0

Killer Quinoa Salad

photo 2I have this Food Network quinoa salad recipe that I’ve been making for years. I’ve tweaked the original recipe to suit my own tastes so I don’t go by measurements when making it anymore. People often ask me for the recipe so naturally I go online to try and track down the original recipe with its measurements.

But a couple of years ago when I was trying to dig up the online recipe to give to a friend, my web search came up empty. The recipe and the Food Network show it came from had vanished from cyberspace. I then googled the name of the food Network chef whose recipe it was and found out why the recipe had been wiped from cyberspace. 

Juan-Carlos Cruz, the former host of Food Network’s Calorie Commando was sentenced to nine years in prison for trying to hire two homeless men to murder his wife.

Thankfully the men went to the police instead of taking Cruz up on his 1000$ offer.

I am not one to make light of domestic violence – nor attempted murder but as justice was served in this case, I’m posting my version of the “Convict Commando’s” recipe and aptly re-naming it Killer Quinoa Salad.

Killer Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

1-cup quinoa (cooked according to packaging instructions)
2-3 green Onions chopped
1 handful + of dried cranberries
1 handful + of toasted and chopped walnuts and/or almonds
1 cup of green beans or asparagus chopped and blanched
¼ cup Olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Cook quinoa according to packaging instructions (I add 1 cup of dried quinoa to 2 cups water and boil in saucepan on the stove until the water is completely absorbed/evaporated) – let cool to room temp.

Mix all the other ingredients together in a large salad bowl and fold in the quinoa.

Let sit in the refrigerator for at least ½ hour for flavour to soak-in to quinoa.

Taste the salad and asjust olive oil & vinegar as needed.

0

Organizing the Chaos: Create a Baby binder.

When it comes to work, my files, projects, and papers are ordered and systemized with military precision…but I have to admit I’m not the most organized person on the homefront.

Besides, has anyone ever looked back at life and regretted not keeping a neater home (Hells no!) My philosophy is not to let life pass you by while you’re vacuuming (this is why I bought a Roomba). As a general rule I clean enough to keep a healthy and presentable home…but choose to live life rather than clean it. (Plus anytime I invite my mother over, she takes it upon herself to scrub, clean or dust anything she feels is sub-par – which is basically everything!) This used to drive me absolutely crazy. But when “Dr. Strangely-loves-to-clean” comes for a visit I’ve learnt to stop worrying and love the Mom.

Before Sweet Pea was born I knew things at home were going to get a little crazy so I decided to bring some of my work-life organization skills home. This included making a Baby Binder – a great way to keep all the baby’s papers, medial documents, schedules, recipes, keepsakes and thank-you card lists organized and close at hand.

In those sleep-deprived first weeks when you’ve got tons of hospital, doctor and government paperwork to deal with, gifts to keep track of, appointments to make and feedings to log, this binder comes in really handy!

What you’ll need:

A binder

Tab dividers (I used large ones for the major categories and smaller tabs to divide items within a category – see below) Here’s a great site for free tab and label printables

Sheet protectors (good for holding official docs, brochures or other items you want to keep in the binder)

Plastic ring binder envelopes or zip pockets (good for holding blank thank-you cards, vaccine books, keepsakes etc…)

Table of Contents:

Here is the table of contents I came up with for my binder – (I admit, a lot of this was overkill – but it will come in handy eventually) You can expand or contract this list to fit your own family’s needs. You can also take each section and make it into a series of smaller baby binders. To make things easy, I’ve included links to where I found free printables that you can use…I’ll also add free downloads of some of the sheets I created custom graphics for – feel free to use them for your own binders.

Contact Info: 
This section includes a series of lists such as: Emergency Contact Info (info-sante, poison control etc.), Family Contact Info and Babysitter Contact Information. Here are some free and stylish contact lists that you can fill out and print.

Baby Care Logs: 
This section includes things such as: A Baby Care tracker (We took this to the hospital with us and used religiously the first couple of weeks to track our baby’s eating, diapering and sleeping until Sweet Pea regained his birth weight.) You can also include items such as a Pumping Log and Solid Food Log for once you start introducing foods and need to take note of any allergies or adverse reactions to foods.

Medical Info: 
In this section I put things like my insurance information, Baby’s vaccine book, medicare card, Doctor’s visit log, Immunization/medical records, a growth tracker, tooth chart and medication log. (I take this section out of the binder and with me to all medical appointments)

You can find various medical log printables in these places:

http://www.printablebabyplanner.com/preview/Medication_Log

http://www.freeprintablemedicalforms.com/category/children

http://alphamom.com/parenting/baby/keeping-track-of-baby-teeth/

Caregiver Info: 
This section won’t likely be needed until later – but it is a place for eventual babysitters or the daycare. In this section I added babysitter notes for us to put any info the sitter would need, While you were out notes for the caregiver to report anything back to us, baby favourites list where we can list songs, toys, food or activities Sweet Pea likes to make things easier for caregivers, a morning routine list and bedtime routine list.

Recipes: This section is pretty self-explanatory. I keep my crock pot freezer recipes here, baby food recipes for once Sweet Pea begins solids, and organic Baby Product Recipes here.

Baby travel: 
Here you can keep things like baby’s passport handy and well as packing checklists for the suitcase or diaper bag so you don’t forget anything vital when leaving home

Milestones and Keepsakes:
Here I placed a baby’s firsts log sheet to note when the little one hits certain milestones (sleeps through the nighs, turns over, takes first steps etc…) I also included a zip pocket for various keepsakes (hospital bracelets, first lock of hair, ultrasound pics etc…)

Important Docs:
Here you could put things like government docs (Social insurance card, Birth Certificate), Maternity leave documentation, or daycare wait list info.

Miscellaneous section:
This was kind of a catch-all for anything that didn’t warrant its own section. I put a baby gift log here so I could keep track of who gave what and who I needed to send thank-you cards to. Manuals and warranties for the baby car seat, stroller etc., a website password log for all the baby-related sites I signed up for, a lullaby cheat sheet, baby coupons etc…

Another great idea is to put pens, scissors, tape, markers, glue, etc. in a zip pocket at the front of the binder so these things are always close at hand. I also have a monthly calendar placed at the beginning of my binder so I can see any upcoming baby appointments or events at a glance.

Anyway, there is also lots of online inspiration for creating your own baby binder. You can purchase adorable graphic templates on places like Etsy. Pintrest is also a great ways to source free binder printables. And tons of helpful blogs that offer free downloads of family binder sheets or talk about how they organize their baby binders.

If you’ve got a couple moments before the craziness begins, a baby binder will help you stay organized amidst the chaos.

0

Long Live Brunch

Easy High Tea Scones

Easy High Tea Scones

One of my favourite things to do is host weekend brunches with friends. I’ve got a couple go-to recipes I can whip up in my sleep that make brunch super easy.

My aunt gave me this super easy scone recipe that I’ve been using for years. I tweaked a couple of things like adding less sugar (to make them slightly more healthy) and adding more milk so I can just drop the dough on the cookie sheet instead of rolling it out.

Below is my tweaked version of the recipe. I like to make a batch of sweet and a batch of savoury ones to satisfy everyone’s tastes. These are a hit at brunch – and also a great way of pleasing your colleagues as work.

Plus now that Sweet Pea is here and my time is very limited – I can still whip these up during naptime – so long live hosting brunch!

Easy High Tea Scones (makes 14)

Ingredients Scone Base

3 cups all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar (If you have a sweeter tooth you can add ½ cup of sugar)
5 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup margarine or butter (for drop-scones I like to use margarine or room temperature butter – easier to cut into flour)
1 egg slightly beaten
1 ¼ cup of milk (for rolled scones only add 1 cup of milk so dough is thicker)

Cranberry Lemon (Ginger) scones (add to scone base)

1-2 handfuls of dried cranberries
Zests of 1-2 lemons
**Option to add ¼ cup of diced candied ginger

Rosemary Cheddar Scones (add to scone base)

1-1.5 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1-2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (can also used dried)
***Optional brush-on glaze: 1 tsp. garlic powder combined with 1-2 tbsp. of melted butter (brush scones before going into the oven)

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2) Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl

photo 13) Cut in margarine or butter (a pastry cutter makes this super easy – if you don’t have one, you can use 2 knives or your hands)

 

photo 34) Add milk to slightly beaten egg and stir into dry ingredients. Your base dough is done. You can simply bake this up and serve with an icing sugar glaze, lemon curd or clotted cream & jam…or you can add your own flavourings to the base dough…

photo 3photo 15) Stir in flavour ingredients (I’ve listed the flavours I usually make – but you can experiment with anything here: lemon & poppy seed, currants, blueberries, sour cream & chives etc… the possibilities are endless.

photo 2photo 56) Drop scones onto a greased cookie sheet (they puff up quite a bit so each scone should be approximately 1/3 cup in size) – if you are doing the rolled-scone version, roll dough out onto a floured surface so it’s about an inch thick and use a cookie cutter or glass to cut out circles that you’ll place on the cookie sheet.

7) Bake in oven for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Enjoy!

4

4AM Feeding on Baby Island

Secluded, dim and calming – like the waves from my white noise machine, I’ve been adrift on Baby Island for 5 weeks now. It can be a lonely place, where the days float by but minutes also last an eternity.

Sleep, eat, poo, repeat. The rhythm of my day.

Blurred naps in between.

Trying to catch my breath before the next wave engulfs me.
The riptide both terrifying and overflowing with joy.

Diapers and spit-up the landscape of this withdrawn place.

From the outside it seems like a prison.
But one smile – and I know I’m home.

1

Don’t bring two babies to the Mom & Tots Group!

photo 4In our area we have a local nurse who visits you soon after taking baby home. The nurse checks to make sure the baby is gaining weight, gives advice and helps to ease first-time parents’ jitters and concerns.

My husband, an admitted hypochondriac, was full-on into his “protective-sleep-deprived-nesting-father” phase and loved the nurse visits because he could ask her about every disease, infection, or affliction he was convinced our baby had somehow contracted. He could show her the baby feeding and pooing log we kept to make sure our baby was feeding properly and even saved soiled diapers for her to examine – “Is this the right colour poo?” Anyone who has been a first time parent can likely relate.

To be fair, my husband’s excessive hypochondrium was coming from a good place. At the time of Sweet Pea’s birth, he had a work contract three time zones away and would only be around for the first week before leaving on a 3-week work stint. So he was trying to cram-in as much fatherly love as possible into 7 short days.

Recognizing my husband as a very eager father, the nurse suggested he attend the first meeting of the local mom & tots group that was set to start when he came back to town.

Fast-forward three weeks and my husband is finally home for another week off. So off we go to the Mom & Tots Group – me thinking what a great opportunity for Dad to bond more with Sweet Pea and for me to meet other local mothers who understood the daily issues I would be facing.

This is the point where a “great idea” goes terribly wrong…

Just as the group was getting started Sweet Pea decides to throw a screaming and crying fit. We rocked and tried to calm him as our rather “new-agey” group animator demonstrated a series of baby exercises to the tune of lullaby music and talked about how the space was “non-judgemental” and we should all let our babies “be who they will be” (read: we hear your baby screaming…but will pretend that it doesn’t bother us and that we don’t think you are terrible parents)

Sweet Pea could not be calmed so we figured he must need a diaper change. We proceeded to get out our portable baby-changing mat as the group progressed to the “introduce yourself and your baby” phase. As each mom introduced their angelically silent and happy baby, Sweet Pea’s cries got increasingly intense while my husband spent what felt like hours rooting around our diaper bag for the ever-important Purell to clean his own hands for the imminent staph infection he would no doubt infect the little one with if, god-forbid, he change a dirty diaper with hands that had not first been sanitized of the potential germs he had contracted on the three-block walk over to the mom & tots group.

When it was our turn to make introductions I did so over my husbands no-so-hushed comments about how our little one would no doubt pee everywhere because we forgot to put the “pee-pee tee-pee” in our diaper bag.

The diaper change failed to console Sweet Pea so I proceeded to breast feed him and was finally able to lull him to sleep on the play mat. Phew crisis solved just as the group moved onto “sharing-time” where mothers would talk about their anxieties of getting babies to sleep or the importance of having supportive partners etc. It was at this opportune time that my husband also decided to fall asleep in the dimly lit room. So there I sat with one baby sleeping before me on the play mat and my other “big baby” snoring away on my shoulder as the moms continued to “non-judge” me in their sharing circle.

By the time the group animator moved onto the “recognizing baby facial expressions” part of the programming, hubby finally decided to awake from his slumber and proceeded to make not-so-silent comments about how the group meeting was too long/boring and how the topics being covered were irrelevant for such young babies. Had he actually been awake during the part where they passed around photos of the various facial expressions he might of recognized the look on my face as the “shut the f%$#k up” look.

Group time was finally over and off we went back home. The biggest take away I got from the whole experience being don’t bring two babies to the Mom & Tots Group!

2

DIY organic baby products – if you can make Kraft Dinner, you can make this!

photo 3Admittedly I am a first time mother and, like all new parents, my husband and I are probably a bit over protective of Sweet Pea.

If we do have another baby I’m sure we’ll allow our second child to lick the floor, sleep with our cats, and spend all day in a dirty diaper…but for the moment, at least, we’re your stereotypical over-protective, over-eager & over-tired parents.

With all the “how to be paranoid while expecting” type books and articles on the web, can you really blame us!

Before Sweet Pea was born, I did a lot of online research into making your own organic baby products. We had read all sorts of articles about the dangers of chemicals in baby wipes, diaper rash cream and detergents, plus we had also spoken to many of our friends whose little ones got severe diaper rashes from the perfumes and synthetic substances in the various store-bought baby products placed upon their skin.

(Cue the eye-rolling here…) Yes I know that we all grew up and survived just fine when our moms used these products on us, but they also used to prescribe Lysol for douching – just because something was done in the past doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best choice now. I am also not claiming to be an organic zealot – yes my baby will someday come into contact with store-bought shampoo, regular baby wipes, and your everyday diaper rash cream… but if I can find an easy way to make healthier products for my child why not!

My desire to make my own organic baby products was two fold.

1) I was concerned about the chemicals we’d be exposing our baby to

2) I’m rather cheap and can’t necessarily afford trendy organic products at the health food store

After finding some simple online baby product recipes, making a few tweaks of my own, sourcing economical places to purchase the supplies and containers, I whipped up a batch of Diaper Rash Cream, Foaming Baby Wash/Shampoo, and Baby oil.

Coop Coco is where I soured most of my ingredients – they sell organic soap making materials in bulk and ship all over Canada. Plus they have a storefront if you’re local. Many of their prices were cheaper than my local health food stores. I love this place!

I got the coconut oil from the grocery store (I found it was cheaper there than any health food place) and most of my bottle & glass jars are from the dollar store. So are the labels I put on the jars – but these are really not needed.

The ingredients and supplies cost me around 60$ – but I’ve got enough diaper cream to last 5 months and enough supplies for baby wash and oil for at least a year – so I think it was money well spent.

A Month in, I’m happy to report that even while sleep deprived, I’ve easily whipped up my second batch of Baby Wash, the Diaper Rash Cream is working, and my little one loves the calming Baby Oil I apply after his bath.

So here are the recipes and methods I used.

photo 1DIAPER RASH CREAM

  • 1 cup shea butter
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp beeswax pellets (if you can’t get pellets just melt a natural beeswax candle)
  • 3 tbsp Zinc Oxide (Some people have issues using this ingredient, but I did a lot of research and felt that it’s moisture repelling properties were needed) – you can omit this if you’d like – especially if you are using cloth diapers.
  • 15 drops Lavender essential oil (optional) (I also used this to make padsicles – so it’s worth investing in a bottle)

Directions:

1) Clean & dry your cream containers. (I used dollar store glass jars, but you could use mini jam mason jars, or Tupperware containers – anything with a well-sealing lid. Keep in mind that the cream sets thick – like a pomade, so you need to place it in a wide mouthed container as opposed to a squeeze one. The recipe filled 5 of my small jars.)

photo 22) Melt Shea butter, coconut oil, and beeswax in bowl placed above a pot of hot water (double boiler). It should only take a couple minutes for everything to melt together.

 

photo 33) Add the zinc oxide to the bowl and mix with a hand blender/mixer for several minutes until the powder is completely incorporated with no clumps.

4) Add 15 drops lavender essential oil and mix to incorporate.

photo 45) Pour mixture into containers and allow to set.

*** Zinc oxide is water repellent so as soon as you’re done pouring your mixture into jars, you’ll want to wipe down your bowl/mixer with paper towels and wash right away.

photo 2FOAMING BABY WASH / SHAMPOO

I used this simple online recipe you could also  add 3-5 drops of Lavender and/or Orange essential oils to the wash.

The recipe calls for distilled water to prolong the shelf life of the Baby Wash. In the first couple of weeks I used this soap for diaper changes so I went through quite a bit of it. My next batch I’ll probably just used regular water and eliminate the distilling step.

This was a useful link for distilling my own water.

photo 1BABY OIL

  • 6 oz Coconut Oil
  • 10 drops Lavender essential oil

Directions:

1) Clean and dry your containers. (I used dollar store travel shampoo bottles.)

2) If needed melt your coconut oil – then pour into container.

3) Add lavender drops and shake bottle to incorporate.

**Depending on the coconut oil you use, the oil sometimes solidifies. I just soak the bottle in a bowl of hot water while I’m bathing my little one – so the oil is ready to go for the after-bath massage.

I haven’t yet ventured to make my own wipes (I bought a boat load of these rather pricey organic ones)…but there are a ton of online resources for making these too so maybe I’ll give it a try.

3

My Crockpot saved my life…

crock pot freezer meal food stash

crock pot freezer meal food stash

My latest work contract ended a couple of months before my due date and although my finances certainly took a hit, I was able to really clean and organize the house for the arrival of Sweet Pea – which in retrospect was time really well spent.

Of all the things I organized or prepared, easy to cook meals were by far the most useful and life-saving thing I did ahead of time. I know that some people throw “casserole” baby showers where each guest cooks the mom-to-be a casserole that she can keep handy in her freezer, but I was having an August baby and the thought of turning on the oven to cook dinner each night was frankly too hot to handle. The solution: prepare freezer meals that could be cooked in a crock-pot.

I won’t take much credit here other than to say that I actually did all the legwork to prepare a month’s worth of freezer meals – and when Sweet Pea arrived and things got crazy in our household boy was I glad that I did! All we had to do each day was pop a block of frozen meal into the crock, put it on low and 5 to 8 hours later we had a home cooked meal.photo 5

Most of the recipes I used came from http://whoneedsacape.com/ an awesome website that has a whole collection of crock pot freezer recipes. What I liked most about the site was that they also give you, pre-prepared grocery lists for all the meals so you can buy and prepare everything at once.

I mostly stuck to the 20 meals in 2 hours recipe list because I’ve got a small freezer but they’ve also got a list of 40 meals in 4 hours, 30 summer meals or 7 meals in an hour that I’m sure are equally great. I put each meal into a freezer zip lock bag, wrote the date, recipe name and instructions on the bag, and stacked them flat, one on top of the other in the freezer compartment of my fridge.

photo 3

Not all the meals are h aute cuisine or dinner-party worthy but they’ll certainly satisfy for family dinner and are much better than ordering out for pizza every night, which I would have ended up doing when newborn sleep deprivation set in.

My only warning is that if you are also shopping for your ingredients the same day, 20 meals takes more like 6 hours. Sounds like a lot of time yes, but believe me when life gets crazy, these meals are a life saver!