Monday, August 29, 2016

5 Must Have Items for a New Baby

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MomsHelper #CollectiveBias

As I mentioned on the blog a few weeks ago, K and I are expecting our first baby later this fall. We are really excited and have enjoyed planning our registry for a few baby showers coming up in the next few months, thrown by wonderful family and friends. Today I'm sharing my 5 Must Have Items for a New Baby, both for baby items that I have purchased and for items I am planning to add to our baby registry.

My five "must have items" are also great ideas for the working mom. I'm planning to go back to work later in the spring, and I'm already thinking about ways to be prepared and help create an easy transition for us.

First on our list are baby bottles, specifically Playtex Baby™ Nurser® with Drop-Ins® Liners. I picked up both the 4 oz {118 mL} and 8-10 oz {236-300 mL} size bottles, available at Target. I chose the 3-pack bottle packages. Target is the perfect "one stop shop" for baby items, and the #1 place to create a baby registry. These Playtex Nurser baby bottles will make for better beginnings for our new addition to the family.

These Playtex baby bottles will work well for us because they help the baby latch on naturally, and promote an easy switch between breast and bottle feeding. The bottles also allow for a more natural feeding rhythm. The Playtex Nurser bottles can be used for both breastfed and formula fed babies, whatever is your personal preference.

I found these Playtex baby bottles in aisle 11 at my local Target store, in the Baby section.

Playtex Nurser bottles use a soft liner that collapses gently as the baby eats, which can prevent air bubbles and discomfort for your baby, reducing colic. I also picked up Playtex Drop-Ins 100 count Liners for the larger baby bottle size {8-10 ounces}. These disposable liners are pre-formed and pre-sterilized, which will save us time and allow us to make a fresh bottle at anytime, anywhere we need it. The liners fit easily into each new bottle.

For more on Playtex Baby Bottles, visit the Social Hub and the Target product page. There is also a Target Cartwheel offer for 10% off Playtex Bottles and Cups, good through 9/3/16.

A few more items at the top of my list for our new baby are listed below. Second is the Playtex Baby Diaper Genie, which will be a great addition to our nursery.

Third are diapers, so we can be prepared before the baby arrives! Target offers a large selection of baby diapers, in various sizes. I will definitely be stocking up before I go back to work.

Fourth are baby wipes, available in different types and package sizes. Based on my experience watching family and friend's babies, I know we'll need to have lots of wipes ready to go :)

Fifth is infant formula, also available from Target. 

What products do you recommend for a new baby?

For more information on Playtex Baby Bottles, visit the Social Hub and the Target product page. You can also follow Playtex Baby on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Don't forget to check out the Target Cartwheel offer for 10% off Playtex Bottles and Cups {expires 9/3/16}!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Baklava Cookies

If you're looking for a new dessert to make this weekend, this recipe for Baklava Cookies includes a few of my favorite baklava ingredients: chopped pistachios, chocolate chips, and honey from Sesame King Honey Tahini. Scroll to the end of this post for the cookie recipe and a tahini giveaway!

This post is sponsored by Sesame King, who provided the giveaway. {Note: The giveaway has ended.}

Sesame King Tahini recently offered to send me a few flavors of tahini to try and giveaway to readers. I chose olive oil and honey. I love Mediterranean-inspired food but I've never tried cooking with tahini at home before. I was most excited to make a dessert recipe with honey tahini!

If you're not familiar with tahini, it's a sesame seed paste that has the familiar texture of peanut butter. Sesame King Tahini is all-natural and includes 100% pure ground sesame seeds without additives or preservatives, is peanut and trans-far free, gluten free, kosher certified, and non-GMO. The first sweet recipe that came to mind was to create cookies in a new flavor combination - baklava!

Baklava is a special Greek / Mediterranean dessert made with thin layers of phyllo dough, honey, and various nuts. My favorite flavors of baklava are pistachio followed by chocolate, so my Baklava Cookies include both - chopped pistachios, chocolate chips, and Sesame King Honey Tahini to incorporate Mediterranean and honey flavors.

The most labor intensive part of this recipe was shelling the pistachios one by one. I measured out one cup of shelled nuts, removed the shells, and lightly chopped them with my food processor.

This recipe contains typical cookie ingredients, including whole wheat flour for extra nutrition. The last step is to mix in chopped pistachios and chocolate chips. The cookies will turn out best if you chill the dough for at least 30 minutes before baking.

Peanut butter cookies generally require a light press before baking, so I did the same for this recipe - don't forget to gently press each cookie with a fork before the pan goes into the oven.

These Baklava Cookies are delicious! I love the unique flavor from honey tahini, the salty bite from pistachios, and sweet taste from chocolate chips.

Scroll below the recipe for a great giveaway from Sesame King Tahini - one lucky reader will win their choice of two tahini flavors. Flavor options include: garlic, olive oil, cajun, honey, light roast, and roasted. Click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter the giveaway. For more on Sesame King Tahini, follow the company on Twitter and Facebook.

Baklava Cookies
Yields: 30 cookies

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 24 minutes {12 minutes per sheet of cookies}
Total time: ~44 minutes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract  
4 tablespoons {1/2 stick} unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup pistachios {shelled and chopped}
1/3 cup Sesame King Honey Tahini
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar

How to~
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
*Cream together butter and sugar. Add vanilla, eggs, and tahini.
*Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl - flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
*Slowly add dry ingredients to the mixing bowl. Mix until combined.
*Stir in chocolate chips and chopped pistachios.
*Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes before baking. 
*Flatten each cookie lightly with a fork prior to baking.
*Bake for 12 minutes. 

{Adapted from the Kitchn's recipe for Tahini Cookies

Time for a giveaway! What flavors of Sesame King Tahini would you choose? 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 {Disclosure: As I mentioned above, I received a free container of olive oil and honey Sesame King Tahini to review and giveaway to readers. All opinions / text are my own.}

Friday, August 19, 2016

Things I Love: Pregnancy 2nd Trimester

Good morning and happy Friday! I haven't mentioned this on the blog, but if you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed K and I are expecting our first baby later this fall. We are so excited and I can hardly believe I'm over halfway through the second trimester! We started working on the nursery this month and I bought my first tiny baby outfits just this week {babyGap gets me}. Today I'm sharing a few of my second trimester pregnancy favorites. {Note: this post contains a few affiliate links!}

If you're a regular blog reader, you may have noticed that I haven't blogged about running in a few months. My last race post was a recap of the Shamrock Shuffle 8k, which I ran just a few days after finding out I was pregnant. For that reason, the Shuffle was quite an emotional race for me. I continued to run for the first few months of this pregnancy, but I decided to stop in early July and focus on walking and yoga instead.

This journey to start a family took much longer than we anticipated, and included a few lifestyle changes for me: I started a "fertility" diet and regular acupuncture treatments last July to try and be the healthiest I could be. It was during our first month of infertility testing in early spring that I finally saw that happy second line on a pregnancy test. I share this because people often don't talk openly about fertility struggles and disappointment - if you are or have been in the same boat, please know that you are not alone. Every journey is different, and the least we can do is support each other as much as possible. :)

Onto a few of my favorite things:

1) Fitbit Charge HR

 {Image via Amazon}

I started using a Fitbit in late 2015, and wrote a review of my first month tracking steps in January. I still love my Fitbit and I think it's helped me stay active and get in my daily steps throughout this pregnancy. I was so tired for the first 12 weeks, but once that went away I felt back to normal and ready to get in my daily steps. My goal is still the standard 10,000 steps per day {or 5 miles}, but I occasionally get more than that, especially on the weekend. I take a walk every day at lunch and usually in the evening as well. On hot and humid days I try to get outdoors before work for a long walk in a local park.

{Image via Amazon}

This wedge pillow is a life saver. It's permanently on my office chair at work, and it has been an incredible help. I started experiencing low back/pelvis pain about 6 weeks weeks ago {most likely due to the hormone relaxin, according to my doctor - more info here}. It got to the point where I would limp for a few minutes after sitting for an hour+ at my office desk and getting up to take a quick walk. However, after using this pillow I have absolutely zero back/pelvis pain as it forces me to sit with good posture and supports my back in all the right places. {If you're having any pain please consult your doctor!}

3) Maternity Activewear from Target

{Image via Target}

I have only purchased a few maternity clothing items so far {jeans, shorts, and workout pants}, and everything has come from Target. I am really impressed by their maternity line! For long walks and casual weekend days, I love these pants with a crossover panel the most, and the price is right at $29.99.

4) The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy

{Image via Amazon}

This is my favorite pregnancy book to date - it's full of information but written in a hilarious, lighthearted way. I actually picked up my copy at a local garage sale a few months ago and the book still has a permanent spot on my nightstand.

5) Larabars

 {Image via Amazon}

More than ever, I am trying to snack "smart" and put good things into my body every day for this baby. One of my favorite snacks is a Larabar, especially the mini version. Mini bars are the perfect size for an afternoon {or let's be honest, morning} snack pick-me-up. I also have a huge list of DIY Larabar recipes on this blog; check out this post for 10 Clean Eating No Bake Snacks.

Any pregnancy favorites that I need to add to my list?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Frozen Chai Milkshake

This Frozen Chai Milkshake includes only a few ingredients and is perfect for breakfast or a healthy snack on a warm day.

I am loving chai flavors lately - especially homemade chai lattes with almond milk, over ice.

Over the weekend, I tried a new coffee shop that opened in a local neighborhood and they had a fantastic menu of unique smoothies. One of the smoothies was a "Frozen Chai" and the ingredients sounded soo good - chai tea flavors, almond milk, and almond butter as the main ingredients. I had to re-create it at home ASAP.

I used this decaf latte chai concentrate from Tazo {found at Target}, combined with almond milk, frozen banana slices, almond butter, and plain Greek yogurt. You can also add ice if you want an even more frozen consistency.

Chicago is experiencing another heat + humidity wave over the next few days, and this milkshake is the perfect way to cool down with a healthy snack.

I paired this Frozen Chai Smoothie with a small bowl of granola for breakfast this morning. Yum!

Frozen Chai Milkshake

1 frozen banana {sliced}
1/3 cup chai tea concentrate
2/3 cup almond milk
1 Tablespoon almond butter
2 Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

Optional: 1/2 cup ice

How to~
*Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend until combined.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Beet Salad Bruschetta

This Beet Salad Bruschetta recipe is perfect for an outdoor summer lunch or appetizer to share with friends.

This blog has been compensated by Bhakti: a nationally distributed, Fair Trade, non-GMO verified beverage company. All opinions are mine alone.  

One of my favorite salad recipes to enjoy during summer months includes beets as the star ingredient - it's a combination of purple beets, arugula, goat cheese, nuts and balsamic vinaigrette. I decided to turn this tasty salad into a light lunch instead, creating a bruschetta that's perfect for a summer picnic, outdoor lunch, or appetizer dish.

I started with these gorgeous purple beets from the farmer's market - boiled and chilled before serving as bruschetta. Purple beets would be delicious grilled as well.

I paired my Beet Salad Bruschetta with Bhakti Sparkling Tea for lunch on the deck on this beautiful summer weekend. Bhakti recently reached out to collaborate on their new tea line, and I could not be more excited. I love sparkling beverages, especially in the delicious tea-inspired flavors from Bhakti: Mint Mate, Tart Cherry Rooibos, Mango Lime Matcha, and Lemon Ginger Black. K was working on a big home improvement project all day, and this lunch was the perfect way to take a break outdoors.

I started by boiling my purple beets for 45 minutes. Once the beets are boiling, I recommend lowering the heat to 5-6 {depending on the heat of your stove burners}. You want to make sure the water is boiling without worrying about water overflow. Especially because your water will turn purple immediately and that could turn into quite a mess!

I also lightly toasted a sliced whole grain baguette before serving, topped with a quick drizzle of olive oil.

Once the beets are boiled, chilled, and chopped, this bruschetta comes together easily. I topped my toasted bread slices with a layer of goat cheese, arugula, cooked beets, and balsamic glaze. If you're never had balsamic glaze, you've got to try it! It's SO good. I purchased a small bottle of balsamic glaze, but you can also make your own. As an alternative, toss your greens in balsamic vinaigrette for a similar flavor.

I paired my Beet Salad Bruschetta with Bhakti's Tart Cherry Rooibos tea, and K tried the Lemon Ginger Black tea. This was the best lunch for a warm summer day.

Purple beets make for quite a pretty meal too :)

If you're not familiar with Bhakti, they are a Fair Trade, non-GMO verified beverage company with a national distribution. You may have seen Bhakti's chai tea line in stores before. The next time you're shopping, look for the new Sparkling Tea line as well - all of the flavors are delicious. My favorite right now is the Tart Cherry Rooibos. I can't get enough of tart cherry flavors, especially during summer months. Bhakti's Sparking Teas are made with organic juice, Fair Trade tea, and fresh-pressed ginger. I found Bhakti Tea at my local Whole Foods Market. Check Bhakti's location finder for more information on stores near you.

Let me know if you give the teas or this Beet Salad Bruschetta a try!

Beet Salad Bruschetta
Yields: 2 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes

1 whole wheat baguette
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 purple beets
4 Tablespoons spreadable goat cheese {I used red onion + thyme flavor}
1-2 cups arugula
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Balsamic glaze

How to~
*Bring a pot of water to boil. While the water is heating up, prep your beets by washing them and trimming off the beet greens.
*Boil beets for 45 minutes on medium.
*Drain beets in a colander and run them under cold water. Let cool before handling {approximately 10 minutes}.
*Once the beets are cool enough to touch, peel off the skin. The skin will remove easily using only your hands.
*Chop the beets and toss with black pepper and salt. Chill beets in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
*Slice a baguette and lightly toast it - I drizzled my baguette slices with olive oil and baked them for 5 minutes at 350 degrees.
*Assemble the bruschetta: Top each toasted baguette slice with a layer of goat cheese, a few leaves of arugula, and a spoonful or two of beets.
*Add 1-2 teaspoons of balsamic glaze to each piece of bruschetta before serving.