Recipes

Pregnancy Cravings: Tea and Cake

This weekend I had my in-laws and my mother over for tea after a lunch to make up for the fact that they couldn’t come to my baby shower. I wanted to do something a little special, and I’ve been craving an autumn-spiced cake, so I thought I’d make a cake. No sooner had I had this thought, than I received an email from the Nourished Kitchen with this beautiful recipe for a maple-sweetened harvest cake with a maple frosting. Unfortunately, I don’t have an electric mixer, so making a Swiss meringue buttercream was out of the question. I discussed it a bit with Jenny on social media and decided that the best course would be to make a whipped maple cream cheese frosting.

Because my mother-in-law and my mother are both careful about caffeine intake, and my mother-in-law loves the spices from masala chai, I thought I’d make a home-blended spice tea to go with the cake. The afternoon was lovely and everyone enjoyed the cake. In fact, as soon as my in-laws left, my mother-in-law text me asking for the recipes for both the tea and the cake. While I gave her a general idea of how I made both, I thought I’d post the official recipes, with my substitutions and alterations for the Nourished Kitchen recipe, for posterity.

Harvest Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

(based on this recipe from the Nourished Kitchen)

For the cake:

1-1/4 cup of einkorn all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. ground Ceylon cinnamon

2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 eggs

2 Tbsp. melted butter or ghee

3/4 cup maple sugar (or 1/2 cup maple sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar, if you run out of maple sugar like I did)

6 oz. container of plain yogurt

4 oz. grated butternut squash

2 oz. grated apple

2 oz. grated pear

For the frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

4 oz. unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup of dark maple syrup

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8″ square pan and line it with parchment.
  2. Whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda and powder, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and maple sugar until light and fluffy, then stream in the melted butter slowly, whisking constantly to emulsify.
  4. Add the flour mixture in thirds and the yogurt in halves, alternating and stirring after each addition. Fold in the grated fruit and veggie.
  5. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes, or until a cake test comes out clean.
  6. Cool completely, and then frost.
  7. To prepare the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until fluffy, then add the maple syrup a little at a time, beating until combined and fluffy. If you aren’t using it right away, store in a covered container in the fridge, and let stand at room temperature for half an hour and beat again until fluffy before using.

Masala Spice Tea:

2 Ceylon cinnamon sticks

6-8 cardamom pods, crushed

8-12 allspice berries, crushed

1.5″ piece of fresh ginger, sliced

3-4 pieces of fresh orange peel

Instructions:

  1. Crush the cardamom and allspice, just until cracked and the pods inside the cardamom are exposed. Break up the cinnamon.
  2. Add spices and peel to a saucepan and add 4 cups of water.
  3. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then cover and steep for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Strain into a teapot and serve with honey.
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Food and Drink, Recipes

Pregnancy Cravings: Make-Ahead Easy Bean Soup

So in my “eat like a hobbit” post, I mentioned that lately I’ve been eating a lot of soup for lunch. I find that soup is easy to make, keeps for a good amount of time, is easily transported, and is a satisfying meal, especially when served with some fresh bread or cornbread. I’ve been relying on soups for my lunches for years now, and I thought I’d share the really easy version I’ve been making lately.

Since I have no problem eating meat and eggs, I don’t feel the need to eat meat every time I have a meal, but I realize I need to push more plant foods, especially beans, which are rich in the potassium, iron, and folate that I’m certainly in need of lately. I recently discovered that chickpeas have a phenomenal amount of folate. So, while this originally started as a copy-cat recipe of a bean-and-chorizo soup I had in Barcelona, I decided to change it to have more beans and no actual meat (though I do use bone broth for more protein).

This version uses a combination of black beans and chickpeas, since that’s what I had in my cabinet, but you can use any beans you like. I like it a lot with navy beans or black-eyed peas. If you’re not vegetarian, I highly recommend using the bone broth, as it adds a good amount of protein. I like Kettle & Fire brand, since it comes in shelf-stable boxes, but I’ve also used Bonafide Provisions frozen broth. Bonafide comes in 3-cup pouches, so you can stretch the soup a little bit if you use the bigger amount of broth.

I store this soup in 16-oz. mason jars in the fridge if I’m going to eat it within a couple days, or else in the freezer. Do make sure you leave headspace in the jar if you’re planning on freezing them. They defrost pretty readily overnight in the fridge, although I have forgotten to defrost one in the past, and just dipped the jar in hot water until I could release the frozen block of soup into a bowl. I simply reheat in the microwave until it’s bubbling. Typically, I can make a batch of soup on Sunday or Monday, and bring them to work to store in the office fridge or freezer for the rest of the week, which is nice. Anyway, on to the recipe.

Quick and Easy Bean Soup

Ingredients:

1-2 Tbsp. ghee or oil
1 small onion or leek, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
salt and pepper
1-2 Tbsp. good Hungarian paprika
1-2 tsp. garlic powder/granules
1 can of Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Roasted Garlic
2 cans of beans, drained
2-3 cups of bone broth (I used one container of Kettle & Fire chicken broth)

  1. Heat a medium pot over medium heat. Add the ghee/oil, and then saute the onion, carrot, and celery in the fat until they’re starting to soften. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Add the paprika and garlic, and stir to combine with the veggies and oil.
  2. Add the tomatoes, drained beans, and broth. Cover and bring to a boil, and then simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed, then package or serve. Makes about 4 servings.
Food and Drink, Recipes

My Herbal Pregnancy Tea Blend

NB: I am not a medical professional or a licensed herbalist. Please do your own research and consult your doctor about any herbal supplements you take, especially during pregnancy. What follows are what I have chosen to use during pregnancy, not recommendations for anyone else.

Herbal teas can be tricky to navigate while pregnant. There are all sorts of restrictions and recommendations, and even conflicting information about what’s safe and what’s not. Then, there’s the fact that some of the teas that are specifically supposed to be beneficial for pregnant women are, well, not terribly tasty. Now, most wisdom is that herbal tisanes (i.e., not tea, which comes from the camellia sinensis plant) that are drunk for flavor contain such a small amount of active constituents that they’re unlikely to cause harm. But there are still proscriptions. Pregnant women are advised to avoid licorice root and certain hormonally-active herbs.

Then there are the total surprises. When I was in Barcelona, I learned that the standard mint blend that is served in cafes isn’t just peppermint or a blend of peppermint and spearmint, but also commonly contains the herb called “poleo” in Spanish. Since it smelled a little licorice-y when I was steeping up a cup of Mentha-Poleo tea one afternoon, I did look it up and found out that “poleo” is the Spanish word for pennyroyal, an herb I certainly didn’t want to consume while pregnant (it’s used in large amounts as an abortifacient).

So once I got home I decided I was going to make my own herbal blend, partly to have a more enjoyable way to drink some more red raspberry leaf (now that I’m solidly out of the first trimester, the warnings against it are less dire), and partly to have a caffeine-free hot drink to enjoy in the afternoons, especially after yoga sessions that I finish rather late in the say. So I started doing my research, as well as looking at some commercial “pregnancy teas” at the store and online. Obviously, a very common pregnancy tea ingredient is red raspberry leaf, for its supposedly uterus-toning abilities, but commercial pregnancy teas also commonly contain nettle. Personally, I don’t care for the taste of nettle tea (if I’m being totally honest, I think it tastes like overcooked spinach that has been boiled in urine), so I thought I’d make my own blend.

A side note: I will say that I’m rather enjoying Yogi Tea’s Mother-to-be tea, despite the inclusion of nettle. Although that’s probably because they tend to be rather heavy-handed with the flavoring herbs, and I find it tastes more of mint and cardamom than anything else.

While researching herbs to include in my personal blend, I decided that flavoring-levels of lemon verbena, rose petals, and citrus peels were probably safe. I stayed away from mint, although I might add it to a future batch, mostly because I find that the peppermint from Mountain Rose Herbs is often so potent that it overpowers any other flavor, and I wanted something a bit delicate and floral. And then I made the base of the tea red raspberry leaf. Interestingly enough, I get a strong hit of rose aroma and floral flavor from the rose petals, which blends rather nicely with the herbal citrus notes of the lemon verbena and peels, plus the slight tannic bite of red raspberry leaf.

Loose-Leaf Pregnancy Herbal Tea:

(A note about amounts: I used parts by weight, so the citrus peel will be a much smaller volume than the fluffier herbs. Using 1/2 oz. as a part, I got enough bulk tea to fill one quart-sized jar and one 8-oz. jar)

4 parts dried red raspberry leaf
1 part dried lemon verbena
1 part dried rose petals
1 part dried and cut orange peel
1 part dried and cut lemon peel

Mix all herbs well in a bowl and then store in an airtight jar in a dry place. To prepare, brew about 1 tablespoon of dried herb blend in 8-12 oz. of boiling water for 5-10 minutes. It’s particularly nice with a slice of lemon and a drizzle of honey.

Recipes

My Body and Belly Skin Care Routine, plus DIY Belly Butter two ways

One of the things you hear about constantly on pregnancy-related websites and forums is how to prevent stretch marks. Now, from what I’ve read, developing stretch marks is largely genetic and just has to do with the structure of your skin. But, the pressure and damage to your skin that stretching causes can also make your skin feel very, very uncomfortable, so it can help if you keep your skin well-moisturized during pregnancy, if for not other reason than it’s more comfortable that way. Also, rubbing things on your belly feels like a nice way to connect with your baby, especially in that limbo period when you haven’t really started feeling movement regularly.

I started out my pregnancy with the best of intentions. I did a lot of research and looked up what ingredients are the best for possibly preventing stretch marks and skin damage. And I came up with a great three-step belly skincare routine that I did religiously every night… for about a week, until my nausea started kicking in. Since my nausea was worse at night than in the morning, and I was super fatigued most of the time, I found that I barely had it in me to wash my face every night, let alone apply a three-step routine of hydrators, oils, and creams to my mid-section. So I generally opted for a quick slather of my go-to body lotion (Eucerin Skin Calming Cream, if you’re interested). But, as I emerged from my first-trimester fog, I found myself with more time to devote to my body skin care.

I also noticed that my body skin in general was just starting to get really, really dry, and since I hate apply lotion right after getting out of the shower, I limit myself to a quick slather on my arms and legs before grabbing a robe in the morning, and then I devote time in the evening to more thoroughly moisturizing and treating my body skin in the evening. Because centella asiatica extract and hyaluronic acid are supposedly really good at keeping skin supple, and therefore more able to stretch without damage, I start my belly skin care routine with a liberal spritzing of COSRX Alcohol-Free Centella Toner. This is a facial toner, but it comes in a pretty generous bottle for about $16 and is basically just water, centella, and hyaluronic acid. Plus, it’s in a spray bottle, so I can just spray myself down. It’s actually kind of refreshing in the summer heat. Then, I originally applied a layer of sesame oil, before following with a layer of my Eucerin cream to seal every thing in.

But as time went on, I decided I wanted something a little heavier to really treat my dry skin, so I started experimenting with some DIY body butters. I especially like these DIY recipes because they combine nourishing oils with a butter and a wax to really seal in all the hydration and emollience of previous steps. I like my semi-solid jarred body butter for every-day (or every-night) use, but I also made a solid version to take with me on vacation to get around TSA’s liquids restrictions. The solid bar is based on this recipe from Humblebee and Me (my favorite DIY blog), after a bit of experimentation. I actually made a first batch that I didn’t like quite as well, but I shared it with a coworker whose sister is also pregnant, and she reported back that it was well-loved. The solid bar served me well on my two weeks of travel.

The semi-solid, jarred body butter is my preference, however, and I’ve tweaked my recipe to really make it lovely for nourishing stretching skin. I actually just winged it a bit on this one, starting from a mental assumption that I wanted something that was roughly 50% solid butters/wax and 50% liquid oil. I use a combination of mango and cocoa butter because I like the rich smoothness that cocoa butter gives to it, but the softness of mango butter makes it a bit softer of a balm. I add a little beeswax to make a proper balm of it, as butter-only balms can be tricky and unstable. And then, for the liquid portion, I used rice bran oil and hemp seed oil, both of which are highly recommended to both prevent and heal stretch marks. I finish it off with a healthy dose of vitamin E, to both help prevent rancidity, but also to boost the skin-healing properties.

The whole effect has a beautiful olive green color from the hemp seed oil, and an earthy warm scent from the smells of the natural oils. It has a buttery-smooth texture, and melts in my hands so I can smooth it on with very little tugging. It is all oils and butters, so it does feel a bit greasy on initial application, but I apply it before bed and wake up with soft, nourished skin. When I feel my skin stretching more than usual, I’ll also do the three-step routine of centella toner, body lotion, and then a layer of body butter, to keep everything nice and soft.

NB: I do weigh all my ingredients, and I can’t convert my recipe into volume measurements. If you’re interested, I use this digital scale. Also, I like to get most of my butters, oils, and waxes from the Wild Herb Soap Co. on Etsy because they strike a good balance between convenience and price for the home formulator who doesn’t need bulk quantities.

Homemade Belly Butter:

20g cocoa butter
20g mango butter
10g beeswax
25g hempseed oil
20g rice bran oil
5g vitamin E oil

Instructions:

  1. Melt the first three ingredients by placing them into a heatproof bowl or cup (I use a Pyrex measuring cup) and placing that over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until completely melted. To avoid graininess from the cocoa butter, leave the bowl over the hot water for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat and add in the liquid oils, stirring to incorporate. If the mixture looks cloudy or like it has started to congeal, return it to the heat, briefly, just to melt it down until it is clear. Stir well.
  3. Pour into a 4-oz. clean, dry, sanitized jar, cap, and put in the fridge to harden for at least an hour.

Solid Belly Butter Bar:

14g cocoa butter
9g mango butter
10g beeswax
15g sesame oil
2g vitamin E oil

Instructions:

  1. Melt the first three ingredients in a cup/bowl over simmering water, leaving over the heat for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and pour into a mold (I found that a single standard muffin cup worked perfectly).
  3. Allow to harden for at least an hour, and then remove from mold, wrap in parchment paper, and store in a small tin.
Recipes

Pregnancy Cravings: Delicious Sorta-Healthy Belgian Waffles

Last week, I posted about my craving for waffles. Now, I anticipated this craving and stocked my freezer with some toaster waffles. And then I promptly forgot I had them when in the midst of a craving. I woke up one morning, decided I needed to make Belgian waffles. I told my husband I wanted waffles for breakfast and wandered downstairs while he was showering. When he came down, he saw that I’d taken up pretty much every available surface in the kitchen with my culinary endeavor. He stopped, momentarily struck speechless by how quickly I’d spread out, and then said “You had toaster waffles. Why did you make so many dishes?” I shrugged and said I wanted “real” waffles, but really, I’d completely forgotten about the waffles in the freezer.

The good news is that now I have “real” waffles in the freezer because I made an entire batch of Belgian waffles so that I could eat one for breakfast (and maybe one an hour or so later when I was hungry again because pregnancy). So for the next couple of cravings, I can probably just heat up a waffle I made previously instead of making more dishes again. Assuming I remember I have them.

Now, if I was going to make waffles from scratch, I decided I wanted them to be sorta-healthy. So I pulled out my trusty Alton Brown waffle recipe, which uses a half-and-half mixture of whole wheat and white flours to increase the nutrition level a bit. Then, I used sprouted wheat flour as the wheat flour and high-extraction einkorn flour for the white flour because supposedly their healthier. Also, I have them in the pantry because I used them in a muffin recipe recently and actually they’re probably the freshest flours I own right now. Anyway, what resulted were delicious, light and crispy waffles. Here’s how I made them:

Sorta-Healthy Belgian Waffles

Ingredients:

1 cup sprouted spelt flour
1 cup einkorn all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 6-oz. container plain, whole-milk yogurt, mixed with enough almond milk to make 2 cups total (see note)
3 eggs
1/2 stick of butter, melted

  1. Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In another container, mix the yogurt, almond milk, eggs, and butter.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together.
  4. Heat your waffle iron and spoon the batter into the iron, cooking according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  5. Keep waffles warm in a 200F oven while you cook them all, or cool them on a wire rack and freeze leftovers.
  6. Serve with butter and syrup, or fruit and whipped cream, or whatever your heart desires.

Makes about 4-5 Belgian-sized waffles.

Note: I used New Barn Original Almond Milk, which is higher in fat than other brands of almond milk, and is lightly sweetened with maple syrup. If you use unsweetened almond milk, you may want to add a teaspoon or so of maple syrup to your batter.