Holidays, Recipes

Holiday Treats: Sorta-Healthy Spice Rolls

As I mentioned earlier this week, my one concession to the holiday season was preparing a special breakfast for Christmas morning. Christmas breakfast has always been a thing in my family. When I was very young, we would usually have Christmas brunch with my dad’s family, and as we got older, and our family circumstances changed, Christmas breakfast with my mother became a firm tradition. Our favorite Christmas breakfast was panettone french toast.

But first, every morning, before we could open our gifts, someone would have to make my mother a cup of tea. As it turned out, I was the one who remembered best how she liked it: Earl Grey, steeped for just a minute or two, with a quarter teaspoon of sugar. Then, we could coax our parents downstairs to open gifts (my father was very much a morning person, but my mother needed her cuppa before she was willing to rise so early on a holiday).

These days, I’ve tried to move from food being a preamble or postscript to gift-opening to more of the main event. As my relationship with Dan has evolved, we’ve started spending more time together in the kitchen and eating together as a part of our holiday traditions, rather than spending our time on material gifts. This year, as I mentioned, we didn’t exchange gifts between the two of us at all. But we still had a nice breakfast.

This recipe is based on the Molasses & Cranberry Cinnamon Rolls from Nourished Kitchen. Jenny’s recipe uses unrefined sugars and sprouted whole-grain flour to create a treat that is delicious and yet not as full of sugar and white flour as the average cinnamon roll. Then, I used Alton Brown’s overnight cinnamon roll method to proof the rolls because I like the texture it yields. I’ve tweaked the recipe just a bit to fit what I keep in my kitchen and what I wanted from the recipe (and to allow for Dan’s dislike of cranberries). And I made them with a mix of spices because I didn’t check how much cinnamon I had on hand, but they would also be delicious as just cinnamon rolls.

Christmas Morning Sorta-Healthy Spice Rolls

Dough:

2 cups of einkorn all-purpose flour
3 cups of sprouted spelt flour
1 packet of yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup of dairy-like liquid (the original recipe calls for whole milk, but I used a mix of plain yogurt and cashew milk)
1/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs

Filling:

1/4 cup butter, very soft
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sucanat
1 Tbsp. Ceylon cinnamon
2 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. powdered ginger

Glaze:

1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp. butter

1. Make the dough: Mix together the flours, yeast, and salt. Warm the milk, butter, and honey until the butter melts and it comes to about body temperature. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and stream in the warm milk mixture, beating constantly. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until a dough forms.

2. Grease your hands and work surface and knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic and doesn’t stick to things (about 5-10 minutes). Put in a greased bowl, cover, and set aside to rise for an hour or so.

3. Make the filling: Beat together the butter, salt, sucanat, and spices until they make a smooth paste.

4. Roll the dough out to about 1/3” in thickness, and roughly 12” square. Spread the filling on the dough and roll. Slice into nine rolls and place into a 10” square pan that’s been greased and lined with parchment.

5. Cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.

6. The next morning, place the pan in a turned-off oven along with a pan of boiling water to proof for one hour. Remove the pan and the water and preheat the oven to 375F. Bake for 30 minutes or until they read at least 190F internally.

7. Make the glaze by melting together the butter and honey and brush over hot rolls. Enjoy!

Holidays

Thoughts on a Quiet Christmas à Deux

Well, we had thought this would be our first Christmas with a baby. Had my due date proven a more accurate guess, we would probably be in the throes of cluster feeding and sleepless nights still. But due dates, like the pirate’s code, are really more like guidelines, and here we are, waiting on our baby, fielding well-meaning inquiries from friends, and getting a lot of comments about having our own “baby Jesus” (for what it’s worth, I did suggest that if the baby came on Christmas, we’d have to consider using “Noel/Noelle” as the name, but Dan vetoed that.

We had always planned on this Christmas being a quiet affair with just the two of us. We hadn’t even planned on making the 20-minute drive to my mother’s house nearby because, if we had a newborn (and a recently-postpartum body, for me), there was little chance we were going to both put on real clothes, let alone leave the house. But the eerie calm-before-the-storm feeling of being overdue and alone together during Christmas wasn’t expected.

I’ve had quiet Christmases before, and Christmases without a large gathering, and even Christmases where we woke up on Christmas morning with just the two of us in our house. But somehow, this one feels different. We didn’t really have anything planned because the hope was always that I would wake up suddenly and be gearing up to give birth at any moment, so why make big plans for one specific day?

This year has also been a bit of a trial run for an idea we had for future Christmases with our child: gift-free. This year, we’re not buying gifts for each other and just focusing on spending time together on a quiet day off. Our hope is that in the future, we can make this holiday about spending time together and not about gifts, at least in our immediate little family. That way, we’re not adding our own excesses to the inevitable pile of gifts from grandparents.

So this year, we’re having a quiet day in, waiting patiently to see if I manage an eleventh-hour birth on my own before my scheduled induction later this week. I’m making a bit of a special breakfast because we need something to mark the day, and just generally trying to celebrate the return of sunlight into the world without as much to-do as usually goes on.

pregnancy, Third Trimester, Weeklies

Forty-one Weeks Pregnant

Yup, still pregnant. I now refer to myself as “excessively pregnant.” And it’s certainly been a week. I spent this week working from home, which was at least nice because I didn’t have to fight crowds on my commute, but it also meant that I didn’t get the benefit of interacting with other people on a regular basis. It did get a little lonely and made me wonder how I’m going to handle being at home with the baby for three months after Dan goes back to work.

I’m also just starting to feel big, ungainly, and tired. The baby is obviously running out of room, and is starting to grow back up into my stomach, causing my reflux to get worse. Friday and Saturday nights were the worst, but I’m hoping that upping my Zantac dosage (doctor’s suggestion) will help that. I’m still not showing any signs that the baby is coming soon. I’ve had some contractions, off and on, but nothing major and nothing that progresses.

So I’m scheduled for an induction this week and that’s when the baby will probably come out. At least I know this is my last full week of pregnancy and have an end in sight, but I do hope my next few days are better than the last couple have been.

Dan and I are now both officially off work. I’m using my paid time off to cover any days between now and the birth, and Dan has two Federal holidays and an undetermined amount of time furloughed before he can get his leave re-approved. Thankfully, our finances are robust enough to weather the shutdown at the same time as I’m heading out on partial paid leave.

So we’ve spent our time being relatively lazy and just resting mostly. I prepped some homemade gelatin to have on hand, since it’s what I’m allowed to eat right before my induction, and I’ll probably make a batch of lactation bars to take with me to the hospital for after the baby comes out, for when I need an easy, hand-held snack. But other than that, we’re mostly as ready as we’ll ever be.

childbirth, pregnancy

Seemingly-Simple Wisdom from our Doula

I’ve made references to our doulas in the past. We’re having a doula from Silver Spring Doula attend our birth. Since both of them share duties, either Jenny or Rose will attend the birth, but our “primary contact doula” is Rose. She’s a certified Hypnobabies instructor and has been really helpful as I’ve gone through my self-study, and has been working as a doula for over a decade. Plus she has two kids of her own. So she’s learned a thing or two. And I thought I’d share some of her little wisdom gems.

  1. Freezer meals: I’ve mentioned this one before, but rather than carving out separate time to prepare “freezer meals,” simply make a double-batch of whatever you’re making for dinner that night. And then freeze half. It’s so simple, and yet I hadn’t thought of it. I was dreading figuring out when I was going to have time to make casseroles, not to mention buying spare dishes to freeze them in and figure out the freezer space. But since I’m only freezing two servings at a time and cooking when I would already be cooking anyway, it works out with much less headache.
  2. Shelf-stable high-protein snacks: She suggests having some shelf-stable snacks that are high in protein stashed around the house for eating while breastfeeding. Energy bars and peanut butter are good ideas. I imagine beef jerky would also work (although I’ve heard you get incredibly thirsty while breastfeeding, so that might be counter-productive).
  3. Hospital bags: Rather than packing a “his” and “hers” bag, pack a bag for during labor and after labor. That way, you only need to bring one bag in with you when you get to the hospital, and your partner can run out to the car to grab the other one after the baby’s come out. We actually re-packed our bags after hearing this and I feel much more confident about our packing because it also gave us a better way to organize things to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything.

I know, I know. This all seems so simple and obvious, right? Well, I hadn’t thought of it. And I’ve mentioned it to other pregnant women I know and they were surprised not to have thought about it. But it’s helped me feel so much more prepared for birthing and the postpartum period to have these little ways to get things done. That way, my mental energy can go where it’s really needed: washing so many things for the baby.

pregnancy

Expecting Better, Pregnancy “Rules,” and How I Managed My Personal Pregnancy Restrictions

So in my review of Like a Mother, I referenced Emily Oster’s book Expecting Better. Now, I don’t think I need to review this book. A lot of women find it helpful or liberating, while others find it cherry-picked and overly permissive. Personally, my takeaway from this book was not that everything they tell you to avoid in pregnancy is fine, but that it’s important to investigate the context behind any “rules” you’re given in pregnancy.

The big one is alcohol. At this point, the medical bottom line is that there is no safe amount of alcohol in pregnancy. But it’s not as simple as that because the “no alcohol” rule is a product of social context and backlash after the discovery of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which occurs when mothers have a serious problem with drinking. So Oster’s book attempts to actually look at the research behind drinking in pregnancy beyond just the excessive level that is known to cause FAS. Because it’s unrealistic and infantilizing to tell women that they can’t have anything to drink ever if they’re not using birth control (seriously). But that’s not to say that alcohol is necessarily safe. I mean, ethanol is a known mutagen and teratogen, and the products of metabolizing ethanol in the body have similar negative effects on cells.

But this is a rabbit hole that most people don’t want to go down. Most women pick up this book and just want someone to tell them “Is X safe?” Unfortunately, the answer to that is that, well, nothing is safe in pregnancy. Because pregnancy involves so many interconnected variables that it’s pretty difficult to pin down whether one particular factor was or wasn’t a factor that helped or harmed a pregnancy. Beyond taking folate and not getting yourself injured, there’s not a whole lot of consensus on what is and isn’t an appropriate risk to take in pregnancy. So we can talk to our doctors (though they need to stick to certain party lines) and read books like Oster’s and The Panic-Free Pregnancy, but ultimately, we have to decide how much restriction we’re willing and able to accept in our lives.

Another thing that a lot of people do is look at how restrictions vary by country. Personally, I looked at the recommendations on drinking tea for women in Asian countries, where tea is seen as a healthy beverage and not a caffeine-laden vice. But it’s important to remember how differing practices of handling food in other countries may affect the recommendations. For example, women in the UK are told that it’s safe to eat raw and undercooked eggs in pregnancy, but only because there is a type of egg in the UK that is certified to be free of food-borne pathogens. Since these eggs don’t exist in the US, that recommendation doesn’t really apply to women in the US. The same is true with warnings and recalls of vegetables in the US. A woman in Europe wouldn’t necessarily need to avoid romaine lettuce because it’s unlikely that it’s coming from one of the contaminated sources in North America.

Ultimately, I drew my personal lines and decided what I felt comfortable with and what I didn’t. I used a little of the information in Oster’s book, and a little information from Broder’s book, as well as jumping into my own research when that information seemed lacking. And then… I listened to my body. In particular, I spent some time thinking about alcohol. I knew that women in other countries aren’t necessarily counseled as strictly about avoiding alcohol, I had the information gleaned from Oster’s book, and I decided that I would feel comfortable drinking a glass or two of wine per week once I passed the first trimester. And then, while out with my in-laws at 14 weeks, I had the tiniest sip of prosecco from Dan’s glass and the resulting heartburn was excruciating. I tried again while we were in Barcelona and had similar effects. So no alcohol for me.

The same proved true with sushi. I had convinced myself that any food-borne illness I might catch from sushi wasn’t particularly likely if I stuck to places that had never made me sick before, But then, my food aversions started manifesting as aversions to both taste and texture, and I realized I felt oddly about the idea of chewing raw fish. And I didn’t want to risk the expense of ordering a sushi dinner, only to discover that I couldn’t eat it (I had this problem with plantains and bacon where I didn’t realize I had an aversion until I put them in my mouth). So no sushi during my pregnancy.

So I think it’s important to come to your own conclusions. While I was grateful for the general discussion of caffeine in the books I read, I found it insufficient to guide me in my daily life because I drink tea that is steeped in a way that differs from the standard view of “a cup of tea.” So I did my own research and came to my own conclusions about how to incorporate tea into my pregnant life. I did the same thing with personal care products, especially since there is almost no discussion of this in the books, and doctors’ advice will range from “use as little as possible” to “anything is fine.” I think a lot of people don’t understand the importance skin care plays in my life, especially when hormones can make your skin a little wacky, so I had to find my own data to make decisions. And this is fully supported in Oster’s book.

I think the main advantage of the new trend towards pregnancy books that cast a critical eye on traditional pregnancy “rules” and restrictions is a response to the idea that pregnant women should always want to be as cautious as possible because it’s better to give up something of themselves than potentially risk a miniscule chance of harm to the baby. But everyone should be free to come to their own conclusions. I, personally, decided that listeria and toxoplasmosis were not risks I wanted to take, so I avoided cold cuts, cold-smoked fish, pate, charcuterie, rare meat, and working in the garden (we have a lot of outdoor cats in our neighborhood). Dan took care of the litter box mostly because of the smell, since our very sheltered indoor cat likely poses no risk of toxo. I also did my best to avoid other forms of food-borne illness, just because that didn’t sound fun. I temped my heated food and I broke the yolks in my eggs, or scrambled them. But I was less dogmatic about this, especially with eggs from farmers we patronize frequently. And I did have the occasional sip of wine, and to hell with the heartburn!

(Now, anyone who is visiting me in the hospital or soon after can feel free to pick up a charcuterie platter from our favorite butcher, shown above when we visited a year ago.)

pregnancy, Third Trimester, Weeklies

Forty Weeks Pregnant

still-life-with-watermelons-1912.jpgLarge

Well, I’ve officially passed my due date. After a rough end to last week, where I really thought the baby would come before the end of the weekend, I managed to have a relatively quiet weekend. I got plenty of rest, and by Sunday, I had enough energy to start making preparations for the week ahead. I’m realizing more and more that the uncertainty of the end of pregnancy is almost more nerve-wracking than the actual thought of childbirth.

I think my boss was surprised to see me in the office on Monday morning, after I had taken the day completely off on Friday rather than just working from home like I usually do when I’m feeling slightly off. But I had a good and productive day. In addition to taking care of things that came up suddenly, and tying up existing loose ends, I also managed to get in touch with someone to tour yet another daycare. I’m definitely researching child care in fits, spurts, and drips, rather than actually making an effort to get it done all at once, but since I discovered the list of home-based daycares in my area (hint: If you’re in the state of Maryland, this website is invaluable), I’ve felt a little less pressure to find a daycare, like, six months ago, and I’m hoping if I don’t already have something lined up, I’ll be able to contact more people while I’m on maternity leave.

The rest of the week went pretty similarly. I’ve actually been sleeping pretty well this week and after several nights interrupted by varying levels of contractions last week, I’ve had basically nothing this week. I had my weekly checkup with the doctor on Thursday, where everything looked on track, and I could tell she was trying very, very hard not to say “see you next week” because, honestly, there’s not a lot of sign that this is happening anytime soon. They did get me on the schedule for an induction in two weeks, just in case, but hey, a lot can happen in that time.

And then, Friday, I went in to work for my last day in the office. I’ve cleared with my boss to work from home next week until the baby comes, so Friday was my last day of getting up early, showering, packing a lunch, and commuting. As much as I like my coworkers, I’m not going to miss the commute (although that means I’ll have to make myself go for walks during the day instead of having them built in automatically to get to and from work). It was also our holiday party, which was nice to get to, since I wasn’t sure if I’d make it that far, with it being held the day before my due date!

Waking up on Saturday and knowing that 1.) it was my due date and 2.) I wouldn’t be going back to the office until next spring was surreal. We made a nice breakfast and grocery shopped. We’ve definitely been stocking up on supplies and this week I decided to get some extra rice, oats, lentils, and more broth for easy pantry soups. I’ve been reading The First Forty Days, which is about taking care of yourself postpartum and I’ve decided to try out some of the recipes ahead of time. So I made a big pot of kabocha and red lentil soup for dinner and froze the leftovers!

How I’m Feeling:

Well, like I said, I’m sleeping better, getting woken up less, and just generally feeling a bit more energetic. Honestly, I really think the difference is just that I’m not getting woken up by contractions. I’m still feeling bigger and bigger everyday. I can also feel the kid running out room when the move in my belly.

But I’m mostly feeling pretty good. I was proud of myself for making it through my last week in the office and I’m almost a little sad not to finish out my week with walking everyday because of the weather. But I’m feeling healthy, strong, and ready for the next step. Or more waiting…

Current Cravings: Actually, my appetite has gone down this week

Exercise: 3 average miles/day walking, 5 minutes of daily stretching based on the Spinning Babies essentials

Fruit/Vegetable Comparison: I’ve reached watermelon status. From here on out, it’s watermelons all the way down.

Other Posts This Week:

An Ode to the Other Half, Part One: Pregnancy Partner

Our Non-Nursery

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