Is it bad for me to admit that I really love cocktails? Oh well, too late. I really love cocktails. I don’t make a ton of them at home but few things get me as excited as going to a restaurant and being handed a list of craft cocktails. But obviously if you’re avoiding alcohol, you need to find other ways to entertain yourself.
Throughout my pregnancy I’ve had a lot of fun coming up with various mocktails to drink. Favorite concoctions have included various combinations of cranberry juice, pineapple juice, lemon or lime juice, and sparkling water. A lot of times I do this in an effort to stay hydrated, but sometimes it’s just fun to make a special drink for yourself! Since strawberries are coming into season now, I’ve been dying to make a drink with them and thought agua fresca would be the perfect thing!
If you’ve never had one before, an agua fresca is essentially a fruit flavored water. They’re really popular in Mexico and a lot of places here in the US. If you get a really good one, it will be made with fresh fruit juice or puree. They can be made with just about any fruit imaginable and the flavor combinations are endless! The sweet strawberries and tart lime juice in this one make an insanely refreshing duo.
The great thing about making your own drinks is that you control what goes inside! In my house we use turbinado sugar, but coconut sugar or agave syrup would work just as well here. And feel free to add more if you like a sweeter drink, but with ripe and in-season fruit the amount I use should be plenty!
I confess that while I intended to enjoy this over the course of a few days…I drank it all in a day. Oops! Hey, still less sugar than a big soda so I feel good about it!
This would be perfect to serve to company outside in warm weather, or just as a fun addition to your family dinner! I can’t wait to get more strawberries this weekend so I can make more!
I had lots of lofty intentions about doing weekly pregnancy updates and videos and all sorts of things here on the blog! That didn’t happen (though I did shoot a first trimester update video weeks ago…the audio was so terrible that I couldn’t even use it!) but I really want to share about my experience with this first pregnancy and how everything has gone. So buckle up, I’m going to get personal and share ALL about the first 20 weeks of growing this tiny human!
I think I should start at the beginning of this story! Jason and I have been married for about 7 years and have been together for over 10 so some of you who are long-time readers might have wondered if/when we were planning to have children! We’ve always known we wanted kids, but I wasn’t really “ready” until about 5 years ago, and Jason joined me on Team Baby Fever about 2 years ago. We made the “official” decision to start trying during the 2015 holidays, and after New Year’s of 2016 I bought Taking Charge of Your Fertility (a book that I would highly recommend to every woman, whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not) and started to track my cycles to help us get pregnant as soon as possible. It did not happen right away, and that was a bit of a tough time for me! If anyone is interested in our TTC journey, let me know and I will share more about it in another post. Long story short, after 10 unsuccessful cycles, a visit to my doctor, and lots of prayers, we finally got the news we had been dreaming of!
When we got the positive we were actually out of town at Château Élan celebrating our 10 year anniversary as a couple! I cried happy tears and spent a long time just staring at the test in disbelief. Needless to say, it was a pretty awesome way to start the trip and we were in a blissful haze for the whole weekend.
I was right at 4 weeks pregnant when we found out (that’s around the earliest time you can get a positive test) so we knew we’d have to sit on the news for a while until getting it confirmed by my doctor and making sure everything was good. Those first couple months of being pregnant I felt great! I was bloated and definitely sensitive to smells, but I was able to still eat really well and workout and drink my Shakeology every day like usual.
At about 7 weeks pregnant Jason and I nervously went to our first prenatal appointment. If something has gone wrong, that first appointment is oftentimes when you find out because the majority of miscarriages happen in the early weeks. That’s always a real concern for any couple so we were SO grateful to see a heartbeat and get a picture of our tiny inchworm baby to take home!
That appointment did come with some unfortunate news, as my OB diagnosed me with uterine fibroids. If you’re like I was before all this and have no idea what fibroids are, they’re essentially non-cancerous growths that appear in or around the uterus. They’re not very common in women my age, but they are more common in African-American women than in other ethnicities. Apparently I had them before pregnancy but I just never new it! My doctor told me that they could definitely cause complications but more often than not you can have a normal healthy pregnancy even with several fibroids. She did warn me that there might be some pain involved, and boy was that accurate! But I’ll get to that in a minute…
Around that same time my pregnancy symptoms really started to kick in! I started getting nauseous all day and very picky about food. I ate a LOT of bagels and got cravings for random things I ate when I was a kid like broccoli cheddar soup (see above), cream of mushroom soup, Kix, and easy mac. I also had an insatiable desire for orange juice! As soon as I opened my eyes in the morning, I simultaneously felt starving, nauseous, and in the mood for O.J.
As my food aversions and nausea got more intense during weeks 7 and 8, I could tell that I wasn’t getting enough nutrients. I also (MUCH to my chagrin) started craving meat!! I’ve been a proud (and happy!) vegetarian for 5 years so this was shocking to me. But I had kind of reached a breaking point in terms of food and had started to lose weight, so the thought of having some meat began to tempt me more and more.
The Thanksgiving plate you see above was vegetarian. But after dinner…I ate a piece of duck! Yes. Yes I did. It was only one bite but gosh…that bite tasted GOOD. I’m just being honest with you guys, which is hard for me to do about this subject! I had (still have) a lot of reasons why I’m passionate about eating a plant-based diet. I’m not proud that pregnancy created this weak moment for me and that I’ve reintroduced meat into my diet. At the end of the day, I decided that eating and getting calories to my baby needed to be a priority. I’ve come to peace with that choice because eating meat (and snacking throughout the day) helped me get through that rough patch where I could barely keep anything down. This little tiny baby (who had then reached gummy worm size status) wreaked havoc on my dietary habits, and that’s a-okay with me.
By the time Christmas rolled around and I was approaching 12 weeks (the start of the second trimester), the nausea and food aversions had calmed down quite a bit. I was still drinking orange juice like a crazy person and had to pick out some maternity clothes to keep comfy during the day. We decided to share the happy news as our Christmas card! 😀 We had been dying to shout it from the rooftops, so it was awesome to finally announce!
We enjoyed a great Christmas up in New Jersey with Jason’s family! At the tail end of that trip I started to experience some back pain and cramping. It was pretty mild at that point so I didn’t think much of it (both back pain and cramping are normal pregnancy symptoms), but by the time we got back to Atlanta things started to intensify.
Come New Year’s Eve, I was in so much pain that I was on the verge of tears and could barely move around. I finally decided that I should call the nurse line, and after talking to the on-call nurse about my symptoms she suggested that I head into the hospital as soon as possibe. An urgent care facility would have been good enough, but because it was so late at night (on New Year’s Eve no less!) the ER was the only thing that was open.
They took some blood and put me on IV fluids before checking with a doppler to make sure there was a heartbeat. That whole night was pretty terrifying because for the first hour or so it really felt like they were bracing us for the news of a miscarriage. Lots of poker faces and “How far along are you? Okay, still early…” It also took the nurses a long time to find a heartbeat, which was scary. But they finally did find it, and told me that it appeared a bladder infection was causing the pains! I thought this was strange because I’ve had one of those before and I wasn’t experiencing any of the same symptoms. But we were happy to have an answer and as soon as I was released we got my antibiotics and went about our merry way.
I started to feel better and a few days later we got another ultrasound that showed baby looking healthy and on track.
During week 14 I essentially felt like I wasn’t pregnant at all! The second trimester energy boost was definitely a real thing for me and I was loving it! I finally felt well enough to start the bump picture project that I had been planning.
But a few days later the back pain and cramps came back! I was so frustrated and confused about what was happening, but started guessing that it might be the fibroids causing this pain and not an infection. And after going back to the hospital that following weekend to give a urine sample, the lab confirmed that I had no infection.
At that point I decided to just deal with the pain (with the help of a hot water bottle–what a glorious invention!), and thankfully it did subside over the course of a few days. When I went in for my next midwife appointment, she said that this was part of what I should expect with the fibroids and that I could use an over-the-counter pain reliever to help if it happened again. Some women with fibroids have to deal with constant pain, so I feel really grateful that it was just those two rough patches and I’ve been relatively pain-free since then. By week 16 I was feeling right as rain, and was starting to crave fruits!
I don’t know what it is about raspberries, but since around week 16 I have NOT been able to get enough. I could honestly eat a couple containers a day, they are soooo good! Along with the return of my appetite came the beginning of my weight gain, which I welcomed gladly! It’s never been easy for me to maintain or gain weight so when I see the scale go up I am one happy mamma. I can probably thank my mom for a lot of that because she’s been so nice about making me lots of treats since I’ve been pregnant. Like this incredible Italian Cream Cake she made for my birthday last month!
Weeks 17-19 were awesome! I still had lots of energy and was very relieved not to be in any pain!
We had a small scare during this time because I got a call that one of the genetic tests we took showed a high risk for a neural tube defect. As you can imagine, that caused us to freak out a bit. They gave us an appointment with a perinatologist, and the whole thing turned out to be a blessing in disguise (a very bad disguise!). The perinatologist checked everything out and said that the baby had no signs of a defect, and that my fibroids had likely effected my hormone levels and caused the positive blood test result. At that appointment we learned SO much more about the fibroids and found out that this doctor would be seeing us in conjunction with my OB’s office just to monitor and make sure things are good. He’s an amazing doctor and it’s really reassuring to have him taking care of us! Plus he does long ultrasounds so we got to spend a long time looking at the baby. 😀
During my 19th week I got to feel the baby kick for the first time!! It’s such a strange feeling and really hard to identify if you’ve never been pregnant before. It wasn’t until I could feel it from the outside that I realized for sure what it was! Jason got to feel his first kick a few days later which was so special! And on the day that I turned 20 weeks, we had our gender reveal party and learned the exciting news that we’re having a girl!
I think it’s safe to say that the first half of my pregnancy was fairly eventful! But my Baby Bear has survived and thrived through it all, and that is the most important thing to me and Jason. As I write this I’m 25 weeks pregnant, and so far the second half of pregnancy is fantastic! Every night I lie in bed, rest my hands on my belly, and thank God for this beautiful blessing.
I have several more pregnancy topics I’ll be discussing in these last few months before I have the baby, but I will also be sharing recipes in between so stay tuned!
Look guys–I still make recipes! 😀 The truth is that I’m as active in my kitchen as ever! I still cook several times a week and I’ve never stopped being food obsessed (how could I stop??). Life got crazy and blog posts became fewer, but I sure have missed it! I love sharing food with you guys, especially when it’s creamy, dreamy, delicious, healthy food like this!
When it’s cold out, I’m all about hot oatmeal. It’s a longtime favorite and I basically never grow tired of it. But when it starts to get warm out, I get excited about a whole different kind of oatmeal!
There’s lots of ways people make overnight oats. Some eat it hot, some eat it cold…some like it thin, some like it thick…some use chia seeds and some don’t…there’s a lot of variations. Personally I like my overnight oats to resemble a pudding or custard–YUM! Chia seeds and yogurt are a must for me because together they create the perfect thickness in the final mixture.
Mix the ingredients together the night before then eat right out of the fridge in the morning and it’s pure heaven!
1½ c. milk (use more milk if you want a thinner consistency)
2 t. raw honey (optional)
1 6 oz. container fresh raspberries
½ c. shredded coconut, toasted
The night before you want to enjoy your oatmeal, stir together the oats, yogurt, chia seeds, milk, and honey. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.
In the morning, mash about ¾ of the raspberries in a small bowl with the back of a fork.
Layer the oat mixture, smashed berries, and shredded coconut into desired serving container. Top with remaining whole berries. Enjoy!
Raspberries have been a major pregnancy craving of mine (pretty much all berries actually!) so when I was thinking about my first overnight oats of the year I didn’t have to think very hard about potential toppings. I smashed most of the berries up to make a little “jam” for layering into the oats and then left some whole to throw on top. If jam isn’t your jam then feel free to leave all the berries whole–the taste will be the same!
Cheers to the arrival of spring and all of the warm weather foods that come with it!
One of the things I was really excited to do when I found out I was pregnant was to have a gender reveal party. I know most people probably see them as a bit of a corny fad, but the way I see it it’s the first real opportunity we get to celebrate our baby’s life with the people closest to us. It’s also one of those things that you probably only do with the first kid, so we wanted to make it really special!
I took tons of pictures of the food but forgot to take any of people (typical!), so big thanks to my dad and my friend Emily’s boyfriend Max for remembering to take pictures of the humans. Let’s talk food first!
The party was at noon so I wanted to keep the food light, and per Jason’s recommendation I took a lot of the workload off myself by ordering some food and enlisting my mom’s help for some things too. I made a simple meat platter, cheese and cracker platter, and a citrus mint salad. My mom made deviled eggs (half with bacon and half without).
I also made these little veggie cups, which were a cute idea I found on Pinterest!
And then from Alon’s (a local bakery-cafe) we ordered two sandwiches by the stick: (caprese and smoked turkey) and a deli salad platter with quinoa salad, lentil salad, and roasted red pepper pasta salad.
For dessert my mom made some delicious chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with buttercream icing and I made chocolate drizzled rice krispy treats. We had fun making the desserts fit with the gender reveal theme!
We also had a little area set up where people could vote whether they thought our baby was a girl or boy and then put on a corresponding pink or blue lei depending on their vote!
And then of course I had to show what the “old wives’ tales” predicted the gender to be!
After everyone voted and got some food, it was time for the BIG REVEAL! The way we chose to do it was for Jason and I to find out along with everyone else at the party. The only person who knew the baby’s sex was my friend Emma, who I had delivered the envelope to from the doctor’s office. Based on what was inside the envelope, I asked her to choose either pink or blue confetti poppers to pass out at the party. Then we counted 3-2-1 and everyone popped the confetti to reveal the news!
It’s a GIRL!!!
We are so excited!!! My prediction was SO wrong. I had such a strong feeling that it was a boy, so clearly my mother’s intuition needs some work! As soon as we popped the confetti I put on a pink lei. 😉 It was really special to share this moment with my family and a small group of close friends. I wouldn’t have had it any other way!
Special thanks to Emma for keeping the huge secret and helping us pull this off!
Kenny is super excited that he gets to remain our only son. 😀
Stay tuned for my next post, I’m going to be talking about my experience with pregnancy during the first trimester!
Anybody still out there? It’s been QUITE some time since my last blog post, and QUITE a bit has happened since then! Ironically, the last thing I told you a few months back was that I needed to give you a huge life update! And then right after that post, I got the biggest news of my entire life! So now it’s really time. We need to officially catch up. And all those small things I intended updating you about seem so trivial in comparison to the big things that have happened–so I’m just going to share the big things!
We bought a house!
After years of renting, Jason and I decided it was finally time to stop throwing our money away and settle in somewhere! We knew that we wanted to find a safe and comfy neighborhood where we would feel completely at ease starting a family. We ended up in a neighborhood in the town where my parents live! Here are some peeks at the inside of the house after we moved in back in September.
We all love it here! Especially our dog, who has a huge backyard to run around in and lots of space in the house to take over!
So far it’s been SO fun to own a home, even though it comes with a lot more responsibilities. We had a housewarming party right after we moved in which really made the whole thing feel real!
I’ll definitely do a house tour post to show you all the rooms and share what we’ve done with the place so far!
And now for our second big update…
We’re having a baby!!!
And can you guess what the pink beads mean?? We had a gender reveal party last weekend, which I’ll be doing a post on to share the fun!
Being pregnant has been an amazing experience so far. Jason and I have been taking photos bi-weekly to document the size of the bump! Can you tell that it’s grown?
I really want to start documenting my pregnancy in more detail and the blog seems like a perfect place to do that! In other words, lots of fun life/lifestyle posts coming soon! I’ve really missed writing here and I’m so excited to get back into it!
I’ve been on a mission for the past few years to eat more seasonally and to really try and appreciate the variety that comes with a season change. I’m really going to miss summer berries, BUT I know that fall brings lots of amazing foods too. I let seasonal ingredients be my inspiration in making this delicious full meal salad.
This bad boy is a nutritional powerhouse! I added my favorite fall fruit and vegetable (apple and butternut squash) along with quinoa for fiber and protein, dried cranberries for some tartness, and toasted almonds for that warm, nutty flavor (and the added bonus of some healthy fat!). I happen to love blue cheese so I added that too, but you can certainly leave it out for a vegan version of this meal.
5.0 from 1 reviews
Fall Harvest Chopped Salad with Smoky Maple Balsamic Dressing
⅓ c. roasted butternut squash (I just dice mine in small pieces and roast in a 400 degree oven with a little coconut oil and salt for about 30 minutes)
⅓ c. cooked quinoa
½ apple (I used a jazz apple, use whatever your favorite is!), diced
1 T. dried cranberries
1-2 T. slivered almonds, toasted (a few minutes in a 400 degree oven will do)
1 T. crumbled blue cheese (optional, but delicious!)
¼ c. pure maple syrup
¼ c. balsamic vinegar
1 T. dijon mustard
½ c. olive oil
¼ t. liquid smoke
salt and pepper to taste
Toss together ingredients for salad.
Combine ingredients for dressing in a food processor or blender until it forms a smooth dressing.
Drizzle dressing over salad and enjoy!
Allow me a moment to just recognize this dressing. THIS DRESSING, y’all. Perfect balance of sweet and sharp, and the smokiness just takes it over the edge. As a vegetarian I sometimes miss the smoky flavors that a lot of meats have (like bacon!), but I love using liquid smoke occasionally to provide that same amazing flavor. The recipe above makes a bigger batch than you’ll need for one salad. Because you are going to want more. Trust me.
This salad would make a great packed lunch because none of these ingredients have a lot of moisture that would make the salad soggy. Pack the dressing in a separate container and you’re good to go!
I’ll be seeing you again this weekend with a big life update post! It’s been far too long since I talked about what’s been going on with us!
Yesterday was really rainy and grey here in Georgia, and to me rainy days call for comfort food. My idea of comfort food has changed a lot since I’ve become more health conscious in recent years, but there are certain foods that will just always feel right. Mac and cheese is one of those foods for me! And while I’m in no way touting this as a health food, I’m happy to share a recipe with you that’s a much healthier option that traditional mac and cheese.
One of my most popular recipes (it has over 160,000 views on my site!) is my Greek Yogurt Macaroni and Cheese. I love to see new comments and notes coming into my inbox about people trying and enjoying it! Because that recipe is a winner, I decided it would be fun to do a spinoff stovetop version. This recipe is faster to make because it doesn’t require any baking, but it has the same delicious flavor as the original! And if you prefer a more saucy mac and cheese, this is gonna be right up your alley.
8 dry oz. elbow macaroni (you can use whole grain or gluten-free if you'd like)
2 T. olive oil
2 T. flour
1½ c. milk
1 t. salt
¼ t. black pepper
1 c. greek yogurt (I used whole milk Chobani but any type should work as long as it's plain)
¾ c. shredded monterrey jack cheese
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers.
Add in the flour and stir briskly with a whisk to form a roux. Let the roux cook for about 30 seconds to a minute while constantly stirring. You're looking for the roux to brown ever so slightly but you don't want it to burn!
Slowly pour in the milk, stirring constantly with the whisk.
When the sauce is completely smooth, add in the salt, pepper, and cheeses.
Stir until the cheese is melted and the mixture is very smooth.
Remove from heat and let the cheese cool slightly before adding in the greek yogurt and whisking together until very smooth.
Add elbow macaroni and stir with a spatula until all the pasta is coated in sauce.
Return the pot to very low heat until the macaroni and cheese is warmed through. Taste and add additional salt or pepper as needed. Enjoy!
I highly recommend using mild cheddar cheese for this. Some reviewers on the OG recipe used sharp cheddar and from what I gather that makes for too “tangy” of a final product. I’ve always used mild cheddar for this because the yogurt provides its own sharpness and you want to keep a nice smooth flavor. You could even use all monterrey jack if you want, that would be delicious too!
I’m telling you…this is magical stuff! It’s best when it’s fresh off the stove, but it will reheat just fine later on if you have leftovers. Please comment below if you try it! I hope you love it as much as I do!
I don’t know if this is the case everywhere in the US, but right now in Georgia the tomatoes are AMAZING. As much as I love the beauty of seasonal foods, I also kind of hate that in a few months it will be impossible to find tomatoes this good. There’s only one solution…eat all the tomatoes. Right now.
I came up with this recipe because I wanted a simple way to enjoy these summer tomatoes while making sure that their fresh, sweet flavor was still the star of the show. I used a combo of red and yellow tomatoes both looked so beautiful at the fruit stand and I find that yellow tomatoes are often even sweeter than the red ones.
This recipe uses very few ingredients and only takes a few minutes to make…just the way I like my recipes. 😉
Tomato Salad with Lemon Herb Greek Yogurt Dressing
In a food processor or blender, blend together the greek yogurt, chives, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper until the ingredients are well combined.
Arrange the tomatoes on a platter and top with dollops of the greek yogurt dressing.
Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper to taste (I used about ¼ t. more salt and just a couple dashes of black pepper). Garnish with additional chopped chives if desired.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you already know that greek yogurt is a go-to ingredient of mine. It’s so incredibly versatile, it’s healthy, and it’s delicious. Here all it takes is a little lemon juice and chives to transform it into a delicious dressing. Magical.
I’m off to enjoy a hike with my sister and doggie on this beautiful Labor Day weekend! I hope you’re all having a relaxing holiday! Thanks for reading!
You may or may not know this about me but I have a sweet tooth that is OUTTA control! If I don’t eat enough fruit, I WILL somehow locate a Krispy Kreme doughnut or bowl of Ben & Jerry’s. For that reason I’m always always always looking for healthy dessert recipes. This is one that you MUST try.
For this recipe I used my new obsession: baby bananas. Have you ever tried these?? They are like an elevated perfect version of normal bananas. I can’t believe it took me so long to try them.
I ate that entire bunch on the way to work that morning! Best commute ever. What I’m trying to say is…buy yourself some baby bananas next time you see them. Also, make this recipe.
Lightly grease a cookie sheet (I used a tiny bit of coconut oil) and place the bananas on the sheet, cut side facing up.
Use a pastry brush to brush a little maple syrup on the top of each banana piece.
Sprinkle the bananas with a dash of cinnamon.
Broil in preheated oven, checking often, until the tops are caramelized. This took about 4 minutes under my broiler, but check often so they don't burn!
Remove from the oven and top with peanut butter, walnuts, and any other ingredients you like!
I decided to top mine with peanut butter, Nutella, some toasted nuts, and a drizzle of raw honey. Toasted coconut, toasted almonds, or fruit jam would also be delicious options! This tastes like bananas foster and REALLY hits the spot when you’re craving dessert. You don’t even need any toppings at all and this makes such a delicious treat!
Every day I don’t succumb to a doughnut is a success in my book. 😉 One day down.
This post brought to you by Marzetti® Brand. The content and opinions expressed below are that of A Dash of Soul.
Even though I’m a vegetarian, I sometimes have a hard time thinking of quick and easy ways to make flavorful vegetable dishes. That’s why when Marzetti® reached out to me about their Marzetti® Veggie Drizzle™ Finishing Sauces, I knew I had to try them! They have several flavors but for this tasty vegetable medley I used the Marzetti® Veggie Drizzle™Garlic Parmesan Finishing Sauce. The Marzetti® Veggie Drizzle™ Finishing Sauces come in a bottle that is ready to use. You just pour the sauce right on and you instantly have delicious vegetables. I love that I can use this on busy weeknights to take make dinnertime even faster! I think it would also be great for repurposing leftover veggies too. You could flavor your broccoli with Garlic Parmesan flavor one night and Honey Balsamic the next! In this medley I used broccoli, bell peppers, zucchini, and carrots, but there are different flavors of Marzetti¨ Veggie Drizzleª Finishing Sauces that pair well with any vegetable (or blend of vegetables) that you like!
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