For most folks (and myself when I worked in Corporate), Mondays are awful.  They are the day you go back to your soul-draining life outside your home, away from your family.  But these days, Mondays are one of my favorite days.

(I’ll wait while you finish cursing my name and throwing things at the screen.  Done?  Good.)

Nowadays, Mondays are a reset day for me.  After a (usually) busy weekend, it is the day I put things back in order and figure out my week.  Mr. Fork goes back to work and Baby Spork and I ease into our week.

Oddly enough, Monday has turned into my house cleaning day.  I do laundry, run dishes, vacuum, and generally tidy up.  Some weeks, this doesn’t happen until Tuesday or later.  But on a normal week, we spend Monday getting things back in order.

Welcome to the week, everyone. It’s time to reset.

My sister-in-law sent me a text last week.  Something along the lines of, “My friend is having a birthday next week, please make the hat in this picture.”  It was accompanied by this image.

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Not much to go on, but I decided to take a whack at it.

Several hours later, and I had this.

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I’d say that is a fair approximation and not too shabby for the information I received.  Details of the project are on Ravelry here.  I have to say, I’m rather chuffed at how this turned out.  I hope the recipient enjoys it.

I’ve had this recipe pinned on Pinterest for ages, but the fear of cooking quinoa paralyzed me.

Why do I fear quinoa?  It’s mysterious.  It comes in the bulk bin at the Co-Op and has no cooking instructions.

Plus, it looks like bird seed.

(It really is a seed and not a grain.)

For some reason, tonight was the night I got over my fear.  I’ve been watching a lot of Good Eats (in Alton, we trust!) and decided it was time.  The worst that could happen is that it would turn out terrible and we’d end up eating something else.  I turned Baby Spork over to Mr. Fork and began the process of tackling this mysterious seed.

After spilling many of those tiny seeds on the floor, I did manage to get it all together.  The results?  AMAZING!  Seriously.

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The picture really doesn’t do it justice.  You see, I took the recipe linked above as well as the original and sort of went my own way.  I rarely do anything exactly as it states (baking, being the exception).  My version included onions and garlic with a bacon and panko topping.  We consumed half the dish before managing to stop ourselves.  Mr. Fork likes his with tabasco sauce.  I like mine plain.  Any way you eat it, it’s delicious.

Want to make it my way?  Here you go.

Cheesy Quinoa

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup half ‘n half
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons panko crumbs

Directions:

Cook bacon on medium heat.  Remove from pan, leaving grease in pan.  Add diced onions and garlic and saute until soft and translucent.  While bacon, onions, and garlic are cooking, rinse your quinoa in cold water for 1-2 minutes and let air dry on a towel.  When onion and garlic are ready, add quinoa and cook for 3 – 4 minutes.  Add 3 cups of water, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Let cook for 15 – 20 minutes.

Whisk eggs, milk, and half ‘n half in a bowl until combined.  Gently stir in 2 cups of cheese.  When quinoa has finished cooking, fold it into the egg and cheese mixture.  Pour into a greased baking dish and top with the remaining cheese, bacon, and panko crumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

I dislike resolutions. They seem so lofty and unachievable. Some years I make goals, but that often seems like too much pressure. Instead of resolutions or goals, I’m going with some big things I’d love to do and some small habits I’d like to make/break.  It’s sort of a take on what E is doing over on Finer Fruits.

Happy 2013!  Since the world didn’t end, let’s make the best of it.

How is it November already?! Time seems to be on fast forward lately.

Baby Spork turned five months old today.

Yesterday he rode in a shopping cart seat for the first time.  He’s working on more teeth (he has the two bottoms already!) and is growing like a weed.  It seems like he’s changing every day, sometimes right before my eyes.

With all of these changes, he’ll soon be ready for his own room.  To that end, I am beginning the task of cleaning out the craft room so the office can be integrated into it.  I’ve started with the fabric.

That is merely one stack that I am saying goodbye to. Out of my entire fabric stash, I am keeping two boxes.  Yes, just two.  That stack is around 1/3 of the stash.

I’m letting go. In a big way.

The yarn is next.

From our family to yours.

Yesterday we took a trip to the pumpkin patch.  Mr. Fork stayed home, but the cousins, auntie, and papa joined in.  There was lots to do besides the pumpkin patch.  The oldest cousin did all the things (hay ride, pony ride, cookie decorating, etc.).  Baby Spork liked looking at the goats, but was not impressed by the pumpkin patch.

No, Mama!  I don’t like the pumpkin patch!

His cousins were a bit more cooperative and posed for this adorable picture.

Cousins, aged 6 years and 11 months.

In the end, Baby Spork perked up a little and my sister managed to snap this photo.

Not a bad way to spend the last weekend of October (where has the time gone?!). Bring it on, November.  You’re going to be awesome!

Baby food is expensive. Especially if you buy organic.  Sure you can shop the sales, but even on sale, most organic baby foods are around $1/2.5oz jar*.  With that in mind, and knowing that Baby Spork will be starting solids sometime in the middle of winter (when nothing is in season), I have started the task of making baby food.

First off…

Why did no one tell me it was this easy?!

Seriously.  This is ridiculously easy.  It’s harder to pack the baby into the car, drive to the store, buy food, and bring it back home than it is to make your own infant-friendly puree.

We started with a quick trip to a local farm stand and picked up a butternut squash and a sugar pumpkin to experiment with.  Total cost = $2.50 (plus the gas, but I was going for apples anyway).  Next up, I needed a way to cook it that required as little attention as possible.  I turned to my trusty slow cooker.  With a quick dicing, the squash went in and I ignored it for a while.  Once it was mush, I gave it a fast blast with the immersion blender, poured it into trays, and stuck it in the freezer.  At the end of the day, with about 45 minutes of actual work, I had 24oz of fresh, local, cheap baby food!

Ready to make your own?  Here’s how you do it.

What you do:

Chop up your fruit/veggie of choice.  I used one large butternut squash, chopped into small chunks.

Add the chopped fruit/veggie to your slow cooker and put a layer of water on the bottom (I added 1 1/2 cups in my 7 quart cooker, use less for wetter fruits like pears).

Cook on low 4-6 hours, or until fruit/veggie smushes easily.

Puree using your preferred method (I used a stick blender).

Freeze in small portions (I used these 1oz freezer trays gifted to us by a friend).

Once frozen, place in baggies and store in the freezer until needed.

Pro Tips:

  • Be sure to label your bag with both the type of food and the date.  Various frozen purees look very similar.
  • To use, thaw overnight in the fridge and then warm up prior to feeding (like you would with frozen breastmilk).
  • These will last in the freezer 3-6 months according to the internet. Feed before 3 months for max freshness.

*A search on Amazon gave me an approximate average price of $0.46/ounce of Stage 1 organic baby food.

Cloth diapers are all the rage right now.  Funny, huh?  When I first told my mother that we were planning on using cloth, she grimaced and proceeded to tell me how horrible cloth diapers are.  How she hated the plastic pants and that they cause really bad rashes.  How we would have blowouts and leaks all the time (I’ve only ever had leaks with the newborn AIOs and not a single blowout.) She even offered to buy all my disposables. (I let her.)

But I’m stubborn.

And I don’t mind doing laundry.

Now, I didn’t go into cloth diapering blind.  I have a couple friends who use cloth.  One uses prefolds with covers and the other uses all-in-ones with inserts.  Me?  I use a mix because that’s what we got at our baby shower.

Here’s the low down on what we use.

Newborn All-In-Ones from BumGenius

These tiny tushie covers are made to fit itty bitty bums.  We used these until Baby Spork was about 8lbs.  Honestly, I didn’t really like these.  I’m not sure if I was doing something wrong, but they seemed to leak a lot.  And not around the legs.  It was always around the back edge.  Again, could definitely be user error.  We mainly used disposables until he got big enough for the regular All-In-Ones.  (P.S. If you make them too tight, their feet turn purple…)

Prefolds with Covers

We use a combination of prefold diapers* (both Kushies and good ol’ Gerber) with Snappis and covers (we’re currently using Thirsties Duo Wraps, size 1**).  The Kushies are extremely absorbant and don’t feel as wet.  They also don’t grip the Snappis as well due to the denser material.  This thicker weave also makes them a bit bulkier in my opinion.  The birdseye cloth versions grip the Snappis incredibly well, but feel wetter faster.  They don’t seem as bulky as some of the other varieties (hemp, cotton flannel, etc.).  Baby Spork doesn’t seem to have a preference of material as long as he’s not really wet or poopy.

Prefolds are cheaper than All-In-Ones and you can supplement your stash of diapers for less green.  But there are more pieces to deal with as well as the learning curve of how to fold the diapers and get the covers adjusted properly.  The trick is to make sure that none of the prefold is outside of the cover.

BumGenius 4.0 All-In-Ones

These are your traditional All-In-Ones with a cover and insert.  They actually come with two inserts: one newborn sized and one adjustable.  They’re simple and easy to use.  You simply adjust the snaps to fit your baby, stuff an insert in, and strap it on.  The long insert has snaps to be made shorter and you can use the newborn insert to double up for nighttime diapering.  I have both the snap and velcro*** versions.  The velcro is easier to get on a squirming baby, but both are pretty simple.  The part I don’t like?  Removing the insert out of a yucky diaper prior to laundering.

BumGenius Freetime All-In-Ones

These are really quite clever once you figure out how to use them.  They are styled almost identical to the BumGenius 4.0s, with a couple exceptions.  First, the absorbant material isn’t anywhere near the back and front of the diaper.  They have cleverly eliminated the areas that can roll and leak onto clothes.  Second, the inserts are part of the diaper.  You simply flip them into place and strap it on.  No stuffing, no removing a nasty insert.  It takes a little practice to get the inserts adjusted properly, but after about a half dozen times, I have it down.  I also have both the snap and velcro versions of these.  As with the 4.0s, it doesn’t really make a difference other than quickness with which you can secure the diaper on a squirming baby.  I’m sure this will become more important as Baby Spork gets wilder on the changing table.  The downside to these is that they are bulkier than their stuffed counterparts.

Wetbags, Diaper Pails, and More

If you leave the house with cloth diapers, you’ll want to have a wet bag or two.  We have a pack of Kushies On the Go (a gift from my lovely cousin) as well as one I made myself (you can find PUL fabric at JoAnns).  You’ll want something big enough to fit a couple diapers (depending on the type you use), but small enough to shove in your diaper bag.  We carry these regardless of what diapers Baby Spork is wearing because they’re also great for wet or poopy clothes.

We use a garbage can (similar to this style) with a PUL liner (a gift from my friend who does prefolds and covers) for our dry pail.  It isn’t very big, so I wash**** my diapers at least every other day.  We have two liners, so I wash one liner with the diapers and put the other one in the pail.  The inserts and prefolds usually get thrown in the dryer and the covers and AIOs are put on the secret clothesline.

I’m not militant about cloth diapers.  For the most part, we use cloth at home and disposables out and about.  Cloth takes up more space, so if I’m just making a quick run and want to grab my purse and not the big ‘ol diaper bag, I throw in a handful of disposables.  If we’re going somewhere that I’m taking the big bag and it won’t be terribly inconvenient, I take cloth.  My goal isn’t to save the planet by using cloth diapers.  I really just wanted less garbage to deal with.  I’d rather do laundry than take the garbage out.

Finally, cloth diaper ease is all about prep. If you’re using prefolds, have them folded in thirds and ready to go with Snappis and covers handy.  Using inserts? Pre-stuff them.  Using Freestyle?  No prep necessary other than to have them clean and dry.  Does it all seem like too much work? Go with disposables. Whatever you choose, don’t feel guilty about it.  As long as your baby is clean, dry, and rash free*****, you’re doing a good job.

*The way I originally learned to fold prefold cloth diapers was for older babies/toddlers and obviously didn’t work on my tiny newborn and I was frustrated.  That was, until I got a package of Kushies with a diagram of how to fold the diapers differently.  Lightbulb!  Suddenly they fit!

**I really like the adjustable nature of the Duo Wraps, even though I’ll have to upgrade to another size at some point.  They make fitting the covers to my tiny hipped, big bellied boy a lot easier.

***Pro-Tip: Make sure to stick the flaps to their keeper tabs before laundering or you’ll have all sorts of gunk stuck in your velcro and have to clean it.  Ask me how I know…

****To clean my diapers, I run them through a cold rinse and then a hot wash and then a cold rinse again.  I have a top loading agitation style machine that doesn’t have a lot of options.  I use homemade laundry detergent and a dash of OxyClean.

*****We’ve been rash free so far.

I have been craving fish tacos for weeks.  Not fried fish tacos, but the moist, fall apart in your mouth, grilled kind.  Normally I’d get them from a great local restaurant.  But since we’re now enforcing a budget, going out for tacos wasn’t on the table.

A freezer clean-out last week revealed two gallon bags of white fish  (I think it’s tilapia).  I vaguely remember buying it from Costco after Baby Spork was born (so it’s not too old).  And then serendipitously, my favorite Pampered Chef rep sent out her monthly email which happened to contain a recipe for grilled fish tacos.

They were amazing.  (Seriously. I may have eaten four of them.)

Want to make yourself some tasty fish tacos?  The original recipe is linked above.  My version is below.

Grilled Fish Tacos

Ingredients:

  • 3-6 tomatoes (depending on size), diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • cilantro, to taste, bruised
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 3-4 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 6 white fish fillets
  • Sliced cabbage
  • 6″ flour tortillas

Directions:

Sprinkle fish with black pepper and grill until flaky.   (I used a grill pan with a bit of grapeseed oil.)

Mix tomato, garlic, onion, and cilantro in a bowl.  In another bowl, mix mayo, milk, cumin, and lime juice.  Pour liquid mix into the tomato mix and stir.

Serve fish on tortillas topped with sauce and cabbage.

Makes approximately 8 tacos.