Tasty Tuesday: Drunken Pumpkin Chili for Superbowl Sunday!

Gorgeous photo from The Scrumptious Pumpkin
Drunken Pumpkin Chili                                                   Gorgeous photo from The Scrumptious Pumpkin

Little W was born on the morning of Superbowl Sunday almost two years ago.  And while I wasn’t watching much of the game that evening, in true Superbowl form, I was eating some delicious hospital food.  (While my writing is usually rife with sarcasm, that my friends, was no lie…our hospital had the absolute best chicken club, the crispiest bacon and amazingly seasoned steak fries.  I’m pretty sure I ordered that combo at every meal while I was there…maybe even breakfast…)

But I guess that is neither here nor there, except to say that the Superbowl means a good game (hopefully) and even better food.  Oh, and the end of football season.  Amen.  

So what’s on the menu for the big game, you ask?  Three words…

Drunken. Pumpkin. Chili. 

I pinned the recipe earlier this fall and absolutely loved it.  Chili on a cold day is always good, but this chili has a really exceptional flavor profile with layers upon layers of unexpected flavors.  Yes.  I was watching Master Chef Junior last night.  So what am I trying to say?

It’s a flavor-explosion in your mouth.  It’s a warm hug on a cold day.  

Cumin, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, chipotle peppers…garlic, onion and bay leaves…velvety pureed pumpkin and mouth-watering pumpkin beer.  Carrots, yellow peppers and black beans.  Keep the beef, or omit for a vegan spin.  Go off-recipe and maybe even add some sweet potato.  Top it off with cheddar cheese, or sour cream, or greek yogurt or make a little chipotle mayo/sour cream/greek yogurt.  Everyone loves a good dollop of something on their chili.

It’s savory, smokey and has a hint of sweet.  It’s a vibrant masterpiece in a bowl, frankly.  Oh, and it’s amazing as leftovers.  You can’t go wrong.

I bet Gisele is going to whip up a batch of this for her hunny before the big game.  Yup.  So that means you probably should, too.

Go Pats!

MomME

 

Drunken Pumpkin Chili from The Scrumptious Pumpkin (her blog post is filled with absolutely gorgeous step-by-step pictures, so check it out!)
Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour, 10 minutes
 
Yield: 6 servings 
 
Ingredients
1 pound 93% lean ground beef (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup pumpkin ale
15-ounce container pure pumpkin puree
15-ounce container diced tomatoes
2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, seeds removed and minced
15-ounce container black beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
15-ounce container cannellini beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
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My Favorite (and healthy!) Skincare Products

safer skin care

I realized I was pregnant with W after throwing up Thai food and a pride-themed birthday cake that I baked for a colleague using a Pinterest recipe…at a gay marriage fundraiser while Mary Bonuto was speaking…in someone’s kitchen…on my hands and knees near the dog’s dish that someone tried to get me to puke into…until someone else thought a mixing bowl was a better idea…then to be ushered out the back door by a stranger in attendance…who turned out to be a nurse that lived across the street…who nonchelantly toted and disposed of my puke bucket…and got me a glass of water while I lay on her couch.

It was absolutely one of the weirdest things that’s happened to me.

And turns out, one of the best things, too.

But, recalling that lovely mix of colorful regurgitation really hammered home the fact that I could no longer neglect my body.  Coffee for lunch?  Nope, not going to cut it.  That probably meant cake for breakfast wasn’t the best choice either.  The moment that stick brandishes two pink lines, we’ve been programmed to think about what we eat, drink and ingest:  “No alcohol!  No unpasteurized cheese!  No deli meats!  Not too much tuna!”  (all of which my doctor said was pretty much OK – but that’s a post for another time…)

But, I hadn’t given much thought to what my largest organ – my skin – was ingesting.  

I was most definitely nervous to dive and see what would have to go.  And, welp.  Let’s just say that what you slop on by the container matters.  It matters now, it matters down the line and it especially matters when you’re growing un bebe.  So, I started to check out my products on the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep” consumer guide and read just how terrible some products were (things are rated on a scale of 0-10…10 being the worst for you…and things in the 0-3 range being relatively safe.  AKA “in the green,” as I like to call it).   It was major motivation to add more healthy choices into my skin-care regimen, too.

The twist?  Acne.

Yeah, the raging hormones gave me acne and (ugh) back-ne that (in my possibly over-exaggerated state of mind) could rival a 13 year-old boy.  And per my (ahem) condition, the usual go-to treatments of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide were suddenly on the no-no list.

So I went to my favorite lab-tech-chemist-turned-esthatician at Nirvana and asked.

The long and the short of it was that most of what I was experiencing was hormonal, so there wasn’t a ton I could do about it topically.  Add in the fact that my skin’s main job was to keep things out of my body meant that I was, well, shit out of luck for the most part.  Except for time.  Oh, and some manual and chemical (sugars, lactic acid found in milk, etc.) exfoliation might would help a bit.  Rapidly reproducing skin cells + increased oil production = a pileup of dead skin = clogged pores.  And you know what that means?  Breakouts.  And the more dry and flaky my over-multiplying skin was…the more oil it produced and the more clogged my pores got.

Can a girl get a break!?  Yeah, unlikely for the next, oh, 30+ years…but I digress.  The temporary solution for the pregnant lady who couldn’t use the heavy-duty-bad-for-you-stuff?  Pretty simple…

1.  Keep my skin clean.  My skin was super dry and flaky, so I needed a cleanser that wasn’t too harsh.  As contradictory as it seemed, I absolutely loved using jojoba oil or a mixture of coconut oil and baking soda to cleanse my skin.  Keeping it clean also meant no picking.  So much harder than I thought it would be.  I also used coconut oil as a moisturizer since I was prone to using so much lotion.  So. Much.  Both jojoba oil and coconut oil are a 0 on the EWG scale – not harmful at all!  I also really loved The Honest Company’s shampoo + body wash for keeping the rest of me clean.  The sweet orange vanilla scent was so subtle but delicious!  Added bonus?  Also only a 2 on the EWG scale…so still in the green.

2. Keep my skin super hydrated.  I loved the lightweight but uber moisturizing effects of this moisturizer with hyaluronic acid but it is a level 4 (out of 10) on the EWG’s scale…so I used a small amount mixed with a few drops of jojoba oil and sometimes just jojoba oil.  Fun fact:  Did you know hyaluronic acid can hold something like 1,000 times it’s weight in water!?  Or that jojoba oil is actually a wax that’s liquid at room temperature and most closely mirrors your body’s own sebum?  Yeah, amazing, I know.  And, for body lotion, I opted for Lubriderm Sensitive – incredibly hydrating but without any perfumes or dyes.  I especially loved this once baby W had arrived (since he was often always snuggled up against my skin and I knew that fragrances and yucky stuff weren’t good for him!)  Once the little bundle did arrive, we started using coconut oil or BabyGanics Eczema Care for his dry winter skin – and a combination of the two was even more hydrating!

3. Keep my skin baby-butt smooth with regular, gentle exfoliation.  I made my own scrubs with natural ingredients – whatever I had in the fridge or pantry!  I never follow a recipe too closely, but I threw together baking soda, oatmeal and or granulated sugar, mixed with natural sources of extra-skin-cell-disolving glycolic acid (like strawberries) or lactic acid (milk, yogurt) and some type of moisturizers (coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, honey).  Throw in some antimicrobial treatments (local honey) and I was on my way to feeling a bit better about my baby acne.

Thankfully, I’m almost 2 years postpartum and I’ve been enjoying relatively clear skin almost immediately after giving birth and my hormones leveled out a bit.  But, since we’re still nursing I’m much more cautious about my lotions, face creams, etc.  I absolutely swear by jojoba oil and coconut oil for absolutely everything imaginable.  Everything.

So just because you choose to be more cautious in your skin-care regimen doesn’t mean you have miss out on fabulous products and skin!

Glowingly yours,

MomME

 

 

Tasty Tuesday: Roasted Garlic & Cauliflower Mash with Parmesan Cheese

Photo Credit: http://www.hummusapien.com/roasted-garlic-mashed-cauliflower-potatoes/
Roasted Garlic & Cauliflower Mash                                       Photo Credit: http://www.hummusapien.com

Chances are, if I’ve had you over for dinner, I served my Baked Honey Mustard Chicken alongside this decadent Roasted Garlic & Cauliflower mash.  The smell of roasted garlic mingles with the rosemary and, man oh man, it smells good.  Like been-cooking-all-day good.  Add a dash of something green to the plate (so you’re not serving a monochromatic meal) and you’ve got a (pretty healthy) serving of what I consider comfort food.

Rich.  Savory.  Flavorful.  Simple.

I tweak the dish a bit and leave out the milk, butter and yogurt because (1) my husband is borderline lactose intolerant and (2) I don’t always have milk on hand so I just improvise.  Instead?  I opt for a dash of chicken stock and a bit more olive oil – or nothing at all – depending on the consistency.  But honestly, the roasted garlic has such a rich and creamy flavor that I don’t even think the recipe needs the milk, butter or yogurt.  It is, however, ABSOLUTELY EVEN MORE AMAZING if you do add in a  bit of something creamy 🙂  If I’m making it for friends or girlfriends who aren’t lactose-intolerant (and I have the milk or creamer or yogurt on hand) I add it in without hesitation.

Either way, what I do add on top of my portion is a heaping handful of parmesan cheese.  It gets all melty-yummy on top and is just sublime.

So, don’t overlook that head of cauliflower at the grocery store next time!  It could be the the best vegetable dish you’ve served in a long time.  Love broccoli?  I’ve even roasted broccoli AND cauliflower and the mash was delicious, too!

Hungrily yours,

MomME

Day 18 – 20: [final installment] Sleep Regression Update

All seems right in the world when your kids takes their nap.  And that is hardly an exaggeration.  It’s been 5 days of easy-peasy-no-nursing-down-at-1pm naps and we are both loving the life of the rested.

For now.

They always say, just as you’ve settled into a comfortable routine and something feels easy…just wait a second and it will change.  [We say that about the weather here in Maine, too…awesome.]  I’m sure you can imagine how much my compulsive need to know and plan absolutely loves the certainty of ever-changing-uncertainty.

Nope.  Not at all.

But.  I’m actually getting better at rolling with the punches.  Nap time, though, was just NOT something that I was going to let roll out the door.  Instead, I did some contingency planning during Days 1-13 that allowed me to have a semblance of control over the day and a tad bit of personal time before 7pm.  And it involved setting my alarm for 5:45am to do my Tone It Up work out, write a blog post, whatever.

And even better than setting my alarm for 5:45 (I know, you’re thinking that pretty much everything is better than that…and I don’t disagree) was setting my automatic coffee maker for 5:40am!  No joke, I heard the coffee machine finish brewing and that was all the motivation I needed to groggily find my way to the kitchen, grunt a good-morning to my husband (who gets up at 5:15 every day…you’re so good, honey!) and head on downstairs to workout and rack up the steps on my FitBit (and my competitive nature loves trying to out-do myself with this little tracker!)

We all bend and adjust to the new and changing circumstances as best we can, even little W.  And sooner or later we all fall into a new normal that will, no doubt, change again soon.  Sigh.  But even though my early wake-up was only meant to be an interim modification to adjust to a no-nap scenario, I think it’s going to stick around even with nap time back in full-swing…

For now.

So, here’s to Day 21 of our (formerly known as) Nap Regression.

Gratefully yours,

MomME

 

Tasty Tuesday: Baked Honey Mustard Chicken (with a grown-up twist!)

Photo Credit: Damn Delicious
Baked Honey Mustard Chicken                  Photo Credit: Damn Delicious

I admit.  I’m an avid Pinterest pinner.  Whether it’s beautifully coordinated clothes, amazingly expensive and impractical shoes I’ll never have the occasion to wear, make-up or hair that I’d have time to style only in my dreams, or decor that I’m sure I could pull off if I could just make it through Home Goods without a toddler on the tear…I’ll pin it.  No matter its likelihood of turning into a reality.

Recipes on Pinterest?  Well, they’re a different story.  

I’m actually totally on top of my meal-making game on Pinterest.  Yeah, sure, I’ll admit some are a disastrous flop.  But, many more have earned their way into my weekly line-up of meals or have become my go-to appetizers at parties.  Pinterest is definitely my first stop for meal-time inspiration.

 

My absolutely favorite Pinterest find is the incredibly delicious, oh-so-easy (to prep, multiply, prepare, clean up after) Baked Honey Mustard Chicken from Damn Delicious.

All you need are chicken thighs, several kinds of mustard (that you likely have in the pantry or are super inexpensive to buy – I use dijon, grainy dijon and honey mustard), honey, chicken stock, olive oil, salt/pepper (to taste) and a few rosemary sprigs.  And if you were wondering what the grown-up twist in this recipe was…there it is!  Rosemary!  Without being overpowering, the rosemary helps to mellow out the mustard and gives the dish an incredible aroma.

The best part is it is so easy to make.  Mix a few squeezes (read: tablespoons – I’m very Rachel Ray when I cook and mostly eye-ball stuff!) of each mustard, a few squeezes of honey, a dash of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of stock in a bowl, mix, and set aside.  I always make more of this mixture because, well, I love sauce.  Simple as that.  Then, rub the chicken thighs with a bit of mustard and some olive oil (both of these steps can be done well ahead of time or right before you’re ready to make dinner).  When it’s go-time, all you need to do is sear the chicken thighs for a few minutes on each side, dump your honey-mustard mix over it, throw a few rosemary sprigs on top and pop it in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until the thighs are done.  Whey they are done, the chicken is falling apart and drenched in this amazingly rich and kind of sophisticated sauce.

So fancy.  So easy.  So delicious.  Even little W ate it the other night (he prefers when I use less of the spicy dijon and more of the honey mustard in the sauce for those of you who might be modifying for younger palates).

Well.  My mouth is watering.  I’m pretty sure these will end up on the menu tonight.

Deliciously yours,

MomME

Day 15-17: Sleep Regression Update

We’re continuing to trudge through this dreaded sleep regression.  Keeping up a calm and positive facade as we climb the stairs after lunch…anticipation mounting with each step toward the nursery, with each book read, with each reply to his pleads for “More books.  More milk.”

In hopes of not bombarding your newsfeed with a second-by-second update of W’s every toss and turn, I decided to save up a few days.

But the real reason for hoarding updates?  Yeah.  I really didn’t want to jinx myself again.  So, here it goes…

Day 15: No nap.  But no poop either!  He stayed in his crib [sans intervention] for an hour and wasn’t screaming the whole time.  He was definitely fussy, but it was intermittent and I could tell he was totally doing it for show.

Day 16: A nap!  The hubby was home (it was Saturday) and I was catching up on some work hours, so he put W down for his nap…and voila!   Success!

Day 17: Another nap!  Another  success by the hubby!  I’ll admit, though, I’m anxious for tomorrow when it’s my turn to put the little guy down for his nap.

Real talk.  I wouldn’t be blogging about each and every day…and sometimes minute…of this sleep regression if I wasn’t looking for common threads that have led to successes or failures in the nap department.  And, I’m no Sherlock [one of our new favorite shows, by the way] but I can tell that the common denominator in successful naps is my husband.  Or, lack of nursing being part of the routine.

I’m not ready to say we need to drop it from our nap time routine (we only nurse morning, pre-nap and pre-bedtime right now)…but the pre-nap nursing session is the next up on the chopping block.  If I don’t have success tomorrow, I think I might start eliminating it from our routine.

What’s the worst that can happen?  He won’t take a nap?  Been there, done that.  15 days and counting…

Hopefully yours,

MomME

Day 13 + 14: Sleep Regression Update

As I sat typing the Day 12 update yesterday I didn’t dare mention that I was doing so during W’s nap.  I was utterly terrified to jinx myself.

And, no joke, almost as soon as I just typed “jinx” W started crying again from what was looking like a promising Day 14 nap…seriously!?  Ok, so the direction of this post may change a bit and end up like an update on yesterday’s nap with an interjection of a play-by-play from today’s nap.

About as linear and cohesive as my mind is these days.  [Insert sarcasm.]

Minute 7 of Day 14 nap: still a little fussy…but still not screaming bloody murder.  Progress

Exhale.  I can resume typing.  So, where was I?  Oh, yes.  Day 13.  Lucky number 13.  Our glorious return to the land of afternoon slumbers.  I sat, almost frozen, on the couch for the entire hour and thirty minute nap.  Afraid that if I so much as sneezed I’d wake the sleeping dragon.  Alas, it wasn’t quite as relaxing as the nap times of long ago that I was drooling over days Days 1-12 of our nap regression.

And I’m interrupted again.

Minute 10 of Day 14 nap: another crying bout.

Minute 12 of Day 14 nap: still fussing and whining, “Mama, baby.  Mama, baby.”

Minute 14 of Day 14 nap: see above.

Sigh.  So, who knows how this will end.  But I’m determined to win and will let him be for at least an hour.  And tomorrow I will do our (slightly modified) nap routine again:

  1. Adventurous morning out and about (today was music class followed by Banjo Man at the library and a quick errand)
  2. Lunch at noon
  3. Play time depending on how tired he’s looking (today he was looking so tired!)
  4. Naptime routine – books, milk and [insert so many fake-turned-real-yawns] quiet time in his crib.  And telling him this order over, and over and over.  And over again.

Minute 18 of Day 14 nap: the crying has picked up a bit but is interrupted with his imitation of train sounds.  Sweet, but not leaving me feeling very hopeful.

I think I can, I think I can,

MomME

Minute 22 of Day 14 nap: still crying.

Frigid weather fun – a cotton ball snowman!

Our cotton ball snowman!
Our cotton ball snowman!

If you haven’t been living under a rock then you’ve most certainly heard of this polar vortex that continues to spew frigid air our way.  [Side note: did you know Huff Post listed polar vortex the #2 banished word of 2015?  Well now you do].

So.  What to do you do with an antsy mother energetic-almost-two-year-old when you’re stuck inside because of a polar vortex it’s like -10 degrees outside?

Glue cotton balls to a piece of paper, of course.  And call it a cotton ball snowman.  Obviously.

Little W has been having fun with a glue bottle and or a glue stick lately, so on a frigid day earlier this week (I know, they’re all starting to blur together…) I thought, why not make ourselves a little snowman out of cotton balls!?  I rolled on over to Pinterest to affirm that making snowmen with cotton balls was, in fact, a real craft.  I’ve since saved this site since it looks like it’s full of easy crafts to do with little ones.

Next up: materials.

I grabbed the cotton balls from my cabinet, retrieved the glue and construction paper from W’s art bucket and told him to meet me at his table.  He excitedly scampered over to this little white craft table and climbed up into to his favorite seat, anxiously awaiting his “art project” for the day.  After I traced the outline of the snowman with various circular items in his playroom, I showed W how to squeeze the glue and when to “Stop!” (now one of his favorite expressions, one which he instructed me to do after a few seconds of squeezing my own glue dots, haha).  Then I showed him how to pick a cotton ball and stick it on the glue we’d just put on the paper.

With a little bit of guidance, we slowly filled in our snowman.  Little W helped me determine that our Frosty needed some buttons, eyes, a nose and a hat so I quickly cut them out of construction paper and…voila!

That, my friends, is how Frosty came to life one [very cold, polar vortex] day.  Happy gluing to you and yours 🙂

Frigidly yours,

MomME

 

 

Day 12: Sleep Regression Update

So we had a minor breakthrough yesterday.  After an hour (including a trip back into the nursery to remove the mobile because he hated it, to change a poop because he always seems to poop at nap time now and to start our nap time routine of books and milk again)…

Wait for it…

Waaaaaaaait for it…

He wasn’t screaming in his crib!  [Cheers!  Applause!  Elation!]  He still wasn’t sleeping, but he wasn’t screaming bloody murder to the point of throwing up.

I’ll take what I can get.  It was a small step in the right direction and today, we’ll try the same thing again in hopes of a different result.

And, yes, that IS the definition of insanity.

Onward,

MomME

Sleep regressions and other terribly-two-ish things

I’ve heard of the terrible twos, but up until a few weeks ago, I kept thinking, Not MY sweet little, angelic boy!  That was, until he was jumping up and down, stomping his feet, screaming, pounding on the door and “raging out” as I like to call it.

Why?  Because I told him he couldn’t have anymore of his favorite Honeysuckle Honeydew EOS chapstick.  After he’d already negotiated, with his little pointer finger, barely formed words and an affirming head nod,

“One more, mama.  One more. ” 

“No more chapstick, we’ve already had some,” I say calmly as we’re trying to leave the house to gymnastics class.  I literally hold my breath in anticipation of the rage that is about to explode from this otherwise utterly sweet little boy.  All over chapstick.

 <Cue meltdown>

Like a yoga mantra, I have to remind myself…Calmly offer an explanation.  Share affirming words.  Acknowledge his feelings.  Empathize with him.  Be there if he wants a hug.  Keep him safe from his own frustrations.  Let him express himself.  Move on after it’s over. 

I totally understand that in his ever-growing world, seemingly small things (to me) are a big deal to him.  He’s learning so much about the world around him, his place in his, his ability to interact with that world…to flex his control in that world…to negotiate in that world.  I mean, he loves those little chapsticks – he can open the top all by himself, he can put it on all by himself and he can put the top back on all by himself.

What more could a two-year old want than to be in total control?

A nap, you say?  Temper-tantrums are usually a result of being down-right-tired, right?  So, just make sure he gets his nap and we can hope to avoid some of these meltdowns.

Nope.  That would make too much sense and be too easy.  We are going on day 12 of no nap.  

And not the I’m-going-to-sit-in-my-crib-and-just-talk-to-myself kind of no nap.  No, this is the begin-SCREAMING-the-second-mom-puts-me-in-my-crib-and-rage-until-she-gets-me kind of no nap. Another lovely by-product of the terrible twos.  It started with some Christmas-cooties that we all passed around during the lovely two weeks my hubby was home.  After that, he hasn’t taken a nap except for when he falls asleep at the boob (twice)…or when he actually fell asleep in the car on Saturday for 45 minutes…which he NEVER does.  [I know, what kid doesn’t fall asleep in the car?  The kid whose mother was a freak about being home for nap time so he pretty much only knows how to nap in his crib.  Great most of the time.  Except for when he’s not napping in his crib and won’t nap anywhere else.  Sigh.]

BUT.  All hope is not lost.  I am NOT giving up on his nap time.  That is the MOST sacred of times for me and he is most CERTAINLY still in need of rest during the day.

So, what to do?  Call in the experts, of course!  My trusty network of amazing mamas.

I tossed the scenario out to the Boobie Group and another mommy group I’m a part of and I’ve gotten some great suggestions:

  • Keep at it and stay strong and consistent – their little ones did this at age two and sooner than later they were back to their nap!
  • Try moving nap time a bit earlier or later to see if he’s more ready for a nap then.
  • Give him some really great exercise before nap time, like a good game of tag!
  • Try putting some toys or books in his crib to help him quietly play for an hour and “rest.”

A Boobie Group mommy also posted an article from http://www.babysleepsite.com called “Toddler Sleep and 5 Things You Need to Know” that I found helpful, and most of all, affirming.  We’ve all been through sleep regressions before, and lived to see the other side of them.  Though, in the midst of them it’s easy to think that your baby will never sleep again.  At age two it is possible he’s done taking naps, but I haven’t given up hope yet.  He still seems pretty tired and if nothing else we’ll work out some quiet time for little W and for Mommy.

So here’s the game plan.

Yesterday I tried his nap earlier, and went into his room in increments to try and soothe him.  That did NOT work and actually only made him more angry.  So, today I think I’m going to try a little bit of a later nap and make sure he’s gotten some really good physical exercise in during the morning!  I’m thinking of putting up his mobile again, too, and letting him play with that during his nap – it has a swirling light, soothing sounds, etc. and I think could be a calming “toy” he could play with.

I’ll keep you posted.

Yours hopefully,

MomME