Dairy-free Veggie-sneaking Breakfast

We like breakfast-for-dinner in our house but dinner means loads of veggies to me. So, when the kids requested breakfast-for-dinner, I figured out a way to sneak in as many veggies as possible without tipping them off. Our meal: squash scrambled eggs, zucchini pancakes, and berries.

First, I steamed an entire chopped summer squash, then pureed it in the blender. I cracked 5 eggs directly into the blender cup, sprinkled in salt and pepper, added a dash of garlic powder, and thoroughly blended the mixture. Next, I greased my pan with coconut oil before cooking the blended eggs low and slow on the stove, gently moving the eggs with a spatula frequently.

Next up: zucchini pancakes! I blended one chopped, raw zucchini in the food processor. Then I tossed in 1.5 cups of Wegmans’ pancake mix (our preferred dairy-free pancake mix), 1 egg, a tablespoon of coconut oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, a handful of fresh basil leaves, and a splash of cashewmilk. After processing the mixture, I cooked the pancakes as usual in a hot pan greased with coconut oil.

As the eggs and pancakes cooked, I plated the berries. Easy, healthy crowd pleaser!

SQUASH SCRAMBLED EGGS WITH ZUCCHINI PANCAKES AND BERRIES

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Ingredients

Squash Scrambled Eggs:

1 Summer squash (chopped)

5 Eggs

1 Tbl Cashewmilk

1 tsp Garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Zucchini Pancakes 

1 Large zucchini  (chopped)

1.5 cups Dairy-free pancake mix

1 Egg

1 Tbl Coconut oil

2 Tbl Non-dairy milk

1 Handful fresh basil

1 Tbl Garlic powder (less if you’re not a garlic lover)

1/2 Tbl Onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Berries

3 pints of your favorite fresh berries

Directions

For the eggs, grease a medium-sized pan with your preferred oil (I used coconut oil) and heat on low.

Steam the squash in the microwave. Let it stand to cool for a minute before placing it in the blender cup.

Puree the squash until smooth.

Add the remaining egg ingredients to the blender cup and blend until well-mixed.

Pour the egg mixture into the greased and heated pan, gently moving the egg with a spatula every so often.

Plate the eggs once cooked to your desired doneness.

For the zucchini pancakes, grease a large pan with your desired oil (I used coconut oil.)

Place the chopped, raw zucchini into the food processor and process until uniformly chopped.

Place all of the remaining pancake ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Cook pancakes as usual, pouring dollops of batter onto the hot pan and flipping each pancake over as air bubbles begin to appear.

For a greener zucchini pancake, cook on low. For a more golden zucchini pancake, cook on medium.

Plate pancakes once prepared and top with your preferred butter substitute  (I used Soy-free Earth’s Balance.)

Pile your favorite fresh berries onto each plate, and enjoy!

 

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Backseat Life Goals

“I have lots of plans.” #1, my spunky, sparkle-loving, verbose nearly-5-year-old daughter, informs me from the backseat of the minivan. “I want to be a doctor, a princess, a rock star, and a person who builds houses.” I giggle at her terminology but grin with pride at her vast and varied aspirations. “Goals are good. Go for it, girl!” I encourage her. She smiles and looks out the window, “Oh yeah, and I want to paint people’s nails too.” She says, adjusting her glittery sunglasses.

“Why not?”

 

To Dive or Swim?

“Congratulations,” the pediatrician said to #3 during his 1-year well-check, “you’re a toddler now!” And with that, I am now in a weird state of mourning, confusion, and relief.

#3 just had his first birthday and, being the delayed processor that I am, I am only now emotionally experiencing the life event. I am only now coming to terms with this possibly being my last baby.

No more heavenly calm of a newborn asleep on my shoulder, no more hourly nighttime feedings, no more infant coos, no more labor and delivery recoveries, no more baby cuddles, no more diaper explosions, no more tiny footsie pajamas. There is so much that would rest sadly and happily in the past.

As I process my mixed emotions I begin to wonder if we should have another. In no way does my body yearn to become pregnant again. In no way do I look at an expectant mom or new baby and palpably yearn to be in that life season. For the first time in 7 years, I am not craving a baby. But yet I fear letting go of this life stage.

Will I regret it later if we don’t try one last time? Will I regret it if we do? Would the extra addition prove to be just too much?  We’re already testing all of our limits with 3 under 5. Still, as ridiculous of a reason as it may be, having a baby would keep us in this life stage longer.

My children will keep growing, moving further into their own lives and away from me. They will develop and mature, they will identify as individuals instead of as my children. I know that having one more baby wouldn’t halt that eventuality, but it would prolong my stay in this harried, exhausting, yet wonderful time… the glory days of my maternal career.

Then I think of how much easier things are with #1 and #2, being past the infant neediness and the toddler self-endangerment phases. Potty-training is done, strollers are gone, self-sufficiency is increasing. They can communicate their needs clearly. They understand social expectations (though they don’t always meet them.) They can play in a room independently without risk of grave injury or damage. They squabble and tantrum, but they are increasingly independent. It’d be nice to have the demands of very young childhood behind us for convenience’s sake.

With a 1-year-old, 3-year-old, and nearly-5-year-old, I feel as if my head is just surfacing above a rough swell. It’s beautiful beneath the waves, simultaneously tranquil and perilous, but I can only hold my breath so long before I must rise for air. Once I see the world above the sea and breathe freely, can and should I dip down again knowing my submersion will only be temporary? Knowing that the surface I see now would be entirely different the next time I reemerge? Will the sea be too rough next time? But if I don’t dive soon, I’ll lose my chance for good. Will I mourn my missed opportunity?

I know I have months before I could even begin trying (thank you, breastfeeding for delaying that cyclical annoyance!) and I wouldn’t even want to start for a while (I survived 2 under 2 once… once was enough.) Still, as a planner, I want to know. I don’t feel ready now, but will I later? Will life simply make the choice for us one way or another? Who knows?

In the meantime, I’ll just tread water and enjoy the view.

Vegan Vanilla Frosting

#3’s first birthday was nearing and I needed dairy-free frosting for his cake. I contemplated going the easy route and buying the generally dairy-free Duncan Hines canned frosting, but those have a funky aftertaste and way too much sugar for my taste. So, homemade it was.

I wanted something easy, something with few ingredients, something not terribly processed. I found a recipe online for a dairy-free vanilla frosting and prepared the concoction according to the instructions.

The frosting was good but not great. It wasn’t quite vanilla-y enough for me, it was a tad too salty, and it was too sugary. So I tweaked the recipe,  decreasing here and substituting there to create my own recipe. I much preferred it… Hubs and #1 did too. Here’s how I made it.

VEGAN VANILLA FROSTING 

Vegan Vanilla Frosting

Vegan Vanilla Frosting

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup coconut oil (chilled)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 small pinch salt
1 Tbl non-dairy milk

Directions

Add all of the ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer.

Mix on low, scraping the sides of the bowl often (be sure to turn off your mixer when doing this.)

Gradually increase the mixer’s speed until you reach the highest setting, still stopping to scrape the bowl sides so everything gets blended.

Mix until the frosting reaches the desired texture.

Store in an airtight container and refrigerate if not using immediately.

Advice on Advice

So often parents, especially new and expectant mothers, get bombarded with advice from resources near and downright bizarre. Thanks for the intel on how to cope with nipple biting, middle-aged single dude at Starbucks! This bounty of insights leads some guardians to universally rebuke all outsider commentary. How foolish! How short-sighted!

“Enough with the unsolicited advice!” “Unless you’re advising me on which wine goes with Cheez-Its, keep your advice to yourself!” “Why does my mother-in-law bother giving me baby-rearing tips… it’s MY baby?!” Some mothers vent.

I counter: accept the advice, every nugget you can scrounge. Ask present mothers in all stages of life for their learnings. They are your greatest resource. Then, dig through the mound. Sift out the out-dated, the unsavory, the inapplicable, and the ridiculous. What you’re left with is a priceless tool box with which to address your greatest life challenge yet: parenthood.

When strangers and loved ones are offering you advice, they are selflessly giving you free insights — lessons learned the hard way — so that you needn’t suffer. How beautiful is that?! What a gift (and you don’t even need to return it to Macy’s if it’s not to your liking!) The advisors are not implying you’re incapable or unfit by sharing their knowledge; they’re simply lending you a hand. They’re reaching out. Accept that donation with open arms!

Just because you listen to the advice from an elderly woman in line at Target, doesn’t mean you must follow her parental algorithm. Just because a co-worker emails you a list of her baby must-haves, doesn’t mean you are destined to purchase her recommendations precisely. Just because a neighbor chats you up about bottle vs. breast doesn’t mean you are contractually obligated to ammend your feeding choices. Instead, it means you are humble enough to know you are not omniscient, that you are aware your journey has only just begun, that you properly honor the knowledge of those who’ve gone before you. Basically, it means you’re wise enough to learn from others.

So, drop the ego. Holster the defensiveness. Ditch the dramatic tendency toward offense. And accept advice for what it is: a free gift that you may do with as you please. You may just learn something! I know I do.

 

Breaking Boob Curfew

I was at dinner with a fellow mom-in-the-trenches when we both realized it was nearing my witching hour. It was 7:06 and I needed to be in #3’s room, in the glider, boob out, and ready for bedtime nursing in 9 minutes. Crap!

Signing the credit card receipt, I flashed back to three months ago when I arrived home just moments after boob curfew. It was utter chaos. #1 and #2 fighting in the tub, #3 wailing, Hubs about to lose his mind. It was not a good scene.

We bolt home. I drop off my friend, who thankfully lives just a few doors down from me, and I repeatedly push the garage door button from halfway down the street. I know full well it doesn’t work until I hit the driveway, but I’m blindly hoping to somehow speed my entry. I race in the door, hear children fussing, kick off my shoes mid-stride, untie my sundress halter as I take the steps two at a time, and arrive in the master bathroom ready to accept my penance.

Then I realize the actual scenario before me. Two of the three kids are half-naked. Hubs is filling the tub. #1 is lamenting the possibility that the bath suds may ruin her pedicure, #2 is moaning about having to go potty before entering the tub, and #3 is dancing while holding onto the tub ledge like a drunk guy shimmying at the bar to “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Everything was fine. I was not needed. Hubby looked at me in shock. “What was all that?” He asked, referencing my stampeding entrance. “I thought he was going to be freaking out,” I say, motioning to #3. #3 grins at me with his lopsided jack-o-lantern smile, and I realize that being a few minutes late is not the nightmare it used to be.

At nearly a year old, #3 is growing up. He still needs me, just not with the fierce dependence he used to. He’s more human and less leech these days.

I scoop up #3, praising him for the lack of belated-boobie bedlam. Put him in his pajamas, and nurse him into a sweaty, milky sleep. He’s still my baby.

 

Don’t Believe Social Media

You see this picture? It’s a lie.

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You see that happy, care-free grin on my vacation-tanned face? It’s fake. I was unhappy, distraught, and lost. I was in my mid-twenties battling unexpected infertlity. You see how the photo is precisely cropped mid-bicep? That’s to hide my bloated, distended, pained abdomen occupied by two large ovarian cysts. You see my hair windblown and seemingly naturally volumized by the sea breeze? I had spent mournful time styling it to camouflage the hairloss from my previous bout of ovarian cysts. But all you see — all I allowed you to see — was a sunny seaside picture.

This photo of me on an over-sized chair? A farce.

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I’m bronzed and cheerfully grinning from my perch. It doesn’t show that, mid-vacation, I had an intravaginal and pelvic ultrasound for the umpteenth time due to Clomid-induced ovarian cysts. It doesn’t show that — yet again — I was prescribed birth control to irradicate the fertility-thieving, painful, hormone-razing growths despite me desperately wanting to become pregnant. It doesn’t show how painful it was to walk or stand. It doesn’t show that the reason I’m wearing a dress is because it hurt too much to wear anything with a waistband. All you see — all I allow you to see — is a cheesy posed photo.

You see this photo of a young, happy married couple? A red-herring.

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Yes, we were young. Yes, we were married. But, no, we were not entirely happy. We were struggling to conceive; struggling to hide our infertility battle from the outside world. It was becoming increasingly challenging to camouflage, to duck the questions, to artfully present ourselves as content in our family-of-two existence when what we really wanted was for our bodies to work, to provide us with a baby.

Don’t believe social media. Don’t get caught up in the filtered Instagram shots, toothy Facebook posts, and cartoony Snapchat images. You’re seeing facades, not reality.

You’re not alone in your struggles, we’re all battling something. You’re not lesser or lacking, no one is perfect despite what their photos may show. Your kids aren’t the only ones who meltdown in epic rages at the end of the day. Your dog isn’t the only one that uses your entry rug as toilet paper. Your family isn’t the only one with reality TV-level drama. Your job isn’t the only one that sucks, demands too much, goes nowhere, or pays too little. Your home isn’t the only one filled with more than one junk drawer or clutter heaps or dustbunnies or laundry or all of the above. And that’s ok.

You’re only seeing what others are allowing you to see.

 

The “Why?”-Chromosome

Having boys has prompted me to ask “Why?” Numerous times daily. “Why would you eat that?” “Why are you stuck in there?” “Why would you sit in that?” “Why are you up there?” “Why did you put that in there?” “Why are you touching that?” “Why did you think THAT was a good idea?” But most often: “Why would you do that?” This has prompted me to theorize that the y-chromosome is a misnomer; it should, in fact, be labeled the “Why?”-chromosome.

Boys are just wired differently. They see the world through a lense of curiosity. “Touch me”, “Take me apart”, “Climb me”, “See if that fits in me”, “Make me into a weapon” cries the world. So they do.

Unfortunately, I carry no such chromosome. So I am outsider. Unfamiliar with their inner workings and thought processes. I am learning their ways but am most certainly not one of them.

For the “Why?”-chromosome holders, all matter — delicate and grotesque — must be manhandled. Surroundings are dismantled to be understood. Structures, both sound and teetering, are scaled. Holes of all kinds are plugged with the nearest object (or body part). Even the most mundane paraphernalia has a calling to hit, swat, slice, stab, or careen through the air. The world is an interactive, infinite cause-and-effect experiment.

#2 attempting to fit through a dog door

#2 attempting to fit through a dog door

If something is repulsive, that means it’s truly fascinating. If something is vacant or empty, it must be filled… no hole may remain uninhabited. If something is slimy, wet, messy, or germy, it demands a thorough hands-on inspection. Their curiosity knows no bounds.

Their mischief isn’t entirely intentional, it is more often the aftermath of curious minds and fearless hands. Though, sometimes trouble is just too tempting to decline.

To see the world through their untamed, intrigued eyes must be a wonder. Instead, I stand on the sidelines, Band-Aids in one hand, Baby wipes in the other trying not to gag.

 

Dairy-free Sub Salad

It’s Father’s Day weekend, so I wanted to make a dinner that appealed to Hubs’ tastes — burgers, barbecue, hoagies, etc. — but stay on the healthier side. So, I made a Dairy-free Sub Salad. A hoagie in a bowl!

I topped green leaf lettuce with Vidalia onions, cherry tomatoes, and mild banana peppers. Then came the deli meats: no-salt-added turkey breast, low-fat ham, and Genoa salami. (If you’re concerned about cross-contamination, kindly ask the employee at your deli counter to switch to a fresh deli slicer blade before he or she slices your meats. Asking him or her to wipe down the machine would be an additional safety measure.) A simple dairy-free adjustment — Chao Creamy Original Slices instead of Muenster –made this sandwich-turned-salad safe for all of us to eat. Drizzled over top: a dijon, hoagie oil, and mayo dressing. It was a hit!

DAIRY-FREE SUB SALAD 

Dairy-free Sub Salad

Dairy-free Sub Salad

Ingredients

Dressing:

2 Tbl mayonnaise

2 Tbl Hoagie oil

1 Tbl Prepared dijon mustard

Salad:

1/2 Head of green leaf lettuce (torn into bite-size pieces)

1 cup mild banana peppers  (drained)

3-4 handfuls cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup Vidalia onion (chopped)

1/4lb no-salt-added turkey (torn into bite-size pieces)

1/4lb low-fat ham (torn into bite-size pieces)

4 slices Genoa salami (torn into bite-size pieces)

Directions

Place the salad ingredients in a large salad or mixing bowl.

Mix the dressing ingredients in a separate container.

Drizzle the dressing over the sald.

Toss the ingredients together thoroughly.

Plate and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Letting Yourself Slip Through

Sometimes I get so worn down, so caught up in life drama, in external demands, in internal expectations, in arduous plans, and the infinite mom to-do list that I forget about me. I allow myself to fall through the cracks.

I have a few immovable selfish musts that I maintain every day: doing my make-up each morning (as a form of meditation and “me” time) and my pre-bed shower. They are key to me for feeling human.

Still, there are periods of time when I over-exert myself. I give too much. I over-schedule, over-plan, overachieve. In the end, I wind up under-performing (in my own eyes) and suffering mom guilt. Catch 22, right? Do too little: guilt. Do too much: guilt. Dammit!

Nearly five years into this parenting journey, I can distinguish the warning signs when I begin to enter into dangerous over-extended territory: emotional fatigue, lessened patience, foggy memory, and constant underlying or obvious stress. If I don’t watch myself I’ll begin to feel this hazy sense of loneliness even when I would have no logical reason to feel as such. During such times, I feel pressured to do more despite knowing I am already overdoing. If I didn’t heed the warning signs and factor myself back into the to-do list, eventually, I’d burn out.

I’ve never fully burnt out but I’ve definitely had the gas tank light flashing a few times. And so I must seek respite. Without it, I cannot effectively give of myself. And giving is the entirety of motherhood.

“You cannot pour from an empty cup.” They say. So I must fill my cup, and take meaningful time for me.

Don’t forget to put yourself on your to-do list. You’re important too.