A Protein-Packed Pilaf that’s Not a Side Dish

I suffer from migraines, and along with magnesium supplements I’ve made an effort to eat more foods high in magnesium. I find magnesium-loaded foods to be helpful not only for prevention but to ease the pain during an episode (it may be all in my head, but there’s not one bad thing about a super food like quinoa, my favorite migraine-fighting food). Earlier this week a migraine (thankfully short in duration, about 5 hours) led me to look for a quinoa and red kidney bean recipe. I found this Quinoa and Bean Pilaf recipe on the Food Network and modified it for fun. At first I wanted to prepare it with some lemon pepper chicken, and when I started putting it together realized this is a protein-packed meal all on its own. Below is my version complete with photos. Enjoy, and if you try it would love if you left your thoughts and modifications in the comments.


2 bell peppers, 1 red, 1 yellow (the recipe calls for red and green peppers, and I think this would also be good with orange peppers)
6 scallions, sliced, separate the white and green parts (the recipe calls for 3 scallions but I love them so I went heavy on the scallions, no regrets)
2 stalks celery, sliced (I do not love celery and it’s easy for it to overtake a dish, so I went with the receipe here)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I only had two cloves, otherwise would’ve used more garlic)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
1 cup quinoa
2 15-oz. cans of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (I used organic kidney beans, and you can use black kidney beans if you prefer)
4 cups organic baby spinach (honestly I grabbed 4 handfulls of the stuff)
1/2 cup shredded white mild cheddar cheese (the recipe also suggested pepper jack)
Sriracha sauce (the recipe says its optional, but it tasted bland without it, and any kind of hot sauce really brings all the flavors together. I’m not a hot sauce lovin person, either.)


Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat (I love our cast iron skillet). Add peppers, scallion whites and celery. Cook and stir until soft, which will take about 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, cayenne and about a half teaspoon of salt (I actually used a little less). Cook and stir for about 2 minutes. Stir in quinoa, then add two cups of water and the kidney beans.
Simmer and cook, and stir often. You want most of the water to be absorbed and for the quinoa to be cooked through (should take about 15 minutes). The recipe suggests adding up to a 1/4 cup more of water if necessary, and I did need to add a little water before the quinoa was completey finished cooking.
Remove the skillet from the heat and add the spinach, then stir until it starts to wilt. The recipe suggests adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt; I went easy here and just added a pinch. Stir in half of the scallion greens and the shredded cheese.
Place individual portions on plates and sprinkle the rest of the scallion greens and cheese on top.
Drizzle with Sriracha sauce and enjoy!

4 Practical Uses for Coconut Oil

From the kitchen to your skin care routine, there are thousands of uses for coconut oil. It hydrates and moisturizes hair, skin and lips. Coconut oil is a fantastic natural all-over moisturizer (use it like lotion after bathing), and when combined with other ingredients, makes a great base for hair masks and lips scrubs. Here are two recipes to try.

Coconut Oil Hair Mask



  • Slather into hair. Make sure to massage your scalp and focus on your roots.
  • Leave the mask in your hair for a minimum of 30 minutes. Wear overnight if possible.
  • Wash with a mild shampoo and style as usual. This leaves your hair soft, shiny and smooth!

The lip scrub recipe is courtesy of Brandie Gilliam, Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Organic Beauty Talk.

Brandie Gilliams’ DIY Lip Scrub Recipe


  • 1 tablespoon Nutiva organic coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon all natural raw or organic honey
  • 2 teaspoons organic brown sugar (or organic white sugar or coconut flakes)


Mix ingredients. Use a toothbrush or your finger to gently apply to your lips with a back and forth motion. Rinse, pat dry and then condition with a bit of coconut oil for soft smooth lips!

I also use coconut oil on my infant to treat and prevent diaper rash and in a homemade teething oil.

Coconut oil is an easy, affordable and fun way to moisturize your skin, hair and lips. Do you have any coconut oil tips to share?

Image courtesy of Keerati/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

An Obituary for My Cat

Mayor Meowzer Klapp

Mayor Meowzer McDermott Klapp of Meowzerville (formerly Whisker City- yes, that Whisker City) died peacefully at home on December 20, 2013, after a brave battle with rodent poison. He was born in June 2007 in Kent, Ohio and moved to Meowzerville on November 1, 2007. He was elected mayor in 2008 and governed Meowzerville after his re-election in 2012 until his passing. A life-long Democat, the Mayor will best be remembered for his chipmunk population control legislation and his city-wide ban on gluten in cat food. He successfully worked with Republikitties, Sniffertarians, Labratarians, Independepups, and Indepupdents.

Survived by his parents, Mark and Alanna Klapp; his tiny human, Gabe; and his brother from another mother and species, BFF Sniffer dog. He was loved by many friends and constituents and taken from us too soon.

Meowzer arrived on my doorstep at a time in my life when I needed him most, and he must have fulfilled his purpose, as much as that breaks my heart. He was loved by a lot of people, many of whom he’d never met face-to-face. In the end, the best thing you can say about a life, whether it’s a human or pet, is that it was a life filled with love. Rest in peace, little buddy.

Winter Blend Tuna Pasta

Here’s a quick, easy and healthy recipe to whip up before you head out into the holiday frenzy. The inspiration came from the Tuna Pasta recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Energy Food: Energy-Giving Food Solutions to Keep You Fully Charged Throughout the Day, by Beverly le Blanc.

Winter Blend Tuna Pasta


1 package wholewheat pasta (I used penne pasta, my favorite)
1 tbsp olive oil
6 garlic cloves, diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
winter blend of broccoli florets and cauliflower (I bought a frozen blend and steamed them separately)
2 cans chunk white albacore tuna in water, drained and rinsed
juice of two lemons
Himalayan pink salt to taste
black pepper to taste
dried basil leaves to taste (which I would’ve had fresh basil but alas winter is here)


Cook the pasta according to package directions.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and onions and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the tuna and flake with a fork, then add lemon juice and pepper. Continue to stir and break up the tuna. Add basil leaves and Himalayan pink salt to taste.
Drain pasta and pour into a large bowl. Add the tuna mixture and steamed vegetables with a bit of olive oil and toss. Add more lemon juice and seasonings if desired.

Why Blogs are Like Tattoos

For writers, blogs are like tattoos: once you get one you have to have more. I started The Chipper Writer almost four years ago, and two months later joined the lovely ladies at the Cleveland Browns blog Bitter Orange & Brown. Earlier this year I received an invitation from Judith Manigault, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Lingk2us Magazine, to blog for FE Media’s collection of parenting blogs called The Mom (and Dad!) Collective. My blog is called The FTM Chronicles: First-Time-Mom Alanna Klapp’s journey into motherhood and beyond. I hope you’ll stop by and visit and say hello. I’ve written three posts so far (links below), and the fourth post (called “The Preposterous Postpartum Baby Bump Presumption”) is slated for publication on December first. Thanks for reading and have a blessed Thanksgiving!

10 Surprising Things I Loved & Loathed About Pregnancy

I’m about two months postpartum as I write this, and lately have found myself reflecting on my pregnancy (not to be confused for missing pregnancy). While I carried my son, I had a lot of friends who told me they hated being pregnant, and I heard from a few who said they loved it. I’m somewhere in the middle. There were definitely parts of pregnancy that made me miserable. Before I got pregnant I thought I’d hate it. But I was pleasantly surprised by all the things I loved and enjoyed about being pregnant. Love or loathe, I found them all to be surprises, since I knew pretty much zilch about pregnancy and babies until that fateful day when the word “Pregnant” appeared (twice) on the digital Clear Blue Easy.



1. Even thicker, shiny hair. Pregnancy hormones and Rainbow Lite prenatal vitamins are not a joke. I didn’t think it was possible for my thick hair to get any thicker, but it did, and it was as shiny as Rudolph’s nose. Now I’m dealing with postpartum hair loss, but (surprisingly) this hasn’t been as horrible as I anticipated.

2. Baby movement. On my most achy, swollen and exhausted days, I forgot my ailments when my son moved or kicked.

3.  My acne cleared up. Since the age of 11 I’ve dealt with acne. In 23 years only Proactiv and pregnancy have cleared it up. My skin never looked as radiant as it did during pregnancy. I hoped the hormones would permanently banish the zits, but no such luck. Back to the Proactiv.

4. Strong nails. I attribute this to the prenatal vitamins, and what a treat for a girl with constantly breaking and peeling nails. Happily this has continued postpartum (which is why I think it’s the vitamins).

5. Voracious appetite. This was most prevalent during my second trimester, a point in my life where I can honestly say I enjoyed food more than any other time.

6. Maternity clothes. I dreaded buying maternity clothes until I tried them on. Nowadays they are stylish and comfortable. They can be expensive, but second-hand shops such as Clothes Mentor have entire maternity sections and you can walk out with a bag full of clothes for under $100. Target’s maternity section is chic and affordable too.

7. The way my cat and dog acted around me. The dog was extra protective and sweet, and the cat spent countless hours snuggled up with my belly.

8. Assertiveness. I became more decisive, especially when it came to picking a restaurant. It became easier for me to say no and to ask for help when I needed it.

9. Cocoa butter. I love the smell of Palmer’s cocoa butter.

10. The baby bump. Not something I’d always want to have as it made it difficult if not impossible to tie my shoes, but for the time it was necessary it was fun. Just ask my cat.


1. Gas. As it wasn’t enough I felt like a whale, I had to feel like a farting whale.
2. Fatigue. To all women pregnant with your first child: if you’re tired, sleep! There’s no shame in it. You need the sleep to take care of you and nurture your child, and once the baby comes, you will sleep but it won’t be the same. Ever. Again.
3. Crankiness. I thought all pregnant women were emotional, not cranky. Don’t get me wrong, I had my share of bawling (like I did in the Kohl’s bra section because they didn’t carry maternity bras), but at first I was extremely irritable. Before I took my pregnancy test I thought I had PMS because my mood was so foul.
4. Tailbone pain. I expected back pain, but the pain in the literal butt caught me off guard.
5. Migraines. Along with morning sickness I had migraines every day during my first trimester and at the beginning of the second. They were so debilitating I eventually saw a neurologist who diagnosed it as an intractable migraine and prescribed me oxygen therapy, which helped tremendously.
6. Hot flashes. I thought those were for menopause. But no, I got a special sneak peak while pregnant.
7. Peeing every 10 seconds. OK, so I’m exaggerating, it was every 10 minutes. Don’t miss that at all.
8. Functioning with extra weight. I was awkward, out of breath and wore shoes without laces the last two months.
9. Leg cramps. I got them before I was pregnant, but I never had them as often as I did until pregnant. Nothing like a fiery knot in your calf to start your day out right.
10. Sore ribs. This one perhaps surprised me most. It was mostly the right side where my son liked to rest his precious little feet. Two months after delivery my ribs are still a bit sore but feeling better every day.
Would I do it again? One look at my baby confirms the answer is yes (although I think just one more time and not right this second). What about you, mommas? Did you love pregnancy or hate it? Or were you like me with things you remember fondly and things that make you cringe? What specific things did you love or loathe about pregnancy? Please share in the comments below.

Catfish with Fresh Herbs & Lemon Juice

Catfish with fresh herbs & lemon juice served with roasted garlic quinoa & steamed cauliflower

I Googled “herbs for catfish” and found the inspiration for today’s recipe post, “Herb-Baked Catfish” on Cooks.com. This recipe calls for dried herbs but I wanted to use fresh herbs from our herb garden. Here’s my version. Today’s featured herbs are:





Catfish with Fresh Herbs & Lemon Juice


2 catfish fillets
1 medium garlic clove (I used a tbsp. of minced garlic since I didn’t have fresh)
1 tsp. Himalayan pink salt
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. fresh oregano
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. fresh basil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Mix minced garlic and melted butter in a small bowl, then spread over the bottom of a glass baking dish. Mix pepper, Himalayan pink salt, paprika, and the fresh thyme, oregano and basil and coat the fish on both sides. Put each fillet on the baking dish on top of the butter and garlic.Squirt the fillets with lemon juice. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until the fish flakes with a fork. Remove fillets onto serving plates, then stick the baking dish back in the oven for 4 minutes. Pour the butter and garlic over each fillet. Makes 2 servings.
The finished fish. Enjoy!

Tuna, Veggie & Cottage Cheese Concoction


Tuna, Veggie & Cottage Cheese Concoction wrap garnished with chives & served with (store bought) chick pea salad

I didn’t always enjoy cooking. In fact, cooking used to be a source of stress and anxiety, but it’s become a coping mechanism. My husband loves to cook and I began as a reluctant assistant in the kitchen. He made it fun and taught me things like how to time and pace yourself so all the food is ready around the same time, which eased the stressful parts. I first wrote a food post back in 2009, scrambled eggs and leeks, from a recipe book I still use and love, Energy Food: Energy-Giving Food Solutions to Keep You Fully Charged Throughout the Day, by Beverly le Blanc. 
Two other huge reasons I began to cook more were gardening and the Internet. My husband is also an avid gardener, and in the summer of 2012 we grew a garden overrun with yellow nutsedge (long story), but the garden produced the most yield we’d ever seen. We’d pick whatever was available in the garden that day, whether it be eggplant, tomato, zucchini or squash, and we’d Google ingredients, pick a recipe and make it, usually with modifications. We cooked a few food bombs but for the most part, ate healthy, delicious, pesticide and GMO-free food. I’m pretty sure that’s the healthiest eating I’ve ever done in a single summer. I lost 10 pounds and felt more energetic. My digestive system ran like a well-oiled machine. 
Along with the health benefits, I started to appreciate and enjoy the art of cooking. I love to chop vegetables (I’m a lot better at using a knife that I used to be, I had/have an irrational fear of knives, another source of anxiety), I love to saute and I love to follow and modify recipes. I used to get anxious if I didn’t measure out ingredients exactly, now I estimate and throw stuff in and add a little of this or that just for fun. In 2012 I made the transformation from horrible, awkward cook to a point where I now feel comfortable referring to myself as a foodie. 
Not only did I cook from our garden in 2012, I read two food memoirs that inspired me to want to write about food and cooking. The Irish-Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts, by Erin O’Brien, is a laugh-out-loud funny read that weaves recipes and life into a literary tapestry that will make you ponder long after you’ve stopped giggling. I read this book in February 2012.
In September 2012, my friend Jonathan loaned me Julie Powell‘s Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, a national bestseller and a movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams (every author’s dream, a bestselling book made into a movie). It’s the story of how Julie Powell, almost 30 years old and unhappy in her clerical government job, cooked all 524 recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, and blogged about the experience in order to reclaim her life. Not only did she reclaim her life, she ended up with a book deal. Jonathan has given me his blessing to keep the book, and I’m so grateful because it’s such an inspiration to me.
In December 2012 I found out I was pregnant with our first child, and after three months of morning sickness my appetite kicked into high gear and I began cooking almost daily, without a vegetable and herb garden (going to the grocery store works just as well). I cooked through the whole spring and now that it’s summer, hit up the Howe Meadow Farmer’s Market on a rather regular basis and have cooked a few dishes with fresh herbs from our new raised bed herb garden. The vegetables are freshly planted, and while I’m no Julia Child, Julie Powell or Erin O’Brien, I figured it’s high time I write some foodie posts on this blog. While they’re in season, I plan to post recipes that feature herbs from our herb garden. If you try any of these receipes please free to modify them however it suits your needs, and I hope you’ll share what you did in the comments section. 
The first recipe comes from my mom, who made this for our family on 90 degree summer days in our non-air conditioned house when she didn’t want to use the stove or the oven in the heat and humidity. It’s light, refreshing, hydrating and filling. Today’s featured herbs are flat leaf parsley and dill.
Flat leaf parsley and dill
Tuna, Veggie & Cottage Cheese Concoction
1 cucumber, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
i orange bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 can chunk white Albacore tuna in water, drained & rinsed (or whatever kind of tuna you like, I use Starkist)
1 24 oz container of cottage cheese (I used Smith’s small curd 4% milk fat)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dill
1 teaspoon flat leaf parsley
flat bread or pita bread
Combine cucumber, red pepper, orange pepper, yellow pepper, tomato, tuna and cottage cheese together in a large bowl. Stir until well mixed. Season with pepper, dill and parsley to taste. 
The filling all mixed together 
Scoop mixture onto flat bread or into pita pockets and serve. 
Roll it up and eat it!
Cover bowl and refrigerate leftovers. Can also prepare in advance and chill in fridge before serving. 

9 Things to Say and Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman

Alanna 22 weeks

I’m happy to tell you I’m five months pregnant with our first child! Our little boy is due around August 12th. Since I learned I was prego on December 10th, people have said kind and gracious things to me. Others have said things that if I’ve ever said them or anything else offensive to pregnant women out of ignorance, I’m going on record here to apologize and state I’ll never say them ever again, God willing. It’s been made painfully aware to me how folks lose all sense of boundaries with a pregnant woman. People mean well, and they’re not saying these things out of malice or to bother me enough to include them in a blog post. I hope this list makes you smile (and even giggle), and I also hope it will help make you aware of what to say and not to say the next time you’re talking to an expectant mother. Enjoy!


1. “Are you sure you’re not six or seven months? You look big today.” I was asked this at 21 weeks, more like five months. Yes, I’m sure.
2. “Are you sure it’s not twins? One might be hiding behind the other.” So, are you saying I’m so big there must be two babies in my belly?
3. “Was it planned?” Yes, he was “planned,” but this question irritates me. Babies are a gift from God whether or not they were intended by the child’s parents, and it’s such a nosy question. Are you asking me if I had unprotected sex with my husband on purpose? I think that’s none of your business.
4. “Is it your husband’s?” I was asked this with my husband standing right next to me. There are no words for this one, except, yes, the baby boy was sired by my husband. Thanks for asking.
5. “You’re not allowed to drink coffee.” Um, thanks, but actually, I am “allowed” to drink coffee. According to What to Expect When You’re Expecting, the most helpful and at the same time frightening book on pregnancy out there, on page 69:
“Most evidence suggests that drinking up to approximately 200 mg of caffeine a day is safe during pregnancy. Depending on how you take your coffee (black or with lots of milk), that could mean limiting yourself to about two cups (give or take) a day. Which means you’re good to go (and fuel your get-up-and-go) if you’re a light or moderate coffee drinker.”
6. “You might change your mind about his name after he’s born.” My husband and I have had our boy’s name picked out for years. We use it when we talk to him through my stomach (yes, we do that). You may know people who had this experience, which is great for them, but I still don’t understand why you’d say that to me? Why not say what a nice name and move on?
7. “Wouldn’t it be great if you had him on your birthday?” No, it wouldn’t. My birthday is about three weeks after my baby’s due date. That would make me 43 weeks (10-11 months) pregnant.
8. “You’re going to get carpel tunnel. Wow, I didn’t know you were a doctor! And that every single pregnant woman gets carpel tunnel! Again, just because you or someone you know had that experience doesn’t mean I will. Please don’t speak that over me (along with number seven). I already have carpel tunnel, it started 11 years ago and I’ve since made lifestyle and ergonomic changes that keep the pain away.
9. “You’re not allowed to dye your hair.” Please people, unless you’re my doctor (which you’re not), don’t tell me what I’m allowed and not allowed to do! No one has researched or freaked out about this stuff more than me. I am “allowed” and I did (gasp!). From What to Expect When You’re Expecting, page 144-145:
“Even though no evidence suggests the small amount of chemicals absorbed through the skin during hair coloring is harmful when you’re expecting, some experts still advise waiting out the first trimester before heading back to the salon for retouching. Others maintain that it’s safe to dye throughout pregnancy.”
I waited a few weeks into my second trimester to be on the safe side and also because I didn’t feel well enough the first trimester to make a trip to the salon (smells are also magnified during the first trimester and I handled this much better during the second).


1. “You look great.”
2. “You look beautiful.”
3. “You look lovely.”
4. “You have that lovely expectant glow.” or “You’re glowing.” We love hearing that.
5. “You’re so tiny!”
6. “You don’t look like you’re having a baby.” This made my day one day at the beginning of my fourth month.
7. “You’re so little!”
8. “What a lucky baby!” Well gosh, thanks!
9. “You’re going to be great parents!” or “You’re going to be a great mom!” Again, thank you and expectant mothers love hearing this one!
In other words, if you’re not telling me how fabulous I look or complimenting my future parenting skills, then please shut up.
If you have any DOs and DON’Ts of your own to add, please share them in the comments.

13 Ways Laughter Nourishes Writers

A guest post by Debra Johnson

You know the old saying “laughter is the best medicine?” Well, it turns out it’s really true. Laughter does so much for the human body that it’s no wonder we love to laugh. 
1. Improves your sleep quality and helps to treat insomnia – Getting a good night’s rest is so important. Laughter helps relax and put you in the right frame of mind to get some great REM sleep.
2. Makes you more open-minded – We are always talking about how people need to be more understanding and compassionate towards one another. Maybe all we need is a good laugh.
3. Improves your memory – I don’t know about you, but if laughing helps me to remember what I came in the next room to get, then I’m all for it.
4. Boosts your problem solving ability and creativity – I think I will start listening to comedians the next time I have to be creative and think outside the box.
5. Reduces your anxiety and depression – I wonder if nervous laughter happens for this reason?
6. Bolsters your immune system – I can’t help but think of that clown doctor movie with Robin Williams…
7. Stimulates the release of your endorphins and puts you in a positive mood – And as we all know, happy people don’t kill their husbands. Sorry, bad movie quote habit.
8. Protects you against heart attacks–That is a valuable benefit. I know a few people who could stand to laugh more often, don’t you?
9. Makes men appear more desirable to women – I wonder if the opposite is true. I would think so.
10. Strengthens your relationships with others by increasing your sense of trust – Sharing a laugh with friends is one of the warmest feelings ever.
11. Increases your blood flow by improving blood vessel function – This probably has something to do with number eight…
12. Relieves the tension in your muscles – Let’s just hope your bladder muscles stay intact.
13. Raises your pain tolerance – The next time I stub my toe I’ll try to laugh about it… No.
As a writer, you should remember that humor is a huge part of life. Inject more humor into your writing and help your readers to experience these benefits.
About the Author: 
This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of Liveinnanny.com. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: – jdebra84@gmail.com