Super easy oat pancakes

The easiest oat pancakes you’ll ever make.

I can’t be the only one right?  I mean, if it’s a choice between making pancakes at 6:30 am, or 10 pm, apparently I’m the kind of person who chooses 10 pm.  “I’m just trying to be organized”, and “I’m just trying to get ahead of things by a day or two”.  Really?  Truth is that I’m just not a morning person, and making pancakes before coffee is just not really a thing for me.  “But why pancakes?” I hear you ask.  Yes, there are less labor intensive breakfast options.  But pretty much nothing makes my little man as happy as pancakes, as you may remember from my baby pancakes post.  Seriously, he does this happy squeaking noise and this face that we affectionately call “cheese face” (because he also loves cheese enough to do the face), and there’s nothing that makes my morning like that face.  So here I am, almost 10:15 at night, just waiting for the pancakes to cool so that I can put them in the fridge for the morning.

Way back before I had a baby, I used to do a “low-carb” type thing after the holidays until I’d lost the extra weight.  No bread, white potatoes, white rice, pasta…  It doesn’t sound that much fun, but it does the trick, along with calorie counting and working out.  Along the way I’ll admit I got bored of kale chips and baked egg cups, and I decided that low carb might not be as important as “better carb”, at least on occasion, as long as those pesky calories still got counted!  So I went digging, and found what has turned out to be one of my family’s favorite breakfasts – oat pancakes.  I can’t remember where I found the original recipe from, but I do remember that it took some locating.  Between all the “grind the oats, then… then… then…” or the list of odd ingredients that seem to so frequently accompany gluten free or other “healthy” recipes, it seemed like I would have to give up on the idea of simple, fluffy pancakes.  Until I found what seemed to good to be true.  4 ingredients, all of them completely normal, and a blender.  Done!  Since then, I’ve experimented with a few variations, and all of them have been surprisingly successful.  The one caveat I will make is that these are not sweetened.  At all.  You could do if you wanted to, I’m sure.  I just haven’t done it, and personally have felt no need to.  I normally like my pancakes with fruit, and my husband would cover his in syrup either way, so it hasn’t even come up for us.

One batch is typically about right for one person.  At least, one fully grown person.  Or my toddler.  OK, slight exaggeration.  He normally eats 1/4 to 1/2 a batch, depending on how hungry he is.  The rest keep well in the fridge for a couple of days, and I’m pretty sure they’d freeze well between pieces of parchment paper.  I’ll let you know if/when I get around to making enough to try that.  I like to make these in a non-stick pan (which will eventually be a non-stick griddle, when our house eventually gets finished!), and I’ve found that by doing that, you don’t need any oil at all.  The oil actually made them a little worse.  Not bad, just not as good.

For 1 person: put 1 egg, 1/2 cup oats, 1/4 cup milk and 1/2 tsp baking powder in a blender, and blend until smooth.  Leave to rest for at least 5 minutes, to give the baking powder a chance to activate.  (If you cook them too early, the first ones will be a little flat, but they’ll still be OK).  Heat pan on low-medium heat.  Pour or ladle in batter to required size and cook for a few minutes.  You’ll know when the first side is done, because it will release easily from the pan.  If it’s sticking, it isn’t done yet.  I speak from experience…  You can also look for the large air bubbles – they’re usually a decent indicator that it’s almost ready to flip.  Flip the pancakes, and cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes.  Done!

You can make pretty much any variation of these that you want.  Just add whatever extra ingredients you want after blending.  So far we’ve tried blueberry, chocolate chip, cranberry/orange and lemon/poppy seed, all of which worked really well.  I’ve also used these as a way to hide vegetables – not from my toddler, but from my 41 year-old husband.  Really.  Just add 1/2-1 zucchini to the blender, and they’ll never know the difference.  I hope you enjoy them!

Super easy oat pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Leave to rest for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Heat non-stick pan over low-medium heat.
  3. Pour or ladle batter into pan.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, until large bubbles appear and the pancake releases easily from the pan.
  4. Flip and cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes.

  • Add in other ingredients after blending: e.g. blueberries, chocolate chips etc.
  • To easily be used to hide vegetables from your toddler or husband(!) – add 1/2 – 1 zucchini or other squash to blender with other ingredients.  Alternatively, add winter squash (pumpkin, butternut, acorn etc) or sweet potato puree to the blender.

Key hook chalkboard

Make your own chalkboard key hook from a picture frame and some paint!

Do you ever feel like you’re running just to catch up with your own life?  That’s how I’ve felt since about July.  Between being a full time mom to a now toddler, part time teaching and having a house built, I feel like I’ve barely had a moment to breathe for the last 6 months.  Hence, no posting for some time.  Which makes me very sad… 😦

My husband and I starting looking for a house about a year ago, and all was going well until he decided that the only thing he really wanted was a brand new house.  As in, built from scratch brand new.  I wasn’t opposed to the idea, but I really need to not be living in our tiny apartment with the world’s tiniest kitchen and the world’s worst appliances.  Seriously, 1 square foot of counter space, and a dryer that honestly takes around 5 hours to get a regular size load of laundry dry.  Just what I need when I have a matter of a couple of hours a day to get anything and everything done.  So the agreement was that we would go ahead with the building thing, but we had to have moved by the end of the year.  Well, obviously that is not happening.  6 months in and we still don’t even have the drywall finished, with little to no explanation of why every stage is taking 3 times longer than we’re told it will.  Building a house is not something I could ever recommend to anyone, and will definitely not be doing again.

On the understanding that we’d have moved by now, I starting working on some small projects for the house, so that we could actually make it feel like home when we moved in.  One of the things I really wanted was a designated spot for keys, so I started looking on Etsy and found a bunch of picture frames that had been converted into key hooks.  Since we’re spending (read: wasting!) all of this time getting the house done, I’m being very picky about styles and colors, and couldn’t find just the right one.  So, in my usual fashion, I decided to do it myself.  This is a pretty easy and quick project.  The only time consuming part is waiting for the paint to dry.  Of course, if you wanted a pin board instead of a chalkboard, it would be quicker again.  Just take the glass out and then either add foam and fabric or cork, depending on the look you’re going for.

Bear in mind when you do this, that you’re painting on glass, so you’ll have to either use a primer, or use paint that will stick to the surface.  My choice was to use multi-surface paint in place of a primer, since I have a couple of other projects that will need it.  Just make sure the glass is really clean before you start.

Supplies:

  • Picture frame of required size (mine was 8×10)
  • Primer or multi-surface paint (skip if you use chalkboard paint for glass surfaces)
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Cup hooks (I used 1 1/4 inch)
  1. Remove glass from frame.  Clean thoroughly and cover with a coat of primer or your multi-surface paint.  Allow to dry completely, then apply a second coat of paint, with brush strokes going in the opposite direction (horizontal if your last coat was vertical etc.), to ensure the glass is completely covered.
  2. Repeat the 2 painting steps with chalkboard paint, making sure you let it dry completely between each coat, and you change the direction of the brush strokes on the second coat.
  3. Measure the width of your frame, and make light marks at even spaces across for the number of hooks you want to use.
  4. Screw in each hook, trying to keep them straight.  You might need to use pliers for this, in which case be gentle so that you don’t bend the hooks.
  5. Once the paint is completely dry, put the glass back in the frame.

That’s it!  Now you have somewhere to hang your keys and leave messages in a place where they’re guaranteed to be seen.

If you give this a try, I’d love to see how it turned out!  Stay tuned for more house-related projects, including the crocheted hanging basket to hold the chalk pens on one of the hooks.

Cottage cheese breakfast muffins

Hurricane Harvey is officially on its way to the Texas coast. We’re stocked up on food and water, and have moved everything inside off of our balcony. So what’s left for me to do? Bake, of course!

As much as I love cake (and I mean, really really love cake), I have a thing for savory breakfast food. Muffins are one of those wonderful things that you can make sweet or savory, and mix up with whatever flavors take your fancy. So, muffins seemed like the way to go. Since I’ve been trying to mature sure we have plenty of protein sources, I wanted to add some cottage cheese. Plus, I also really really love cheese! I modified a great looking recipe, mostly so that I could add more vegetables. I think this stems from when I was unemployed, and I found that I could stretch my budget by bulking up recipes with extra veggies, since they cost so much less than proteins. It also has the added bonus of hiding them in my husband’s food!

As muffins go, this is a pretty simple recipe: mix the wet ingredients, add the dry ingredients, add veggies, bake. I started with 2 slices of bacon, 1/2 a diced red onion, 1/2 a diced red bell pepper and around 1/2 cup of frozen corn. Cook the bacon for a few minutes to start rendering the fat, then add the onions and continue to cook until softened. Add the pepper and corn, and cook until the corn has thawed and heated through. Allow to cool.

For the muffin mixture, start with 1 cup cottage cheese, 2 eggs and 2 egg whites (you can use 4 whole eggs, I just happened to need 2 yolks for something else), 1/2 cup of your preferred shredded cheese and 1/4 cup water. Mix until combined, then add the dry ingredients. I used 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup almond meal, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Whisk until there are no clumps of flour, then add in the bacon and veggies and mix until evenly distributed. Divide into 18 muffin cups, either greased or lined (I love my silicone baking cups for this kind of recipe), and bake at 400F for 30 minutes.

Now I just need to hide some zucchini in some chocolate cupcakes and we’ll be all set for the storm!

Makes 18 muffins

 

  • 2 slices bacon
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

 

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Grease or line 18 muffin tin holes
  3. Cook bacon over medium heat for around 5 minutes
  4. Add onion to bacon and cook until soft
  5. Add pepper and corn, and cook until corn has thawed and heated through. Leave to cool
  6. Mix cottage cheese, shredded cheese, eggs, egg whites and water
  7. Add flours, baking powder and spices, and mix until no flour clumps remain
  8. Add cooked bacon and veggies
  9. Distribute mixture between prepared muffin tins
  10. Bake for around minutes

Emergency kit

Coming from England, I’ve never really had to deal with a severe weather emergency. We don’t get hurricanes, tornadoes or much like that, although flooding has been more of an issue in recent years. But here in Houston, it’s a different story. The roads seem to flood every time it rains, and there have been several tornadoes this year. Now, we’re facing a potential tropical storm, which might turn into a hurricane. So, in an effort to be prepared and organized, off to target the little man and I went in search of supplies in case of a few days without water or power.

Thankfully, we currently live on the 3rd floor, so it’s unlikely that we’ll have to evacuate because of flooding, but we’ll be packing a bag of clothes and filling up gas tanks just in case! More likely is that we’ll be stuck at home with no means of cooking and having to throw out all of the food from our fridge, and have no water. With that in mind, I figured that cartons of soup would be a good place to start, since they don’t need anything to open them and they can be eaten cold. They might not be that appetizing, but they’ll provide nutrients and liquid. I also stocked up on protein bars and protein-rich snacks, since they provide easy calories. While I don’t normally buy sweet snacks to keep at home, as a scientist I know that hormone shifts during the body’s stress response can limit the availability of glucose, which is essential to keep your brain working properly, so we opted for fruit snacks to provide some sugar when needed. Normally I make all of the little man’s baby food, but I didn’t want to count on our stocks surviving a power outage, so in to the cart went a few days worth of pre-made containers in varying flavors. When you pack these into the box, I recommend taking them all out of their boxes if they’re individually wrapped, since they take up less space this way.

So that plus a couple of cases of water should have us nutritionally taken care of for a few days. Then it came to the rest of the kit. Trash bags, not just to get rid of trash and keep the bugs out, but also in case a window gets broken. Flashlights, batteries, baby wipes to keep all of us clean (ish at least!), and of course duct tape, because what can’t be fixed with duct tape?! We have always kept a fully stocked first aid kit in the nursery along with plenty of hand sanitizer, but if we hadn’t I would have been stocking up on those too. Last but not least, a sturdy box with a water resistant seal to pack it all in, and we’re ready to go! Ok, not quite, but we definitely will be by the time the storm gets here on Friday. Wish us luck!

Baby sweet potato pancakes

Now that my little man is 8 months old, we’re venturing into the world of finger food. More accurately, he is dragging us into it by insisting that the only way he’ll eat is if he can do it himself. Sadly, he’s not actually able to do it himself yet, so we’ve had to find some middle ground. This might be a few pieces of shredded cheese or some homemade baby puffs, or it might be pieces of anything else that’s soft enough for him to mash up but big enough to keep his hands busy. 

My son is a very food motivated child, to the point where no-one else can eat in front of him without him screaming because he wants to eat too. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do such a sad face as the day we went out to eat at a local diner and he saw a little boy running around with a pancake in each hand. Cue my quest to make baby safe pancakes! 

When I first tried this recipe, he wasn’t able to eat wheat yet, and he still can’t have whole eggs. I have an oat pancake recipe that I love, so I started with that and tried to work out how to make it baby friendly. It turns out, baby pancakes really don’t need much at all. In fact, I make them with just 2 ingredients – ground oats and sweet potato! You could probably do this with any fruit or veggie puree you wanted, you just might need to adjust the quantity of oats depending on the water content. 

For each ounce of sweet potato, I mix in 1 tbsp of ground oats. If you cook it in a non stick pan, you also don’t need any oil. Just spread the mixture in small rounds, about the thickness of a quarter. Cook over a low – medium heat for a few minutes. Once they start to look like they’ve dried out on the top, they’re ready to flip. Cook for another couple of minutes and there you have it – nutritious, baby-safe pancakes! If you keep these in the fridge they’ll be fine for over a week, I just warm them for a few seconds in the microwave when it’s pancake time. 

I hope you and your little one enjoy these, and if you make them with something other than sweet potato, I’d love to hear how they come out! 



Mango peach barbecue sauce

Recently we’ve been making a lot of fruit and vegetable purees for a certain little man, and occasionally this means I end up with an extra 1 of something or other sitting around in my kitchen.  This week, I had a leftover peach and a leftover mango.  As I mentioned when I talked about meal planning, I like to roast meat on a Sunday and then use it in a few different ways throughout the week.  This week, we roasted pork tenderloin with a spice rub.  I was routing through the pantry while coming up with meal ideas for the week that would use up the pork, and I came across some slider buns that my husband had bought.  Hmm… pork tenderloin, mango, peach, slider buns…  Obviously I landed on making barbecue sauce (because who wouldn’t?!)

This is my first ever attempt at making my own barbecue sauce, and I also wish to point out that I am originally from England where we barbecue once a year if we’re lucky, so please forgive me if you look at the recipe and think “that’s not real barbecue sauce”.  Feel free to call it whatever else you want if that name bothers you.  This was made with a minimal number of ingredients, all of which could potentially be left out or substituted if you have something else that you want to use.

First of all, sweat a small, finely chopped onion down in a small amount of olive oil.  Add a peeled and finely sliced 1 inch piece of ginger and 3-4 cloves of garlic, and cook for another 2-3 minutes until fragrant.  Add the diced peach and mango and cook for around 15 minutes on a low heat until the fruit breaks down.  This may be a shorter or longer time frame for you, depending on how ripe the fruit is.  Add around 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp each of ground coriander, cumin and salt, and 1/2 tsp each of all spice and black pepper.  Add 1/2 – 1 tsp chili paste (or don’t, if you don’t like it) and cook for a few more minutes to incorporate all the flavors.  Blend until smooth, and return to the pan.  Simmer for around 30 minutes, adjusting the acid and sweetness level with more vinegar and either agave, maple syrup or brown sugar according to your personal taste.  Add around 1 tsp of lime juice.  Let it cool and it’s ready to go!

I hope you enjoy this.  If you try this, especially if you try it with other ingredients, please let me know how it turns out!

Mango Peach Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely sliced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ripe peach, diced
  • 1 ripe mango, diced
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp all spice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp chili paste (optional)
  • Agave, maple syrup or brown sugar (depending on preference and fruit used)
  • 1 tsp lime juice

  1. Sweat the onion in the olive oil over a low – med heat
  2. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant
  3. Add the fruit and cook for around 15 minutes until it breaks down
  4. Add the remaining ingredients except your sweetener of choice and the lime juice and cook for a few more minutes
  5. Blend until smooth and return to the pan
  6. Simmer for around 30 minutes, adjusting the acid with additional vinegar and the sweetness with your chosen sweetener to your personal preferences
  7. Add the lime juice and stir to combine
  8. Remove from the heat and allow to cool

DIY coconut cold brew coffee

Coffee has been something of a necessity for me for many many years now.  It’s truly a miracle that I manage to get anything done without it.  I tried to go completely decaf during pregnancy, and in all fairness I made it to about 3 pm.  Admittedly, that was actually “scraping through to 3 pm wondering why I’ve been completely useless all day” making it.  So not really…  However, despite my absolute requirement for coffee, I couldn’t stomach iced coffee at all until a couple of years ago when I discovered a far too unhealthy caramel, chocolate and cream laden concoction at a local cafe.  Since then, I have discovered the wonder of all manner of frappucinos and cold brews.  I will say that I need extra flavor in my cold coffee, especially if it comes with ice cubes.  However strong the coffee is, you lose so much flavor by having it cold.  So, I was far too excited when I found out about the coconut cold brew at starbucks.  Toasted coconut syrup and coconut milk in a cold brew?  Yes please!

I don’t often go out for coffee these days.  It’s typically only after my Saturday morning yoga class.  A couple of weeks ago I left class all excited about my coconut cold brew, and was even feeling nice enough to pick one up for my husband too.  I got them home along with a couple of breakfast sandwiches, and was so excited to dive in.  It was unbelievable…  But sadly, not in a good way.  It tasted of absolutely nothing.  No coconut flavor.  No coffee flavor.  Just watery, but still headache-inducing, brown stuff.  Total waste of money.

However, the excitement of what that coffee could (and should) have been, wouldn’t go away.  So, I decided to have a go at making it myself.  Since it’s a cold brew, it does take time.  But it’s totally worth it.  And an extra tip – instead of putting ice cubes into your coffee, freeze undrunk coffee in ice cube trays and put those in your coffee instead.  That way, you won’t water it down, and the flavor will stay nice and strong.

I like to make the coffee the night before.  Use your regular amount of coffee, put it in a french press with water and put it in the fridge overnight until you’re ready to drink it.  Next comes the syrup.  Dissolve half a cup of sugar in half a cup of water over a low heat.  At the same time, toast half a cup of unsweetened coconut until golden.  Add the coconut and 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract or essence (if using) to the syrup, remove from the heat and leave for 3-4 hours to infuse the syrup with the coconut flavor.  Strain and reserve the coconut.

Normally we have coconut milk in the pantry, but I guess I used it all when I was cooking, so I decided to make toasted coconut milk!  Rinse the coconut to remove any remaining syrup (otherwise your coconut milk will be very sweet) and add to a blender with 1 cup water.  Blend until smooth and strain to remove the coconut pulp, squeezing to make sure you get all of the milk out.  And you’re ready to go!

I don’t sweeten my hot coffee (with the exception of my December peppermint mocha obsession), but I find I need around 3 teaspoons of syrup in a large cold brew to get the flavor, and this syrup is no exception.  Next I plan to try out some other flavors of syrup, so I’ll post the recipes when I have them figured out.  Enjoy!

DIY Coconut Cold Brew Coffee

For the coffee:

  • Coffee
  • Water
  • French press

For the syrup:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract or essence (optional)

For the coconut milk:

  • Toasted coconut (from syrup)
  • 1 cup water

To make the coffee:  Put your usual amount of coffee in the french press and fill with water.  Leave to brew in the fridge overnight.

To make the syrup:

  1. Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat
  2. At the same time, toast the coconut in a pan until golden brown
  3. Add the coconut and extract (if using) to the syrup
  4. Remove from the heat and leave for 3-4 hours to infuse the flavor
  5. Strain, reserving the coconut

To make the coconut milk:

  1. Rinse the reserved coconut to remove remaining syrup
  2. Add to a blender with the water and blend until smooth
  3. Strain to remove the pulp.  Store in the fridge.

Bacon brussel sprout pizza

Good evening all!  I may have mentioned on more than one occasion that my husband is one of those guys who finds a new food or restaurant, and that becomes the only thing that we can eat for weeks.  And weeks.  And weeks.  While most of the time this drives me absolutely nuts, since he already eats like a 12 year old when I don’t cook for him, I was pleasantly surprised when last year he became obsessed with brussel sprouts.  Since I’m continuously trying to get him to eat more vegetables, I was at least happy about eating these several times a week!

In England, brussel sprouts are typically eaten with Christmas dinner, boiled to death alongside the roast turkey.  The rest of the year, they don’t really exist for 99% of the population.  So, imagine my surprise when the waiter at our favorite restaurant recommended their brussel sprouts to us, and when they arrived they were even better than his recommendation had made them sound!  They were crispy, mixed with bacon and topped with parmesan cheese – absolutely delicious!  Since that day, I have made many attempts at recreating that wondrous bowl of vegetable bacony goodness, to varying degrees of success.  Even better though, is that every time my husband sees brussel sprouts with bacon on a menu, he orders them!  Our most recent variation was the bacon brussel sprout flatbread from California Pizza Kitchen, which we are both big fans of.  So when I had half a bag of my tiny green best friends left over from cooking roast chicken on Sunday night, I knew exactly what I was going to do with them.

Given the baby’s now 1.5 hour naps, I figured I could make the pizza dough from scratch if I did it early in the day.  The recipe I like is this one from Karrie at happymoneysaver.  I have made it in the food processor and in my stand mixer, and I don’t find any difference between the results of the 2 methods, so go with whichever you prefer.  Since we have the a/c on all the time here in Houston, I typically heat the oven to 200 F and then turn it off, to make a nice warm place for the dough to rise.  I do the same thing with bread.  For both I find it takes about an hour to double in size.  I made a full batch of the dough, which is enough for 8 servings, and froze the other 6 individually wrapped and placed into a large zip top bag.  I then kept the portion that I needed in a container in the fridge for the rest of the day.

This is not one of my “throw everything in one pan” recipes, but it is pretty quick and it’s worth making a couple of extra dishes for your other half to wash later!  If you refrigerated the dough, you’ll want to let it come back up to room temperature before you use it, so while that’s happening and your oven is preheating to 450 F, you can prepare the toppings.  I started with a basic cheese sauce:  melt the butter over a low heat, add the flour and cook for a couple of minutes.  Gradually add the milk, stirring or whisking to prevent lumps.  Once you get to around the consistency you want (I like it fairly thick for this), add the cheese and stir until it’s all melted.  If the sauce is now too thick, add a little more milk.  If it’s too thin, you can add a little more cheese.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the toppings:  Dice the bacon and cook over a medium heat to render the fat.  Cook to your desired crispiness, then remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the fat.  Add the thinly sliced onion to the bacon fat and cook over a low-medium heat until caramelized.  Remove the stems from the base of the brussel sprouts, cut in half lengthwise and finely slice.

Roll or stretch the pizza dough to your desired thickness (I find it’s better if it’s on the thin side), leaving a slightly thicker crust around the edge.  Spread a thin layer of the sauce over the base (if you have extra leftover it’ll be great with some pasta or in a croque monsieur for lunch!), and sprinkle the onion and bacon over.  Add the brussel sprouts, thyme and parmesan, and bake at 450 F for around 12-15 minutes until the crust is golden brown, rotating the baking sheet part way through if needed.

Bacon Brussel Sprout Pizza

My husband actually ate it, all of it, and said that he couldn’t even taste the vegetables!  That’s definitely not true, you can absolutely taste them, but what he means is that he doesn’t have to tell himself that it’s not vegetable in order to eat it!  It really is delicious, and completely customizable – whatever cheese, vegetables or other leftovers you have in the fridge would all be great.  Please let me know how it turns out if you try it!

Bacon Brussel Sprout Pizza

[ingredients]

For the pizza dough (credit: happymoneysaver.com):

This amount of dough is enough for 4 of these pizzas – the rest of it will freeze well in individual portions.

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • Approx. 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan

For the toppings:

  • 2-4 slices bacon
  • 1 small onion
  • 8-12 brussel sprouts
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup parmesan

[directions]

  1. Make the dough: mix the dry ingredients in a stand mixer or food processor.  Add the oil, then with the mixer running gradually add the water.  Once the dough comes together, place in a lightly greased bowl and leave to rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.  Knock the dough back to remove the air bubbles and portion as needed.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 450 F
  3. Dice the bacon and cook until crispy over a medium heat to render the fat.  Remove the bacon, but leave the fat in the pan.
  4. Finely slice the onion and add to the bacon fat.  Cook over a low-medium heat until caramelized.
  5. Trim, halve and finely slice the brussel sprouts.
  6. Make the sauce: melt the butter, add the flour and cook over a low heat for a few minutes.  Gradually add the milk, stirring or whisking to avoid clumps.  Once it reaches the desired consistency, add the cheese and continue to heat gently until melted.  Add more milk if the sauce is too thick, or more cheese if it’s too thin.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Stretch or roll the dough out to roughly 8×12 inches, leaving it slightly thicker around the edge.
  8. Spread a thin layer of the sauce over the dough, leaving the edge uncovered.
  9. Sprinkle the onion and bacon over the sauce, and then cover with the brussel sprouts.
  10. Sprinkle the thyme and cheese over the top.
  11. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown, turning the baking sheet part way through if needed.

 

 

Meal Planning – what, why and how

Wow, it’s been a crazy few weeks.  Finals for my students, nap and feeding transitions for my son, a visit from my Mum, family this, friends that… On top of that, my life now seems to be lived in 10 square feet of space 90% of the time, and so I’m just waiting for the day when I get to take a breath.

With all of the busyness of life, I’ve been trying to encourage my husband to help (or at least not hinder) with my efforts at meal planning.  To me, this is something that’s often synonymous with eating the same thing over and over again, and having 30 plastic containers in the fridge taking up valuable space.  This isn’t what it is to me.

So, first of all, the what.  For me, meal planning is simply about making the most of the ingredients that you have.  It doesn’t mean that you have to have the same dish for dinner 4 nights in a row.  It means that you need to know what you have, and how you can use it.

This brings me to the why.  Primarily, it’s cheaper.  As a country, here in the US we throw out up to 50% of the produce that we buy.  That’s staggering and shameful.  Something I have always struggled to understand with my husband is the culture of disposability that seems to be so ingrained in the people who grew up here.  I’m not saying that this is the only country where this is an issue, but it seems to be more prevalent here than elsewhere.  And so I’m hoping that by planning my family’s meals at least a week at a time, we can avoid throwing out produce that was purchased in a large bag or box for a single meal.  Less waste = less money spent = more money for other things.  On top of the fiscal aspects, I am one of those people who absolutely needs organization.  I am one of those people who looks at pinterest and dreams of that beautifully organized pantry with the matching containers all with their own chalkboard paint labels on them.  It drives me nuts when my husband gets home from work and then starts to figure out what we might have for dinner that night, and when plans aren’t made in advance so I never really know what else I can or can’t get done.  This is seemingly a genetic thing.  I’ve never known anyone as meticulous as my Dad.  Even when he found out he was dying, he made lists of people to notify, paperwork to organize, just about everything that could have been needed.  Apparently it’s just something that we do.

And so, finally, how.  The most traditional thing we eat in England (as far as I’m concerned at least) is a Sunday roast.  It could be chicken, pork, lamb, beef… Whatever you like.  It usually comes with roast potatoes (a personal favorite of mine) and some assortment of vegetables and gravy.  So this is what I like to do.  I’ll cook some kind of roast on a Sunday night for us, maybe a couple of friends.  Then, I’ll have a plan for how else to use the rest of the meat during the week.  If I roasted a chicken, I’ll use the bones to make stock which might form the base for a soup, stew or some ramen (which would also contain some of the meat), and the meat might also go into chicken salad or stuffed peppers, maybe used as a pizza topping.  I typically let my husband pick at least one of the meals for the week, so once I know what he wants, I’ll look at other ways to use those ingredients.  If he wants something with spinach, then I’ll add a steak spinach salad and a spinach pesto pasta dish (also a good vehicle for leftover chicken!) to the list for that week.  What we end up with is at least a week’s worth of food from maybe 10 ingredients (plus pantry staples like spices), and we prevent the situation of the half a bag of spinach sitting in the bottom of the fridge until it’s inedible.

Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to post some of my favorite recipes for using your leftovers, so stay tuned!  Also, if there’s a recipe that you’d like, please let me know and I’ll get working on it for you!

Introvert parenting – what I’ve learned in 6 months

As I sit here enjoying the brief respite that nap time brings, along with my very large coffee and homemade breakfast biscuits (stay tuned, recipe to come!), I am reflecting on the first 6 months of my journey into parenting.  More specifically, parenting as an introvert.

I feel that being an introvert is something that’s often misunderstood, and so becomes almost a dirty word.  People think that it means that you’re anti-social, or that you don’t like people, and that isn’t true at all.  I love my friends and family, and have had some of my best times over the last few years since we started “girls’ nights”, where we can all gather over food and wine, and just enjoy each other’s company.  What introversion really means to me is all about how we recharge.  Extroverts are energized by other people, whereas introverts recharge by being alone.

Personally, I’m a really strong introvert.  I need that alone time.  And not need like “I’ll be a bit cranky if I don’t get it”, but need like crying and screaming in the corner pulling my hair out need.  For me, this has been the biggest challenge of parenting.  Simply being needed that much is exhausting and draining for me.  When the baby doesn’t need me, the cat’s meowing because she wants attention, or my husband needs something, or housework needs to be done, or I’m working where 30 other people need me.  Some days it’s hard to find time just to breathe, especially when I’m making a choice between breakfast or a shower, lunch or cleaning the kitchen so I can make dinner…

Don’t get me wrong, my husband does help.  But his upbringing was different to mine, and so we do things very differently.  I don’t feel like cooking dinner but I do it because we have food in the fridge and I want to save money.  He doesn’t feel like cooking so he orders take out.  I’m not saying either is better, it’s just different.  And when you’re running on very low reserves, different can be frustrating too.  And then of course, there’s the mommy guilt.  The little voice that tells you what you should be doing instead of sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee, that tells you that you’re a bad mother for wanting time away from the baby.

If any of this sounds familiar, I feel for you, I really do.  Parenting is hard, and parenting as an introvert brings its own list of very specific challenges that other people just may not get.  And so I wanted to share a few of the conclusions that I’ve come to over the last 6 months.

1. You’re not alone

Introverts make up 25-50% of the population, so you’re not the only person dealing with this.  Of course, you may not wish to reach out to those people, and they may prefer to be in their own bubble for a while too!  But just knowing that I’m not abnormal has helped.

2. It’s OK to need what you need

I was racked with guilt about wanting time away from my family.  Here I was with a great husband and a beautiful, healthy, happy baby boy, and I just wanted to leave them at home and go somewhere else.  Anywhere else.  What I had to accept is that while being a parent changes your priorities, it doesn’t change your fundamental personality.  If you needed a certain amount of alone time to recharge before you had kids, you’ll still need it after you have them.  That’s just a part of who you are, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  The worst thing you can do is to completely ignore what you need.  You can’t take care of anyone if you’re running on empty.

3. It doesn’t make you a bad parent

Mommy guilt is real.  Whether it’s because you use disposable diapers, feed your baby formula, put them in daycare while you’re at work, let them watch TV or eat junk food, or simply because you need a break from them for a couple of hours, there always seems to be something that someone says we should be doing better.  In fact, apparently 94% of parents struggle with guilt over their parenting choices.  The truth of the matter is that no-one is perfect, and it just isn’t possible to have and do everything.  You simply can’t work full time and be at home with the baby full time and do all of the housework and have a healthy homemade dinner on the table at 6 every day and have perfect make-up and hair and workout and and and….  At least, I don’t see how, and I certainly wouldn’t be sane if that was my life.  I feel very privileged that I don’t have to work full time and am able to be at home with my baby during the day.  But I work in the evenings, so I sacrifice time with my husband.  And there are days that I have to choose between having a shower and eating breakfast, so typically I choose to eat, because I’m nursing a baby and need the calories.  So maybe on those days, I spend a few hours with my hair smelling of baby vomit that got spat up into it at 6:30 am.  Choice and sacrifice is part of the deal of being an adult, and it doesn’t make you a bad parent or mean that you don’t love your child.  In fact, it makes you a great parent, because you’re doing what needs to be done, and that includes taking care of yourself on a level that other people can’t help with.  So if you need a night out with the girls and a couple of glasses of wine (a.k.a. Mommy juice!), that’s OK.  And if you need to leave the baby at home with Daddy for a couple of hours while you go to a yoga class, go to the gym, get your haircut, get a manicure, or just go to starbucks or the park and read a book, that’s OK too.  I can’t speak for everyone, but my husband actually likes having extra time with the baby, because he really only gets an hour a day with him otherwise, so you might actually be doing everyone a favor if you take a few hours for yourself.  Doing what’s right for you (at least sometimes) is what’s right for your family.

4. Tell your partner/support person

One of the hardest parts of this for me was to tell my husband that this was what I needed, and a lot of that comes back to the Mommy guilt and the feeling that I should be able to do everything and should be doing it better.  But once I told him we were able to make a plan so that it doesn’t get out of hand.  On Saturday mornings, I leave my husband and baby at home with a bottle of expressed milk in the fridge, and I go to a yoga class with one of my favorite instructors.  Sometimes I’ll come straight home so that I can watch the English Premier League football afterwards (I will still leave my husband to take care of the baby during this), and sometimes I’ll go to a coffee shop where I’ll buy myself a snack and a coffee and I’ll sit in the sun and read a book.  Yep – I’ll spend money on myself, and I’ll be by myself for an hour or more, doing something that outwardly achieves nothing.  And you know what?  It’s great, and I don’t feel guilty for doing it anymore, because I know that inwardly what it achieves is keeping me sane, and that’s vital for me and for my family.  My husband now knows that he needs to be at home and completely available on a Saturday morning.  And if your partner isn’t available, ask someone else to watch the baby.  Something I’ve learned from my friends is that everyone wants to play with the baby for a couple of hours.  So remind yourself that it’s OK to let them!

I hope something in there helps you if this is something you’re working through.  And if you have any other tips or advice for introvert parents, I’d love to hear them!