Thursday, September 11, 2014

We (I) Don't Live Here Anymore

Update: You can find me at Healthy Home Revolution. Let's be real. I just like to start blogs.

To those of you who have stuck around for the long haul:

Don't you love when a random, dormant blog shows up in your reader? I do.

So I'm writing this LAST POST EVER (maybe? never say never?) to tell you that I've moved. I've started a new site, Mommy Sanest. It's basically a mommy blog, but my style is my style, and my interests are largely the same, so if you care to join me, you can expect to see a lot of health and wellness-type posts as well as general life ramblings and personal pep talks as I try to get it together... once and for all, this time... I hope.

Honestly, it makes me a little sad to shut down A View from the Park for good/real. This site has seen me through a lot--dating, marriage, a new house, three jobs, running, not running, eating, eating some more, having a baby. I consider the heyday of this blog to be the period of time between 2006-2008 when almost every post mentioned @ or running buddies Meg and Lindy. Lucky for me, all three are still a part of my life, so those stories have continued. Eight years and a handful of months is a long time to do anything.

But as they say, the show must go on, just not here (is that a thing they say?). I hope you'll join me over at Mommy Sanest.

Lou

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Creamy Pasta with Fennel, Kale and Chicken Sausage

I’m feeling pretty behind on life these days. Last week, my sister and her family moved halfway across the country to Chicagoland, which is awesome, but also meant we spent a lot of time hauling boxes and getting them settled in their new apartment. Then on Saturday, I ended up with a cold that got worse, then better, then worse again yesterday, and now, (I’m hopeful) better. Factor in wanting to spend extra time with the babe during holiday weekend, and cooking, eating right, and generally taking care of myself fell by the wayside, to say the least. We ordered take out every single night last week.

Instead of making the time for a grocery trip, I decided to order a box of produce from Door to Door Organics. I’ve tried this once or twice before, but now as I struggle to find a balance between taking care of Emme and taking care of myself, I’m wondering if this isn’t one of many answers to the perpetual question, 'how do we save more time.'

The box arrived yesterday, and there is a ton of produce--kind of an oh-shit-how-are-we-going-to-use-all-this amount of produce.

This is maybe half of it.
So, I got started right away. While I had been trying to eating more protein, right now, I need to just focus on eating at home, so I’m doing whatever I need to do to make that happen. And often, that means pasta.

Creamy Pasta with Fennel, Kale and Chicken Sausage
Adapted from a Door to Door Organics Recipe
Serving: 1

2 oz. whole wheat pasta
1/2 TBSP butter
Half a fennel bulb, sliced thin
Half a yellow onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup kale, chopped
1/2 TBSP orange zest
Juice of half an orange
1 link Trader Joe’s chicken sausage (any variety), chopped
1 oz. goat cheese
2 TBSP parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package direction, drain and reserve approximately 1/2 cup of pasta water.

2. In a saute pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and fennel and saute for 7-10 minutes until soft. Add kale after 2-3 minutes. Add chicken sausage after 5 minutes. (Note: Trader Joe's chicken sausage is already cooked and therefore needs only a few minutes to heat through. If you're using uncooked sausage, you'll want to remove it from the casings, saute it first, then remove it with a slotted spoon before adding the vegetables to the pan).

3. Add orange zest and the juice of half of an orange. Saute for one additional minute

4. Add 2-4 TBSP of pasta water, goat cheese, paremesan cheese, and pasta to the saute pan and mix with sausage and vegetables.


This was quick and easy and made me feel like I was getting way more nutritients than the typical pasta + bottled sauce combination. The sausage also helped make it really filling. Goat cheese is my favorite, and adding it and pasta water created a creamy sauce with a hint of orange. I will definitely be making this again. Probably tonight.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

You Say It's Your (Half) Birthday

Why do I keep having the verse, "Looks like we made it..." going through my head? It's not like we have successfully raised our baby through the childhood, adolescent, and teen years, and now we're sending her off to fend for her herself.

But the six month mark does feel sort-of big and like we've come a long way... baby.


So what's new since the last update? Honestly, not a whole lot. She's still being adorable and fun. Spending Saturday and Sunday together as a family are definitely the highlight of my week, and I'm starting to feel sad on Sunday night in anticipation of Monday morning.



She's also still working on sitting. She's babbling up a storm, screeching, and has now starting making a raspberry sound by sticking her tongue out. We officially began giving her one meal of solid food a day, and we're experimenting with fruits and veggies (sweet potatoes today).


As for sleep, we decided a couple weeks ago that the time had come to force the issue. I know "cry it out" is pretty controversial, but MM and I felt our family was in desperate need of a full night's sleep (family = me). Selfish? Maybe. The right choice for us? Definitely. In the last week, we've only had one wake up before 5:30am. We're working on not getting her until after 6am, but I am happy to count this as a full night's sleep. I'm pretty sure I've been nicer to my husband this past week. Fingers crossed that we don't go backwards. In other exciting sleep news, a week or so before we decided to CIO, we went cold turkey on the swaddle, and it totally wasn't the big deal we were expecting. And the bedtime routine is easier.

So that's about it! Her six month check up is next week, and I can't wait to find out how much she's grown.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

Slow cookers are amazing little appliances, aren’t they? Dump a bunch of ingredients into a slow cooker at 8 a.m., come home to a yummy, healthy, home-cooked meal at 5 p.m. Amazing. Except when it’s not.

Slow cooked meals typically smell insanely delicious, but the minimal prep, big pay-off over promises and under delivers. Regularly, I am disappointed by slow cooker meals that lack flavor.

I’ve come to realize that to make slow cookers really work, you have to put a little more time and energy into the prep. Kind of defeats the purpose of a slow cooker, but you still save yourself from slaving over a hot oven on a weeknight.

Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

1 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
2 cups water
Approximately 2 cups of chicken broth
1 pound shredded, cooked chicken
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 10-ounce package frozen corn

Step 1: Heat oil in pan over medium high. Add onions, garlic and green chili peppers to pan, saute until translucent, approximately 5-7 minutes.

Step 2: Add whole peeled tomatoes, chicken broth, whole peeled tomatoes, and enchilada sauce to slow cooker. Add onion mixture to slow cooker. With an immersion blender, blend all ingredients until it reaches your desired consistency (I like my soup... soupy... so I blend the mixture until it’s completely smooth). If you do not have an immersion blender, you can do this in a regular blender, or, if you like your soup chunky, just mash the tomatoes before you put them to the slow cooker and don’t bother blending at all.

Step 3: Add remaining ingredients, through frozen corn.

Step 4: Set on slow cooker on high for 6-8 hours.

For the tortilla part, I just add my favorite chips: El Ranchero or Mission brand, preferably. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Salad Obsession

If you would have told me in January 2012 that by January 2013 I’d be totally obsessed with a salad, I would have been all, “Bitch, you’re crazy,” unless you’re a dude, in which case I would have been all, “Bitch, you’re crazy.”

But it’s true. And the salad in question isn’t like one of those “salads” that’s piled with dried fruit, cheese, croutons, a creamy dressing, and all other kinds of goodies nor is it a salad of the pasta or mayonnaise variety. The main ingredients in this salad are raw kale and brussel sprouts. If I had seen this on a menu, I would have thought, “Nope,” and moved on with my life.

But it didn’t happen that way. This salad was served at one of the gazillion baby showers I went to last year, and I didn’t even try it. But running buddy Meg did, and she would not stop talking about it--to the point where, in my head, I was all, “What kale salad, I thought that was parsley?” and “Why on earth is she making such a big deal about this kale salad?” and “OK. I get it. You ate a salad. How good could it possibly be?”

Let’s be real, kale is basically the healthiest thing a person can eat, so I’ve always been pretty sure I hated it, despite only having a small amount of evidence to back that up. Then running buddy Meg made this salad for a brunch get together, and I learned that I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

This recipe is posted around the internets, so I’m not sure who to attribute it to, but you can rest assured that I am not taking credit for it.

Autumn Salad
5 or so oz. Brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced (Trader Joe’s sells bags of shaved Brussels sprouts, I use about half of a 10 oz. bag)
3-4 cups Kale, chopped (If you want to make this easy on yourself, Trader Joe’s also buys bags of pre-chopped Kale, I use about half a bag)
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds

Dressing:
1 TBSP whole grain mustard (I use Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Dijon)
Juice of one lemon
½ tsp coarse salt (or to taste, whatever)
1 TBSP + 1 tsp pure maple syrup
2 TBSP high oleic safflower oil, preferably cold-pressed

Directions:
Toast the sunflower seeds. You can do this in the oven: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toast sunflower seeds on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 mins. OR you can do this on the stovetop, which I think is easier. Just toss the seeds in a saute pan over low heat and flip them around every so often. You have to really watch them so they won’t burn. Set aside to cool. OR if you don’t want to deal with it, just keep the sunflower seeds raw. I haven’t made this without toasting the seeds, but I’m sure it’s fine.

Stir mustard, lemon juice, salt and maple syrup together in a small bowl, whisk in oil until emulsified.

Toss brussel sprouts and kale together. Stir in sunflower seeds and pour dressing. Toss to coat.

A Few Things...
First of all, if you’re curious, this is what “high oleic” means. Second, there’s several reasons I love this salad. Obviously, the fact that I’m willingly going to town on raw kale is a big one. But I also love that this dressing is homemade--yes there’s some sugar in there-- but you can pronounce all the ingredients. Finally, the thing I really love about this salad is that it keeps in the refrigerator with the dressing already on it for up to three days. I’m not kidding. Maybe my standards are low or something, but I’ve had no problem with soggy or browning greens in this salad. In fact, MM and I (yep, he loves it too) have been making it and storing it knowing that we’re going to eat it over the next two to three days. It’s another super-healthy, super-tasty timesaver.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Deep Freeze

One of the best pieces of advice I received as a pregnant lady was to stock my freezer with meals before the baby arrived. Of course, when I received this advice and thought it was a great idea, I realized that I would never actually get around to doing it. But then, after reading this, I became convinced that a Foodsaver would change my life.

So we bought one.

Even with my handy new/totally unnecessary kitchen appliance, I questioned whether I’d be able to come through with freezer meals. Then it happened. I went through an insane nesting phase that literally made me the most organized and time efficient person on earth for about a week. I have never been so on top of my shit in my entire life. And with that burst of energy, I made ALL THE FOOD.

MM and I ate homemade meals four to five nights a week with minimal prep for a solid five weeks after Emme was born. After years of grand plans, weekly shopping lists, and post-work fatigue and ambivalence that led to many a night of spaghetti with sauce from a jar (not to mention wasted groceries), we were eating a home-cooked, healthy dinner nearly every single day. I realized then that freezer meals are the secret to almost everything, ever. So why stop at maternity leave? Since those first batches, I’ve been doubling and tripling recipes for freezing.

So what about the Foodsaver? Unlike so many products before it, it turned out that I was right about this one: It actually changed our lives. I’ll be honest, these appliances can be a bit finicky, and we ended up returning one that broke almost immediately. But after closer review of a little something called “the instruction manual,” our second Foodsaver has been spared an early demise.

You do not need a Foodsaver to effectively freeze meals; however being able to vacuum seal food does keep it fresh longer and totally prevents freezer burn. The special bags--yes, they require that you use special bags--can be boiled, so for some meals (chili works well with this) we often don’t even bother to defrost, we just toss the whole bag in a pot of boiling water.

If you do not use a vacuum sealer, the best freezing technique I’ve found so far is flash freezing. This works great for individualized items like lasagna rolls, muffins, etc. I’ve used this technique and then frozen items in a regular gallon-size freezer bag. Flash freezing also helps to lessen freezer burn.

We actually often flash freeze or refrigerate items so they have cooled below room temperature before vacuum sealing them, as it makes the vacuum sealer more effective. The squishier/warmer the food, the more the Foodsaver will try to suck out the moisture and the looser the sealing will be. One final Foodsaver tip: for items that are highly moist (like chilis or stews, we still haven’t attempted to freeze soup using the Foodsaver), we often put a paper towel between the food and the opening of the bag. This helps prevent moisture from seeping into the appliance as it sucks out the air, which keeps the Foodsaver working properly.

Here are several recipes we’ve had freezing success with:
Cincinnati Turkey Chili

Turkey Meatballs (I don’t make the sauce used in this recipe)

Individual Meat Loaves

Beer-glazed Black Beans (Mark Bitmann’s recipe from How to Cook Everything)

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Pasta Bake with Sausage and Spinach


Really, the possibilities are endless. I freeze in portions suitable for two people, which means we get three to four meals out of one casserole, but we never actually have to deal with leftovers. Keep in mind that the cooking instructions change based on whether you are reheating a frozen versus defrosted meal as well as if you freeze prior to cooking (or finishing cooking) or after.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Flashbacks

My sister is deep in the throes of the first weeks of new mommyhood. I was reading through the comments on the Facebook post that announced my nephew’s arrival, and several people posted some variation of this message (stop me if you’ve heard this one): Enjoy every moment during this amazing time!

Um. No.

Let’s talk about this. Yes, every second of a wee babe’s life is precious, but from the perspective of a new parent (never forget!), those first weeks home you are in literal hell (FINE, FIGURATIVE HELL), which consequently defies laws of physics because you are simultaneously in hell and amazed by, in awe of, and in love with your new baby.

But literally (figuratively), it is hell.

Here’s the thing though... other parents will give you this line about enjoying every second somewhat wistfully (“They are only that small for a short period of time.”) because they have forgotten that they too were in a sleep deprived, confused, hormone-induced, post-delivery recovery hell-state (NEVER FORGET). All they are left with is the memory of sitting in the nursing chair rocking a tiny perfect brand new human who is sleeping peacefully, which, yes, is awesome, but the other stuff is hell. 

Em's first moments at home.
My advice... grit your teeth and hang on as tight as you can until you hit four to six weeks at which point you will have probably stopped crying several times a day and it starts to get better.

Seriously though, I’ve talked to my sister several times since they got home, and it’s true that you forget how rough it is really quickly. I listen to her and I have these moments of reliving the sheer exhaustion that is recovering from giving birth and learning how to take care of a newborn who has her days and nights mixed up and likes to scream. But in reliving those moments, I realize that I had already forgotten them. It all seems so far away, and yet, it was only 11 short weeks ago.

But the point is, a) it gets better and b) never forget.