A Squared: January 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Brown Rice Bowls

Confession time: Hannah is almost 9 months old. That means it has been almost 9 months since I have worked out... and also since I have eaten healthy with any regularity. Kudos to you moms that were able to figure out how to work an exercise routine into your lives early on, but it has taken me quite some time to find my groove again. After having a C-section it seemed like it took almost my entire 12 weeks of maternity leave to physically recover. And then after returning to work, it took a few months to find some professional/personal balance with jumping back into my work and commute and then caring for a small baby and preparing for the next day once I got home... and then I was just exhausted. After a day at the office it was all I could do to stay awake past 8:30, let alone fit in a workout or make a healthy dinner.

Fast forward to now though and Hannah is sleeping through the night, eating solids, and generally easier to care for, giving me fewer and fewer excuses to be unhealthy. So, as much as I hate a New Year's resolution to lose weight I am making one this year. I've got 8-10 lbs. of baby weight hanging around and I'm ready to part with them. I'm starting slow with some short cardio sessions a few nights a week and putting some more focus on making meals for my family that are healthy, but also simple enough that I can prepare them on a weeknight without spending my entire evening in the kitchen. And the recipe I'm sharing today is a perfect example!

I made a big batch of these sweet potato and black bean rice bowls to pack for lunch during my first full week back at work this year and I was so happy with how they turned out. First of all, they're delicious and full of flavor. Second, they're really easy to make and require very little actual cooking-- cooking the rice and roasting the sweet potatoes and onions is the extent of the actual cooking that has to be done here. And third, this is a really healthy recipe filled with the good fiber found in brown rice, healthy protein from black beans, and all the vitamins and good stuff found in leafy greens and sweet potatoes. Oh, and this is an accidentally vegan recipe if you use avocado instead of Greek yogurt as a topping. Truthfully, avocado was what I had originally intended to use in this recipe the first time that I made it but I forgot to buy them at the grocery store so I improvised with plain Greek yogurt. It worked really well, but this ingredient flub just goes to show that while I'm feeling more like myself these days, I'm still not operating at 100% all the time!

Let me know what you think of this recipe-- I'd love to share more easy healthy recipes if you're interested too. Cheers to a happy and healthy 2017!

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut in 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice 
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can of low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained well
  • 4 cups mixed greens *I used a mixture of spinach, chard & kale
  • 1 cup salsa *I used Frontera Roasted Corn Salsa and would highly recommend a corn salsa here, if you can find one
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt or 1 avocado, diced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium bowl, toss diced sweet potato, onion, garlic, cumin, oil, salt, and pepper until combined. Spread mixture out on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes until sweet potatoes are fork tender.

Divide the brown rice into 4 separate bowls. Continue by dividing the black beans, mixed greens, and sweet potato mixture into the same bowls.

Top each bowl with 1/4 cup salsa and yogurt or avocado. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Post-Christmas: Our Favorite Things at 8 Months

Over the last couple of weeks Hannah's development has accelerated at a crazy high speed-- I can't believe how much she has changed in such a short time! Around the 8-month mark Hannah started scooting around on her butt (an almost-crawl), eating 3 solid food meals/day, drinking formula (yes, we are just now regularly supplementing with formula), working toward 2 naps per day (this kid still loves a third nap), waving bye-bye, and she finally popped her first tooth!
In that time, we also celebrated Hannah's first Christmas, which I am confident was more fun for Alex and me than it was for her. She would have been content playing in a pile of wrapping paper. With all of these changes and with a recent visit from Santa, I have a whole new list of things we are loving lately... check it out:

Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit - In truth, Hannah hasn't worn this to bed for the last few months but I have recently recommended it to two moms with younger babies as "the greatest thing ever" and realized I never mentioned it here. This thing is great! It's the perfect thing for babies to wear to bed after swaddling and before they're actively rolling around in their cribs because it keeps them cozy and still. I credit it for the fact that Hannah is an awesome sleeper now.
Blueberry Hill Bunny with Knit Flowers Hat - This hat is the cutest thing! Cozy and warm, but also adorable. Hannah got one in her stocking and I love it on her!
The First Years American Red Cross Deluxe Baby Healthcare & Grooming Kit - This kit has everything from a thermometer to nail clippers to the best snot sucker (it's true!) in it and it's a must-add for any baby registry. I've been using this kit since Hannah was born, but I'm including it now because her favorite toy for the past month has been the rattle that comes in this kit. I'm pretty sure it is meant to distract baby while you're clipping her toenails, but Hannah just wants to carry it everywhere and shake it all the time.
Dragons Love Tacos - Santa brought this book to Hannah and it has quickly become a favorite for Alex and me at storytime. It's silly and fun and a book that's on heavy rotation at bedtime around here.
Madame Alexander Baby Huggums - My baby LOVES babies. I'm not sure when it started, but when she sees a baby doll she just lights up. Huggums is a classic (my sisters had one growing up too!) and Hannah adores hers. She has a soft body and she's smaller than your average baby doll, so she's the perfect baby to give to your baby.
Zutano Cozie Fleece Cuffed Pants - It has been positively frigid here in Chicago for the past few weeks and it wasn't much warmer during our New Year's visit to northern Michigan either. These pants are perfect for keeping baby toasty indoors or out and about. They're soft and move like sweatpants so baby can still move freely.
Baby Einstein Discover & Play Piano - This is one of the first noisy interactive toys that we've given to Hannah and it's been a big hit so far. This little guy plays an assortment of classical tunes in three different instruments, it counts, plays animal noises, and speaks in 3 different languages. It is fun, educational, and not boring!
Beaba Baby Food Freezer Tray - I told you in one of my last round ups that I love making homemade purees for Hannah in the Beaba Babycook, but I have to hand it to those folks... they've also created the best method for storing the purees too! After busting 3 (yes, 3) ice cube trays when trying to portion out and freeze pureed food for Hannah I finally started using these silicone trays and they work so much better. They're BPA-free, silicone so the frozen purees pop out easily, and the vessels are a little larger so you can decide how large or small baby's portions should be.
Kitty Tails Soft Book by Jellycat - Jellycat makes some of the cutest plush toys (like this Clery look-alike we have in Hannah's nursery), but she loves this soft book too! It makes that crinkly noise that she loves and each page includes a "cat tail" made of a different texture so it keeps her interested-- even on a long car ride!
JJ Cole BundleMe - City moms, this product is a must have! Suburban moms, you should have one too! Any baby that spends time in a stroller in the cold weather will love this cozy product. Essentially it wraps around your stroller seat (and the seatbelts fit right through it) so that you can zip your baby into it like a sleeping bag, eliminating the need for them to get suited up in a paralyzing snowsuit before taking a quick stroller ride out in the cold. Put her in those Zutano fleece pants first and you've got a perfectly warm baby who can still kick her legs around!
Burt's Bees Baby Striped PJ's - Hannah got these jammies for Chirstmas (the onesie version) and we love them! They are so soft and festive without screaming "CHRISTMAS MORNING!!" so she can also wear them for the next few weeks (until she likely grows out of them).
Burt's Bees Baby Adult Striped PJ's - Did I mention that they make these super soft jammies for mommies too? And that I might have a pair... and Alex has the dad version... and my mom actually bought them for our entire family for Christmas? Yup, we are that family! But, at least we are cute and cozy. And they are Oprah-approved!

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Museum Hack: A New Way to Experience the Arts

One of the things that I love about living in the city is the accessibility of the arts and other major attractions: I just step outside my door and I'm a short walk, train, bus (or more likely, cab) ride away from some of the best theaters, zoos, and museums in the country. Just check out the "Chicago" tab above and I've documented dozens of cool things to do here in the Windy City, but that's not even scratching the surface! Our family and friends are scattered all over the country, so when they come to visit we have so much fun taking visitors who are new to the city to these places and experiencing them through new eyes. After 8+ years in the same city though, sometimes visiting the same museums again can feel a bit... tired. Don’t get me wrong—it’s amazing to be able to see Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte in person (and maybe even do your best Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane impression), but even that can lose its novelty after a handful of visits. Enter: Museum Hack.

Museum Hack aims to make a visit to the museum approachable, fast paced and anything but boring. Their "Renegade Museum Tours" are available at major museums in NYC, DC, San Francisco, and have received rave reviews from past tour attendees. And the great news for Chicagoans and their visitors is that Museum Hack is now hosting tours at the Art Institute of Chicago! Each two-hour "Un-Highlights" tour is unique to its Museum Hack tour guide to keep things entertaining for the group-- no two tours are alike. That means that even if you take a Museum Hack tour with every friend or family member that visits you, you’ll still never be bored! The tour guides share funny and scandalous stories about the art and artists (things that you'll never hear from an official museum docent), incorporate games like scavenger hunts and high school-style superlatives, and host photo contests so that tour members can compete for prizes.

In addition to their regular public tours, Museum Hack can also host a customized tour especially for you. They'll tailor a tour for any group-- large or small-- and have niche tours for everything from corporate team building (no trust falls here!) to bachelorette parties to date nights. Interactive team building games like “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and “Museum Clue” provide fun and unique (and not lame) ways for coworkers to bond with one another during these group outings. And they even host tours for small children (a.k.a. Little Hackers). I’m already looking for ways that I can introduce Hannah to some of these great Chicago attractions in the future and this would be such a fun way to experience the Art Institute with her (and her little friends) in a way that is accessible to even the smallest of visitors!

Interested in booking a Museum Hack tour for yourself? You can buy tickets here for museums in all 4 of the cities where Museum Hack currently operates.

Editor's Notes: All images c/o Museum Hack.
This post was sponsored by Museum Hack. Thanks for supporting the brands that support A Squared!
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