As you may or may not know, depending on how closely you follow this here blog or my Instagram feed, I am pregnant with our 3rd kiddo. As of this writing, I am just about 8 months pregnant. I still cannot believe that we are having a 3rd kid. I know I’ve mentioned that before but I still cannot believe it. When I was 8 months pregnant with our first kiddo (who is currently 5 1/2), I was so full of excitement and joy. I don’t so much feel that now and not because I don’t feel excitement or joy for my kiddos (if you know me at all, you know I probably love my kids a little ‘too’ much) but because the newborn stage isn’t my favorite. The first newborn stage I went through was marked by a 3 month-long bought of postpartum depression. The second newborn stage was actually kind of awesome, if I’m being honest. I knew what to expect in terms of the sheer exhaustion and, you know, the part where you’re terrified that if your baby even remotely looks at you weird it means they’re sick and/or don’t love you. I leaned into it, made a lot of espresso and allowed myself to binge watch a looooooooooot of shows (I love you, Homeland). But now I’ve got 2 others kids and, oh yeah, I GAVE ALL MY BABY STUFF AWAY. That’s right. I was so certain that we would only be having 2 kids that I sold off or gave away all our baby gear so now we’re back to square one. Thus, the impetus for this post.

If there’s 2 things I know about preparing for a new baby to enter your life it’s that above all else you need to have delicious, ready-to-eat food on hand AT ALL TIMES and you need baby gear that helps make your life easier (such as sleep systems, instant swaddles, easy-to-use thermometers and washable rugs). Therefore, I combined these two certainties to present to you this epic post of ‘Must Haves’ for both food and gear for new parents. If you are about to have a baby, send the link to this post to all your friends and family with an email that reads simply:

Dear Loved Ones,

 

We’re gonna need some help. See all links and items in this blog post (and here’s where you’d insert the link to this post).

 

Love,

Me

Trust me. They will respond. Ultimately, your loved ones will want to help! I hope you enjoy this post. I picked the baby gear items based entirely on items that I have been my ‘must haves’ for both kiddos and will be for this one save for the amazingness that is the DockATot (which was not yet on the market when our 2 year-old was born) and the Lorena Canal rug, which is also new to the market and has been a life saver for this type A cleaner.

 

  1. First, the DockATot. DockATot is a multi-functional lounger, co-sleeper, playtime lounger. When Siona, our oldest was born, we tried every kind of co-sleeping or bassinet on the market (I mean, not really, but it felt like it). Eventually we just gave up on co-sleeping as the co-sleeper we had didn’t fit our bed and it only fit on one side of the bed so only one of us truly got to co-sleep. With Eden, we gave up entirely and swaddled her and set heron a pillow in between us (I’m sure you’re thinking we are negligent parents for doing so but I’m happy to report that little infant is now a healthy, sassy 2 year-old). Because I was terrified of rolling on top of her, I barely slept when she did. But now the Lord has brought us the DockATot and I am so thrilled for this item to be on the market. For safety reasons, the DockATot is meant to be placed in the middle of the bed, which allows for husband and I to both feel like we are co-sleeping with our newborn. It’s made in Europe and designed in Sweden, tested for breathability, hypo allergenic, machine washable and OEKO-TEX certified, which means it was independently tested and certified so you can feel safe knowing the folks at DockATot truly believe in baby safety. Seriously, all that’s left is for the folks at DockATot to figure out how it can do my taxes and it would be THE perfect all-encompassing parent tool.

The DockATot

2)  Lorena Canal Rugs is also a product I only recently discovered and, honestly, even if you don’t have kids, it’s an amazing product. First and foremost, you need to know that they are machine washable and can be dried in the clothes dryer. I repeat: THESE RUGS ARE MACHINE WASHABLE! In addition, the colors used in these handmade rugs come from all natural dyes, eco-friendly and contain no VOCs like most carpeting and rugs. And if the fact that all parents can now breathe easily when their kids are handling washable paint around rug wasn’t enough, you can also feel good about the purchase of a Lorena Canal rug as proceeds from the sale of their products go towards the Sakula Project, a school the company founded in Haryana, the North of India. Dudes, seriously, it’s a win-win.

Lorena Canal Rugs

3) A Diaper Clutch (one featured is from Skip Hop). My dear friend, Rachel, went off registry when she got me this as a gift when our first baby was born and I’m SO glad she did. This is the item I get all friends who have their first baby. Seriously, I NEVER go off registry but for this one, I do. It’s an all in one — carries the diapers, the wipes and is the clean thing you lay your baby down on for a change. I have legit laid this puppy down on the floor of an Anthropologie and changed a baby’s diaper on it. We use it to this day. It’s come in handy on planes, trains and in automobiles. I can’t tell you enough how this has saved our tushes!

4) A GOOD sound machine – I use the same sound machines for drowning out my loud Jersey husband as I do for blocking my confidential conversations with students as a school counselor. I learned my lesson when I bought a ‘cute’ sound machine rather than a functional one when our 2nd kid was born. Though the sound machine was adorable, the actual white noise sound it made sounded like a broken TV. The one pictured is the model I recommend. Therapist grade, baby!

5) An ear thermometer – OK, we have gone through every kind of thermometer possible and an ear thermometer is the best. I learned this when I started supervising a school nurse and she ‘schooled’ me on the best products for adolescent health care. We had received a digital forehead thermometer with the birth of our second baby and, to this day, I still can’t work that thing and husband is convinced it’s always a degree or two off, which counts! And so, I say to you, get thee a good digital ear thermometer and be done with it!

6) A SwaddleME Swaddle – or really ANY swaddle that is user-friendly and doesn’t require you constant access to maternity ward nurses who can swaddle a baby in just about anything. I gave up on trying to achieve the perfect swaddle about 2 weeks into the birth of our 1st born and have been in a believer in velcro-based swaddles ever since. Seriously, DO IT.

7) The Backpack Diaper Bag – Oh, you think I give a crap about the latest designer, over-the-shoulder diaper bag? Cause I don’t. I started using backpacks as diaper bags when the oldest was 2 (about 3 years ago) and haven’t looked back. I started with a standard backpack and then upgraded to a yoga backpack within 6 months. Next thing I know, the market is being saturated with diaper bag backpacks. Now, I’m not saying I STARTED the trend, necessarily. But I’m also not saying I didn’t. Seriously, every time I was out with the kiddos and had the over-the-shoulder bag on and bent down to help my toddler with something, I would knock her in the face. Backpacks do not facilitate the toddler knock out PLUS, they’re better for the back.

8) The Wubbanub – I don’t know what it is with our babies and Wubbanubs but they love them. Our kids aren’t pacifier kids (they’re usually done with it by 6 months of age) but as infants, they love the Wubbanubs. I can’t point to what it is about them, except they’re super cute and harder to lose because they’re bigger than a standard pacifier that doesn’t come with a plush animal attached to it.

9) A Portable High Chair – Holy cow! Honestly, to this day we do not have one of these and we NEED ONE! We suffer through it as semi-constant roadtrippers and it’s a nightmare. Ultimately, we end up sitting the kiddo in her carseat, which is on top of a table, or one of us ends up with the baby on us the entirety of the meal. #neveragain

10) A Plush Sloth – Do I really need to explain this one? It’s a plush sloth! GAH! I want one!

 

And now for the meals . . .

Brown Rice Pesto Breakfast Bowl from Jewhungry

Freezer to Oven Stuffed Sweet Potatoes from Sweet Peas and Saffron

Cheesy Broccoli Kale Pesto Pizza from Peas and Crayons

Cold Asian Noodle Salad from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen

Vegan Red Curry Pumpkin Noodle Soup from Nutmeg Nanny

Three-Ingredient Energy Bars from Sheri Silver

Skillet Spanakopita from Dessert for Two 

Italian Chickpea Salad from Iowa Girl Eats

Veggie Fajita Enchiladas from Delish Knowledge

Moroccan Carrot Red Lentil Soup from A Cedar Spoon

tu b'shvat chocolate dirt cake jewhungry kosher food

Do not adjust your computer screens. You are actually seeing a new post from me. I can’t believe I actually got my sh*t together enough to pull off cooking, staging, photographing and editing a post. It helped that I have been wanting to make this recipe in honor of Tu b’Shevat since I made a larger dirt cake last year for our dear friend, Dave’s, birthday Shabbat dinner, which just happened to fall on Tu b’Shevat. At the time I thought to myself, I said, “Self, you HAVE to remember this and do it better and cuter for next year’s Tu b’Shevat” and so, here we are!

So what’s been going on since I last posted WAY back in July? Welp, the biggest news is that I am currently 6 months pregnant with our 3rd kiddo. Yep, we took the plunge. If you are a loyal Jewhungry reader, you’ll remember that I was wrestling with the question or whether or not to get pregnant in a previous post. When we finally came to the decision that, yes, we were going to try for a third, I felt so certain in that decision. That being said, 6 months into the hardest pregnancy I’ve experienced, I am FREAKING OUT. Ok, I don’t know if it’s fair to say ‘freaking out’ in all caps but I am having a lot of misgivings. A lot of, “What was I thinking!?” has been running through my head in the last 5 months. I started getting sick almost immediately and the nausea hasn’t stopped, which hasn’t helped my doubts. I am like a she-beast. I must be fed every hour on the hour or else I will puke on you. Seriously, you think I over exaggerate but I do not. Just ask my beloved husband or co-workers. It’s not pretty.

tu b'shvat chocolate dirt cake jewhungry kosher food

Nausea aside, I keep thinking to myself that we have a nice little routine down with the girls and why on Earth did we decide to make a decision that was going to mess that up!? They have such a strong bond, will this new little critter threaten that? Also, dear Gd, these two girls sleep through the night have been since our current youngest was roughly 6 months old. Like, I get sleep and stuff. Why oh why did we f*ck with that scenario too!? I have enough experience as a mental health professional to know when I’m starting to spiral so I’ll stop here. I’m pretty confident you get the drift. That said, I’d be ever so grateful to know if you have more than 2 kids and had the same experiences of doubt. Please, seriously, normalize me!!!

Deeeeeeeep inhale and exhale.

tu b'shvat chocolate dirt cake jewhungry kosher food

So back to these here chocolate dirt cakes for Tu b’Shevat. In case you’re unfamiliar with the holiday, Tu b’Shevat occurs on the 15th of the Jewish month of Shevat so the name of the holiday literally translates to 15th of Shevat. It’s also occasionally referred to as the New Year of Trees and is thought to be an agricultural day marking the first day of Spring. I’m sure if you’re reading this somewhere like Minnesota or Massachusetts you’re all, “Seriously? Spring in January!?” But remember, we’re talking about Biblical Israel here so it’s a wee bit warmer there this time of year.Tu b’Shevat technically a minor holiday but it’s just so dang fun that we make a point to ‘celebrate’ it in our household. A lot of commentary exists out there pointing to the fact that humans are “compared to the tree of the field” (Deuteronomy 20:19) and that the ‘fruit’ we bear is not only children (which is the first mitzvah in the Torah we are given to fulfill) but also the living of a life embedded in goodness. It’s become tradition that folks plant trees and/or hold a Tu b’Shevat seder during which it is customary to eat dried fruits and nuts, specifically figs, dates, raisins, carob, and almonds. Many people also incorporate the Seven Species into their seders, wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

I also encourage you to incorporate these chocolate treats into your seder cause they’re delicious and fun to make. Please note that the trees I used in my recipe are NOT edible. They are there cause they’re just too cute. What is edible? The several layers of chocolate used to assemble these treats. My favorite component is the homemade chocolate cookie crumble. You can also always take the trees out of the scenario and have yourself a fancy little trifle dessert for any day of the week. Enjoy!

tu b'shvat chocolate dirt cake jewhungry kosher food

 

tu b'shvat chocolate dirt cake jewhungry kosher food

 

tu b'shvat chocolate dirt cake jewhungry kosher food

 

 

 

 

tu b'shvat chocolate dirt cake jewhungry kosher food

 

 

 

 

tu b'shvat chocolate dirt cake jewhungry kosher food

She just HAD to get into the picture.

 

Ingredients/Method
(Makes for 4 – 5 mini trifles depending upon how much you use during assembly)

For the Cake and Pudding:

OK, so for the cake and pudding I used ready-made items cause I have 2 kids, a full time job and am 6 months pregnant so SOMETHING had to give. You can opt to also use Oreo cookies for your cookie crumbles but the chocolate cookie crumble recipe provided is so user-friendly and nets you incredibly delicious crumbles. For the cake, I used Betty Crocker’s Original Recipe Scratch Cake Mix but any ol’ boxed cake will do. The pudding was your trusted Jell-O Dark Chocolate Pudding Packs. I also incorporated chopped nuts into my recipe but feel free to omit if you have a nut allergy!

 

For the Chocolate Cookie Crumbles:

(makes 2 1/2 cups)

  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Method for Chocolate Crumbs:
  • Preheat the oven to 350 (F).
  • Combine 2/3 cup flour, 1 teaspoon cornstarch, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2/3 cup cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on low-speed until mixed.
  • Add 6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter and paddle on low-speed until the mixture starts together in small clusters and clumps — at this point, it should look a little bit like wet sand.
  • Spread the clusters on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake for 20 minutes, using a dough scraper to break them up occasionally. The crumbs should still be slightly most to the touch at that point; they will harden and dry as they cool.
  • Let the crumbs cool completely before using in the recipe.

For the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons milk or cream
  • pinch of salt

Method for Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:

  • In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or using an electric hand mixer whip the butter until light and creamy on medium/high-speed.
  • Once the butter is pale in color and light slowly add in the confectioners’ sugar one spoon at a time on medium speed. Let the sugar fully incorporate before adding in more sugar.
  • Add the vanilla extract, salt and cream.
  • Whip on high-speed for another 3-4 minutes until very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  • Use the buttercream straight away for keep it refrigerated for up to 4 weeks. Before use make sure it comes to room temperature.

Assembly:

I assembled by adding a base layer of pudding, then cookie crumble, vanilla buttercream (piped from a piping bag), chopped peanuts, another layer of cookie crumbs followed by chocolate cake that my kiddo crumbled up herself and then one final layer of cookie crumble. I encourage you to try-out your own order of assembly though it should be noted that this order got rave reviews from the husband and kiddo.

Jewhungry kosher food blog veggie cheese fries

Good news! I’m no longer nauseous. I have passed the unbelievably unpleasant 3 months of sickness and overall yuckiness of first trimester pregnancy and I’m back to eating EVERYTHING I SEE. I think my current state is best represented by the gif below:

Jewhungry kosher food blog cheese fries

Excellent news for me and the growing child in my uterus. Not so great news for me and the growing junk in my trunk. Though, I’m not one not to embrace this part of pregnancy so growing junk in trunk, be damned! Pass the french fries please (and the spaghetti, and the mac n’ cheese and that basket of hush puppies over there and, also? Could I get a bite or 5 of that burrito, please?).

 

Jewhungry kosher food blog veggie cheese fries

Step 1: Cheese. And when you think you’re done, add more.

My biggest craving will always and forever my salt. I’ve always gone salty savory over sweet. Plus, for some reason, during this pregnancy, any time I eat sugar I feel like absolute poop. It just hits me in a way that makes me uncomfortable and again, yucky, so as much as I want all the milkshakes and hot fudge sundaes in the world, I’m just not doing it. I’m also still not doing hot coffee. That too, knocks me off my feet and not in a good way. But me and cheese? We’re back to being best buddies. Sweet hallelujah! Therefore, I bring you the following recipe.

I honestly can’t believe I haven’t done a cheese fry post before. In my mind, cheese fries are the answer to all of life’s problems. Like, maybe, if Bibi Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas got together over some cheese fries, there might just be peace in the Middle East. I’m just sayin’, no one’s tried it yet so . . .

 

Step 2: Top with sauteed veggies.

Step 2: Top with sautéed veggies.

 

Final Step: Top with EVERYTHING YOU'VE GOT.

Final Step: Top with EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT.

Honestly, I set out to make this a nacho recipe and then I realized, “That’s ridiculous! I love fries! FRIES!” So I sautéed up some of my favorite veggies and delicately placed them on top of 2 different kinds of melted cheese and then topped all of THAT with spinach, cilantro, cherry tomatoes and a dollop of sour cream and bada boom, bada bing, you basically a delicious answer to the same ol’ nachos you always have. I mean, with all those veggies and leafy greens, it’s basically a salad, right?

 

Cheese fries or Salad?

Cheese fries or Salad?

Loaded Veggie Cheese Fries

Ingredients:

1/2 bag of froze waffle fries
1 zucchini, diced small
1 small eggplant, cut in 1/2 inch rounds
1 red pepper, diced small
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup of Monterrey Jack cheese
1/2 cup of Pepper Jack cheese
1/2 cup of fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
handful of cilantro, chopped
2 radishes, sliced thin
Cotija cheese (optional)
sour cream
Kosher salt
pepper (to taste)
1/2 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp garlic powder

Directions:

Place sliced eggplant on paper towels, cover with kosher salt and let ‘sweat’ for 30 minutes (minimum). Once done, dab excess moisture with paper towel and dice eggplant small.

Cook fries based upon directions on bag (tip: cook your fries on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil so that when you top with cheese, you won’t be cleaning melted cheese off your sheet pan).

Place olive oil in a saute pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Place diced eggplant in the pan and cook for roughly 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the red peppers and zucchini as well as the garlic powder, pepper, cumin and cook for another 5 – 7 minutes, continuing to stir occasionally.

Once fries are done, turn off oven, take out the fries and top with shredded cheese. Let melt on their own for a minute and then place for an additional minute in the warmed (but turned off) oven. Once melted, top with veggies, greens, tomatoes, radishes, Cotija cheese and sour cream and really anything else your heart desires.

Enjoy your salad fries!

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