Burrito’s Prepared in Advance (Tired Mama’s Burritos)

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I’ve been a mama for over two years now but I seem to wear it so differently than before.  There are signs of motherhood all over me.  Maybe they’ve been there all along, or maybe I can just appreciate them in a whole new way.  I can see my beautiful girls in the dark crescent moons beneath my eyes and a mark on my belly that whispers, life was here.  I can see them in the bizarre thinning of hair that frames my face. I can see them in all the new happy lines that frame my mouth.  Some days I am knee-deep in spit up and overflowing milk, while diffusing tantrums, and hoping scotch, but I am bathing and sometimes drowning, in the most beautiful love story I’ve ever known.  My tired body and eyes might not look so full of life, but each night I lay my head for rest with the fullest heart I’ve ever known. I am loving this season and slowly but surely I am getting the hang of it.  Most days.  Or at least I think I am until six o’clock comes around and I have no inspiration for dinner, in fact I had not even thought about it.

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It turns out, I am not alone.  I’ve asked a lot of other tired mamas lately for some ideas and inspiration.  When I ask how they make dinner happen, most of them laugh and say, “i don’t.”  Mac and cheese and take out are their dear friends.  Quite honestly, if our budget allowed that I would be taking full advantage, especially since we live on a street with some of the best food Portland has to offer.  But that is not an option in this season of our lives and I really do find so much joy in cooking for my family, I just need a little creativity these days.

And so, the tired mama’s burrito was born.  I have made these twice since Bijou was born.  I cook and prepare them one day out of the week and freeze them for later.  When reheated in the oven they become perfectly crispy and then topped with avocados, salsa and sour cream they suddenly become attractive.  The best part is that they taste great and require very little effort on the day you actually eat them. They also happen to be budget friendly, working out to be a little more than $2 a burrito (using all organic ingredients.)  You can follow the recipe or make it your own. Any type of meat would be great. I also think adding grilled corn and sliced olives would be super yummy. You get the idea. The burritos themselves are pretty simple, and I feel so tempted to want to make them fancier but I suppose simplicity is the point here. And the concept of freezing them is worthy of sharing.

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Tired Mama’s Burritos

Makes 10

10 flour tortilla’s

4 cups of cooked brown rice

1 lb. chicken breasts

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 large red onion, chopped

15 oz. can of black beans

1 cup of salsa

1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

2 packets of simply organic taco seasoning

4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

Bake, grill or boil chicken until cooked. Let cool and shred chicken into small bite sized pieces. Set aside.

Meanwhile cook your rice as directed on package.

In a large skillet on medium heat, saute onion in olive oil until soft and translucent.  Add shredded chicken, drained beans, salsa, lime juice, rice and cilantro.  Mix until combined.  Mix the taco seasoning with water (see ratios on package) and pour into large skillet.  Mix until everything is saturated in the taco seasoning.  Turn off heat and set aside.

Shred your cheese, place in a bowl and set aside.

Arrange your ingredients in a way that is easiest for you to build your burritos.  I keep the skillet on the stove, place the bowl of cheese and tortillas near by on my counter and prepare  the burritos one at a time and on a large plate or cutting board.

First start with the cheese.  This is important because it is the top of your burrito and will keep the cheese from melting out of the bottom.  Sprinkle a large handful of cheese, top to bottom inside your tortillas.   You want to leave about 3 inches on the top and bottom of your tortilla so you can wrap it well.

Next scoop out your chicken beans and rice and spread on top of cheese, top to bottom.  I have not ever measured the exact size of my scoop but I would guess it’s about 1 cup.  There really is no exact science here, you can build them as little or big as you want, however the bigger they are, the harder to wrap and keep together.  Just experiment as you go.

Fold the top and bottom parts of your tortilla into the middle.  Next bring in the sides.  Let the sides fold as needed to make an even rectangle.  It will freeze in the position you wrap it and this ensures the filling will not come out once it is reheated in the oven.  After each burrito is wrapped, transfer them, (folded side down) to a large baking sheet and place them side by side.  Repeat this process with all 10 burritos.

Place baking sheet in the freezer for 1-2 hours.  This keeps them from freezing to each other.  Once they are completely frozen you can place them in any sort of storage you prefer.  I used large ziploc bags.

On the night you want to eat them...preheat your oven to 400.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until slightly golden and crispy.  Serve with sliced avocados or guacamole, sour cream, and salsa.  Of course you can also microwave if you are in a hurry but I prefer how the oven makes it nice and crispy.

 

 

 

 

Lately

We’ve been blessed by family and friends bringing us meals in this postpartum season. If you are reading this, and that is you, thank you, thank you, thank you! Bijou is now 3 1/2 weeks old and life is starting to get real. Meaning, I am completely perplexed how anyone can cook dinner with TWO children. I know it will get easier and so I am trying to remember that no season is forever. Snuggling with my ladies is far more important than eating good food right now. However, on the nights when I’ve had help from my mom and mother in law, we’ve managed to make some pretty yummy grub over here. The nights they haven’t been here?  Complete and utter chaos, crying babes and burned frittatas that are so inedible that your husband opts for another bowl of granola.  But, here are some of things we have enjoyed lately…

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1. Pork dumplings, recipe HERE//

2. Mango Avocado Salsa: 2 ripe avocados, 1 ripe mango, handful of chopped cilantro, a few glugs of olive oil, juice from 1/2 lime, a few pinches of sea salt. 

3. Maple Balsamic Roasted Carrots:  Cut in half  and drizzle with equal parts olive oil and maple syrup (I probably used 4 tbsp each for a small bunch of carrots.)  Sprinkle a generous amount of sea salt and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.  Bake at 425 for 30 minutes or until roasted to your liking. 

4.  The long anticipated Margarita!!  One of my favorite recipes HERE

5.  Some of the Best Burgers I’ve had in a long time (inspired by Crumbums) 1 1/2 lb. ground beef, 1 tsp. sea salt, 1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1/4 tsp. white pepper, 1 egg, 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese. Mix together, form into patties and grill.

6.  Iced Americano’s, an absolute daily necessity for a tired new mama.  Espresso in my bialetti is my absolute favorite!

 

The Birth of Bijou

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Disclaimer: Speaking, let alone writing intelligible sentences 3 weeks postpartum is proving to be challenging. This birth story is LONG, as was the labor and I am sure is full of typos. Please excuse them…I just needed to start somewhere before I forget the details.

Dear Bijou,

Your sister and I baked you a peach pie as a way of asking (maybe begging,) you to come meet us and join our baking adventures. You took our bait, although took your own sweet time coming into this world. The entire pie was gone before you were even born. And so, I find it most appropriate to bake another peach pie (only possible because nanny is here to help me,) and remember your beautiful birth…

On the night of June 4th at 41 + 4 days pregnant, I went to sleep begging to you start the process of coming into this world. The next morning my last midwife appointment was scheduled and I did not want to pedal 5 miles there and 5 miles back. Up until 41 weeks riding my bike was a dream. It uplifted my spirits and was probably the only time I didn’t dwell on all the aches and pains that comes at the very end of pregnancy. However, I was feeling quite emotional and tired and I did not want to wake up early and leave our apartment. So, I was giddy with excitement when I woke on Thursday morning and noticed I was loosing my mucus plug and had what is called “bloody show.” Both are two signs that labor is imminent. I started to calculate that most likely you would be born on June 7th, a day I always knew would be special. I called Angela, my midwife and told her what was happening. She thought it would be best to stay home because the mild contractions I was feeling would most likely start to escalate and she didn’t want me to tire myself out by riding my bike to her. Great news, I could stay home! I was so excited I couldn’t really rest though.

Your Dad and I started cleaning our apartment and getting things set up for your birth. I made a grocery list of the snacks and drinks I wanted for labor and your dad and Octave biked to the store and left me to rest. In the afternoon nana came to pick up your sister so that we could have a good nights rest and some time just the two of us.

That day I had contractions that were different from the Braxton hicks contractions I had experienced the weeks prior, however they were mild enough that I could continue to go about my daily activities. They continued that entire day and I went to bed slightly bummed that nothing more was happening, but excited because I knew it had to be soon.

On Friday Angela suggested I come to her for my last appointment seeing as though I still was still not in labor. While I would love to sound like a rock star and tell you that I biked there, I didn’t. Your nana came and picked me up. When Angela checked my cervix it was soft and dilated to a 3 but not yet effaced. She suggested I go get some acupuncture after my appointment with her and was hopeful that it would set me into labor. Acupuncture was exactly what I needed because as I laid on the table with needles in all my favorite points, I started feeling the most intense contraction yet. They kept coming a few minutes apart and it was almost getting hard to continue to be still on the table. When the acupuncturist came back in the room I told her the point under my knee and along the outside of my shin kept calling my name and asked to be needled. Ironically she told me she was on her way back in to stimulate the needles and add another one there. That point translates to “run three miles,” and it is a great point for endurance. My body and my acupuncturist’s intuition must have known that I was about to forgo two nights of sleep and be in labor for 48 hours. This point may have been my saving grace. I got off the table and felt like a new woman. I felt ready for labor and could feel it coming on. Before leaving my appointment the acupuncturist took me into the sunlight to examine my ears. In Chinese medicine there is a way to tell the sex of the baby based on the veins on the mothers ears. It was kind of hard to tell but she thought I had a little more on my right side (the female side.) This made your nana boast with confidence because she is the only person who was adamant you were a little girl. Everyone else, family, friends and even strangers always commented on how they thought you were a boy.

Nana drove me home and the contractions continued to get stronger. They were still very manageable but I was starting to get a little moody and did not want to be in the car anymore. Nana stayed with me until your dad got home from work and she took Octave another night for us. Your dad and I ate one our favorite meals, the Brian’s Bowl from Por Que No, and then walked our street to help keep the contractions going. The intensity of them died down but they were coming every 3-5 minutes. I went back home, took a bath and went to bed early. After an hour of lying in bed my contractions got stronger and it was too uncomfortable to lay flat. I went back into the tub and hung out there for a few hours. I woke your dad up around midnight and asked him to time my contractions. He laid down in the bathroom with me while I breathed through my contractions that were coming every 3 minutes. I was feeling more but I was trying my hardest to play it cool. I kept thinking that it was just the beginning and I didn’t want to admit that it hurt yet. But truthfully it did hurt and I was resisting these contractions rather than embracing them. I wanted to call Angela because I really felt like things might progress quickly, but I doubted myself and did not want to call her over in the middle of the night for nothing. When I eventually called her an hour later, she told me that she didn’t think I was in active labor yet and to just lay down and try to get some sleep. I was frustrated because while I may not have been in active labor, my contractions were still strong and frequent enough to keep me from sleeping. In fact, I wasn’t even able to be anywhere other than the shower for the entire night and into the early morning.

The next morning Angela and Maggie, her midwife in training, came over to check my cervix and just see how I was doing. When they got there my contractions started to calm down and come less often. They assured me I was not in active labor yet but my body was in early labor and preparing. My cervix was dilated to a 4 and I was completely effaced. I was encouraged that even though my body was moving slowly, things were happening. However I had not slept a wink that night and was pretty darn exhausted. Thankfully my contractions stopped for about an hour and I was able to sleep an hour before waking up to a good contraction. That whole day was the same story as the evening and night before. I had contractions that ranged from 3-7 minutes apart that were strong enough I couldn’t sleep or lay down but not so intense that I felt like I needed the birth tub just yet. I kept feeling like my body was ready to have you but something was holding me back.

I got a call from Angela around 8 pm on Saturday the 7th. She wanted to come up with a plan for me. She asked if I knew why my labor was not progressing. Maybe she sensed I was holding back something. I burst into tears and admitted that I was scared. I wasn’t scared that you or I were unsafe, because I knew we were just fine. I was not scared that anything was going wrong, I was simply afraid of my own body. If I was having a hard time with the contractions so far and they were telling me I wasn’t even in active labor yet, I was terrified I would not be able to last through the hardest work yet. I was embarrassed that maybe I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was. I started to doubt myself, especially with little to no sleep over the last few days. Crying and admitting I was scared is exactly what I needed. She guided me through some images and spoke positive, encouraging words. Within minutes I felt a change in my body. I was still on the phone with her and I started having contractions that I had to make deep low sounds though. I hung up the phone with her feeling a million times better and ready to surrender.

About 2 hours later I woke Chris up and told him I had decided it was time to have a baby. He inflated the birth tub, and started filling it with water while I rocked and moaned and moved through my contractions in the shower. Soon after we called Angela and Maggie and told them to come over. Even if I still had a long ways to go I wanted and needed their presence there. I looked at the clock when I stepped into the tub and it was 11:30pm. I was slightly sad that you would not be born on June 7th, but at that point I was too excited to meet you to really care what day you would be born. And after all, the 8th is a lucky number in the Cheney family and your Bompa and Auntie were secretly hoping you would be born on June 8th and join them in the 8 club!

By the time Angela and Maggie arrived our space was in full-out birthing mode. Lights out, candles burning, music playing and essential oils out and ready for inhaling during each contraction. I kept repeating the word “open,” under my breath as I rocked in the water on my hands and knees. As things got more intense I kept telling myself “my contractions cannot be bigger than me because they are me.” I found comfort knowing that my body was not going to give me something I couldn’t handle, and so I had to keep my mind on those words as to not lose focus. This went on for 6 or 7 hours. I told Angela that I felt a lot of pressure and things were starting to feel different. She called Brandee, my other midwife and told her to come over. The pressure started to get more intense and the contractions closer together and longer. At this point the water was my saving grace. I quickly realized that I was not getting any breaks between my contractions and Angela told me I was in transition. Hearing those words was a sigh of relief because I knew I was close. I had read hundreds of birth stories to know that transition was going to feel like the craziest thing I ever experienced but it meant I was close to the end.

Brandee arrived at some point during all of this. I can’t remember exactly because I was starting to go to a different place. I just remember being aware of her comforting touch and her signing me a song about my body opening up. As she sang I could actually feel my cervix open the last little bit it needed. I will never forget that feeling. Never in my life had I been so vulnerable and so open, emotionally and physically. Being aware of this was really powerful.

I had to get out of the tub to go to the bathroom, and once I was out the pain was almost paralyzing. It must have taken me 15 minutes to even get to the bathroom because I had to stop with every contraction. I finally made it to the bathroom and when I was finished I leaned over the sink working my way through the most intense contraction yet. It literally took my breath away and I wanted to panic. Brandee started lightly massaging my back and it was as if she put me in a trance. I was experiencing the most intense sensation in my life and yet I was the calmest I had ever been throughout labor. I cannot explain or even understand what was happening but I felt out of this world almost, looking down on myself and my body. I slowly walked to our bed and laid down. I laid there for what felt like 10 minutes, feeling but not feeling the contractions take over me. I suddenly popped straight up out of the bed and said I wanted to push. I walked to the bathroom, sat on the toilet one last time before I wanted to get in the tub to push and my water immediately broke. There was a huge pop sound and my water burst across the room and reached the tub. I went to the bathroom and then decided I wanted to take a really hot shower before getting in the tub. I was so happy that I had the complete freedom to do whatever I wanted during this process.

I got in the tub and the urge to push suddenly went away. I doubted that I was fully dilated and ready to push you out. I asked if I should just try to push or what to do next. My midwives reminded me that I was the one running the show and I was the one who was telling them what I was going to do next. I felt kind of silly at that point for not listening to my body. After all, this is exactly why I wanted to give birth this way.

I remember looking at the clock on our stove and seeing that it was almost 5 am. I always envisioned giving birth to you as the sun came up, so I was quite happy that it was actually happening. I could smell coffee steeping in the French press and I felt so happy that I was in my own home and that you were coming soon.

Just minutes after I felt like I wasn’t ready to push, the most shocking noise and sensation come from my body. A gutteral, primal noise came from the deepest part of me and out of my mouth. With that noise, my entire body started to involuntarily push you out. “wooow,” I said and laughed. This happened a few more times. For a few minutes I remembering thinking “this is going to be easy, I don’t even have to try to push my baby out.” Unfortunately, those natural instincts and whole body pushes were just getting you deeper into my pelvis and preparing me for the real work. At that moment complete panic set it. I felt sensations I never thought existed and my eyes were wondering the room, desperately looking for someone to connect with, someone to save me. The world felt like it was spinning and I was desperately trying to grab on for help. I locked eyes with Brandee and started to follow her breath as much as I possibly could. I had a great support system but no one could help me, no one could save. It was the most scary and liberating thing I have ever felt. I pushed and yelled and wanted to cry, but I was felt too deep into a survival mode to let my emotions take over. I pushed a few more times and Angela said she could feel your head. She asked if I wanted to feel it too, but I was more concerned with getting you out as soon as possible. After another push your head was out and I felt a sigh of relief, because the hardest part was over. One more push and out came your entire body. You came floating up to me with your back towards me. Angela and Brandee helped guide you into my arms and on my chest. I was filled with so much emotion and cried tears of joy and tears of relief. It was over. I did it! We did it! It took a minute or two to even look to see if you were a boy or girl. We asked, “who are you?” and turned you over. Even though the very last week of pregnancy I started to think you might be a girl, I was a little surprised to see that you really were. Like I mentioned earlier, everyone other than your nana, was convinced you were a boy. It was such a wonderful surprise!

Maybe 10 minutes later, we got out of the tub together with your cord still attached and transferred to the bed. You laid on my chest skin to skin while I pushed out the placenta. We cut your cord and I remember feeling slightly emotional about that moment. You were officially your very own person in this world. You found your way to my breast very quickly and latched on immediately. After a few hours I gave you to your dad for some skin on skin time with him while I went to take a shower. I came back to bed, we ate snacks, drank some coffee and cuddled with you. The midwives checked you over and weighed you. You were 7 lbs and 9 oz. of complete perfection.

When it was all said in done it was 48 hours, 10 hours of that which were considered active labor and I slept a total of one hour during that time period. While it was much longer than I had hoped for I think somehow it was exactly what I needed to understand a deep part of myself. Birthing you into this world was without a doubt one of the most epic moments of my life. I am so happy I got to experience the home water birth I always dreamed of. I am even more excited that you are finally here, my little Bijou Haru, a little lady I had anticipated for many years. You complete our little family and we love you more than you will ever know.

Love,

Mama

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Peach Pie for Bijou

Crust

2 1/4 c. flour

3/4 tsp. sea salt

2 tsp. cane sugar

15 tbsp. unsalted very cold butter

10-12 tbsp. ice water

Egg+ splash of milk for brushing

1-2 tbsp. turbinado sugar for dusting on top of dough

Filling

6 large ripe peaches

1/4 c. cane sugar

1/4 c. brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground clove

Pinch of sea salt

3 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions

In a food processor combine flour, salt and sugar.  Pulse until combined. Cut very cold butter into tiny bite size pieces and place in the food processor. Pulse  6-8 times, or until flour resembles tiny pebbles.  One tablespoon at a time pour in ice water and pulse.  To test the dough remove the lid and try to pinch the dough together.  It should just barely hold together.  Your dough will look more like sand and you might think that it is too dry, but as long as it just sticks together in your fingers you have achieved the correct consistency for a perfect flaky crust.

Pour crumbly dough on a large clean surface and start to frisage your dough. Watch this video to learn how.  This technique always produces a flaky crust for me.  Form two disks with the dough and wrap in seran wrap.  Place in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to two days.

While dough is chilling, cut peaches into bite sized pieces.  You can choose to peel the skins or leave them on.  I left them on but would probably choose to peel them next time.  Place them in a large bowl and spices, sugar, cornstarch, flour and lemon juice.  Mix together well and let sit at room temperature while you roll out your dough.  This is also a good time to preheat your oven to 400′.

On a well floured surface or pastry mat roll out your dough into a 10″ circle.  Place and form dough inside a 9″ pie pan.  Pour peach filling inside.  Roll out the second disk of dough into another 10″ circle.  This is the time to cut out any shapes if you desire.  Place dough on top of peaches (you want it to just come to the very edge of the pie dish.  Using your thumb and index finger on one hand and your thumb on your other, scallop the dough all the way around the dish.  Brush dough with one beaten egg and a splash of milk.  Sprinkle sugar on top.

Bake pie on top of a large baking pan.  This helps to ensure that the pie crust on the bottom gets baked all the way through.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, until golden brown on top and filling is bubbling.  Check your pie after 40 minutes to see if you need to place some foil on top to keep from browning too much.  Let your pie cool for at least 2 hours, preferably 4.

 

 

 

A Day In Photographs ~ Mother’s Day

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We started out strong, sporting our tattoos for the Cyclofemme ride, but we strayed from the group because the bladder of a 2 year old and a 38 week pregnant woman can be rather high maintenance.  We still managed to cover 15-20 miles of the city, stopped for brunch at Broder, took a family nap, enjoyed some Salt + Straw ice cream with Tay-Tay and ended our with day some play at the park.  It was the perfect way to celebrate being a Mama. 

The Last Days

 

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This week my little lady has showered me with enough genuine “I love you Mama’s,” to make my heart nearly explode. She’s been the fuel I need to keep on pedaling with my 37 1/2 week belly. She’s the reason that while I am brewing with anticipation, I am still content being so uncomfortable. I am not ready to say goodbye to the days where it is just the two of us. She is the one who made me a mama, the one who doubled the size of my heart and the one who has taught me the true meaning of life. I have loved every single moment with her.

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As excited as I am to meet the newest addition of our family, I will admit that I am slightly mourning our family of three. I remember feeling something similar a few weeks before I got married, and then again before Octave was born.  I am trying to make little judgement on my feelings and simply just observe them. While life continues to get better with the building upon my life and family, it is sometimes hard to say goodbye to what was. And while I embrace change, I embrace the present even more.

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I am trying to be as intentional as possible in these last days. Slow, steady, present, with no agenda and few distractions, I’ve been savoring every last drop of my precious little lady. I’ve been so consumed with her that I’ve hardly read or written a blog post. I’ve hardly cooked or baked anything worth sharing. I’ve hardly had a moment to even think and process all the changes we’ve experienced the last six months, let alone the changes that are coming. “Mama’s time,” during nap time or in the evenings has been non-existent because we’ve fallen asleep together most days and nights. I wouldn’t want things any other way right now and I’ve been so happy being completely consumed with her sweet cheeky smiles, but to be honest, this body has needed a little break. So, when a friend asked to take Octave for the day I gladly obliged.

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It is 2 pm and I have already made one of my favorite desserts. I’ve swept and mopped my floors, washed the laundry, eaten 6 salted caramels and pedaled to a local coffee shop. I sit here sipping espresso, with my computer out for the first time in weeks. There is even a book beside my computer. A BOOK! While I miss my little lady already, this is so good for my soul and it might also be one of the last moments to myself before becoming a mama of two. Just like I am savoring every last moment with Octave, today I am savoring time to myself.

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On my day off I wanted to make, eat and share one of my favorite treats. This recipe is originally a cake, but I’ve made it into cupcakes a handful of times. It is simple, beautiful, healthy and absolutely delicious. Perfect for Birthdays, perfect for friends with special diets(it’s gluten free, dairy free and can be made vegan if you replace the honey with agave nectar.) In this case, it is perfect for a mama’s day off, and an early mother’s day treat!

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 Raw Cashew Dreamcake 

Recipe from My New Roots

Makes 12

Crust

1/2 cup raw almonds

1/2 cup pitted medjool dates (about 10 dates)

1/4 tsp. sea salt

Filling

1 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

1/3 cup honey

Juice of 2 lemons

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup raspberries + more for garnish

Directions

In a food processor or high powered blender, pulse almonds, dates and salt until it starts to clump together.  Depending on the freshness of your dates you may need to add a splash of water to help the crust combine.  You should be able to pinch crust between your fingers and have it stick together.

Scoop out 1 tbsp of crust for each cupcake and place in the bottom of pan.  Using the back of a spoon or your fingers, evenly press crust into each cut out.  Place in freezer while you prepare the filling.

Place cashews, lemon juice, vanilla extract, coconut oil and honey in the food processor.  Blend for 3-5 minutes or until completely smooth.  Scoop out half (about 1 cup) of filling and pour a dollop over all 12 crusts.  Place in freezer for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the filling.

Add raspberries to the remaining mixture and blend until smooth.  Pour over all 12 cupcakes and garnish with raspberries.  Place in freezer for 2 hours or until frozen.  Before serving let cupcakes rest at room temperature for a few minutes.  Using a butter knife you can loosen the cupcakes inside the pan and help pop out.  You can also use cupcake wrappers, but I was not motivated to make a special trip to the store.

 

 

Browned Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies, With Sea Salt

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I made these cookies in the midst of an epic meltdown with Octave. Sugar and salt ended up everywhere but the bowl, she burned her hand on the hot stove, and an entire jar of vanilla extract was just moments from drowning the cookie batter. For a brief moment I could understand why my mother never attempted to bake with me.

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Her independence is something to applaud and admire, and yet there are moments when it will send me into a tizzy, leaving me in tears or flat on my back, silent, as if not to explode. She is teaching me that I am not as laid back as I would like to think I am. Some days are like this. Some days everything, (and I really do mean everything,) is work and I doubt if I was cut out for this crazymessybeautiful life as a mama. And yet some days I am filled to the brim, overflowing with so much love and joy that I find myself once again, in tears laying flat on my back, only this time for reasons much more worthy of celebrating.

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My days have been rich and yet they have been exhausting. My days have been spent nesting and making our beautiful little space our own. The best thing about living in 620 square feet is that I get to feel like an awesome housewife for having everything cleaning and organized each morning and night. When you have little and live simply, it takes little effort to keep things put together.   So, for someone who needs a clean tidy environment to function, I am viewing our little space as a blessing rather than a disadvantage. And besides, for the first time in my adult life I am living with both a washer and dryer and dishwasher! My life has been changed. Forever. Seriously.

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My days have been spent riding around the city and being filled back up with life. This city is even better than I remember. Riding in lanes with hundreds of other cyclists is doing wonders for my confidence and affirming our lifestyle choices. I am not alone.

My days have been spent, back in the kitchen, feeling a little more like myself. I really did just need my own kitchen back. Baking, even in the midst of chaos and meltdowns, is one of the most centering things in my life right now. And I have yet to kick my cookie craving this pregnancy, so this is where I can be found…in the BEST chocolate chunk cookies I’ve ever had.

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Almost a year ago I posted our loyal chocolate chip recipe. Many moons and too many cookies later, I have made an even better batch that I can now confidently call, the BEST! Browning the butter and using a combination of both brown and cane sugar makes all the difference. Chop up your favorite bar of chocolate, add some flaky sea salt on top, and you have perfection.

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I thought I had the best recipe for chocolate chip cookies, until I learned that I didn’t. Until I tasted something better. I feel a little silly comparing my life to chocolate chip cookies, but I really do see a connection. I didn’t realize I was so unhappy until I experienced happiness again. I can see now that I have been in survival mode almost the entire time we were in Wyoming. I’ve been waiting to be where I’ve always wanted to be. Now I am here, grateful to be on the other side, savoring every last morsel of life. It is truly great to be alive.

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Brown Buttered Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 ¼ cup AP flour (I use bob’s red mill)

1 ½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. sea salt

1 cup grass-fed unsalted butter, browned

¾ cup cane sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

1 egg, + 1 yolk

1 heaping cup of semi sweet chocolate chips or a chocolate bar cut into chunks

Coarse sea salt for garnish

Melt butter in a small saucepan until it is cracking and brown. It may even start to foam. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Combine flour, salt and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl combine sugars and browned butter. Beat with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, until combined. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla. Mix until combined.

Add half of dry ingredients into large mixing bowl and mix until all the dry ingredients are absorbed. Add the second half and repeat. Add in chocolate chips of chunks and beat until just combined. Cover dough and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill. While the dough is chilling, pre-heat oven to 350.

Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, scoop out dough and place evenly onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle each ball of dough with coarse sea salt. Bake for 9-10 minutes. Immediately upon removing from oven, pat pan against counter or table, (this helps the cookies set, leaving those attractive lines that are found in my favorite bakery style cookies!) Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes and transfer to wire rack to allow them to cool completely.

 

 

361 days of bliss

We are about to celebrate one whole year of living car free. During the last year there were only four days, or at least that I can remember, when I cursed the road, thought we were crazy, or wanted to own a car again. Four days out of 365 is surprisingly few, especially when six months of the year was spent in subzero weather, pregnant, with a babe. I am now a believer that it can be done in almost any circumstance!

Since moving back to Portland (with a belly that is undeniably pregnant), people have been telling me that once baby number two comes I will want a car. I wouldn’t say I feel defensive, but I’m a little surprised. I would think that that the last year would have proven our determination and shown the joy we’ve found in living without one. I would think that attempting this lifestyle with a toddler in the middle of nowhere would speak loud enough for itself. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot … and maybe these people are right. After every honeymoon phase, real life starts to happen.

I remember my dear friend Laurel, who I admire greatly, speaking wise words to me almost four years ago. She and her husband have been married for over 10 years and helped guide Christopher and I in our pre-marital counseling. (I have yet to find a couple more worthy of learning from.) The week before I got married, something in me started to question my ability to vow forever. It seemed to come out of nowhere. It caught me off guard. I found myself crying to Laurel and admitting that I was scared that I might want to run away one day.

She wasn’t surprised. She calmly and confidently told me that of course at some point in our marriage I would want to run away … but that I wouldn’t. I laughed, snorted, and cried some more. It was a profound moment for me. It brings meaning to not only marriage but so many areas of life. It is not my feelings that I should fear, because feelings, while they are very real, come and go.

It’s the choices I make that are important.

It is possible that in six months time I will be wishing we had a car. Once I admitted that to myself, I was filled with a new enthusiasm. The question is not “will I ever want to own a car?” There is no doubt that I will go through seasons where I forget all the wonderful reasons we decided to live car free. There will be a time when I want the convenience, especially once the sleep deprivation of baby-number-two kicks in.

The question is “what will I choose when those feelings arise?”

Lately, I see wisdom in setting myself up to make good choices, consistent with who I want to be, during vulnerable seasons. We all fall short of our ideals when life gets messy and real, but if I know that in advance, then I can set myself up for outcomes that are consistent with who I am.

A few months before we left Wyoming, I was filled with so much guilt as I watched our daughter Octave in a seeming coma, gazing into our television (a television I wasn’t even sure how we suddenly owned and found ourselves watching every night).

There is nothing wrong with enjoying TV in moderation. I am a sucker for family movie night and good documentaries. But a few months ago I was in my first trimester, tired beyond comprehension and I used it as a crutch on bad days. Then, I used it every day.

I told myself it was fine—many other good moms that I love and respect succumb to the television as well. But deep in my gut this only made me feel worse, because it has nothing to do with being a good mom or not, it has everything to do with being the mom that I want to be. Good people and great moms make choices every day that I don’t feel comfortable with. There is no judgment on their character or decisions. It is not about being right or wrong. It is about living in a way that gives me peace when I rest my head each night. All of those thoughts and emotions mixed with witnessing Octave become more impatient and naughty with each day of television, told me this was not a good thing for our family. So, right before we moved I had enough of this guilt and I told Christopher I wanted to sell the TV and it wasn’t really up for much discussion. The next day a friend came and bought it from us. By selling it I took away the temptation of making a choice that doesn’t make me feel good. I made it easy for myself to make a choice that at the end of the day makes me happy and is consistent with who I am.

I share this struggle with the TV only because the same logic can be used when talking about the car. Even though I have never enjoyed driving and I have many reasons why living car free makes me happy, in seasons of transition, struggle or exhaustion, I might not make the choice that deep in my gut I want to make. Even though people and places might be easily accessible by foot, bike or bus, on a tired, rainy day with two babes, I can see how easy it would be to just hop in the car if given the choice. That choice becomes a habit, and then it becomes your life. This is how I think people wake up after ten years confused at how they got from A to B without even wanting to be there in the first place.

There will always be exceptions, off days, tired days, and special circumstances. It is important to be gentle with myself on those days. There will be days I will eat something I am not proud of, regardless of whether it is in my kitchen or not. (I once biked to the store in a subzero snowstorm because I HAD to have ice cream!) There will be handfuls of weekends away from home where we use disposable diapers. There will be nights with family and or babysitters that I will probably encourage them to cuddle and watch a movie with my children. There will be times throughout the year where we get a Zipcar for the day or rent a car for a weekend trip to the coast.

Choosing to live without a car is not black and white and in no way means we are never going to use a car. This is probably the biggest misconception when I share our story. I don’t believe the car in and of itself is negative, in fact I think it is a great tool and I am grateful for it but I think the way most of us are dependent upon it is detrimental to our health and the environment. This choice to not own a car does not mean we are refusing to use a car in our future, it just means we are setting up our life so that majority of the time we don’t use one.

I do care deeply about the air Octave and her children will breath. I think about it often, and wonder what her generation will think of ours. Will they wonder how we could continue to make the choices we do knowing the things we know? Will they understand or will they be as utterly confused as a lot of my generation is when we see people smoking knowing full well what it is doing to their bodies? I like to think about the $700 a month we are no longer paying towards a car payment, gas and insurance. I will admit that I also love the thrill of being apart of something pretty counter cultural in my part of the world. I love being part of an adventure that looks and feels foreign. Yet still a year later, the most powerful reason for wanting to live this is way and the reason I believe I will last, is that I get so much joy out of walking and riding my bike. The wind in my hair, a 2-year-old who is a million times happier than she would ever be in her car seat, and a body that feels like it serves a purpose in my livelihood, are all priceless. At the end of the day that is probably my biggest motivation to live car free, and while it is not always easy, it is a lot easier than I thought it would be. I am pretty impressed that 361 days of the year I absolutely loved living this way, and most of those days riding my bike with Octave was even the highlight of our day.

Like the ups and downs of marriage, (or anything good in life), I am starting to think I am in this for the long haul. Here is to one year down, and hopefully many more to come.