Meatless Monday- Chickpea of the Sea

One of the greatest challenges I faced while transitioning to a plant-based diet was finding healthy, satisfying, and, of course, tasty, alternatives to the foods I had regularly consumed up until that point. Sure, this task may seem like a piece of {vegan} cake now, but the majority of that first year was spent eating heavily processed convenience foods that hid under fancy labels plastered with words like OrganicAll Natural, and No GMOs. I was suspended in a world of sodium-laden cans of soup, frozen entrées, packaged snacks, and far too many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Oh, the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good ol’ PB&J, I really do, but my meal plans were in desperate need of some variety. Plus, I needed to learn how to prepare some fast and easy menu options that were lower in sodium and less processed in comparison to the food-like substances that had infiltrated my diet.

I was overjoyed when I came across a recipe for a mock tuna salad of sorts – Chickpea of the Sea – on the blog Live.Learn.Love.Eat. Unlike many faux animal products, this one’s bulk is comprised of whole food ingredients, not soy protein isolates and other unpronounceable and equally scary sounds ingredients. Chickpea of the Sea makes an excellent sandwich filler, pita stuffer or spread for crackers or veggies. It’s now a regular in our kitchen.

(By the way, if it’s outstanding recipes comprised of whole-food ingredients you’re after, I very highly recommend the blog Live.Learn.Love.Eat‘s recipe page. The author is absolutely fantastic at creating wholesome family-friendly vegan dishes without the processed ingredients and refined sugars. Seriously, this blog has been my go-to since I stumbled upon it.)

I’ve been craving Chickpea of the Sea sandwiches and tomato soup for the past week. Considering we enjoyed these sandwiches while I was in labor, and Friday, July 18th, Miss P and I celebrated our Nine Months In/Nine Months Out milestone, it isn’t so strange that these delightful sandwiches have been on my mind.

Before heading to the kitchen to whip up a quick batch of Chickpea of the Sea, I decided to look through some pictures from Miss P’s Birth Day. I found two that Tim snapped of our wonderful Doula and me having lunch. Don’t let our carefree gestures fool you; these were taken during active labor. {Please excuse the blurriness, as I’m sure Tim was a bit distracted at the time.} 

Enjoying Chickpea of the Sea sandwiches with my wonderful Doula on Miss P’s Birth Day. (Actually, I should say the day BEFORE her Birth Day since she arrived after midnight!)

Riding out a surge, my sandwich on standby.

And there you have it: Lunch during labor. Be sure you don’t try this at home.

Chickpea of the Sea

Chickpea of the Sea6

Makes enough for 4-5 sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise (My favorite is Earth Balance MindfulMay0.)
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons kelp powder
  • 1/3 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 2 dill pickles, diced
  • Celtic sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

To prepare:

  1. Mash the chickpeas in a large bowl. (I use a fork to do this, but feel free to utilize whatever fancy gadget you have on hand.)
  2. Add the mayonnaise, dijon, and kelp powder, and stir.
  3. Add the diced onion, celery and dill pickles, stir until well-combined.

Chickpea of the Sea3

Chickpea of the Sea4Chickpea of the Sea5

And there you have it; absolute perfection, and so quick and easy to prepare.

Enjoy!

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Nine Months In; Nine Months Out

Forty-one weeks ago, Miss P made her long-awaited debut- all 7 pounds, 1 ounce, and 20.5 inches of her.

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Introducing Little Miss P

She didn’t emerge with gusto, the way some babies do. Instead, she was limp and silent.

We were transferred from a free-standing birth center to the hospital in the final stages of labor. Before Miss P’s entrance, a nurse explained that there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. Though this didn’t necessarily signify a problem – it actually wasn’t too uncommon – a team from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit would be standing by incase of complications.

The moment Miss P was born, time was suspended like the lingering pause between a bolt of lightening slashing the night sky and an angry crack of thunder in the distance.

“Meconium. It’s the meconium,” I heard someone say.

The doctor rushed to cut the umbilical cord, swaddled a languid Miss P in a receiving blanket, and placed her in my arms for a fleeting moment – a moment in which someone snapped our first family photo. I barely had the chance to look down at her before she was taken from me, whisked away to the NICU.

Suddenly, there was so much going on around me: bright lights, loud voices, medical staff shuffling back and forth. I could hear the incessant chatter and laughter of nurses seated at a desk in the hallway and the bleeps from equipment in neighboring rooms. A nurse scolded me- something about bending the IV – an IV I wasn’t even supposed to have – as I gripped my cell phone and tried to focus on the 2″ by 3″ photo of my baby girl the student midwife from the birth center had sent me before she left the hospital.

The whole thing was so far from the peaceful private entrance I’d been fantasizing about since we switched to midwifery care and found a supportive doula.

Then for the first time in forty-one weeks, I was completely and utterly alone.

Miss P had what we like to call a rough start, but less than halfway through the day, she was breathing unassisted, alert, and nursing like a pro. Even so, the first 48 hours of her life were spent in the NICU under observation. During this time, Tim and I were allowed to stay with her. We were allowed to hold her and care for her, though not quite in the same ways we would have had the situation presented itself differently.

I find myself often wondering what it would’ve been like had my baby not been pulled from my arms moments after her birth- to have experienced the “Golden Hour” they often referred to in our childbirth classes in all its sanctity: no weighing and measuring, no bath to compromise the precious vernix, no generic blanket and cap to mimic the warmth of that initial skin-to-skin contact with the mother.

I wonder what it would’ve been like to hold my baby close without a tangle of cords hooked up to various monitors intruding between us, to know the sound of her breath without the drone of equipment – equipment that in our case was completely unnecessary. I also wonder how I would’ve felt had I not had to watch a nurse push the empty plastic bassinet from my room, its wheels squeaking across the tile floor.

I don’t often recount the first days of our lives as a family of three, but when I do, most of my listeners tell me to move on. After all, I was fine. Miss P was fine. It was just a rough start. We live under the guise that a healthy mom and a healthy baby are the only things that matter when they are not. And, by the way, the term healthy isn’t limited to outright physical vigor. We can’t know for certain the repercussions – regardless of how delayed or seemingly unrelated they may be – of separating a newborn baby from its mother. I’m not sure I’ll ever emotionally heal from Miss P being taken away from me, even if it was only for a few hours, even though we both ended up being outwardly “fine”.

As much as I daydream about it, I can’t go back in time and make Miss P’s entrance a peaceful one. I can’t change the fact that she spent her first hours in a stark bassinet  instead of in the arms of her mother and father. I can’t change that she spent her first two days adorned with tubes and wires. I can’t alter the past, but I can move forward consciously and with intention.

I think this is one of the reasons I’ve really resonated with many aspects of attachment parenting. I didn’t set out to be an attachment parent; I didn’t read books on the subject or watch documentaries, I just started doing what, to me, felt natural, and I’ll continue to do what feels natural- to utilize the mother’s instinct that was born with my daughter. I don’t want my sweet baby to succumb to fear or loneliness. I want her to know I’m here for her, now and always.

So, here I sit, forty-one weeks later, with Miss P napping beside me. The room is dimly lit, piano music is playing softly in the background, and the scents of lemongrass and cedarwood tangle in the air as they escape the diffuser. This has become our evening ritual- a nightly Golden Hour of sorts, albeit delayed.

I can’t alter the past, but I can move forward consciously and with intention.

As I sit here this evening watching Miss P sleep, I’m trying to wrap my head around the significance of this extraordinary milestone we’ve just achieved as a family: nine months in; nine months out. Or, in our case, forty-one weeks in; forty-one weeks out.

It’s no secret that human infants are nearly helpless at the time of their birth. Though a full-term baby is born around the nine month mark, its gestation period most definitely continues outside the womb, and in many ways, the nine month milestone, with its bold determination and mobility, seems to bring this external gestation full-circle.

I think back to the night we brought Miss P home from the hospital. Those first few weeks were visceral. They were full of laughter, tears, ambivalence, joy, and utter mental and physical exhaustion.

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Relaxing during our first week home

Everything was methodical, and there were so many calculations to keep track of: last nursing session, which side it took place on and for how many minutes, wet and soiled diaper output, frequency and duration of naps, and duration of nighttime sleep.

What was her temperature? Did she burp after she nursed? Did she burp twice? Was she too hot or too cold? There was also the uncertainty about how much milk she was actually consuming- a figure that I now know wasn’t something I needed to worry about, yet I spent our first month together agonizing over this lack of information and intermittently texting my midwife for reassurance.

And don’t even get me started on the fit of anxiety that stems from clipping those itty bitty fingernails, keeping her floppy slippery body upright during baths, and pulling her head and delicate limbs through the tiny openings of her sleepers and onesies.

Now Miss P tries to climb right out of her bathtub, and she pulls her shirts up over her head to undress herself. She creeps and crawls and cruises along the walls and furniture. She points when something catches her interest, bounces when she hears a song she likes, and she clears out the kitchen cabinets at least five times a day.

She calls for our cat, Oliver, with me- says, la la, pssst psssst – and wobbles with excitement as he trots over to us. She buzzes and hums and clicks her tongue, and she never tires of smiling at her reflection in the mirror or probing her finger along the owl wind chime that hangs in our living room if you hold her up beside it.

She’s full of spunk and a touch of sass, and she has so much energy that all of our latest pictures are blurry because I can never get her to stay still for more than a moment.

Our baby girl has now grown outside the womb for more or less the same amount of time she spent developing within, and although her exit was turbulent, every day thereafter has been filled with peace and love and a surprising amount of clarity.

Sure, there’s clutter, and chaos, and exhaustion sprinkled in as well. There are often dirty dishes piled in the sink, and baskets of clean laundry that take far too long to get put away, and there are days here and there that end before I’ve even had a chance to shower, but there’s a certain element of beauty in imperfection, and I wouldn’t trade a moment of it.

I’m constantly astounded by this little person who now consumes me. I don’t know how I existed before her, and then I remember I didn’t exist; I was born alongside of her forty-one weeks ago. And oh, how we’ve both grown!

9 months Chalkboard

Happy 4th of July. Miss P is 9 months old!

41 In 41 Out

Meatless Monday- Kale Slaw

I was introduced to the nutritional powerhouse that’s kale during my first MFA residency at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. It seemed that kale, or some variation of it, was featured at every dinner during my eight-day stay on campus – and, come to think of it, at every dinner over my next four residencies as well.

Ahhh, kale.

One of my favorite dishes from Goddard was a crisp and tangy kale slaw served alongside an equally delightful tempeh reuben. After scouring the Internet for the formula to recreate the mouthwatering green salad I noshed on in Vermont, I finally came across a recipe I was happy with on Almost Vegan Girl‘s blog (which I hope she won’t mind me sharing here.)

Here it is in all its glory:

Kale Slaw

Kale Slaw3

Move over, green cabbage: kale is the Super-Star here! Sweet and tangy merge with cool and crisp in this nutrient-dense vegan take traditional cole slaw. This is the absolute perfect summer salad- serve it as a starter, devour it as a snack, or make it a side dish at your next picnic. Any way you present it, it’s sure to be a hit! 

Makes a great big bowl!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 an orange
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1 large bunch of kale, ribs removed and very finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, grated
  • 1 apple
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

To prepare:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, orange juice, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine kale, onions, and carrots. Set aside.
  3. Peel and grate apple. Combine with 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice. (This will help prevent the apple from turning brown.)
  4. Add grated apple and lemon juice mixture to kale, onions, and carrots. Mix.
  5. Pour dressing over salad, and mix well.
  6. Refrigerate and let sit for a minimum of one hour: this will allow the kale to soften up a bit and the flavors to come together. (To maximize both flavor and texture, I like to prepare this salad a day in advance. Of course, it’s still delicious if you just can’t wait that long to eat it.)
Kale Slaw1

Time to mix it all up!

Pots and Pans1

These days, Miss P is continuously finding new ways to “help” Mama in the kitchen, which, of course, includes rummaging through the cabinets and tossing everything inside onto the floor because, you know, preparing a meal just doesn’t provide the same element of thrill when you aren’t sidestepping two travel mugs, four plastic containers, the lid to a copper-bottomed kettle, and a nine-month-old.

Pots and Pans2All obstacles and adventures aside, I’m grateful when the Universe aligns and allows me to spend an hour here or there in the kitchen preparing wholesome meals for my family.

Kale Slaw3

This salad is budget friendly, super healthy, easy to prepare, and absolutely delicious! It’s definitely become a staple in our house.

It’s

Super –

k a l e 

– ifragilisticexpialidocious!

um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ay…

Kale Slaw4

Nursing Necklace Giveaway

Our Etsy shop, The Tiny Acorn By J Lee is very excited have teamed up with Here for you reviews to bring you an exciting giveaway!

Giveaway Square- Lagoon

Around three months of age, Miss P began getting distracted during nursing sessions. Every sound and sensation was new to her, and she’d often yank my hair, tug at my clothes, kick her legs, scratch her nails across whatever surface we were seated on, etc. I started making these necklaces to keep her busy little body occupied while nursing, and for us, they’ve become a dependable solution. Miss P also enjoys holding on to these necklaces while being worn in a sling.

Nursing necklaces stimulate the senses and allow little ones to expel energy without losing sight of the task at hand- nursing! They also provide a source of security and comfort for baby and an opportunity for mom to accessorize with an item made from safe and durable materials. (And don’t let the name fool you; these necklaces aren’t just for nursing mamas!)

Simply click the link below and follow the instructions for your chance to win a sweet and cozy handmade nursing necklace from The Tiny Acorn By J Lee in Lagoon.

CLICK HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, Dear Readers!

Meatless Monday- Pasta e Fagioli

Italian food has always been one of my favorites. I mean, seriously, who can resist a heaping plate of capellini smothered in robust tomato sauce and drizzled with olive oil? My mouth waters just thinking about it.

When I first adopted a vegan lifestyle, I quickly realized that Italian restaurants were more or less off limits: chicken, mozzarella, beef, mozzarella, veal, mozzarella, pancetta, mozzarella, mozzarella with extra mozzarella… {Gahh.} These places can inevitably become a vegan’s worst nightmare, yet it took me a long time to come to terms with this. Now when I’m craving Italian fare, I’m able to whip up a satisfying (cruelty-free) meal at home.

Learning how to prepare food from scratch wasn’t an overnight process, but it was absolutely worth the effort, and, as a result of this knowledge, I’m now able to recreate many of my former favorite meals in much healthier ways. In fact, one of the greatest benefits of preparing your own meals is that you have complete control over what goes into them and, perhaps more importantly, what stays out of them. (It should only take a once-over of the exhaustive list of ingredients plastered on most packaged foods for it to become startlingly clear that these products might, in fact, pose serious health risks.)

Before Miss P’s arrival, I often spent the entire weekend prepping food, in mass quantities, for the week ahead. With an increasingly mobile nine-month-old and several new business ventures underway, devoting that kind of time to our meals is no longer an option. Even so, I refuse to revert to highly processed foods, so, lately, I’ve been experimenting with dishes that are quick and simple to prepare, and let’s not forget, budget-friendly, because, let’s face it, in this single-income household, buying a $22 bag of Camu powder to round-off our green smoothies isn’t always practical.

This Meatless Monday, I’d like to share the recipe for one of our new favorites: Pasta e Fagioli. It couldn’t be any easier to prepare, and there’s a good chance the ingredients are already hanging around your kitchen just waiting to be turned into something delicious. As an added bonus, this beans and pasta dish is serious comfort food. Pair it with a colorful garden salad and a fresh loaf of crusty bread and you have yourself a restaurant-style Italian meal. Might I add that it’s also equally delicious the next day- that is, if you actually have leftovers.

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli 8

Fresh Roma tomatoes, minced garlic, and Italian herbs cook down into a terrifically light sauce that pairs perfectly with hearty pasta (I like to use gluten free) and white beans. Top with a generous pour of white wine vinegar for a zing like no other. This is a fast, simple, and budget friendly – yet wholesome and satisfying dish. Perfect for summer!

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Celtic Sea Salt
  • a few dashes of fresh black pepper
  • 2 lbs. Roma tomatoes, diced medium
  • 2 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 lb small tube pasta (I used Ancient Harvest Gluten Free elbows)
  • 15 oz can white beans (no salt added), drained and washed

Optional:

  • fresh parsley, chopped (to garnish)
  • parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
  • a sprinkle of nutritional yeast
Pasta e Fagioli 1

Make this mouthwatering beans and pasta dish when Roma tomatoes are in season!

To prepare:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Warm olive oil in a second large pot over medium heat. Add garlic to the olive oil, and sauté until garlic becomes fragrant (about one minute). Add the tomatoes, vegetable broth, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium, cover, and continue to cook until tomatoes are broken down and sauce has reduced and thickened (about 30 minutes). While you’re waiting for the tomatoes to break down, cook pasta according to package directions making sure it remains al dente. Drain pasta and set aside. When sauce is done, add two tbsp of white wine vinegar and stir. Add pasta and beans. (I like to use a wooden spoon and mix gently to keep my pasta intact.) Simmer for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to come together.

Pasta e Fagioli 2

Pasta e Fagioli 4

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Miss P likes to help in the kitchen by emptying everything out of the cabinets while I cook.

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Pasta e Fagioli 8

…so delicious that I actually ate half of it before I remembered to take a picture.

8 Months

8 Months Chalkboard

Tomorrow marks nine months for Miss P.

NINE MONTHS. I can’t get over it.

But, first, here are some eight month updates. (Better late than never.) 8 Months 1

8 Months 2

8 Months 3

June – Miss P’s eighth month – was a month of ups and downs around here: Miss P’s first airplane ride, adventures in Upstate New York, visiting family in the breathtaking rolling mountains of Pennsylvania, and let’s not forget the latest developmental milestone P’s been tackling- STANDING up and FALLING down, a new trick that leaves me rife with anxiety and hovering over her at all times. {Hello, porcelain tile floor!}

Miss P’s newly acquired mobility coupled with several projects I’ve been juggling over the past two months have kept me from this space. Gone are the days of spending hours at the computer while occasionally glancing up from the keyboard to admire my peacefully sleeping little one. Oh yes, long gone.

As the fog of being a new Mama lifts, I realize there are many things I’ve surrendered since Miss P’s arrival (some temporarily, some for good) such as: sitting down to a hot meal (actually, make that sitting down at all), the vast majority of my favorite tops and dresses as they don’t offer sufficient boob access, make-up (most days), the hair dryer and curling iron, running errands just because, doing anything – besides showering -quickly, napping because I’m tired or not feeling well, meeting a friend for an impromptu lunch or happy hour, etc.

Late nights out have been traded for late nights in, sky-high heels have been exchanged for flats, red wine replaced with tepid herbal tea, and reading time has dwindled from hours a day spent thoroughly engrossed in a quality novel to minutes here and there spent scanning poorly written articles – many of which condemn my parenting choices – shared over social media.

I scroll through said articles while standing at the kitchen counter and gently swaying from side to side as Miss P peacefully naps in our woven wrap or while nursing her to sleep at night in the glider or while patiently waiting for her to wake in the morning, pausing every couple of sentences to look over at her snuggled beside me in bed.

These articles often tackle controversial topics and cross into territories where the author, let’s call her Sally Sassypants, has no jurisdiction: Sleep training, anyone? No thanks, Sally. If my baby cries, I will pick her up, even if that means I’m “doomed” to comfort her throughout the night until she’s a teenager, which, by the way, is a major aspect of the whole parental role- you know, actually being there for your kids.

These articles often promote rigid schedules- schedules that don’t support the baby’s needs, and encourage incomprehensible ideas like letting your baby self-soothe, which we all know is just a euphemism for cry himself/herself to sleep, and I’m thinking, “Damn, we’re a little off,” because I’m not even out of bed yet, and I’ve already broken seven of Sally’s rules.

{Hey, Sally, how about you parent your way, and I’ll parent mine, mmmmkay? And here’s a tidbit for you, compliments of a breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing Mama: Do us a favor, and run a grammar check on your articles before you publish them, because there are always, always grammatical errors, and that really compromises your credibility; just my humble opinion, of course.}

I know, I know, I really need to just stop reading this rubbish. I’ve been watching Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar collect dust on my coffee table for months now, a fate that, for me, is right up there with preparing my favorite meal only to gaze longingly at it, thinking how wonderful it would be if I were to devour it. (Maybe I’ll move The Bell Jar from the coffee table to the nightstand so I can partake in some real reading time in the fleeting moments that allow for it.)

So the fog – that haze made up of bliss, hunger, exhaustion, and, at times, the harsh realization that nearly every aspect of your being has been altered – has lifted, and I’m starting to realize that being a Mama can get awfully political if you buy into that sort of thing. I’ve also realized it’s not advice or reassurance I want or need because, at the end of the day, there are only two people it concerns if I choose to nurse Miss P to sleep each night, and I don’t have it in me to let either of us down.

Ah yes, so I’ve traded some things in, but look what I got in return:

P3

 P4

P1

P5

And really, I didn’t give any of these thing up. I’ve heard my share of moms boast that they’re “still the same person” after the arrival of their little ones. {Sally is one of those moms.}

I am not.

When I think of the former me, the “me” before P – and the place she has gone – the hauntingly beautiful description of visual memory Vladimir Nabokov provides in the opening pages of Lolita comes to mind. Nabokov asserts that, “there are two kinds of visual memory…” The me before P is best described as the second of these two: “(the kind) you instantly evoke, with shut eyes, on the dark innerside of your eyelids, the objective absolutely optical replica of a beloved face, a little ghost in natural colors.”

It’s actually the former version of myself that I’ve traded in; the me before P now exists only in photographs and on the dark innerside of my eyelids. She’s ethereal.

And as for the new me? I’m living more consciously than I ever have before because there’s a tiny person who depends on me, and my heart is so full of love and gratitude for her. As an added bonus, my floor is so clean you could eat off of it, and, I suppose, I can temporarily succumb to shoddy reading material and tepid tea.

On a lighter note, I leave you with some pictures from our recent trip to New York and Pennsylvania. {Oh, how I want to go back!}

plane

Miss P’s first plane ride. (She handled it much better than Daddy.)

NY1

I was so happy to see a lilac bush, even if it was a tad past its prime.

Miss P does the zoo

Exploring the Safari Bus at the zoo.

Miss P in Oswego

Miss P “strolling” down Bridge Street in Oswego, New York.

car ride to PA

Miss P’s first road trip! En route to Pennsylvania.

Welcome to PA

Oh, the beauty. Welcome to Pennsylvania.

View from the hotel

A view from the top.

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This place was seriously so gorgeous!

gorge landscape3

gorge landscape2
gorge landscape1