Monday, November 10, 2014

Month 1: Day-to-Day

I showered, got dressed (in real clothes) and wore make-up every single day of my maternity leave. I'm actually really proud of this so feel free to leave any congrats below.

All kidding aside, my maternity leave was different. It's okay I'm a bit different. But I wanted to break down our day-to-day. Not for anything other than education. Maybe you have a friend or family member dealing with a "not so normal" maternity leave. I'll tell you what they need most. Voicemails. Text Messages. And Food. I didn't write a single thank-you card, but we couldn't have done it alone - Thank You.

After getting released from the hospital without your babes at your side, things change. You start to live in a life you never even knew existed. One that includes phone calls to nurses at all hours of the night, pumping non-stop (sorry guys), discussions on milliliters and saturation rates, kangaroo time and more tubes and wires than you've ever seen. Oh and the beeping. You will always remember the beeping.

There's something comforting and scary about the NICU at the same time. There's comfort in knowing that your child has the best care possible and there's comfort in knowing that the other families you spend hours with "get it." It's equally as scary because what you see day-to-day makes you appreciative of one thing, life.

So day in and day out you acclimate to a new norm. You spend hours in the NICU and it never seems like enough. Each time you walk out the door you restrain yourself from running back in. You need a break but you also never want to leave. That's why NICUs employ the most amazing nurses. You need them not only for the babies but for the parents who brought these darlings into the world. Again, thank you.

To make it a bit more confusing we had 2 babes in 2 different NICUs in 2 different hospitals. They were connected, but about a 15 minute walk from each other. Our days were spent logistically planning how we could spend as much time as possible with each baby. To break it down, there was never enough time.

But there was support. Through our nurses, through our NICU neighbors, through our family and friends. And that is how we survived month 1. The 1 1/2 hour drive each way each day. The saying good-bye each night. The hoping for good news the next morning.

There are a lot of details you don't share with the world. How some days you need a break but taking that break is almost worse. How your baby doesn't seem small even when preemie diapers are too big. How you really don't know if and when your baby can come home.

You also gain a lot of knowledge by being a NICU family. How to care for and love some of the tiniest little darlings. How you don't let wires get in the way. How to laugh about poop explosions in an isolate. How to dress a baby who's clothes don't even fit. It all feels normal in there at that moment. And normal is something we don't take for granted anymore.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

1 Cake, No Frosting

I ate a mini cannoli for lunch. Best decision ever. It was a NY cannoli so I kinda had to.

Anyway let's talk about the day I walked in the door and asked our nanny to stay 20 minutes longer to bake a cake. The look on her face was priceless. I told her not to worry there was no frosting involved.

Twenty minutes - tops. Then you can play with the twins and just pull it out of the oven when the timer beeps. It's a twin-approved cake. It's also approved to eat for breakfast or during long car rides.

So I was at a work photo shoot with the lovely Emily of mStarr Event Design - fancy, right - when I found myself volunteering to bake this cake for the next day. I'm kinda really glad I make impulsive decisions like this. Cause then there was cake. Really easy, really delicious, really delicate olive oil cake.

Also, it's not advised to bake right after the kitchen has been cleaned, but that's a topic for another day.

Olive oil cakes are Italian favorites that use REALLY GOOD olive oil and citrus to create this amazing treat. Don't skimp on buying the good olive oil or the fresh citrus. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Olive Oil Cake
adapted from a recipe a friend gave to a friend who probably got it from another friend

1 cup cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
3 farm fresh eggs
2 1/2 cups sugar
Zest of two lemons
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin cold pressed olive oil 
3/4 cup toasted sweetened coconut

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease & flour a 9x13 pan - I used a 9-inch round cake pan because I can't follow the rules
*Combine both flours, baking soda and powder, and salt 
*In a separate bowl whisk eggs & sugar together well
*Stir in zest, milk & oil until well combined
*Fold in dry ingredients and coconut
*Pour into pan and bak for 45 minutes - when using the 9-inch round pan, cooking time was approx. 35-40 minutes

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gooooo Team

Infants are tough. Yup I said it, cause it's true. Twin infants are times 4 tough. And twin infants, one with a heart defect, are fun and tough-er-est.

It's not the logistical, no-sleep tough that gets to you though. It's months in the NICU, infant heart surgery, a whole team of medical professionals that many times I can't keep straight that becomes the toughest. I don't want it any other way, I don't wish for "different" kids. I just wish for more time as a family, more time with the twins and more time to do our own thing.

Let's back up, mmkay? At 12 weeks preggo (and rarely keeping food down), we were told Twin B had increased thickening of the neck. It was right on the border of being a concern so we decided to run a chromosomal test. Everything came back a-ok. So I ate more cheerios and ginger ale.

Week 20, the day after Christmas, we were going to find out if these crazies were boys, girls or monsters. I was going with monsters. That conversation was side-stepped as they noticed Twin B's heart was on the other side and turned around. Yup definitely monsters.

Less than a week later we were working with Boston Children's Heart Center and discovered that Twin B had more than a silly placed heart. To put it simply, all the pieces of his heart were there but the piping was a little off meaning un-oxygenated blood would be delivered to his body when he was born. It was "fixable."

Writing it makes the process sound simple and clear cut. It was not. There were no guarantees and we knew months out that our norm was not everyone's norm.

So reached out to some of our closest friends and family. From medical professional friends to those who spent time at Children's Hospital to those who just "got it." This is our core team, the people we work with that can't prescribe a single piece of medicine to the boys, but provide our little family with something much more important.

And that is how we keep moving forward.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It's Fallfutiful

I made up a word. It's fall and beautiful in one perfect little word. We can now add that to the dictionary.
The twins went apple picking with their Aunt Jess

Anywho, back to fall. So last fall I had 2 beans in my belly (weird, but true) so I wanted nothing to do with fall flavors. The thought of pumpkin or apple or butternut squash sent me running to the bathroom. Seriously, no good. This year I'm doing and eating everything fall.

Hence the pumpkin ravioli fiasco of Saturday night.

Ravioli. Cooks quick. Great for busy mamas. EXCEPT not for twin mamas. There should be a disclaimer on the package. Mamas with twins walk away from this fresh, local pumpkin ravioli. 

Luckily I bought 2 packages. Cause the first package was cooking and I turned away to wash a bottle that took me 30 seconds longer than I thought and all the pumpkin filling exploded and boiled off into the water. I shed a tear. The beans let out a shriek. It was because of the ravioli not because of poop, I swear.

So feel free to substitute the ravioli with any sort of pasta because if you overcook regular pasta it's a little less of a fiasco. The idea with this meal is you really don't even need the onion, garlic or much seasoning because all the flavor is coming from the fresh sausage. It's genius. Seriously, genius. Okay maybe not, but it tastes really good and you can make it while two babes watch Spiderman from the living room floor (NO, we would never ever let our 6 month olds do that. Never. Okay, maybe just once. Or twice.)

Cheater Pasta
4 fresh pre-made sausage links with any of your favorite flavoring (I used Whole Foods pepper and onion chicken sausage - so good)
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
3 handfuls of baby spinach
3 Tbsp GOOD olive oil
salt + pepper
1 package of any ravioli or pasta you'd like

*Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan
*Sautee your onions and garlic over low/medium heat
*Meanwhile cook pasta according to directions - DO NOT WASH BABY BOTTLES AT THE SAME TIME
*Remove casings from the sausage and place the sausage in your non-stick pan
*Using a wooden spoon break up the sausage and let it brown on both sides
*Once the sausage is cooked turn the heat to low and add your spinach if you have some on hand
*Drain your pasta
*Place the sausage and veggie mixture over pasta and viola - dinner!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Don't Be Late

Oh and don't forget to update your blog. Anyway back on topic...

I hate being late, like really dislike it. Just thinking about being late stresses me out. I feel anxious if other people are late. I’m sweating right now.
So apparently my babes hate being late too. So much so they came 7 weeks early. I can’t blame them – they didn’t want to miss Easter or Marathon Monday (the 2 best holidays). They showed up early to party. I forgot to wear my party shoes so the nice nurses gave me some socks (side note: when they tell you to pack a hospital bag and leave it in your car I suggest you listen)
Meet Lou 

And Dean

I only now realize how scared we should have been and how peanut-sized they were. We don’t have other babes, we didn’t know. So we trekked along and have some stories to tell.
But first let’s discuss baby jeans. I die. (Hospital gowns, not as cute)

Oh remember when this was just a food blog? Yeah, now I just make food for the week and food for babies. It’s kinda the same thing, but a little quicker and different. And it tastes really good (the baby food especially). It’s okay, one day I’ll open my own coffee shop – you know in my spare time.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cookies + Coffee = Happiest of Holidays

Three years. Yes three years in a row I have participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap partnered with Cookies for Kids Cancer for happy hearts and happy tummies. It's basically heaven during the busiest time of year. My husband is always first to rip open the boxes and mopes around the house after all the cookies are gone. I feel for him.
The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013
It's also three years in a row that I stress over what cookies to make. Should they be classic or inventive or straight-forward and easy. STRESS. So this year I grabbed a cappuccino on a cold Sunday morning and snuggled with Luce to plan.

Cappuccino cookies a la Joy the Baker to the rescue. I kid you not when I say this recipe rocks: a) it's super easy, b) it's fail-proof, c) it tastes like a cappuccino. Heavenly. And trust me even non-coffee drinkers rejoice.

But first, wanna see what yummy cookies I got??? I think, yes.
Ginger Cookies from Someplace That's Green. Yes these were baked with love because I love ginger. They made my 3pm very happy for a full week.
Monster Cookies from I don't know exactly what's in these, but I now love monsters. Also, lesson for next year - don't let the husband take the pics or eat all the cookies before you can get good shots. 
Almond Apricot Cookies from These are really quite perfect cookies for me. I ate them for breakfast multiple days in a row. Hey there's jam in there, don't judge.

And now for what I sent out - a little cappuccino in the form of a cookie!

Cappuccino Cookies from Joy the Baker
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temp
1 large egg yolk, room temp
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
1 cup Ghiradelli vanilla white chocolate chopped into pieces (heaven!)

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and instant espresso powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the butter mixture with a spatula.  Add the egg and egg yolk and beat on medium speed until mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla extract. Stop the mixer and add the dry ingredients, all at once to the butter mixture.  Beat on low speed until just combined.  Stop the mixer, add the chocolate chunks and fold together with a  spatula until well combined.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

Just before you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick baking mats.

Scoop cookie dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto the prepared baking pans.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. 
Happy Holiday, Cookie Style!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sometimes I Only Take 1 Picture...

...because let's be honest I don't have a camera. And I normally take a photo with my phone while I'm cooking, dirty hands and all. But this blog isn't about the best photos, it's just about food. Beautiful food.

I've been feeling blah lately, just down on energy and not my 100%. So I turned to what worked when I was 3, re-invented it a bit and guess what? It works just as well when you're in your 30's. Go figure. Life is so tricky like that.

This soup is so easy, just takes a bit of time. But it's all worth it. Make it on a Sunday night and have lunch figured out for the rest of the week. Plus it makes you feel all happy inside. And somehow dinner table conversations become a little bit longer with a bowl of soup. Trust me.

Couple notes: You can make this soup vegetarian, just ixnay the chicken. Also feel free to add some orzo or rice and any other delicious veggies you have on hand. And don't forget the extra lemons to squeeze on top.

Re-invented Avglemono Soup
2 onions, cut in half (leave skin on)
5 carrtos, chopped in half (no need to peel)
5 celery stalks, chopped in half
2-3 parsnips, choped in half
6 sprigs of sage
1 Tbsp peppercorns (less if you want less pepper taste)
1 Tbsp salt

Soupa (that's soup in Greek folks, also my second word)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 carrots, peeled cut into bite size pices
5 celery stalks, cut into bite size pieces
1 3/4 pound of chicken thighs
6 sprigs of sage
1 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
3 lemons
1 bunch of kale, washed and chopped

In a large stockpot (I'm talking the big one that you never use) place all the ingredients for the broth and cover with cold water - leave a little room at the top so it can boil. Bring the pot to a boil, uncovered, and then reduce to a simmer. (Note: It can take an hour or so to get the water to boil because remember you're using your BIG pot) Let the broth simmer for an hour and up to 3 hours.

With a slotted spoon remove all the cooked veggies and place them in a bowl. Feel free to nibble on these while you're cooking. Also, once cooled, dogs love the yummy cooked carrots.

Now strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve (I don't even know why I used sieve, I meant strainer) so you can remove the peppercorns and any herbs. You can also skip this step and simply fish them out with a spoon.

Either in another stockpot or in the same one with the vegetable broth removed, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute for about 5 minutes. Then add in some salt and pepper, sage, your gorgeous broth and the chicken thighs. This is where we cook the chicken in homemade stock - genious.

You want to cook the chicken until it falls off the bone, about 20 minutes. Remove the chicken and shred it up and add it back into the pot. Turn the heat to low - as low as it can go.

In a medium bowl take your eggs and whisk them - like really good. Then with one hand whisking you want to slowly add 3 ladle fulls of the soup. This is to make sure you don't wind up with scrambled eggs - and if you do, don't panic, just order pizza (trust me, I've done it.).

Then you want to add the egg and broth mixture into the soup and stir away. Add in your kale and the juice of 3 lemons and ta-da!!!!

THE perfect feel better soup.