this recipe would probably be even yummier with a few layers of ricotta or cottage cheese in it too, just stir in a beaten egg, some parmesan and chopped herbs and you'd be good to go. But this is how I made it, and we all LOVED it. As always, all measurements are very approximate!

Chicken Spinach Lasagna
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 a head of broccoli
1/2 package mushrooms
Finely dice all vegetables and saute for a few minutes in olive oil, until soft...ish. 
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 egg, beaten
Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in flour, whisk constantly for 5 minutes until roux is slightly browned. Stir in milk, cream and broth. Continue whisking constantly until sauce starts to thicken. Temper the egg by slowly drizzling 1/4 of sauce into it while beating vigorously. Then pour egg mixture into sauce.
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy
1 1/2 cups cooked diced leftover chicken
Sauteed vegetables from above
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
Add to sauce and stir. 
12 whole wheat lasagna noodles
2 cups grated mozzerella
Fresh organic baby spinach

Now assemble! I don't cook the noodles ahead of time, lots of people do, but I've had more success just soaking them in cold water for 10-20 minutes while I get the rest of the lasagna ready. Easier that way too!
In a 9x13 casserole dish, layer 4 noodles, 1/3 of the sauce/veggie/chicken mixture, a generous layer of baby spinach, and 1 cup mozzerella. Repeat. Then layer 4 more noodles, the last of the sauce, and sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top. Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, remove the foil and bake 10 more minutes. Take it out of the oven and let it stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Very yummy and a big hit around these parts! Would have been even better if I'd had a salad to serve with it, but I didn't have any lettuce on hand. Please note that I write these recipes up as much for my own benefit as for others, since I like inventing meals but don't have a great memory and can never remember what I did the next time I want to cook something. Now I can look back the next time I have leftover chicken and remember what I did!