Uniquely~Me

A Lifestylye Blog



Yes, for me and my family it's called "stuffing."  Not "dressing."


This delicious holiday side dish blends all of the best flavors from every family's traditional stuffing recipe to make one dish that pleases and satisfies everyone at the table. Growing up we got our family stuffing recipe from our Auntie Tina. She was the best translator of all American holiday food/ soul food traditions for my mom when she moved to the U.S. from Nigeria. Her recipe used straight cornbread (no other bread types) from the good old fashioned Jiffy box brand. Since then the recipe evolved and I started making my own homemade cornbread with some fresher ingredients.

After marrying my husband he volunteered to make the stuffing for our family one year and it was deliciously complex and quite different from the stuffing that I was used to eating growing up. His recipe was full of rich herbs like sage and parsley and included Italian sausage instead of the turkey neck that we ate. Both recipes are so soooo good and I wanted both. So below I found a base recipe from Tia Mowry's website and adapted it to meet the traditions of my present blended family. It takes some time and is a labor of love but so very worth it. See below for more pictures and recipe details!








holiday side-dish, side-dishes, cornbread, stuffing, cornbread stuffing, dressing, cornbread dressing, fennel, sage, sage stuffing, sage dressing
Holiday Side Dish, Side Dish
Side Dish
Yield: 12Pin it

Holiday Cornbread Stuffing w/ Fresh Fennel and Sage

This delicious holiday side dish blends all of the best flavors from every family's traditional stuffing recipe to make one dish that pleases and satisfies everyone at the table!

ingredients:

Cornbread
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup evaporated cane sugar
  • 2/3 cup fine cornmeal
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp himalayan salt
  • 1 cup soy milk ( or milk of choice)
  • 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup avocado oil
Stuffing
  • 1 loaf of french bread cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 6 cups chicken stock (link to recipe here)
  • 2 turkey leg drumsticks shredded
  • 1/2 head of chopped fennel
  • 6 stalks of chopped celery
  • 2 diced green apples
  • 1 chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped sage
  • 4 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp himalayan pink salt
  • 4 tbsp butter or oil of choice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

instructions:

Cornbread and Bread Preparation
  1. About 3 days before serving the stuffing, prepare the cornbread
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  3. Mix all dry ingredients well in medium-sized bowl
  4. Add eggs, milks, and oil and mix well
  5. Grease 9x13 inch baking pan
  6. Pour batter into pan and bake in oven for approx. 50 min or until golden brown and inserted toothpick comes out clean
  7. Once cornbread is cooled, cut into one inch cubes and spread out evenly onto baking sheet to dry out for approx. 2 days
  8. Also cut french bread into 1 inch cubes and spread out evenly onto baking sheet to dry out along with the cornbread for approx. 2 days
Stuffing Preparation
  1. Place chopped celery, fennel, onion, garlic and salt with 2 tbsp butter or oil into large skillet and sauté on medium/high until translucent  
  2. In another skillet, place diced apples, nutmeg and butter inside and sauté on medium/high until soft
  3. Place dried out bread cubes into baking pan
  4. Whether you want to cook the turkey drumsticks when preparing the homemade broth or cook the drumsticks separately, the meat will need to be removed from the bone, hand shredded and mixed into pan with bread cubes
  5. Mix chopped sage and parsley into pan with bread cubes
  6. Mix and toss sautéed veggies and apples from skillet into pan with bread cubes
  7. Pour stock over stuffing until all bread pieces are moist (link to homemade stock recipe)
  8. Place pan of stuffing into oven and bake for approx. 40 min or until golden brown.
Created using The Recipes Generator


Bon Appetit!










Carrot Date Cupcakes! Quite the random combination, buuttt, being 36 weeks pregnant and craving a good carrot cake, you'll see that this is actually very relevant for me right now :p

At 36 weeks pregnant and also an avid exerciser, the ingredients in this treat are very beneficial. Per my previous post on pregnancy, I am following some guidance through my OB/midwives on the best supplements to support me throughout the end of my pregnancy. This delicious healthy muffin is made with all natural sugars and full of micronutrients to support end of pregnancy. It also serves to provide a great source of potassium, magnesium and Vit A for post workout recovery. Research shows that consuming 3-4 dates daily in the last few weeks of pregnancy can provide additional nutrients and building blocks to help with cervical ripening and strengthening/ supporting a woman's uterus during contractions while in labor. However, I find dates quite too sweet to eat alone and decided to search for a recipe that would help me satisfy my carrot cake craving while also helping add some more of these recommended dates to my diet. This recipe was inspired by prevention.com, and includes a few tweaks. It is absolutely delicious, added-sugar free and easy to make! There is also a bonus recipe included for a dairy-free cream cheese frosting. The frosting is good but these muffin/ cupcakes taste great alone and without any added toppers. See below for more pictures with my assistant and the recipes!

*I have to be honest and share that the process of baking these muffins and creating this post was EXTREMELY challenging. Sure, my daughter is so angelic looking and peaceful in these photos- but that was not how it all went down as we wrapped up the baking and I began taking my photos. I was reminded so harshly that doing this blogging/ creative thing with a young toddler is HARD. There were tears and a huge tantrum with my daughter screaming to be held and then throwing herself on the floor from our barstool as I balanced my phone camera in one hand and the plate of muffins in the other. This mothering thing can be hard! But here I am, persevering again, because this recipe was too good to not share. And I want some creative me-time to myself every once in a while too! 








pregnancy, dates, carrot cake, post-workout, post-workout meal, pregnancy foods, third trimester, natural sugars, carrot date muffin, carrot date cupcakes, healthy pregnancy food, pregnancy nutrition
Yield: 12 muffinsPin it

Healthy Carrot Date Muffins for Pregnancy and Post Workout

prep time: 30 minscook time: 20 minstotal time: 50 mins
This delicious healthy muffin is made with all natural sugars and full of micronutrients to support end of pregnancy. It also serves to provide a great source of potassium, magnesium and Vit A for post workout recovery.

ingredients:

Muffin/ Cupcake Base
  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 cup pitted medjool dates
  • 1 cup boiled water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 tsp himalayan pink salt
Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8oz kite hill  plain cream cheese (or your choice brand of cream cheese)
  • 1/2 stick of earth balance butter
  • maple syrup to taste

instructions:

Muffin/ Cupcake Base
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients (flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt. Mix well.
  2. Pour boiling water over dates and let soak for 10-15 minutes. Transfer dates and water into a blender and mix until smooth like a paste.
  3. Add date puree to dry ingredients bowl along with eggs, oil and carrots. Mix well.
  4. Fill each muffin tin about 2/3 full to make approx 12 servings. 
  5. Place muffins into oven and bake for 20 min. Poke with a toothpick to ensure it comes out clean when inserted into middle of baked muffin.
Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. Allow butter to reach room temperature.
  2.  In a blender, combine butter and cream cheese.
  3. Add 1 tbsp maple syrup at a time until mixture reaches desired sweetness and consistency in texture.
  4. Place in refrigerator and allow to cool while muffins are baking.
  5. Once muffins are cool, spread frosting on top and Enjoy!
Created using The Recipes Generator

Bon Appetit!














Pregnancy- oh, pregnancy....

This is my first mention of our baby boy coming in just a few short weeks on the blog here. I'm currently 36 weeks +5 days as I write this. And I am not one of those women who gush over and adore being pregnant. Pregnancy was not the most enjoyable experience for me the first time around. I was physically healthy all throughout and had an amazing home birth experience, but my mental health and comfort was extremely challenged. It took a lot of healing, some marriage counseling, kindness toward how (and whether) I exercised, a job change and self-care to recover my sense of self. After about 2 years of soul care, body healing and working to a place where our whole family was able to sleep through the night that I was beginning to feel ready to open my body to growing another human again. It's amazing how much we are able to endure as women one time and then to do it again... it feels like insanity! But the joy of having Chaya has truly shown me just how worth it it all is. 

My husband and I follow natural family planning and we are both very in-tune with my cycles. I so appreciate his understanding of ovulation, all the fluids, the days before and the days after. We had been talking for months about what that would look like for us as we both came to a place of readiness to bring another child into our family and this world. It is SO much different planning a pregnancy than having it spring up and shock the hell out of you like it did our first time around! If we had tried to find that perfect timing, I probably would not be pregnant to this day. We prayed and just allowed the peace of God to fill my body and our process. 


Similarities~
Symptoms: Nausea was my returning (un)friend who visited me again this pregnancy. And it was brutal. It was just as bad and strong as ever, similarly to my first pregnancy with Chaya. The first trimester for me was absolute Hell. I'm just going to say it and lay it out there- for real. I was physically so sick that I needed to take 3 weeks off from working. And I work from home! All I could really do was lay on the couch. I could barely go in the kitchen let alone prepare food. I grieved being able to be interactive with my daughter (she's watched a lot of TV this pregnancy, by the way) and I grieved all my visions for this blog and my creativity taking a back seat. 

Generally Healthy- Although I felt terrible during my first trimester, I am so thankful to be healthy. I have not had any life-threatening complications. My labs, blood pressure, and other indicators are all well. No swelling, ongoing backaches or other pregnancy woes. This truly is a blessing as I now have this heightened sense of awareness this second time around about all the possible scary and tough things that can come up when bringing life into this world. Pregnancy truly is a miracle.

Midwives, Home-birth Team- We are using the same home-birth team as we did with Chaya. It was an excruciatingly amazing experience that I haven't fully detailed out here yet but hope to sometime. Our home birth team is phenomenal and I couldn't imagine not having their spiritual, medical, emotional and nurturing support this time around again. 

                               Abiding Grace Midwifery- Me, Dr Anne Marie holding Chaya, Midwife Pauline and my husband Zach


Differences~
Symptoms: Thankfully, my nausea lasted just under 13 weeks this second pregnancy compared to 18 weeks the first time around with Chaya. This was likely something that I did not have much control over, but taking time to rest, eat more protein-rich meals/snacks and exercising regularly may have contributed to me handling the nausea better in my second pregnancy. I'm also not experiencing any constipation, heartburn or indigestion this time around like I did with Chaya. Also likely related to my higher veggie, fiber, water intake and exercise regimen.

My food aversions have been stronger in the first trimester and I did not have as many this pregnancy.  With Chaya, I was sensitive to a lot more random foods and restaurants; I couldn't stand Chipotle and with this second pregnancy I would have Chipotle multiple days in a row! My only food aversion this pregnancy was buffalo chicken wings my husband made for himself one evening. Again, random- and very minor.

Time of Year/Weather: Let's just say, being pregnant in the summer means a lot more sweating in a lot more unmentionable places! :P

Another Child to Care After- This has been the hardest difference this second time around. Although expressing more independence than an infant, Chaya at 2 yrs old was still breastfeeding during my first trimester and is currently working on potty-training and requires a lot more attention than ever before. When home, mama is her playmate, chef, personal dresser, diaper changer, hygiene assistant, dry cleaner, teacher, chauffeur, etc! 


Nutrition and Exercise~
Because of my more flexible work schedule doing health coaching and counseling from home, I've been able to plan my exercise and other self-care needs much better this second pregnancy. The kids club at the gym has also been a great source of playtime and social interaction for Chaya on days when she's not at daycare.

Nutrition-Wise- This pregnancy, my focus has been to include generous amounts of protein into my meals and snacks every 2-3 hrs. This tactic has worked to help reduce my nausea, bloating, constipation and heartburn that I experienced a great deal with Chaya. It has also given me more sustained energy and a sense of more stabilized blood sugar. Protein and veggies- my every-meal goal! With Chaya I craved carbs galore. I still do with this second pregnancy, but I go for fruits (thank goodness for all the delicious summer fruits!) and whole grains. I include a sweet treat like dark chocolate or a cookie every day and on occasion I enjoy- devour- a tasty vegan donut from Whole Foods :)

My OB/ midwives also have me on a supplement regimen to match each stage of my pregnancy. I'm currently taking good amounts of red raspberry leaf tea, alfalfa, evening primrose oil, vit D3 and more on top of my prenatals.

My Weekly Workout Split-
Mondays- 30 min cardio (stairmaster) plus upper body strength training (biceps, shoulders, triceps and back)
Wednesdays- 30 min HIIT workout, circuit training rotation style (burpies, sled pushes, box step-ups, pushups, banded squats) 
Fridays- Lower body (deadlifts, squats, Bulgarian split squats, hip thrusts and other mobility calisthenics) plus 20 min cardio cool down on stairmaster

Three days during this pregnancy has been my weekly challenge, commitment and all that my body has really been able to handle with a toddler now. And I think that has been plenty! It doesn't take hours and hours at the gym to maintain a great sense of fitness, strength and well-being. Most days I have to really push myself to get going because all I want to do is lay on the bed, honestly, but I've noticed a huge increase in my physical abilities, functional movement throughout the day and overall strength this pregnancy because of exercise. I was a lot more nervous to push myself the first time around because there is so much content on the internet cautioning women to not increase their heart rate above a certain level, risk falling if bicycling, risk injuring yourself when weight training, etc, etc. But this second pregnancy, with some common sense and really listening to my body, I've been amazed at how much it can do. 

Let's treat our bodies to some healthful activity- with kindness and a little nudging :)



Work-Life Balance: 
Women can really go through A LOT during pregnancy. I struggled weeks 1-28 (first and second trimester). Some women are blessed with low symptom, fine energy, easy-breezy pregnancies. I am not one of them. Although my labs come back normal, I eat well and exercise, I still feel beat down and not so great for the ~10 months of pregnancy. What I found to be most helpful was to embrace what my body was trying to do and re-arrange my lifestyle to help me cope in the best way possible. That meant finding a daycare for Chaya to start going to a few days per week, changing my method of communication for work appointments, scheduling more appointments with my own life coach, rearranging our budget to allow grocery shopping using Instacart (instead of carrying groceries and a toddler up a flight of stairs while pregnant in 100+ degree weather which was soooo brutal) and honestly, just resting and "be"-ing- which can be SO hard. I spent a lot of time reflecting and waiting and just letting my body be okay with the discomfort as it syphoned off nutrients and energy to grow this child. There was lot of time spent staring out the window, just letting time pass. Being still can be hard. But it was necessary for growth- literally in a physical sense of this baby but also spiritually.

Thankfully, I am working from home in this season of life (something I fought and prayed for) and it has provided immeasurable relief to my health and well-being. It still requires a great deal of personal discipline and self-driven structure. I know not everyone is able to, but I am extremely passionate about advocating for flexible work  -parent or not- and challenging our culture's standard on productivity in the 40 hr work week. If you are feeling stressed or hopeless about your current work situation, I would love to talk with you more! Pray on it and don't give up looking!



Fears, Spiritual Growth, Learning Experiences
Shortly after deciding we were ready to TTC (try to conceive) I was surprised with how much fear I experienced. My senses were even more heightened than the first time around. I think with Chaya, I was just in sheer shock most of the pregnancy. I didn't realize how many people around me were privately suffering miscarriages and struggling with infertility. This time around, many thoughts of "what if I (we) can't" taunted me and those two weeks DPO (days past ovulation), felt like the longest two weeks ever. I remember journaling throughout those days and really challenging where my hope and trust were truly rooted. It was a good wake up call and a good introduction to pregnancy, because the whole 9-10 months is really about trust and hope and waiting and expectation. 

Trust, trust, trust. I found I was having a hard time relaxing, letting go of control and allowing the process to unfold organically. I felt like I needed to have the perfect circumstances all lined up with perfect ovulation day timing, healthy sperm (asking my husband how he slept, ate, whether he drank coffee, water, etc) in order for everything to work out to have a healthy baby. And we didn't do ANY of that with Chaya. This time around I felt like I was being irresponsible if I didn't do my due diligence. And this is so not true! Of course we need to honor our bodies well and feed and rest and take care of ourselves. But at the end of the day, we have to surrender to the process! 

Chaya was so healthy with no complications or special testing. So I believed that I had reached the end of my good portion. That it had run out. And that I was due for something bad to happen. Again, not true and NOT how God works. What I found helpful was to keep active (not busy) and stay prayer-full. It can be a mind-consuming thing once you've decided it's go-time and you want to make this thing happen! 

What I've Learned at the End of the Day: 
1) Live your best life (don't compare) and trust your body to do the rest. Honor each hard story you've heard while still keeping an open heart.
2) Continue to exercise, cook (or purchase take-out when you need) healthy meals, stay active in work commitments, relationships and hobbies/ passions.
3) Ask for help
4) Gratitude 










Memorial Day is just around the corner and hopefully that means rest, quality time, reflection on what the day means to us and also hopefully- good food! Healthy food! With invitations to barbecues, warm weather and more time on this day off to enjoy ourselves also comes many options for food. It is easy to go overboard, but I always like to make this day a win-win. Food that is absolutely tasty and food that is absolutely healthy at the same time. And yes, that includes dessert too! This recipe is made with cashews as its base. Cashews are rich in heart-healthy fats, fiber, protein and other vitamins that support eye, blood and immune health as opposed to the higher amounts of saturated fats that are abundant in cream cheese-based cheesecakes.

This cheesecake dessert recipe is full of creamy flavor and perfectly refreshing as a lighter take on traditional cheesecake. See below for more details and a printable, pin-able recipe!






dairy-free, cheesecake, cashews, healthy, nutrition,
Dessert
Yield: 12Pin it

Dairy- Free Sweet Cashew Cream Cheesecake

prep time: 1 hourcook time: total time: 1 hours
Give this easy and delicious take on cheesecake a new spin! A great alternative for those whose are dairy-free, looking to go more plant-based, or simply wanting to try something new and healthier.

ingredients:

Cheesecake Filling
  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup 100% organic real maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • juice of one lemon
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Crust
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • One packet crushed graham crackers (about 10 crackers- and check label of box to ensure all-natural ingredients. Avoid added colors, hydrogenated oils, etc)
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds (I crushed my flax seeds in a mortar and pestle to open up the shell and release the nutrients inside the seed)
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup oil of your choice (I used avocado oil)

instructions:

Cheesecake Filling
  1. Soak cashews for at least 4-6 hours or overnight in bowl with cool water. 
  2. Then drain water from cashews and place into a blender. A blender works best for creating this type of cream vs using a food processor.
  3. Add maple syrup and vanilla extract and set to "blend" or "whip" setting on high to create smoothest texture. Blending may take up to 5 minutes for cashews to completely silken. The cream should feel smooth when rubbed between your fingers. If still grainy, try adding a tablespoon of water at a time and blend a few more minutes until texture is smooth.
  4. Once completely smooth, pour into 10" springform pan (a pie pan will also work) and let cool overnight. Allow to defrost a few hours before serving for the best creamy texture. Top with fruit, nuts, 
Crust
  1. Blend crushed graham crackers, flax seeds, oats, oil, and dates into food processor and blend until all ingredients are moist. 
  2. Transfer crust ingredients to a 10" springform pan, and evenly spread out ingredients to coat the entire bottom (and sides if you like) of the pan.
Created using The Recipes Generator



One of the most ironic things about this blogging world is that so many of us find ourselves in a push and pull between our deep creativity and introverted draw to create, write, process and reflect alone with the equal need to share what we're processing, engage in social interaction, network, and feed our creativity with inspiration, collaboration and ideas from others. And many times fulfilling this comes in the form of events. A word that can send a lot of us introverted hermit creatures into a frenzied list-making process of reasons (really excuses) for why we don't need it when it's actually the one thing we often need the most. Thankfully, there is a growing number of blogging communities out there to help ease this seemingly scary part of "putting yourself out there". 

I was invited to share company with some local bloggers from Sacramento's Blog Bloc community and it was such a great reminder of why we need community in everything we do. Whole Foods recently had their Beauty Week in partnership with Yelp and our Blog Bloc founder, Kachet of The Kachet Life (thekatchetlife.com) was the regional ambassador. We were treated to an amazing brunch spread highlighting the seasonal produce and regular favorites (hello vegan donuts!) as we learned about the newest, top-of-the-line natural skincare products on the market. I was elated to share the day with my dear friend and fellow blogger Eli of Fine Wine Poet (finewinepoet.com) and at the end of the day we left with full bellies, smiles on our faces and some discounted products to give a try. Ummm, skincare is not just for the ladies! For those looking to restock or sample new products whether make-up, skincare, essential oils or other beauty needs, waiting for sales and opportunities like a beauty week are the best way to go. So many of us bloggers rarely buy these things full price!















A recommended product for those battling oily skin!

I'd like to wrap this up with just an encouragement (that I also have to constantly remind myself to do) to surround yourself with people who are engaging in and working toward the same things that you are going after and working toward. I was so put at ease to see that the room was full of introverted creatives just like me. Most of the time, when we find ourselves in these new spaces, the people we are with have either already gone through or are similarly still processing the same emotions as we tend to be processing too as we all travel on different parts of our creative journey- no matter how new or experienced.  

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