Monday, February 23, 2015

Do you eat meat replacements?

Do you ever eat fake meat? Not the Subway variation of ham made from turkey, but the kind made of veggies, grains and spices.

A few years ago, I was diagnosed with high cholesterol (eek!), so I'm always looking for ways to curb my meat consumption. I try to incorporate tons of veggies in my diet, but sometimes I need meat (or a meat substitute) to feel satisfied with a hearty meal.

This weekend, we tried neat, which is made from chickpeas, pecans, oats and spices. I followed the instructions to add two eggs, water, stir it all, and then brown it in a saute pan. Next, I layered it into veggie lasagna with spinach and red peppers (and of course, cheese and red sauce). 

It was delicious! My dad actually said he'd have thought it was ground beef if I hadn't told him. 

So, would you eat something like this? Or do you prefer to stick with the real thing? 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Baby talk: Good reads, vol. 1

Dear Mrs. Crafty,

Congratulations on your impending bundle of joy! Becoming a parent is a weird and wild ride, and I'm thrilled that you're joining this bizarre sorority called motherhood.

I have lots of random bits of advice culled from my first 15 months of parenting, but I thought maybe we could start with a few interesting reads for pregnancy, labor and delivery.

There are a lot of books about pregnancy and parenting, but I find myself less interested in devoting hours to parenting guides and more interested in watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Sure, I could recommend you sit down with a "What to Expect," a "Baby's First Year," a retro Dr. Spock or a modern Dr. Karp. But I've found I'm happiest--and most confident--when I trust my own mom-instincts rather than falling into a wormhole of questioning whether I'm doing something wrong (or badly) in the world of parenting. You will always be able to find some source that raises doubts about what you're doing.

In general, I strongly advise against Googling for parenting advice, medical symptoms, and other anxiety-inducing topics. And for the love of all good things, do not read the comments on parenting forums. (Yes, I'm talking to you, Mrs. Crafty.)

However, the Internet does hold some helpful, necessary reads. I've made some efforts to collect the best reading to share with friends. Today I present "What To Read When You're Expecting."

While pregnant: 
A pregnancy survival guide from lifestyle blog Cup of Jo

What to buy:
Two options for registries (and I urge you to ask a friend or two for real-life, real-time feedback): Design for Mankind's multiple posts about her curated, well-designed baby necessities or Cup of Jo's city-living registry

Related: What to pack in a diaper bag. This may seem obvious, but a water bottle and snacks are ALWAYS good to have on hand for mama.

Labor and delivery:
Let's start with Jamie and Jeff's birth plan.
"If Jamie starts to sob uncontrollably during labor, please turn offThe Notebook. In the event the crying continues, please administer the following drugs to Jeff (per Mr. Cooper): Darvocet, Diamorphine, Vicodin, Medical Marijuana."

Then let's move on to this giant collection of pregnancy, labor and delivery, adoption and other stories about "growing a family" via Design Mom.

Everyone knows Cheryl Strayed (writer of Wild), right? She wrote this wonderful essay on labor and delivery that is a fantastic read:
"As I gazed out the window, I prayed to be out of this misery, to muster up the courage to do whatever I had to do, for the baby to be born soon. I felt entirely at the mercy of the birth, as if I’d lost any sense of who I was outside of this. As if there was no me outside of this."

If you are saying to yourself, "I really need more to read, and I'd like it in the tone of a hilarious, snarky, witty girlfriend," then that friend is Tracy Moore, and you should read everything she writes on Jezebel's Motherload collection.  I recommend starting with "Guide to Your Most Shame-Filled Motherhood."

And finally, if you enjoy decorating, adorable toys and kids rooms, you may find some good inspiration on Design Mom's Living with Kids series, Apartment Therapy's family section or my Pinterest board Kid 'n' Play

Happy reading! Sending you wishes for an easy pregnancy and a healthy baby in the next few months. 

Mrs. Snacky 

Images from the Library of Congress here, here and here 

PS - If you enjoyed these resources, I'll be sharing vols. 2 and 3 (with more reads for later stages of parenthood, more laughs and a bit of deeper philosophy) in the next couple weeks. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mrs. Crafty's new project: A BABY!

Subject: Expecting in June
Date: February 18, 2015

Dear Mrs. Snacky,

The Mister and I have embarked on one of our biggest adventures yet. I'm pregnant!

Our dinner conversations are full of parenting philosophies, ideas for the baby's room, cool museums to go to, and crazy toys to buy. We are both super excited and worried at the same time (admittedly I'm worried enough for all three of us!).

Our little girl at 12 weeks.

As I look back at the last decade or so of my adulthood, I realized that I wasn't always sure that I wanted to have kids. So many people in my high school got pregnant at a young age that I saw first hand at how difficult raising children is. I wanted to travel, learn languages, be independent. Having a baby didn't seem to really fit into that plan. It wasn't until meeting my husband that I was sure about having kids. I have a partner in life to face all the challenges and celebrate the successes with. I know I don't have to be on top of everything all the time because we are a team. It makes me so excited to see what our genetic combination will produce!

While we are preparing ourselves for changes and for the excitement, I just wanted to know if you are ready? There will be phone calls, text messages, gchats, random 10-hour car rides to Ohio because I want to lay on your couch, eat your cooking, pinch some chubby baby cheeks, and pet your fluffy muppet dog.

Ready. Set. Baby!

Mrs. Crafty

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Formulas for easy living: What to make for dinner

Formulas for easy living: In this series, we look at shortcuts for our everyday lives. The goal is to create habits for quicker decision making, stylish living and efficient routines. Today, we talk about no-fuss dinner recipes. 

I like to bake, and I love to feed people. But when I come home from work, I'm tending to a baby who moves surprisingly fast, a dog that needs a walk, and my own hungry, rumbling belly. I've found a few go-to meals that are speedy to make, mostly nutritious, and don't require special grocery trips. 

These aren't fussy recipes. They're off-the-cuff, use-what-you-have types of meals, so rely on your judgment, tastes and cooking know-how to make these work for you. 


General principle: Take a starchy vegetable (squash, potato), cook it, cut it in half, and stuff each half with the meats/veggies/grains of your choice. Serves two adults (can also serve a baby, if you're willing to share). 

Stuffed Acorn Squash
  1. Microwave your acorn squash
  2. While your squash is cooking, sauté a mix of diced chicken sausage, leeks and corn. Note: For two people, I'd do two or three chicken sausages, one or two diced leeks, and about a cup of frozen corn. We like Italian-style chicken sausage or the chicken-apple variety for this.  Each person gets half the squash.
  3. When you sauté, you'll probably want to use a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. When the squash is finished, cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and fill each half with a generous pile of your sautéed sausage-and-veg mix. 
  5. Eat. 
  • Swap your veggies for tomato, onion and spinach. Top with grated parmesan cheese. 
  • Don't like chicken sausage? Use the sausage of your choice, diced prosciutto or bacon. 
  • Vegetarian: Skip the meat altogether and add in a few more veggies (good options: bell peppers, tomatoes, black beans).
  • Sprinkle with a little bit of gouda, parmesan or the cheese of your choice. 


General principle: Use a canned curry sauce, add in frozen veggies and meat, serve with rice or naan.

Thai Fish Curry 
  1. When you go to the grocery store, buy a jar of Thai curry. I tend to use Trader Joe's green curry. In the freezer section, grab whatever variety of white fish you like (not breaded), as well as a bag of stir-fry veggies. 
  2. Sauté your fish (suggested: two or three fillets) with a tiny bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Break into large chunks as it cooks. 
  3. Add frozen veggies and let cook for a few minutes. 
  4. Add curry sauce and let it all simmer together for 20 minutes or so.
  5. Eat. 
  • Use teriyaki sauce instead. Or use a mix of curry paste, canned coconut milk and broth.
  • Chop up whatever fresh veggies you have, instead of frozen. This would be good with a mix of potatoes, peppers and onions. 
  • Serve over noodles or rice, or with a piece of naan, pita or other good scooping bread. 


General principle: Sauté some veggies, add lots of stock and pasta/grains/legumes, and serve it all up with the bread of your choice.

Split Pea Soup 
  1. Dice up some carrots and onions. Suggested: 2 large carrots and 1 small onion.
  2. Sauté the veggies for a few minutes in a soup pot, using about 1 tablespoon of oil or butter, lightly seasoning with salt and pepper. 
  3. Add in one cup split peas, as well as 2-3 cups of  whatever broth you have around. (Veggie, chicken, ham or beef will all work just fine.) Got some spare bacon, ham or sausage? Throw that in too! 
  4. Cook everything together over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, then turn down to a simmer and cook for another 15 minutes. 
  5. If it's too thick, add some water or additional broth. 
  6. Serve with dinner rolls, baguette pieces, or whatever hearty bread you like.  
Here are a few more places to turn for inspiration: 
  1. If you want your recipes served with a large dose of profanity, read Shannon's Kitchen, which describes itself as "healthy food and recipe ideas from a naughty nurse." 
  2. 100 soup recipes for cold days or 15 essential soups
  3. 101 picnic dishes from one of my favorite recipe authors
  4. A sandwich for every day of the month or two-ingredient sandwiches 
What's your go-to quick meal for weeknights? Where do you find realistic recipes? 

Original illustration by Kathleen Founds; photos from the Library of Congress herehere and here