Saturday, May 30, 2015

Busy Moms Pump into Bags, or How to Wash Fewer Bottles

Medela is one of the most popular breast pump makers out there, and they have some great ideas on making pumping easier.  They are the gold standard in pumps.  Which is why the fact that their bags are not the best is very surprising and dissapointing. So the question is how can we use better bags with all of the Medela awesomeness?

First, what makes the Lansinoh bags better?
  1. Double Zippers: Lansinoh bags have 2 "ziplock" style seals at the top, so if I don't get 1 quite closed, or something gets set on top of a milk bag the chance of all of our milk leaking out is less.
  2. Soft Plastic: Partly it just feels nicer, but it is also easier to handle because it is more pliable.
  3. Lay Flat for Slim Storage: Lansinoh bags are designed to lay flat to freeze so you can fit them into your freezer more easily and a flat bag will thaw faster when you need to make a bottle.
  4. Bigger: Lansinoh bags are a little bigger if you need more than 4-5 ounces occaisionlly.

"But I really like pumping directly into bags!  Or at least I like not washing extra pumping bottles," you cry.  Good news, there is a solution for us!

The Medela bag hanger is the key.  If you have a Medela pump, then at some point you have probably bought, or been given, a box of Medela bags.  That box of bags should have included 2 plastic hanger attachments, keep those with your pump for bag pumping.

You will also need a pair of scissors.  I keep a pair with my pump.  I cut my bags in sets of 2 as needed.  If you wanted to mass produce hanging Lansinoh bags for yourself you could try an exacto knife and a cutting pad, I'm not an expert on exacto knives though.

We'll start with 1 bag for this demo. Take your Lansinoh bag and gently fold the top in half, then cut a small slit, about a quarter inch in the plastic.  I like to cut along the purple line as that seems to be low enough so that the hanger reaches just below the zippers, so milk doesn't get into the zippers, but high enough that I don't worry about accidentally cutting the top zipper.

Assemble your pumping setup including hands free bustier if you use one, screwing the Medela hangers in where you would usually put a bottle.  Then open your Lansinoh bags and pull them up over the hanger with the hanger inside so milk will go into the bag.  Then slip the cut slits over the hooks on the hangers.

Start pumping!

When you are done, carefully unhook the bag from the hanger (this is where I appreciate the hands free), check the volume in the bag, press the air out of the bag and seal the zippers.  Before you forget, label the bag with the date and volume.  You now have a bag ready for the freezer!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lactation brownies

I wanted an easy and quick recipe for lactation cookies, but I didn't want to take the time to spoon out individual cookies. I bought brownie bars with oats at Trader Joes, but they did not taste as good as real brownies.  I don't understand how and why they put so much sugar into something and then make it taste healthy. I wanted something I could eat when I get a chocolate craving that tastes good.

These are my experiments with boxed brownie mix.

The Internet research pointed me to a babycenter group (The Exclusive Pumpers) who had tried this back in 2013. One poster suggested adding 3 Tbsp flax meal and 2 Tbsp Brewers yeast straight to a boxed mix. That sounded easy.  I wanted oatmeal too though so I added half a cup, that didn't seem like quite enough so I added another 1/4th cup for a total of 3/4 cup.

I pick up brownie mixes when I see them on sale and keep them for when I need a quick dessert.  The first mix I had in my cupboard was Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Brownie Mix.  I hoped to find a recipe that would work with any mix.

The brownies were delicious, they tasted like fudgey brownies.  They did not rise at all though, I probably could have used the 2 eggs for cakey brownies.

Here is my suggested recipe:

1 box brownie mix and ingredients listed on the box (usually eggs, water, and oil)
2 Tablespoons Brewers Yeast
3 Tablespoons Flax Meal
3\4 cup rolled oats.
1-2 Tablespoons extra water.

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl (brownie mix, oatmeal, flax, brewer's yeast)
Add egg(s), oil, water, per box instructions. Mix the batter together with a mixing spoon.  The batter should be easy to stir but not runny, if it is too stiff then add an extra Tablespoon or two of water.

Spread into a greased pan and bake per the box instructions.

Some tips for the novice baker:
-Set you timer for the shortest time in the baking directions, check if they are done, if not close the oven for another minute or two.  Repeat at the end of that minute.
-instructions usually say to insert a fork and if it comes out clean they are done.  You are looking for drippy or gooey batter on the fork, that means it needs more time. A crumb or two on the fork means they are done.
-set the pan on a cooling rack or hot pad or trivit on the counter to cool.  The heat from the oven will continue to cook the brownies if you set the pan on the stove.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Muffins for Horses

I have been reading some notes on vegan baking and decided to try making vegan muffins.  Of course my favorite vegans are horses.  I went with the banana-for-egg substitution and swapped in juice for milk.

The first batch I made the oatmeal variation and added sliced strawberries.

For the second batch I followed the "banana" variation in the book reducing the apple juice and adding extra banana as well as adding a mashed banana for the egg.  I didn't mash these bananas as thoroughly so there were some banana chunks in these.

The results:
-The horses and humans all liked the strawberry muffins, although some humans pointed out that they were not as sweet as traditional muffins.  They were also very moist, to the point of being too moist I think.  I decided to cut back on the liquid a little in the future.

-Most of the horses liked the Banana Chunk muffins.  The exception being the thoroughbred mare who picked up her piece of muffin at the edge, thought about for a moment, then spit it out on the ground and delicately stomped on it.  She's a sweetheart.  However, after seeing her human and the boys (the geldings around her) eat the muffins she decided that she did like them.
 -The humans all enjoyed the banana muffins.

Recipe for Banana Chunk muffins:

1 3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
(The one thing I don't like about this recipe is that you use every measuring cup in the set for these 2 ingredients.)

2 tsp baking POWDER
1/4 tsp salt

Mix all of the above in a medium mixing bowl and make a "well" in the center.

4 bananas mashed with chunks (I smash them in a bowl with a fork)
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix the bananas, juice and oil together and dump them all at once into the "well" in the dry ingredients.  stir everything together quickly.  Fill 12 muffin cups with the batter and bake at 400 deg F for about 20 minutes.

My Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book tells me that using the paper cups with banana muffins is not a great idea.  That was demonstrated with the strawberry muffins which stuck to the papers.  So for the Banana Chunk muffins I just sprayed the muffin pan with a squirt of Pam in the bottom of each cup before filling them.  I have one of those nifty plastic muffin trays that can go in the dishwasher so clean up is easy.  If you have to scrub by hand you might want to use papers anyway.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Last weekend Pepper and I won "prettiest bonnet" at the Easter Bonnet contest sponsored by ETI.  He was thrilled as the prize included a bucket with horse cookies in it.  Far more exciting than a ribbon! At least from a horse's perspective.

We did not win the egg-and-spoon race however.  It turns out that the galloping and lead changes so useful in a barrel race do not work as well in an egg-and-spoon race.  He tried though.

Pictures of our winning bonnets:
This is Pepper's bonnet with flowers.  It also has a reflective trim in case I want to use it at night.

This is a picture of my helmet cover hat from the test run the day before.  I based the look on an old painting I pinned on pinterest:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My new Blog

This is my new blog. I plan to share some of the stuff I think up in my everyday life.  From baking (for horses and humans) to fixing lawn chairs with bailing twine.

About me: I am an engineer with a darling quarter horse Pepper, a handful of kooky friends and millions of  random ideas.  I plan to use this blog to push me into actually exploring and trying some of those ideas.

Real content to follow soon.