In Season: Fiddlehead {sponsored}

Fiddleheads with Garlic Roasted Tomatoes, Chevre and Chili Herb Oil

Sauteed Fiddleheads with Garlic Roasted Tomatoes, Chevre and Chili Herb Oil

Sometime around mid-late April, the fronds of the Wild Ostrich Fern start to unfurl from beneath swamps, marshes and forests around New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec and make their way into the hands of keen foragers. The fiddlehead, which gets it’s name from its resemblance to the head of a fiddle, has a short but sweet harvest season and to make the most of it you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled and grab them as soon as you see them.

Prized for their mild flavour (think; grassy, earthy and slightly sweet) and stunning coiled appearance, fiddleheads are versatile and delicious cooked in so many ways. I tend to keep things simple so as not to take away from their unique and gentle flavour but if you’re feeling adventurous, these little guys can stand up to some big flavours, too. Try them on a barbecued pizza with spicy garlic oil, buffalo mozzarella and basil or tossed with a short grain pasta, light pomodoro sauce and a soft boiled egg on top. They bring a lovely freshness to most dishes and would make an equally delicious pesto blended up with some mint/olive oil/pine nuts and feta cheese. Many compare the flavour to asparagus so try swapping your favourite asparagus dish with fiddleheads for something new and adventurous. These coiled little beauties don’t mess around when it comes to nutrition either – with twice as many antioxidants as bluberries, tons of fiber and a vegetarian source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, they are a superfood powerhouse.

Sauteed Fiddleheads with Garlic Roasted Tomatoes, Chevre and Chili Herb Oil tomorrow

Note: Fiddleheads are grown in the wild and carry a risk of contamination if not cooked properly. Always blanch or steam your cleaned fiddleheads for at least 10-12 minutes before eating. Once cooked, they can then be sauteed, fried, pureed or eating just like that with a bit of salt and olive oil.

Sauteed Fiddleheads with Garlic Roasted Tomatoes, Chevre and Chili Herb Oil tomorrow

This new series of posts, titled “In Season”, is in partnership with Loblaws Ontario and hopes to bring awareness to seasonal produce with limited availability. We’re aiming to show you how to cook these items, what makes them so good (and good for you) and why you’re going to want to run out and stock up ASAP. As part of the series, you’ll be invited to take part in their Instagram Contest each month in hopes of winning your next grocery shop (up to $250).

The rules are simple:

  • Follow @LoblawsON on Instagram (please ensure that your Instagram account is public)
  • Upload an original picture to your Instagram page highlighting the monthly Food Alert Item
  • Include the campaign hashtags #WeLoveFood and #ShareTheFoodLove

The only thing better than coming home with a bag filled with colourful, seasonal produce is not having to pay for it! Good luck to all who enter.

Sauteed Fiddleheads with Garlic Roasted Tomatoes, Chevre and Chili Herb Oil

Fiddleheads with Garlic Roasted Tomatoes, Chevre and Chili Herb Oil
serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 cups fiddleheads, cleaned and trimmed of tough ends
2 tbsp olive oil
Chili-Herb Oil, recipe to follow below
1/4 cup chevre

Preheat oven to 400.
Toss tomatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper and add to a baking sheet/pan with the garlic. Cook until tomatoes soften and burst, releasing some of their juices, approximately 20-30 minutes. Give the pan a good toss to make sure all that delicious garlic juice coats the tomatoes.

While tomatoes roast, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Toss in your trimmed/cleaned fiddeheads and turn down to a simmer. Let cook for 15 minutes then strain. Add the oil to a sautee pan over medium heat. Add the fiddleheads and let fry on both sides until starting to brown, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a serving bowl, add a few spoonfuls of fiddleheads, a few tomatoes, some crumbled chevre and a drizzle of your chili-herb oil.

Chili Herb Oil
makes approx 1 cup

1/4 cup loosely packed basil
1/4 cup loosely packed Italian parsley
2 tbsp chopped chives
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
3/4 cup good quality olive oil

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender until herbs are broken down. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

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Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post put on by Loblaws Ontario. I was compensated via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend restaurants or products I use/enjoy personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Raising a Glass to Mama

Minty Bourbon Peach Sweet Tea with Blueberry Mint Syrup

Minty Bourbon Peach Sweet Tea with Blueberry Mint Syrup

I used to think I knew what it was to give all of myself. To dig deep and push harder, love more, be kinder, forgive more easily. And then I became a mother and realized that I had a lot more of myself tucked away, hiding in the shadows waiting to be summoned. Though I’m barely through my probation period as a mother, I can truthfully say I have given more of myself emotionally, physically and mentally in the last 10 months than I ever imagined I had to give. And I’d happily, gratefully give even more.

I always knew my Mom was special, with her kindness, specific brand of humor, ability to turn tears into grins, sadness into hope. But until I was a mother myself, I never knew how powerful that relationship was in my life. After I had Ruthie, she was all I wanted. As I struggled through PPD and questioned my abilities as a Mom, she was the shoulder I sobbed on and the confidence I lacked. She made me strong when I felt weak and defeated. She carried me through days when I thought I might not be able to make it out of bed and care for our daughter. She, after 30 years of motherhood, is still giving all of herself and then some to my sister and I. I’ve never been more grateful for her friendship, her love, and her guidance.

Minty Bourbon Peach Sweet Tea with Blueberry Mint Syrup

Whether it was your mother, your sister, your best friend or any other strong female figure in your life that helped shape you, don’t forget to raise your glass (of sweet tea!?) to her on Sunday. Because daaaaamn, she works hard. And if you’re lucky like I am, she always will.

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Minty Bourbon Peach Sweet Tea with Blueberry Mint Syrup
makes 6-8 servings

I used Peppermint Tea & Organic Peach Tea (with a black tea base) here. If you can’t find peach tea bags, you can puree some frozen peaches with a little water and strain the puree through a fine mesh sieve.

The iced tea here is just barely sweet so you can add the blueberry mint syrup to taste.

8 cups water
1/4 cup cane sugar
3 peach tea bags
3 peppermint tea bags
2 sprigs mint, leaves bruised to release the oils
juice from 1/2 lime
1 cup sparkling water
1/2 cup blueberry-mint syrup (recipe to follow)
lime and mint, to garnish, optional
Bourbon (I like Bulleit Bourbon), optional

Bring your 8 cups of water to a boil in the kettle or stovetop. Add the tea bags, sugar, mint and lime juice to the bottom of a carafe. Pour boiling water over the ingredients and let sit for at least 1 hour, up to overnight (in the fridge). Remove tea bags and cool.

Fill some tall glasses with crushed ice. Pour in 1oz bourbon into each glass. Top with iced tea, 1/4 cup sparkling water, and a drizzle of the syrup. Because the syrup is so sweet, add a little at a time to your liking. Stir and top with a round of lime and a few mint leaves.

Blueberry Mint Syrup
makes 1 1/2 cups

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
4 sprigs mint, leaves bruised to release oils
1 cup cane sugar

Bring everything to a boil over med-high heat in a sauce pan. Let simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Strain syrup and toss solids into your sweet tea.

Whatever Works

Crispy Sumac Mushrooms and Chickpeas with Lemon Yogurt

 Crispy Sumac Mushrooms and Chickpeas with Lemon Yogurt

Fixing dinner with a teething, growth-spurting, crawling-all-over-and-getting-into-everything, pulling-on-your-pant-leg 9 month old can be a challenge (every parent everywhere, “wait until she’s walking!”). Each morning I imagine the delicious meal I’ll shop for, prep and cook during the day but ultimately I end up eating a bowl of Lipton’s chicken noodle soup…. sometimes I might even add some chopped green onion and carrots if I’m feeling real creative.

I’m trying to get my meal planning skills up to snuff by starting to pull together some recipes I know are filling, simple, healthy and that keep well for a few days and a few meals in the fridge. These mushrooms and chickpeas are great to make in advance and serve for lunch with the lemon yogurt and some greens (they are best warmed up in a little coconut oil in a pan), or for a more substantial meal you can stuff them into a baked sweet potato topped with feta or goat cheese. Or you can do as I do, and eat them cold out of the fridge with your hands while trying to scoop Rue away from the oven for the 300th time. Whatever works, you know?

 Crispy Sumac Mushrooms and Chickpeas with Lemon Yogurt

Crispy Sumac Mushrooms and Chickpeas with Lemon Yogurt
serves 4

16oz mixed mushrooms (button, oyster, shiitake)
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 can rinsed chickpeas
1 large leek (white and light green tender parts only)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sumac
1/ tsp pepper

2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
Zest from 1/2 lemon

Clean mushrooms* and tear into bite-sized pieces. Add coconut oil and mushrooms to a large skillet/dutch oven over med-high heat. Let oil melt and stir to coat the mushrooms. Let them cook, untouched, until their liquid has been released and they’ve started to shrink and brown, 5-8 minutes. Stir and leave again for 5 minutes. Repeat until mushrooms are crisp and golden brown – it should take around 20 minutes if you want to get them nice and brown. Turn heat to medium-low and add salt, chickpeas and leeks. Let cook for a few minutes until leeks have softened. Add in the garlic, ginger, cumin, sumac and pepper and cook for another 2 minutes until everything is fragrant. Add the lemon juice, taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed. Give everything a good stir.

In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, salt and lemon zest. Spoon into shallow bowls, top with the crispy mushrooms and chickpeas and garnish with green onion, arugula (if using) and a few turns of olive oil.

*Never soak your mushrooms. Ever. To clean them, wet a paper towel or a clean dish towel and wipe them gently.

life is good, I am happy

Creamy Coconut-Basil Braised Romano Beans

Creamy Coconut-Basil Braised Romano Beans

Sweet jeeze and peas. I’m back…. or am I? It’s been a long time.

After my last post, as I struggled my way through post-partum depression/anxiety, I realized I needed to put all my focus on my family and my health and let everything else fall to the wayside. It’s been hard finding my way back to who I was before I was a mother… and I realize now that it’s because I won’t. I needed some time to find out who I was all over again.

Creamy Coconut-Basil Braised Romano Beans

I’ll try to keep my piece on PPD brief; When someone you know has a baby, especially if it’s someone you love, offer them your support and your ear (and probably your arms and your cooking skills too) and pay attention to the signs of postpartum depression. I was lucky to have the support of all my family, my partner, his family, my doctor and a local support group for women/families struggling with PPD/PPA(nxiety) (Family Services Ottawa). I can’t imagine trying to deal with it all alone. Birthing and then tending to a newborn child is amazing/wonderful/miraculous/joyous etc etc etc…. but HOLY SHIT IT’S ALSO SO SCARY AND LONELY AND EXHAUSTING AND ISOLATING AND (sometimes) SAD. I was a real mess. BUT I found a plan that worked for me, and it saved our family. It helped me collect all the tiny pieces of myself that had been stolen by depression, and gave me the courage to find new pieces. My daughter Ruthie is almost 8 months, crawling/standing, eating anything (like raw ginger?!) and everything, and is just, in general, the very awesomest baby and addition to our family we could ever have imagined. Life is good and I am happy. Happy like I was scared I might never be again. Every day I relish how good it feels to laugh and smile and eat and enjoy my life. And though it wasn’t a walk in the park, I wouldn’t know this joy without having gone through some heavy sadness. I am a stronger person for it, and a better mother and wife.

Ruthie MaeI’ve been cooking my little heart out the last few months, trying to find my groove in the kitchen again, but didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself to return to documenting until I was ready… though I’m not sure I ever would have been. But then I had a vision of these beans and knew they’d be a perfect return to my former love, blogging. Hearty, healthy, bright and full of flavour. It’s the kind of easy lunch or dinner that whips up quick (assuming you start by soaking the beans the day before you want to dive into them) and gets better as it sits. They’re good on their own in a deep bowl with a few dashes of hot sauce, they are killer on crusty toast; the bread acting as a broth-sponge to sop up anything that might be left on the plate, they’re a great side to some crispy, seared chicken thighs or some marinated, battered and fried tofu. The jist here is, they are tasty, you should make them and eat them immediately.

Creamy Coconut-Basil Braised Romano Beans

Creamy Coconut-Basil Braised Romano Beans
serves 6 as a side, 4 as a main

2 tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
1 1/2″ chunk ginger
1 ripe tomato (about 1/2 cup chopped)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp turmeric
Pinch cinnamon
1/2 sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 tbsp lemon-basil pesto (recipe below)
3 cups cooked romano beans*
1 can (400ml) coconut milk (full fat is best, of course)
2 cups vegetable stock
3 cups packed, chopped kale
salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the coconut oil in a large, heavy dutch oven over medium heat. Add the diced onion and use a micro-plane to grate in the ginger (a cheese grater will work in a pinch). Once the onion is translucent, add in the tomato, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the garlic is nice and fragrant. Add in the pesto and stir to combine. Add the cooked beans, coconut milk and stock and bring to a simmer. Cover for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and let simmer uncovered for another 20-30 minutes until beans are tender. Stir in the kale and let cook for 5 minutes. Taste the broth for seasoning and adjust to your liking. Spoon into bowls and top with fresh ground pepper.

*dried romano beans are easy to find and have a nice subtle flavour. To prepare, place 1 1/2 cups dried romano beans in cold, chlorine-free water for 24 hours (about 3 cups water to every cup of beans is the rule). Once soaked, rinse the beans and place in a pot of cold, salted water. Simmer for 1 hour or until tender.

Lemon-Basil Pesto
1 cup packed basil leaves
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or lemon if necessary.

And the winner of the KitchenAid® Torrent™ Blender GIVEAWAY…

….LEANNE CZED. She promised to make:  “I would for sure make an extra chocolatey milkshake because, well, you know, preggers. And then I would try my hand at almond butter. And then put that in a milkshake”

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Congratulations, Leanne! Please get in touch with me at thegoualife [at] gmail [dot] com and we’ll get your new baby sent off ASAP.  Many thanks to KitchenAid Canada for this amazing giveaway.

KitchenAid® Torrent™ Blender GIVEAWAY!

Strawberry Mango Spinach and Oat Baby Food
KITCHENAID TORRENT GIVEAWAYI don’t often get to play with new toys in the kitchen. In fact, I’ve had the same blender for over 10 years… and it barely does it’s job. So when KitchenAid got in touch asking if I’d like a chance to play with the new KitchenAid Torrent Blender, I was IN. Like, really in. Really, really.
I may as well have skipped home with it from the Purolator pick-up. It was like Christmas. I tore the box open and heaved out the new appliance with enthusiasm of a rabid dog…which was no easy feat given it’s heft (which I love). I sat and inspected, pulled, poked and prodded at it’s shiny bits. And then, we got down to business.KITCHENAID TORRENT GIVEAWAYThis blender is the sh*t. For real. I was thinking it would probably blend things up pretty well, being new and from KitchenAid and all, but it surpassed all expectations. I made smoothies, soups and even almond butter and damn if it didn’t blend them all to the perfect consistency. The key to this blender is in the presets. Fill the bowl, lock it into the magnetic drive (it uses the same technology as an induction burner and blends using the power of magnets), push the pre-programmed Adapti-Blend settings (juice, soups/sauces, milkshakes/creamy drinks, icy beverages/smoothies) and walk away. The blender takes care of the rest. It starts slow, getting all those big bulky pieces into smaller more manageable ones, and then as the speed picks up you start seeing the true power of the Torrent. With jet-engine like power, it turns even the toughest chunks into silk. When making baby food, I prepared my fine-mesh sieve over a bowl to strain out any skins or extra bits that didn’t get blended (which is common with my usual blender) but as I pressed the mixture through the sieve I as surprised to find that there was really nothing left in there. SAY WHAT. Hardly a speck of spinach left over, nay a strawberry seed. Well I’ll be damned. From a chicken/rice/sweet potato baby food which blended the meat into the SILKIEST smooth mixture to an iced coffee that was so smooth and creamy. I had half a mind to just start throwing random items from the fridge into the Torrent in a “WILL IT BLEND?!” frenzy. The top cap, complete with measuring cup, allows you to add liquids and other ingredients in while you’re blending and the magnetic drive makes it easy to pop the bowl of the blender in and out, much like a coffee pot,  making it ideal to store under cabinets.Because the blades aren’t removable like most blenders, cleaning is a bit different. I found putting some warm soapy water into the bowl and blending on high speed cleaned it up perfectly. If you have a dishwasher, a quick rinse to remove any seeds or stuck-on residue and then into the dishwasher would likely tidy it up perfectly. Needless to say, this is a welcome addition to our kitchen. Especially as our baby approaches her solid-food stages and I’m becoming more and more invested in making her food myself. And the bowl is BPA free, to boot!

KITCHENAID TORRENT GIVEAWAY

The Torrent is slick looking and combines style and functionality for those of us who like to display our appliances on the kitchen counter rather than stashed away under the cabinets. I’m looking forward to many loving years with my Torrent by my side.BUT THERE’S MORE! Because KitchenAid is amazing and wants you to be able to play with the Torrent too! One lucky winner will receive a KitchenAid® Torrent™ Magnetic Drive Blender (MSRP $599.99) in Sugar Pearl Silver, Onyx Black, or Candy Apple Red.
Leave a comment below answering the following questions:
WHAT WOULD YOU MAKE FIRST WITH YOUR KITCHENAID TORRENT BLENDER?Entries open through Thursday, September 3rd at 11:59pm. I’ll be selecting the winner via random number generator on the morning of the 4th. This giveaway is open to CANADIAN Residents only. Be sure to use the correct email address as I will be contacting the winner via email and if I don’t hear back within 48 hours, I’ll pick a new winner.

For extra entries (leave a separate comment for each entry telling me that you’ve liked/followed):

1. FOLLOW thegoudalife + KitchenAid on Instagram
2. FOLLOW thegoudalife + KitchenAid on Twitter
3. LIKE thegoudalife + KitchenAid on FacebookAnd for the love of nothing, make something delicious when you win this baby! Below is a recipe for a fruity baby food/smoothie that we really enjoy in our house!

********************************************* THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED**************************************************KITCHENAID TORRENT GIVEAWAYStrawberry Mango Spinach and Oat Baby Food (/Smoothie)
makes approximately 4 cups baby food

1 cup fresh or frozen mango cubes
1 cup hulled strawberries
1 cup cooked oatmeal*
1 cup packed spinach leaves
1/4 cup water or milk (soy or cow)

Place all ingredients in the Kitchen Aid Torrent, set to the soup setting (I found this one really got things silky smooth) and press the start button. Walk away and let the Torrent do it’s thing! You’ll come back to a silky smooth baby food that barely needs straining, though I did just to be sure any leftover chunks would be taken out… there were none!*I cooked mine in both milk and in water and found both to work well for this. Use whatever your child likes best.

Back At It

Cheesy Charred Corn | Black Pepper | Honey Biscotti

Cheesy Charred Corn | Black Pepper | Honey Biscotti

Here we are! Back again and feeling more like myself every day. That last post was intense but felt so important for me to share for a multitude of reasons. The most important being that a) I needed to get it out. They say the truth will set you free and while I surely didn’t feel free after, I felt slightly lighter and more able to keep going. b) I felt like sharing might help me meet/gain support from/be able to help other struggling mothers. And boy did it. Though I’m still not done responding to you all, I have read ALL your comments, emails, notes and they made my heart swell. And at times break all over again for you and for what seems to be such a normal struggle of new motherhood (and even for some veteran moms). So thank you. I felt the love and outpouring of support and it helped me get over that hump.

Cheesy Charred Corn | Black Pepper | Honey Biscotti

Last week, as Ruthie and I grooved into a bit more of a daily routine, I found some time to get back in the kitchen and play with some flour + butter. These biscotti were born from a desire for sweet summer corn and simple one-handed snacks to be able to grab while your other 6 hands are filled with diapers and bottles. They are decadent and buttery with a lovely sweetness from the charred corn and luscious honey and a bit of spice from lots of fresh ground black pepper. I also added in some chunks of old cheddar as I wanted to use it up. While the cheddar was delicious, I feel they would be wonderful just the same without it. So use your discretion on that front. Though, gooey cheese never hurt anybody, am I right?

Cheesy Charred Corn | Black Pepper | Honey Biscotti

Cheesy Charred Corn | Black Pepper | Honey Biscotti
makes approx 2 dozen biscotti

1 1/2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup 1/2″ cubed old cheddar (or other favourite sharp cheese)
3 large eggs (2 for biscotti, 1 to brush tops)
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup honey

Place a dry heavy skillet on the stove over med-high heat. Pour in the corn kernels and let cook, tossing every so often so they char evenly, until they are cooked through and lightly charred all over., about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cumin and ground pepper. Fold in the corn and cubed cheese. In a smaller bowl, whisk 2 eggs, buttermilk and honey until combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and fold together until no clumps of flour remain.

Knead the dough gently just until it comes together in a ball. Divide it evenly into two pieces and form each into a long, skinny oval (14×4″) on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Beat the extra egg lightly in a small dish and brush each log with the eggwash. Bake until firm and lightly golden, about 30 minutes. Let cool and set for at least 20 minutes.

Using a sharp serrated knife, cut both logs across diagonally into 1/2″ slices. Place back on the parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake, rotating pan half-way through,  for another 18-20 minutes until each cookie is golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes before eating.

This Too Shall Pass [on bringing home baby]

tumblr_nr2iis3X311uaricco4_1280…or so I’ve been told.

We were thrilled to billions of tiny pieces to welcome our daughter, Ruthie Mae Viola, into the world on July 3rd weighing in at a booming 10lbs1oz. After worrying relentlessly that I would need to have a c-section after carrying for 42 weeks, we were also quite thrilled to be able to have that chunker in the comfort of our own home, as we planned.

She came in 12 hours, which I hear is not so bad for a first-timer, but it certainly felt like forever when I was in it. After labour, when that little lump of a human was placed on my belly, I felt like a warrior. I felt proud of my body for allowing me to do what I’d so badly wanted. I felt proud of my support group for helping me through those long hours where I spoke to no one and expected them to read my mind. Especially my Allan, who was the first hands to welcome to our girl into the world. He placed her on my tummy and we gazed at her, awed by the fact that she had literally moments before been in my stomach. It was magic. Absolutely, no question about it, magic. A miracle, for those who might believe in such things.

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The first few days were bliss and I wondered why anyone would ever complain about the “newborn days”. She slept peacefully in our arms, in her bassinet, in our bed… it was so easy. And then day 5 came. And along with the hormones literally oozing from my body came real life. The crying, the fussiness, the difficulty breastfeeding, and the realization that this was actually our life now. What in the HELL had we gone and done? I hear that’s a common thought in those first days. I didn’t know what to do with myself or her. And I certainly didn’t feel bonded to this tiny human. Where was that instantaneous love that everyone talked about? Where was my blissful mother-earth experience? All I felt was exhausted, resentful and sore. And anxious. So very anxious ALL THE TIME. When she would finally sleep, in our bed with us at this point, I would lay awake panicking that she was going to wake up. I wouldn’t sleep, I would just wait. Listening to her grunts, sighs and other plethora of newborn baby noises. And she would want to breastfeed ALL NIGHT LONG.

How in the hell did other mothers do this? Was it normal? Was I all alone? I certainly felt like it. My heart was so heavy with anxiety and feelings of inadequacy and guilt for not feeling that bond with this incredible miracle I had waited so, so long to meet. And it became obvious very quickly that she felt my anxiety and it was causing us a disconnect. I repeatedly told people I was OK, and that I didn’t need them to come over and help. I didn’t want anyone to see me struggle. I had had such a beautiful pregnancy and was able to do it all. But this was different. I was drowning. With no sleep and the black sheet of anxiety slowly covering me over, I melted. Talk of medication came up and that scared me. Luckily, my mom recognized that I had hit rock bottom almost immediately when she came over one day to help. Intervention was coming whether I wanted it or not. She slept over and gave us a full night of sleep and I made the hard decision to purchase and give my mom formula to feed Ruthie over night as I just couldn’t bring myself to wake up and breastfeed her. And of course, that brought a whole other type of anxiety and guilt. But I woke feeling more confident and better able to look after this child of mine. But when my support left, I felt lost all over again. This back-and-forth still continues. The feeling of loneliness and helplessness when people leave our house is intense. No one ever told me how lonely and isolating motherhood can be at the beginning. How your bedroom and home can feel like a prison and your tiny innocent baby like a cruel warden.

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The last few weeks have been the most trying of my life. We’re sitting here at almost 4 weeks and I can’t believe that it’s passed so quickly and so slowly. After weeks of guilt and stress, I made the decision that I wouldn’t breastfeed any longer. It wasn’t working for me and it was causing so much extra stress. And I’ve heard from so many moms that a happy mom = happy baby. And clearly, I was not happy and neither was she. So we adjust and go with the flow. She will survive and thrive despite my not breastfeeding, this I know. And I can handle the judgement with a smile knowing that this is the best option for us. Not for my doctor or midwife or friends or well-meaning strangers. (New moms: please take this advice. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU AND YOUR BABY. You will feel such relief from going with what works and not forcing things on yourself). Every day is a struggle but we’re still so early in our relationship. We will grow together and find our routine and harmony. And this too shall pass.

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I decided to share this in hopes that new moms might not feel so alone in their early days of motherhood. It is not a walk in the park for us all. It is more work than you could ever imagine and only made more intense by the sleepless days and nights, inability to look after yourself some days, and hormones slowly spewing from your body. I could never have been prepared but I wish someone had told me more about their struggle and journey. We are amazing creatures, us women. To endure the growth of a human in our bodies, to somehow manage to get them out of our bodies, and then to learn how to keep them alive and thriving is the most unimaginably powerful experience. I’m lucky to have an amazing man by my side to champion for me, push me to keep pushing on and support my decisions. I know not all are so lucky.  But if you’re struggling through it, I’m here. Struggling along with you and sending you all my support and love. I know it’s not easy. And at the top of the page here, there is a “contact” button. Use it! Let me be your support if you’re feeling lost and alone and drowning in these most intense days. Believe me, I understand and you are certainly not alone.

Things will get easier, this I know. We will find our groove and start kicking ass together. But we have to struggle and learn to get there and that’s OK.

Sending you all love until I can get back to the kitchen and start feeding my soul again.

xxx

Everything is OK

Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

My life is a living version of Groundhog Day. Each day inevitably starts at 3am, as I stir myself awake and realize all over again that a) there is a 400lb child in my stomach (ok, I have no idea what she weighs…but I’m certain it’s a lot) and b) she doesn’t want to come out. I get up and drag myself to the living room for a snack and watch something on Netflix until Allan gets up around 5am – at least one of us deserves to get a good sleep. I go back to bed around 5am and get up at 9 to the sun hot on my face. Coffee, smoothie, check emails and make a goal for the day. Typically, that goal is to clean [insert room in house] or work on a recipe, get laundry done and try to keep my mind occupied on something other than this pending labour. I water the garden, and usually myself while I’m at it, and go for a walk. Make dinner, greet Allan after work and spend the evening together. Sleep. Repeat. Wait. Wait. Wait.

Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette
Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

Waiting for our baby to actually arrive brings a whole other set of emotions I hadn’t intended on feeling. I wasn’t prepared for the mental game of being overdue. Discouragement, disappointment and frustration. Those feelings are new to this journey that’s otherwise been so positive and joy-filled. I’ve learned so much about my body and how incredible it is during these nine months. I’ve learned to love the hell out of my nooks and crannies, curves and lines. I’ve prepared and planned, researched and spent time with other moms I love and admire. But what I hadn’t worked on was the trust part of pregnancy and labour. To trust that my body will make things happen when it’s ready and to not feel discouraged or frustrated with it’s disinterest in my own timeline. “Are you still pregnant?!” “Is she here yet?!” “Wow – she just doesn’t want to come out, eh?!” These questions, though asked with good intention, are the bane of my existence these days. It’s hard to answer them every day and not feel like I’m doing something wrong. An influx of “Have you tried this?!” “My friend said you should do this” “We did this – it worked right away!” flood my phone and email. We’ve tried it. She’s not here yet. And that’s OK. I’ve decided to stop panicking, stop pressuring myself and start trusting my body. She will come when she’s ready. I would love to have her naturally and at home, as planned. But maybe that won’t happen… and that’s OK too. It’s all OK. My body is OK and doing what it needs to to ensure a healthy baby comes out. I trust that the decisions I’ve made over the last 9 months will lead us into a healthy labour and delivery. And so my groundhog day(s) continues as I wait. And set small goals for myself to accomplish each day as mundane as they may be. And yes, I’ll let you know when she’s here. Believe me. You won’t have to ask.

Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

This was a “whatever you got in the fridge” salad that came together beautifully. Hearty and packed with a multitude of textures, flavours and colours. The cherries gave it such a welcome pop of sweetness against the tangy lemon dressing and crunchy fennel and celery. It’s easily adaptable to what you have on hand, too. Swap out the grains, the greens, the nuts. Maybe you prefer a creamier yogurt-based dressing. If you love cheese, some feta or bocconcini would be delicious. It’s all good here, go with your gut.

Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette

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Fennel Cherry & Grain Salad with Lemon-Cumin Vinaigrette
makes 6-8 servings

Salad
2 cups cooked grains*
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 1/2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1 small bulb fennel, sliced thin
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
2 cups spinach, chopped
1/4 cup basil, chopped
2 tbsp fennel fronds (optional)

In a large salad bowl, toss all the ingredients together.

Vinaigrette
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp ground toasted cumin
1/2 – 3/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to taste

Add all the ingredients to a mason jar (start with 1/2 cup olive oil) with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Shake vigorously until combined. Taste and add more olive oil, lemon or salt, if needed. Pour over salad and toss to combine.

*I used spelt berries and barley but one or the other would be lovely. Alternatively, brown rice or Bulgar would work!

Guadalajara, Dawgs!

Hot Dogs with Chili-Lime Sour Cream, Roasted Tomatoes and Onions

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I have a lot to be thankful for when Father’s Day rolls around. Between my Dad, Allan’s Dad, my Step-Father and soon enough (!!!) Allan, there is certainly no shortage of fatherly love, advice, caring and support.

To my dad, the man who taught me to be brave and kind, get dirty (as long as you get clean afterwards and don’t drag it through the house), to stay true to my word and to always work hard and to appreciate good music (especially if that music is Joe Cocker’s With a Little Help From My Friends) I am eternally grateful. And anxious beyond anything to watch you become a grandfather to our little girl. To watch her fall in love with her silly Pop-Pop and gain the wisdom we’ve been lucky enough to have him bestow on us. Like: Mold can be cut off of everything and expiry dates are merely a suggestion. Try everything once. Be on time – always. Get on all the scary roller coasters even if they make you barf. If you find yourself near an ocean, you’re never too old to jump and laugh hysterically in the waves. You don’t have to boil the pre-cooked lasagna noodles (haaaa!). Your time is the best gift you can give someone, especially your dear old dad.

Guadalajara Dogs

Hug your pops, or your fatherly figure, tight and tell him you love him tomorrow. Life would be a lot less filled with bear hugs, bedtime stories, piggy back rides, delicious spaghetti dinners, good music, belly laughs and fun without you, D-Money. I love you dearly (and I know I’m not exactly sharing these dogs with you tomorrow, but I will soon. I promise). 

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Guadalajara Dogs

Guadalajara Dogs
makes 6 dogs

While this would still be super tasty on a grocery store hot dog, if you can find some homemade dogs they will be that much better. If you’re in Ottawa, Hintonburg Market sells some really delicious ones made in-house.

Traditionally, Guadalajara Dogs are made with plain sour cream, diced tomatoes and onions. I thought we could do a bit better for Dad so I mixed things up a bit. The sweet roasted tomatoes with the creamy spicy sauce and biting onions is a killer pairing if you have a bit of extra time to put into them (and doesn’t your dad deserve that much after dealing with you all these years? I think so).

2 cups cherry/grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
3/4 cup sour cream (full fat is best, of course)
1 tbsp spicy chili oil* (more if you like it hot)
1/4 tsp lime zest
1 tsp fresh lime juice
salt
1/2 cup raw onion, diced fine
6 hot dogs
6 hot dog buns
cilantro, to garnish
lime wedges, to garnish

For the tomatoes:
Preheat oven to 350. Toss the halved tomatoes with the garlic and olive oil and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes or until soft and oozy.

For the Chili-Lime Sour Cream
Mix the sour cream, chili oil, lime zest and juice and a pinch of salt. This is best if it has time to chill for a bit, 20-30 minutes up to 1 day in the fridge.

For the Dogs:
Cook hot dogs and buns however you like them – I lean towards roasting or BBQ’ing them. Toast or grill up your buns. Top each dog with a spoonful of the roasted tomatoes, some diced onion, a drizzle of the chili-lime sour cream and some lime and cilantro to garnish. And don’t forget to toast to your awesome Dad before you chow down!

*I use a chili oil from our Asian market. It’s fresh red chili in oil and it is HOT. You can always make your own if you’ve got a little bit of time. Sriracha would be good, too, but would alter the flavour slightly.

Guadalajara Dogs