Full Belly Sisters: April 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

Healthy for Cinco de Mayo: Piña Kale-ada!

Everyone loves piña coladas. Not everyone loves kale. But if you bathe the leafy green in the creamy tropical drink you, too, can love kale. It is the mysterious magic of smoothies

Pineapples are a wonderful source of Vitamin C, which supports your immune system and provides antioxidant protection. Pineapples are also an excellent source of manganese, vital to your body's energy production. 

We've all heard a lot about kale as a nutritional powerhouse. It is chock full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients; it is loaded with Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and fiber. I use frozen kale in this smoothie because it's not yet farmer's market season here so I don't have huge amounts of it; keeping blanched, frozen kale makes it easy to throw into soups and smoothies. You can buy it frozen or do it yourself (great when you do have an abundance from your garden or the farmer's market). If you're using fresh kale, use more like 1 to 1 1/2 cups of it.

Simply put: this smoothie is really good for you. Bonus: it's easy and tasty. 

(yields about 12 ounces)
  • 2/3 c frozen chopped kale, partially thawed
  • 2/3 c light coconut milk (unsweetened)
  • 1 1/4 c pineapple chunks, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tsp shredded coconut (unsweetened)

Kale can be a bit tough, so I blend it in the coconut milk before I add the pineapple.

Once the kale is fully blended in the coconut milk, add the pineapple and blend until smooth.

I like to top mine with some shredded, unsweetened coconut.

Drink up!

I should note that my first attempt at this included a bit of frozen banana. It was sweeter and a touch creamier, but (for me, anyway) it tasted too much of the banana and not enough of the pineapple and coconut. But if you love banana, you might want to try that. You could also add another green, like the more tender baby spinach, instead of the kale. But then you can't call it a Piña Kale-ada. And you know you want to.

This is a great way to start your day! If you want to end your day with it — perhaps with the addition of a touch of rum — I won't tell. (If you're breastfeeding, make sure you read this first. And if you're pregnant, step away from the rum!)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Honey Roasted Carrots

I'm a big fan of sweet and savory together. I love fruit and cheese, I love pretzels and ice cream, I (very occasionally!) love french fries and ketchup. And I love these honey roasted carrots.

This recipe is simple, straightforward and damn tasty. It takes carrots, an inexpensive ingredient that most people love, and just ramps up their natural flavor with a touch of honey and salt.

Of course, carrots don't just taste good - they're exceptionally nutritious, especially for pregnant women. Carrots are rich in beta carotene, which is converted by your body into Vitamin A. This fat-soluble vitamin is valuable for the development of your baby's lungs, kidneys, eyes, bones, teeth, central nervous system and heart (so, you know, lots of important stuff!).

Vitamin A is also crucial for you at the end of your pregnancy: it helps to protect against infections and to repair tissues damaged during labor and delivery. 

It's important to note that high doses of preformed Vitamin A, which is found in some animal products, can cause birth defects; there is no such risk from the Vitamin A derived from beta carotene in fruits and vegetables, so you can eat as many as you want without worry. 

(serves about 4-6)
  • 1 1/2 pounds organic carrots
  • 2T virgin coconut oil, melted
  • 3T honey (plus additional 1-2T, optional); if you're a vegan, you can substitute maple syrup
  • freshly-ground salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Peel or thoroughly wash carrots and cut into long, uniform spears (you could make chunks or keep the carrots whole, but be aware that it will affect cooking time).
Toss the sticks with the melted oil, honey, and some salt and pepper until evenly coated. If your carrots are quite cold, you may see the oil hardening a bit, which is okay; it'll melt again in the oven.

Spread in an even layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes; I use a large silicone spoon to turn the carrots over halfway through the cook time, for more even roasting. The carrots are done when they're tender but crisp with some caramelization. 

As soon as you bring the carrots out of the oven, drizzle with additional honey, if using. This not only sweetens them even more, it melts quickly to add a lovely glaze. Crack some more salt and pepper over the cooked carrots, to taste. You'll find that the salt will actually heighten the sweet flavor of the roasted carrots.

If you have any leftovers (don't count on it, but it could happen!), I think these carrots are great as a snack, at room temperature. I like to sprinkle some sesame seeds on top for an added crunch and boost of protein/fiber/calcium.

NOTE: Use additional baking sheets if you're going to make more than the 1 1/2 pounds, because overcrowding won't allow the carrots to roast successfully. I made about five pounds of these carrots for Easter; I did it in three batches.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How to Build a Healthier Easter Basket

If you ask my son what the Easter Bunny brings, he'll tell you: "apples, bananas, snacks, clothing and toys." That's because my husband and I have broadened the definition of Easter basket "treats" for him. We wouldn't give him a basket of junk food on other days, so why would we on Easter? 

Certainly the holiday is a serious one and is not about chocolate bunnies and jelly beans; even if you're not religious, it's a day to celebrate family and the coming spring season. So, treat it that way! Fill your child's basket with yummy and nutritious food as well as tools for experiences that you can enjoy as a family.

Worried you'll be depriving your child? Don't be. You're going to assemble a basket virtually overflowing with a bounty of treats -- edible and not -- and you'll see that you haven't deprived your child of anything except artificial colors, high fructose corn syrup, and nutritionally-barren candies. 

If you're dead-set on giving your kids jelly beans or Cadbury eggs, at least limit the amount of them by adding these other items (or any fun thing you come up with): 

Fruits and Veggies. Apples, bananas, oranges, kiwis - whatever's available near you, whatever your kid loves. Fruits are colorful and delicious. For veggies, how about carrots with the greens still attached, or peas in their pods? And children know that rabbits love fruits and veggies, so it makes sense that the Easter Bunny would regard them as a special treat. Put small fruits (like raisins, blueberries or grapes) in those plastic eggs so they don't get lost in the basket's grass. Make sure you wash the eggs first!

Gift Certificates. Make your own for anything that your child would regard as special: "An Extra 1/2 Hour of Television" or "Wear Your Pajamas to School for One Day" or "Lunch at Your Favorite Restaurant with Mom/Dad" (which is great for kids who have siblings and don't always get tons of one-on-one time with you).

Clothing/Accessories. Kids love dressing up with headbands, barrettes, nail polish, fun socks, rub-on tattoos, superhero capes, hats, or wands.

Toys. Stop by your local dollar store -- or the cheapo section of Target or Michael's crafts -- to load up on tools for fun activities. You can even do themes: 
  • Garden Basket: seeds, watering can, tools
  • Beach Basket: bucket, shovel, inflatable beach ball, sunglasses, flip-flops
  • Backyard Basket: bubbles, water gun, butterfly net, frisbee, jumprope
  • Arts and Crafts Basket: crayons, paints and brushes, play-doh, stickers
  • Kitchen Helper Basket: a kid-sized apron, measuring cups, homemade pancake mix in a mason jar -- you and your kids can make Easter breakfast together!
Dark chocolate covered almond butter cups. Drooling yet?
Treats that are not devoid of nutritional value. When you make your own foods, you control the quality and quantity of ingredients; you're not adding artificial colors or high-fructose corn syrup to the foods you make, am I right? Some simple ideas:
  • Make our easy and delicious Almond Butter Cups or Peppermint Patties 
  • Melt good chocolate, mix with dried fruit or nuts or cereal, pour into a candy mold (available at craft stores) and chill for a few minutes in the fridge
  • Buy Easter cookie cutters and transform your child's favorite cookies into basket-worthy treats. 
Homemade Peppermint Patties are easier than you'd think!
Don't have the time/energy/inclination to make anything? Then buy good quality snacks. Green & Black's organic chocolate is delicious and comes in miniature bars. My son's favorite special treat is organic, dark chocolate covered pumpkin seeds; we get them at our local health food store. And, hey, what kid doesn't love fruit leathers (made with 100% fruit)? They're a much healthier sweet treat than jelly beans! Do these options cost more than Peeps or Reese's peanut butter eggs? Yup, they sure do. But that will help limit the amount that you buy. After all, if you purchase that five-pound bag of M&M's, your family will eat all five pounds. And nobody needs to eat five pounds of M&M's.
My son got a stuffed duck - and lots of fruit and veggies - for his first Easter

What will you put in your child's Easter basket this year?

UPDATE: This year I'm adding a new homemade treat to my son's basket: Almond Joy Bites!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Homemade Peppermint Patties

The technique for these candies is very much the same as our Almond Butter Cups recipe: melt good quality chocolate, add filling, top with more melted chocolate. You don't have to be a chef to do this! But you do have to care enough about avoiding highly-processed, refined sugar-laden junk to invest just a bit of time and energy.

The first two ingredients in Hershey's York Peppermint Patties are sugar and corn syrup. My recipe is sweetened with raw, local honey. You can find it at health food stores or farmers' markets. It is different than the processed, pourable honey you'll usually see at supermarkets; raw honey is thick and creamy. It is purported to have many health benefits, such as helping to boost your immunity to local allergens (as long as you buy honey gathered in your local area). Please note that raw honey is not recommended for infants under one year of age because of the rare risk of botulism.

(yield: 12 patties)
  • about 3.5- 4 oz. bittersweet baker's chocolate, at least 70% cocoa (I used this 72% cocoa organic bar)
  • 3T raw honey (preferably local)
  • 1/4 tsp + 1 or 2 more drops peppermint oil (food-grade)

If you have a candy mold, great. I don't, so I used my silicone mini muffin pan; if you don't have a silicone pan, you might want to try using paper liners for easier removal of the patties once they're ready.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave and drizzle about a 1/2 teaspoon of it in the bottom of each spot in your mold. Chill in the refrigerator for a few minutes until the chocolate becomes firm.
In a small bowl, mix together the honey and peppermint oil. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture in the center of each cup.

Drizzle the rest of the melted chocolate (you may need to reheat for a few seconds in the microwave if it has hardened) over each cup, completely covering the honey in a thin layer. 
 Chill in the fridge until hardened and enjoy!
I'm going to include a few of these patties in my son's healthy Easter basket, so i bought some foil candy wrappers for them.
I realize red isn't the most Easter-basket-friendly color. I'm okay with that.

In your face, Hershey's! 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fluffy Whole Wheat Kefir Pancakes

Another great guest post from Nancy Cavillones on a dish loved by adults and kids alike: pancakes! Her recipe offers some smart twists on a classic breakfast. Cutting the flour a bit and adding extra fiber, good fats, and protein (in the form of kefir, eggs, and almonds) results in pancakes that are digested more slowly, causing a gentler and lower change in blood sugar -- and helping you feel fuller longer.

Pancakes freeze well and reheat easily; think about doubling the recipe and wrapping individual portions to keep in the freezer for whenever you want a hot breakfast (or don't have energy to make dinner).

As Nancy mentions in her post below, this recipe can be tailored to your tastes and dietary needs. I made mine with chopped walnuts; I added raspberries in one half of the batch and blueberries in the other; I swapped out the sugar in the dry ingredients for some maple syrup in the wet ingredients. The pancakes turned out just lovely! 

The kefir helps make these pancakes defy gravity - do you see how sky-high they get?

from Nancy:
My go-to cookbook these days is usually How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. The best feature of his cookbook is that he presents basic recipes for most foods, then offers variations on those basic recipes. I adapt his recipes -- with great results -- all the time when I'm missing an ingredient or prefer to use a different flavor. 

I am a big fan of his pancake recipe, and I use it often. The recipe is incredibly simple, tasty and easy to adapt. It comes together so quickly that I've been known to make them on a busy weekday morning. Here, I've used kefir but you can use any dairy that you have in your fridge; I've successfully made these pancakes with yogurt and sour cream. The original recipe calls for two cups of flour, which you can use if you don't have almond meal or whole wheat flour on hand. If you have special dietary needs, it's very easy to swap ingredients in and out according to your preferences; keep the basic proportion of dry ingredients to wet ingredients the same (not including your add-ins).

You can get creative with add-ins. Sometimes, I add chopped walnuts and bananas. Other times, I make classic blueberry pancakes. It's all good! 

Tangy Pancakes! (adapted from Mark Bittman's Basic Pancakes, in How to Cook Everything)

  • 1/2 c. almond flour (aka almond meal)
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c. kefir, any flavor 
In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. 

In a smaller bowl, beat the egg(s) into the kefir. 

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir just to combine and moisten the flour mixture. Don't overmix it; it will be thick. 

In a pan, melt some butter or heat up a little bit of oil. Spoon the batter into the pan. The pancakes are ready to flip when they give easily and no longer stick to the pan. 

We enjoy our pancakes with 100% pure maple syrup or, sometimes, jam or preserves. What will you add to these pancakes to make them your own?

Raspberry-walnut pancakes topped with more raspberries, more walnuts and real maple syrup. An embarrassment of delicious riches!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Easy as Pie: Coconut Almond Graham Cracker Crust

My father-in-law's birthday was this weekend and I wanted to make him a special dessert. But I always want to put a Full Belly Sisters spin on everything, so that means I use whole grains, nuts, and as little sugar as I can get away with. Those guidelines led to the creation of this simple, delicious, non-dairy pie crust.

The coconut oil gives the crust just a hint of coconut flavor. If you've heard that coconut oil is bad for you, well, mounting evidence says that's not true. Just make sure you use virgin or extra virgin coconut oil; you can find it online or at health food stores.


  • 1 cup finely ground whole wheat graham crackers (if you can't find whole wheat, go for graham crackers that do not include partially hydrogenated oils)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 2 T sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, grind graham crackers until they resemble sand. (You can also put graham crackers into a sealed plastic bag and use a rolling pin or can to crush them; this is a great job to assign your kids if they're helping with this dish!)

Add almond flour.
Combine all the dry ingredients. Drizzle with melted coconut oil and blend well, until the mixture resembles wet sand.
Press into the bottom and sides of a pie plate. I like to use a measuring cup to press and flatten the bottom...
...and my fingers to press the sides.

Bake for about 9 minutes, until the crust is golden. Your home will smell amazing at this point. Cool on a rack.

Fill with your choice of no-bake pie filling and chill. I made this delicious and easy chocolate pudding, using 71% dark chocolate. If I were using a sweeter pie filling, I'd probably just cut all the sugar from the crust.
Creamy dark chocolate pudding was the perfect balance for the crunchy pie crust.
Then I topped it with fresh whipped cream, dark chocolate shavings, and toasted sliced almonds. Yum!
Unfortunately, in the rush to get it on the table, I didn't get a great pic of the finished product.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Easiest Breakfast Ever: Sunny Fruit Parfait

We all know that breakfast is important. But you shouldn't have just anything for this vital meal - and neither should your kids. Processed foods full of refined sugars and artificial colors don't provide a good kick-start to your day. This easy breakfast (or anytime snack) gives you just what you need, whether you're pregnant, breastfeeding or getting ready to head off to school. 

The nutritional rewards you'll reap from this crunchy, creamy, chewy dish are great: loads of calcium and protein, fiber, antioxidants, iron, probiotics. And the balance of carbs and protein will help you feel satiated for a long while. 

This was a standard breakfast for me when I was growing up (it was the seventies, hence the sunflower seeds!). My mom worked full-time and went to school at night; she didn't have the time or energy to cook us a hot breakfast every day. But she did want to ensure that we had a nutritious start to the day and this certainly fit the bill. 

It takes maybe five minutes of prep time, and that includes taking the yogurt out of the fridge. Here's the recipe (if you can call it that; it's more a "technique"):

  • plain yogurt, unsweetened (regular or greek)
  • chopped organic apple, unpeeled (grated instead of chopped for very small children)
  • organic raisins 
  • sunflower seeds

Put all in a bowl, mix together and dig in! Try other dried fruit, like cranberries or blueberries; try different nuts or seeds, such as walnuts, almonds, chia, or pecans. You can even set out different fruits and nuts and each family member can make their own customized parfait. 
Viva hippie breakfasts!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Chocolate Bark Grahams: Play with your Food!

When I'm not feeling well, the last thing I want to do is bake. So when my son decided we should bake cookies the other day -- in the midst of my head cold -- I had to get creative. And, I figured, I might as well make him get creative with me. Truly, this is as much a kiddie art project as a cooking project.

My genius/lazy plan was to make chocolate bark on top of graham crackers, thus giving the illusion of a "cookie" without all the work (when you've got a stuffy nose and runny eyes, just turning on the oven smacks of effort). Here's what you'll need:
  • four sheets of whole wheat graham crackers (two servings, according to my box)
  • 1 oz. dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
  • assorted dried fruits, chopped nuts, whatever floats your boat
I set up a few toppings in small bowls: dried cherries, raisins, cranberries, sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, and some almond meal. This is what I had handy, but feel free to use whatever you've got. (I'm thinking coconut and almonds would be an amazing combo.)
Melt the dark chocolate, which is tasty, not too sweet and actually has nutritional benefits. Then you can spoon, dip, 

or drizzle some on each cracker.

That's when it's time to have fun and stick toppings in the melted chocolate.

Then just pop them in the fridge for a few minutes till the chocolate hardens. Be proud of whatever you make: it will taste good, no matter how pretty or messy it is. 

My son made his "cookies" with loads of the dried fruit. But his favorite was one I dipped in the chocolate and then in some almond meal.
These were so easy - and my son had so much fun - that I plan to make them again, even when I'm feeling well!

What toppings will you and your kids use?
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