Hello Again…. (Simple Roasted Chicken)

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Okay so it’s been a while since I’ve posted but I’ve been meaning to get back to posting despite having my hands full with two very mobile babies.  Since my last post, the boys are now crawling, pulling up on furniture and cruising around the room.  We have been baby-proofing our house although we still have quite a bit to do.  And I am learning the hard way that they will get into everything you don’t want them to.  While changing a diaper I heard a man’s voice in the room behind me only to discover my other little guy can reach the center of the coffee table, grabbed the phone and re-dialed the dentist’s office….ooops!  Hahaha :)

 

Anyhow, to keep my sanity I have joined a local stay-at-home mom’s group and have been to and hosted a couple of baby and toddler play dates.  These are fun and a great way to network with other mothers.  Although, I admit it would be even nicer if there was a group with similar lifestyle and diet choices as our family.  I think there are a few within the group but I am still trying to figure out who is out there.

Well on to bigger and better things …. what’s for dinner?!?  Tonight we had one of my tried and true favorites, good old roasted chicken.  I buy organic chickens from Costco or the local farmer’s market when they have them.  Tonight I had a Costco Organic chicken and tried a new preparation method.  In the past I have roasted them on a bed of veggies (carrots, fennel bulb, onions, etc.) but tonight I wanted to cook the veggies I had (brussells sprouts) separately in rendered bacon fat from the weekend so I roasted the chicken plain and dry for one hour at 450.  The recipe was so simple I was skeptical but with 582 positive reviews I had to try it.

So I followed the recipe here:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/My-Favorite-Simple-Roast-Chicken-231348

I rinsed and thoroughly dried the chicken, placed it in a glass roasting dish, trussed and salted it with sea salt and stuck it in the oven for 1 hour at 450 degrees.  I did the Brussels sprouts at the same time in a different dish for the final 20 minutes with chopped bacon and 1 tbsp of reserved bacon grease . When I took the chicken out I placed it on the cutting board and scraped up the brown bits and added dried thyme (about 1 tsp) with the juice and basted the bird. I kept a few additional tablespoons of juice and set it on the table for dipping.  The juice and skin were very salty but are the perfect balance to the meat.  This was by far my favorite roasted chicken preparation – both for ease and taste of the meat.  This will be my go-to recipe from now on!

Served with Brussels sprouts and a salad with homemade honey-dijon dressing this was a perfect dinner, and my husband and the boys agreed!  The boys ate the chicken as fast as I could cut up and put the little bits on their trays.  Try it and let me know what you think…

Night Sleeping with Twins (our journey)

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I certainly am not an authority figure in parenting… in fact I am figuring this all out as I go.  I lost my mother when I was 18 and most of my friends and close family aren’t parents yet or are not that involved in my life.  So with a little trial-and-error, some reading (okay, my husband does most of that) and a lot of intuition we are getting by.

With regards to night sleep, we had the babies sleeping through the night starting at about 8-9 weeks.  I thought I was on top of the world.  I read Happiest Baby on the Block – Guide to Great Sleep and followed Dr. Karp’s instructions to the tee.  Here is a link to the book I’m talking about:

(My husband and I check books out of the library to save money so we didn’t actually purchase it but it is one of the few books that would be worth keeping around )

In any case, we started with the babies in the Arms Reach co-sleeper.  We initially bought one, then the pediatrician at the hospital where I gave birth told me never to let them sleep in the same crib and that scared me enough to make my husband go out and buy a second one our first day home.  But the babies would only sleep when snuggled together, so we ultimately let them sleep in the same co sleeper.  We would place them on opposite ends and they would both make their way to the middle to be touching.  Our bed was too high to sidecar the bassinets to the bed so we kept it as a stand-alone bassinet right next to the bed on my side.

The only thing from Dr. Karp’s book I didn’t do was wake the babies when we put them in the bassinet.  Dr. Karp suggests that parents should be encouraged to rock their baby to sleep as it is such a wonderful experience, but he does recommend jostling them just enough to wake them as you lay them in the bassinet.  This is so that they are aware that they are in the bassinet when they fall asleep and subsequently learn how to go to sleep on their own.  My husband and I would rock our boys to sleep, not because we had to, but because we loved to…. it just feels so natural.  And waking him when I put him in the crib felt so unnatural!   But this is the only thing we didn’t do from the book and things seemed on track up until about the 5 month mark….

Right around the holidays, we made a trip to my in-laws, and a week later the babies caught a nasty cold (from a different holiday party).  Well, that did it!  Our sleep routine was interrupted and I have yet to get it fully back on track.  Nathan got the cold first and ran a temperature the first night.  He was so congested we had him sleep in the swing and I slept, well more like rested, on the couch watching him most of the night.  His fever broke after a few hours without any medication, thankfully, and the next few nights I would nurse him whenever he woke in the night because he was feeling so terrible, I would do anything to give him comfort.  Their colds were better within a week or two but it was enough to disrupt the sleeping through the night I worked so hard for.  Now Nathan still wakes 2-3 times a night and I do nurse him at those times.  This is what precipitated us bringing him into the bed to co-sleep which I have to admit I enjoy and am not sure if I am ready to give it up.  I nurse him in bed and usually only half wake up to do it.  Pete on the other hand sleeps much better in the bassinet right next to us.  He still sleeps through the night most nights (if he’s in the bassinet) but I do bring him in bed and nurse him if he wakes.  He tends to be crabbier the next day on nights when he has slept in the bed with us, I think our moving around and adjusting throughout the night wakes him and he seems perfectly content next to the bed where he can hear, see and smell us but this has been a struggle for me making sure they are both having their needs met.

I have also discovered that they key to a good nights sleep is good naps during the day.  The idea of keeping a baby up during the day to sleep better at night is wrong!  I learned the hard way that an overtired baby does not sleep well through the night and does not nap well the next day. It’s a vicious, vicious cycle that we got stuck in for a few weeks.  I plan to write another post on this soon.

But for now, the little guys are waking from morning nap so it’s time for me to go and spend time with them…

Until next time 

Paleo-ish Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Staying on track… I thought I would write a post about what I do to stay on track with a paleo-ish diet.  I am not perfect, trust me!  I have my moments of weakness, especially with the caloric demands of nursing two 7 month old boys.  But I am more likely to cave to those moments of weakness when I am am hungry and there are no healthy snacks in the house.  And when I say hungry… I mean hungry.  I get hungrier now while breastfeeding than I ever did while I was pregnant.  Now, 7 months in, I am not as hungry as I was when my body was trying to figure out how it was going to feed two growing human beings.  But I still eat far more now than I did while I was pregnant.  And I have my times… I nurse the boys more often in the evening and I find I get much hungrier in the early afternoon (say 1 to 4) and first thing in the morning, than I do at dinner time when I am only going to nurse them one more time before putting them down for the night.

One of the ways I am able to stay nourished enough to breastfeed my twin boys and stay on a gluten/grain-free diet is to keep diet-friendly snacks around the house.  Most of the time my husband won’t touch them, but these chocolate chip cookies have a habit of disappearing even faster when he’s around. I try to make easy to grab snacks for the week on Sunday night and this weekend was no exception. While I didn’t get done as much as I had hoped, I was able to make a double batch of these cookies. While they aren’t strictly paleo in that they use chocolate chips (which contain sugar) and maple syrup for some sweetness, they are grain-free, high protein and very filling.

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies:

http://www.chefkatelyn.com/2012/12/09/paleo-primal-chocolate-chip-cookies/

I use my homemade almond meal/flour, organic maple syrup, kerry gold butter and organic chocolate chips and they turn out great! I double the recipe and freeze half of the cookies in a ziplock bag. Then I pop 2 or 3 in the oven on my baking stone after dinner when I’m in the mood for a sweet treat (which is most nights!)

They are quite salty which is one of the reasons why I like them. If you don’t like a salty chocolate chip cookie, I recommend cutting the salt in half and/or using unsalted butter.

Homemade Almond Four:

I love to bake with Almond Four but unfortunately it’s expensive so I have been making my own. It’s actually super easy and ends up to be about half the cost of store-bought almond flour. Mine is not quite as fine as the store bought stuff but it probably would be if I left it in the food processor for longer. However I don’t mind the chunkier texture for baking cookies and breading meats. The cookies end up with a oatmeal-type texture.

To make the almond meal I buy blanched, slivered almonds in bulk for $6.99/lb from Wegmans (almond meal is $12.99/lb here) I would like to find the bulk almonds cheaper somewhere but I haven’t had the time to price shop for them with the twins. At home, I put 2 cups of almonds in the food processor at a time and pulse it until I get the desired consistency (be careful not to overdo it or you will end up with almond butter). Then I freeze them in baggies in one or two cup portions and take them out of the freezer when I’m ready to cook! Super easy and half of the price of the store bought almond meal.

Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Homemade (Paleo) Beef Jerky

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One of my all-time favorite snacks is good old beef jerky. In fact, during the 10 years as a vegetarian, beef jerky is one of the things I missed most. Now, with the twins and the caloric needs of exclusively breast feeding them, I constantly crave nutrient-dense snacks (okay let’s be honest I crave sweet terrible-for-you snacks but those leave me feeling hungry again within the hour). I am eating more meat now than ever before and I can easily down a $5 bag of beef jerky in one sitting! But the store bought stuff is waayyyyyy too sweet for me. And to top it all off, most are made with soy sauce (which contains gluten) and MSG which I avoid like the plague! So I have been on a mission to perfect my own paleo-beef-jerky. And I’m pretty close.

I started with a 4+ lb top round steak from Costco at $4.59/lb … I know, I know, not grass fed or local but I wanted to perfect this before I dehydrate the expensive stuff. I have a dehydrator that I got for Christmas a few years ago and don’t use nearly enough. My trip to Costco was a few weeks ago so the meat went in the deep freeze until I had the time to devote to the jerky. I took it out and put in in the fridge for 2 days to let it thaw. After 2 days, it was the perfect amount of frozen to slice easily. So I started by slicing it against the grain in slices as thin and uniform as I could get. I don’t have any fancy knives (I have cut myself a few too many times to risk a super-sharp knife) so I did my best.

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Next I mixed the marinate in a large zip-lock bag. I just used tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), the end of my garlic powder and the end of a jerk seasoning mix we got on our baby-moon in St. Maarten. But you can use what you like and have on hand. You can add some brown sugar for a sweeter end product. Add the strips of beef and back in the fridge for 24-hours. I managed this during the babies nap time on three consecutive days… thanks boys!

 

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The next day at nap time, I took the strips out and placed them in the dehydrator as close together as possible without overlapping and with enough room for air to easily circulate. I had enough that I filled up my 4 trays and had to do a second batch the next day/nap time. After dinner I checked on the jerky and most of it was done ( about 5 hours later ) but this will vary greatly depending on how thinly you sliced the meat. Some of the thicker pieces needed a few more hours. You need to make sure the pieces are thoroughly dried and reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees (I’m not sure how one would take the internal temperature of a completely dried piece of meat, just use common sense.

 

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Put the lid on, set to 160 degrees, and walk away.  Note: the house will smell funny during this process. 

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And voila! I ended up with about 26 oz of beef jerky for $19! About 1/3 of the cost of the store bought stuff and without all of the chemicals, and in my opinion better tasting unless you like the sicky-sweet stuff. And now when I am feeling the urge for a sweet snack, I reach for a piece of jerky and feel completely satisfied.

Here’s what mine looked like when done.

(I store mine in the fridge in an unsealed ziplock just to be safe)

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A Quick and Easy Snack

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An apple with cinnamon and almond butter is one of my all time favorite snacks these days. It is super easy, healthy and keeps me full for hours. In fact, before I was pregnant/nursing I used to have this for lunch on the regular.

First I start with organic honey crisp apples ( I buy them at the farmers market in the fall when they are available but all other times I like the bags available at Wegmans). I don’t buy all of my produce organic but I make sure to buy foods off of the dirty dozen list organic and apples are one of them. I prefer the smaller apples so I get a good apple to almond butter ratio. I core and slice the apple into smallish slices first.

Next I sprinkle some cinnamon on, I use a lot to get some heat. I have also used pumpkin pie spice mix or added nutmeg as well depending on my mood.

And finished off with Almond butter. I love Jason’s maple almond butter to add the maple flavor but any will work.

And there it is, dip and enjoy!

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All Natural Beauty Products… what do you use?

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As it begins to sleet here and the babies take their morning nap I have a few minutes for another post.

I have been thinking a lot about all-natural beauty products. Having the babies so close to me and physically touching my all of the time has made me super-aware of the chemicals I put not just in my body but also on my body. The babies are literally putting my skin and hair in their mouths. And their tiny little bodies seem so innocent and pure, I can’t stand the thought of them licking my deodorant stick…. so why would I smear it on my skin then nurse them?

I have been using the natural deodorant crystal for many years on and off (if I am going out with friends or traveling I often wear Dove but mod days I use the crystal) and I love it. It works. And it works pretty well. The only issue I have with it is I find it works best if you apply it in the morning and at night. What I do is wet the crystal after my shower (usually at night after the babies go to bed) and rub it under my arms. I then re-apply in the morning and I find I have no issues with body odor at all. If I miss my shower the next day, I re-apply the crystal that night and again the next morning and it works just as well as the first day. The crystal I have I have been using for 3+ years now, I bought it when we lived in California and it doesn’t seem to be getting smaller.  And best of all, it leaves zero stains on your clothes!

I had tried some other products, Tom’s all natural deodorant and Jason’s deodorant and neither worked very well for me. I found they made my arm pits smell different, not like BO but some other strange, chemical smell. Maybe it’s just my chemical makeup that does that…. has anyone had luck with these? Does anyone else use the crystal?

Here’s a picture of my 3-year old crystal:

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As far as other beauty products, I’m not 100% crunchy on this one…. I do use Tom’s natural toothpaste and Jason shampoo and I love both. I started using Jason after I read some of the dangerous chemicals in the top-brand shampoos could be harmful to your baby while pregnant. So I immediately switched and even filled up my own travel sized shampoo bottles when I traveled for work (up through my second trimester) They do tend to be expensive but I find I don’t need much so I try to save money by using smaller quantities (of the shampoo anyway).

Other natural products I like:

Vitamin E oil for my skin (especially on my belly where I am trying to get some firmness back in my skin)

CJ’s lip balm (they make the butt butter / diaper cream that is safe to use with cloth diapers… I highly recommend the Monkey Farts scent)

As far as what I haven’t gone to the crunchy side for….

mascara ( I can’t live without my MAC mascara, I am one of those women who put makeup on every day, even if I don’t leave the house)

eye liner

foundation & blush (which I rarely wear thanks to breastfeeding hormones!)

What do you guys use?

Here are my go-to products; Apricot Jason shampoo and conditioner and Tom’s sensitive toothpaste:

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Winter Farmers Market

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We are lucky enough to have a year-round farmers market in my area and there are usually at least 15-20 vendors in the winter months.  I managed to get myself and the babies all bundled up and out the door in time to make the shortened hours.  I haven’t been going as regularly as I would like with the babies and the cold but I was determined to get there this week to stock up on some organic, local eggs and some local honey…. and any other goodies I might find would be a bonus.

It was a cold, blustery morning out but I really like to get the babies out for some fresh air every day if I can.  They were well dressed with only their eyes and cute pink noses poking out from the blankets and winter suits.  However, I guess it was a bit too cold for most of the farmers/vendors to make it and apparently a few who did actually left in the first hour.  The only vendors there this morning were a popcorn/microgreens vendor, a homemade cheesecake vendor, a bread company, two trucks with grass fed meat and free range, organic eggs and a brick-oven pizza place (this is new since I’ve been).

So while it was not a totally successful trip, I scored two dozen local eggs and made it to the grocery store next door for fresh veggies for the week.  I would have gotten some local meat but I stocked up for the month at Costco (organic chicken breasts and thighs, pork loin, salmon and beef) and I am determined to make it through the meat before I buy any more.