Smoothies are a new parent’s best friend. Seriously. Being able to pack tons of nutrients and goodies into something that can be “eaten” with one hand is pretty much life-saving when you’re busy taking care of a little one. I think all parents should register for a high-quality blender on their baby registry.
Thankfully, I had a sneaking suspicion that I might enjoy some one-handed eats and managed to whip up a big batch of smoothie packs before I went into labor. If you’ve never made a smoothie pack before, basically, it’s all the ingredients for a smoothie portioned out for an individual serving all ready for a trip in the blender. I’m the first to admit that there is nothing complicated about making a smoothie the regular way, but being able to shave a few minutes off with smoothie packs has been a total lifesaver during these itty bitty teeny tiny newborn baby days. All I do is open up one of these packs, dump it into the individual serving cup of my blender with some milk, and—bam!—smoothie.
It probably comes as no surprise to you, but my favorite of the smoothie packs I made is this banana-yogurt smoothie that’s spiked with some fully-leaded coffee. I’ve always enjoyed coffee, but I’ve never been one of those folks that needed a daily jolt of java. But now, I’m quite liking the little bit of pick-me-up that I get from coffee, and being that it’s the middle of summer and hot as heck here in the Midwest, I really enjoy getting my burst of energy in cool, creamy, frosty smoothie form.
My smoothie packs have three ingredients—frozen vanilla yogurt cubes, frozen concentrated coffee cubes, and frozen banana pieces.
To make them, I first just portioned out the yogurt into an ice cube tray. I went with vanilla yogurt because I like the added flavor and the little bit of sweetness, but you could obviously use plain yogurt or whatever else sounds good to you.
And then, in another ice cube tray, I froze some highly concentrated coffee. I made this coffee about twice as strong as it would be if I was just drinking the coffee, because I only put two coffee cubes per smoothie. I really wanted that coffee flavor (and well, the caffeine) to come through in the final smoothie. You could also make espresso and freeze it if you have an espresso machine.
And then I also froze banana pieces into large chunks. For each smoothie pack, I put in two yogurt cubes, two coffee cubes, and about half a frozen banana into pint-sized freezer bags.
And then, when it’s time to make the smoothie, I just dump the pack into the blender with about a cup of milk and blend it all up until smooth. This gets me about a 12 ounce smoothie, which is a perfect hold-me-over option until I can procure a real meal. I then rinse out the freezer bag and hang it up to dry for the next time I want to make smoothie packs.
This method of smoothie pack making works for all kinds of flavors. I have other packs in the freezer with yogurt cubes, frozen strawberries, frozen bananas and these booster packs—which is nice for when I need to get in some real nutrition. I’m also thinking I might make some with chocolate milk (yum!), banana and peanut butter.
What’s your favorite kind of smoothie?
Breastfeeding is crazy, y’all. Not only do I find it totally insane (and amazing) that my body can produce all the nutrition that a tiny human needs to survive and grow less tiny, but I’m also fascinated by the way nursing affects my body. I had heard that exclusive breastfeeding burns about 500 extra calories a day, but I don’t quite think I grasped what that meant in terms of eating and energy levels for me postpartum. That’s like taking a Zumba class everyday or running on the treadmill for an hour! Of course I’m hungrier! And I imagine during baby growth spurts (like we went through last week) you burn even more than 500 calories.
Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to document a normal day of eating for me while breastfeeding. I think society puts a lot of pressure on new mothers to get their bodies “back” quickly after birth, and that includes being restrictive with food. I definitely think it’s important for moms to take care of themselves and try to get back to a weight and fitness level they are happy with eventually, but I’d also like to do my part to normalize the idea that it’s okay to just coast along and listen to what your body needs while nursing (especially in those first few months).
Worth noting, even though I’m eating lots, I am still consistently dropping weight–about a pound a week (in total, I’m down about 30 pounds from the day I went into labor). I am also not doing any workouts, just a daily easy walk around our property (usually with June Bug strapped to me). I really think the body was made for this process, and while it may take a bit longer to lose my pregnancy weight than if I restricted calories and worked out intensely, I’m fine with that pace (I totally understand that other new moms might want quicker results). Plus, getting to eat lots of rich, healthy food is kinda a blast. Onto my eats…
10:00am: Whole wheat bagel, cream cheese, eggs and bacon. Plus a side of Greek yogurt with chia seeds, granola and strawberries. Plus a strawberry smoothie and an unpictured big ole Mason jar full of ice water.
This has been my breakfast since I got home from the hospital. So yummy! By the time morning comes around, and I’ve done 3+ nursing sessions overnight, I am absolutely starving.
12:00pm: Chocolate protein smoothie.
I usually prefer to make my own smoothies, but these suckers were on mega clearance at the grocery store. Plus, I’m a big fan of easy right now, and you don’t get much easier than premade smoothies.
12:30pm: Snack plate with cherries, a Babybel, tomatoes, a hard-boiled egg and apple, peanut butter and raisin sandwiches. Plus a glass of iced oat straw tea.
Back when I was dealing with anxiety and panic attacks immediately postpartum, Craig did some research about natural anxiety remedies and found some folks had success with oat straw tea. It seems to be working for me. Although, It’s entirely possible that it was just coincidence and my hormones began to regulate the soon after I started drinking it, but it doesn’t hurt to have a glass everyday just in case.
3:30pm: Leftover spinach ravioli topped with olive oil and Parm. Plus a side salad and another Mason jar of water.
I skipped lunch in favor of taking a nap, and both June Bug and I woke up starving. I’m getting impressively good at eating while she nurses.
5:30pm: Fried zucchini.
There are lots of benefits to living 1/4 mile from your Mama. One of them is that she’ll randomly bring you delicious food (which I suspect is really just an excuse to see the baby). That’s okay, fried zucchini is awesome.
7:30pm-10:30pm: Another snack plate: cherries, a Babybel, a hard boiled egg, tomatoes, cantaloupe and a granola bar. More water.
Baby Girl is a big fan of evening cluster feeding, which means for about three hours every night, I’m camped out at the end of the futon in her nursery feeding her pretty much nonstop. Thank heavens for my iPad, handheld snacks, and an attentive husband. And the fact that babies eventually grow out of cluster feeding. These KIND granola bars have been a staple since June Bug was born. I ordered them in bulk and literally have a dozen boxes stashed in the nursery closet.
1:00am: Granola bar, applesauce and water
Squeezy applesauce is an awesome middle-of-the-night nursing snack. Just enough sugar to give me a bit of energy to stay awake, but not so much that I feel wired.
3:30am: Granola bar, banana with PB, and water
The 3am nursing session is my favorite because it’s such a sweet, quiet time with my baby girl, but man, I am always SO hungry by this point (but entirely too sleep deprived to head to the kitchen for “real” food). I’ve been trying to make up snack plates in the evening so they’re easy to grab-and-go when she wakes up in the middle of the night.
6:00am: Trail mix and water.
This is the part of the morning where I have to decide to get up for the day or go back to bed. Usually I stay up, and spend some quiet time with the little lady before breakfast, and that requires fuel. I keep a bowl of trail mix by my nursing station for quick and easy snacking.
And then the whole cycle starts over again!
What’s your favorite one-handed snack (I need new ideas!)?
Every Friday in our house is pizza night. Back before we changed our diet, it usually meant ordering delivery from the local pizza joint (and occasionally, it still does—yum), but more often than not, now we do homemade pizza. We usually load it full of whatever veggies we have kicking around the fridge or coming off in the garden and blanket it with cheese. Sometimes we’ll throw on some bacon or sausage, but usually our homemade pizzas are veggie-heavy.
One of the ways I like to make doing homemade pizza crazy easy on Friday (because, really, who wants to do a lot of work for dinner on Fridays?) is to have a constant stash of homemade pizza dough in the freezer. Freezing pizza dough makes it so easy to whip up a homemade pie. I usually just make a big batch of this at the beginning of the month, and it gives us enough crusts to make it through the month. When Friday comes ‘round, I just pull one of the bags out of the freezer in the morning and let it defrost and rise on the counter during the day. Usually by pizza time, it’s nice and puffy and ready for baking.
I’ve been perfecting my pizza dough recipe for years, and we absolutely love this one. It’s chewy, doughy, crispy and crunchy in all the right spots. The key to baking it up right is all in your baking method. I know a lot of folks swear by a pizza stone, but I’ve never been able to get good results with one, so I use a pizza pan with holes in it (like this one). The holes are key! They help the crust get nice and crisp on the bottom. I also tend to pre-bake the crust for just a few minutes before putting toppings on, but your cooking method may vary based on your oven, pan and doughy/crispy pizza crust preference.
I’ve made this dough recipe with all kinds of flours, and I really love the taste and texture that comes from using white whole wheat flour. White whole wheat flour is amazing for baked goods. It’s a 100% whole grain, but since it is ground from the lighter-flavored white wheat berry, it doesn’t have as much of a gritty, nutty whole grain taste or texture. You basically get the taste of white flour and the nutrition of whole wheat. Win! White whole wheat flour definitely deserves a spot in your pantry. I love King Arthur’s organic white whole wheat.
Who says homemade pizza has to be hard? This make-ahead dough means that making a healthy pizza on a Friday night is easy peasy!
- 2 cups warm water
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6-6 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 4 1/2 teaspoons yeast (or two packets)
- Combine all ingredients in the order listed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (start with the lower amount of flour).
- Turn the mixer on low and let mix until smooth, but still sticky, about five minutes. The dough shouldn’t stick to the edges of the bowl, if it does, add in additional flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together.
- Turn the mixer up a notch, and let it kneed the dough until it is very supple and smooth, about 10 minutes.
- Divide the dough into four even balls, and freeze in zip-top freezer bags.
- To defrost, let dough defrost at room temperature for 4-6 hours, or until puffy and warm. Or, for a quick defrost, place sealed zip-top bag into a sink full of hot water for 30-45 minutes, or until dough is puffy and warm.
- To use, preheat oven to 475°, and spread dough onto a medium-sized (about 14”) pizza pan. Pre-bake in oven for about 5 minutes, then remove from oven, add toppings, and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the crust is brown and the cheese is brown and bubbly. Let rest five minutes before slicing.
What are your favorite pizza toppings (I like bacon, pineapple and feta!)?
I was flipping through a cookbook the other day specifically packed with recipes that were good nutritional options for breastfeeding mothers (who knew there were such things?!). One of the foods the book kept talking about was lasagna. Apparently it’s a great balance of protein, carbs and fat that help keep Mom’s body firing on all cylinders. And, as a bonus, it’s an easy covered dish for folks to bring over when they want to visit, and it’s delicious for days and days as leftovers.
Makes sense to me. But I want to offer an alternative to the postpartum lasagna—spaghetti pie.
Now, I’ve made my fair share of lasagnas in my life, and many of them have even been very delicious, but I’ve never, ever been able to make a lasagna that takes less than two hours to put together. There is something about the structure and method to making lasagna that seems to make it the longest dish on the planet to make. It seems easy. Just a few layers of this and that, but by the time I actually pull the lasagna out of the oven (and let it set up for 15 minutes, so it isn’t a sloppy mess when I cut into it), it always seems like it’s 9pm, totally dark outside, and all I want to do is go to bed because I’m exhausted from lasagna-making. That’s where spaghetti pie comes in.
Spaghetti pie is like all the awesomeness of lasagna, without devoting an entire evening to the journey. Spaghetti pie is lasagna for a weeknight. And while it might not be as fancy pants as a perfectly-executed lasagna, it is just as delicious. Just as filling. And, I’d think, just as good of an option for new parents as a lasagna would be. And I say that as a new parent. Feel free to bring me spaghetti pie—I will not be disappointed in the least—in fact, I would feel better knowing you didn’t spend your entire evening working on a lasagna for me. Take the shortcut!
This recipe is tried-and-true—it’s one from my Mama’s recipe box and was my absolute favorite dinner growing up, and makes for some crazy awesome leftovers. Trust me, you want to make this.
Get all the flavor of lasagna without all the work in this pie-shaped Italian casserole. It’s a fun change of pace from the standard Italian fare!
- 6 ounces whole wheat spaghetti, cooked
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/3 cup grated (not shredded) Parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 pound ground beef or turkey
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 1/2 large green pepper, diced
- 2 cups spaghetti sauce (about one jar—use your favorite)
- 3/4 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 10” pie plate (a smaller one will work, but you might have some filling overflow—proceed with caution), set aside.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the spaghetti, butter, Parmesan cheese and eggs until well-combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie plate and form into a crust—the mixture will be a little gloppy, but do your best. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized skillet, brown the ground beef or turkey with the onion and green pepper until cooked through. Remove from heat, and drain on paper towels. Mix with the spaghetti sauce.
- Spread the ricotta or cottage cheese over top of the spaghetti “crust” and then top with the beef mixture.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until bubbly. Then sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese and bake an additional five minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
- Remove from oven and let cool and set up for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Cut into six pie-shaped slices and serve.
What’s your favorite dish to take to new parents?
We’re still in waiting mode here for the little one to make her arrival (Craig really wants it to be today because of the full moon/Friday the 13th thing—that apparently only happens every 50 years or so). I’m honestly doing just fine with playing the waiting game. I’m not the most comfortable I’ve ever been, but I’m definitely enjoying the extra free time. I’ve even had time to do some freezer filling! I know we’ll definitely appreciate some stashed foods in the coming weeks.
When I was thinking about what foods I wanted stashed in the fridge and freezer for post-baby, I knew I definitely wanted some comfort foods. Tuna casserole is one of those foods that I had so often as a kid, that it just screams “comfort!” to me. And when I got my first apartment as a young college kid, my Mama jotted down the recipe on a piece of paper so I could make sure to get some good old-fashioned comfort even though she wasn’t nearby.
The original recipe for this dish uses canned condensed soups to give it its creamy texture and tons of flavor. I’m not a huge fan of those soups because they’re mostly packed with artificial ingredients and tons and tons of sodium (and not a lot of nutrients). There are some all-natural versions out there, but at almost $5 a can, they mean making tuna noodle casserole is no longer an affordable comfort food, but a pricey gourmet dish!
Instead, I use my own versions of those condensed soups that are homemade, all-natural and way tastier. I actually make big batches of cream of chicken, creamy of celery and cream of mushroom soups and freeze them in “can-sized” portions just for dishes like these. Combine that with whole grain egg noodles and this dish is darn near health food.
I tripled this recipe and divided it between three square dishes for freezing and one for immediate eating. To freeze, I just line a square baking dish with overlapping, overhanging foil, and then fill with the mixture and toppings. Then, I just fold over the foil to make a seal, and pop the whole thing in the freezer for a few hours until solid. Then, I pop the casserole brick out of the square baking dish, and slide it into a labeled gallon zip-top bag (I make sure to label the bag with what the casserole is, when I made it and, most importantly, what baking dish it’ll fit back into).
Then, when it’s time to cook, I can just plop the frozen brick into the baking dish (foil and all) and either let it defrost completely in the fridge if I’m on top of things, or cook it from frozen for about an hour longer than the original cooking time. Whip up a fresh green side salad and dinner is served!
Makeover this classic casserole to be more health-friendly by using whole grain noodles and a healthy homemade version of the cream of celery soup—you’ll never go back to the canned stuff!
- 2 tablespoons buter
- 4 stalks celery, diced
- 1/2 large onion, diced
- 1/2 large green pepper, diced
- 8 ounces whole wheat egg noodles, cooked al dente
- 2-5 ounce cans tuna, drained
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 can (about 1-1/2 cups) cream of celery soup
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 425°. Grease a two quart casserole dish, set aside.
- Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Add in the celery, onion and green pepper and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the sautéed veggies, egg noodles, tuna, mayo, and salt. Set, aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the cream of celery soup and milk and heat over medium-high heat until heated through, about five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese until melted. Add the mixture to the noodle mixture, tossing to coat.
- Pour mixture into the prepared casserole dish, top with breadcrumbs and bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and crunchy.
What’s your favorite comfort food?
I’m not sure if garlic scapes are a “thing” to anyone who doesn’t grow garlic (are they?) but, if you do grow garlic, you definitely know the joy of scapes. Scapes are the little curly cue shoots that come off of hardneck garlic plants in early summer. If you let them hang out on the plant, they’d eventually produce seed pods which could eventually turn into bulbs. But since the entire goal of growing garlic is to create a big ole plump garlic head below the ground, most garlic growers snip off these scapes when they show up to divert all that extra energy down to the root.
Some garlic growers just toss the scapes in the compost, but that’s a shame, because they’re definitely edible and totally delicious. They have a mild garlic flavor, but with a bit of brightness that you don’t normally find in just your regular clove of garlic. They definitely have a flavor all their own.
If you aren’t growing garlic (and why the heck aren’t you, it’s literally one of the easiest vegetables to grow), you can sometimes find scapes at your local farmer’s market. But the season is extremely limited. You might be able to go to the market one week and see dozens of vendors with scapes and no one will have them the next. Stock up while you can!
Scapes are also awesome because scape season means that the garlic harvest is right around the corner (it’s about a month after you snip off the scapes that the garlic is ready). And I love, love, love digging into the garlic bed and pulling up beautiful bunches of garlic. It’s definitely one of my favorite veggies to harvest. With each bulb, I just imagine all the delicious meals I’m going to make over the next year.
The “traditional” way to use garlic scapes is to turn them into a pesto. And it’s awesome. You just follow the normal way of making basil pesto, but sub in fresh scapes for the basil. It freezes well, and makes for a really delicious pasta dish come January when the possibility of fresh food from the garden has long been covered by snow and ice.
We snipped off the scapes from our garlic patch this week, and I did reserve some of the bunch for pesto-making, but I also wanted to try using the scapes in another way—biscuits. I’ve talked about it before here, but learning the proper method for making big, fluffy biscuits is a rite of passage in our family. And while it’s hard to beat the anything-but-standard buttermilk biscuits my Dad makes, I have to say, this scape and cheddar version is pretty high up on the yum-o-meter. It’s like Cheddar Bay Biscuits from Red Lobster (yup, I’m pulling out that reference) but 3000% more delicious.
I’m sure you could try to make these biscuits with whole wheat flour, but, gosh, I believe life is just too short to eat whole grain biscuits. There are a lot (most!) times in my kitchen where I’m fine with subbing in whole grains, but during biscuit-making isn’t one of them.
I served these biscuits for Sunday dinner with Ham ’n’ Beans and a big ole Mason jar full of sweet tea. Because that’s how we roll here in the Midwest.
These fluffy, tender biscuits are the perfect accompaniment to your favorite Sunday dinner. If you don’t have scapes around, subbing in fresh chives would work, as well.
- 3 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (the sharper, the better!)
- 1/3 cup chopped garlic scapes
- 1-1/2 sticks chilled butter, cut into chunks
- 1-2/3 cup buttermilk
- Additional flour for kneading
- Preheat oven to 400°. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt until well-mixed. Stir in the cheddar cheese and scapes.
- Using a pastry blender, two forks or your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter pieces are a touch smaller than a pea.
- Gently stir in the buttermilk, being careful not to over mix. The mixture will (and should!) be very sticky and liquidy.
- Heavily flour a work surface, and dump the dough onto the flour. Flour the top of the dough well, and then pat out until 1/2-inch thick. Fold the dough in half horizontally, then pat down again until 1/2-inch thick, adding more flour to cover sticky parts if necessary. Fold the dough in half vertically, then pat down again until 1/2-inch thick. Repeat this process 5-6 more times (this is creating the delicious, delectable layers that make the final biscuit so awesome).
- Flour a circle biscuit cutter or a drinking glass, and press straight down to cut the biscuit. Do not twist the cutter! Twisting “seals” the sides of the biscuit and stops it from rising. Just push straight down and bring the cutter straight up. Try to get as many biscuits out of this first cutting as possible, because when you regather the scraps, those won’t rise as nicely as the first go ‘round.
- Transfer the biscuit rounds to an ungreased baking sheet, and bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown on top.