Passing the Peace

Peanut turns 4!

My baby girl turned 4 about a week ago.  It is AMAZING how time travels quickly.  I remember the beginning days, when she was a newborn.  And I would look at the clock every 5 minutes waiting for the next family member or friend to arrive and keep me company!  A day seemed like a year back then.  And now?  I blink and months have gone by.

I cherish my time with my daughter and make a conscious effort to be present for her throughout the day.  One of my life lessons has been to ENJOY each day.  And to enjoy my situation and life as it is TODAY.  I find myself getting caught in the trap of waiting for my life to start when …. I’ve discovered my true calling in life!  I have a vacation home in the South of France!  I have the perfect body!

But actually?  Life is right now.  And I’m going to LOVE it.


Couples’ Night Out

About 2 years ago, a group of girlfriends and I were talking about getting together with our significant others for a night out.  Instead of going to a loud restaurant where all 10 of us would be struggling to converse with anyone other than the folks sitting directly next to us, I suggested we get together at someone’s house and each bring a food dish.  A couples’ pot luck, if you will.

Since then, we’ve had many fun couples’ night dinners, rotating houses and conjuring up themes for each meal (Asian fusion! Italian! Cajun / Creole! Holiday! BBQ! Comfort Foods!) and the list goes on.  Luckily, I’m surrounded by girlfriends who can all throw down in the kitchen, so it’s always a ridiculously scrumptious meal.  We haven’t spent a million dollars on going out, we get quality conversations in with everyone AND whoever’s hosting gets a break on getting a babysitter for the night.  Definitely my kind of dinner party.  Cheers!


Cuban Roast Pork Creole

This is such a delicious (and easy) meal to prepare using a slow cooker.  I absolutely love Cuban food and this is the first Cuban recipe I’ve used / tweaked / updated that I feel I’ve mastered by now.

Ingredients :

  • About 4-5 pounds of pork tenderloin or pork shoulder / leg
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 6-8 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup Red Wine
  • 1 T oregano
  • Optional : 1 Bottle of La Cubana brand Mojo de Ajo sauce (you can get this at Whole Foods)

Directions :

The night before – take pork and cut a few slits all over.  Take garlic pieces and put into slits.  Cover pork with olive oil.  Sprinkle oregano on both sides as well.  Add all juices and wine. Puree any leftover garlic and add to the mixture.  If you’d like, add in the bottle of Mojo de Ajo now.  Marinate overnight.

The next morning, dump mixture into a crock pot and cook on high, 8 hours or so.  When finished cooking, shred meat & mixture together, to look like this :

Usually, I serve this dish with a side of rice and black beans.  Sometimes I add a salad.  The last time I made this, though, I fried up some corn tortillas, threw in some of the pork and topped with avocadoes.  Seriously scrumptious.


Living with Food Allergies : Travel!

Hubby and I love to travel, so we started Peanut traveling at a young age too (2 months old).  Since then, we’ve been to lots of fun places, domestically and internationally.  Because of her insane amounts of food allergies, however, traveling takes a lot of preparation and planning.

Here are my top 5 tips for traveling with a kid who suffers from food allergies :

  1. Bring a Doctor’s Note! Usually, airport security will let you through with a bottle or small container of milk (rice, almond, whole grain, soy or otherwise) for your infant.  However, as I learned the hard way, the cut off age for this is usually 2 years old.  Last summer, we were traveling to Montreal with our newly turned 3 year old.  We brought some individual box drinks of rice milk, but were not allowed through security because our daughter was over 2 (and therefore, no longer an infant).  We learned that a doctor’s note stating her allergies (to dairy, in this case) would have helped.  I’ve been traveling with one ever since.
  2. Get a Kitchen. We make sure we have a kitchen wherever we travel.  This usually means renting a condo, apartment or house as opposed to booking a standard hotel room.  This can often times be more cost effective than a hotel.  For example, we booked a 3 bedroom house (with a private pool + yard + daily cleaning service) in Costa Rica for $120 / night.  Having a kitchen is necessary (and stress relieving) when you have allergies in the family.  Check out www.vrbo.com for fun options.
  3. Send a Shopping List.  If you’re visiting family, like I was last weekend (San Francisco) with Peanut, I sent my brother and his wife a brief shopping list of items to have in stock when we arrived.  Easy!
  4. Bring or Ship as much Food as you can! In our case, we always travel with Peanut’s favorite gluten free / dairy free / nut free / soy free snacks.  We even put big cartons of Rice Drink / Dream in our suitcase and pray they didn’t explode (they did once, on our way to Grand Cayman).  But, it’s easy to travel with pre-packaged goods : rice pasta, rice, quinoa, etc.
  5. Research your Area. This may mean checking out the grocery stores (and their offerings), doctor’s offices and medical centers in the area ahead of time.  We once had to cancel a trip near the border of Panama because we realized the closest hospital (in case of medical emergency) was a 2 hour helicopter flight away from our lodging.

At the end of the day, food allergies shouldn’t restrict your travel completely!  It may be a bump in the road, but just a little one.  Enjoy!


Mama Patil’s Baked Samosas

Last year, I was asking an Indian girlfriend if she could teach me how to cook authentic Indian curries.  She replied, “Yes, of course – but Mama will be in town next week, why don’t you learn from the master?”  Oh happy day!  So – in a few hours, she taught me the basics of Indian seafood curries AND an insanely delicious recipe for baked samosas which I thought I’d share.

Ingredients

  • ½ Cup Cooking Oil
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 package Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets
  • 1 Medium Onion (diced)
  • ¾ Cup Frozen Peas
  • 1/3 cup of Cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 3 T of equal parts fresh Garlic + Ginger Puree
  • Asafoetida Powder
  • Turmeric Powder
  • Chili Powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Allspice
  • Salt
  • Garam Masala

Directions

Thaw package of Puff Pastry (usually 40 minutes)

Preheat oven to 400F

In a skillet on medium-high heat, add cooking oil plus 2 pinches of asafoetida powder.  Add ginger / garlic puree.  Saute for a minute or two.  Add ground turkey and cook through.  Add peas to the ground turkey mixture.  If the skillet seems to be getting really “dry” – feel free to add bits of oil throughout.

Next, we’ll start adding the Indian spices.  Start with two pinches of turmeric.  Mix thoroughly with a spatula.  Follow this with two pinches of chili powder (note – if you want it spicier, add more).  Next add two pinches of garam masala.  Add a pinch each of cinnamon and allspice.  Mix well.  Add a tsp of salt.  Lastly, add in the chopped cilantro.  The samosa filling is complete and will look like this in the skillet :

Remove the two sheets of Puff Pastry and cut into 9 equal square pieces.  Place a spoonful of the samosa filling in the middle of a square and fold over the top end to meet the bottom, so you have a triangle shape.  Continue to stuff as much filling as will fit into each square :

Bake for 10 minutes and then flip each samosa over.  Bake for 10 minutes more.  Enjoy!


The Bar Method : Month 2

Wow.  Okay.  Just finished my intro special (30 days of unlimited classes for $100) at the Marina del Rey Bar Method studio.  To say I’m addicted is to put it VERY mildly.  In 30 days, I did 21 classes.  And this is while being a stay at home Mom with a little one who has special needs (and therefore, a crazy schedule with therapies, activities, doctor’s appointments, etc).  So, if I can fit it into my schedule?  I would like to think that most people can.

It’s a quick, but intense, one hour class.  Like I mentioned in my first blog about Bar Method a month ago – it is a full body workout.  It sculpts, shapes, stretches and burns away fat in EVERY area.

Personally, here’s what I’ve noticed (please excuse my self indulgence for a minute) :

  1. Increased Strength : I’m SO much stronger!  For example, I can now do “regular” push ups, when I NEVER could before.
  2. Muscle Definition : Specifically, my arms are pretty ridiculous.  I have to do double takes when I’m looking at myself in the mirror.
  3. Long & Lean : I am so conscious of my posture now.  I walk taller and straighter.  I’ve even adjusted my driver’s seat to be more upright!
  4. Increased Flexibility : I can’t remember the last time I could do the splits; maybe never.  But I can almost do them on my right side now, which is unfathomable to me.  Give me one more month and I’m there…
  5. Great Mood : I’m a pretty happy person in general, but even I have noticed a boost in my mood these days.  I have more energy and I feel great!

And, the teachers and other students are SO warm and amazing.  It’s a great community of women (and a few men!) who uplift and encourage each other to do better, get better, feel better.  I was looking around the room this morning during Vera Tam’s 8:30am class and saw a NOTICEABLE difference in the other Bar Method students who have been regulars like me.   And to think : it’s only been a month!  (By the way, I definitely signed up for month 2).


My Food Revolution

I certainly don’t want to say this too loudly, but watching snippets of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and seeing him on Oprah made me almost RELIEVED that peanut has so many food allergies.  Even if she wanted to, she couldn’t eat ONE item they were showcasing in the school cafeterias on the show.

As one of 5 siblings in my family growing up, my parents were always frugal.  We rarely went out to eat and my mother always packed a lunch for us.  I was often embarrassed by my whole wheat sandwich and fruit because I wanted to be like everyone else.  We longed for the processed cafeteria lunches : salisbury steak, chicken nuggets or soggy pizza.  And oh how we craved WHITE bread sandwiches with bologna and Velveeta that our friends were eating.

Of course I appreciate my homemade lunch upbringing now and hope to instill the same consciousness around food and health in my own family.

Nowadays, this is what I crave :


Spring Break

When you become a parent, weekends, holidays and school breaks take on a whole new meaning.  This week is Peanut’s spring break and even though she still has some of her weekly to-do’s intact, a lot of her regular activities are cancelled.  This leaves us some free time during the week to get creative!

Here are some fun things we have planned this week :

1)      Play date with a friend in another city: We’ve been meaning to get together with a Santa Barbara girlfriend (we live in Los Angeles).  Since we have the time, we’ll spend an afternoon out there, letting the kids play while we catch up!

2)      Impromptu visit with Grandpa! My parents live in Orange County, but are transitioning to Ohio(!!).  Mom is already there, but Dad is still at home getting the house sold (it’s in escrow!).  We try to spend as MUCH time with Grandpa as possible, and this week’s schedule allows us yet another day.  Happiness!

3)      Girlfriend + Kid Luncheon.  Because a few girlfriends are in town this weekend for the holiday, I’ve put together a girlfriend + kid luncheon at my house on Friday.  I provide a kid friendly environment with LOTS of activities / toys etc AND lunch + libations + adult conversation for my girlfriends.  BLISS.


Choosing the right “experts” for your family

The second you become a parent, you create a long list of decisions that need to be made. These decisions include choosing the right pediatrician, daycare, and school for your child’s future. In addition to this, some parents may feel they need extra guidance in their new role as parent.

Since school programs and actual hands-on learning can lead to different techniques, HitchedMag.com has created a list of experts, and how best to choose the right one.

For example:

Pediatricians are trained and educated in medical and child development issues. They are not, however, traditionally trained in research-based effective parenting techniques. A good pediatrician will have done independent research and training in effective parenting, but don’t assume every pediatrician has done this. Some give advice based on their personal opinion or “common practices” that might not be proven effective.

Inhabitots.com also provide tips for choosing the best pediatrician in their post 7 Tips on Choosing the Best Pediatrician for Your Child.  These include making a checklist for yourself, and visiting office before making a final decision:

Most pediatricians are willing to meet with parents for an informal interview/Q&A session. Take your notebook to every meeting you schedule and write notes including your likes/dislikes of each pediatrician with whom you meet. Also, arrive early for your consultation and get the general vibe for how the office runs. Is the staff accommodating and helpful? Does the doctor seem to authentically like his/her job and working with children? Does the office have separate entrances for sick and well child visits? Be sure to ask what the doctor’s on-call policy is, and make sure a doctor (whether it be your pediatrician or someone in their practice) is available to be paged 24 hours a day in the event you need them.

Read these full posts here:
http://www.hitchedmag.com/article.php?id=952

http://www.inhabitots.com/2010/03/19/guide-how-to-choose-the-best-pediatrician-for-your-child/


A Bronze Leaf

Although she passed away in the late 80s, I have always felt a very strong bond to my maternal grandmother.  The memories I have of her are vivid and I feel her presence all the time.  Other than a few pictures, though, I don’t have much else to remember her by.

For my birthday this year, my older sister gave me the most amazing gift.  It was a leaf that had been bronzed as a gift from my grandfather to my grandmother many many years ago.  It’s a sweet and romantic heirloom and I’m grateful that my sister passed it on to me.  I wanted to create something around the bronze leaf, however, that would save it from a lifetime collecting dust in a random drawer somewhere (albeit loved and cherished at the same time).  And, because I am not THAT creative, I called my jewelry designer girlfriend to give me a hand.

What she made for me is perfect.  I am so happy to have my grandmother close to me again.


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