Our current Instant Pot favorites {April 2018}

Even though we hauled our Instant Pot across the country with us on our big drive last summer, it took me a little bit of time to warm up to it.

While it’s nice to be able to saute, slow cook, pressure cook, etc in one dish, the time needed to get up to pressure (15+ minutes) is annoying and makes weeknight IP’ing (as the cool kids are saying) more difficult.

Nonetheless, I’ve persevered and have been actually enjoying our Instant Pot lately and found a few recipes I’d like to share here (and keep on record for quick reference):

Urvashi Pitre’s Instant Pot Butter Chicken from the New Yorker

We pair ours with naan, jasmine rice, and roasted cauliflower with slivered almonds and raisins.

Delicious, delicious IP butter chicken

Instant Pot Salisbury Steak With Mushroom Gravy by Live Simply

We nestle these Salisbury steaks in a bed of creamy, garlic mashed potatoes with a veggie on the side.

It’s not that photogenic of a dish and I always devour it right away, so no photos. Please use your imagination.

Instant Pot Beef and Broccoli by Savory Tooth

Michael has a soy sensitivity, so when we can avoid it, we do. Thankfully, coconut aminos exist and are delicious as a soy sauce substitute in this recipe. We sub them 1:1 and the sauce tastes so much like “normal” sauce!

IP Broccoli beef

I electronically hoard other Instant Pot tips, tricks, and recipes on Pinterest too. Check them out. And please share some of your IP favorites for me to try out!

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And the Oscar goes to… YOU for hosting a party!

Tonight is the big night! We normally have a party in honor of the Academy Awards, but this year is different. The east coast time zone combined with a 2 year old with an early-ish bedtime has really done a number on our party hosting. (I’m looking at you too, Super Bowl!)

If I WERE hosting a party though, I would print out this ballot, these bingo cards, and create a menu that looks something like this…

Our Oscar party spread, circa 2017

View our other annual Oscar party recaps here. {2015} {2014}

And a bonus photo of Michael from the 2016 show. What a round little cutie!

Michael getting the statues ready for our 2017 party

 

The BEST lactation cookies

Lactation cookies: a reason to eat cookies? Yes, please!

As a breastfeeding working mom I had a little help in keeping my supply up: COOKIES!

When I was pregnant with Michael my love of chocolate chip cookies greatly intensified and I had at least one a day. My obsession didn’t end with pregnancy and my sweet craving — especially for chocolate chip cookies — has stuck with me ever since.

When Michael was still nursing, I tried a million recipes for lactation cookies — cookies with a purpose! An excuse to eat even more! — and my favorite one came from Milkin’ Mamas, but the link doesn’t work anymore, so I’m re-typing it here.

You know a recipe is legit if it’s posted in the lactation room at work and dated almost two years prior! Enjoy!

The BEST lactation cookies (Makes a lot of cookies! Bake extras to share with your lactation room friends! Freeze what you don’t want to bake now!)

  • 2 T flax seed meal
  • 4 T water
  • 1 c butter, soften to room temperature
  • 1.5 c firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, room teperature
  • 1 t vanilla (I usually use don’t measure and just add a steady pour…)
  • 2 c flour
  • 3-4 T brewer’s yeast
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 3 c rolled oats
  • 1 c chocolate chip (I prefer milk chocolate!)

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flax seed meal and water. Let stand for 5 minutes. (This simulates an egg in texture for baking.)
  3. In a large bowl or mixer, beat butter and brown sugar.
  4. Add eggs and beat well.
  5. Add flax seed mixture and vanilla, beat well.
  6. Add dry ingredients: flour, brewer’s yeast, baking soda, and salt.
  7. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  8. Scoop rounded tablespoons onto baking tray.
  9. Bake 12 minutes.
  10. Cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooking rack.

Some notes: 

  • Use whole oats, not quick oats. Extra thick oats are even better.
  • Do not substitute the brewer’s yeast with regular yeast. These are not the same thing. Brewer’s yeast is available on Amazon, as well as at natural food stores.
  • Flax seed meal is available at Trader Joe’s and natural food stores.

I would make a large batch of cookie dough, bake the cookies I needed for the week and then freeze the extras, so I could bake them whenever I needed cookies.

Need other ideas for keeping your supply high? Read this post!

 

Tips for breastfeeding working moms

Milk? Formula? Fed is best.

This post is over a year in the making. Life of a working mom, then-pumping mom, then mom, right?

Having a kid is a lot of fun, but it’s also hard work. (Like, the hardest job I’ve ever had!) One of the hardest/most annoying parts of motherhood is feeding your kid, specifically breastfeeding.

Michael was a good breastfeed-er and we hit our stride pretty early on. But, it was a task; not something I wanted to do, but something I had to do. You know, to feed my kid. Breastfeeding while you’re with the kid is pretty easy to get the hang of, but when you’re away from him and pumping? A whole ‘nother story.

Until recently, and while I was nursing Michael, I worked for the City of Seattle and while some of the city buildings only have adequate pumping facilities, my building’s “mother’s room” is amazing. In addition to a couple of mini fridges, a sink, and microwave (essentials for storing and cleaning your milk), we had plush chairs, private cubicles, and a bank of lockers to store our gear.

By themselves, these attributes made my pumping experience a bit better than some of my friends who didn’t have quite this nice of setup. But it isn’t a standalone thing. The City employs thousands of individuals, and some of them are lactating moms. This is a strong, close-knit community that I was honored to be a part of for close to a year.

It’s not easy going from months off of work, focusing solely on nurturing your new human to working 8+ hours a day, trying to pretend that you didn’t just give birth and don’t have biological needs that have to be addressed. Do you know what it’s like to push your pump break a few minutes only to have to rush to the Emergency Operations Center with your non-parent, mostly male colleagues to address citywide messaging for a huge power outage in downtown Seattle instead of “milking yourself”? I do. It’s not ideal.

I named the lactation/mother’s room the Pump Haus (or Microsoft, which is what it looks like you’re saying if your colleague mouths “milk yourself” after saying you need to leave a meeting urgently). I made some really great friendships there with moms with kids weeks or months older or younger than Michael. We talked about everything. It was a real, live chat board! The more experienced moms set many of our concerns to rest and I was thankful that I was able to pass along my knowledge to the newbies. We talked sleeping, eating, drinking not just for our babes, but also for ourselves; everything under the sun! We shared sale codes, recipes, and advice about decorating, first birthday parties, vacations, and jobs. I even took a meeting or two in the Pump Haus, with a new-mom colleague. Talk about multi-tasking!

I stopped pumping in September, after Michael’s first birthday. I didn’t realize how emotional it would be, but as I wrote a note to my fellow Pump Haus moms, I teared up. While I blame the hormones for the tears, the Pump Haus and my Pump Haus community were a huge part of last year. I count my blessings that I was able to have such a positive pumping experience, because I know that’s not always the case.

Just before the end of the year Michael nursed for the last time and seems to be doing just fine without breast milk. (YESSSSS!!!) It’s pretty freeing for me and for those of you who are struggling with breastfeeding and/or pumping, or heading back to work soon, I’m here to share my tips with you.

My daily haul of “milkies”

Lactation cookies: a reason to eat cookies? Yes, please!

For milk production: 

  1. Drink a lot of water. Like, a lot. Drink one ounce of water for every pound that you weigh. I know. That’s a lot of water, but I promise, it’ll keep your supply up!
  2. Don’t diet. Making milk burns about 500 calories a day, and you need those calories in order to make the milk, so don’t diet.
  3. Eat healthy, but… Don’t deny yourself either. I’m a pretty healthy eater, but my milk seemed to increase those days when I had a little bit shittier things to eat (licorice, Cheetos, cookies, etc).
  4. Drink this tea or take Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle supplements. It tastes gnarly, but it works.
  5. Eat lactation cookies! I tried a million recipes and my favorite one came from Milkin’ Mamas, but the link doesn’t work anymore, so I retyped it. (You know a recipe is legit if it’s posted in the lactation room at work and dated almost two years prior!) I would make a large batch of cookie dough, bake the cookies I needed for the week and then freeze the extras, so I could bake them whenever I needed cookies.
  6. Your supply operates on a supply and demand schedule. If there isn’t a demand, there won’t be a supply. So, if you want to keep your supply up, pump as many times as you would normally feed your wee one on the weekend. This also meant pumping before bed for me, which was pretty annoying, but it also meant Michael was a good nighttime sleeper, so a trade-off I was ok with.
  7. Supplement! Sometimes you just don’t make as much milk as others. It’s most important that your child eat. We used Similac for Supplementation throughout Michael’s first year and he continues to thrive!

Pumping at work: 

  1. Get this bra. It’s sizing is very forgiving (growing and shrinking with you, easy to wash) and you’ll have your hands free to properly search Pinterest. (I mean, respond to work emails.)
  2. Keeping a pump at work with clutch for me. If possible, keep one at work, so you won’t have to drag it back and forth.
  3. I can’t say enough about my steam sanitizer. I preferred to wash my pump supplies at home, but have the supplies (soap, brush, steamer) if you’re washing there.
  4. The jury is out on how long you can leave milk un-refrigerated. I usually kept it out no more than 4 hours.
  5. Have a waterproof bag for transporting your milk upright. As much as you want those Madela lids to work flawlessly, they don’t.
  6. I bought these 8 oz Madela bottles and kept my milk in them. It was a lot easier than lugging lots of small bottles around!

I think that’s it. Happy pumping!

Don’t let this happen to you! Pay attention to clean up!

2018 resolutions

As I think about my resolutions or goals for this year, the usuals come to mind: exercise more, eat healthier, sleep more.  Then I  popped over to Pinterest and searched “2018 resolutions.” Lots of content and this one really struck me:

2018 resolutions

Here are my thoughts. Once I publish this post, they will become commitments to myself for 2018. 

Sleep more. I definitely want to adjust my bedtime from 11/11:30 p.m. down, closer to 10/10:30 p.m. Do I really need to be awake that extra hour? The Daily Show is already being recorded. I don’t need to watch it live.

Self care. My friend Anna posted about self care on her FB recently. Physically I’m big on pedicures, but I usually scrimp on lotions, potions, and other tools to keep me looking and feeling my best. I finally found a stylist in Buffalo, so my hair is looking good again. I will continue to drink lots of water, and I hope to incorporate more activity (exercise, movement in general) in my everyday life in 2018. I also hope to read more. I just finished Origin by Dan Brown and highly recommend it. I couldn’t put it down and finished it in basically three days of travel. What books should I pick up next?

Explore more. My new job gives me the opportunity to meet lots of new people in our new city, and find all sorts of cool shops and neighborhoods. I hope to continue this local exploration, but also explore up and down the east coast this year. Toronto and Montreal are also on our list. With the sub-freezing temps and constant snow flurries, we’ve been hibernating and need to get our list ready for the spring and beyond.

I think that’s it for me. No wacky food resolutions. No crazy crafts. Just me focusing on me. What do you have planned for 2018?

 

2017 year in review

What a year it’s been!

As 2017 began, we had no idea where the year would take us. Brandon continued interviewing, traveling to New Orleans, Phoenix, Reno, and Buffalo. After accepting a position with the University at Buffalo in March, we were able to start our Seattle Bucket List and get everything in order to move across the country and remodel and rent our Seattle home.

While we were waiting for Brandon’s offer, we explored the west coast. Michael continued his love of travel with a visit to Santa Barbara to celebrate his Great Grandpa Joe’s 95th birthday and meet some of his extended Szerwo relatives. We also put our passport to good use and traveled to Bliss Landing on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, one of Brandon’s favorite places. In May, we marked Mt Rainier National Park off of our bucket list for a fun Mother’s Day trip with my parents.

Bliss Landing, British Columbia

Michael’s first sandy beach: Santa Barbara, CA

Junior Ranger: Michael!

2017 was also the year that we found out that Michael had allergies: both food and pet. We were able to figure out his food sensitivities and can avoid his main allergen (soy) pretty well. Unfortunately, his cat and dog allergy meant that the cats wouldn’t make the trip to Buffalo with us and we found a great home for them. Their new Cat Mom is wonderful and she continues to send at-least-weekly updates, which I love. Everyone is happier with the new arrangement but me.

I love these cats!!

We experienced more of the wrapping up of our life in Seattle, with Megan leaving the City of Seattle at the end of May and Brandon graduating from UW in June.

Professor Szerwo.

After saying good bye to our family and friends, a quick jaunt to Idaho to visit Brandon’s parents, and setting the remodel of our Seattle home in motion, we were off!

Our epic road trip took us through 14 states, traveling more than 3300 miles in 11 days. Epic road-tripping with a 1.75-year-old you say? It’s totally doable. We definitely had our ups and downs, but we had so much fun that we would actually do it again! We visited national parks (Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Badlands, and Wind Cave), national monuments (Mt. Rushmore, Jewel Cave, and Devil’s Tower), other national things (Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site), and even a couple of can’t-miss roadside attractions (the Crazy Horse monument, Corn Palace, and Wall Drug in South Dakota, and a larger-than-life Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, Minnesota).

Some days were better than others. Michael was only crying because we made him stop exploring the rocks at the base of Devil’s Tower.

We landed in Buffalo, toured the house we bought the next day, and got ready for our next big adventure!

Our new Buffalo home

Since relocating, we’ve kept our travel fairly local to Buffalo, including a trip to NYC in September to cheer on our beloved UW Huskies (and check off more national park service sites (Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island national monuments) and another new state for Michael (New Jersey)!).

Playing tourist in NYC

In October, I started as an Area Director with N2 Publishing. I’m currently ramping up a neighborhood newsletter in the Delaware Park neighborhood in Buffalo. I used to write for our N2 newsletter on Mercer Island and knew I wanted to work with them after we moved.

Michael took swim lessons and has discovered he’s a fish. (It only took 5 weeks of tearful lessons to discover!) We celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary, and we enjoyed seeing Alton Brown as a part of UB’s Distinguished Speaker series.

Michael’s turned two in September and we celebrated with all of our new friends! We have developed some great friendships here already and had a wonderful backyard BBQ for Michael’s birthday, complete with a water table and giant homemade bubbles. (Until a certain two-year-old decided to touch the very hot grill…)

Michael’s 2nd birthday

We’ve had some wonderful house guests at our new home and have the tourist routine down pretty well. We’re accepting visitors and would love to show you around our new town. Our favorites include: Niagara Falls, Niagara on the Lake (a quaint Carmel-by-the-Sea-esque town in Canada on the shores of Lake Ontario), downtown Buffalo, the Darwin Martin House (designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), and authentic Buffalo eats: beef on weck, chicken wings, sponge candy, and loads of pizza, ice cream and doughnuts. (Those are the six Buffalo food groups, we think.)

For Halloween, Michael dressed up as a Buffalo Zoo zookeeper and tried residential trick-or-treating for the first time. He made it to about 12 houses in 45 minutes, and continues to enjoy the sweets he received.

Zookeeper Michael

We trekked back to Seattle for Thanksgiving, celebrating the holiday, another Husky Apple Cup victory, and our new niece/cousin Isabella Mamiya! She and Michael were fast friends.

A visit to the market!

We’re wrapping up the year in Buffalo, and enjoying a white Christmas for the first time in a very long time.

2018 is going to be a great year with the launch of my monthly neighborhood newsletter, Brandon’s continued research and first Intro to Managerial Accounting class (550 students!) and lots of new east coast adventures!

University at Buffalo!

Merry Christmas! {2017}

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

 

We stayed in Buffalo this Christmas and were able to experience the white Christmas we were hoping for! It’s been a weekend full of movies, presents, and great eats. Recipes and photos to come! Enjoy the time with your family and friends today and everyday!

My favorite outtakes from our Christmas photo shoot:

Mini Mr. Claus

“Ho, ho, ho” or “Ha, ha, ha”?

Holiday jazz hands!

Our photographer. He loves being behind the camera now!