Breastfeeding Nico \\ Sweet Laurel

Breastfeeding is one of the best parts of this new chapter of life with Nico. There are so many things that go into having a baby, giving birth to a baby and recovering from having a baby. For me, breastfeeding was an instant comfort, and gave me stamina, and empowered me as a mother. After the trials and triumphs of pregnancy and birth, it’s one of those little kisses from heaven, I like to say.  Having the time to just sit and do nothing but feed your baby and look at him, watch him eat, cuddle with him or take a little nap with him all quickly become a great joy.

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Learning how to breastfeed is the hard part. It took a while for me to learn how to properly latch Nico, burp him, hold him and how to make sure he ate enough. I am really grateful I had some awesome lactation consultants at Cedar Sinai hospital, where I gave birth. Even on day one, Jessica, my lactation consultant, visited me regularly and walked me through the ins and outs of properly feeding my baby.

Something I’ve learned as a new mom is to ask for help. I used to be one of those people who tried to muscle through everything on my own, never asking others to alleviate my burdens. Now that I’m a mom, I literally have to ask for help!  Breastfeeding was a totally new experience for me, and quickly saw I’d need to seek help from others. Using lactation consultants is an absolute must! Even after I was discharged from the hospital, I still needed a bit of help, and thankfully was referred to the Pump Station in Santa Monica. There I was coached by Jessica (yes, same name as my first lactation consultant), and she truly empowered me in my capabilities as a breastfeeding mother. Jessica really helped me feel like successfully breast-feeding Nico during his first year (and hopefully second year) is something natural and attainable.

I saw the results of breastfeeding not only with Nico’s body, but my own. Every inch of Nico’s growth was due to breastmilk. It is kind of a crazy concept! By the end of Nico’s second week, he gained two full pounds! He was ‘filling in’ by the day.  I thought he smelled like butter, and funny enough, I craved grass fed butter postpartum like crazy! I will talk more about my diet while breastfeeding in another post ;).

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Personally, there were lots of changes in my body as well when I started breast-feeding. To my surprise, my arms were sore for weeks after having Nico. I had always considered myself to have somewhat strong arms. I mean, after all I am a baker.  I did not expect that holding him and nursing him would take a toll on my thumbs of all things! Yes, my thumbs. You see, your thumbs bare the brunt of most of the mommy work…. holding baby’s head while nursing, picking him up out of his crib, pushing the stroller, and this list goes on! Thankfully, I worked with Alison Oswald for most of my postpartum physical therapy, and she helped me with my thumb also. It is actually called mommy thumb. The thumb tends to get overworked from just being a mom. Picking up your baby, pushing the stroller, changing diapers… it’s a lot of and work. As a baker, I use my hands every day as well, so there was already significant wear and tear. Allison taped my thumbs to encourage more circulation, and instantly they felt relief. She also encouraged my to use the ‘thumbs forward’ approach to picking up Nico, pushing the stroller and holding the steering wheel. I can honestly say these techniques, coupled with the taping helped immensely!

Yes, breastfeeding takes lots of time. But it is precious time. Breastfeeding also takes a ton of commitment. Often plans and outings are determined by the last time the baby ate or what time the baby will wake up.  While breastfeeding is very portable and easy to do almost anywhere, it is not always the right environment, like a fancy restaurant for example. Baby either needs to get fed before or after, and trust me, this timing is a tough one. I’ve learned the hard way many times, but it gets better week by week.

Another thing that has been lovely about breastfeeding is that it is a time dedicated to sitting and just feeding your baby. Nothing else. In this fast paced life, times of rest like this are hard to come by. I so enjoy laying on my bed while Nico feeds, it’s nice to take a break! Sometimes I do text and email while breastfeeding, but when I don’t, the reflective time is great. It is time you can just be with your baby and rest. It is much needed rest indeed, and I fully enjoy it. I’m so grateful for this gift I’ve been given, and that I am able to feed my baby. When I was pregnant, I was concerned my autoimmune disease would get in the way of my ability to breastfeed, and this positive experience breastfeeding has truly been a great gift.

Lately, I haven’t been looking forward to when Nico transitions to eating solid foods. I think it’s because I’m going to miss being his everything. I know it sounds silly, but I’ve been struggling thinking about the day he takes his first bite of solid food. He’s five months now, so it will actually be quite soon. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely plan to still breastfeed, I just will not be exclusively breastfeeding, and I’m going to miss it. I would love to hear your experiences, thoughts or feelings about breastfeeding! xoxox, Laurel

Photos by Elsie Dardon.

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Fermented Veggies \\ Sweet Laurel

Keep your belly happy and dishes brightened with Fermented Veggies!  They can be made in a snap, and require only an airtight glass jar, salt and the veggies of your choice.  You can play around with the different spices and add ins, making the veggies catered to your liking.

Fermented Veggies \\ Sweet Laurel

Fermented Veggies \\ Sweet Laurel

Fermented Veggies \\ Sweet Laurel

Fermented Veggies \\ Sweet Laurel

Fermented Veggies


 

Ingredients:

1 quart of water

2 tablespoon Himalayan pink salt

2 cups chopped cucumbers, daikon radish, asparagus or carrots

3 whole cloves of garlic

1/8 teaspoon mustard seed

1/8 teaspoon dill seed

1/8 teaspoon coriander

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cabbage leaf


 

Directions:

Stir together salt and water. Chop peppers and carrots.

Add spices to the bottom of a one-quart jar. Add your vegetables, followed by the brine.  Cover the top of the vegetables with cabbage leaf. Cap the jar tightly and allow to sit in 65-85 degrees for about ten days.  For the first few days, check jar pressure: slightly unscrew lid to release pressure, then retighten lid.  Once fermentation is reached, store in fridge.

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Grilled Peach Salad \\ Sweet Laurel

Summer in a bowl! This salad is so refreshing, and most importantly: simple to prepare! Enjoy this salad at your next BBQ or summertime gathering. Guaranteed crowd pleaser.

Grilled Peach Salad \\ Sweet Laurel

Grilled Peach Salad \\ Sweet Laurel

Grilled Peach Salad \\ Sweet Laurel

Grilled Peach Salad

Serves 4


 

Ingredients:

4 cups arugula

3-4 peaches, sliced

1 shallot, sliced into thin strips

1/4 cup vegan cheese, crumbled (or make your own)

Lemon dressing (recipe below)


 

Directions:

Prepare grill.

Place arugula in a large bowl. Add pecans, shallots, and cheese. Set aside while you prepare peaches.

Grill peaches about 2-3 minutes on each side.

Toss with dressing and enjoy!


 

To prepare dressing


 

Ingredients:

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

1 clove of garlic

Pinch of salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Directions:

Place all ingredients for dressing in a small food processor or blender. Pulse for 1 minute. Dressing can be made ahead and will keep in fridge for 3-4 days.

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Vegan Banana Split \\ Sweet Laurel

One of our favorite ice cream shops is Kippy’s in Venice. Every flavor is created on the foundation of two simple ingredients: organic, raw coconut cream and organic, raw honey. If ice cream could be good for you, this is humanity’s best chance.  The flavors are delicious, and the raw coconut cream and honey are filled with fantastic enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. Plus, basically anyone can enjoy it, it’s gluten free, vegan, and raw. The flavor of the coconut cream and honey is so simple and pure, and the perfect canvas for a classic ice cream sundae. Here’s our version, but if you find yourself in Los Angeles or Tokyo this summer, be sure to check them out!

Vegan Banana Split2

Vegan Banana Split \\ Sweet Laurel

Vegan Banana Split

Vegan Banana Split


 

Ingredients:

1 pint coconut cream (Lets do Organic or Nature Value brand is what I like best), at room temperature

2 to 4 tablespoons raw honey, at room temperature (depending on desired taste)

Directions:

The night before you plan to make your ice cream, place your ice cream maker in the freezer. The next day, combine the coconut cream and honey by whisking together. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill completely in the fridge.  Then run the mixture through your ice cream machine. Freeze until firm.

Note: if you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can try a variety of methods to make ice cream without one. My favorite is to pour the chilled mixture into a shallow dish, place it in the freezer, and every 30 minutes to stir it with electric beaters or a whisk. It will take about 2 hours for it to get the right consistency. 


 

To build the sundae


 

Ingredients:

1 banana, split

Vegan Caramel

Chopped nuts, to taste

Coconut whipped cream

Fresh Cherries

Directions:

Place the banana on a plate, add ice cream, and top with a drizzle of caramel, nuts, and a scoop of whipped cream. Finish with a cherry on top, of course.

Mezze Platter \\ Sweet Laurel

Sometimes the best dinner isn’t a dinner at all, but a picnic. Grazing and nibbling on dips, crackers and cashew feta can be so much more enjoyable than a formal sit down meal. These are some of our favorite small bites to snack on, and are the perfect addition to a summer outing! Enjoy.

Mezze Platter \\ Sweet Laurel

Mezze Platter \\ Sweet Laurel

Mezze Platter \\ Sweet Laurel

Mezze Platter \\ Sweet Laurel

Mediterranean Platter


 

Babagonoush


 

Ingredients: 

1 large eggplant

1/4 cup tahini

4 cloves garlic

2 lemons, squeezed

1 pinch cumin

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Peel and chop eggplant into one-inch slices. Place in colander with a pinch of salt and allow to sit about 20 minutes. Rinse eggplant and place on baking sheet. Place in oven and bake about 15 minutes. Flip eggplant and bake on the other side, about 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Remove eggplant from pan and place in food processor with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, and salt. Blend together. Top with olive oil and chopped parsley.


 

Cashew Feta


 

Ingredients: 

3/4 cup raw cashews

6 tablespoons coconut oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon tahini

1 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Directions:

Place cashews in a bowl and cover with water. Soak overnight in fridge.

Rinse cashews and place in food processor with remaining ingredients, except black pepper. Blend until creamy, adding water if necessary.

Place mixture in cheesecloth and roll into a 6-inch oval loaf.  Place in strainer bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for 12 hours, then place in fridge.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Roll out cheesecloth into longer cylinder-like shape, about seven inches. Twist ends of cheesecloth together and bake about 35 minutes, turning occasionally. Cool and sprinkle with cracked pepper.


 

Olive Tapanade


 

Ingredients: 

1 cup olive oil-brined olives

1/4 cup parsley

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend well. The olives are super salty, so definitely taste before adding any salt.


 

Marinated Peppers


 

Ingredients: 

1 quart of water

2 tablespoon Himalayan pink salt

2 carrots

2 anaheim peppers

1 jalapeno pepper

1 banana pepper

3 whole cloves of garlic

1/8 teaspoon mustard seed

1/8 teaspoon dill seed

1/8 teaspoon coriander

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cabbage leaf

Directions:

Stir together salt and water.  Chop peppers and carrots.

Add spices to the bottom of a one-quart jar.  Add your vegetables, followed by the brine.  Cover the top of the vegetables with cabbage leaf. Cap the jar tightly and allow to sit in 65-85 degrees for about ten days. For the first few days, check jar pressure: slightly unscrew lid to release pressure, then retighten lid.  Once fermentation is reached, store in fridge.


 

Rosemary Flaxseed Crackers


 

Ingredients: 

For 1 large sheet of crackers, about a dozen

1 cup flax seeds

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt (plus more to sprinkle on top)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary

1 garlic clove, minced

2 large egg whites

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300° degrees F

Mix flaxseeds, rosemary and fine sea salt in a large bowl. Pour large white egg over the dry ingredients and mix well to combine with a fork.

Pour the batter out onto a baking sheet lined with a silicon mat or a greased parchment. Spread as thinly as possible with a spatula. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut across the batter. This won’t “cut” the way a cookie cutter cuts through dough, but it will create lines that make it way easier to break up the crackers after they’ve baked.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until completely dry and crisp. Cool on cooling rack, break apart and store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Postpartum Care \\ Sweet Laurel x Plumbline Pilates and Physical Therapy 

It has been 3 months since our Sweet Nico’s arrival. He’s a bright star in our family, and a constant reminder of joy and love.

I have been very blessed thus far with a smooth sailing postpartum recovery. My emotions have been pretty even keel and energy levels are above average, not just back to normal. I was overjoyed to discover this past week that my thyroid antibodies levels are very low, meaning my autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s) is still in remission! It was in remission throughout my pregnancy, and I’m grateful it has stayed that way. Physically, however, I still have pain from the birth, and I was not expecting it to last well into the postpartum months. If you read my birth story, you know I had a vaginal birth that was vacuum assisted in the final moments. After being in labor for 14 hours, and then pushing for three, my doctor deduced Nico appeared to be stuck on something, and a vacuum was necessary to finally meet him face to face. I’m so grateful he was ok during this time, and not in any distress despite, and in a matter of moments I was holding my healthy baby.

As you can see, having Nico was a journey in and of itself, but perhaps the most challenging part of Nico’s arrival was my physical recovery. No one told me that I wouldn’t be able to sit down for a few days, and that I would experience soreness sitting for several weeks afterwards. You see, I tore pretty badly during the birth, and received several stitches. At the hospital, the nurses gave me hospital gloves filled with ice to help with the pain, and this felt great! My wounds took a while to recover, and since I had soreness beyond the typical postpartum weeks, I turned to another source. A dear friend introduced me to post natal physical therapy, and all the wonderful things therein.

I started to see Allison Oswald of Plumbline Pilates and Physical Therapy. Allison is a beauty, inside and out. She is kind and gentle, and just the type of person I felt like I could trust. In a matter of minutes, I felt like I had known her for years, as we shared about our births and the mutual experiences therein. In her own sweet way, she led me to realize the birth process can leave long lasting effects on a woman’s body if not addressed properly. She also explained to me how different births affect the speed of recovery. No one had spoken to me frankly about the post- birth recovery. I was “all ears,” and grateful I had met such an experienced practitioner.

Postpartum Care \\ Sweet Laurel x Plumbline Pilates and Physical Therapy

The first thing Allison addressed was the pain I was feeling ‘down there’ on a daily basis. If I sat for too long, or sneezed or had too much pressure or weight on my pelvic floor, I would start to feel a ‘raw’ pain, like I had a wound that hadn’t scabbed over. I knew my pelvic floor was not what it used to be, and Allison addressed this as well. Previously, I took pride in my ‘strong core,’ and worked on it doing yoga and pilates weekly before I got pregnant with Nico. I knew now, however, my core was weak. For the first few weeks postpartum, I could barely get off the ground from a seated position without the help of something to balance on. After all, as Nico was exiting my body and entering earth at his birth, I literally felt like I tore every muscle of my pelvic floor.

Postpartum Care \\ Sweet Laurel x Plumbline Pilates and Physical Therapy
Postpartum Care \\ Sweet Laurel x Plumbline Pilates and Physical Therapy

Allison gave me a pelvic floor exam and tested the strength of my muscles. She explained to me that because Nico was a vacuum birth, my recovery would just take longer than most. The ‘raw’ feeling I felt was scar tissue, and because I am breastfeeding, my body is not focused on healing as fast as it would have in the past because it’s focused on feeding my baby. Also, when breastfeeding, the body’s estrogen level is lower, and this causes slower healing as well.

Postpartum Care \\ Sweet Laurel x Plumbline Pilates and Physical Therapy
Postpartum Care \\ Sweet Laurel x Plumbline Pilates and Physical Therapy

Allison not only addressed the pain, and how I could heal faster, she addressed the weakness. With a series of exercises, actually all very small and slight movements curtailed to my body and the birth I had, I became one step closer to having my strength back. These exercises have proven helpful, and now, at just over 3 months postpartum, I feel confident enough to go back into my old yoga and pilates classes, without fretting about my lack strength. I am very grateful for the expertise and advice I received from Allison, and highly recommend her to any momma looking for some post part care!

 

Allison helped me so much, we have been inspired to host a Sweet Laurel x Plumbline Pilates workshop later this summer, so stay tuned! Allison will address pre and post natal care for women, and I will share my personal tips and tricks for nourishing yourself and your baby pre and post birth. I can’t wait to experience this with you all, and provide functional tools that will empower women to experience healthy and wholesome pregnancies. xoxo, Laurel

All photos were taken by the talented duo, Grey and Elle.

Blueberry Muffins \\ Sweet Laurel

Who doesn’t love a scrumptious blueberry muffin? Our Blueberry Muffins are perfect with a cup of coffee or tea, and ridiculously simple to make. The flavors of vanilla, cinnamon, almond and blueberry are delicious together, and there’s a subtle sweetness from the maple syrup. This is definitely one of our favorites.

NOTE: we lined our cupcake molds with parchment squares. Feel free to use cupcake tins or liners for your muffins, or grease the molds with coconut oil.

Paleo Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping \\ Sweet Laurel

Paleo Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping \\ Sweet Laurel

Paleo Blueberry Muffins with Streusel Topping \\ Sweet Laurel

 

Paleo Blueberry Muffins

12 small muffins (cupcake size)


 

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups almond flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

2/3 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoons vanilla extract

4 oz blueberries (about 4 per muffin)

 


 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Prepare your cupcake pan by lining with parchment liners or tins. Alternatively you can grease each mold with melted coconut oil.

In a small bowl, mix together the almond flour, baking soda, Himalayan pink salt and cinnamon thoroughly. In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut oil, maple syrup, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

Pour the batter into the cake molds and top with blueberries.

Bake muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, until the muffins are golden brown. Allow the muffins to cool ten minutes before removing from the pan. Enjoy!

Berry Cobbler \\ Sweet Laurel

So simple and so delicious. That’s just how we like it at Sweet Laurel. This cobbler is ready within minutes, and perfect when served warm with a scoop of ice cream or right out of the fridge by the spoonful. Hope you enjoy this special summer sweet treat!

Berry Cobbler \\ Sweet Laurel

Berry Cobbler \\ Sweet Laurel

Berry Cobbler \\ Sweet Laurel

Berry Cobbler \\ Sweet Laurel

Berry Cobbler

Yields 1 8×8 pan


 

To make the filling


 

Ingredients:

5-6 cups of berries (fresh or frozen)

juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

Place berries in a 8×8 casserole dish. Squeeze lemon juice over berries. Set aside while you prepare topping.


 

To make the topping


 

Ingredients:

2 cups almond or hazelnut flour

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch Himalayan pink salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Place all topping ingredients in a bowl and stir until soft dough forms. Press dough onto berry filling.

Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes. Serve with coconut whipped cream or ice cream. Enjoy!

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Peach Tart \\ Sweet Laurel

I created this summertime tart to highlight the star of the season: peaches! A simple dessert to prepare, and a beautiful one at that. This tart tastes great with vanilla ice cream or coconut whipped cream. Enjoy!!

Peach Tart \\ Sweet Laurel

Peach Tart \\ Sweet Laurel

Peach Tart \\ Sweet Laurel

Peach Tart

Yields one 8-9 inch tart


 

To make the crust:


 

Ingredients:

2 cups almond flour + 2 tablespoons

1/2 tsp pink salt

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 egg

Directions:

Place flour and salt in food processor. Pulse briefly. Add coconut oil, maple syrup, and egg and pulse until mixture forms a ball.

Press into 8-9 inch tart pan. TIP: To ensure your tart comes out of the pan easily, you may want to line your tart pan with parchment paper before pressing dough into tart pan.


 

To prepare filling:


 

Ingredients:

5-6 peaches

Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350.

Directions:

Prepare a large pot of boiling water. When the water has hit a rolling boil, drop 4-5 peaches in the water. Blanch for about 3 minutes. Carefully remove the peaches and allow to cool.

After about 5 minutes, remove peach skins. Slice peaches into small 1-2 quarters. Arrange peaches in tart pan in circular formation. Pour lemon juice over the peaches.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30-40 minutes, until peaches are soft and they begin to slightly brown. Switch oven to broil, and carefully broil tart for 3-4 minutes. Remove tart from oven and allow to cool. Enjoy!

Trio of Salsas \\ Sweet Laurel

Growing up in Southern California means that we know our salsa. It’s one of those quick and simple sauces that can add energy, lift, and zip to any dish. To keep it simple, we chose our top three favorites. Paired with our savory and spicy tortilla chips, you have the perfect appetizer to an easy and delicious meal.

Trio of Salsas \\ Sweet Laurel

Trio of Salsas \\ Sweet Laurel

Trio of Salsas \\ Sweet Laurel

Trio of Salsas \\ Sweet Laurel

Trio of Salsas with Paleo Tortilla Chips

Serves 4


 

Pico de Gallo


 

Ingredients:

2 tomatoes

1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

1 cup chopped cilantro

1 lemon, juiced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 jalapeno, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Directions:

Place all ingredients in food processor and blend for about 30 seconds. Let sit for about 30 minutes so the flavors can meld together and serve. Can be held in the refrigerator for up to a week.


 

Roasted Salsa Verde


 

Ingredients:

4 tomatillos, peeled

1 bunch cilantro

1/2 cup onion

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lemon, squeezed

1 jalapeno, roasted and skinned

1 poblano, roasted and skinned

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Directions:

Place tomatillos in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and gently simmer about 5 minutes.

Place tomatillos in a food processor with remaining ingredients and blend. Let sit for about 30 minutes so the flavors can meld together and serve. Can be held in the refrigerator for up to a week.


 

Orange Salsa


 

Ingredients:

3 navel oranges, Supremed

1 shallot

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 cup cilantro, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lemon, squeezed

1 jalapeno, deseeded and chopped

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Directions:

Stir everything together in a bowl. Let it sit for about an hour to let the flavors come together. Let sit for about 30 minutes so the flavors can meld together and serve. Can be held in the refrigerator for up to a week.


 

Tortilla Chips


 

Ingredients:

1 cup almond flour

1 egg white

1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir until dough forms.

Roll dough out onto a piece of parchment paper. Cut dough into triangles.

Place parchment paper on a baking sheet and put in oven. Bake about 12 minutes.  Remove chips from oven and cool to room temp. Keep sealed on your counter for up to 3 days.