Thumbprint Cookie Recipe

So normally I would associate these cookies with the holidays...which technically I think this would be timely since we are officially into the fall season. My mother-in-law served these cookies at a dinner we had in early September and I was like, "these are awesome!" I love them for many reasons.

First of all, they taste great, which, let's be honest is the very most important thing for a cookie to be. Also, these little suckers are the closest we can get to a healthy cookie. There is no dairy, no eggs, and no butter. I know, right? Perhaps one of my most favorite points about these cookies? They have jam in them! And I made a TON of jam this summer, so, it works out perfectly. It's a match made in cookie heaven.

So if you've been searching for a cookie, this may be the cookie for you. You can roll with it any old time of the year, but I'm gonna say the holidays are an especially good time for these guys and they make great cookie gifts.

Thumb Print Cookies 

Time: 20 minutes | Makes 20-25 cookies | Difficulty: EASY! 

You Will Need

1 cup almond meal 
1 cup rolled oats, ground into flour (or oat flour) 
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
pinch of salt 
1/2 cup maple syrup (or brown rice syrup) 
1/2 cup oil 

jam of your choice (I used blueberry!) 


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

Mix all the ingredients, except for the jam, in a mixing bowl. Roll them into walnut sized pieces and press your thumb into the center to make an indentation. Place about a teaspoon of jam into each indentation. 

Bake the cookies for 15 minutes. Cool on a rack. 

Enjoy with a smile and hopefully a loved one! 

Pumpkin & Sausage Pasta Recipe

It's fall which means that the pumpkin flavored everything craze is in fuuuuuullllll swing. So I had to jump on the bandwagon. Because I'm a bandwagon jumping kind of gal. Well, at least in the case of pumpkin. I know I've been harping and harping on how I've had to give up dairy because of breastfeeding and blah blah blah, but seriously, it's something no Italian blooded gal should have to do.

And yet, somehow, I have managed to continue my affair with pasta despite the absence of dairy. This, I tell you, is no small feat. This pasta recipe is one that I am really excited about because it lacks for nothing without the dairy. It's packed with flavor, tastes like fall and is EASY. All these things make me incredibly happy. It's no overly pumpkiny either, which I think is important.

Obviously, if you eat dairy, you can top this dish with a hearty helping of parmesan cheese. If you do, sprinkle it on, say a prayer for my dairy-free existence, and carry on. Amen. Grab a skillet and a pot of boiling water, we're making pumpkin pasta, people. Hehe, pumpkin pasta people...say it three times fast.

Pumpkin & Sausage Pasta 

Time: 20 minutes | Serves 4 | Difficulty: Easy 

You Will Need: 

1 pound (or 5 approx 5) spicy Italian sausages, casings removed 
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-15 ounce can pure pumpkin
8 ounces chicken broth
1 onion, sliced
2 tomatoes, diced 
salt and pepper, to taste

1 pound box of penne pasta 
1 big pot of boiling water

parmesan cheese (to top, optional). 


In a heavy skillet, cook your spicy sausage, breaking it up with a spatula into smaller crumbles as you cook it. (10 minutes or so). 

In a big old pasta pot, bring water to a boil. When it's boiling (and while you are preparing your sauce,) cook pasta according to manufacturers directions. I like to wait until my sausage is cooked because it lines up nicely then. 

Once your sausage is cooked, add your garlic, onion, and tomatoes. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. 

Once the onions are cooked, add your pumpkin and chicken broth. Stir to fully combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to simmer until your pasta is done. 

Drain pasta when it's cooked and then return it to your pasta pot (do not put it back on the heat, though.) Add your sauce to your pasta in the pot and combine. Serve and enjoy with someone you love and some parmesan cheese (if you aren't dairy free, like me!) 


Motherhood Has Made Me Nicer

I can barely believe I am going to admit this, but it's true. Motherhood has made me a nicer person. While I was pregnant, I had the suspicion that I was becoming nicer, and after having my daughter, I knew it was true. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that while I was pregnant, people showered me with kindness and it was just infectious.

But it goes deeper than the kindness of friends, family and complete strangers. Something within me shifted. I looked at people differently, with more compassion, and suddenly wanted to give complements to people where before I might not have. I wanted to do things for people to make them smile--that sort of thing. It's not that I wasn't nice before or anything...I think I was, but there was always a bit of a edge to me that seems to be breaking down more these days.

Last week I was having a visit with my mom and I asked her if she thought I was different since becoming a mother. She, without hesitation, said, "I think you're nicer." I started to laugh and I said, "I think you're right!!!" I should clarify that I remember somewhere in my teen years being like this; more emotional, compassionate, and overall just having a more open heart. I'm so thankful to finding this part of myself again.

Maybe it was the experience of birth itself. To be frank, it's so much more than the birth of a child. For me, it was the rebirth of my own soul. Pushed to the physical peak, I was forced to face my fears and I was confronted with a reality of love I never knew existed. I don't necessarily mean the love for my child, which is itself an overwhelming feeling, but more so the love of the people who supported me during the birthing process (my husband, mom, mother-in-law, and friend Jenn). The people who were there for me in those moments gave me a gift that I hope, over a lifetime, I can repay.

All of these things have made me a more humble person which, in turn, I think makes me nicer. I'm sure that there are more gifts that parenthood has in store for me, but this one is surprising. I figured I would come out more jaded, honestly. I haven't lost my sense of sarcasm, of course, or my dark sense of humor, but I am different nonetheless and kinder version of my former self. Or I suppose you could say I am more of my former self way back before adulthood caused a slight shift in character.

I know that this may not be the experience of every mother...but I'm thankful to realize it as my own experience. And certainly, there are those who are childless who are born with an innate kindness in their souls that just bubbles over. What is your experience? Has a life circumstance made you more kind, less kind or revealed something about you to yourself that was profound? Share in the comment section below! 

Daddy's Chicken Salad Recipe

When it comes to the kitchen, we all know it's mostly my domain. But there are somethings my husband does better than me. Since our daughter was born in May, he's been stepping up to the stove and trying his hand at learning more. He makes a mean chicken soup, and great egg salad. One of our favorite things to eat is chicken salad. There is just something great about it, isn't there?

Well, since my time is a bit more limited these days, I've been buying more rotisserie chickens, which means more chicken salad! Since that has been the case, my husband has been hard at work trying to perfect his craft. A couple of weeks ago when he made a few simple changes, we both got wide-eyed and said, "THIS IS IT!" So here it is, the chicken salad that has had me chickening out! 

Take the white meat from one rotisserie style chicken and chop it up finely. 

Then take one half and onion and dice it smalllllllll. 

And same thing for one large celery stalk. 

Okay, here are our secret ingredients, which, incidentally, aren't so secret anymore! Haha. 
Pepper relish, which my canners and I make and cajun seasoning, which just happens to have the best name in the history of cajun seasoning names...Slap Ya Mama. Too awesome right? 

So you add your secret ingredients, as well as some mayo, to all the rest of it. 

And then, I take a pretty picture of it to demonstrate that it happened.... 
And then you mix it!!! 

And then you serve it up RIGHT! 
So, this is how my husband eats his, with crackers and LOTS of pepperoncinis. I had mine with pretzel chips AND crackers and a pickle. Sandwiches work too, as well as chicken salad on a green salad....yum! How do you eat yours?! 

Daddy's Chicken Salad Recipe 

Time: 10 minutes, tops | Serves: 4 (makes 1 pint) | Difficulty: Easy! 

You will need: 

The white meat from a rotisserie chicken, diced 
1/2 white onion, finely diced 
1 big celery stalk, finely diced 
a couple of dashes cajun seasoning (to taste)
1 heaping tablespoon pepper relish
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste 


In a small mixing bowl, combine ingredients and stir to fully combine. 

Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. 

Enjoy with someone you love! 

Stuff I Use: Coconut Oil

Now, I'm not one to get holy about my products or anything, but can I get a
"HALLELUJAH" for this product?! Perhaps I need to back up. Since my daughter was about five weeks old, I haven't been eating dairy because her system hated it and it was causing all kinds of unpleasantness. Way back before I was a parent ('round about February) I went on a little nesting/hoarding/food purchasing kick and bought some coconut oil. 

I put the stuff in my cupboard and promptly forgot about it. This is not entirely unusual for me. I just wanted the stuff, didn't know why, but had to have it. So, there it sat. 

Fast forward to just a few days ago when I struck with an intense brownie craving. Intense. I was searching and searching for a nondairy version of the recipe, but I was also being stubborn because I wanted it to be a "one bowl" recipe. Did I also mention that it had not include chocolate chips? Or baking chocolate. I was NOT going to the store. Maybe it was my mood that was intense and not the actual brownie craving, but either way.... 

Anyway, I FINALLY found a one bowl recipe for brownies with all the specified ingredients I wanted to use, but it called for butter. That was when I remembered the coconut oil in my cupboard. I subbed it out for the butter and in 40 minutes I had my nondairy, one bowl brownies. It was a magnificent moment. And the brownies? Divine! 

In case you were wondering, I used THIS RECIPE (which I found on Pinterest, which is my favorite thing with a "www" in front of it.) And now, I am firmly in the "god bless coconut oil" camp. It's some pretty awesome stuff for you nondairy people like me! Or even if you do like dairy, you might want to give it a try because it takes all kinds in this world, am I right? 

We Need To Talk: ACTUAL Family Values

I don't think I thought about what "family values" meant to me until I became a parent, which, honestly, is not surprising. With those words being thrown around so much by pundits on TV, it's easy to become confused and think that "family values" is a Republican thing. Even if it were, it shouldn't be. And this post isn't meant to be political in any way; the thing is, family values aren't political, they are personal. Personally? I'm a little pissed off about the way families are treated.

The thing is, I always thought that society was set up to support families. In fact, it used to make me angry as a person without children, mainly because I had to pay more taxes than those without children. So I thought when I had a child, that same society would be "family friendly"--boy was that silly.

Perhaps some of my disillusionment has to do with an article I read about how a woman was asked to pump breast milk in a utility closet. That really made me angry. And then I watched the documentary Breastmilk, which talks about how women aren't really set up to succeed with breastfeeding in the first place. Then there was everything leading up to the birthing experience which really could be so much better....

And forgive me while I take a moment to bitch openly about the lack of maternity leave in this country because six weeks just isn't enough. I took "maternity leave" as a new parent, which was unpaid because I am self employed. I lost a lot of money this summer, and although I wouldn't trade all the money in the world for the time I've spent with my daughter bonding and getting to know one another, I have to say, I feel that the society that espouses so much rhetoric surrounding the value of a family shouldn't leave me hanging like this. Not to mention there are a lot of mothers who don't even get that--unpaid or otherwise! My heart breaks for these mothers who have to make the best of going back to work when really they might like to be at home. At the least,  shouldn't we have the presence of choice?

Other countries give their women (and men!) a year to be at home. A year. And no, it's not socialist or asking too much, it's taking time (if you want to) during your baby's most formative stages to guide them along and not have to leave them in order to make ends meet. We aren't talking about a puppy, we're talking about the children who will become tomorrow's scientists, teachers, and I think it's important. As mothers, when we do go back into the world trying our best to fulfill these strange "superwoman" roles that we feel compelled to emulate, we find that the world isn't really set up for us in the way we might have thought it would be.

For instance, there is no daycare at my gym... there used to be, but it wasn't profitable enough, so they cut it. Luckily, the women I work out with don't mind that my child (and the instructor's child) hang out at the front of our class as glorified mascots, but we are only two people--what does everyone else do?

All of this, and my child hasn't even reached her first birthday yet.

Don't get me wrong, individuals, like the ladies at my gym are awesome. When my child is fussy in the grocery, I don't get evil stares (at least not yet.) People have been generous to me and my husband and I am so grateful for this. But as far as the society goes, well, I think we've collectively got a long way to go in practicing what we preach. If what's truly important to the family structure is sitting down for a nightly dinner, or making sure that you can make your child's science fair or ballet recital, then why not have a society that allows us to make enough money working a traditional nine to five and makes sure we get weekends off? This shouldn't just be a privilege for the highly educated, or just plain lucky, should it?

I say these things as I am part of a generation who was raised largely by daycare providers, teachers, and coaches because both our parents had to work in order to make enough money. And this generation, many of whom never had the luxury of having one parent present at all times, has been called the most selfish, laziest, and entitled group of young people in history (which, honestly is just downright rude.)

Maybe we need to rethink the values we impose on families these days. Giving dads or moms who want to stay home with their kids the chance to do so might be a good idea. Having daycare at places where moms go (like the gym) might not be profitable, but it might promote greater physical and mental health for parent and child alike, and being breastfeeding and pumping friendly might cut down on the amount of stress for new moms.

So the next time you want to talk about family values, make sure you are prepared to recognize that the values of money, less time, and more hustle are firmly in conflict with maintaining dinners at home, bedtime routines, and quality family time. Maybe in a world where we can "have it all" we have lost sight of what we really need in order to help our families thrive.

We Need To Talk: Co-sleeping

I have been afraid to talk about co-sleeping since the day I brought my daughter home from the hospital. It's not really a secret why: they scare the hell out of you in the hospital about co-sleeping. They make you watch videos about SIDS and have a whole campaign about how to put your child to sleep (in their own crib or bassinet, on their back.) Also...let's be honest, some mommies will practically flay you for thinking that co-sleeping is at all safe. Fear is a motherf*cker.

What I found when I got home from the hospital was that when I put my baby down, she cried immediately. She felt alone. She wanted to be held. When we slept together, it was like magic, she slept practically through the night, and so did I. Surprisingly, I found that being separated from my daughter through the night was counterintuitive for me, and I didn't sleep as well either! But I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want the judgment... I felt ashamed I guess.

I was afraid that, even though co-sleeping was clearly working well for us, I was "doing something wrong." Clearly, it was against medical advice...but it was instinctive, and I couldn't shake the feeling that what I was doing was right, at least for us. The funny thing was, I was totally against co-sleeping before my daughter was born. I didn't want a baby in my bed because I wanted that to be a space for my husband and I, and yet there she was, night after night.

We would wake, well rested. We would breastfeed seamlessly through the night. How many times did she wake to eat? I don't know because we were in sync and just doing the eating routine in tandem as we slumbered. Not that I didn't worry about SIDS, I did, and so did my husband. We made adjustments in our bed to be sure that we were practicing safe co-sleeping, including putting a bumper on the side of the bed to prevent falls. I also read up on safe co-sleeping positions (provided by my La Leche League book, which, strangely advocates co-sleeping.)

In time, both my husband and I got more comfortable with the arrangement. Maybe it was because I wasn't as sleep deprived as I had excepted to be. The system was working. Despite the fact that it was working though, I still felt this pressure to get her out of my bed. So I began to try by putting her in the bassinet when she fell asleep in the evenings. This led to two very frustrating weeks of trying to get my baby to do something that she clearly wasn't going to do. I was frustrated, she was unable to sleep and everyone suffered for it.

Then it occurred to me: my husband and I are the parents. No matter what the hospital says, or what other parents say, or any other external pressures, we have to do what works for us. She has demonstrated she isn't ready for her own bed and is still breastfeeding through the why was I trying to fix something that wasn't broken? Some of this is my nature; over analyzing a situation is just what I do. But it doesn't always work.

I noticed that I felt imaginary judgment based on what I thought I should be doing with my child in regard to sleeping. But co-sleeping works, doesn't prevent my husband and I from having a healthy sex life, and we are all quite happy. So there it is. We plan on transitioning her to her own bed when she can sleep through the night without eating or when the time is right. I don't plan on having a two year old in my bed...

I'm not suggesting that everyone go out and co-sleep with their babies based on my great experience with it. What I am saying though is that mothers (and parents) have an instinct about what to do with their babies, and that following it isn't always a bad thing. For me, putting my newborn into a crib away from me wasn't right. I'm convinced that it was unnatural for us to be separated in this way. There are studies that back me up citing that it helps regulate the baby's body temperature and breathing patterns. In fact, it may even reduce the risk for SIDS. *

Most of all, I want to let other parents know that co-sleeping isn't barbaric or wholly dangerous. It's just culturally unacceptable in the United States. Around the world, lots of other cultures co-sleep as a matter of practice. In fact, our parents co-slept with us, and we seemed to have turned out just fine. So what is your experience? Did you co-sleep or put your baby in the crib? What was right for you? Share your experience (unashamed!) in the comments section below!

*If you are considering co-sleeping, please know that there are risk factors, including drug use, weight issues, and alcohol use that may be unsafe for babies. Know your risks and do your own research before co-sleeping with your child.