Archive for the ‘Family Life’ Category

Recipe: Chili Verde Pulled Pork

Photo by The Hungry Dudes

On the days that I work until dinner time, I don’t have time to prepare a whole meal. While there is always a frozen dinner I can pull from our stockpile, such meals still take time to heat up. I decided it was time to dust off my slow-cooker and put it to work. That way I can start dinner in the morning and have it ready to eat when I get home. Slow-cookers are an easy and economical way to put dinner on the table!

I had some delicious pulled pork burritos at my parents’ house the other weekend, so I thought I’d try out a similar recipe.

Green Chili Pulled Pork
Based on Slow-Cooked Carnitas Recipe

  • 1 boneless pork shoulder butt roast (3 to 4 pounds)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup prepared salsa
  • 2 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 8 oz chopped green chilies (mild or spicy)
  • 2 tomatillos, pureed* (or juice from a couple of limes if you don’t have tomatillos handy)

*To prep tomatillos, peal husks off and place in boiling water for 5 minutes or until soft. Puree in a food processor or blender (or just mash it up however you want).

Place pork in the slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Remove pork from slow-cooker, shred meat with two forks (or even better, try out these). Add meat back to slow cooker to reheat.

Serve pork in warm tortillas with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, cilantro, cojito cheese diced tomato or onion and a little cabbage. I like mine with fresh salsa or hot sauce!

Stockpiling Update 2

That’s some classic stockpiling!

I have a good report this time around. The freezer is looking a lot more empty this month, despite the fact that I was out of town for quite a bit of it. I can’t claim credit for most of the reduction in stock, because my husband spent 11 days eating every meal out of the freezer (well, the two meals a day he eats).

By the time I returned home, I was so busy with the imminent start of my new job, I went to the grocery store once all month. Finally, the freezer is doing its job: providing meals when I don’t have time to cook. Even Frances has been doing her part, eating from the bag of sweet potatoes I froze in the spring.

The downside to not buying fresh produce is that we haven’t been eating as many fruits and vegetables. I finished off the last of the asparagus soups and ratatouille I made last summer for lunch, but I’ve been slacking on the vegetable sides with dinner. We’re finally getting some veggies from my parents’ garden, so I think the tide is turning.

I’ll be so sad when the summer stone fruits and berries fade along with the warm evenings, so I better enjoy them while I can. I guess I’ll start off September with a long over-due trip to the grocery store!

Playing with Fire

Forest fires blow!

I’ve seen some bad forest fires over the years, living in the west as we do, but this year takes the cake. I guess it was overloaded with one too many lit candles!

It’s been days since we saw the mountains just across the valley, and it smells like a campfire inside the house. I’m not sure what I miss more, the blue sky or opening the windows at night to enjoy the cool breeze.

Worst of all is being stuck inside all day! We’re grumpy enough from cabin fever, and the irritated throats and itchy eyes aren’t helping one bit. What’s a mom to do?

Walks and playing outside are out of the question. What activities do you enjoy when you’re stuck inside?

How do you deal with the poor air quality in your home? We have a lot of house plants, but I’ve always thought of that as more of a long-term solution.

My daughter has had four cavities in her four short years of life. How is this possible? I can’t say we’re religious flossers, but the rest of our dental routine is pretty admirable. Regular brushing? Yep. Fluoride tablets? Absolutely. Hard candies? Not allowed.

According to our dentist, my daughter’s tooth decay could have been caused by extended breastfeeding. She pointed out that once solids are introduced, bacteria in the mouth can change and breast milk can actually cause cavities.
extended breastfeeding and cavities
After doing a bit of my own research though, I have to disagree. Repeated studies have shown that breast milk has proteins and antibacterial qualities that prevent tooth decay. My older son was also breastfed until well over two years old and has never had a cavity to this day.

So what has caused my daughter’s cavities? The dentist also mentioned that sharing utensils can cause babies to get some of the strep mutans (a bacteria that causes tooth decay) that we have in our adult mouths. I have to say that we’re probably guilty of sharing ice cream an ice cream spoon now and then. Still, our punishment is FOUR cavities! That seems rather harsh!

Have you had any issues with extended breastfeeding and cavities? Have you received any encouragement or warnings from your dentist?

My cousin Erin had a baby in April. She marveled to her mom (my aunt), “How did anyone have a baby before the Internet?” My aunt remembered back when she was raising babies in the 1970s. She was an army wife and got issued a pamphlet with everything she needed to know for the baby’s first couple years. She referred to it over and over as her babies grew. And they seemed to turn out okay.

I am pretty sure my mom had a dog-eared copy of Dr. Spock she would refer to if she needed some baby advice.

In a way it sounds kind of nice to have nothing more than a pamphlet to help guide all your parenting decisions. When do I start solid foods? Look it up in your pamphlet, and there will be one confident answer. How do I wash cloth diapers and what do I do about cradle cap? Look in the pamphlet!

I can’t really imagine parenting life without the Internet, which is funny, since I love all that olden-days stuff. But back when I was eschewing disposables and jarred food, I wasn’t even close to unplugging the modem. I needed it, not just for information and advice, but for connecting to other people—friends, families, and other people going through the same experiences.

Gratuitous baby shot

Joy and I never lost touch after college, but the emails started flying back and forth when we both found ourselves pregnant at the same time. Suddenly we had so much more to discuss! Ironically, if it hadn’t been for the internet, we never would have written our old-fashioned paper book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide. It was over email that we conceived the idea and swapped drafts of chapters.

Those of you who raised babies before the internet, tell us all about it in the comments! And for those of us who gave birth in the information age, let’s talk about how the internet enhances (or detracts from!) our own parenting.

Don’t forget to enter the amber necklace giveaway!

Going Back to Work

Working MotherEven before I got pregnant I knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, at least until the kids start kindergarten.  But when opportunity came a-knockin’, I couldn’t say no!  I’m not going back full time, I told myself.  It’s just a few hours a week.  Well, today is my first day and I’m feeling a little unprepared.

I must have been in denial about being away from Frances, because I only have a few ounces of milk saved up.  And that is the extent of my preparations.  I’m sure there are other things I’m supposed to be doing.  I probably should type up a list of emergency numbers, for example.  What else am I forgetting?  I could definitely use some advice!

What did you do to prepare before going back to work?

Stockpiling Update 1

It’s a good thing I don’t can too!
Photo by Maureen Sill

One month into my quest to buy less food and make space in our freezer and I’m making progress. I did end up buying more than usual during my shopping trips, but I hit the grocery store about half as many times.  If I were as organized as Rebecca, I’d crunch the numbers and know for sure if I came out ahead.  Maybe next time.

I think one of my biggest problems is that I have a hard time compromising on taste. For example, I bought crackers even though I already had some because I prefer the taste of water crackers with the goat cheese terrine I made for the 4th of July. I also bought ingredients for the dessert I wanted to make from scratch, even though I had plenty of frozen cookies. On the plus side, we used up some frozen ground beef and I ate several helpings of frozen ratatouille during the week. I’m trying to prioritize things that will be replaced soon during the summer harvest, and my latest count says I’m almost there.

Rummaging through the cupboard, I saw that there was very little road trip food so I ended up buying sandwich makings.  In retrospect, I could have had PBJ sandwiches but I just thought of that this minute.  I bought ingredients for a family reunion dinner since I didn’t have enough of any one thing for 40, but we managed to eat quite a bit of frozen stuff in the days leading up to the trip.  It was so nice not to have to spend time cooking during a busy few days, and there wasn’t any food left in the fridge that would have spoiled in our absence.

One great thing about having tons of frozen treats (like cookies and roasted nuts) is that I was able to give goodies to our hosts.  Plus, I didn’t have to rush out to the grocery store when we got home because there were plenty of frozen dinners and dried fruits.

Whether or not I actually saved money this month is questionable, but we did make a nice dent in our freezer.

Baby’s First Food

Audrey's first bite

Audrey’s first bite

Frances turns five months this week so we’ve been thinking a lot about her first food.  After reading an article about Diabetes Tied to Timing of Baby’s First Solid Food, it got me thinking about introducing food before six months. It’s hard to know what’s best when there’s so much “research” out there!

We finally came up with a compromise: she gets her first food when she can sit in her highchair without slumping to either side. She’s pretty close to this milestone, so it shouldn’t be too much longer.

There are so many first foods to choose from, but I think we’ve settled on avocado. I still haven’t worked out all the details, but I want to make sure and present each new food in all the different ways possible (fresh, cooked, mashed, chopped, mixed with breastmilk, etc.).

I was talking with Rebecca and it turns out that avocado was Audrey’s first food too.  Maybe we can re-create this photo of her!

When did you first offer solid food and which food was it?

Book Review: The Zero Footprint Baby

If you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint as a parent, pick up  The Zero Footprint Baby. It’s more of a narrative than a how-to manual, but the tips Chatterjee includes will get you on your way to reducing your family’s carbon foot print.

Most of the advice is simple, such as riding public transportation or not buying anything new, but she’s really done her research.  In general, the more simply you live the lower your carbon footprint.

A lot of the advice mirrored what Rebecca and Joy wrote in The Green Baby Guide’s companion book, The Economical Baby Guide.  For example, don’t buy a lot of plastic toys and other baby gear that quickly ends up in the landfill.  And if you must buy new, find something that will hold up long enough to pass along to friends (or to hand down as heirlooms).

I’m all about buying used and limiting the amount of baby gear we bring home, but I’m not motivated by my carbon footprint.  As a result, Chatterjee kind of lost me when she opines that the truly biggest impact you can make is to not have children.  If you do, you must consider not only the carbon footprint of your children, but your children’s children and so on.

She also determined that unless you and your midwife use public transportation for all of your pre and post-natal appointments, it’s better (for the environment) to plan to give birth in a hospital than at home. That’s one sacrifice I wouldn’t be willing to make.

Besides wanting at least two kids, we’re also not willing to compromise on travel.  We love to road trip and don’t hesitate to hop on a plane somewhere.  According to Chatterjee’s research, one international flight pretty much voids all  of your other sacrifices.

That said, if you’ve ever wanted to know what kind of lifestyle changes you’d have to make to raise a baby with a minimal carbon footprint, I recommend The Zero Footprint Baby!

View all my reviews

My normal laundry routine includes Tide Free And Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent and OxiClean Max Force Gel Stick. I’ve been happy with both, but I decided to try something new.  Baby Ecos Laundry Products are Plant-Based, pH balanced and formaldehyde and petrochemical free seemed a good place to start.

In my experience, cloth diapers hold in a lot more waste than disposable so I don’t have a lot of stains to deal with.  Since we use disposable when away from home, there was an explosion that stained a white onesie and I figured this was the perfect opportunity to see just how well Baby Ecos Disney Stain and Odor Remover worked.  I followed the instructions and sprayed the stain thoroughly and let it sit for five minutes. The stain lightened considerably during the first washing, but not completely. Instead of drying the item, I sprayed the stain again and let it sit for thirty minutes. It almost worked. But it seems to me a stain remover that is geared towards babies should work on an average baby stain.

The Ecos Stain Remover is supposed to work on carpets as well. The instructions tell you to saturate the stain and “wipe off” the excess five minutes later.  It did not work on the puke stain our dog left on the carpet.  It says to apply again and leave over night for a persistent stain, but by morning it was completely dry and there was nothing left to “wipe off”.  I re-moistened the area with water and used a rag to soak it up.  It was considerably lighter, but the stain was definitely not removed.

As for the detergent, I didn’t have much better luck. I used it to pre-soak and wash a load of cloth diapers and wipes (along with non-chlorine bleach and white vinegar) and when I opened my front-loader it still smelled like soiled diapers. Everything looks as clean as usual, but the smell is enough to discourage me from using it again.  When I tried it on a load of cleaning rags, they smelled clean, but looked dirtier than usual.  Either way, I’ll stick to my usual routine.

Have you had success with Ecos Laundry Detergent and Stain Remover?  Or do you have another pairing that you swear by?

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide
Eco-nomical Baby Guide
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