Full Belly Sisters: May 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day Party Treat: Gringa Guacamole

You're probably going to some sort of Memorial Day party this weekend and it'll probably involve lots of highly-processed hot dogs and pre-made hamburgers and buns made of refined flour. What's the best survival plan for health-conscious gals? Bring some good food that you can eat and—even if you do eat some of the junk—you'll at least crowd it out a bit with veggies. You could bring a huge green salad, a platter of grilled vegetables, a fresh fruit salad. Or you could be the MVP of the party and bring some delicious, healthful guacamole!

Full disclosure: I'm one of those people who cannot stand cilantro (don't blame me, it's in my genes), so i'm always bummed when i get guacamole that's full of it. This version omits the soapy-tasting leaves, which i realize makes it not very authentic. But it is still mucho tasty.

  • 2-3 ripe avocados
  • 1 lime
  • 2-3T minced red onion
  • salt, to taste
  • Tabasco, to taste
  • 3T seeded, chopped tomatoes (optional)
Scoop flesh from avocados into bowl and add onion.
Squeeze lime juice on top. This not only adds amazing flavor, but keeps the avocado from browning. Mash with a fork. I like mine well mashed but not totally smooth.

Once it's mashed, fold in tomatoes (if you want to). Add salt and Tabasco, to taste.

 Cover with plastic wrap. Press it down on the top of the guacamole, until you're ready to serve it; this will also prevent browning.

Serve with raw veggies or chips, or use as a topping on a burger (trust me: delicious). Enjoy your weekend!

What's your favorite guacamole recipe?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nut-Free Gluten-Free School Birthday Party. Sounds fun, huh? (It can be!)

My son just turned three. Tomorrow he gets to celebrate at his pre-school, which means I'm supposed to send in some treats. His teacher suggested something "fun and not too messy, like Oreos." Well, that wasn't going to happen. The first and second ingredients in Oreos are sugar and partially hydrogenated oils. So I would have to make something (even though I'm still exhausted from all the prepping, baking, cleaning, shopping, and organizing I did for the birthday party we had at home this weekend). Sigh.

My son's school, like so many, is a nut-free zone to protect any children with allergies. That meant I couldn't go to my usual healthy baking bag-o-tricks, such as increasing nutrition by replacing half the flour in every recipe with almond meal. So I decided to make my adaptation of this flourless chocolate cake recipe that uses chickpeas, which are high in fiber and protein. It's an elegant dessert to serve in cake form at a dinner party--as I have--but fun for the kiddies in cupcake form. Then again, what isn't fun in cupcake form?
The secret ingredient makes these cupcakes super moist and nutritious.
These cupcakes are also flourless and require only a blender and a microwave-safe bowl: perfect for when you're feeling lazy and don't want to sift ingredients or wash lots of dishes.

I also made some dark-chocolate-dipped strawberries for the school party. They're so easy a three-year-old can make them. And did (see below for proof)!
(yields 48 mini-cupcakes)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chopped dark chocolate)
  • 2 cups chickpeas, preferably from a BPA-free can
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3c prunes
  • 2/3c Sucanat
  • 3T greek yogurt
  • 1/2t baking powder
  • powdered sugar (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Drain and rinse the chickpeas very well. Put chickpeas and eggs in blender and puree until smooth.

Prunes add sweetness and moisture to this recipe, and are great in chocolate recipes. Add them to the blender and puree until smooth. You will see little specks of the prunes, but there shouldn't be any chunks.
Melt the chocolate in your microwave until smooth and glossy. Stir well.
Add Sucanat, yogurt, baking powder and melted chocolate to blender. Puree again until fully combined.
Grease cupcake pan or use paper liners and fill cups about 3/4 full with batter.

Bake for 20-22 minutes; insert a toothpick in the middle of a cupcake to check doneness. Cool on a rack.
If you'd like, dust with powdered sugar. It does look really nice...

As for the strawberries, just wash your berries (organic, please: conventional strawberries have a very high amount of pesticide residue) and dry them well. 

 Melt about an ounce of dark chocolate. 

Dip the berries, covering them in as much or as little chocolate as you'd like. 

Place them on a plate covered in wax paper and chill in the fridge until the chocolate hardens.
My son helped me make them. He had a ball and, hey, less work for tired mama!


Each kid will get one mini-cupcake and one chocolate-covered strawberry. Beans and berries -- not the worst birthday party snack, am I right?
What do you make for your kid's school birthday parties?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Watermelon Mint Slushie: Perfect for Pregnancy

Summer is coming and that means pregnant gals everywhere are thinking, "How the heck am I going to survive the heat when I'm lugging this huge belly around?" My answer: watermelon.

Watermelon is a pregnant woman's dream. It is sweet, delicious and refreshing. It is jam-packed with lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that has been found to reduce the incidence of preeclampsia. Watermelon provides Vitamins A, C, and B6, plus magnesium. It's also a fabulous source of potassium, which helps to maintain your fluid and electrolyte balance, stabilize your blood pressure, and reduce swelling. In fact, a lack of potassium can cause leg cramps -- a problem for many pregnant women. 

Another appealing thing about watermelon is how water-rich it is. The combination of water plus fruit sugars helps to alleviate morning sickness and dehydration. Of course, it's thirst-quenching for all you nursing moms, too - I know how parched you get. And the mint in this drink may also ease morning sickness.

I've added chia seeds to this drink, too. These little guys add valuable omega-3 fats, protein, fiber and calcium to this drink. They also have fantastic hydrating power: when chia seeds are put into liquid, they swell and hold on to that liquid. That means you stay hydrated longer. Plus, these seeds help your body better absorb the fat soluble lycopene from the watermelon. (You can get chia seeds at any health food store or online. They are pricey, but a very useful "superfood." I throw them in everything, from drinks to yogurt to pancakes.)

The combination of potassium, carbs, protein, water, and a touch of sodium makes this a natural, electrolyte-filled energy drink: think about sipping it during labor!

(yields about 24 ounces)
  • 4 cups cubed watermelon, frozen
  • about 5 or 6 mint leaves
  • 2-3T chia seeds
  • juice of one lime
  • pinch of salt

Add all the ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth.

It will be slushie and cold and frothy, with lovely flecks of mint.

Because watermelon has such a high water content, you don't need to add any liquid to make this very low-calorie slushie. However, if you want an even lower-calorie drink, try freezing some of the slushie in an ice cube tray. Then add the ice cubes to regular or coconut water. Another great drink during labor!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Top 10 Ways to Become Buddies with your Postpartum Nurse

Me with my favorite patient: my nephew!
I spent over six years as a postpartum (aka mother/baby) nurse at a big hospital in New York City. And, let me tell you, I've learned some things about how you can best develop a good relationship with the postpartum nurses in your hospital. Why would you want to? Because you'll be spending the majority of your hospital stay with them. And you'll need their expertise and help.

Some tips:
  1. Be organized. Whether you want to know about breastfeeding or swaddling or medications, prepare a list of specific questions for your nurse. If possible, write them down and ask your nurse when would be the best time to go over your list. Nurses prioritize and plan their days. If the nurse can carve out some time in her schedule to sit down with you and review specific issues it will make the conversation feel less rushed and get your questions answered more thoroughly.
  2. Do for yourself when you can. Getting up and moving around is better for your recovery, whether you've had a vaginal or c-section delivery. You may be bone tired (in fact, you most assuredly will), but walking around will boost your mood and improve your gastrointestinal function. So, if your nurse tells you it's time to walk up and down the hallway, trust her.
  3. Make use of your visitors. If you have healthy family members in your room, asking one of them to crawl under your bed to get that Chapstick you dropped is a good idea. Asking your nurse to do it is not. She has important medical needs to attend to for you and for other patients in need; the under-the-bed crawl is simply not the best use of her limited time (and it feels sort of ridiculous, if I'm being honest). Family members can also refill your water pitcher, bring you your slippers, etc.
  4. Remember that the nurse is there to help manage your health care. I'm a nurse not the cable guy. If you want to watch Glee but the tv's not working, try asking your nurse, "I know this isn't your job, so who should I call to get this fixed?" That bit of acknowledgement will be greatly appreciated; your nurse may even make it a point to track down the hospital cable guy for you. While your postpartum nurse wants to make your stay super comfortable, there are, in fact, things that are not in her control and shouldn't be expected of her.
  5. Bring only the bare necessities to the hospital with you. Hospital rooms, for the most part, are not spacious. Some toiletries and jammies are all you'll need. Enormous suitcases that your nurse needs to navigate to do her work are disruptive and unnecessary, plus they make the room less comfortable for you and your visitors.
  6. Speak for yourself. Having your husband or mom speak for you is awkward. Remember the game of telephone? Things get lost in translation; nobody will describe your needs better than you.
  7. Nurses are professionals and should be treated as such. Speak to your nurse as you would to your doctor. You'll certainly see us more than you'll see your doc! We'll help you with everything from getting your baby to latch onto your breast to helping you on the toilet. Let that intimacy breed respect for us and our jobs.
  8. Bringing food to thank your nurses is really lovely - giving the nurses your leftovers is really yucky. Someone else's leftovers don't make us feel good; if food is either going to the nurses or the garbage can, what does that say about the nurses? Order us a pizza or bring bagels and cream cheese to the nursing station and we will be thrilled; a small basket of fruit or a tin of cookies is equally appreciated. We work 12-hour shifts with only a half-hour lunch break…we love snacks!
  9. Pain management is paramount to the postpartum patient. Describing specific sensations makes it easier for your nurse to get you the most effective medicine. Do you have burning incisional pain? Pressure in your perineum (bottom)? Cramping in the uterus? Or general soreness from pushing? Different medicines treat different things. Communicate effectively with us and we can more easily ensure your comfort.
  10. Hospital hierarchy means doctors manage and nurses care. Please remember that a nurse can do nothing -- other than greet you warmly -- without a doctor's order. When it comes to medications, procedures or discharging you and your newborn, it is most likely not the nurse withholding treatment or being unresponsive. We are simply waiting for an order to carry out the necessary task.
  11. BONUS TIP: Enjoy your baby and be patient with yourself. This is a new and exciting time. Cherish it. You're as new to mothering your new baby as your baby is to the world. It's a process and, if given the opportunity, we mother/ baby nurses would love to support you, encourage you, and walk you through the first few days of your baby's life.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy, Healthy Cinco de Mayo!

Today's the perfect day to enjoy the amazingly nutritious avocado! Fresh guacamole is always a great choice, but you should also try our Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

And what better way to celebrate a healthy Cinco de Mayo than with our Piña Kale-ada!

If you're breastfeeding and wondering how much cerveza you can drink at the party you're going to later, check this out.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Flourless Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Tate's is a bake shop that makes amazing -- but not necessarily super healthful -- cookies. A friend (and fellow Tate's fan) asked me to Full Belly Sisters-ize Tate's Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies. Of course, I said yes!

I swapped the sugar in the original recipe for Sucanat, which is basically unrefined dried sugar cane juice with its natural molasses intact (meaning it provides some nutritional value in the form of some iron, calcium, potassium). Succanat is still caloric like sugar, of course, so I did cut it from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup. I also swapped the semi-sweet chocolate chips for the more nutritious dark chocolate and reduced the amount used.

In order to retain the original cookies' sweetness, I added minced prunes. These dried plums seem to have bad poop-related connotations for many people, but prunes are actually just super-sweet, super-healthful bites of goodness! They are high in fiber, as well as potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, iron and calcium. In case you're still feeling iffy about the idea, let me assure you that you won't really taste the prunes; you'll just hit some tiny, chewy, sweet bits and say "mmmm" as you eat your cookies.

One more important point: peanut butter is the main ingredient in these cookies, so choose your jar carefully. Ideally, you should use one that either just has peanuts or has peanuts and salt. If it has hydrogenated oils and/or sugar, avoid it.

Adapted from Tate's Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies recipe:
(yield: 24 cookies)
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter 
  • 1/2 cup Sucanat (can substitute raw sugar or light brown sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate (70% or more cocoa)
  • 1/3 cup minced prunes (about 10 prunes)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (if using unsalted peanut butter)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper on two cookie sheets. In a medium bowl combine the peanut butter, Sucanat, egg, vanilla, baking soda and salt (if using). Add the minced prunes...
...and the chopped dark chocolate.
Mix together until the chocolate and prunes are evenly distributed throughout. Scoop heaping teaspoonfuls of the dough.
Using your hands, form into balls and press down a bit to flatten. You should be able to easily fit a dozen cookies on each cookie sheet; they don't spread much.
Bake for about 12 minutes. Put the cookie sheets on a rack to cool for five minutes or so.
 Then move the cookies off the sheets to a rack to cool.
These are especially delicious when still warm - the chocolate is melted and smooth.
 Peanut butter cookies just call out for milk.

UPDATE: A girl, a guy, furkids and food tried our cookies—check out their post!
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