I have always loved cooking. Baking was more difficult for me growing up because it requires more precise measurements and cooking/prep times. I remember when my mom got her first bread machine and it was the coolest thing ever. My mom would bake bread any moment she was able to. As a full-time working mom of 3, she still made the time to include home cooking in her busy schedule.
It was interesting watching the bread machine "do its magic". My mom dumped the ingredients in, closed the lid, turned it on, and it did all the work! It was amazing watching my mom pull out the beautiful, golden loaf of bread when it was done. The entire house smelled like home baked goodness! My mom also made these absolutely amazing focaccia breads that my brothers and I literally went nuts for. She put pine nuts and sundried tomatoes on them and they always cooked up so perfectly- fluffy on the inside and chewy on the outside with little crispy bits around the edges where some of the oil dripped down during cooking.
I loved breads growing up. I loved baguette bread with crispy, golden crusts and warm, chewy insides. I loved spreading creamy avocado with chunks of salty parmesan cheese on the bread. Although I loved to eat bread, I definitely wasn't the best at making bread. The process honestly intimidated me and I didn't make my first official loaf of sandwich bread until after my second child was born. I made cakes, pies, muffins, cookies, and all sorts of yummy baked goods, but bread- no way, that was for the professionals.
After Natalie was born, I began to entertain the idea of baking bread. I knew it was time consuming and if I made a mistake with part of the process, it would definitely show in the finished product. My mom got me a cookbook for how to bake breads and after studying that and watching videos, I decided to give it a shot. I gathered my ingredients, got my loaf pans and my bowl mixer, and gave it a go. Natalie sat in her high chair in our tiny kitchen and watched me make a big flour mess as I kneaded and shaped the bread dough. I followed the recipe exactly. After baking in the oven for a while, my little apartment was filled with that same home baked goodness smell that I remembered as a kid. When the bread was done, it came out beautifully risen, a golden brown crust, and a thick, fluffy inside. August loved eating it plain because "they were too thick of slices for his pbj's", as he put it. My fiancé and I would eat slices with butter spread on them. Natalie was still too young to try it at that time.
I got "bread fever" after that. I made a loaf of bread almost every day! And the loaves got better and fluffier each time. I felt confident in my baking, so I decided to take on other recipes like sweet breads, tortillas, baguettes, and even bagels. I remember making a sweet orange bread that was thick, moist, and had orange glaze poured over the top of it. I made cinnamon raisin and plain bagels as well and boy, was that an interesting process! But let me tell you- those bagels came out so much better than store bought! They were chewy, fluffy, and just tasted better.
When I changed my career, my baking adventures stopped. I no longer had the time or energy to bake like I used to, and I even found myself purchasing take out more for my lunch meals and dinner meals for my family. Many days, I worked over-time with my work day starting at 5am. Sometimes, I didn't get home until after 6pm. Even though I was making decent money, I still felt that part of me was being left behind because I didn't have the time anymore to bake much beyond a box mix. I spent time on the weekends trying to meal prep as best as I could by making pancakes and french toast that could be thrown in the freezer for quick and easy breakfasts for my son before he went to school. But that soon stopped as well after I became pregnant with our third child.
During my pregnancy with my third child, I experienced extreme nausea, fatigue, and some other health issues- one being gestational diabetes. Due to these health issues, I was put on medical leave with my job. I was familiar with the changes I would have to make to my diet because my brother is a diabetic. I altered my diet and successfully controlled my diabetes without insulin or medication. I had fun as well experimenting with this whole new world of recipes. I made creamy jalapeno popper chicken casserole, almond flour coated onion rings, shirataki noodle spaghetti and meatballs, almond flour pancakes, zucchini ravioli, and even chocolate muffins!
After giving birth, I was told that I could eat my regular diet again because normally after giving birth, the diabetes goes away. However, at my 6 week post partum check, my glucose test came back with numbers that just barely passed, making me potentially pre-diabetic. Even though I controlled the diabetes well with diet, it just wasn't enough to offset the genetic factors with my family history. I went back to my low carb, diabetic lifestyle and after 3 months and 35 pounds shed, I got one more lab done to check if the diabetes had gone away. My result showed that I was in the clear of diabetes! However, I have to continue my diabetic lifestyle and get regularly checked for diabetes a couple times a year. Because I had gestational diabetes and have a family history of type 1 diabetes, I am very high risk for eventually developing diabetes, which is why I will have to get frequent lab work to make sure it doesn't creep back.
At first, I went through a range of different emotions with this. I felt happy that I reversed it, but sad that I couldn't enjoy the foods that I once loved. I felt content with the lifestyle change and even felt pumped to embark upon the new journey. But at times, I still feel sad because I have to be extremely careful about what I eat. I thought I was good at reading the nutrition facts and ingredients on products before- now, I feel like an expert. Grocery shopping can take a couple hours now because I have to make sure I stay within my carb limits and that I can eat all the ingredients in the product.
After having a C-section and exclusively breastfeeding my baby, I didn't have the time or energy to be in the kitchen for that long. Sometimes, I felt overwhelmed by the extra work I needed to do to make keto foods. There are keto and low carb options available at the grocery store, but certain ingredients, like sugar alternatives, give me GI upset which also passes through to my baby with breastfeeding and she becomes fussy from gas. I found one sugar alternative that works well for me and baby, so I stick with that for any packaged products I buy at the store.
After much thought, I decided to resign from my full-time job for personal and health reasons (there will be more on this in another blog post). Some days are hard- between managing two small businesses, being a mom of 3, helping my son with his remote learning, and keeping up with household chores, my days feel pretty exhausting. I have been looking into easy meal and snack prep to try to make the day run just a little bit easier than before. I used to bake my goods in large batches before so they would last a few days. I used to make triple batches of pancakes and tortillas and double batches of muffins and bread, and they would last us sometimes a good while- especially if I properly froze them. So, this morning, I made 3 batches of muffins. The first batch was chocolate chip (not diabetic friendly) that Natalie requested. The second batch was blueberry (also not diabetic friendly) that August and my fiancé requested. The third were double chocolate chip muffins- and those were keto. I could guilt myself by saying "it's only a few muffins, what of it?". But instead, I am seeing it as I am once again pursuing my love of baking and doing it in a way where my whole family- even myself- can enjoy delicious, home baked goods. Today, my baby sat in her high chair and watched me and her sister bake muffins together. A cherished memory that I had from when my oldest daughter was a baby and now- with just slightly different ingredients- I am grateful to be doing it again.