Non-Recipe: Homemade “Cafe Milan.”


I won’t tell you that this is an exact substitute for Caribou’s version, because it’s not even close. It does, however, mimic the taste quite well with simple at-home ingredients.

Brew coffee, add heavy cream and honey to taste, sprinkle with cinnamon. Enjoy. 🙂

Caribou’s version contains hazelnut syrup, so if you have that hanging around you could add it. I don’t, so I skipped it and didn’t miss it at all.

In other news, Dave is standing on his own and starting to take steps! Mommy is proud!


Hope everyone is having a relaxing Sunday!



Quick Recipe Review: Winter Minestrone

In my quest to clean the random remnants out of our cupboards, I made minestrone for the first time last night. For some reason minestrone has never held high esteem in my head. I was never overly excited about it. Why not? I’m not sure. Maybe because the only minestrone I’d ever had was out of a can.

Apparently I was missing out.

Ina Garten’s Minestrone Recipe is hearty, fresh, veggie filled (win) and easy to make. There’s a bit of chopping involved, but that can easily be done the night before if you need a quick-ish dinner.

My changes:
I threw in some couscous and alphabet noodles we had in the cupboard instead of tubetti noodles, and I found that I really didn’t need to sautee the veggies or simmer the soup quite so long. Really, this can be a 30 minute meal if you chop the veggies ahead of time.

Could easily be made paleo too – just skip the beans and pasta. Done.


On The Pressure We Put On Ourselves and Personal Identity. This Working Mother’s Perspective.


I’ve battled with myself about the kind of mother I would be since I saw that second line appear on my pregnancy test.  

Should I keep working?

  •  Is it fair to David for me to work and commute?
  • Sometimes I feel like he’s being raised by someone else, can I handle that?
  • What am I going to do the day he cries and clings to his daycare provider instead of grinning and making a beeline for me the instant I walk in the door?
  • Do I want to deal with the constant stream of illnesses that comes with daycare?

 Should I be a stay-at-home Mom (SAHM)?

  • Can I justify that to myself as I continue to pay for the Master’s degree I’ve barely used?
  • How much of my personal identity do I base on my employment? How much should I?
  • I’m on a career track that’s roughly where I’m “supposed” to be. Does that matter to me? Should it?
  • Can I provide the mental stimulation that he receives at daycare, or is he being better prepared for school by being at daycare? I know that I think achievement in terms of academic success is overemphasized, but how high-priority do I want to make it? Would I be able to maintain the level I want to see on my own?
  • Can I join enough play-groups to get him the fun social time with other kids he deserves?

I could go on all day, but you get the picture. This is only part of the inner battle, of course. I worry about the food I’m feeding him (Standard USDA Food Pyramid? Weston A. Price Foundation? Vegetarian? Paleo?), and how I’m feeding it to him (Baby-led weaning? Pseudo-baby-led weaning (our current choice)? Conventional Purees and finger foods later?). How long to breastfeed (should I day-wean him right at about age one? Wait until I get super-fed up with pumping? Should I introduce whole milk at all?)  These are beside my point for this particular post, however.

It sounds like I’m a major over-thinker, doesn’t it? And sometimes I am. I like to make informed decisions – but for the most part I do think I parent intuitively.  I’m not able to parent quite as intuitively as Nate, but that’s partially a personality thing. He’d be perfectly happy to do things exactly the way his parents did them, but I want to find our own way (and he’s fine with that too.)

So…why are we so hard on ourselves as mothers?

We’ve spent so much time freeing ourselves from the housewife norm, is it a disservice to women everywhere to be a SAHM? I don’t think so – on any level….but from the “Mommy Wars” everywhere it’s clear that some think it is.

One of the most common things I hear / read about from SAHMS or people who choose to work is identity:  SAHMs feeling as though they have lost their identity and are “only a Mom” and working mothers avoiding staying home because they fear losing their identity. Why does getting to know someone always begin with “what do you do?”   What do I do? I live.

I struggle with the way we are conditioned to define our identities.

Either you’re a mother or you are a career-woman.  If you’re both you have to juggle every-freaking-thing because that’s what working mothers do. Why? Why do we have these expectations? I refuse to believe that the only way I’ll have any adult interaction is through a job. 

Am I a mother? Yes. But that’s not all I am. I work, but I don’t feel the need to cling to my career choices to define me as something other than a mother.  I am also a sister and a friend. I’m still at twenty-something that enjoys a night out at the bar with friends. Maybe I don’t drink as much as I used to (which really wasn’t much in the first place)…so what?

I’m still me. I’m not this completely different person that no longer enjoys doing the things I used to. I have more responsibilities, yes. Sometimes – I’ll have to say no because I don’t have a sitter, or bring Dave with me to an event, but the simple fact that I am his mother doesn’t entirely define me, nor does my job.

I’m not entirely sure if this is just a rant that will be incomprehensible to just about everyone else, or if others will identify with it. It just is.

My bottom line is this:

  • ·         Society and the norms associated with it suck sometimes. Maybe all the time.
  • ·         Being a parent is ridiculously hard, and ridiculously rewarding (I know I only have one kid and he’s under the age of one and I can’t even conceive how difficult it will be (though I want to punch every damn person who says “you think that’s hard, just you wait!” in the face.) I’m not very experienced yet.  – I get that.)
  • ·          I choose to define my identity in what is maybe a non-traditional way. Are motherhood and my career parts of it? Yes, but not all of it.

Who am I? I am David and Balou’s Mommy (yes, I’m Balou’s Mommy. You don’t like it – tough.) I am Nathan’s wife. I am a nature lover. I have a massive case of unsated wanderlust. I am a runner. I love to inline skate. I am passionate about National Parks. I think Turbokick is one of the best workouts ever. I love the idea of gardening, but I just can’t seem to bring my own garden to fruition. I adore supporting local businesses. I’m an unabashed Star Wars, Firefly and Star Trek fan. I adore fantasy and adventure novels.  I want to be fashionable but somehow just end up in jeans and cardigans. I have an unsatiable interest in good food. I love to cook.  I have a sparkling water addiction.  I’m an introvert.  I have a job in the environmental sector.  Sitting on a patio/deck on a summer night with good company and an adult beverage is one of my favorite things to do.  I am unashamed of my choice to breastfeed and will continue to nurse David past the age of one. I am an Alpha Sigma Alpha alumna.

And this is only a sampling of my list.

I don’t manage to juggle all of these things on a daily basis and yes, sometimes I feel like being a Mommy takes over my life. What’s important is how I choose to define myself.


Weekly Meal Plan 3/19-24, 2013

Menu planning was a bit of a struggle for this week. I’m working on cleaning all the random things out of our cabinets – so I have a bit less freedom in what I’m making.  With the exception of the minestrone soup and the goat cheese in the meatballs all of these meals are paleo/Whole30 compliant.  I’m working on transitioning back into that eating style in an 80/20 kind of way since I know it works for me.

Dave will eat all of these things. He’s being a bit more selective these days (cheese, sweet potatoes, more cheese, turkey, more cheese – you know) but I’m just going to keep offering everything.

Tuesday:  Minestrone Soup

This one is a big use-up-the-randoms meal. We have a can of cannellinis we need to use, and I’ll probably toss in the remnants of  bags of lentils, split peas and couscous to get them used up.

Wednesday: Moroccan Chicken Tagine, Veggie

I may post this recipe after I make/modify it – but suffice it to say that it sounds fancy, but it’s actually really simple (and fast!).

Thursday: Veggie-topped Meatzza w/ Salad
We didn’t end up making meatzza the other week, so I tossed it back in this week. It’s so easy to make.  I know – it’s easy to think about the way people eat pizza and think “gah – that’s alot of meat!” but you really don’t need large portions of meatzza to be satisfied since protein fills you up so well.
Friday: Paleo Potsticker Burgers w/ Asian Slaw & asian-ified spinach salad
New recipe! 🙂
Saturday:  Chocolate chili 
We’ll add some veggies to this – shredded carrots probably, maybe some bell pepper  (I know, chili is supposed to be meat and chilis – nothing else, but I need to make this a sustainable meal for our family so I’m adding veggies.)
Sunday: Turkey, Goat Cheese & Spinach Meatballs, Sweet Potato, Veggie
This meatball recipe is incredibly simple. Chop some spinach and roll it into a pound of ground turkey with a pack of goat cheese.  Make meatballs. Bake until done.   If you’re going pale0 – sub an egg for the goat cheese.  If you season well you won’t miss it!

Friday Favorites

1) I got  a GREAT run with Boo earlier this week. Only one – but hey. I’ll take what I can get. Any tips on getting over being freaked-out about running in the dark? There are no streetlights or sidewalks in my neighborhood, and our street is pretty busy – so I really worry about Boo or myself getting hit. I have a headlamp…and I’m tempted to make Boo a doggie vest out of reflective tape and give it a shot (He needs reflective gear as much as I do). Hmm. Anyone have a favorite piece of reflective gear (for me or Boo?)

2) We’ve been working on some serious goal setting as a family lately. We’re setting career, financial and health goals for both our family as a whole and each of us personally and will be posting them in our kitchen along with positive action items to work toward achieving them.  On that note – Lululemon (yes, the activewear company) has a serious goal-setting culture – who knew? I found their vision/goal worksheet and have been using it as a template.

3) Speaking of Lululemon. Their manifesto is fabulous. I have it hanging by my desk at work (I’m talking about Lulu alot aren’t I? Believe it or not, I don’t own any of their activewear. I haven’t managed to spring for anything that expensive – though I would love to one of these days.)

4)  The Slight Edge. It’s a book about how doing the little things that are easy to do – but also easy not to do can really put you on the path to success. It’s a great book about ways to realistically achieve your dreams, regardless of who/where you are and what you do. I have a Kindle copy that I can loan out to anyone who wants to read it. Let me know!

Short list this week, but big things!

Have a great weekend – Beware the Ides of March! 🙂



Recipe Review: Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs with Balsamic-Cherry Sauce

The little guy was running a fever yesterday, so I spent the day chasing him around instead of at work (apparently he was feeling just fine but, of course, I can’t send him into daycare with a fever).  That kid is a great workout: squats, stairs, and abwork. I’m actually sore today. Whew.


I made these Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs with Balsamic-Cherry Sauce for dinner last night. It’s not usually something I’d gravitate to. I’m not sure why, maybe because it sounds complicated. The good news is that it really isn’t! I really chose it because I knew I had just about everything I needed to make it sitting in my kitchen.

I did make some modifications: I used boneless-skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in, honey instead of cherry jam, frozen cherries instead of fresh and skipped the cardamom (only because I didn’t have any) and pistachios (I’m not huge on pistachios). I also chose to bake the thighs in a separate baking dish instead of the pan so I could make the sauce while they were baking. It saved a few minutes – which was nice.

Both Nate and my brother-in-law (who has been kind enough to help us out with our house repairs, and also spent some time making pies for Nate to bring to work for Pi Day today (he’s a pastry chef in-training) – I’m hoping there’s some leftover pie for me!) deemed it quite tasty. It’s like pulling teeth to get Nate to give an actual opinion on a dish – so the fact that he made a point to say he liked it…means he really liked it. I think I’ll make this again. Maybe with fresh cherries from our fruit share this summer! 🙂


Recipe Review: Easy Tomato Soup


As much as I’ve grown up loving Campbells condensed tomato soup, it’s full of additives, sugar and sodium. I’m not perfect (my meal plan shows this) but I am trying to find some good healthy/homemade replacements for some of our staples.

This Easy Tomato Soup fit the bill nicely.  We didn’t use the saffron or the grilled cheese croutons, but otherwise we followed the recipe. It lives up to its name. Easy, quick and fresh. Plus, since we have jarred tomatoes in the house – it is very cheap for us to make.

Good stuff. We’ll make it again!