Pie Class, Anyone?

Sorry it has been silent this week.  Mike left me to mother our two babies alone.  I didn’t sleep, eat, or do anything beyond childcare for 12 whole days.

Would any of you happen to be interested in a pie class just before Thanksgiving?  Michael has had requests from some of his friends for cooking classes.  And Thanksgiving season seems like the perfect time.

What: Learn to Bake a Pie (make butter pie dough, blind bake a crust, then fill it with Chocolate Caramel Pecan filling – just in time to serve on Thanksgiving Day)

When: Saturday, November 21st, time to be determined by participants

Where: South Davis County

What you bring: Your own ingredients or cash to cover the ingredient list (about $10-ish, to be determined)

Sign up: Email Megan at meganhinckley@gmail.com

I think I have enough room in my tiny house for about five people.  It’s my favorite pie and will have everyone that tastes it totally impressed.  Pictured below, before baking and after baking:

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Banana Bread

What do you do with brown bananas?  We go through phases of love and un-love with bananas around here.  I don’t eat them raw, so it’s up to the boys to eat the bunch every week.  Sometimes they don’t get eaten, so we make this bread.  It’s way better than a real banana anyway.

Did you know that you can put over-ripe bananas right in the freezer to use in baking another day?  They turn completely brown and are kind of gooey inside when you pull them out to use them, but they are perfectly fine.  Cool, huh?

unnamedBanana Bread

recipe adapted from “Best Potluck Recipes”

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

4 mashed bananas (the browner, the better)

4 tablespoons melted butter

1/4 cup sour cream (or yogurt or milk)

2 eggs (or 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 2 tablespoons vinegar)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease one 8.5 x 4.5-inch loaf pan.  Mix all ingredients together and pour into pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 5-10 minutes.  Invert onto cooling rack and cool completely before serving.

The Balance: Birth and Babies (Hypnobabies)

Today’s the first posting of a feature on our blog called “The Balance.”  It’s where we get to share things other than food.  Megan will probably share things about kids, exercise, and her favorite non-fiction read.  Michael will probably share photography, fiction reads, and art.  It’s all in the balance.

I want to share with you what I discovered during my most recent pregnancy and birth.  If this isn’t of interest to you, come back tomorrow for banana bread.

Birth is such an individual thing.  Whether you have found joy in birth with an epidural, at a hospital, without pain medication, at home, or anywhere in between, I hope you loved your experience.  My firstborn was born at a hospital.  I had an epidural (I needed it!).  And I look back on the experience that made me a mom and I love it.

When we decided it was time to add to our family last fall, I was curious about birth without pain medication and began doing research as soon as I saw two lines on the pregnancy test.  I ran across self-hypnosis as a strategy and although it felt oddly like strange when I first read about it, it soon began to make sense.

The first book I read was “HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method: A Natural Approach to Easier, More Comfortable Birthing”.  Say that ten times fast.  This book was full of good theory, but lacked practice.  From reading it, I understood why self-hypnosis was a good strategy, but I didn’t know how to use it.

So I continued my research and found the Hypnobabies method.  This was scripted (perfect), at home (even more perfect), well-reviewed course that I could do.  I found a copy of KSL Classifieds and went to work about 8 weeks before the baby was due.  I learned how to relax like I never have relaxed before and although I feel asleep every time I practiced, I knew my body and mind were preparing for the birth experience.

In the meantime, we hired a doula to support our birth.  I LOVED having someone who was familiar and comfortable with birth on hand to talk to, and to give us encouragement.  So worth it!  I also exercised every day to build up stamina for the event.  Yes, I still gained nearly 50 pounds, but that quickly disappeared postpartum.  We also wrote a birth plan which was the best thing I could have done.  No one asked me any questions that would have derailed me from my hopes.

When it came time to have this baby, the 21 hour marathon began.  I labored at work, running errands, walking around the neighborhood, and finally at home.  Thanks to the Deepening Track of Hynobabies, I actually slept during labor for about an hour, until I was rudely awoken by a puddle of fluid because the water sac had broken.

We moved to the hospital and I labored with my husband and my doula by our side.  After a while, my labor seemed to stall.  Even though I got nervous, I talked my body into getting things moving again.  It was AMAZING to see the power our minds have over our bodies.  Our doula was amazing, seeing to my every need before I had a need, which let Michael focus on helping me through each contraction by giving me Hypnobabies prompts to relax my body and let things happen.

Did you know that a lot of the pain women experience during birth is because we are fighting with our bodies, not helping it?  I’ve experienced it both ways first hand.  Super cool.
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I felt relatively comfortable (despite a baby who was posterior, the whole time = back labor) and didn’t feel much “pain” until it was time to push.  When that time came, I lost track of what I was supposed to do.  But that only lasted for 20 minutes because I was sick of being pregnant and pushed at my own pace, which meant I pushed during contractions and between contractions as hard as I could.

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Our sweet nurse was so impressed with the calmness that our little man was brought into the world with and that a body really could birth without any medications (I even declined the after-birth Pitocin shot).  We didn’t follow the Hypnobabies birth outline perfectly, but it was enough to allow me the experience I wanted and craved.

Our prize?
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Would I do it again?  ABSOLUTELY!  Having experienced both sides of the coin, the recovery and high I had after this sweet guy was born was like nothing I have ever experienced.  I would love to have a home birth.  Maybe next time?

Black Bean Chili


Beans are one of my favorite foods, and this recipe is the easiest.  Remember my 2 quart slow cooker that I love? This recipe fits it perfectly.  Or double the recipe and use a larger slow cooker.

Note: Food photography isn’t my forte. Obviously.

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Black Bean Chili

1 cup dried black beans, picked through and rinsed

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 medium onion, diced

1 14-ounce can of crushed or diced tomatoes  (or 2 cups chopped home-grown tomatoes)

3 tablespoons chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Water

Optional extras, any combination of the following: 1 tablespoon cumin, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1 tablespoon chopped chipotle chili, etc.

Optional toppings: sour cream, cilantro, corn, tortilla chips, etc.

Combine beans, garlic, onion, tomatoes, chili powder, and salt in slow cooker.  Add any add-ins. Add water until covered by about 2 inches.  Cook on low for about 6 hours, checking every 2 hours to see if more water is needed.  (Once you’ve made it a few times, you’ll get a feel for how much water is needed and you won’t need to check as often.)

Serve with sour cream and cilantro or chips.

The Best Whole Wheat Pancakes

This summer, I had a severe reaction to eggs.  It was heart breaking for me as a lover of eggs.  I ate them nearly every day during my most recent pregnancy to help keep my protein consumption up.  So this began my journey of egg-less baking and breakfast.  I can tolerate them again, but I use extreme caution as I never want to be in that much abdominal pain.  Ever. Again.

I stumbled upon this pancake recipe and as I’ve tweaked it to fit with what’s in my pantry, I have discovered that it is the most delicious whole wheat pancake recipe out there.  It is tender (not heavy) thanks to the baking soda and vinegar chemical reaction.

Dare I say that is better than Ann Romney’s recipe for pancakes in her book Romney Family Table?  (Which, if you didn’t know is the best pancake recipe I have ever found with white flour.  You’re welcome to borrow her book from me any time.  It is one of my favorite foodie reads.)

The Best Whole Wheat Pancakes

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon sweetener (sugar, honey, whatever fits into your diet)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground flax

1 cup milk (cow milk, almond milk, coconut milk, again, whatever fits in your diet)

1 teaspoon vinegar (apple cider or any type of vinegar)

1 tablespoon fat (oil, melted butter, melted coconut oil, etc.)

Cool water

Mix together all ingredients, add cool water until it is your preferred thickness.  Cook on hot griddle with a little butter/oil as you would any pancakes.  Top with whatever you like (we like real maple syrup or homemade jam or honey or yogurt).

Whole Wheat Pancake Recipe Card Corrected

Zupa Toscana (Sausage, Potato & Kale Soup)

One of my favorites.  Earthy potatoes with savory sausage and flecks of kale.  Perfect for a fall day.

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Ingredients:

8 oz. mild Italian sausage (or 8 oz regular sausage plus 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning)

Dash red pepper flakes

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 large russet potatoes, washed and small diced

6 cups water

2 cups half and half

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup cornstarch

Cold water

Directions:

  1. Brown the sausage (with Italian seasoning, if using) in a large soup pot.  Remove sausage (no need to wash pot) and saute onion until translucent.  Add garlic cloves and a dash of red pepper flakes and saute 2-3 minutes more.
  2. Add diced potatoes and water.  Stir until all of the browned bits from the sausage and onion come off the bottom of the pot.  Bring to simmer and cook until potatoes are tender (about 10 minutes).
  3. Add browned sausage and half and half and bring to a low simmer.  Taste and season with salt and pepper (and additional Italian seasoning if you did not use Italian sausage).
  4. Thicken by mixing cornstarch with 2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl.  Add to soup.  Bring to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

Salsa Chicken Enchiladas

Remember the Salsa Chicken that we made a while back?  Not only can you make to-die-for burritos, but these enchiladas are amazing!

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Ingredients:

12 corn tortillas

1 recipe Salsa Chicken (or ground beef or chicken prepared any way)

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 can of tomato sauce

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup of shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, etc.)

Directions:

  1. Shred the chicken and mix with cream cheese.  Spoon into warmed corn tortillas.  Roll and place in backing dish.  (Or these really cool individual-sized oval casserole dishes.)
  2. Mix together diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, chili powder, cumin, and salt.  Pour over rolled enchiladas.  Sprinkle with cheese.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.  Serve with sour cream, shredded lettuce, fresh tomato, cilantro, chips and salsa.

Slow Cooker Essential: Salsa Chicken

Read about the “revolutionary” 2 qt. Crock Pot.  This recipe is just for the protein and is so easy you can throw it into the slow cooker in less than 3 minutes.  Time yourself. There are dozens of ways to use this protein when dinner rolls around.

Salsa Chicken

2 large chicken breasts

1/2 cup salsa (any kind)

1/4 cup chicken broth or water

Place chicken breasts in a 2 qt. slow cooker and add salsa and chicken broth.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Shred and use in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, nachos, southwest salad, or serve on a bun.

Kitchen Tools: 2 Quart Crock Pot

There are pros and cons to using a slow cooker.  When you dump everything into the same pot and let it cook on low for 8 hours, this is how I feel about it:

For me the cons are:

  • Slow cooker meals often look less appetizing than a freshly prepared meal.
  • Many of the ingredients are overcooked (good for meat, bad for veggies).
  • If you cook everything in the slow cooker at once, you have to use a big slow cooker which is a pain to clean.  I don’t like to use slow cooker liners. Waste of money, and who likes to eat things cooked in plastic?  Not me.

The pros are:

  • Dinner is ready when it’s time to have dinner.  Something hot without standing over the stove!  Hooray!!
  • Many slow cookers recipes are of the throw it in and go variety, so easy to prepare.
  • My husband can operate a slow cooker, so little risk of burning things.

After the birth of our second kid, and re-entering the crazy life known as working mom, I decided I needed to use a slow cooker more often, but with some tweaks.  I typically only pulled out our 5 qt. one when I was cooking a roast or batch cooking.  Enter the 2 qt. Crock Pot.

I bought one like this at Target.  $11.99 +tax.  (Photo from here.)  It’s small.  Holds enough protein to feed 4-8 people, and super easy to clean because it’s not HUGE.

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Then I changed how I used it.  Instead of preparing a whole meal in the slow cooker, I only prepare the protein.  Chicken.  Pork chops.  Cuts of beef.  Beans.  In the pot after less than 5 minutes of prep at 8 a.m. and perfectly cooked on low when it’s time to finish dinner off at 5 p.m. when I cut up fresh vegetables, toast some bread or tortillas, and finish everything off in less than it would take to pick up a pizza.  Perfect.

TIP: Say you are cooking frozen chicken in the slow cooker and it doesn’t all fit nicely because the chicken breasts are a little too long in their frozen state to put the lid on tight.  Cover the crock pot with foil and place the lid on top.  When the chicken thaws enough that the lid would fit, it will fall neatly into place when the foil moves down.  Works like a charm.  Every time.

Stay tuned on the four simple recipes I use the slow cooker for and the dozen different ways to finish the protein off.