Just checking in . . .

>> Thursday, June 30, 2011

Remember our veggie garden? The one that started out looking like this?

And after a little lot of work, we expanded its size and added plants, herbs, and more dirt. Got it looking better -- good, even -- but still somewhat underwhelming?

Well, I'm happy to report it's bursting at the seams as of this morning.

Blame it on the rain -- we've had buckets of it -- but holy moly!

We've got at least three heirloom tomatoes making their way from bud to bulbous . . . I'm already dreaming of fresh mozzarella salads with homegrown tomatoes and basil picked in our back yard.

The onions went from yellow and limp to green and robust . . . (though, we have absolutely no idea when they are "done" growing -- any ideas?)

Overall, we both have this new appreciation for watching things grow this year. So far, our girl has ballooned from some thing the size of a poppy seed to a living, moving (moving a LOT!) being the size of a mango.

Let me repeat that: A MANGO.

And to think, just a few short months ago, she would have been totally dwarfed by this fledgling bell pepper!

I know many of you had gardens started early in the spring . . . or ones you threw together last minute (like us!). How are they doing? Do you know when the optimal harvest time is, or do you just pluck things off vines whenever they look kinda/sorta ready?

We definitely do the latter. No shame about it.

In other news: If you're interested in how we're getting in the girl mood, check out (never home)maker, baby! -- I'm in love with our fun, thrifty finds!

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!


Our Favorite Iron-Rich Recipes

>> Wednesday, June 29, 2011

As always, at yesterday's midwife appointment, I had the opportunity to ask a number of questions. I wondered first when I should start signing up for birth classes. I also had some concern over my weight gain, which hasn't been terribly much so far. And now that I'm in my second trimester, I wanted to know if I am at risk for anemia.

Vegetarians, vegans, and even meat-eaters suffer from anemia -- and iron deficiency that can cause a number of health issues. During pregnancy, a woman's risk is much higher. I've been a vegetarian since age 12, so I've always tried to make sure vitamin B12/folate is a priority. It's not always easy. Though I haven't had problems in the past, in most every preggo book I've read, women -- regardless of diet -- are warned against their risks.

When I asked how I'm doing, my midwife took a quick glance at my first trimester blood test results and returned with: "Well, actually -- most pregnant women I see score around a 13 . . . and anywhere between a 13 and 16 is considered in 'normal' range. You are a 15.5 -- which is on the higher-end, fantastic!"

Not that I'm bragging -- or, maybe I am -- but I gave myself a pat on the back after she said that. All those dark, leafy greens have been doing their jobs, keeping me and my baby healthy. My diet seems to be serving me well, even in this time when I could be particularly depleted.

Thing is, pregnant or not . . . vegetarian/vegan or not . . . we can all use a little diet check-in from time to time. I wanted to bring up this topic and share some of our favorite recipes that include iron-rich ingredients (you can check out a brief list of iron-rich foods on Livestrong.com).


Steamed Collards with Baked Potato and Corn
Baked Flatbread with Sweet Onions, Collards, and Brie
Leafy Green Pancakes
Green Coconut Oats
Veggie Stromboli
Crispy Kale with Nectarines
Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh (Serve a huge helping of spinach on the side)


Black Bean Spinach Burgers
Black-Eyed Pea Stew
Cooked Kale and Chickpea Salad
Green Hummus Sandwich
Stephen's Curried Chickpea Mash
Veggie Meatloaf


Not-So Green Smoothie
Protein-Packed Green Smoothie
Choco-Peanut Butter Green Smoothie
Avocado Green Smoothie


Sweet Potato Brownies
Chocolate Chunk & Banana Cookies
Purple Sticky Rice Tart
Avocado Chocolate Pudding

Vegetarians and vegans (and beyond): What's your favorite way to sneak iron into your diets? When in doubt, I just add a hefty helping of kale, collards, spinach, etc. to my meals. Seems to do the trick. Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!


Sweatin' to the Oldies

>> Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's been a while, but some of you may remember our Richard Simmons Dazzling Desserts cookbook series.

No, really. This is real. And here are some of the recipes we've made:
I think I mentioned at one point that I actually danced on stage for the better part of an hour with Richard. The problem with this fabulous story was always the proof. I didn't have any. Until now!

My dear friend Meg just sent me some photos from our days at Ithaca College. Included were several sweet shots -- and many of them embarrassing -- of us on stage. I'll try my best to only embarrass myself.

The anticipation was intense before Richard entered the room.

I was already warming up on stage. I knew I didn't want to miss this opportunity for ANYTHING.

(It's hard to tell. But I'm the dancing dork in purple.)

Richard didn't disappoint. He was full energy from the moment he stepped onto the stage in his little short-shorts (and I stood right behind him most of the time, they were SHORT).

By the end of the event, we were tttired. I'm not sure if my abs hurt more from sweatin' to the oldies or from laughing so hard. But joking aside, he was an incredibly passionate guy, dedicated to his life's work.

We had a great time :)

So, if that post wasn't enough fun for you -- feel free to join in our excitement today as we celebrate yet another pregnancy milestone: The Anatomy Scan!

We no longer need to call baby (never home)maker an "it" because we now know that "it's" a . . . (CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT)!!!

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!


Dinner on the Cheap

>> Monday, June 27, 2011

We're not experts with the whole budget grocery shopping thing. But we're slowly finding our way and making the most of the ingredients we buy. Take this meal, for example. It fully satisfied my pregnant tummy and cost nearly nothing to make!

  • 2 baked potatoes: 90 cents
  • Half a bag of collards: $1
  • 2 corn cobs: 50 cents
  • 1 container of Greek yogurt: $1 (on sale)
  • Chives: Free -- from our garden
That's a grand total of $1.70 per person. If each meal cost only this much, we'd be well under our $50 goal each week. However, we realize that's a bit unrealistic (and we'd get bored of eating potatoes alone pretty quickly!).

TRUTH TIME: From our weekend fund, as it was Sunday, after all, Stephen supplemented his meal with some shrimp ($7) marinated for an hour in home-brewed beer and tossed with lemon juice, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper. Like I said, though. Even without the shrimp, this plate of food filled me and baby up.

And it was oh-so good . . .

The BEST part was the baked potato. So much, in fact, that I just have to share our favorite way to bake them. The skin is crisp, but not too crisp. Salty, but not too salty. The center is soft, but not too mushy. I'm sure you get the idea.

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Grab a long sheet of tin foil and fold over once or twice.
  • Rinse and scrub potatoes. Dry well. Then prick all over -- deeply 6 to 8 times with the tines of a fork.
  • Place potatoes on tin foil and rub with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil each. Then sprinkle on some coarse kosher salt -- roll to get it well distributed.
  • Place foil/potatoes (note that you DO NOT cover the potatoes with foil, you merely use it as a sheet underneath them) in the center rack of your oven for 1 hour.
  • Flip potatoes halfway through cooking and remove from oven to cool for a few minutes before serving. The salted skin = incredible.
  • 1 small container (6 ounces) plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives -- chopped finely
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • Just mix 'em up and serve on the side!

And don't forget the corn! Our prepared it by boiling in a large stock pot on the stove until the yellow color really pops. There's not true right or wrong way to do it, as we haven't screwed it up yet, but we also like to let it sit in the water as it cools for 5 minutes, so it gets extra tender.

What are some of your favorite meals created on a dime? I feel like it's much easier in the summer to eat on the cheap because I crave more simple foods. A little salt and lemon juice goes a long way, too.

Be sure to check out (never home)maker, baby! today for some preliminary details on our nursery design. We've got a long way to go . . . but we've been inspired!

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!


26.2 and Our Current Running Goals

>> Friday, June 24, 2011

Stephen and I have been chatting a lot about our training plans for the next year and beyond. Mine is pretty well set until the end of the year -- taking it easy, doing what's best for the baby, and just having fun moving for as long as I can. Stephen has chosen to focus on shorter races for the summer and half marathons for the fall -- building his speed and taking a break from high-mileage training.

What we've both agreed on, for the next couple years, at least, is that we're taking a break from marathons.

It's funny how the distance sucked us in. We each ran Philly in 2009 as our first full marathon. Before we knew it, we were hooked. Other races didn't seem to compare or feel as satisfying. Training at a lower intensity (mileage-wise) didn't feel like enough anymore.

So this time last year, we signed on for two 2010 marathons. And we were diligent about our training from July through October.

For me, the results were f.a.r from ideal. I DNFed at the Wineglass in October after 17 miles at near my target 3:50 finishing time pace. And my injury carried over, making me miss the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon in late November. I had done ALL the training. Even gotten in my first 50+ mile week. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

By the end of the year, though, I was still injured and frustrated. I enjoy and can handle the training, but running the actual RACE is another story entirely. It's unpredictable no matter how prepared I am. It's just not fun for me. Plus, the recovery time is llllllong.

Stephen, on the other hand, ran a great effort at Wineglass -- earning his current PR of 2:55:48. But when he turned around and ran Philly a few months later, his performance wasn't exactly as he had hoped. He was burned out and disenchanted with racing 26.2.

He had qualified for Boston this year, so after some time off in the winter . . . he started training again. But a stress fracture kept him off his feet for almost 11 weeks. And, as you suspect, he missed THE big marathon race of all races.

Summer always seems to be the big planning time running-wise. It's the period when fall race registration begins. It's when training must begin to ensure at least some success. So, naturally, our goals have been on our minds. But this year, it's more complicated. Our time won't be entirely our own.

And we definitely have some other priorities we need to put before our racing schedule.

My after-baby plan? Well . . . the mere idea of training for a marathon while caring for a newborn seems like way too much for me to handle. Especially when I don't think the distance is for me -- or ever will be. Plus, I know it will take some time to get back into running shape, period. I'm first looking to establish a regular running schedule that works with our new lives. I have no idea if squeezing it in will be difficult or easy. Or maybe a mix of both.

From there, what I DO know is that I love running 15Ks and half marathons versus shorter distances because I get a great sense of accomplishment and don't have to sprint from the minute the gun goes off. My long-range goal is to PR in the half marathon distance, ideally with a time around 1:40:00. My current PR is right around 1:46, so I know it will take a lot of work to shave off those minutes. But I don't see myself running another full marathon until I reach this half marathon goal.

Stephen is shooting to PR in the 5K this summer. He'd like to finish in the low 16s . . . and even possibly in the high 15s. He's anxious to find the right race to try this feat. Otherwise, he would also like to focus on PRing in all distances up to the half marathon. To accomplish his goal, he's looking for less mileage-heavy weeks and more time on the track.

Smarter, better quality miles versus quantity, junk time on his feet.

Also note that Stephen DOES want to run a marathon in a couple years. He feels his burnout is more to blame for his performance/disenchantment than his body. But he's being nice and already a good daddy. I basically told him I wouldn't love if he was spending hours running on Sundays when we have a baby to care for. (Hahaha. OK. Seriously, though, he came to this conclusion all by himself.)

No matter what happens, we're both committed to continuing our running and learning from both our good and bad experiences. It's almost like we have this relationship with running . . . and like with all relationships, it's constantly shifting and evolving. What remains -- stays constant -- is that commitment, no matter where we shift/move.

What are your current fitness goals? Have you had any major revelations or life changes recently that has made you alter them? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!


Fabulous Fail: Microwave Chocolate Cake

>> Thursday, June 23, 2011

By now, we all know I'm a huge fan of "baking" stuff in the microwave. Just check out the latest micro-muffin recipe, and you'll see what I mean. So, imagine my delight when I came across this amazing microwave chocolate cake recipe.

As always, I wanted to take it a step beyond that recipe. I wanted to double the batter and pour it into three small bowls. I wanted, dear friends, to make an intensely easy, microwave chocolate LAYER cake with some of Ashley's peanut butter frosting.

Here's what happened.

I mixed together the batter -- making a few changes here and there with the ingredients. I probably ate at least a half cup of it while pouring into three Fiestaware bowls. (The preggo in me is addicted to batter and dough of any kind.)

Then I started microwaving it. The recipe says to cook for 1 minute on high. Then remove from the oven and stir. This action ensures the now-melted chocolate chips are better incorporated and distributed throughout.

Chocolatey goodness . . .

From the top, we have the cooked-1-minute-and stirred mix. Then clockwise from that, the before-hitting-the-microwave version. The bottom photo is of a "complete" cake -- after cooking for an additional minute and a half.

Let's just say, things were looking (and smelling) amazing.

Then the problem started. I noticed the cakes -- despite being pour into well greased bowls -- were stuck. Completely stuck. So, I put them in the refrigerator to cool down a bit.

I daydreamed about how good the whole thing would turn out on my 6-mile jog.

When they were sufficiently cooled, I tried prying the cake out with a fork. Tipping the whole bowl over. Gently pulling at the corners with my fingers. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. It was clear after about three minutes, though, that it wasn't going to budge.

Eventually part of the cake did come out. Grrrrrr!!!

So, what's the whole "fabulous" part of the fail? Well, despite how crumbly the texture may look, the cake is actually quite moist. And it tastes INCREDIBLE. Just as good, if not BETTER than any chocolate cake I've made at home before.

For now, we'll just enjoy the cakes right out of the bowl.

This isn't the last try, mind you. There will be more attempts . . . and tips are appreciated. I'm determined to create a fancy cake in my microwave. Why, exactly? We've received emails requesting dessert recipes that don't require ovens for baking. And we have a ton of no-bake and raw stuff to suggest, but this whole cake thing seems like so much fun!


For those of you interested in why pregnant women CAN eat brie (like in the Baked Flatbread with Sweet Onions, Collards, and Brie recipe), check out the 17 Week video post on (never home)maker, baby!

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!


Baked Flatbread with Sweet Onions, Collards, and Brie

>> Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In our home, it always feels like a pizza or garlic knots night. Especially recently. But I'm growing tired with our usual recipes. I also want to add more veggies to the mix (since cheese pizza is my go-to favorite). The temps were too hot for my run last night, so I decided to get a workout in the kitchen creating a new recipe.


As you'll see in just a moment, the recipe is long. I suggest you read it over once to see how easy these steps are once you get started. If you like to prepare ahead, a great way to approach this meal might be making batches of dough ahead of time, freezing them, then preparing the toppings fresh the day of.

Stephen and I loved the crispy crust and light toppings. We ate the entire thing, but didn't feel overly full -- leaving room for dessert.


What you'll need . . .
  • 1-1/3 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup warm (wrist-temperature) water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • More flour for kneading
Method . . .
  1. In a small bowl, pour your water and mix in the yeast. Let sit to 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours and salt.
  3. Pour the olive oil into the yeast mixture. Stir. Then pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix (a spatula works well, then transition over to your hands to a kneading).
  4. Use extra flour in your bowl to get your dough from sticky to a nice, elastic ball.
  5. Then cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.


What you'll need . . .
  • 1 medium to large white onion
  • Bunch of collard greens, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Fresh or canned (drained/rinsed) tomatoes
  • 1 wheel brie
  • Fresh herbs (we used dill, basil, thyme, and sage)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

Method . . .
  1. In a medium pan, pour in a bit of olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Toss in the onions and cook until glassy. Then add the collard greens (they will cook down), brown sugar, and water. Cook until onions are browned. Then set aside.
  2. Slice your tomatoes. If you're using canned, squeeze out as much extra moisture as possible so your dough won't get soggy when you bake.
  3. Slice brie into small pieces. We always take off the rind. (And YES! Pregnant women can eat Brie. We used President, which is pasteurized.)

  1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. Place a pizza stone on the center oven rack. A metal sheet should work, too. You may want to lower the oven temp to 475 degrees F, in that event.
  2. Divide dough into two balls. Bag and freeze one for a rainy day. On a lightly floured work surface, stretch out the other one until it is thin and about 18 inches in diameter (about the diameter of the pizza stone).
  3. When the oven is preheated, put the dough in and bake on one side for 3 to 5 minutes. You will see the dough bubble up.
  4. Remove the crust from the oven and flip it over. Drizzle your 2 tablespoons of olive oil onto it. Then distribute the onion/collard mixture, the tomatoes, the brie, and finish with the herbs. We also added a pinch of salt at the last minute.
  5. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes -- until brie is bubbly and browned. Then finish with a quick broil -- 1 to 2 minutes, depending on how crisp you'd like it.
  6. Then cut and serve.

You'll be fighting to get your fill . . . up until the very last piece.

So, that's what I like to do on nights when I don't run (and actually have time/energy mid-week to cook!). I woke up at 5:40 to try and get a morning jog in . . . only to be greeted by thunder and lightning. Here's hoping my luck will improve tonight . . .

But the extra time did give me a chance to finally record our 16 (and 17) week pregnancy vlog. We'll post it on (never home)maker, baby! once it uploads. For now, you can read the rest on today's 17-week update post.

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!


The Ongoing Grocery Saga

>> Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The last time we wrote about lowering our grocery bills, we got A TON of great suggestions. But we did get quite a bit of pause from some readers who think our bar might be set too high (with a $50 number that seems too low for two people to live on). We're confident we can hit our target, or at least close to it, so we're forging forward with some new thoughts this week.

First, we wanted to share some of our favorite reader tips. These suggestions particularly speak to us:

  • Chelsea: "I shop bi-weekly and spend about $80 on average per trip. It's great :)"
  • Tracy: "I'm trying to cut back to every other week and think it really helps. It forces you to eat through what you have completely, and cuts back on impulse buys too!"
  • Sabina: "What's helped us is avoiding the grocery store (i.e., like your Wegmans) and shopping at the bread place, the butcher, the health food store, the fruit/veg store. The grocery store is so, so expensive compared to the independent stores."
  • Melinda: "I'm kind of crazy and I shop at like 5 different stores (Target, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Wegmans, and Shop Rite) because certain stores have certain deals and brands I like."

  • Elaine: "We've saved so much money by going to grocery stores that offer bulk pantry items, only take debit/cash, and make you bag your own items."
  • Michaela: "I'm really big on eating simple foods, and I've found that has cut down my grocery bill a lot as well. A lot of the time, I'll just eat a banana with peanut butter for breakfast, toast with hummus and carrots for lunch, or steamed veggies and rice for dinner."

  • Elizabeth: "Best practices for our bill are constant meal planning (before shopping) to limit impulse buys and keep focused (I plan for 2-3 weeks at a time)."
  • Shruti: "I have a spreadsheet made up of my necessities and how often I can buy them."
  • Heather: "The only way I've been able to get my food budget down is by sticking with the cash system. If I've used up all my cash that week, then I've gotta wait or not get it at all. It's seriously been the only thing that has worked!"
  • Sarah: "Its maybe easier to think of it as averaging out to that amount ($50) per week over a month (so, about $200) in order to account for the weeks that you stock up on certain items or find a good deal on something special."

I've also been picking up advice from some unexpected sources. I have this new obsession with the Duggar family (Image source). Well, "obsession" isn't the word. Maybe "fascination" would be a better choice. I started watching the series from episode one on Netflix last week.

So far, I feel like I've learned a lot about stretching the grocery dollar.
  • Shopping big once a month. One episode featured the family stocking up on all their groceries for the month. I doubt we'd be able to shop only once monthly, but hitting the store less would definitely be worth trying.
  • Shopping at no-frills stores. Like Aldi. I haven't been to an Aldi since college, but I feel like it might be worth a gander. And this idea goes with what several readers mentioned about looking beyond Wegmans, trying new stores -- as well as utilizing CSA groups, farmers markets, and independent grocers.
  • Prepping large meals. They do this out of necessity, of course, but with freezing and other preservation methods, we could do much more with this area. I bought a fun book this weekend, so once I get my way through it, I'll be sure to share some ideas.
  • Simplifying. The Duggars eat well and healthfully, but they don't eat the most exotic foods. Thing is: We don't need to either. Of course we love to try new things, but sticking with the basics might be best for our budget.
  • Thinking outside the colorful boxes. Non-grocery items add up as well. Cleaners can be made at home! Making our own laundry detergent (again, OBSESSED with this thought!) is on the list of things to try.


When Clearly Fresh Bags heard about our quest to save, they also noted that we should pay more attention to the foods we DO have, instead of constantly focusing on what we plan to buy. I'm notorious for unintentionally letting foods to go waste -- especially apples and heads of broccoli hidden in our refrigerator's produce bins.

I tried these bags out on some of my beloved nectarines. I specifically kept one in there for an entire week, and it didn't get horribly mushy! In fact, it was still . . . fresh.

Basically, the bags keep fruits and vegetables fresher longer, thereby saving money by throwing away less. They are also re-closeable and recyclable, so that's cool. It's still too early to extract the $$$ impact these bags might have on our bills, but we'll continue to use the package they sent us and see if wasting less translates to a fuller wallet.

If you'd like to learn more about Clearly Fresh Bags and how they work, visit their website. (PS: We got some concern over adding this product review into the post. Rest assured we only got the bags to try and do not benefit from your clicks or purchases -- just something we've tried!)


As I mentioned in yesterday's post, this week's grocery bill was $63. Our Greek yogurt love is still getting the best of us at $10 of that total cost. (And, yes. We are looking into making our own, just haven't had the time yet.) Other items we bought included the basics . . . eggs, bread, strawberries, nectarines, bananas, collard greens, frozen cauliflower and broccoli, garbanzo beans, peanut butter, etc. Some treat items even made it onto the list, including Reed's Ginger Brew and Jala ice cream pops.

The hardest part is taking these simple ingredients and making them into balanced, filling meals More on what we're doing with these items soon! Now, I know some of you are own your own slashing missions -- how's it going? Just leave us a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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