Snowmen, Strietzel and Sleep Training

What happens to you when you’re sleep deprived? Do you turn into a zombie? Or become incredibly sensitive? For me, it’s a mix of things which came to a peak last week. When you have a baby, you expect to be really tired in the beginning and you are. New babies need round the clock care and a lot of that depends on mom if the babies are breastfed. I think in the beginning I was tired, but I must have been running on new mom adrenaline. The 2 hour feedings didn’t seem to bother me and I managed to get naps during the day when I was really exhausted. What I didn’t expect was to repeat that vicious cycle when we hit four months.

There is an evil called “sleep regressions” and they happen to a handful of babies. I only knew one friend who had a baby who had sleep troubles, the rest must have been angels (or maybe liars?), so I didn’t think much of it. Nolan was never a great sleeper. He had a crutch which was the exercise ball. He was addicted to bouncing and only fell asleep if bounced. We never intended to bounce him so much, but it was the only thing that soothed our fussy baby. Sleep deprivation makes my brain cloudy. Sometimes it’s hard to think straight and mostly I’m just unmotivated to add stress to my day (aka not going out if I don’t have to). With my cloudy head, I ruined some hard boiled eggs… twice. It’s hard to ruin a hard boiled egg since it involves only a few steps, but I forgot about one pan of them and let my water boil down to nothing, setting off the smoke alarm. The second time I set the kitchen timer but thought it was the annoying dishwasher beep and didn’t get to them immediately. Rubbery eggs = gross. Multi-tasking while sleep deprived is bad news for me apparently.

About a month ago, we lost patience with the bouncing. Our quads grew stronger and our back muscles ached. Around the three month mark, Nolan began to sleep in slightly longer stretches but showed no signs of dropping night feedings to give us a break. He was even making progress with naps longer than 30 minutes at a time, hallelujah! Jump to the four month mark and any sort of progress was tossed out the window and buried under a deep drift of snow. Coupled with a growth spurt, Nolan lost all abilities to sleep alone for more than one sleep cycle (30-40 minutes) without needing his crutch. For almost two weeks we tried repeatedly to get him to sleep in his crib and every night by around 2am he was in bed with us, sleeping on my chest. I’m pretty sure he was the only one getting good rest that way and Michael and I were going crazy. We needed this baby to sleep so that we could sleep again too! Can you tell we aren’t a co-sleeping family?

After a terrible night a week ago, we decided we had to do something. We didn’t want to project our frustrations onto each other and Nolan really needed way more sleep that he was getting. Average babies his age are supposed to sleep around 14 hours per day and he was nowhere close. Furthermore, I kept reading that kids who sleep longer have generally higher IQs and I feared that we would affect his intelligence! No joke. I read three books which all made me feel like a failure at parenting: Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child; Baby Wise; and The Baby Whisperer. We ended up using Ferber’s Progressive Waiting approach and are on day 6. Nolan is doing great and we are too! I’m still tired but I think my body is just catching up from lost sleep. We now have long stretches of sleep with minimal wake ups at night and he can soothe himself which is huge progress! I never thought we’d be able to lay him down awake in his crib to go to sleep but it is working! So if you’re out there struggling with the same sleep deprivation, please just try something. If it doesn’t work for you, try the next thing. If there is anything we can take away from this month, it’s that we aren’t alone. There are tons of other parents out there who’ve written the exact same blog posts and weaned from bouncing and swaddling and trained their kids to sleep the same way we are now. Thank goodness for the internet, and a husband who loves you when you’re cranky and want nothing more than to sit around in your sweatpants. And for progressive waiting and sleeping babies…

To celebrate all this recent sleep I’ve been much more alert during night feedings. I still have to keep myself occupied because, well, it’s the middle of the night and it’s dark and I’m holding a warm snuggly baby and sometimes I drift off with my head all crooked in the rocking chair… and even though I’ve got an oil for that, it’s important we don’t fall asleep because that might ruin our sleep training. Once I’ve exhausted facebook and instagram, I usually turn to pinterest. There are a lot of crafty Valentine images popping up in my feed. I’ve been thinking we deserve a Valentine’s Day reward for all this sleep deprivation which will come in the shape of Michael’s favorite cookie of all time, Springerles. It’s only fair because I often smell like a Springerle when i use my Fennel oil for lactation support. Hopefully the family doesn’t stage a revolt since I’m breaking a serious tradition of these cookies only being made at Christmas.

For now, please enjoy some stop-motion short films made by my lovely, and consider making some Strietzel (minus candied fruit) for your lovebird this Valentine’s Day. In a perfect world, I’d be making this for breakfast tomorrow too… maybe next year.

How To Build A Snowman
Strietzel Stop Motion

Strietzel

2 packages yeast or 14g by weight
1/4 C warm water
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C flour

Dissolve yeast in water in a small bowl. Add sugar and flour and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for one hour.

6 1/2 C flour
1 C butter melted
1 1/2 C milk scalded
3 egg yolks well beaten
1 tsp salt

2 C mixed candied fruits and raisins (alternately if you’re not using candied fruit, just use 1/2 to 3/4 C raisins that you plump in hot water) Candies fruit or “Citron” is easy to find around the holidays. It’s tradition to use red and green candied cherries too.

Scald the milk (185˚F) in a medium saucepan remove from heat. Stir in cold sticks of butter, set aside.

Measure about 3 C flour into a large bowl. Whisk in salt. When milk has cooled and butter is all melted, add this to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Add in eggs and yeast starter and stir to combine. Continue adding flour one cup at a time into the bowl with the wooden spoon until you have 5-6 cups of flour incorporated. Knead the dough in the bowl a few times until all the loose bits are incorporated into one ball. Lightly flour a worksurface and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic (not sticky), 5-8 minutes. I usually add all of the candied fruit or raisins towards the end of kneading so the fruit doesn’t escape as many times. Grease a bowl and add the dough ball, turning to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, approximately 2 hours.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 9 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 15″ rope.

Braid 4 strands, then three strands, then twist the remaining two strands.

Stack the 3 braid onto the 4 braid and secure with toothpicks. When stacking, I rotate the braid 180˚ so the braid is going in the opposite direction of the one below. Stack the twist on top and add more toothpicks.

Grease a cookie sheet and place the loaf in the center. Cover and let it rise again for about 30 minutes (until doubled). Preheat oven to 350˚F. Beat an egg yolk and brush top of loaf. Bake 1 hour covered with foil. I removed the foil in the last 10-15 minutes of baking. The loaf will be done when the top is golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

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Granola Eater

I love granola. I love all types of granola, even boring granola – yes there are a lot of boring granolas out there and they usually cost an arm and a leg. Granola can elevate almost any breakfast item (oatmeal topping, muffin crust, as cereal) but my favorite is a yogurt parfait. If you’re a new reader, welcome to my granola obsession! I ran across a recipe in Bon Appetit that used an egg white in the mix, and no flour. This means to all of you gluten-ites, you’re free to eat this (as long as you get oats processed in a facility containing no gluten) and it contains a few less calories. It also has a lot more crunch than the recipes with flour. My mother in law’s recipe is still one of my favorites for a chewy granola. It really depends on my mood when I’m making granola if it will be chewy or crunchy. Lately, I’ve been on a crunchy kick.

This crunchy granola had cranberries, pepitas (green pumpkin seeds), flaked unsweetened coconut, walnuts, and pecans. It’s my favorite combination and I always have these ingredients on hand. Michael would be just as happy without the cranberries, bit I like the texture they add. Experiment until you find your favorite combination. You might be amazed at how satisfied you feel after breakfast.

granola

Crunchy Granola
(altered slightly from Bon Appetit February 2013)

1 egg white
3 C old fashioned oats
1 C nuts
1 C unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 C honey (or agave)
1/4 C olive oil (or coconut oil)
2 T brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 C dried cranberries (add later)

Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silpat or parchment. In a large bowl combine all ingredients except cranberries until evenly coated. Spread onto the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes to cook evenly. It will be done when the oats are golden brown. Let it cool on the baking sheet and store in an airtight container.

Other Granola recipes you might enjoy:
Maple Pecan Granola
Almond Spiced Granola
Chewy Granola

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

 

 

 

 

 

I thought it would be fun to dye some eggs naturally this year. It’s amazing what you can do with items in your refrigerator or pantry. I decided to try Turmeric, brewed Coffee, and Red Wine Vinegar. They all turned out lovely and since eating a hard-boiled egg for breakfast in the morning is a regular occurrence of mine… eating a pretty hard boiled egg is even better. 

How to hard boil an egg:
Fill a medium pot with eggs and cover with about one inch of water. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cover with a lid. Let stand for ten minutes and put in an ice bath. Keep refrigerated for 3-4 days. 

I have no specific recipe for the dyes I used. I added 1 tsp of vinegar to the coffee and used about 3 C water and 2 T of turmeric and 1 tsp vinegar for the yellow eggs. I like how bright they turned out with speckles, but I also really like the grayish-purple the red wine vinegar created. Check out Bon Appetit for some guidelines on other natural dyes.  

If you’re not into chicken eggs, try Martha’s Chocolate Truffle Eggs even though they are so gorgeous you won’t want to eat them. Oh, who am I kidding, any kind of chocolate no matter how pretty must be eaten immediately! Happy Easter and Happy Egg Dyeing. 

Almond Spiced Granola


You know how much I like granola right? I like chewy granola and crunchy granola, and I like trying new recipes. I recently adapted a recipe from Whole Foods and though I may have cooked it two minutes longer than I should (I blame allergies for lack of smell) I’ve enjoyed it. It’s versatile because it is sweet and crunchy and no flavor is too overpowering.

If you are like me and feel ravenous before dinner, you can eat it by the handfull while rummaging through your kitchen for something to cook. You could also sprinkle it on muffins before baking, make a delicious yogurt parfait with seasonal fruits and agave nectar (or honey), use it as a topping for ice cream, make trail mix, or scoop it from a bowl filled to the brim with milk.


I like to eat yogurt wearing a toga, but you can wear whatever you like. Any way you eat it, I’m sure you will like it. Feel free to make it something you really love.

Almond Spiced Granola
adapted from Whole Foods

3 C old fashioned oats
3 T whole wheat flour
1 C slivered almonds
1 C pecan pieces
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or equal amounts of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
1 tsp almond extract (or substitute vanilla)
1/2 C honey
1/3 C canola oil

Preheat the oven to 275˚F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with a silpat. Mix the dry ingredients and nuts in a large bowl. In a measuring cup add oil, honey and vanilla and stir. Add the honey mix into the oats and stir to coat evenly.

Bake for 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally to break up the larger pieces. Remove from oven when it’s light brown and fragrant. Cool on the baking sheet for 1 hour or until completely cool (it will crisp up if it seems too wet after baking). Store in an airtight container.

Low-Fat Blueberry Coffee Cake

I use the Whole Foods Recipes app for my iPhone a lot. The format is great. You can search for foods on hand, or in a certain category (vegan, slow cooker, quick and simple…) which I find is a huge help for making quick meal plans. I have a couple other apps for recipes but this one I use the most. I keep recipes bookmarked in my “Favorites” tab and have a fairly dynamic collection. I finally made the time to try this recipe recently and am very happy with the results. 
I happened to be babysitting the day I decided to make this coffee cake and finished up the prep with a one-and-a-half-year-old on my hip. He seemed mesmerized by my one handed mixing, all the while educating him on each ingredient I was using. He also liked to peek in the oven window with me to check the progress. Thankfully, amid the distractions of the wee one running amuck in a non-baby-proof house, the coffee cake turned out stunning. 
The cake has a much lighter crumb topping than most coffee cakes (remember it’s low-fat) but the almonds help give texture. There is hardly any fat in the recipe, so the moisture comes from fat free yogurt. Michael says you can tell it’s low-fat but he is also not a big fan of blueberries. The girls in my office liked it a lot and I enjoyed it as well. I’d definitely make it again and recommend serving it to guests. It’s fast to put together and friendly for your summer bikini body. 

Low-Fat Blueberry Coffee Cake
from Whole Foods Recipes

2 C fresh or frozen and thawed blueberries divided
1 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 C plain non-fat yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 C sliced almonds

for the topping:
2 T whole wheat flour
1/4 C brown sugar
2 T butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray and set aside. Mix together the ingredients for the topping in a small bowl with your fingers until it you have pea sized clumps.

Whisk together the remaining dry ingredients. Combine yogurt, eggs, and vanilla in another small bowl and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Add half the blueberries and smooth into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter and add the remaining blueberries. Top with the almonds. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes and remove the sides of the pan. Let cool another 20 minutes before serving. Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.

You can also use a standard 12 tin muffin cup with liners instead of the springform pan. Reduce the baking time to 22-25 minutes.

Almond Anise Biscotti

My elementary school art teacher taught me the word “kick”. No, she didn’t kick us… but she did teach about “short-lived obsessions.” This is the best I can do to describe a “kick” if you haven’t heard it in context. She was a little wacky as all fantastic elementary art teachers should be and she would announce each time she had a new kick. Her kicks were ever changing and comprised of colors, animals, or even words. But my kicks tend to revolve around an ingredient, or type of food. I’ve been on muffin kicks and homemade bread kicks, but not until recently have I been dreaming of biscotti. I’d say it’s a kick in the making.

I had this biscotti recipe bookmarked for a really long time. I’m guessing about a year. Strange as it seems, I was a little perplexed by biscotti. They are basically twice baked cookies if Italian origin and you enjoy them with your coffee. It’s like an adult version of cookies and milk. M really likes biscotti, especially if it has a hint of anise. I have not had many biscotti in my day which may be the reason I never made them until now. I used a recipe only slightly adapted from Dorie Greenspan. They have cornmeal, which gives them a chewy factor along with the crunch. When I make the next batch, there are some proportions I should follow versus following the recipe so closely. The cookie should be a little higher and thinner. I argued that I followed the 3/4 inch direction, but M says higher and skinnier. I’ll also try a completely different flavor combination too.

Short and fat, or tall and skinny, they taste nice.  They are not overwhelmingly anise-y or I’d have left them all for M. I think I’d take it up another two notches or use anise oil next time for a more intense flavor. Dipping in chocolate is a necessity, and M found by accident they are delicious frozen. I hope to share more biscotti recipes with you soon… especially if this kick really evolves into something tangible.

Almond Anise Biscotti
adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours

1 1/2 C  + 2T flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 C yellow cornmeal
1/2 C butter
3/4 C sugar
2 tsp anise seed
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 C sliced almonds
1 drop anise oil (optional)

Preheat oven to 350˚F.

Mix flower, baking powder, cornmeal, salt in a medium bowl.
In a mini food processor or blender, mix anise seed with half the sugar. Blend until the seeds are broken up and the sugar starts to smell faintly of anise.

Cream butter in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and anise sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and make sure to scrape the bowl a few times. Add extract and mix in. Mix in the flour on low speed until almost incorporated. Add the almonds and mix until incorporated.

On a silicone mat lined baking sheet, form the dough into a 12″ long log. Alternately, you can make two 12 inch logs side by side. Log should be about just over an inch high. Bake 15 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and place on a cutting board. Slice the dough into 1/2 inch pieces – no need to discard the ends! Set them back on the baking sheet with a little room in between each (top should face up). Bake for 15-20 more minutes or until the edges are golden and firm. Cool on a rack and store airtight.

For the Chocolate
Melt 6 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave.
Dip half of the cooled biscotto (singular) into the chocolate and set on a silicone mat or parchment to harden. Store in an airtight container or freeze. You can also leave them out if you really want them to get crunchy – they will last a week or so without freezing.

Halloween! It’s so close I can taste it….



Holidays are fun to make treats for, especially Halloween! There are parties to attend and parties to throw and parties to organize for your children (or yourselves if you live in sf where everyone seems to be crazed by Halloween well over the age most people dress in costume). If you are going to a party or just want to make something really cute, I have some ideas for you. Some are links, some are my own recipes, but all are good and fun. 



1. Vampire Bites
My sister was feeling extra crafty the other day and decided to make these Apple andPeanut Butter Sandwiches for my nephews’s Halloween party at their day care. A little less sugary than all the cupcakes, cookies, and candy kids consume and easy to make. They were so cute I was inspired to share some of my favorite Halloween treat ideas with you. Most of them are links to other blogs so I hope you enjoy and feel inspired too! 



What you need:
Red Apples (the darker the skin the better) or you could go super stylish and have different shades of vampire lipstick…
Peanut Butter
Marshmallows (small and large)
Slice apples into thin wedges cutting out the core, spread some peanut butter on the insides of two slices. line the curved side with some small marshmallows for teeth. Cut the large mallow (you can use scissors) into pointy teeth and add two of these for fangs. Voila. Simple and fantastic. Just look how much my cute little nephew likes them!

2. Boo-tiful Ghost Cake
How can you resist these cute little marshmallow ghosts? Annie of Annie’s Eat’s has been on a rampage of all things cute and halloween the past few posts. Please check out her blog – you might be blown away by all of these cute treats. 

3. Witches Fingers Cookies
I first had these cookie in college when a friend’s mom made them for a halloween party for some church folks. Other great memories from this night were M dressed as a pink flamingo lawn ornament… and a fantastic bird bath and garden gnome were also present. 

4. Caramel Apples
These are one of my favorite things… if you look closely you will see me staring longingly into the display case at these beauties. We didn’t buy one though (sad face) we bought a giant sugary disc some may know as an elephant ear? Anyways, I love caramel apples. We used to get them at a local apple orchard when we were younger. At some point we got lazy (or my parents decided they were too expensive) and just bought caramel dip from the grocery store – dangerous – but I’m returning to one of my all time favorites for number 4. 

Food Network Recipe – caramel from scratch
All Recipes – caramel pieces recipe
Be creative with your toppings!

5. No-Bake Spiderweb Cheesecake
Martha’s army is at it again. Spiderweb treats are very cute and creepy. Even better if you can find gummy spiders to decorate with. This cheesecake seems easy enough since you don’t have to bake it. No-Bake cheesecake is definitely a time saver when you are planning a party! 

6. Devil’s Food Cake with Flame Tuiles
Maybe for a more sophisticated crowd. This cake just looks sexy. Fit for a vampire (but not the Twilight kind – they are too nice for this cake). 
Another Martha. She is just too good at holiday baking. 

7. Spooky Drinks
This cocktail reminds me of a Moscow Mule (slowly making a come back  in SF) but with Rum instead. You could pretty much top any cocktail with black decorating sugar and spiders but I’ll share the recipe anyways. 

8. Pumpkin Cookies
Yep, I just posted about these the other day! (self promotion) They were one of three recipes for the Easy Bake cOven’s October recipe list. 

9. Pumpkin Ice Cream Sandwiches



To make Ice Cream Sandwiches, thaw your favorite pumpkin ice cream at room temperature until easy to scoop. Using a spoon or small ice cream scoop, add some ice cream to the flat side of one cookie and flatten it slightly. Place another cookie on top and smooth sides. Keep in freezer until ready to eat. It might be good to under-bake your cookies slightly so they don’t get hard in the freezer. 


10. Mini Mummy Dogs (Halloweenies)

I made these with my sister for Halloween last year. She is just so crafty right? I think she has a picture somewhere on her camera but I don’t have it (ahem….) Ours were cuter, because we used little smokies. Use hot dogs if you like, and wrap with crescent roll dough cut into thin strips. The thinner the better. 
Here is the link in case you forget (little smokies + crescent roll dough) hehe

What is your favorite Halloween Treat?