365 Recipes: Lemon Chiffon Cake for Mama

The Recipe: 
My mama, sadly, is allergic to milk protein. She’s also a big lover of lemon cake with cream cheese frosting. So last year I made it my mission to invent a milk-free lemon cake with vegan-cream-cheese frosting. This year I perfected it– the only thing I wish I’d done, but didn’t was to buy lemon curd and spread it between layers. That would’ve taken this from good to great. But this frosting exceeded my wildest dreams. It’s pillowy and lemony and the perfect balance of tart and sweet. Try it; you won’t be sorry.

The Ingredients:
For the Cake:
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup wheat bran
2 cups minus 4 tablespoons cold water
2 teaspoons lemon extract
2 tablespoons vinegar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Zest from one lemon
For the Frosting:
8 oz Daiya dairy-free cream cheese
1/2 cup very soft butter (slightly melted in microwave if need be)
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1-2 teaspoons lemon extract
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest from 1 lemon

Lemon curd for filling

The Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Combine all dry ingredients in mixing bowl and whisk together thoroughly. Add lemon zest and whisk through.
2. Combine all wet ingredients in a graduated measuring cup. Pour into the dry ingredients and whisk together thoroughly.
3. Pour into 2 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until top is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.
4. With an electric mixer, cream together cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add lemon juice, extract, and zest (reserve a little to garnish the cake), and whisk until combined. Add icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating until incorporated before adding next cup.
5. Ice the cake, spreading lemon curd between the layers. Garnish with strawberries, mint leaves, and lemon zest. Keep refrigerated until you’re ready to serve.


No-Cry Sleep-Training My Third

img_1015With my first two babies, I followed Babywise principles* to put them on a schedule, and it involved a fair bit of crying-it-out, especially with Scout Kid (the Feral Kid sucked his thumb after about three months, so cried a lot less). When the Blue Jay Baby rolled in, having hung around with a lot of gentle/attachment parents and perhaps with a little of the indulgence that comes with your last child, I very much wanted to avoid all that crying. At the same time, I’m a lousy mother on little sleep, and having been used to scheduling, I wasn’t exactly ready to let sleeping-through-the-night disappear over the horizon, so I wondered– could I train the Blue Jay Baby to sleep all night without using crying it out?**

At just shy of five months, the Blue Jay Baby is STTN most nights, though occasionally we still get a waking sometimes between 4 and 6am. So, yes! I can. Here’s what I did:***

  1. Sleep-Eat-Wake Schedule: Starting from birth, I fed on demand, but strove to do two things: provide a full feeding (so, feeding her as long as possible, which meant changing diapers between sides, sometimes undressing/joggling/talking to her to get as much milk as possible into her before she fell into that unshakeable newborn sleep) and trying to have a wake-time after feeds. (Again, at the newborn phase, sometimes that just doesn’t happen, but we’d do bathtimes, changes of clothes, chats, etc., immediately after feeds.) Key in this system (Babywise calls it ‘Sleep-Eat-Wake’, or SEW) is not doing a waketime during the night. This means that by the time baby is two weeks old, they should be in the habit of falling right back to sleep after their night feeds, and having their more wakeful/alert times during the day.
  2. Emphasized Timing of Sleep: I used the first month to focus on the that of sleep, and the when of sleep, before worrying about the where of sleep. That’s a fancy way of saying, I was quite happy to do whatever it took to help her sleep, instead of worrying much about ‘good sleep habits’. What this looked like for us was co-sleeping in the early weeks, plenty of wearing her in my Moby wrap and my (lovely, lovely, highly recommended!) Beco Gemini, and rocking her. I did try to put her in bed when she was drowsy (so, babywear/rock her until she was on the edge of slumber and then transfer her to her crib. That way she was still accustomed to dropping off to sleep in her bed, and wasn’t freaked out waking up there.)
  3. Assisted Her In Falling Asleep: I was never reluctant to help the Blue Jay Baby when she needed it. Knowing she was used to sleeping in her bed, and accustomed to doing her drifting off there, if she was crying, I’d go and rock her. If that didn’t settle her, I’d nurse her. Having learned that overtiredness releases adrenaline, I figured nursing would release calming hormones to counteract that, and that I’d just left her too long, past the point when she could go to sleep without help. Some days, this was frustrating, when it was clear that she was tired but couldn’t seem to get off to sleep, but these times have gotten less frequent as she grows older and more comfortable with her schedule.
  4. Let Her Fuss Sometimes: Although I never left her if she got into full-blown crying, if she was just fussing (off-and-on, fading/gentle crying vs. constant crying in increasing intensity) I’d let her do this for about 10 minutes. Often it was just the grizzling of a sleepy baby (and she’d even have been doing similar in my arms before I put her down) and she’d put herself to sleep if left.
  5. Miscellaneous: I try to put her down after she yawns a couple times. Sometimes, it’s a miscue, but often it is a good indicator that she’s ready. If she won’t sleep when I think she’s tired, I will try an extra feed. Sometimes what I mistook for tired fussing was hungry fussing, and with a milk top up, she can be awake and happy for another 15-45 minutes. She sleeps with a blackout curtain and white noise– I’ve been told they learn to sleep through noise, but I’ve never seen it, and I certainly don’t expect that of myself, so why would I of my baby? Lastly, the Blue Jay Baby slept on her tummy from birth (except when we were co-sleeping.) I know many wouldn’t be comfortable with the SIDS risk, but we were fine on all the other risk factors (ethnicity, gender, temperature, sleep environment, substances, etc) and I decided I was comfortable with the small risk. She would startle herself awake all the time on her back, even tightly swaddled.
  6. Timing: The Blue Jay Baby started STTN with reasonable reliability at about four and a half months. The Babywise CIO method is supposed to get results around 12 weeks, but honestly, with neither of my older babies did I find they were really reliable until after seven months, and so this time I was willing to trade off the angst of feeling like they should be sleeping through because they already had against the later STTN the Blue Jay Baby did.
  7. Where We Are Now: The Blue Jay Baby is on a rough schedule in which she has three naps a day. Usually at least one is two hours, and the other two are between 45 and 90 minutes. I put her down no less than an hour after she wakes up, but sometimes it’s longer than two hours before she’s ready. She goes down around 7pm, and wakes around 7am the next day. She sometimes needs me to rock her to the edge of sleep, and sometimes she can get there without help.

So, that’s what worked for us. I hope it’s helpful for someone. Happy to answer any questions or provide more details on how it all played out, just ask away in the comments! And if you have any tried-and-true baby sleeping tips, again, love to hear them.

*I don’t like the tone or philosophies of the Babywise books much, but from a practical scheduling perspective, they worked for me.

**I’m not against some fussing and as a third baby, the Blue Jay has to deal with waiting for her siblings, so it’s not like she’s never left to cry, but I’m not using it as a sleep training method. Just, like, a ‘well, sometimes life is tough,’ thing.

***Every kid is different, of course, so please don’t read this as me saying, ‘Oh, here’s how you get your baby to STTN.’ I’m sharing this in the hope that some of these tips will be helpful for some people, not to suggest this is the only way.

365 Recipes: Black Bean Burgers


The Ingredients:


2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 egg
1 jalapeño pepper
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons taco seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen/defrosted)
4 large slices Cheddar cheese
Vegetable oil, for frying
Avocado, lettuce, mayo, and Sriracha or other hot sauce for topping
4 sturdy hamburger buns

The Method: 

  1. Seed and roughly chop jalapeño. Add jalapeño and garlic cloves to a food processor and mince finely.
  2. Add one can of beans to the jalapeno/garlic mixture and pulse to combine. Add seasonings, and pulse until mixture resembles chunky black bean dip.
  3. Transfer the bean mixture to a large bowl and stir in the bread crumbs, tomato sauce, egg, and corn. Stir well to combine and add remaining black beans.
  4. Heat a olive oil in a nonstick skillet on medium-high heat. Form black bean mixture into patties and fry for about 4 minutes per side, until golden and crusty brown, adding Cheddar cheese to melt after the first side is done.
  5. Serve burgers with avocado slices, Sriracha, lettuce, and other burger toppings to taste.

The Verdict:

I’m always happy to find a vegetarian recipe where you don’t miss the meat. This one will, I think, receive a few tweaks over time, but it’s a good one.

365 Recipes: Beef Parmesan Linguine

The Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground beef
1 large onion, puréed
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 8-ounce can of tomato paste
¾ package linguine
1 whole head of garlic, chopped
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 handful basil leaves, roughly chopped

The Method:

  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, cook beef, onion, salt, pepper, and turmeric in a large frying pan over high heat.
  2. Drain ground beef, if necessary, and add tomato paste to frying pan. Sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute longer.
  3. Remove beef mixture from heat, add pasta and Parmesan, and toss to combine. Serve garnished with basil and additional Parmesan.

The Verdict:

A keeper. The Partner in Crime mostly likes tomato-based pasta dishes, while I like a wider variety, and this is nice because it has that tomato base, but it’s more subtle and unique, a little off that beaten path. The best of both worlds!

365 Recipes: Asian Pork & Noodle Salad

The Ingredients:

For the Salad:
1 package linguine noodles
12 ounces boneless pork loin chops, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 bag baby spinach
1 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 bag bean sprouts
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 whole scallions, Sliced
1 cucumber, roughly chopped
1/4 cup cashews
For the Dressing:
Juice of one lime
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/8 cup brown sugar
1.5 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 whole jalapeño pepper, chopped (optional)
1/2 tablespoon cilantro, minced

The Method:

  1. Fry pork pieces in a frying pan set over medium-high heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Prepare pasta according to package directions, rinse in cold water to cool, and drain. Combine salad dressing ingredients and set aside. Lightly toast cashews in a skillet.
  3. On a large platter, toss linguine, pork and vegetables until combined. Drizzle with dressing, and garnish with cashews and additional chopped cilantro to serve.

The Verdict:

Make this. Just do it. A perfect summer meal: healthy (especially if you use wholegrain or fibre-added pasta), fresh, quick, and so delicious.

365 Recipes: Panko-Crusted Salmon

The Ingredients:

2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 salmon fillets, skin on
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Lemon wedges, for serving

The Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together the panko, parsley, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and stir until the crumbs are evenly coated. Set aside.
  2. Place the salmon fillets, skin side down, on a board. Generously brush the top of the fillets with mustard and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Press the panko mixture thickly on top of the mustard on each salmon fillet.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a 12″ cast iron skillet or other ovenproof pan. When the oil is very hot, add the salmon fillets, skin side down, and sear for 3-4 minutes without turning to brown the skin.
  4. Transfer the pan to the hot oven for 5 to 7 minutes until the salmon is almost cooked and the panko is browned. Remove from the oven, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve the salmon with lemon wedges.

The Verdict:

The kids still don’t love fish, but they’re slowly warming up to it. The Partner in Crime and I both enjoyed this.

Homeschooling: Miss Rhonda’s Readers

I’ve shared a few resources here before that helped get the Scout Kid on the path to reading. Native Reading was one– and I was excited to see the technique backed up in Thirty Million Words, which I just finished reading on my Kindle and plan to review soon. Leap Frog’s magical Letter Factory was another, and I cannot recommend it more highly to anyone who want their child to effortlessly learn basic letter sounds.

So the Scout Kid has been reading for a good few months now, but I found it hard to find him good books to practice on. I wanted books difficult enough to stretch his abilities, but it’s easy for him to get discouraged if there are a lot of nonstandard words, and because of this difficulty finding good books, neither of us were as enthused about him practicing his newfound skills as we should of been.

That’s why I was delighted to stumble across Miss Rhonda’s Readers. Written by a Montessori teacher, they are simple, sweet little stories that are designed to be delightful instead of dull or frustrating. At $0.99 apiece on the Kindle, we’ve been buying a new one every few days for the Scout Kid to work his way through. (He may or may not have learned how to buy them himself today and bought four while I wasn’t paying attention, but hey. There are worse things to accidentally buy four of.)

It is such a joy to see my boy reading– as a word-lover myself, I’m so thrilled about the worlds that are opening up before him now that he can read, worlds of imagination, learning, and depth. I deeply believe that helping kids learn to read early is better not because it’s a race or because academic success is in itself an important goal for a four year old, but because of that. Because now he can start to dig into his own interests at his leisure and liberty, read a dozen books about dinosaurs in a row if that’s what he wants. Because of the connections with characters and the wonderful worlds that fiction hold. Because he won’t be at anyone’s mercy in decoding the world around him; he can forge his own way. Because reading is a door, not a destination. </sentimental monologue>

Anyways, check  out the readers; they’re great and the price is definitely right! You can by physical copies on her website, or grab them for Kindle from Amazon.

(Right now the Scout Kid’s biggest struggle is sounding out longer, unfamiliar words without immediately defaulting to trying to guess based on the picture and the word’s first letter. I’m mulling over how to make a game to practice that.)