Saturday, February 16, 2013

Recipe of the Moment: Chai Scones

Scones are not something I think of having all the time. Very rarely in fact. Maybe if I go out for afternoon tea at a restaurant or hotel, which happens less than once a year.

But no more!

I saw this simple recipe for Chai Spiced Scones over at Budget Bytes and decided to make them, and they're pretty tasty. I modified the spices just slightly because this recipe is pretty perfect on its own.

Because I don't typically eat scones, I'm not sure if this is normal or not, so I'm mentioning it anyway. On its own, it's a little dry. If I eat them with tea, my mouth sings. So. Don't forget the tea!

2 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 450.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and cardamom.

Cut butter into chunks and with your hands, combine it with flour.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir.

If there is still a bit of dry flour, add water. I added about 2 tbps.

Shape the dough into a circular shape on a flat surface. Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 pieces.

Place the wedge shaped scones on a baking sheet and bake for 15-17 minutes, or until golden brown.

Enjoy with tea!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fertility Awareness Method: Reliable Birth Control Without Hormones

After my horrendous experience with hormonal birth control on the Mirena IUD, you can imagine I was not eager to get on another type of hormonal birth control. It turns out there aren't many options out there, except for condoms which I'm not a fan of. And except for FAM, Fertility Awareness Method.

FAM is something that not many people know about, even among doctors. A few people are generally familiar with the concept, but only because they used it to get pregnant. Yes, in addition to being birth control, it can also be a great way to conceive.

Very basically: FAM is a way for the woman to know her body and to know when she's ovulating. When you're not ovulating or not about to ovulate, you can have as much sex as you want. If you don't want to get pregnant, then you either abstain or use another method of birth control (i.e. condoms) when you are ovulating.

If you want to get pregnant, you make sure to have sex when you're ovulating since that's the only time you can get pregnant. Many couple erroneously think they're infertile when in fact they're just not having sex at the right time of the month.

FAM is NOT the rhythm method.
The rhythm method presupposes that every woman has a 28 day cycle and every woman ovulates on day 14. This is obviously not the case, as cycles can vary from month to month and especially from woman to woman. FAM looks at each month's cycle to determine when you're ovulating and when you're not.

How safe is this?
The bottom line is that no one's going to use it unless it works. And it does. If used correctly, it has almost the same effectiveness as the pill, 98%. Reasons for pregnancy/not correct use? Having sex during ovulation and not understanding the rules used to determine when you're fertile.

How does this work?
You need to know where you are in your cycle at all times. Luckily, your body lets you know, as long as you know how to read the signs.

First, you need to take your basal body temperature every day, which is your temperature before you get out of bed in the morning. Eventually, you will see a pattern emerge. The first half of your cycle, your temperature is lower. It drops to its lowest point on the day before you ovulate, and then for the rest of your cycle, temperatures are up. The temperature drops down again when you get your period, and the cycle starts over. (So yes, this is a great way to know the day you're going to get your period!)

Example of fertility chart

Secondly, you need to observe your cervical fluid. This confused me greatly at first, but now I'm a whiz at knowing what my cervical fluid means. Without cervical fluid, sperm die a quick and hopefully painless death.  Sperm need cervical fluid to transport them to the egg. So if you're using FAM as birth control, you need to be careful when you start to get fluid.

There are a few different types of fluid, and you only get fluid when you're about to ovulate or when you're ovulating. Some fluid is more "fertile" than others, but I tend to abstain when there's fluid at all because sperm can survive for up to 5 days when there's fluid and I don't want them hanging around, waiting for my "fertile" fluid to appear.

There are a few other methods, but these are the two that I find the most easy to track and the most reliable. Google FAM, or check out Planned Parenthood's page here for more information on other methods.

How much does it cost?
FAM can be very cheap. Really, all you need is a basal body thermometer, which you can pick up at a drugstore for less than $10. There are other options, which I'll discuss in a future post, that cost more, but doing this on the cheap is definitely possible.

Who should not use FAM?

FAM, while perfect for me, may not be for you. You have to have the discipline to take your temperature every day. You have to have the discipline to check your cervical fluid. You have to have the discipline not to have unprotected sex when you're not experiencing a "safe" day.

Beyond that, it's not recommended for non-monogamous couples due to STDs and HIV/AIDS risk. It's also not recommended for those who binge drink regularly, as it raises your basal body temperature and can cause confusion when charting.

While FAM works for those with irregular cycles, if your cycle is very irregular (i.e. more than 40 days or less than 20 days apart), it may not work for you.

Really, how easy is it? It sounds like a lot of work.
When I first started charting, I was confused. For the first week, I wasn't sure I was taking my temperature at the right time, correctly (I know, I know, but I was nervous), or if it was "immediately" after I had woken up. (What if I was awake thinking for a few moments before I realized I was awake?)

I was also a little confused by the cervical fluid and all the various types, but once I read Taking Charge of Your Fertility, I became much more confident on all fronts, and now I think it's breeze. It takes me less than 30 seconds a day to know where I am and what my body will (probably) do that day. I love it and I don't see myself going back on any hormonal birth control any time soon.

Want to learn more?
Generally I recommend talking to your doctor, but make sure your doctor knows about FAM before making an appointment.

Definitely check out the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. Despite appearing like a pregnancy book, this is actually perfect for every woman to learn how her body functions. Despite thinking I knew a lot about my body, I found that my knowledge really only skimmed the surface. Things that always seemed crazy or disgusting suddenly made sense, and I no longer view my body as an unpredictable foreign being that's out to get me.

More importantly, it will teach you how to chart your cycles which will help you know when you're fertile and when you're not. If you are trying to conceive and having difficulties, you will hopefully be able to bypass many of the tests and drugs from the infertility doctor because you'll already know which phase of your cycle is causing the problems. Truly, it should be required reading for every female (and most men, as well!).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Recipe of the Moment: Quinoa and Cabbage Saute

Not the best picture, but I couldn't figure out how to make this look appetizing... even though it really is!
Continuing on making my way through Martha Stewart Living is this recipe! I have no idea what to call it. Martha calls it Toasted Quinoa Saute with Lemony Cabbage and Dill. She recommends serving it with yogurt, which really confuses me. My boyfriend calls it pasta salad, even though it really isn't, and thinks it would go great with a hamburger. I've settled on the name Quinoa and Cabbage Saute, even though I think that could still use some improvements.

Regardless of the confusion over what to make of this creation, I made some modifications, and it tastes amazing. I serve it warm; you can eat it cold, which my boyfriend does, but I prefer it heated.

1.5 cups of water
1/2 cup quinoa
1 head Savoy cabbage
2 tomatoes
1 cup feta cheese
1 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup small green olives, pitted
1 lemon, juiced
olive oil

Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Stir in quinoa and return to boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Uncover, turn heat to high and cook until water evaporates fully, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.

Heat oil in a large skillet. Chop cabbage into small pieces.

Add half head of cabbage to the skillet and saute until tender and golden, about 8-10 minutes.

When one batch is finished, transfer to a bowl and continue with another batch of the cabbage.

Finally, add all cabbage and quinoa to the skillet and cook on high heat until the quinoa is toasted, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and add to bowl.

In the bowl with the cabbage and quinoa, also add chickpeas, olives, tomatoes, cheese, and lemon juice and toss to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Recipe of the Moment: Winter Soup with Orange and Ginger

I somehow was lucky enough to receive Martha Stewart Living magazine for free for a year. I originally ordered it because I thought it might have a few ideas, but I'm shocked to report that each issue is full of great craft ideas, but more importantly, tasty recipes.

Or at least, recipes that look tasty because even though I've been subscribed for months, I've only ever bookmarked recipes and projects, but I decided this month I was going to start making my way through everything. After all, what's the point of the subscription if I never use it?

So first up is Martha's Root Vegetables soup, which I've modified a bit to reflect things I have on hand, as well as things I could actually find in stores. For example, there was no rutabaga in my local market, which is a shame because I absolutely love rutabaga. Maybe next time!

1 vidalia/sweet onion
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 celery root, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 small butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 red potaoes, chopped
1 tsp ground thyme
6 cups of water
1-2 oranges 
freshly grated ginger
olive oil

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 4-7 minutes.

Add parnsips, celery root, carrot, butternut squash, potatoes, thyme, water, and salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Simmer until vegetables are tender, 20-40 minutes.

Puree soup in a blender until smooth.

Separate each orange wedge from the other.

In each bowl: Squeeze one orange wedge's juice into the soup and stir. Use additional wedge, ginger, and salt and pepper as garnish. Enjoy!