RECIPE: Instant Pot Chickpeas and Dumplings (Gluten Free, Vegan)

Hey guys! I have been getting back in the habit of meal planning and a prep day on the weekends to cut down on our grocery budget, make healthier meals, and pack homemade lunches instead of going out during the week. Also, I recently bought an Instant Pot pressure cooker. It is pretty great.

Since it’s finally fall, I wanted to try my hand at an old favorite in the soup category. I used to LOVE chicken and dumplings, especially dropping the dough into the soup and seeing the miracle of big puffy dumplings after they had steamed in the broth with the lid on. In researching vegan alternatives, I found this (vegetarian) recipe for chickpeas and dumplings from Oh My Veggies, and I modeled this recipe after it with some modifications for my own tastes and to accommodate the instant pot!

This recipe is hearty, filling, and SO warming. It is perfect for a cool fall day and comes together in a flash, with no stirring or babysitting a pot on the stove.

Without further ado, here’s my recipe:

For the soup:
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
4 carrots, chopped
3-4 baby red potatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
28oz container of veggie broth
1 veggie bouillon cube
2 cans chickpeas
Black pepper, to taste (you shouldn’t need much salt because of the broth and bouillon, but you can add some salt after it’s done if you want a little more)

Depending on how spicy you like it:
Smoked paprika or chipotle seasoning, to taste (I used 3-4 dashes of the spice container)
Cayenne pepper, to taste (I used a couple dashes)

I am notorious at not measuring spices… I should work on that.

Reserve for later:
2 green onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped

For dumplings:
3/4 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried dill or Italian seasoning
1/2 cup nondairy milk

In the instant pot, sauté onion and garlic in a bit of broth while you prep the rest of the soup ingredients. Add the chickpeas, carrots, potatoes, spices, and remaining broth and boullion cube.

Cook on the manual setting at high pressure, 7 minutes.

While that’s cooking, chop and set aside celery and green onion.

Make the dumpling batter. Mix dry ingredients and add milk, stirring to combine. It should resemble thick pancake batter. Set aside.

When the timer is done on the soup, quick release the pressure. Open the pot and stir in the celery and green onion (by saving these for later, you keep the celery a little more crunchy instead of super soft and cooked down – if you like it soft, you can include it in the first pressurization!). Drop the dumpling batter by the spoonful into the soup. Spread them out evenly as they will plump as they cook! I made about 7 large dumplings but next time I will try to make 10 smaller ones.

Put the lid on the IP and select the steam setting for 10 minutes.

Quick release when it’s done. Eat!


Stay tuned, because I’m going to try and convert this to a freezer meal setup for a later post!

An Ode to Toddler Grandma Style

Toddler Grandma Style Will Set You Free

There is an amazing viral post going around the internet called ‘Toddler Grandma Style,’ The Fashion Approach That Will Set You Free. And it is amazing. The premise is that you don’t have to “grow out” of the colorful fun prints of the children’s section, nor do you have to wait until you’re “old enough” to not care what anyone thinks of you. Wear whatever you love RIGHT NOW!

When I started this minimalist journey I looked at capsule wardrobes and 33-item clothing challenges and loved them. I thought, “That’s how to do this! I can have everything I need with just a small number of items.” And this is true. But it also wasn’t super fun for me. I would wear out a pair of jeans and replace them with another pair. I’d favor blacks and greys or the occasional brown item and focus on having a small number of neutrals.

I looked very put together and adulty.

And then this internet sensation happened and some friends of mine were talking about this stuff called LuLaRoe, which is clothing made with wildly outlandish patterns (and some with much more subdued patterns, and some in solid colors for those who do not want wildly outlandish patterns). And I tried a couple items, because they were for a charity auction.

What did I buy? A grey dress and black leggings. Still holding strong to my “neutrals are for minimalist winners” line of thinking.

Later I got my first pair of crazy pattern leggings and they were so fun. Then in another charity auction I got a maxi skirt covered in constellations. Then in yet another charity sale I got another maxi and more leggings and a skirt. And on and on and on… and now I have a wardrobe almost exclusively made up of this stuff.

And every single piece of it makes me smile from head to toe when I wear it. It is so much fun. I love color. I love the confidence I feel in these clothes. I am fully embracing the #ToddlerGrandma approach to my fashion and also in other facets of my life.


Toddlers and Grandmas Don’t Give any Fs

What else is amazing about toddlers and grandmas? They do what they want. It’s pretty awesome. Toddlers aren’t bogged down with anxiety, depression, and worrying about what other people think of them. Toddlers can run around in a circle or play with a cardboard box and have the time of their life! I strive to be like a toddler in spirit, although I still do grown-up things like going to work and paying the bills. I’m not eschewing my adult responsibilities, but I am totally throwing away the notion that says adults can’t have fun and do things they enjoy, even if those things are considered childish by their peers.

I will play the Pokemon game on my iPhone. I will re-read the Harry Potter books. I will watch the cartoons. I will sometimes even eat sugary cereal for breakfast. The horror!

And when it comes to grandmas, everybody knows there’s a point where people just stop wearing the weight of everyone’s expectations on their shoulders. The old lady who wears the red hat and vibrant purple dress does not care that everyone thinks her style is inappropriate. Nor does she sit back and let you talk down to her or anyone she loves. The devil-may-care old lady tells you how it is and she’s not pulling punches to be delicate or diplomatic.

Women are raised to be delicate, polite flowers. Screw that! We don’t owe the world pretty, polite, or poised when those adjectives have to be written out of our psyche’s checkbook and we are in deep, deep overdraft from making sure everyone else’s expectations and needs are met before we even begin to wonder what we ourselves might need.

Do you.

Be absolutely you. If that means toddler grandma style, embrace it. Wear the crazy colors. Dye your hair. Wear sneakers with your wedding dress. Dismantle the societal expectation that you owe anyone else more than you owe yourself when it comes to your style and your body.

Love yourself without apology.

To Change or Not to Change? (My Name)

Hey readers. I got married! Awesome wedding post is coming up but I had some thoughts today and wanted to write them down for the blog.

This post is about my decision to change my name.

Those of you who knew me when I was married the first time might know that I changed my name at the insistence of my ex despite the fact that he previously was totally on board with me keeping my birth name. I did the dual last name thing and saying my name sounded like reciting a coffee order at Starbucks, always ending with “two last names no hyphen.” So I didn’t want to do a dual name or hyphenated name. It was a hassle the first time and I wasn’t that into it.

The same weekend I got married (the first time), I got my birth name tattooed onto my right ankle. It was my first tattoo. It says “Reed” in a script font. My sister has a matching one. I was a little salty about changing my name and felt like he had forced my hand and essentially thrown a tantrum and manipulated me. What better way to stay attached to my prior life than to tattoo it onto my body for all eternity, right?

Only months into my first marriage, my ex “gave me permission” to change my name back legally. This cost over $100 in legal fees plus the cost of new ID, etc. Bummer. Twice the name change means twice the hassle and twice the cost of new ID. So this time around I wanted to make a decision and stick with it. Stephen told me he was 100% okay with whatever I decided and he did not have a preference. (WOW AMAZING YES).

Then there are the feminist concerns. Down with the patriarchy! Women aren’t property! Name changes upon marriage are archaic and horrible! Are they? Is it really antifeminist to change my name to my husband’s name? What about combining names into a cool hybrid (Herreed? Rerron? Reedron? No, those are not great.)? What about picking a totally new name from a favorite show or book to celebrate your love and unity without having to have a winner? I wasn’t super into those ideas either and neither was my husband. The true feminist way to do things is HOWEVER YOU WANT. Feminism is about equality and choice.

What about my own family of origin? My dad had no sons, so if my sister and I don’t “carry on the family name,” then Reed dies a sad, pathetic, flopping death at the roots of our family tree. Only, it really doesn’t. It’s fine. There are more Reeds out there, and seeing my aunt chronicle our genealogy going back centuries has actually really helped with this concern. I’m not any of those names on my family tree through the ages. I was a Reed and that was cool. And now I’m a Herron and that’s cool too. I’m me. I’m Caitlin.

What about what other people would think? Will people think I’m bowing to the patriarchy if I change my name? Will people assume we’re unmarried with kids out of wedlock if I have a different last name than my children? Do people still say “wedlock”? Does any of this matter and does anyone’s opinion affect my life at all? Spoiler alert: No. Only my opinion matters about my name. My husband gets a slight vote. If he had a strong preference I would take it into account but this man is not the type to try and force me into something I don’t want to do (wow, this is quite nice).

I had tied my identity up with being Caitlin Reed for a really long time. Through years of therapy and self-help books, I finally felt like I had healed and blossomed into who I was meant to truly be. Caitlin Reed was a cool chick. However, maybe it’s the fact that I’m older and wiser than I was the first time I got married or maybe it’s just because I got married for reasons other than crippingly low self esteem, but I felt really good about changing my name this time.

I want to be a family. I want to start something new. A new chapter of my life. And I’m starting it as Caitlin Herron.

065 Purple Heron copy

Majestic AF, flying away from the haters.

Photo source:

Do you want to know the secret reason? The reason that really sealed the deal for this decision? Do you want to know? I will tell you.

It’s the bird puns now available to me.


Last minute lazy minimalist cleaning spree tips

My sister and her friend are coming to town on Thursday evening. My house is a little, shall we say, messy. I’m still working on getting our shared domicile into minimalist shape.
Last night I was out of the house, ordering a new couch (thanks mom and stepdad, for pitching in as a wedding gift!) and going decoration/craft supply shopping for a little bit of wedding flair. So I missed a day of cleaning. To my credit, I did get a lot of laundry done over the weekend!
Here’s what the rest of the week looks like.
Focus: laundry, bathroom, office
  • Change the sheets on our bed
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Wash all towels, sheets, and shower curtain
  • Bonus points: Start washing blankets
  • Get all trash and recyclables out of office
  • Bonus points: Remove rug from office, place in sad rug limbo on front porch where the rugs I keep forgetting to move to the curb live
  • Sweep office
  • Clear office futon of all mess and clutter
  • Clean desk off
  • Scoop basement litter boxes
Focus: living room, Zoe’s room (Zoe is my cat, and she has her own room), laundry
  • Take the “donate pile” in the living room to an actual donation place, for real, or just light it on fire, but stop ignoring it, Caitlin, just stop
  • Sweep the living room (Bonus points: Swiffer or steam mop)
  • Completely dump and scrub Zoe’s litter box and refill with new clean litter
  • Change the blanket on the bed to one that is not covered in Zoe fur
  • Sweep and swiffer/steam mop Zoe’s room
  • Have important talk with Zoe about not getting hair on everything she looks at
  • Brush Zoe
  • Take all living room couch blankets to basement to be washed
  • Wash blankets (after vigorously beating fur off them)
Focus: kitchen and catching up on the things I didn’t do Tuesday or Wednesday
  • Sweep the kitchen
  • Wipe down the stove and counters
  • Pretend like you live this way at all times
  • Say to myself, “You are a domestic goddess” over and over again
  • Evacuate ketchup bottles with 1/4″ of ketchup in them into one consolidation bottle; rinse and recycle empties (Goal: No Ketchup Stonehenge ever again)

Focus: new couch

  • Remove two couches from living room
  • Hold a summit with the cats to discuss removal of the cat tree that is in literal shreds but they still worship; lose
  • Same, re: two cardboard boxes; lose again
  • Put away 14 cat toys that were under the couches
  • Sweep and swiffer/steam mop couch outlines

Knowing I can DEFINITELY achieve 75% of this list and am SOMEWHAT LIKELY to achieve 100% of this list, I am really excited for my new clean house aesthetic. It’s sure to impress my sister who absolutely knows better.

I used to think being lazy was a character flaw but now I know it’s just a thing. It’s just a way people can be, when they’re not hyper motivated to do things all the time. I get really motivated about some things, and I am lazy about others. And that’s fine. Because when the stuff hits the fan, I can more or less clean my house with three days notice.

Happy cleaning, my sloppy minimalist friends.

How a Bracelet Helped My Anxiety

I am an anxious person. I’ve worked with therapists. I’ve considered medication.

I fixate on negative thoughts that spiral out of control in my head… house fires, car crashes, death of loved ones, infertility…

The anxiety about that last one is what brings me to the blog today, to discuss how a bracelet helped me reprogram my brain to stop thinking negative thoughts and worries about infertility. I’m getting married in less than two months and we are planning to do the whole baby thing at some point in the future. But my brain betrays me, asking, “What if you can’t have kids? What if you have a miscarriage? What if something’s wrong with the baby? What if you never ever have a baby?”

Shut up, brain. You are kind of an asshole.

My solution was to go onto and find a fertility charm. A small token to wear around my neck to remind me every day that I should stay positive. I ended up selecting an amethyst bracelet, which has been a truly genius solution.

Firstly, I seriously hate bracelets. Bracelets, watches, fitness trackers – if it’s on my wrist, it’s driving me batty. This ensures that I notice this bracelet all day long. When it digs into my wrist if I rest my arm on the desktop, I notice it as I readjust it.

Second, I am a person who fidgets with things. I stretch it, remove it, feel the difference between the stone beads, and absentmindedly poke and prod it throughout the day. Each time, I remember to stay positive.

Third, once I get used to wearing a piece of jewelry, I notice it when it’s not on. When I take my engagement ring off to work in the garden or do the dishes, I flip out when I inevitably run my thumb across my ring finger and realize there’s no band there. Same with the bracelet. I now notice it even when it’s not there.

All day long, I’m noticing the bracelet:

  • when i put it on
  • when i see it from the corner of my eye
  • when i touch it
  • when other people comment on it
  • when i fidget with it
  • when i take it off
  • when i forgot to wear it
  • when my brain starts saying those horrible things about how i might not be able to have a baby

And every time I notice the bracelet, I say a small affirmation: “My body knows how to conceive a healthy baby.” The end. I don’t go through every worry or concern, I just say or think “My body knows how to conceive a healthy baby” and move on. Maybe it will happen as soon as we start trying, maybe it will take a few months or longer, maybe we will need to see doctors to help. But my body knows how. It will happen.

And that’s the story of why I wear a bracelet every day, even though I hate bracelets.

The Runch Break

One of the things that helps me the most with anxiety and depression is consistent and regular exercise. June 26 will mark two years since I started a home workout program and actually stuck with it, losing almost 17 pounds and starting my true transition into a healthier lifestyle. As with every habit, it’s easy to get sidetracked and stray from the path. I’m happy to say that I am now “on again” of this on again/off again love of fitness.

I really do love exercising, feeling strong and healthy, and kicking depression and anxiety in the butt naturally.

I wrote about my experience with the Whole30 program earlier this year. Unfortunately, afterward in my “reintroduction of foods” phase I leaned into carbs and grains pretty hard. Carbs are not evil but they sure took away my desire to build each day’s meals around a variety of delicious vegetables. I’m still getting back on my veggie train (but it’s looking good!) The biggest oopsie is that I suggested ice cream on April 1, which turned into ice cream and cupcakes for my birthday on April 12 which turned into “Hey it’s my birthday month” and yet more ice cream and snacks throughout April and WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT, IT IS JUNE NOW.

Ok, I get it. Time to get back on track.

I started doing Couch to 5K training, which has been really good. I feel great when I go for a run. It even helped me with my anxiety because I had been afraid of running by myself but after just one time running on my own with NO RAPISTS OR MURDERERS AT ALL jumping out of trees or bushes to attack me, I realized I was okay. And so I started running in the morning three times a week. And then some idiot cat-called me from his car and I no longer felt that superhero strength. Sigh.

One fateful day (last week) a coworker sent me an article about running during the lunch hour at work. I was dubious… I usually run in the morning before the burning day star burns bright and can scorch my precious porcelain skin. And I don’t normally run with a friend who has been running for years and who will probably make me look like a seal dragging itself along the beach. But I agreed to give it a shot. We went for a run near work. I set the pace and even made better time than normal despite the fact that it was HOT HOT HOT outside and I was feeling super sweaty. We ran two miles and I felt victorious.

We plan to do the Runch Break twice a week, and I will run once on the weekend to make my three runs per week goal for the Couch to 5K program. Woo!

Some practical tips for a Runch Break:

  1. Know your schedule. If you have a strict clock in/clock out, “you literally only have 60 minutes” schedule, you will have to be very aware of your time. You might only be able to do a short 15-20 minute run, but that’s better than nothing.
  2. Wear workout clothes under your normal clothes to save time. I haven’t tried this yet but it’s an option.
  3. SUNSCREEN. The end.
  4. Keep spare deodorant at work. You’re welcome.
  5. Your hair probably isn’t that bad so don’t freak out about not showering.
  6. Use baby wipes or bring a washcloth for a quick rinse off.
  7. Pack your lunch so you spend more time running and less time waiting in line for an overpriced sandwich.

What’s in my Runch bag:

Happy Runching.

Musical Therapy

Have you ever been surprised by a song on the radio that suddenly transports you back to another time or place? It might remind you of a person or a vacation. It might remind you of a relationship or your high school prom. It might remind you of a fight you had with your best friend when you were 8 or the first time you ever kissed someone.

For example, when I listen to Dave Matthews Band’s Before These Crowded Streets album, I’m 11 years old sitting in my dad’s truck and reading Star Wars novels. No kidding. I just looked up “Star Wars novels” on Google to make sure I was remembering correctly, and a Wikipedia page led me to the cover art and I knew instantly that those were the books I was reading around the time my sister and I moved to Texas to live with our father after our parents’ divorce. I can’t tell you anything about the plot but I can feel the pages turn beneath my fingers and I can smell that awesome book smell.


So mysterious.

I frequently listen to late ’90s and early ’00s popular music. It is my favorite music. It transports me to a simpler time. As an added bonus, some of it reminds me of a friend who is now gone. Hearing music we listened to together as children takes me back to those moments when life was as simple as riding bikes and getting ice cream. Sometimes when I listen to this music, I remember the moment my childhood best friend decided that our favorite bands were no longer cool, and I remember my subsequent decision that I still liked those bands so… whatever, duh.

Added note: Listening to boy band hits as an adult is hard. I want to shake the Backstreet Boys. Stop pressuring this girl into dating you, omg, this is not romantic. “I deserve a try honey, just once, give me a chance and I’ll prove this all wrong.” I love you BSB but you need to go think about your choices.


1999. A simpler time.

June 26, 2006 was my first date ever, so I’m fast approaching 10 years of relationship history and all assorted musical/emotional connections. I was really into Journey during the summer before college when I started dating my first boyfriend, so certain songs remind me of that time. Not to mention we danced to “Faithfully” at our wedding and I still can’t listen to it without being there in my brain. Fast forward to another relationship, when I had found Steven Page’s first solo album after his split from Barenaked Ladies at a closing Borders bookstore. I was playing it in the car and trying to listen to the lyrics, and this guy I was dating would not stop talking over the music. So now when I listen to it, I still sometimes feel annoyed at this man I have not seen in years.

The soundtrack of my divorce, a mix of Pink and Ingrid Michaelson, is still hard to jam to in my car without feeling all bothered and angry and hurt. The soundtrack of the early days of my relationship with Nearly-Mr.-Me transports me to summertime and the fluttery butterflies of early love. (Did I mention I’m engaged? Yeah. Totally getting married!)

Good or bad, music is strongly tied to memory. In fact, music has been used in clinical trials to help people with memory loss recover some of their memories. Such memories are called “music-evoked autobiographical memories” (MEAMs) and are seen to activate in fMRI scans when the person is exposed to familiar music. This research has great implications for treatment of memory loss from brain injuries and even Alzheimer’s disease. See this article from Psychology Today for more info.

This excerpt from the article is particularly interesting to me as it relates to emotional healing unrelated to memory loss:

“Interestingly, it appears that if you haven’t heard a song in years, the neural tapestry representing that song stays purer and the song will evoke stronger specific memories of a time and place from your past. The memories linked to overplayed songs can become diluted because the neural network is constantly being updated.”

It took me a couple years after my divorce before I could begin to listen to certain songs again. The songs I played on repeat as self-empowering mantras took on the new form of being divorce songs. Whenever I hear Pink’s “So What,” or Ingrid Michaelson’s “Once Was Love,” I can recall vividly the ending days of my first marriage. But as time goes on and I listen to the songs in new contexts, those memories fade. Apparently I’m diluting the neural pathways connecting those particular memories to those particular songs. Not mad.

I would hypothesize (in the un-scientific way a blogger can hypothesize) that survivors of emotional traumas, or even physical traumas, could use music as a way to recreate neural pathways in the brain to disassociate triggering music from the traumatic memory. I can’t speak to clinically-diagnosed depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders because I am not a doctor, but people with a habit of negative self-talk or certain anxiety triggers may be able to use music to help re-wire their own negative patterns.

What a lovely way we might be able to relieve ourselves of emotional burdens.

If you need me, I’ll be having a ’90s dance party. Later, gators.