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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Love Dessert (especially these mini cakes with red currants)

I don't know about you, but I love desserts. I grew up in a home with some strict limits on desserts and I think it made me only love and crave them more. Meanwhile, my husband was allowed to put extra sugar on his frosted flakes as a kid and he can live without it. Go figure.

While I love to eat dessert, I do not love the extra crap that comes with most processed desserts in the supermarket and I certainly do not want my kids eating those things either. The additives include high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavorings and colorings, and loads of other preservatives that allow their shelflife to be longer than the average life expectancy of your favorite pet. Therefore, I do not limit my dessert intake except that they should really be homemade as much as possible. I make exceptions for the local italian bakery and occasionally the bakery at Whole Foods for special occasions, but overall the things that are around the house on a regular basis are the things I typically make myself.

I also love to alter my desserts to be a little less processed and little more natural than most homemade desserts. Now, don't get me wrong. A piece of cake is a piece of cake and should be eaten as such. But I play with other flours and sweeteners to minimize the damage. A cake made with whole wheat flour will spike your insulin levels less than one made with regular white flour. You get the picture, so on with the dessert!

I got some fresh red currants from the farm yesterday, so I wanted to do some experimenting. I found a recipe for red currant mini cakes that I altered a bit to be a little heartier.

Mini Cakes with Red Currants

  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 5/6 cup of powdered sugar (sift if extra lumpy)
  • 1/2 cup of flax meal
  • 3/8 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tps baking powder
  • 3 egg whites
  • Fresh red currants
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 4 cups on large muffin tin (where there are 6 molds instead of 12).

  2. Melt the butter in a sauce pan.

  3. Mix the sugar, flax meal, flour and baking powder in a bowl.

  4. Lightly beat the egg whites with a fork and add to the dry ingredients.

  5. Add the melted butter.

  6. Mix until just combined with no lumps.

  7. Divide the batter into the 4 greased cups.

  8. Top each cake with currants.

  9. Bake for 20 minutes.

  10. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan.

  11. Remove from the muffin pan and let them cool on cooling rack.

  12. Top each with a little sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Breakfast of Champions and Super Moms!

What wakes you up in the morning? For me it is my hungry baby crying, but that is not quite what I meant. I mean, what gets you going for breakfast? For many people it is a caffeine buzz by way of coffee or tea. For others it is a drink of juice, which is a lot better than coffee but still filled with sugar that will wear off in no time, leaving you with less energy! Being a mom or a mom-to-be, you know that energy is very important and you feel more and more drained these days!

So what will give you a lasting burst of energy starting in the morning? You have probably guessed where I am going, but... fruits and vegetables!!! Since we are supposed to fit in 5-10 veggies a day (according to the food pyramid), many people are left with the question "how the heck do I fit in 5-10 veggies in 1 day?" The answer is to eat them at every meal. Seems so simple, but many people struggle with breakfast. So I figured I would post how I managed to fit in 2 servings at breakfast just this morning and some tips on how to do it daily. And no, it doesn't take a long time--I have a little baby to manage too!

Poached Eggs on Swiss Chard and Asparagus

3-4 spears asparagus
Handful swiss chard
2 eggs
1 Tbs white vinegar
Piece of bread of your choice. Preferably of whole grain variety.
Salt & pepper

How to make:
  1. Prep veggies by washing them. Snap the woody ends off asparagus and chop up the swiss chard.
  2. Get a small frying pan and fill most of the way up with water. Add 1 Tbs of white vinegar and put on high heat to bring to boil.
  3. While you wait for the water to boil, throw the swiss chard in a pan with a little water to steam. Cook chard until tender. About 3-4 minutes.
  4. Crack 2 eggs in a ramekin and set aside until water boils.
  5. Toss a piece of bread into the toaster.
  6. Once the water is boiling in the frying pan, slowly slide in the eggs.
  7. Turn down heat to medium and cook until egg whites appear opaque white.
  8. While the eggs are cooking, arrange the chard on your plate. Then put the asparagus into the same pan from the chard (less dishes).
  9. Put the asparagus on the plate once they turn bright green and tender to your liking (about 1-2 minutes).
  10. Scoop out the eggs with a slotted spoon and place on top of veggies. Salt and pepper to your taste.
  11. Grab the toast from the toaster. Top with olive oil or butter if you would like.
  12. Enjoy!

It is a very simple meal, with few ingredients, and it is packed with vitamins and minerals! I have to admit though, that after breakfast I popped a couple of locally grown strawberries in my mouth for an extra serving! That makes 3 for me before 10 AM!

Other tips for fitting fruits/veggies into breakfast:

  • Use leftover veggies from the night before to avoid having to cook them in the morning. Plus a fried or poached egg on top and enjoy! You can also place leftover greens into an omelet.
  • While making veggies night before, chop some extra of each and put in a container in the refrigerator. Then pull it out in the morning to add to an egg omelet.
  • Make some oatmeal and toss in fresh berries, apples, pears, peaches, or even applesauce!
  • Use fruit with plain yogurt or cottage cheese.
  • Add fresh fruit to your cereal or granola.

I hope this helps to inspire you to step up your breakfast and add some extra lasting energy to your day.

In health and wellness,

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's Poop Again! My Experiment with Cloth Diapering...

When I got pregnant with my second son, there were 2 main things I wanted to do differently: 1. breastfeed a lot longer and 2. try out cloth diapers. If you have read my earlier posts, you know I have been breastfeeding! So what about the cloth diapers and how do they compare with the disposables?

Well, after using the cloth diapers for 8 weeks now, I have to say that I do not ever want to switch back to disposables! I was surprised. I was a little nervous I would hate them. We started them the first week because I was scared I would get into the disposable routine and not want to switch. We started using them and we are doing fine. In fact, this past weekend we took a road trip to Baltimore for my 10 year reunion and we decided that toting dirty cloth diapers across state lines would be too difficult. We used the disposables for 2 days and couldn't wait to get home to our normal cloth routine.

Here are the main reasons why I prefer cloth:
  1. They are more cost effective. They are more money up front, but by 4ish months you have made up the cost and no more expensive diapers to buy.
  2. Better for the environment. I felt bad all the time that the disposables were hitting the landfills and they never decompose. That is a lot of trash for one little baby. Some people argue that you use more water (yes you do) and the harsh detergents are just as bad. I use environmentally friendly detergents, but yes, I do use more water. But I feel better using more water than producing more trash.
  3. They just "feel" better. When I felt the disposables on my hands they feel less soft and more plasticy (I know that isn't a real word). So, the feeling of the cloth diapers on my son's skin feel better to me. They feel more substantial, softer, and more comfortable.
  4. The disposables leaked! He had a couple of big poops and the disposables just couldn't handle it. The cloth diapers never fail me with his poop (knock on wood!). It could have been because they were slightly too small--but that is another reason to love my cloth ones--they are adjustable in size!
  5. They are adorable. They look like little underpants and I match them to his outfit of the day. I know it's silly but they are so cute!
The drawbacks:
  • More laundry. You have to do a load pretty much every other day. But babies make more laundry anyway and I find myself doing daily anyway. If you think "I work and cannot take the time to do it". You would be happy to know my husband cleans them more than I do, and he works a full time job too :)
  • Touch more poop? I haven't really found this to be the case, but some people think that they are messier. I find that a dirty diaper is a dirty diaper, and when you change him it's the same. I take off the diaper, take it apart and toss everything into a pail. Then I dump everything into the washer without really touching it.
  • Don't travel well on trips. I don't really want to drag back a bag full of dirty diapers in a car ride. And, if you do not have access to laundry while you are away, you would be stuck carting them around.
  • Cannot use diaper cream with them directly. The cream stains the diapers. We bought some washable liners (made by Bum Genius) to protect the diaper if he ever gets a rash.
What else is needed?
  • Wipes: We use little baby wash cloths I picked up from the store to do the wiping. We just dip a wash cloth in a little container of water that we keep on the changing table and toss it in the diaper pail with the diaper.
  • Diaper pail and bag: We use a trash bucket with a pop-up lid for the diaper pail and put a nylon bag in it to catch the diapers. When it is time to clean, we just pull out the whole bag and dump it in the wash.

How do you clean them? (my cousin Lynne gave me this recipe for cleaning them and it works beautifully).

  1. Run a cold cycle first to remove stains. We use a 1/2 tablespoon of Charlie's soap, 5-8 drops of grapefruit seed extract, and 2-3 drops of blue dawn dish soap.
  2. Run a hot cycle to disinfect. We use a 1/2 tablespoon of Charlie's soap, 3-5 drops of grapefruit seed extract, and 2-3 drops of blue dawn dish soap.
  3. Hang them on a drying rack or clothes line to dry them. The dryer destroys the Velcro over time and hanging them to dry doesn't take very long.
The grapefruit seed extract is often used to sanitize and has antivirus and anti fungal properties. You can get it at health food stores. The blue dawn prevents you from having to "strip" them because it has de-greasing properties. You can get this anywhere.

What do you do with the poop?

We don't do anything yet because he is still breastfed, so his poops are like mustard. When he starts solid foods, we plan to just plop it into the toilet before throwing the diaper into the pail.

So, in conclusion...
I have decided to stick with my cloth diapers for a long while. We use the Bum Genius brand. I did some research ahead of time and other cloth diaperers seemed more satisfied with that brand overall. But, you can always get a sample of a few different kinds and decide for yourself what works best for you.

So, I hope this helps anyone thinking about going the cloth diaper route.

In health and wellness,