Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Oatmeal Cookie Alternative (my latest pregnancy must-have!)

If you haven't tried these banana oatmeal cookies that are all over Pinterest, do yourself a favor and make some!  They are delicious and much more guilt free than your average cookie.  Not to mention, super easy to make with ingredients you probably have on hand.  There are so many variations that you can try a new one often enough not to get tired of them.  I first made them last summer when I was doing Weight Watchers and just needing something sweet.  Now, they are a yummy, chocolately treat for my pregnant self that isn't loaded with sugar and calories.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Banana Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients: (makes about 12 cookies)
- 2 ripe bananas
- 1 c. quick-cooking oats
- 1/4 c. mini chocolate chips
- 1/2 t. cinnamon
variations:  try raisins or dried cranberries instead of chocolate chips, add chopped nuts, or mix in a couple tablespoons of peanut butter.


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mash the bananas until smooth.  Stir in oats, chocolate chips, and cinnamon.

2.  Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased baking sheet, press down slightly (cookies will not spread like a typical cookie, so you can space them pretty close together).   Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.  Cookies will be slightly browned and set up in the middle when done.  Let cool, store in fridge.

don't the roses just make you crave spring?
I sure do!!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Strawberry-Banana-Avocado Smoothie To Go!

In a previous post, I talked about how much we loved our latest baby/toddler food pouch/cup discovery, the Sucup.  It's perfectly sized, easy to use, spill-proof, and best of all, even travels well.  Annalyn loves that it fits in the cup holder of her car seat.  Mama loves that she can have a snack or breakfast on the go without risking her making a huge mess in the car.  It's true, we definitely love this cup!  Here's a recipe for a quick and easy toddler smoothie that's been a big hit with Peanut lately and fits perfectly into her Sucup. 

Strawberry-Banana-Avocado Smoothie To Go

Ingredients:  (or double this recipe and store half for later or the next day.  Add a little lemon juice to help prevent the fruit from browning.)

- 1/2 ripe banana
- 1/2 avocado
- 1/4 c. strawberry yogurt
- 1-2 T. milk to thin to desired consistency

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Slow Cooker Shredded Flank Steak Stew

Here's a rich, flavorful stew (based on this recipe from that's super easy to make and only gets better as leftovers!  Sounds like a working mama win to me!  We ate it as soup the first night, wraps for lunch the next day, then over rice the third day (because who wants to eat the exact same meal three times in a row?).  There is a decent amount of prep work due to all the chopping/slicing veggies, but they can all be cut up the night before and tossed in the next morning.  It smells absolutely divine while it cooks and tastes great to boot.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Slow Cooker Shredded Flank Steak Stew

- 3 lb. flank steak, cut into thirds
- 2 c. chicken stock
- 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
- 2 T. cumin
- 1 T. salt
- 1 t. black pepper
- 1/2 t. cayenne, optional
- 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
- handful baby carrots, sliced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 T. minced garlic
- 1 can tomatoes with green chilies (Rotel type tomatoes - I didn't have on hand but I think it would've made a good addition)
- 1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
- for serving:  jalapenos, sour cream/greek yogurt, fresh lime wedges, tortillas (it makes yummy wraps!), rice (also very good served over rice).

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Toddler Meals: Chicken & Cheese Roll-ups (with mustard!)

As I've mentioned several times before, Annalyn is obsessed with mustard.  So I decided to use that to my advantage to get her to eat more (it's true, my once food-obsessed baby has become an I'm-too-busy-playing-to-eat toddler).  She is still pretty accepting of most foods and doesn't refuse it completely, it just seems like she eats so much less than she did, say, a year ago even.  But then I look at those perfectly chubby cheeks and thighs and remember that she's not starving herself.  Nonetheless, easy to make healthy, Peanut-approved lunches are becoming more of a struggle, so when this one was a big hit, I decided to share.  It's funny because I ate similar things while pregnant with her, mustard and all.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Chicken & Cheese Roll-ups

- 1 tortilla (whole grain preferred, but I only had regular)
- 1/3 c. shredded cheese (I had mozzarella and tossed in a slice of gouda we were snacking on)
- 2-3 slices lunch meat (we had chicken, but turkey/ham/etc. works fine, too)
- your toddler's "dip" of choice - ranch, mustard, etc.
- additional add-ins:  black beans, spinach, shredded carrots, chopped cucumber/tomato, any veggie you would like on a wrap! (we kept it simple this time just to see how she'd do, but I figure I'll jazz it up a little next time)
1.  Lay tortilla flat on a microwave safe plate.  Sprinkle with cheese, then lay lunch meat over the top.
2.  Microwave for 30-40 seconds until cheese melts.  Roll the tortilla starting at one end and place seam side down.  Cut in half and serve with condiment of choice.

printable recipe

fingers are also good dipped in mustard
but don't fill up little bellies as well!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mexican Food Friday: Cheesy Beef and Chicken Enchiladas

I'm baa-ack!
In the kitchen, that is!

And it feels so good!  So glad to finally feel good enough to not only be eating normal food, but cooking as well!  To celebrate,  we invited some close friends over for a Mexican food feast.  Feeling brave as ever, I tried this new enchilada recipe with both beef and chicken (something for everyone, plus I'm still working my way into eating poultry.)  They were easy, cheesy, and oh so yummy! (They'd also make a good weeknight meal, since you could make the taco meat ahead or toss the chicken in a crock pot on low all day.)  To compliment the enchiladas, I turned to my favorite Mexican food cook, Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman.  I made her restaurant style salsa (always a favorite!  Also try my pineapple version here.), refried black beans, and mango margaritas (including a couple virgin ones for me and Peanut).  Jess and Kinzie brought guacamole, spicy coleslaw, and a delicious peanut butter pie to round out the meal.  Quite the feast!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Cheesy Beef and Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients: (for 12 enchiladas - I doubled the original because I made both beef and chicken enchiladas.  If you choose just one, halve the other ingredients)

- cooking spray
- 24 oz. pasteurized processed Queso blanco (the white Velveeta-type cheese)
- 1 1/2 c. fat free sour cream
- 12 tortillas (I used mostly whole wheat and a few regular)
- 2/3 c. shredded cheddar cheese
for beef enchiladas:
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 pkg. taco seasoning
for chicken enchiladas:
- 1 lb. chicken breasts
- 1/2 c. chicken stock
- 1/3. c. green salsa, plus more for serving
- 1/2 t. cumin
- 1/4 t. pepper
- 1 t. chili powder
serve with salsa

Thursday, January 16, 2014

About Aboo: Halfway Point - Ultrasounds, Newfound Hunger, and Naming

Dear Emelina,

Here we are, halfway through our journey until we meet!  The last couple weeks have been a rollercoaster of finally feeling good enough to eat "real food" again, then getting strep throat and a sinus infection to make me feel awful again.  But here we are at week 20 - healthy, happy, and hungry!  Unlike your big sis who had me craving chocolate milk and mustard (not together), you have me wanting yogurt, Mexican food, and Skyline chili.   To this day, Annalyn is obsessed with mustard (as in eats Dijon and yellow mustard with a spoon) and loves hot cocoa, so I wonder if you will be a yogurt and salsa lover.  Guess we will just have to wait and see!  Some of my favorite snacks lately have been Chobani plain Greek yogurt mixed with ranch seasoning as veggie dip and strawberry yogurt with homemade granola (this definitely helps with the crazy bad heartburn stage I've hit, too.  Hoping it means you'll have lots of hair like sis!).  I also finally gave in and am trying to reincorporate chicken into our diet (starting with this ciabatta chicken sandwich).  Later this week, we're also having some friends over for a Mexican food feast, so I'm thinking you'll love it.  It's definitely the start of my favorite part of pregnancy!

Even more exciting than food, this week we get to see you at our 20 week ultrasound!  I absolutely can't wait.  With Annalyn we were so anxious to find out gender at this ultrasound, but with you, we get to just sit back and enjoy watching you jump around (which you're doing more and more, especially at night).  Daddy's still waiting for when he can feel you kick from the outside - not quite yet, but I suspect we're getting closer.  I'm hoping we can see some of what you look like - with Annalyn's ultrasound I could tell a few things, like she was tiny and had Daddy's forehead.  Most of all, it's always super comforting to see my little ladies safe, sound, and growing like crazy!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Convos with Peanut: What do you see?

On our way home from Huntington after Christmas... along I-69 near Fishers exits...

Mama - Annalyn, look out the window at all the pretty lights!  What do you see?

Annalyn - A pig!

Mama - A pig?  What kind of pig? (as there's no pig in my line of sight)

Annalyn - A BIG PIG!!

Mama - What's a pig say?

Annalyn - (pausing for second to think, then...)  HAKUNA MATATA!!!

Oh, Peanut!  Mama and Daddy were rolling.  I was laughing so hard I was crying. 

Lion King (or "Mean lion and the 'ninas" as you call it - seriously, what little kid roots for the bad guys??) has definitely become your first favorite Disney movie.  You often run around the kitchen island yelling "I'm running from the 'ninas!" but hearing you say hakuna matata just made my day.  Since then, you've realized the conundrum of having two kinds of pigs so you specify warthogs by calling them "hakuna matata pigs" and farm pigs are just pigs.  But hyenas are definitely your favorite part.  It really blew your mind when you discovered there was a hyena in your "Goodnight Gorilla" book.  Silly little Peanut.  That little personality gets bigger every day!

running from the 'ninas!!
(so fast that my phone couldn't keep up)

Trying to Conceive Tools

Since my "Harmless but Hurtful" post about the struggles of trying to conceive, I've talked to so many friends, family members, and acquaintences about their past, present, and ongoing battles with infertility or just thoughts on conception in general.  I am truly amazed at the support and positive feedback I've received since that post, and it's really inspired me to continue to share some of my personal experiences in the hopes that it will keep these lines of communication/support open.  This post won't be nearly as raw or heartfelt, but probably just as helpful.  I've tried to compile some of my go-to references, tools, and sites that have helped me along the way in trying to conceive.  It's truly a world all its own, including acronyms, definitions, and expenses you would never imagine when starting this journey.  Looking back, I can't believe that I wasn't taught more about this stuff in health education in high school or even my 6 years of pharmacy school.  But these self-taught lessons have given me a greater appreciation for the process of conception and made me a better pharmacist along the way.  Since then, I've counseled numerous patients on things like basal body temperature and ovulation kits that definitely would not have come first nature to me right out of school.  A silver lining perhaps?

Before I get into the details, a quick disclaimer:  This is by no means "the best" or only way to conceive.  Many, many people get pregnant without these tools - this is just what worked for us.  If it seems like too much pressure/stress/work, forget it.  Stress has been one of my biggest opponents these past few years, so I get it.  For my type A personality, I loved that these methods made me feel more in control of my cycle and timing, and it helped me to learn more about myself along the way.  So, if you and your partner have been trying for several months with no luck, why not educate yourselves a little more and decide if some/all of these methods are right for you?  I also included some helpful tips for those of you who are maybe not quite ready to start, but beginning to think about family planning in the near future.  It's a lot to prepare for and hopefully this list will help.


Pay attention to your menstrual cycle - Take note of the first day of you period (the first day of bleeding) and about how long they last.  This will be handy when calculating your due date, since most physicians count from the start of your last missed period.  You will also use this cycle length to help calculate when you should start using ovulation predictor kits (OPK's) if you choose to do so.

Prenatal vitamins - In pharmacy school, I had a professor who had been a practicing physician for longer than I've been alive and he insisted that all women of childbearing age should be taking a prenatal vitamin.  As he put it, those "little parasites" will leach calcium and vitamins from you so quickly that it's good to have it stored up before even starting to try to conceive.  And why not?  If you're taking a vitamin already, why not switch to an over-the-counter (otc) prenatal that's higher in folic acid or even have your doctor write a prescription for one.  There are several that are only $4/month here at Kroger, so it's not going to break the bank.  Start taking them now, because once you are pregnant, you may find it hard to stomach/keep them down for a few months.  (If that's the case, try taking two chewable Flintstones type vitamins daily until you can stomach the others.)  Which one do I use?  The Nexa Plus, because it has all the vitamins I was looking for plus plant-based DHA (important if you can't tolerate fish), and a small amount of docusate (a stool softener) built in - yea, trust me, you'll want that in the first trimester.  As with most brand-name meds, there are money saving offers on the website, but again, I'm not saying this is the perfect vitamin for everyone. It's just what worked for me after some trial and error.

Be sure your vaccinations are up to date - Again, even if you're not ready to start trying, this is always something good to check in with your family doctor about.  Vaccinations such as MMR, Tdap, Chicken Pox, and Hepatitis B are all vaccines to look into at this time.  Be sure to check before getting pregnant, as there are a few vaccines not recommended during pregnancy.  Once you're pregnant, your OBGYN will probably keep on top of all the recommended vaccines to receive during pregnancy (like the yearly flu shot, Tdap, etc. as indicated).  Even if you've had a baby before, be sure to check with your OBGYN or family doctor as guidelines and recommendations are changing all the time (for instance, since Annalyn was born they've now changed the recommendation on Tdap to give the mother a booster during each pregnancy).  Your partner will want to be sure to have his/her vaccinations up to date, too; especially the flu shot and Tdap so they don't pass the illness on to the newborn.  I even asked my parents to make sure theirs were up to date since my mom spent the first week with us- keeps my parents and my baby safe = WIN/WIN!

Talk to your doctor about any medications - While looking into your vaccination history, be sure to ask your doctor about any medications that you are taking regularly, since many are unsafe to use during pregnancy.  By doing this ahead of time, your doctor can work with you to get off any unsafe meds or make a plan for switching to a safer one before you get pregnant.  Be sure to tell your doctor or pharmacist about any over the counter medications as well since some pain relievers, acid reflux, and cold/allergy medications are not recommended during pregnancy.

A healthy diet/exercise - Pretty much recommended for anyone, but especially during conception, this is important.  Studies have shown that losing weight can increase your chances of getting pregnant (if you're overweight to begin with), and being active will help strengthen your heart and muscles to get them ready to handle the extra weight and changes in pregnancy.  Try to maintain a balanced diet, high in calcium to build up those bones.

Stop smoking, limit alcohol - If you need help quitting smoking, let me know - I'd be glad to help you make a plan.  I'm sure any doctor would love to help you as well.  It goes without saying, but you definitely want to quit before pregnancy and before caring for a child, but stopping smoking will also help you get pregnant faster and improve your overall health.  Same goes for limiting alcohol.  I know this can be a little harder knowing that you will have to completely cut it out for 9 months, but cutting down to the occasional glass of wine of will actually help the cause.  Same goes for your partner for all of the above - have to think about those sperm counts!
Pregnancy tests and ovulation predictor kits - There is a certain excitement and thrill that comes with going to the drug store to buy that first pregnancy test when you first start trying to conceive.  You will likely be greated with a whole shelf full of options ranging from two pink lines, to plus signs, to little digital smiley faces or "pregnant" readings.  Likely, you will splurge and go for the easy to read and fun to take pics of digital tests and spend something like $14.99 for 2 of them.  But hey, what's $15 compared to the excitement of getting to read "pregnant"?  Well, after a few months, that excitement and thrill turns to dread as each time you test, you are met with the inevitable "not pregnant" or lonely single pink line.  And you can't use just one test each month, so you buy multiple and pretty soon, you've added a substantial monthly expense.   Then after a few months of trying, you might decide to try the ovulation kits to make sure your timing is right (especially if you've experienced erratic or long cycles).  These range from about $18 to $28 for a box of 7 tests, and if you still don't get a positive, you have to buy a second box.  Talk about expensive and frustrating!

Well, somewhere along the way, I discovered, a site that sells both pregnancy and ovulation tests in bulk for a much lower price. You can buy either the test strip kind (where you collect urine in a cup then dip the strip in it) or the traditional midstream kind like you buy in the drugstore.  The more you buy, the cheaper they are, and they also have "conception packs" that come with both pregnancy and ovulation tests.  They also offer same day shipping (usually arrives in about 2 days) for orders over $14.95.  Personally, I've had great luck with these tests and don't buy the fancy expensive ones until I have a definite positive and want to take a picture.  To give you an idea of pricing, they have a bundle that contains 15 ovulation strips and 5 pregnancy strips for $16.95 (about the price of 2 digital pregnancy tests).  Much more cost effective if you're in it for the "long haul."  Once you get that faint positive, it's also fun to take one a day to watch the line get darker and darker.  I say it's my way of making up for all the negative ones... but maybe that's just my crazy self.

First four testing days with baby #2 - see how it starts super faint and darkens each day? I like to keep testing every few days until it's as dark as the control line. 

Conception Combo #1 - Test Strip "Value" Pack
"Conception Combo #1 - Test strip value pack"

Books/references - After 5-6 months of trying for baby #1, I came across the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility.  Funny title, but it's very informative.  The book has a lot of basic information about the menstrual cycle and the process of conception, but also about natural family planning - a method that utilizes subtle cues from your body to help chart specific parts of your cycle such as ovulation, fertile times, luteal phase, etc.  This book taught me how to chart my cycles using my basal body temperature (basically, you take your temperature at the same time every morning before getting out of bed).  This basal temperature peaks just after ovulation, so along with ovulation predictor kits, makes it much easier to confirm that ovulation took place.  Over several cycles, you will soon be able to nail down a more specific few days that you are likely to ovulate and start to see patterns in terms of what might be delaying ovulation (stress, lack of sleep, alcohol, sickness, etc.).  As I was saying, the basal temperature peaks a day or two after ovulation and stays high until menstruation when it drops again.  If you get pregnant that cycle, the temperature stays high and may even rise a little more.  This is a very basic, watered down explaination, but it's really quite amazing to read about and see.  That being said, don't get too caught up in every little temperature because what you are really wanting to see in the overall trend.  They sell all kinds of fancy basal thermometers, but one that reads to the tenths (i.e. 98.7) is just fine.  Here is the one that I use, but not for any particular reason other than it's just the one that I bought. 


Taking Charge of Your Fertility also has a website ( that allows you to chart online, share/view other people's charts, and discuss common issues/questions in forums.  Using this tool, you can enter all your past history and menstrual cycle trends and it will help you identify when/if you've ovulated.  It's really helpful when you first start charting and kind of fun to look at and compare charts with other users. 

Two other sites that I've used both while trying to conceive (TTC) and while pregnant are and  Although they have more information about pregnancy and early childhood, they do have some good articles on getting pregnant and what to do leading up to that positive test.   

And of course, "there's an app for that!"  The Attain Fertility Planner is the one that I used to chart my cycle with this baby.  This free app is very similar to the site and is easy to use.  It helps track ovulation, set the cover line, etc. just like the online tool. 

Whew!  Anyone else overwhelmed yet?!  I know, it's super overwhelming to look at it all in writing, but just remember, you don't start at the bottom of this list.  This takes several months of preparing to start trying, trying for several months with just the typically recommended every other day intercourse, and then starting to look into other ways like OPKs and charting to help.  The general recommendation is for couples under 35, try for a year, then look into possible infertility causes (assuming something like a miscarriage or other complication doesn't come up first to initiate testing). I started OPKs after 3 months, and charting after 6 months.   Frustrating?  Absolutely.  Seem like it takes forever?  You betcha!  Make you feel like a lottery winner just for being born?  Not really, but it probably should.  My point being, there is so much more than this involved for a lot of us.  Testing, fertility drugs, lots and lots of blood tests...  but this is a good place to start for anyone wanting to conceive a baby.  A little planning and a little knowledge go a long way.  Even if pregnancy just happens for you without much thought or trying, I really hope you will take some time to look at the first few bullet points and cover all your bases to ensure that you get your body prepared to take on the amazing and really hard task of making a baby.  Sending lots of love, luck, and baby dust your way!  Happy baby-making ;)



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Simply the Best Banana Bread

Here's a super simple, but amazingly flavorful banana bread recipe that I acquired many years ago from one of our apartment neighbors (best neighbors we ever had in the apartment by far!).  Shenae would bake a whole bunch of small tin loaf pans full of banana bread (with or without chocolate chips) and bring them over hot (not warm), oven mit on each hand.  AWESOME.  Probably one of the only things I miss about that apartment (though they moved out before we did).  We've since lost touch, but like any good friends, the memories and recipes live on.   I made a loaf of this the other day and it still reminded me of sitting on our old red couch, eating fresh banana bread, and watching Gilmore Girls with Shenae.  With only 7 ingredients, it's so simple that I forgot to even take pics along the way.  But the final product was so pretty I had to share it!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Simply the Best Banana Bread


- 4 ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. crisco (butter flavored works, too)
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 c. milk
- 2 c. flour
- 1 t. baking soda


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix mashed bananas, sugar, and crisco until blended.

2.  Add eggs and milk, stir.

3.  Add flour and baking soda, stir until just combined.  Pour into ungreased pan(s).  Makes 4 small loaf pans or 1 large pan.

4.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes for small pans, or 45-50 minutes for large pan.

how pretty is this hammered aluminum tray?!
it belonged to Michael's Grandma,
so it's really special to have it on our table

5.  Slice, butter, and enjoy!

It sure made a nice warm-me-up treat for Michael after his first of several driveway shoveling escapades during "Snowpocalypse 2014".

Apparently Jack Frost likes basketball!  2 pts!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Morning-Noon-&-Night Sickness

Yep, all day long.  Every day.  Makes it super hard to eat, or prepare food for my family, or work in a grocery store full of "disgusting to me" smells.  Grrr.  I think my favorite part is when my doctors day things like, "oh, just hang in there, it usually only lasts until week 10 or 12."  Riiiiiiight.  Cue the laughing on my end.  Almost as funny as when I had a patient say (just a week or so ago), "Wow!  Weight watchers must really be working for you, you've lost a lot of weight!"  Again with the laughing... "Well, actually for past few months I've been on a different sort of 'diet' where I only keep down about 50% of what I eat - trust me, I don't recommend it!"  She also got a good laugh when I unbottoned my white coat to show her that my weight had actually just "redistributed" to a few places.

But, despite the miserable state this puts me in, I am forever grateful because for me, this means baby is healthy.  It's the happiest sickness in the world.  On the upside, at least this time around I know it will end.  With Annalyn, I remember crying and thinking "wow, I'm never going to eat/cook/feel the same again."  I assumed most of my favorite foods would turn my stomach forever.  Thankfully I was wrong, and by week 24, I was able to hold down food again.  (Notice how I didn't say by week 12?  Yea....)  So, now I'm just counting the weeks, trying to manage, and waiting for that glorious 2nd trimester I loved so much with Peanut.  Here's a few of my tricks (obviously, they aren't miracle cures) for managing the sickness:

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cooking with Grandpa: Russian Black Bread

As promised, I'm finally getting to the point in my pregnancy where I'm ready to cook/eat again!  And just in time for the new year!  This is the start of a new series I'll be working through (probably over many months) called "Cooking with Grandpa."  This past summer, Michael's dad lent me a couple of very special recipe boxes and asked if I would compile them into a little cookbook.  The first is a huge index card-sized box plum full of recipe cards, magazine clippings, handwritten notes from friends, etc. that belonged to his mother (Michael's grandma).  I admittedly raided this box years ago on a trip to visit Grandpa and rewrote numerous of these treasures (including one of our favorites - these crescent sausage wraps).  It's also how I started a similar box of my own.

The second box was even more precious to my father-in-law, as this was Grandpa's very own recipe box that he started after Grandma passed away.  It contains his most beloved recipes (mostly breads and other baked goods - Eddie men are amazing bakers), handwritten in Grandpa's neat printing and speckled with ingredients from abundant use.  Rick thought it was so neat that his dad took the time to make and use a recipe box of his own.  I've already done a post on Grandpa's buckwheat pancakes which are one of my favorites that he made me, but to officially kick off the series, I could think of no better recipe than this Russian black bread.  Grandpa made big round loaves of this bread every year and froze them (along with a honey wheat bread) and gave us all a loaf at Christmas time.  It's a super heavy, super dense, very flavorful bread made with molasses, rye flour, chocolate, and coffee, to name a few.  It's not a sweet bread, and the flavors I associate most with it are the rye and fennel.  Grandpa taught us to toast it and spread a little cream cheese on top, which I must say, is perfect.  My bread turned out a little lighter in color than Grandpa's, so we wonder if he had tweaked the recipe a bit over the years.  It does taste like his did, though, and to me, that's what counts!  Here's how Mama (using Grandpa's recipe) makes it:

Grandpa's Russian Black Bread

(makes two large round loaves or 24 rolls - I actually made 3 smaller loaves so I had more to share)
- 2 1/2 c. water
- 1/2 c. molasses
- 1/4 c. oil
- 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
- 1 T. sugar
- 1 T. instant coffee
- 3 t. salt
- 2 t. onion powder
- 1 T. crushed fennel (we ended up crushing our own)
- 2 pkg yeast
- 1 c. ground bran
- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 4 c. rye flour