Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (Recipe ReDux)

I've been on the hunt for rhubarb for months now. Growing up in Vermont, we ate it every spring/summer in spades - it was always readily available and we would make rhubarb jam, pies, ice cream sauce, you name it. I even liked to eat it raw dipped in a little sugar. Love the stuff!

If you've never had rhubarb, it looks like large red celery stalks but tastes super tart, almost like a green apple. I like it for its tartness and love a plain rhubarb pie, but it also balances out really well with sweet fruit, which is why you often see it paired with strawberries. When I found it by chance in the ShopRite organic section the other day, I was giddy as a little kid and grabbed a few stalks with no real plan for it, until Sunday. As usual I was last minute on coming up with a ReDux recipe for the month, and as luck would have it, we had plans to have dinner at Matt's parents' house with a bunch of his aunts, uncles and cousins, and I had offered to bring a dessert. Rhubarb, meet berries and sugary crumbs.

This crisp is filled with summer berry sweetness and just a hint of the tart rhubarb, with an extra punch of flavor from some dark rum. It's perfect for a treat on a warm night with a glass of wine sitting by the fire pit. Ah, sweet summer.

 Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Serves 6-8

10 oz. rhubarb, cut into chunks (2 large stalks, or about 2 1/2 cups chopped)
4 cups strawberries, chopped
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. dark rum
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick cold butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 375.

In a bowl, combine rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and rum. Mix well and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add cubed butter and cut into the flour with a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs (do not overmix or use your hands, or the butter will become too soft).

Add the fruit mixture to an ungreased 8x8 pan, and scatter the flour mixture on top. Bake for about 45 minutes, until topping is browned and fruit is bubbling. Let cool completely so the fruit will set, then top with powdered sugar.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Things I've Learned

After a 5 week hiatus, I'm finally getting a chance to sit on the patio and catch up on email (sort of) and the blog. I've loved having this past month away from the digital world to enjoy my family, but I've missed it too. Although I've had plenty of sleepless nights, exhausted days, dirty diapers to change and bottles to clean, I can't say that I've been sitting around the house all day in sweatpants, un-showered and Googling like mad every time the baby cries - which is exactly what I did when Riker was born and what I thought life would be like the second time around. Having a baby for the second time has been an absolutely joyous experience, full of all the wonder and excitement of the first time but devoid of all the anxiety and confusion. Such a great and unexpected surprise!

I've learned a couple of things over the last five weeks as a second time parent:

1. It's so much easier to relax when you know that every cry doesn't warrant panic and it's okay to actually leave the house with a young infant.

You just have to be willing to feed the baby with your chin while eating dinner, be prepared to scurry out of wherever you are if she starts wailing, and plan for road trips to take about double the time they would normally take. It's all good.

2. Having a second child doesn't change life all that much. While it certainly is a lot more time consuming, I don't feel like things are as crazy as I thought they would be. I think that's because when you have your first child, your whole world changes - you have to get used to an entirely new life and new routine. Since we've already adapted to life as parents, adding a fourth member to our family has just been really fun and not very stressful.

3. It really is possible to love another child as much as your first. I realize that might sound awful, but I really did have small fears that I could never love another child as much as I love Riker. Little did I know that my heart could grow even bigger than it was before. It's hard to put into words how much I love them both. They are my everything.

4. Having a baby in the summer is awe-some. Not only is there more to do during the summer (I had Riker in the winter, and baby and I were stuck inside for the bulk of three months), but extended daylight and warm weather seems to make me feel less tired even after being awake most of the night. We also have the added bonus that Matt is a teacher and has the summer off with me. He's coaching soccer all summer since their pre-season starts in June, so he's been working a few hours 4 days a week, but we've still been squeezing in lots of fun summer activities and making the most of our time off together. We're determined to make this the best summer yet, exhaustion and all. Not to mention, having a second parent at home is making it infinitely easier for both of us to adjust to the extra work of a second child.

So far the last five weeks has included:

- Lots of family and friend BBQs and pool days

- Blueberry picking 

- Taking Riker to his very first movie - an adventure, to say the least. Thankfully it was a free movie as part of our local movie theater's "Summer Movie Series", so the theater was packed with other small children and mine wasn't the only one who was constantly up & down and talking loudly. :/ My friend Heather and I ended up leaving before the movie ended, me with a crying baby in one arm and a kicking toddler in the other, but hey - it was fun while it lasted. Ha!

- A vacation home in Vermont to visit my family and take Riker to a farm museum, the lake I swam in as a child, and for an overnight stay at Jay Peak Resort to splash around in their indoor water park.

I have to say, this water park was awesome, and so was the food and gorgeous hotel.

My favorite meal there was a "locavore buffet" where all the foods were sourced from local farms. I didn't snap any pics of that since I was too busy taste testing nearly everything they had to offer.

We had such a blast on our little vacation, and part of the reason we had so much fun is that we had no expectations and just let the kids' schedules dictate what we could and could not do. We fully planned on the drive to take 10+ hours since we have to feed the baby every 2-3 hours, but we incorporated fun activities along the way so that it wasn't stressful - we stopped at several playgrounds to feed Carson so Riker could run around, took a break to watch the World Cup in Albany, ate at one of our favorite restaurants in New Paltz, and made a pit stop at Lake George so Riker could swim.

- Getting a babysitter a few times here and there so we could enjoy some time with friends during the USA finals and over 4th of July weekend.

- Spending time on the beach, of course. Don't worry, Carson has her very own tent and umbrella to keep her shaded. ;)

We even had a kite-flying beach picnic last night with some of our good friends. I always feel so grateful to live where we live when we're up at the ocean.

All in all, it's been a really great couple of weeks and I'm thankful for every minute I have home with my babies right now.

On to #5...

5. Eating "one pot" meals are the easiest way to make sure we eat healthy meals balanced with protein, healthy carbs and veggies when we don't have time to cook a big meal. It's way too easy to skip making a vegetable when we just throw stuff on the grill or make a simple pasta meal, so I've been making a lot of big salads and "bowl meals" to make sure we're still eating our greens. Some favorites include:

Taco Salad - always a pleaser.

Cauliflower "rice" (recipe found on Pinterest) with shrimp, onions & peppers, lime and cilantro.

Hawaiian quinoa bowl with zucchini, carrots, coconut flakes, cranberries, pineapple and macadamia nuts (chicken on top for Matt and Riker). Red wine occasionally on the side too...

Yogurt bowls with assorted fruits (whatever's in my Door to Door Organics box that week), dried cranberries or raisins, and almond / walnuts (mainly for breakfast, but yogurt bowls & smoothies have made their way to the dinner table too).

Mediterranean Couscous Salad - which I actually made for a family BBQ.

6. Even when life seems crazy and you're tired beyond belief when the baby starts to cry at 3 am after you just finished feeding and putting her back to bed...be thankful for everything. All of it. In the weeks since Carson was born and we had that terrible scare, I've heard too many horrible stories of parents losing their newborns at birth. I can't even imagine having to experience the loss of a child, and am thankful every day for our two little miracles that sleep safely in their beds each night. It's really easy to get tired and overwhelmed with the day-to-day of parenting two children, but whenever that feeling inches up, I just look at their tiny faces and am reminded of how blessed we are. 

They are only this little for a short time, so I'm cherishing every second we have before they grow up on us.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Carson's Story

Hello, world! As you can imagine it's been a bit of a whirlwind week here. After spending a week in the hospital and then a week at home adjusting to having a newborn with us, we're finally getting into somewhat of a routine. We're still not sleeping much of course, but I'll take no sleep any day if it means having a sweet face like this in my arms.

Carson actually came a week before she was due, so she caught us by surprise - thankfully we had been baby prepping like crazy the last few weekends. Last Monday started like any other Monday. It was supposed to be my last week of work before maternity leave, so I had a list of things I planned to power through that day. But after dropping Riker off at my in-laws' and coming back home to start work, I realized I hadn't felt the baby moving at all. She nearly always moves after I eat, but I got nothing from her after breakfast; I even tried eating a sugary snack - a peach, some crackers, and some chocolate covered almonds - to get her kicking, but still, she didn't move. That made me really nervous, so I set a timer and paid attention for the next 2 hours to see if any movement occurred at all - nada. I called my doctor, and thankfully they told me to come in right away.

Matt left work early so he could come to the appointment with me, and after throwing my hospital bag in the trunk just in case it was needed, we sped to my OB/GYN's office. Let me tell you, that was the scariest doctor's appointment I've ever had in my life. The nurse hooked me up to a heart rate monitor, but was unable to find a heartbeat for Carson. After a few minutes, she left and called another nurse in to try. The second nurse wasn't able to find a heartbeat either. At this point Matt and I both lost it. Tears just started pouring out as I imagined the absolute worst. Every terrible thought was running through my head, and I really thought we had lost her. The nurse handed us a box of tissues, said she was sorry, and went to get the doctor. We were both beside ourselves with grief.

When my doctor came in, she calmed us down and said not to panic yet. She repositioned the monitor a bunch of times and kept pushing on my belly trying to get Carson to move. Finally, FINALLY, after about 10 minutes, we heard a very faint heartbeat. The emotions I felt when hearing that little thump thump is indescribable. I felt elation, incredible relief and joy, while at the same time anxiety and fear that something was wrong with our baby. The heartbeat was so faint that while we could hear it, the monitor didn't even register it on the computer. We went right in for an ultrasound, which told us that miraculously the baby had gone breach over the weekend (on Friday, the doctor had said she was in proper birth position, head down); she was now head up, and while her heart was beating, she was not moving or breathing. After seeing all this, the doctor immediately sent us to the hospital for an emergency C-section. More emotions erupted at this point - we were both so scared that something would go wrong before the delivery, or that she would have brain damage from not getting oxygen, but at the same time excited since we knew we'd be having a baby that very day - in just 2 hours.

Last pic of the bump before heading to the hospital!

After a quick ride to the hospital, a bunch more tests (all of which confirmed that Carson needed to come out right away), and surgery prep, I was in the operating room by 4:00. It took two doctors up on foot stools to push and pull Carson out since she had lodged herself up near my rib cage, and had the umbilical cord wrapped around her entire body and around her neck twice. Apparently when she flipped over the weekend, the cord tangled her up and nearly strangled her. After she was born, they had to keep watch over her and not let her cry until they were sure her throat and lungs were okay, which thankfully they were. By 4:29, we were the relieved and proud parents of a healthy baby girl.

Had I not realized she wasn't moving that fateful Monday morning, the turnout could have been much different and we might have lost her. I am SO thankful that my doctors' office had posters up reminding mothers-to-be to pay attention to their baby's movements so I knew that something was off, and so thankful that they took me seriously when I said I didn't feel her moving that day. It was the greatest feeling to hear her cry when she was born, and to finally hold her in our arms.

A day or so later Carson ended up with jaundice, which is a fairly common problem, but meant we had to stay in the hospital a few extra days while she underwent phototherapy in the nursery. The hospital was so great and gave us a room to stay in even after I was discharged so we could be with her the whole time, and so I could feed her throughout the night. By the time we finally got the green light to take her home on Friday, we were more than ready to leave the hospital and start life as our new family of 4. Talk about a week of ups & downs!

We were welcomed back home with a decorated house, flowers inside & out and our families there to celebrate with us. It made the homecoming even better.

Riker was glad to have us home too (I missed my little guy!), and he's already taking quite the interest in his little sister. So cute.

After so much hospital food, I was also excited to get back to eating normal food. Food with lots of color! While my parents were with us, they took care of the cooking which was great and super helpful. After they left and we were on our own, I took to making quickie meals - green smoothies, frozen carrot soup, Hilary's veggie burgers with goat cheese and tri-color peppers, and salads. 

Last night's salad was my favorite so far. It included:

- Frisee
- Red peppers
- Cucumbers
- Beets (no time to roast fresh ones these days - I used a can of beets I had in the pantry)
- A handful of mixed nuts
- Blueberry vanilla goat cheese (snagged at Trader Joe's during our big haul last weekend)
- Olive oil & vanilla balsamic vinegar
(Matt and Riker added sliced up Italian sausages to theirs for some added protein)

So colorful and tasty!

We even snuck in a mini date night already, if you can believe it. Riker had a sleepover on Tuesday night with his cousin, so Matt and I decided to seize the opportunity and go out for dinner. There were multiple reasons:

1. Dinner without a 2-year-old in tow is quite the relaxing experience!
2. Carson is probably one of the quietest babies, ever. Riker was colicky from the beginning, but we got lucky with this one - she only cries when she needs something (fingers crossed it stays that way!). We figured we'd take a chance and see how she did at a restaurant, and she slept peacefully under her canopy through the entire dinner.
3. It was beautiful out, and I really needed to get out of the house and get some fresh air. Dinner al fresco sounded perfect.
4. I've been craving sushi since the day I found out I was pregnant. 


5. Mama has also been itching for a cocktail since the warm weather set in a few weeks ago. I am currently breastfeeding, but my doctor says one or two cocktails is fine, so I thoroughly enjoyed this Lemon Ginger Martini with my sushi and edamame. Yum!

While we're settling into parenthood of 2, blog posts will probably slow down for a bit, but I'll post as often as I can. I have some new recipes to share and a giveaway coming up, so I won't be idle for long! :) In the meantime, I'll close this crazy long post with one more pic of the babe. Despite the sleeplessness, our house feels so warm, full of life and surrounded by happiness. So in love with my little family! <3