Monkey bread ... so easy a monkey could literally make it

I might be pregnant, but I blame Pinterest for the weight gain this last month. I seriously have to stop myself from perusing that website, mainly because I wind up wanting to make 15 dinners and 40 desserts.

Unfortunately, the tiny, itty bitty baby inside me demanded I find something addictingly sweet to squelch it's appetite: enter, Monkey Bread. 

My mom swears she made it for us as children, but I can't for the life of me remember ever eating anything like this. Mainly because if she had ever made something like this for me, I imagine I would have demanded she keep making it over and over again, until I gained 50lbs. 

Actually, I did always feel like I was a thick child, tween and teen ... maybe she did make it, a little too much.

At any rate, if you're not familiar with monkey bread it's basically like a lazy mom's cinnamon roll, sans icing, although, you could add that if you wanted. 

It's ridiculously sweet, gooey and I have yet to find a person who doesn't enjoy the hell out of some monkey bread. And as a perk, our little two year old was able to help with some of the simple steps to this, which meant a lot of fun in the kitchen for toddler and mom! 

Read on ... if you dare.

Monkey (I have no idea where this name came from) Bread
(Serves: Fills a bundt pan)
4 small canisters of refrigerated vegan biscuits (I was lucky to stumble across a generic store-brand one that used vegetable oil instead of lard or butter)
2 1/2 sticks of butter, I used Earth Balance buttery sticks (I didn't say this was healthy)
1 cup brown sugar, I used a raw coconut brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tsp ground cinnamon, or use to your hearts content
1 TBS vanilla extract, I used a butter-rum extract to give it a slightly different taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Spray or grease a bundt pan and set aside. 
In a big ziplock baggie, mix white sugar and cinnamon. 
Open four canisters of biscuits and cut each piece into fourths and then add a couple handfuls into the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Shake, shake, shake until each piece is coated and then toss into the bundt pan. Do this until all your little biscuits are sugary and hanging out in the bundt pan. Don't force them or smash them down, you want some gaps in there so the sugary goo can make it's way through the crevice. 
You can do this on the stovetop, but i was lazy and opted for the microwave. Melt your butter in a medium bowl and stir in brown sugar (if you have any cinnamon-sugar mix from the shake bag left dump it in too). Mix until well combined. Take the sugary goo and pour all over your sugar-coated biscuits, making sure it sinks all the way to the bottom.
Stick in the oven for 30 minutes. Take it out, resist the urge to pick at it and let it sit for 15 minutes. Turn over onto a plate and voila! Seriously, crazy good bread. 


Apple pie your Grandma would be proud of

Sometimes I get a serious hankering for pie. Usually, it's one of three pies. It's peanut butter pie, chocolate silk pie or good ole' fashioned, right out of grandma's oven apple pie. 

Apple pie is one of the only fruit pies I've ever made. (I don't think strawberry pies really count because there's not a whole lot of baking involved in those). It's not that I don't really like other fruit, I'm just more comfortable when it comes to apples. The varieties are endless (screw what people say are "baking" and "eating' apples, get wild and use them all!) and can change your pie so much! With this pie we used Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Cameo and Jonagold. I discovered I'm not a huge cameo fan, however, Honeycrisp's rocked my world. 

Also, if you're going to go to the trouble of making an apple pie from scratch, do the lattice top. It adds maybe 10 minutes to prep time and it looks about a million times more impressive. Heck, even doing a half-assed lattice top looks better than none at all. 

As Good as Grandma's Apple Pie
Pie Crust Ingredients:
(makes bottom and lattice-top crust)
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp salt
1/8 cup sugar
3 sticks butter (we use Willow Run)
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 cup cold water

Filling Ingredients:
4 large apples, chopped into chunks or slices
1/2 stick of butter 
1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 TBS vanilla extract

Mix up your dough up and knead until firm but easy to manipulate. Divide it into two balls, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes (makes rolling easier). 
In a pan on medium heat, mix up butter, milk, brown and white sugar, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Add chunk or sliced apples and cook for 15-20 minutes or until apples are soft (not falling apart, but tender).
Take your dough out and roll it out. Place into a greased pie pan. Spoon filling into dough.
For the lazy way, take your other crust, roll it out, plop it on top, slice a few slits in the top and then use a fork to push together the two crusts.
For a super cool lattice top, roll the crust out and then slice into 1/2-3/4 inch strips. Now, you will do a weave pattern. (Here's a fabulous how-to on youtube to follow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ysJhFas9uE).
Bake for 20-30 minutes (until crust is browned) on 375 degrees. Enjoy the heck out of it!! 


So I'm basically a pregnant pariah now

Apparently grabbing drinks at the bar and ogling men just isn't as much fun with your four-month pregnant gal pal.

Who woulda thunk it?

Both my first and second pregnancy brought so many new situations to my life. When I first found out I was becoming a mother, I was that annoying, ecstatic, smile from ear to ear, beaming idiot. I probably annoyed all of my veteran mom friends with my naivete and bored the crap out of all my non-mom, no where close to becoming a mom, friends.

Something strange happened after my daughter was born.

Suddenly, having a dozen gal pals to dial on the other end of the phone wasn't as important as my new family. And not only that, but I wasn't as much fun to them either.

And so, many of us parted ways. It's not their fault and I don't really think it was mine either, I think those types of things happen when you make big life changes. (Like graduating from high school or college, getting married or making babies). It's not that these people become far less important to you, it's just that other things become so much more important.

After having my daughter, I found solace in the new mom friends I'd made. There were girls I just met and girls I had known since high school but never really communicated with until we all had something in common -- we had created a life with our bodies. It makes bonding really easy when you skip down to the dirty details about who tore this much and who breastfed this long.

I figured that when it came time to have my second child, I'd still have the friends who had somehow made it through my wedding and first pregnancy, not to mention the gaggle of moms I never hesitated to call friends.

Unfortunately, your second pregnancy makes you as much of a pariah as your first, if not more.

Don't get me wrong, I feel more than blessed to bringing a second child into our family, but I guess I thought the second go of growing a baby in my body wouldn't be as hard as the first (silly me).

Expecting your second child puts you in a very weird position. You've got your friends who want to have their own child or another and either can't or have decided to wait for more things to fall into place; you've got the ones who have trekked a completely different path and either don't want any more children or want to hold off for a few more years; and you've still got the remaining friends who aren't sure if they want to even spend their life with someone let alone if they want to procreate.

There's a very, very minute group of women I now fit in with.

 My family is forced to love me, which I'm thankful for every day. Between my mother, aunts, cousins and sister-in-law a feel absolutely blessed to be able to bore them to death with the details of this pregnancy, without worrying they'll never return my phone calls again.

Short of my family, the three closest women in my life are in completely different stages of theirs. There's the woman who just had a baby, the one who became a first-time mom just three short weeks ago and has done such an enviable job in that short amount of time that it makes me happy I was too sleep deprived to remember how incredibly impatient I probably was with Pearyn in the same stage.

Weren't we cute in college?
At the other end of the spectrum, I have the friend who is getting excited about getting pregnant again. The one who has thought it out so carefully with her husband that I've been texting her numerous times a day encouraging her to have as much unprotected sex as possible. She's the first friend I really saw become a mother and the kind of mother to her three-year-old son that I want to be.

And the one who puts up with more of my crap than anyone, is the one who isn't sure when she'll have a child of her own. She's the kind of woman that was made to be a mother, nurturing, fun-loving and the epitome of motherly. She used to joke that she went to college solely to find a husband, settle down and start making beautiful babies with. Unfortunately, life dealt her a less-than-perfect hand and she's still figuring some things out. Despite all that, she doesn't ever hesitate to pick up the phone and call me when she's had a bad first date or when she's so hot she's walking around her apartment naked and just wants to complain about it. And in the same hand, she doesn't ever once try to run and hide from me when I bitch about being sick, about feeling fat or about being scared to death to bring another life into this world. She's the friend that reminds me of who I was before I became a mom, but loves the hell out of me despite what I've turned into since becoming one.

I guess the most important thing I've learned during the first 16 weeks of this pregnancy is to be not only ridiculously thankful for what you have, but for who you have. Over the years (heck, over the last few months), there have undoubtedly been friends with which I've parted ways, whether they decided to walk their own path or simply couldn't join me for mine. And rather than do what I've done in the past and focus all my energy and emotions on the people who've left my life for one reason or another, I think I'll just spend the time loving the hell out of the ones that are still here.

Love the ones you're with, or at the very least, love the hell out of the ones near and dear to your heart.


Chubby Vegan Pregnancy: The Sequel

Well dear readers, my husband and I are about to dive head first into a whole new world of fun.

Our happy little threesome is going to become a foursome ... in a little over five months.

That's right! I haven't been neglecting my blog, flaky and ignoring all of you because I got too cool, I did it because I've either been throwing up, sleeping or sitting in the dark because of a fabulous migraine. (Did you know you could get those because of pregnancy? Another one of those side effects from the hormones.)

I've been pregnant. A little over 15 weeks pregnant to be exact. It's not just chub anymore folks, it's actually a hard, baby-housing stomach now. And we couldn't be more excited or frightened to death, all at once!

It's been a really, really scary road. To be honest, I debated on not posting about the pregnancy until I had my healthy, wailing little baby in my arms. (Wouldn't that have been a fun surprise blog, "Here's my recipe for blah blah cookie, oh and P.S. I had a baby)! 

Perhaps I should paint a lovely picture for you all. My first pregnancy with my daughter Pearyn was an absolute dream. I didn't begin to show until a little over 20 weeks (see below), I might have gotten sick MAYBE two or three times, I only gained 17 lbs (almost nine of that was baby), I craved pancakes and slushies and I didn't get all sorts of swollen in the wrong places. 

This pregnancy, however, got off to a bumpy start.

Around what I thought was seven weeks, I started spotting, it was really light, but it was definitely there. And it didn't matter how many times I Googled "seven weeks pregnant and spotting," I got the same answers: it could be nothing, it could be something, it could be miscarriage, it could be four trillion other things or it could just be light spotting from somewhere the doctors can't figure out. And then there was the cramping. The cramping that could mean growing pains, just normal pregnant uterus stuff, or the cramping that could mean trouble was ahead, miscarriage was ahead.

I went in for an ultrasound, and low and behold I wasn't seven weeks. I was somewhere between five and six and while the doctor couldn't find anything at first, he was pretty sure we stumbled across an itty bitty heart beat. I was told to take it easy, there was nothing I could do anyway and to call if the spotting returned.

Five days later, it returned, only this time it was less spotty and more, could that be blood? We went in for another ultrasound, but this time, there was definitely a baby and definitely a heartbeat. And my uterus was most definitely tilted. Like as far back as that organ could possibly be. This makes things like internal ultrasounds and pelvic exams really fun. I was told roughly the same thing, except this time I was told that 30% of women have spotting during their pregnancy and that from now on, unless I saw gushing, bright-red blood, I should assume this to be a normal part of this pregnancy. 

Where was the spotting coming from, you might ask? We still don't know. Nothing looked abnormal about my uterus or the tiny baby, so the doctor chalked it up to an overly sensitive cervix or just another mysterious pregnancy wonder.

Great, not only did I have a backwards-ass uterus, now my cervix was going to be a drama queen, fabulous.

There were a few more incidents of the spotting, usually when I started to do too much. After nearly a week of spot-free fun, I thought I had cleared that mountain. And then I attended a rehearsal dinner, wedding ceremony and reception and it decided to make a seriously valiant comeback for the next two days. It didn't matter how much the doctor reassured me, anytime I saw the spotting I wanted to run bawling to the hospital. It made me a headcase, made me worry about everything and made me take a lot of things out on my husband and family. 

The worst part? It was still so early in the pregnancy that we had decided not to tell most of our friends, which meant they had no idea why I was crying, why I was worried, why I was moody, stressed, why I had to ruin their day. In the event of tragic news, we weren't going to publicize a loss to everyone. It became a very private issue and in turn, a very, very private pain.

When we went for what was supposed to be our "first" pregnancy appointment, I was a little over 10 weeks pregnant. We did the routine stuff, talked about how I was feeling, how the spotting had been going and all the beginning exams and tests to make sure I had a vagina (ha, kidding, just a good-ole-fashioned pap smear). Then the midwife pulled out her doppler to try and find a heartbeat, there was a 50/50 shot that we'd be able to hear it that soon and at that appointment, we did not. 

She wasn't worried, she did an internal exam and concluded that my uterus felt just puffy enough to be 10 weeks pregnant and that again, it was really, really tilted. Maybe I should just send a memo out to everyone in my life that I have a retroverted uterus, that way when it comes time to examine it we won't all be surprised by how damn tilted it is. 

For peace of mind, she ordered another ultrasound for the following day. Maybe she was a mind reader, or maybe she took my asking "are you sure it's OK" about 1,569 times as a sign of me worrying. The next day, we saw our baby again. Our live, heart beat having, squirming baby. Apparently, my cervix and uterus just want all the attention.

So here we are now, 15 weeks into this fun Chubby Vegan Pregnancy sequel, and while I feel slightly better each day (because of my growing abdominal region, the sickness and the headaches), I'm not going to feel right until this baby is here, in my arms and keeping me up all night.

There has been so much I've wanted to share with you all, from the worries and troubles, to all the new and exciting things coming for us, but it just wasn't the right time.

So I hope you enjoyed the silence, because I have a feeling there's not going to be much I have to be silent about from now on.

I hope you'll continue to join me on this journey as I become not just the Chubby Vegan Mom to Pearyn, but to another itty bitty baby as well.  

P.S. My love, thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to any and everyone that has suffered a loss during pregnancy. My early pregnancy issues opened my eyes to how helpless, lost and vulnerable you all must have felt and I cannot even begin to imagine how you were able to handle, cope and pull through. You are all strong, amazing women in my book.