Full Belly Sisters: October 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Self-Care Challenge - Make Yourself a Top Priority!

Image from Titus Dentistry

I was brushing my teeth a few evenings back and I was struck by a realization: I hadn't brushed them that morning. Eww! How could I forget something so basic, so routine, so important? Perhaps because I was busy feeding and dressing (and, yes, kissing and hugging) my son, driving my husband to the train station, running errands, preparing meals--all those things that moms do. And because taking care of myself was such a low priority that I just plum forgot.

That's not okay.

Women are nurturers, nourishers, and givers...often to everyone but themselves. Unfortunately, a woman's health and well-being may come last on her long to-do list. That's not okay, either.

The Full Belly Sisters' philosophy is this: if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of anyone else. Here's an example my sister and I give when working with clients: flight attendants on an airplane always instruct you to put your own oxygen mask on first before putting on your child's mask. Otherwise, you could jeopardize your child's health as well as your own. And you don't want to do that.
Interesting that it's a dad in this graphic

So, let's spend seven days--that's all I ask!--focusing on taking better care of ourselves. Anyone can do this: you don't have to be a mom or a parent or a woman! Let's eat better, sleep more, stimulate our intellects and creativity, get our blood pumping through exercise. Let's treat ourselves more kindly.

I was kindest to myself when I was pregnant. I felt like the least I could do for the person growing in my body was to eat nourishing foods, to rest when I felt weary, to take the time to breathe and relax, to be gentle with myself. I remember--when my belly was big and round--I would take evening showers to soothe my aching body, then I would rub lovely-scented oils all over that belly. Part of this ritual was due to vanity (I was trying to avoid stretch marks!); a larger part was this newfound and deep respect I'd found for my body. I wanted to take care of me because that was the only way to take care of my baby.
My well-moisturized belly.
So, when you're thinking about this challenge, try to remember a time in your life when taking care of yourself and your physical and emotional health was a priority. What were your routines? And what elements of those past routines can you incorporate into your busy/stressful/overwhelming life now?

Pick a goal that is meaningful to you, one that motivates you and that doesn't seem too easy. You will rise to the challenge. And you will feel proud of accomplishing something that felt like it was maybe just a teensy bit out of your reach.

It'll be different for each of us. Some of us may want to take a 30-minute walk each day; others may aim to try new classes at the gym. Some may choose to cut out all sugar; others may put one less spoonful in their coffee each morning. Some may elect to go to bed an hour earlier than usual, to read instead of vegging out in front of the TV for hours; others may wake up an hour earlier in the morning, to do yoga or meditate or take a long (uninterrupted by children) shower. You may want to do something different for each of the seven days. Or you might want to join me in making sure you brush your teeth twice every day!

We'll officially kick off the seven-day challenge on November 1, after the mishegoss of Halloween and before the menu-planning mayhem of Thanksgiving. Start thinking about what your goal will be and what obstacles may currently be in the way of your meeting that goal.

Accountability can be a huge source of motivation. So, I ask you to announce your goal in the comments below (I'll announce mine, as well). Make it concrete; look at it when you find that you may be losing focus; let others here cheer you on. And, in seven days, come back and report on how you did: did you meet your goal? Or even exceed your expectations?

On each day of this challenge, we will post helpful tips, encouraging words, and small self-care "assignments," both here and on our Facebook page; we will also feature some special guest posts. It's going to be great. Join us!

Turn this challenge into an opportunity.

Update: Our Day One post is now up!
Update: Day Two!
Update: Day Three!
UpdateDay Four!
Update: Day Five!
Update: Day Six!
Update: Day Seven!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Healthy Halloween - Real Food, Real Fun (and No Artificial Food Dyes)!

It seems like every time I log onto Facebook, there are a plethora of new and adorable Halloween recipes in my news feed. I'm amazed at the creativity I see out there! However, I'm also amazed at how many of these recipes--ostensibly for kids--rely on processed junk and "ingredients" like artificial food coloring, which has been linked in studies to hyperactivity in kids and even to cancer.

I love the idea of making adorable Halloween treats from real food. This way, you can let your kids fill up on healthful snacks...and there's less room in their bellies for the junk they may get when they're at school parties or out trick-or-treating. Basically, you want to mitigate the potential damage. And today is National Food Day (whoop!), so what better day to celebrate real food?

I'm not a crafty gal. So, my suggestions may not be as cute as something like this. But my ideas are simple and use real food you probably already have in your kitchen. And if your kids are even half as excited about Halloween as my son is (his favorite adjectives these days are "spooky" and "creepy") they'll eat these up!

Halloween Creatures
  • Jack-o-Lantern Nacho Pizzas (photo above): toast half of a whole wheat mini flatbread, pita or English Muffin; mash some cooked beans with salsa and spread on toast; cover with shredded cheddar cheese and broil until melted; decorate with a scallion stem and black olive face. Note: Cheese is not naturally orange; a good quality cheddar will be orange due to annatto, a natural food coloring made from seed pods. But if you want to avoid the orange cheese, try making a ghost face instead using white cheese and olives. 
  • Ghost-gurt: sweeten plain Greek yogurt with a bit of honey or maple syrup; decorate with black grapes.

  • Monster Eyes: spread cream cheese or goat cheese on celery sticks; cut to about 1"-long and decorate with sliced, stuffed olives. (These were a favorite of mine when I was a kid and, more recently, when I was pregnant. They are crunchy, creamy, salty and yummy!)
  • Jack-o-Lantern Pumpkin Pancakes: the cookie-sized ones are perfect for a Halloween party; they're already sweetened with some maple syrup and the chocolate chips, so you don't have to worry about a sticky, dipping mess! 

  • Halloween-themed Dinners: A friend from high school always makes her kids a special dinner to eat (read: fill up on) before trick-or-treating. One year, she made pizzas in the shape of jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, and witches' hats; another time she made rice ghosts with nori witches' hats, carrot pumpkins, and broccoli broomsticks. How cute are these?

Seasonal Colors

The Halloween color scheme is usually orange and black/purple/blue. Use foods that naturally have those colors and you won't need any yucky dyes to make your party festive!

  • Dark chocolate-dipped apricots are as sweet as candy (but much healthier). Dip half of the dried apricots in dark chocolate; set on wax paper in fridge until chocolate hardens, which should take just a couple of minutes
  • Halloween skewers: try black grapes with cheddar cheese or apricots and prunes.

  • Serve dark purple pepper slices with an orange-colored dip (I pureed some roasted red and yellow peppers from a jar, then mixed the puree into plain Greek yogurt with a bit of salt). Alternatively, try a black bean dip surrounded by carrots or sweet potato chips. 


Most of the chocolate given to trick-or-treaters is the junkiest of the junk. But you can make wonderful candies, using good quality chocolate, at home. 
  • Chocolate Mustaches: using a mold and lollipop sticks from the craft store, fill with melted chocolate and chill until hardened. I made these for my son's birthday (with raisins and dried cranberries) but they seem particularly appropriate for costume-celebrating Halloween. Note: do not buy the "melting candy" you see near the mold at the craft store; that stuff is straight-up junk, with partially hydrogenated oils and artificial colors and flavors.

Halloween Accessories
  • Buy some holiday-themed mini-muffin papers and use them with your favorite wholesome muffin or cupcake recipe. I used our Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins with these cute spider liners from Target:

How does your family eat healthfully around Halloween?

UPDATE: Also check out our 100% Whole Wheat Pizza Bones!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Witch Finger Cookies (The Healthiest Version in Town)

Okay, so there are about a million blogposts about Witch's Finger cookies out there on the interwebs. Consider this contribution #1,000,001. What makes my version stand out is that it is made with whole wheat flour, almond flour (which adds calcium and protein, among other nutritious things), and has a bit less sugar than other recipes. Oh, and did I mention that mine doesn't call for red food coloring, which has been linked to everything from hyperactivity in children to allergies to cancer? In true FBS fashion, I try to capture the fun, yummy, spookiness of these cookies in a clean eating way.

I adapted from this recipe at Fabulous Foods

yields about three dozen or more (depending on what size you make them)

  • 1 cup butter, softened (preferably grass-fed and/or organic)
  • 2/3 cup sugar or Sucanat
  • 1 egg
  • 1T vanilla
  • 1 1/2c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/4c almond flour*
  • 1t baking powder
  • 1t salt
  • raw sliced almonds
  • 100% fruit spread (raspberry or strawberry or anything red)

*I like to use the flour from unblanched almonds; I think the little brown speckles just add to the witchy-skin feeling. But you can certainly use the kind from blanched nuts for a less mottled look.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Add the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla to a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer. In another bowl, combine the flours, baking powder and salt. Then gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet, while beating. It will form a sticky dough. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
All by himself and no shell in the bowl!
Take out about a quarter of the dough; keep the rest in the fridge. Use a heaping teaspoon to roll into the shape of a finger bone (the cookies will spread, so make them skinnier than finger-size). Remember when you were little and you'd be playing with clay and making worms or snakes? That's what you need to do here. I make mine about six inches long.

Dip the sliced almond into a teensy bit of the jam, then press lightly onto the cookie dough to form a "fingernail." 

Cookies are a family affair around here.

My son's version looks a little ingrown. Ick.
My fingernails (below) are in a bit better position. I also formed the fingers so they'd be a little thicker at the knuckle and used a sharp knife to make tiny slashes to add to the knuckle-like appearance. Place the cookies a couple of inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 

Bake for 18-22 minutes. (In the meantime, start making the next batch with dough from the refrigerator. If the dough is very sticky, put it back in the fridge for another few minutes so it'll be easier to work with.) 

The cookies are ready when they are a pale golden brown. They will be quite delicate so be careful when removing them from the sheet to cool on racks. 

I love when the almonds crack or break a bit. Makes them extra creepy!

For more real food ideas for Halloween, click here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Halloween Treats: Chocolate Bark Bites with Apricots and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I know, I know: everyone wants to eat chocolate for Halloween. And that's not so bad--it can even be good--as long as you watch your portions and choose your ingredients wisely. I chose the elements of this chocolate bark based on the season (pumpkins aplenty!) and on the colors associated with the holiday (black and orange). 

Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are one of the most nutritious seeds around. They are loaded with protein, fiber, and good fats, as well as minerals such as magnesium (during pregnancy, it helps build and repair your body's tissues) and manganese (which helps to build bone and cartilage). Pepitas add a fabulous crunch and nutty taste to this bark. Dried apricots not only lend gorgeous color and sweetness, they also provide beta carotene, vitamin C, and fiber.

By loading the bark up with nuts and dried fruit, we don't have to use too much chocolate; by making bite-size bark, we can help control our portions. These are the little things that will make Halloween less disastrous for your midsections, people. So don't scoff at me. Just make these.

yields 12 pieces of bark
  • about 3.5 ounces of dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa (preferably fair trade
  • 1/4c roasted pumpkin seeds*
  • 1/4c chopped dried apricots
*You can use raw pumpkin seeds, but they are crunchier when roasted. I bought mine raw, then roasted them with a bit of coconut oil and a couple of pinches of salt. Here's another version of how to roast them from a fresh pumpkin.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt--either in a double boiler or in your microwave--until smooth and glossy.

Reserve a couple of teaspoons of the apricots for the top of the bark; add the rest into the melted chocolate.

Add the pumpkin seeds and stir.

Spoon mixture into a silicone mini-muffin pan; if you don't have one, just drop spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet topped with wax paper. Top each with a few chopped apricots, pressing down just a bit to ensure that they stick in the chocolate.

Chill in the fridge for a few minutes until the chocolate has hardened. Pop out of the mini-muffin pan and enjoy!

Happy (and healthy) Halloween!

For more real food ideas for Halloween, click here.

Love our Chocolate Bark Grahams? Try them with chopped apricots and pumpkin seeds for another Halloween variation!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes (aka Lessons Learned from Cooking with my Toddler)

My husband hates breakfast for dinner (it's one of his biggest failings, truth be told). So, when he is working late and won't be home at dinnertime, I often make one of my son's favorite meals: pancakes.

Now, I'm not really into cutesy, kiddie food but using chocolate chips to make Jack-o-lantern pancakes seemed fun without being too precious. And we love pairing pumpkin and chocolate in these muffins, so what could go wrong? Right?

Not only does my three-year-old love to eat pancakes, he loves to cook them. Mostly, this is a great experience. But doing anything with a three-year-old can be trying; I know this was. At least I learned some lessons. And made some yummy pancakes.

My pancake recipe is adapted from this one.

yields 15-20 pancakes
  • 1 1/2c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1t baking soda
  • 2t baking powder
  • 1/4t salt
  • 2t cinnamon
  • 1 1/3c kefir
  • 1c pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2T vanilla
  • 2T real maple syrup 
  • about 1/2c chocolate chips (more, if necessary)
  • 1/2c chopped walnuts (optional)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. (Lesson #1: kids love whisking!)
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the kefir, pumpkin, eggs, yogurt, vanilla, and maple syrup. (Lesson #2: Adapt, even if it's not in your nature. If your kid wants to add more cinnamon, let him. C'mon, it won't kill ya.)

Add wet mixture to dry and stir just until a batter forms; it's okay if it's a bit lumpy. Fold in nuts, if using. (Lesson #3: Let your child continue to mix the batter, even though you know that if it gets overmixed the pancakes won't rise much. Hope your kid gets bored of mixing sooner rather than later.

Cook pancakes on a greased and pre-heated skillet. Ladle batter onto pan, spreading it out slightly into the shape of a pumpkin with a stem. Decorate with chocolate chips in the shape of a jack-o'-lantern face. As with any pancakes, you'll know they're ready to flip when you see some bubbles rise to the top. 
Flip them for another minute or two. Remove to a plate and feel kind of bummed: the browning that normally makes pancakes look so appealing now makes your jack-o-lanterns just look jacked up. Show your child proudly, anyway. Hear, "Mama, I didn't want a pumpkin. I wanted a ghost!" (Lesson #4: Expect the unexpected. Do not scream. Take a deep breath and try again.)
Make a ghost. At least it doesn't require as many chocolate chips for the face. "But, Mama, ghosts don't have arms!" Argue that "some ghosts do!" (Lesson #5: Ghosts are not real.)

Make an armless ghost. Even though it looks more like a spermatozoid, your child will be thrilled. (Lesson #6: Kids can be difficult to please and easily pleased, all at once.)
Now that your child is happily gobbling his food, start experimenting with making the pancakes look halfway acceptable for a blogpost. Attempt cookie-sized pancakes (about a teaspoon of batter) over lower heat, decorate with chips, and then cover the pan to cook through without having to flip. Eureka!
Now try another jack-o-lantern, using the covered pan technique. It works, too!

"Mommy, that pancake looks just like a jack-o-lantern! That is cool!" (Lesson #7: Be tenacious. You will figure out how to make something your child truly appreciates.)

(Lesson #8: Pancakes are good anytime, anywhere. Especially after running around the playground and working up an appetite.)

What lessons have you learned from cooking with your kids?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Luscious Legacy Project

Check out my interview with Chocolate for Breakfast's Sue Ann Gleason on how I am leaving a Luscious Legacy. It features our popular Almond Butter Cups recipe!

Don't forget to check out Sue Ann's guest post for the FBS blog - featuring some amazing and healthful chocolate recipes!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce

A sesame flatbread cracker topped with herbed goat cheese and warm, roasted tomato sauce. 
I like to cook a huge pot of slow-simmered pasta sauce, store a bunch in the freezer, and have it at the ready. After all, if you don't plan ahead and stock up on homemade foods you're more likely to grab take-out. And take-out is more likely to be unhealthy than your homemade food.

But sometimes you want something fresher than that frozen (albeit delicious) sauce. And that's when you make this sauce! It's made with naturally sweet grape tomatoes, which you can generally find year-round. Tomatoes are a superfood, loaded with lycopene; vitamins A, C, and K; and potassium, a lack of this which can cause leg cramps, a problem for many pregnant women. Because this sauce includes the tomatoes' skins and seeds, we retain more of their fiber, too. 

Basil is no nutritional slouch, either:it provides some calcium and iron and it's an excellent source of Vitamin K, necessary for proper blood clotting. In rare cases, newborns may be deficient; increasing your K intake can raise the levels in your breast milk.

serves 4
  • 2-3 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic 
  • 4T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2T balsamic vinegar
  • couple of pinches of red pepper flakes
  • salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/4c chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a 9" X 13" baking dish, combine the oil, vinegar, red pepper, salt and pepper.

Toss the grape tomatoes, onions and garlic in the roasting pan, covering evenly in the oil. Spread the mixture in an even layer in the pan.

Roast in the oven about 20 minutes, stir, then bake about another 20-25 minutes, until the garlic and onions are tender and the tomatoes are soft and blistered.

Remove from oven and stir in the basil; the heat of the tomatoes will wilt the herbs.

You can toss this with hot pasta right away, use it to top a sandwich with fresh mozzarella, or just pile some on a cracker with goat cheese (as I did in the first photo). My family doesn't like chunky tomato sauce, so I just changed the consistency of mine with an immersion blender. 
The smoother version of the sauce.
When dinnertime rolled around, I served it on hot pasta with a nice dollop of fresh ricotta (try my easy, creamy homemade ricotta!) and some grated parmesan. And some basil leaves, to be fancy for the photo.

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