12 January 2015

Banana Walnut Pound Cake

I made this cake last week for my husband but when it came out of the oven it smelled so good I couldn't wait for him to get home to cut it. I know…I'm a bad wife, but if you taste this you will understand. Here's the recipe. One note, my husband has a huge sweet tooth and he requested that I use more sugar next time; so if you share his love of sugar, you may also want to add a little bit more than called for in this recipe or substitute white cane sugar for the raw cane sugar. It was perfect to me (of course).

Banana Walnut Pound Cake with Caramel Glaze

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (use convection bake setting if available). Use nonstick spray on pan and then sprinkle and coat spray with flour.

Equipment you need:

Stand Mixer or Hand Mixer
Mixing Bowls
Nonstick Spring Form Bundt or Angel Food Cake Pan
Small sauce pan

Cake Ingredients:

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened or at room temperature
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup turbinado raw cane sugar (Trader Joe's)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup (8oz) sour cream
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened or at room temperature
1 cup walnuts, crushed
3 ripe bananas, mashed
5 eggs

Glaze Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup white cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream

Instructions for Cake:

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, allspice, and salt, stirring until combined.

2. Using your stand or hand mixer, mix on medium speed butter, brown sugar, and raw cane sugar until creamy. Turn off mixer.

3. Add bananas and mix on low speed until combined.

4. Add eggs one at a time, on medium speed, waiting until fully combined until adding the next one. Add vanilla extract with last egg.

5. Take turns pouring and mixing in, on medium speed, flour and sour cream until both are fully combined in batter. You may have to occasionally turn off the mixer and use a spatula to push the batter down into the center of the bowl.

6. Fold in crushed walnuts until combined.

7. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, 20 minutes (bakes closer to 1 hour if using the convection bake setting). Remove from pan and sit on wire rack with drip pan underneath.

Instructions for Glaze:

1. Combine all ingredients in small sauce pan and cook on medium heat stirring often. Once butter fully melted and combined with sugar, turn heat to low and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Use a baking brush to put glaze on cake or carefully pour over cake being careful not to let too much drip off. If you choose to pour on the glaze, poke a few holes with a fork or toothpick on top of cake before pouring.

Now, technically, you should let cake cool completely before eating but trust me when I say it is delicious still warm. I let it cool maybe about 30 minutes before eating a piece. It had the house smelling so good I couldn't help myself.

29 October 2014

Grocery Store Wars

Earlier today, a friend, who is new to Indianapolis, asked me where I do my grocery shopping. It took me a minute to answer her question as I really had to think about it. I never thought I would have the problem of having too many grocery stores to choose from, but alas, that's the position I find myself in. There are at least 6 grocery stores within a 10 minute drive from our house: Whole Foods, Marsh, Super Target, Trader Joe, Kroger, and Fresh Thyme. They all have their place but the time has come for me to commit and name a winner for my favorite grocery store.

Whole Foods

Theme: Healthy and Organic Foods
Cost: $$$$
Size: Medium
Pros: Prepared Food Options, Fresh Fish and Meats, Produce Options, Unique food items, Cool Factor
Cons: Cost, Difficult to find typical ingredients

I love the healthy options and homemade prepared foods at Whole Foods. I usually go here when I want an excellent cut of meat, fresh prepared sausage or ground meat, fresh seafood, and desserts. Their produce is quality but the prices are too high for my liking; especially when I have other store options. I rarely buy any pre-packaged foods from here for the same reason. In a pinch, this is a good place to go when you need a prepared lunch or dinner on the go. Most stores have a salad/soup bar, impressive deli counter, and a hot food bar with varying options. Some of the larger stores even have a beer/wine bar inside. All in all, this is a lifestyle store and not for someone on a budget.


Theme: Traditional Grocery Store
Cost: $$$
Size: Large
Pros: Wide Fresh and Frozen Seafood Selection, Cheese Bar, Sales on Canned Goods
Cons: Cost, Difficult to find unique food items, Deli and Bakery Goods not Homemade

Marsh is a major chain grocer in Indiana so it's your typical grocery store set up. Each store is different but the store I shop at went through a major renovation within the last couple of years. The renovation improved their produce, deli, sushi, seafood, meat, wine/beer/liquor, bakery, and hot/cold food bar areas. While the renovations did improve the store, the quality of their prepared food options is not that great and does not appear to be fresh or homemade. Additionally, many of their pre-packaged food items are more expensive than at competing stores. This store is the closest to my home so I usually go here when I need a few things quickly. I also go here occasionally for seafood. They have an extensive frozen seafood section, including various fish varieties, crab legs, lobster, scallops, shrimp, etc. All in all, it's a solid neighborhood store but again, not the place to shop if you're on a budget.

Super Target

Theme: Everything under the sun
Cost: $$
Size: Huge
Pros: Cost
Cons: Size, Difficult to find unique food items, No Quality Deli, Bakery, or Hot/Cold Food Bars

I love Target!!!! And I love Super Target even more!!!!! I can just about get everything I need in life at this store. I used to do most of my grocery shopping here but recently I have changed my (and by default, the family's) diet to more clean eating and less processed foods so Target is no longer on the top of my list. I still shop here for canned or pre-packaged foods when I need them because they tend to have the best prices. I also get most of the family's personal care goods (e.g. lotion, toothpaste, medicine, diapers, etc.) from here. The produce section exists but is…ehh. You can find some good deals on fruit sometimes but it's not necessarily the best quality. There also isn't a fresh meat department which is a must for our family. All in all, it's an awesome place, especially if you're on a budget, but doesn't offer many options for fresh and healthy foods.

Trader Joe

Theme: Healthy and Unique Foods
Cost: $$
Size: Small
Pros: Cost, Wine, Produce, HMO-free meats, Healthier Pre-packaged Food Options, Unique Food Items
Cons: Difficult to find typical food items, Limited Produce Selection, No Fresh Meat/Seafood Section, No Hot/Cold Food Bars

I find myself shopping here the most as of late. I appreciate the small size of the store and know that I can get in and get out without a fuss. I also appreciate the friendly customer service. Because the store is so small I know where everything is and can order my shopping accordingly. Their fresh foods and packaged fresh (and previously frozen) meats are consistently of good quality. They have an awesome wine selection at varying price levels. Most important, their prices are reasonable and don't fluctuate. What they are lacking is a fresh meat/seafood counter, deli counter, and hot/cold food bars; but I suspect if they included these things, it would slow down the customers ability to get in/out of the store quickly. All in all, this store has cornered the market on how to present healthy food options in an non-intimidating way. And it doesn't break the bank.


Theme: Traditional Grocery Store
Cost: $$
Size: Large
Pros: Cost, Improved Produce and Organic Foods Section, Improved Deli and Bakery
Cons: Better Store Alternatives

Kroger is a national chain grocer. The store closest to me just went through a major renovation in order to compete with a new grocery store that just opened across the street (Fresh Thyme). Before the renovation, the store wasn't that great. The lighting was dark, the produce wasn't especially inviting, and the fresh meat/seafood section was limited. Since the renovation, the produce section is brighter and has more options overall but has specifically added more organic options. The deli and bakery have also been expanded, and they have added an aisle specifically dedicated to healthier pre-packaged foods. While I appreciate the updates, it almost feels like it's a little too late. However, what they do have going for them are their prices, which for the most part, are pretty reasonable. They also run a lot of specials and accept most coupons. All in all, it's a solid grocery option now that they have updated the store.

Fresh Thyme

Theme: Healthy Food and Personal Care Store
Cost: $$$
Size: Medium
Pros: Bulk Food Section, Deli, Fresh Fish Section
Cons: Cost, Difficult to find typical food items

This store is less than a month old so it's still working out it's identity. It's had a lot of good sales/specials during its first weeks of opening but I have a feeling those prices won't last. It reminds me of whole foods but not as good. I also don't like the way the store is arranged. It seems a little disjointed and this makes it difficult to find things. What I do like about it is the bulk food section. It's self serve and you can select the amount of grains, legumes, nuts, dried fruit, and candy you want. A bonus are the machines that churn out fresh nut butters. My favorite is the roasted honey peanut butter. The deli and fresh seafood sections are solid and offer great quality selections. They also have a fresh juice bar which is pretty cool (unfortunately, it's stuck in the back and unnoticeable unless you're already back there for something else). The pre-packaged foods are limited in selection and are more expensive than the same/similar good at other stores. All in all, the store needs some more time to find its identity but will probably land somewhere between Whole Foods and Trader Joe.



Like I mentioned, Trader Joe is my go to store for the ease of the shopping experience, quality of the goods, and reasonable prices. When I need something Trader Joe doesn't have I usually shop at Super Target or Fresh Thyme (which has edged out Whole Foods).

20 October 2014

Quick Weeknight Meal: Penne with Shrimp and Broccoli

I typically cook dinner 4-5 times a week. I don't always have a lot of time to prepare a meal so having a few quick meals in my arsenal is key. For the most part, I like fresh and healthy foods. As a general rule, I stay away from processed foods (I do have a weakness for pasta and rice) and foods with a high sugar or salt content. Since I'm the one doing the cooking, by default, Jimmy and Carter eat like I do; except, Carter doesn't really like sauces or foods that are mixed together and Jimmy has a threshold on how many green veggies he'll eat. So when Jimmy is traveling I take the opportunity to enjoy all the veggies he doesn't like.

Today, I decided to make Penne with Shrimp and Broccoli. Carter loves pasta but he doesn't like sauce so I made whole grain penne and mixed in some olive oil, salt, pepper, and italian seasoning. Part one of the meal done. While the pasta was cooking, I steamed some fresh broccoli. Part two of the meal done. For part three of the meal, I decided to sauté shrimp. Usually, I use fresh uncooked shrimp but because it takes a lot of time to take the shell off, clean and devein I have started keeping frozen cooked shrimp in the freezer for quick meals like this one. I first thawed out the shrimp and then sautéed them with a little butter, salt, pepper, fresh lime juice, and tangerine balsamic vinegar. The entire meal took about 30 minutes to cook and that's only because it took time for the pasta water to boil. Quick and healthy (a little butter never hurt anyone). I served mine with a little parmesan cheese on top and it looked like this:

Carter doesn't like his food all mixed up so I served his like this (and he asked for seconds and thirds - score!):

After we ate, I decided to do something different with the leftover broccoli and pasta. One of my favorite quick pasta recipes comes from "Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook" and it's called Supreme Green Spaghetti. Here's the recipe:

8 oz uncooked spaghetti or other pasta
1 lb frozen chopped spinach or broccoli (I always use fresh spinach or broccoli and steam it)
1/2 cup skim milk (or heavy cream if you like your sauces creamy)(or soft tofu if you don't do dairy)
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp melted butter (or olive oil if you don't want the butter)
Salt to taste
4 tsp grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Prepare pasta as indicated on the package. Cook spinach or broccoli as directed on package or steam if you're using fresh veggies. Transfer all ingredients except the pasta to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour sauce over the drained and hot pasta. Stir to combine and sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese.

Now, this is the normal recipe and it comes out delicious with a very simple but savory taste. However, tonight, I wanted to mix it up a little bit. This is how my ingredients differed:

Whole Grain Penne pasta (leftover from dinner)
1 1/2 cups steamed fresh broccoli
1/4 cup 2% milk
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp grated Parmesan cheese
3 small fresh basil leaves (would be delicious with fresh mint as well)
2 tsp tangerine balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste

I put everything, except the pasta, in a blender and pureed until smooth. I poured the sauce over the pasta remaining in the pot and then warmed up the dish on the stove on low heat for a few minutes. It was so yummy I ate dinner twice tonight. Here's what it looked like:

I can't wait to eat some more for lunch tomorrow.

19 October 2014

My Baby Bump

When I was pregnant with Carter I exercised sporadically, at best. Usually when my energy levels were super low and I needed a boost of endorphins or when my lower back pain was out of control and I needed some good old fashion stretching. Even then, I didn't start working out until well into my 2nd trimester because I was so sick during the 1st trimester I could barely get myself up and out the door for work each morning. I had always heard that if you're in shape before becoming pregnant your body will return to its pre-pregnancy self quicker once the baby comes. Similarly, I heard that working out consistently during pregnancy would ease the birthing process. While I felt pretty good during the 2nd half of my pregnancy, my birthing experience was terrible (a topic for another post) and I ended up having an emergency c-section.

Armed with this experience, when I became pregnant with Savannah I decided to take a different approach. I was determined to have a vaginal birth after the terrible experience I had with Carter's c-section (vaginal birth after c-section or VBAC) and was prepared to do everything I could to have a natural birthing experience. What this meant to me was exercising consistently throughout my entire pregnancy. I worked out 3-4 times a week, including cardio (row machine, running, stairmaster, kickboxing class) and light weight lifting. I also did exercises to keep my core strong. Of course, once my belly got to a certain size, I no longer did traditional crunches or any other ab exercises where I was lying on my back. However, I did do planks (traditional and side), push ups, and some yoga poses (upward dog). Little did I know, what I thought would help me have a successful natural birthing experience and get me back to pre-pregnancy weight quickly after the baby, ended up having the opposite effect. I ended up having another emergency c-section and I still have MY BABY BUMP!

This is what my stomach looks like now and Savannah is 4 months old.  I'm probably the same weight I was pre-pregnancy but my stomach is still poking out. Now, I know my stomach isn't huge in this pic but it's not what I remembered happening after Carter so it's out of the ordinary for my body. With Carter, I was back in a bikini with a flat tummy in 5 months; and I wasn't working out nearly as intensely or eating as clean as I have been for the last 2 months. This prompted me to do some research and I discovered that I have a condition call DIASTASIS RECTI.

Diastasis recti is a separation between the left and right side of the rectus abdominal muscle, which is the muscle that covers the front surface of the belly area and creates a flat belly when defined. About 30% of pregnant women develop this condition due to increased tension on the abdominal wall. The risk is higher with multiple births (e.g. twins) or with multiple pregnancies. The risk is also higher when 
women who are more than 12 weeks pregnant do exercises that stress the abdomen (e.g. crunches, planks, upward dog - basically, everything I was doing). Making matters worse, women with tight abdominal muscles prior to pregnancy are at a greater risk because it's more difficult for the muscles to stretch with a growing uterus. Prior to Savannah's pregnancy I was probably in the best shape of my life. Not only was I competing in half marathons and sprint triathlons but I was also doing crossfit a couple times a week (shout out to Crossfit Zionsville). Again, I thought this was a good thing. Not so much!
Once I made this disheartening discovery I contacted my doctor who then referred me to physical therapy. I have now been in physical therapy for 2 weeks and have seen a little improvement. The bad news is that everything I've been doing for the last 2 months to lose MY BABY BUMP (e.g. crunches, v-ups, etc) has likely made it worse. Great! The good news is with the proper exercises I should be able to bring the muscles back together. Basically, I need to strengthen the transverse abdominal muscle (and not the rectus abdominal muscle) which gets its nickname as "the corset muscle" because it has the effect of pulling in a protruding abdomen. What this means practically is that I walk around with my stomach sucked in all day to try to strengthen this muscle. To give you an idea, here's what my stomach looks like sucked in:

Big difference, right? The key is doing this and still being able to breathe normally. I'm getting pretty good at it. Unfortunately, after I eat, all stomach sucking in is a complete fail; so definitely loose clothing when I go out to eat.

I'm glad I found out about my condition relatively early so I can start the work to correct it, but I'm kind of disappointed that I wasn't equipped with this knowledge during pregnancy. What makes it worse is that I actually did research on exercises to avoid during pregnancy and discussed the same with my OB/GYN. Of course, the research revealed that I shouldn't do crunches or exercises on my back; however, it did not reveal that I shouldn't do planks, push ups, upward dogs, stretch my back on a stability ball, or any other exercise where I stretched my abdomen. Likewise, my doctor did not caution me against these exercises.

If you think you may have diastatis recti, there are plenty of online resources that fully describe the condition, demonstrate how to test for the condition, and provide exercises to repair the condition. You should also consult your physician and/or a physical therapist.

As if pregnancy wasn't hard enough...

16 October 2014

Taking Charge of Your Fertility

It's been over a year and a half since my last post in March 2013, which was about reducing Carter's tv and iPad time to only weekend use. I'm glad to report that we are still going strong with that rule and it's working out great! Carter started full time preschool in Fall 2013 and is in preK this school year so Monday thru Friday he is focused on school and other learning activities.

I've been thinking about returning to this blog for a long time but the thoughts never made it to the page. My life has changed a lot since last year. Carter is 4 years old and full of energy and attitude. We also have a new addition to the family, Savannah Rose Doss, who just hit her 4 month birthday and is such a joy. It took us over a year to become pregnant with Savannah and recently I have come across many women who are facing the challenge of becoming pregnant. This reminded me of our struggle and prompted me to share this post.

With Carter, fertility wasn't even a thought because we literally became pregnant 2 weeks after I stopped taking birth control pills. I had always envisioned it would take months because I had been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) which caused my menstrual cycle to be infrequent and irregular. So imagine my surprise when a pregnancy test showed the "+" sign only 2 months later (and I was nearly 2 months pregnant). After contemplating for a year whether we wanted more children, Jimmy and I started trying to get pregnant again just after Carter's 2nd birthday in June 2012. Just like before, I stopped taking my birth control pills and expected to get pregnant quickly. After several months had passed with no success, I decided to visit my gynecologist to make sure there was nothing reproductively wrong. I was dismayed when the doctor's first suggestion was to put me on Clomid to stimulate ovulation and increase the number of eggs released from my ovaries. In general, I am anti-medication when other methods have not been considered, so I did not agree with this approach. In fact, it prompted me to find a new gynecologist.

After a couple more months trying to get pregnant on our own using the Ovulation App on my iPhone, I recalled that a friend of mine (who also had trouble getting pregnant) recommended a book called "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" by Toni Weschler. My friend read this book and followed the methods suggested and successfully became pregnant after years of trying. After recalling this conversation, I immediately went to my local library and checked out the book. I was immediately mesmerized by its contents. In her book, Toni discusses the Fertility Awareness Method, which is basically learning your body's ovulation schedule in order to pinpoint the optimal times to become pregnant or to avoid becoming pregnant. I was shocked at how little I actually knew about the female menstrual cycle. I had always had an irregular cycle but now I finally understood how to discover the regularity in my irregularity (if that makes sense). Most ovulation products are based on a 28 day menstrual cycle so if you don't fit into that category they likely will not work for you. The book shows you how to chart your body temperatures and how to monitor your vaginal fluids so that you can pinpoint when you are ovulating. Let me tell you…it took some work…but it was work I was willing to do because I was not interested in taking any medication.

In June 2013, after a year of trying unsuccessfully, I began sleeping with a thermometer on the nightstand next to my bed and the first thing I did each morning was take my temperature and write it down on the fertility chart I was keeping. Once I got into the routine it really wasn't that tedious. I also had to write down the consistency of my vaginal fluids, when we were having sex, and whether I exercised or traveled (which could affect body temperature). It took me almost 2 months of charting before I completed my first cycle which turned out to be 40 days instead of the normal 28 days. My next cycle was 50 days. So in 3 months I had only had 2 menstrual cycles. Based on this information, I had to go about trying to pinpoint my ovulation schedule. This was not easy to do since my cycle was different in duration each time but I did my best with the information I had collected so far.

Around mid-October 2013 my body started to feel different. I started feeling lightheaded and fatigued when exercising and my appetite became voracious. I hadn't taken a pregnancy test but I knew I was with child. Based on my charting, I was able to estimate the date range of conception because I had recorded each time we had sex, and the changes in my temperature readings indicated when I was ovulating. Oddly enough, my estimate was better than the estimate given to me by the ultrasound tech at my first doctor's visit. Her estimate was based on the first day of my last menstrual cycle but because I know my cycle is irregular I was able to tell her that was an incorrect way of determining the date of conception for my body. This was confirmed once she completed the ultrasound. In that moment I felt very empowered and in tune with my body.

I won't bore you with the details of 39 weeks of pregnancy but Savannah Rose Doss entered the world on June 12, 2014 and I believe I owe her life to the grace of God but also to the knowledge I obtained from Toni Weschler on how to take charge of my fertility.

This post is not a commentary on which fertility choice you should make if you are having difficulty becoming pregnant. I understand that there are many barriers to becoming pregnant and that they are not all as simple as having an irregular cycle. However, whatever your barrier may be, I would still recommend "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" because at the very least it will help you better understand your menstrual cycle and how it factors into you becoming pregnant and maintaining a viable fetus during the early stages of pregnancy.

05 March 2013

No TV...No Rest...for Me

So last week I decided to try an experiment with Carter. No tv and no iPad Monday-Thursday. It's not like his usage was out of control but he has the tendency to "forget" to go to the bathroom whenever he's watching "Team Umizoomi" or a "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed" video for the five millionth time on YouTube. Well, I was so happy with the results that I decided to keep it going this week.

Update: it's only Tuesday and I'm exhausted. This whole no tv and iPad thing has the indirect effect of creating a lot more work for me. Now that Carter no longer has his tv friends to keep him company, I'm his new favorite playmate. I have read more kids books, played with more puzzles, and sang more nursery rhymes in two days than I care to repeat. Last night, after I put Carter to bed (at 7:30 pm mind you) I was so pooped, I was ready to climb into bed myself. In fact, I can barely keep my eyes open while I'm typing this. Man, being a parent is a lot of work. You'd think I would have accepted this by now but I keep getting reminded of the fact in new and different ways. And the scary part is I'm just getting started (laughing...no crying hysterically)!!!

How apropos that our pastor's sermon on Sunday mentioned how selfless mothers are with their children. His reference involved new moms getting up for night time feedings and how this is not because it's something we want to do, but rather, it's completely for the best interest of the child. Well, I'm going to borrow that sentiment for what I'm trying to do by reducing Carter's tv/iPad time. Clearly, doing so is not good for me (at least not in the short term) but I believe it's in his best interest to explore different activities and find some enjoyment outside of technology.

I'll let you know how we're doing in a few weeks. Pray for me...please.

29 January 2013

Apple Cinnamon Muffins-So Good I Had To Post

I made some apple cinnamon muffins this morning for a play date. They were so yummy and easy to make. Here's the recipe:

Muffin Batter

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil


1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons cold butter, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease or line 12 muffin cups with baking cups.

2. For batter, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a large bowl. Once combined, add eggs, milk, and oil, and stir until a smooth batter forms. Fold in apples and stir lightly.

3. Spoon batter into muffin cups.

4. For the topping, combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon in small bowl. Add slices of butter and then use a pastry blender, fork, or your fingers to mix ingredients together until crumbles are formed. Distribute crumbles evenly on top of muffins.

5. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when middle of muffin is pierced.