Full Belly Sisters: November 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DIY Yogurt: Good for the Body and the Budget!

One of the complaints I often hear from friends and clients is that organic foods are too expensive. I get it: times are tough for a lot of us and every penny counts. One way to make healthy foods more affordable? Make your own! Guest blogger Nancy Cavillones tells us how to create easy, homemade yogurt. After you tackle this, try our no-cook Creme Fraiche!

Homemade yogurt + homemade granola = happy, hippie kiddies!

from Nancy Cavillones:

Sometime over the summer, my two girls, ages 3 years and 18 months, became yogurt fanatics. One week, I ended up going through two tubs of yogurt. Because I buy high-quality organic dairy, all that yogurt can get pricey. I remembered reading a blog post about making homemade yogurt in a crockpot, so I hopped on Google to find the post. In my search, I discovered an even easier way to make yogurt that didn’t require pulling out any big appliances. Harold McGee, the author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, writes a column for The New York Times called The Curious Cook. A few years back, he wrote a column on making yogurt. His method is so simple; once I used it to make yogurt for the girls, I could no longer justify buying tubs of yogurt.

Here’s what you need:
  1 quart of the freshest whole milk you can find
  2 tablespoons of high-quality plain yogurt
  A container with a lid for storing the yogurt. (I use a glass canning jar. Use anything that is non-reactive.)
  A dishtowel and rubberband
  Optional: a candy thermometer

Note: The first time I made this yogurt, I used my dutch oven but I had a hard time pouring the yogurt into its final container, so now I use a regular pot.

Step One: Pour the milk into your pot, and heat it to 180℉-190℉. I like to use my candy thermometer for this but you can also use your eye. When the milk steams and forms bubbles, the milk is hot enough.

Step Two: Take the milk off the heat and cool it down to 115℉-120℉. When you can put your finger in it without scalding yourself, it’s cool enough. It should still be pretty warm, though.

Step Three: Add two tablespoons of yogurt and transfer the mixture to its final container. Seal the container.

Step Four: Wrap the container with a dishtowel and secure it with a rubberband.

Step Five: Place the container in your oven, with the heat off and oven light on (the heat of the light will keep the yogurt at a good temperature). Leave it in there for about four hours, until it sets.

Finally, eat! Enjoy with your favorite yogurt accompaniments. My girls like honey, maple syrup or strawberry preserves. Or try the Full Belly Sisters' favorite yogurt parfait, with apples, raisins and sunflower seeds.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Virtual Thanksgiving Feast (A Collection of Recipes to Appreciate and Share)

Just wanted to share some lovely dishes that I think would make a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner. And, yes, I'm including a few of my own recipes. Don't hate, y'all. 

I'm borrowing this concept from Jenn at Much to My Delight, who hosts what she calls Blogger Party Potlucks. It's such a sweet way to round-up fabulous, uncomplicated, crowd-pleasing recipes from food blogs that I enjoy—and hope you will, too.

Oh, and if you're a blogger and have a real food (no Cool Whip, please!) recipe you'd like to share, please post the link in the comments section. I'm always looking for new recipes to drool over and new blogs to read!

Bell Peppers Bruschetta from Give me Flour
Give Me Flour

Figs in a Blanket from Domestic Fits
Domestic Fits

Butternut Squash & Pear Soup
Full Belly Sisters

Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Sweet Spicy Nuts from Sumptuous Spoonfuls
Sumptuous Spoonfuls

Kale with Garlic from A Clove of Garlic, A Pinch of Salt
A Clove of Garlic, A Pinch of Salt

Honey Roasted Carrots
Full Belly Sisters

Cranberry and Horseradish Relish from Serious Food for the Soul
Serious Food for the Soul

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes from Steamy Kitchen
Steamy Kitchen

Mom's Roast Turkey by Simply Recipes
Simply Recipes

Pumpkin Pie from Life Currents
Life Currents

Vanilla Bean Yogurt Apple Cake from Mia's Domain
Mia's Domain

Flourless Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Cookies
Full Belly Sisters

Do you have any real food recipes you'd like to share for my virtual Thanksgiving feast? Post your links in the comments section below...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Praline-Topped Sweet Potatoes (A Not-Every-Day Dish)

Check out my guest post on A Clove of Garlic, A Pinch of SaltTiffany's having a virtual Thanksgiving Day dinner and my Praline-Topped Sweet Potatoes were invited! 

This isn't my typical FBS recipe, that's for sure...

 Make food you can savor and enjoy your Thanksgiving! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Butternut Squash & Pear Soup: Real Convenience Food

'Tis the season for winter squash. Not only is it super affordable and accessible right now, but season-appropriate foods also tend to be fresher and more flavorful. So, get thee to a farmer's market or grocery store and buy some butternut squash now! And then make this easy soup! It would be a perfect start to Thanksgiving dinner: fill up on this and you won't have as much room for the higher-calorie, lower-nutrition victuals. 

Not only is this a simple dish—perfect for a quick weeknight meal—it's also incredibly nutritious. Winter squash are absolutely loaded with alpha- and beta-carotene. Squash are also great sources of vitamin C, carotenoids, potassium, fiber, folate and even omega-3s.  Butternut is just one type of winter squash; it is perfect for soup because it isn't usually stringy. 

I added a pear to this simple, clean soup, in order to heighten the sweetness of the squash a bit. I used a red anjou—it was too gorgeous to pass by!—but you can use any ripe pear you like. Also, if you don't have vegetable stock on hand, just use a box of stock (preferably low-sodium, so you can control the amount of salt). 

(serves 4-6)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2T coconut oil
  • 1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 5 1/2 to 6 cups)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 large pear, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • minced pear, for garnish (optional)
Using a three-quart saucepan, melt coconut oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent and tender. Add squash, as well as some salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cover all ingredients with stock. 

Bring to a simmer and add pears. Cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
Remove the pot from the heat and, using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Add more salt and pepper, to taste. I like mine to have quite a bit of savory elements, since i love that balance with sweet foods. Garnish with some minced pear—not only does it look pretty, but it's a nice texture contrast with the smooth soup. You could also try topping it with a drizzle of cream, a dollop of creme fraiche, or some chopped chives.

I served this soup with a little platter of dried cranberries and apricots, a log of goat cheese, and chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano. It was a hit—even with my friend's three-and-a-half-year-old daughter!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Self-Care Challenge - Day 7: 10 Tips for New, Breastfeeding Mamas

Today is the last day of our week-long, self-care challenge. Have you been working on making yourself a top priority?

If you've got a newborn, you must make yourself a top priority; if you don't take care of your basic needs, you simply won't be able to take care of your new child. 

During the first few weeks you're home with your new baby, self-care and hypersensitivity to your own needs are crucial -- particularly if you're breastfeeding. Be aware of a few things that will make it easier to adjust: 
  • Think of your days in two- to three-hour increments. That is the approximate schedule of feeding for a newborn; anticipating the pattern is a good idea.
  • When the time is nearing that your baby will start to stir and give you a cue to feed, do a quick self-assessment. If you're in any physical discomfort, check to see if you're due for pain medications; if so, take them. You won't enjoy breast feeding if you're in pain and the stress from any physical discomfort can impair your letdown.
  • If you're physically feeling okay, the next thing to do is empty your bladder. New mamas often need to do a little bladder retraining, whether you've had a vaginal delivery or a c-section. Even if you don't feel like you have to go, go anyway. Usually the sense memory of cool porcelain on your tushy will trigger your body to empty your bladder. The empty bladder is also important for your safety. If your bladder is full, it puts pressure on your uterus, preventing it from staying low and contracted, which it needs to be to prevent excessive bleeding post-delivery.
  • Wash your face. It's refreshing and just makes everyone feel more human; in the few weeks after delivery, prioritizing your comfort is a must.
  • Stay hydrated. Get that big glass of ice water to sustain you through the upcoming feed. My patients always comment on how incredibly thirsty they become when they feed their newborns. Put the beverage where you can comfortably reach it during the feed. It is a good idea to keep a healthy snack within reach, as well; sometimes new moms forget to eat!
  • Adjust pillows and blankets so the feed will be comfortable and enjoyable for you as well as the babe. Nothing is worse for a new mom than having to disrupt a good latch because they can't sustain the position they are in.
  • Get skin-to-skin with your baby as much as possible. This proximity helps to establish your milk supply. And having your baby directly against your body also makes the transition to life outside the womb far easier for both mother and baby. Nature provides an awesome balancing act: your baby’s temperature is maintained by you: when your baby is cold, your body automatically warms up; when your baby is hot, your body cools down. Closeness = success.
  • Rest as much as possible. The dirty laundry and dishes can wait.
  • If you have visitors coming over and you're nervous about having to feed the baby while they're there...don't be. You have every right to excuse yourself, go to your room or another comfortable place in your home and nurse. Even if it takes a really long time (and it often does, in the beginning). Your guests will have to understand and will have to wait. You and your baby are a significantly higher priority than entertaining visitors!
  • You also have every right to nurse in front of your new guests. If they're uncomfortable, they can go in the other room. Again, whatever you want to do is fine. There is no "right" or "wrong." Only "right for YOU" and "wrong for YOU."

Remember: you can't take care of your baby if your most basic needs haven't been met.

For more on this topic, check out Five Things to Do in your Baby's First 24 Hours to Ensure Breastfeeding Success.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Self-Care Challenge - Day 6: Bottoms Up!

How are you doing with your self-care challenge? If you're moving your body more, you should also make sure you're drinking more. Like breathing, hydration is key to our survival.
Our bodies are about 60 percent water. Blood is mostly water; our organs contain lots of water; water also carries oxygen to our cells, flushes waste, and regulates body temperature. Thirsty yet?

As a matter of fact, if you feel thirsty you're already dehydrated. The trick is to keep yourself hydrated so that you never actually feel thirsty. Even mild dehydration can cause aches and pains, constipation, and headaches. If you're not sure how much water you should drink in a day, try this handy dandy hydration calculator.

So, how to stay well-hydrated? Drinking water is a good start: it's free and has no calories. If you don't care for plain water -- a lot of pregnant women, in particular, have trouble with it during the first trimester when they're nauseated -- try flavoring your water with low-calorie additions like fruit or herbs. (We have lots of fun ideas in our Homemade Flavored Waters post.) Keep fresh water handy, so you're constantly reminded to take a sip!

You'll get a lot of water through your food. Fruits and vegetables are chock full of the good stuff: an apple is 84 percent water and broccoli is an astounding 91 percent water! Check out this cool table to find more of your favorites.

Let's not forget about soups; they also have the benefit of providing some sodium, which will help balance electrolytes. Of course, you don't want to overload on the sodium; if you're buying a prepared broth or soup, opt for the low-sodium version. Try having a cup of low-calorie soup before a meal; the water-rich starter will help fill your belly so you consume fewer overall calories when the entree comes.

 Asparagus and Pea soup 

Coffee and tea count, too; if you drink five to seven cups a day, though, caffeinated drinks can have a diuretic effect, which will work to expel water from your body.

Can fruit juice and even soda hydrate you? Yes. However, unless you're looking to add more sugar (and artificial colors and flavors) to your diet, try not to drink your calories.

Enjoying a Cara Cara orange.

Important note: if you're feeling peckish, you might actually just be thirsty. Try drinking some water and then decide if you really need a snack.

What's your favorite way to stay hydrated? 

New to the Seven-Day Self-Care Challenge? Check out our previous posts:
Self-Care Challenge - Make Yourself a Top Priority
Day One - 50+ Ways to Start Taking Care of Yourself

Day Two - A Restorative Yoga Pose for Everyone

Day Three - Move Your Body!

Day Four - 101 Ways to Cut Yourself Some Slack!

Day Five - Take a Deep Breath
Day Seven - 10 Tips for New, Breastfeeding Mamas

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Self-Care Challenge - Day 5: Take a Deep Breath

Okay, just a few more days of our self-care challenge. How are you doing? Are you finding that you've made your self-care goals a bigger part of your daily routine? Or do you feel like you're losing a bit of steam? Don't stress...today we're going to just take a breather...
(photo credit: CourtDEEZ)
When I attended the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become a Holistic Health Coach, we had numerous speakers from the upper echelons of the fields of health and nutrition -- everyone from Marion Nestle to Deepak Chopra. But the one who really knocked my socks off was Dr. Andrew Weil, the Harvard-educated M.D. who is a pioneer in integrative medicine and holistic health.

Dr. Weil stood on the stage at the fabulous Jazz at Lincoln Center. He closed his eyes and breathed. Yes, you read that right: he breathed.

I marveled at his focus as he settled in the spotlight and closed his eyes.  It seemed to me like such a vulnerable position to be in: to stand alone on a stage in front of over 1,000 people with your eyes closed. But as I watched him and saw how centered and relaxed he was, I realized that he wasn't vulnerable; he was powerful.

Now, he wasn't doing just regular in-n-out breathin'. He was demonstrating a breathing exercise he calls the "4-7-8" or the "Relaxing Breath." From his website:

Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count ofeight.
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

The power in this particular technique lies in counting out an extended exhalation which triggers the relaxation response and helps to slow your heart rate if it's racing away due to stress or anxiety. I find it helpful when I wake in the middle of the night, thinking of the million things I need to do the next day; this exercise quiets my mind, so I can rest (so I can have the energy to do those million things the next day!).

Of course, this isn't the only way that you can use breath for self-care. Yoga breathing brings more oxygen to your blood and your brain and is considered integral to controlling your "vital life energy;" pilates uses lateral breathing to engage your abdominals and support movements. And think of how powerful that surge of oxygen is when you tilt your head out of the water while swimming. Certainly we can't forget how effective controlled breathing can be during labor and childbirth, either!
My husband posing while I stop to do some hypnobirthing breathing en route to the birthing center

We all breathe; if we stop, we die. But let's remember: as automatic as breathing is, we can still control it and improve its quality. So, the next time you're feeling stressed, overtired, anxious - whether you're at your desk, in bed, or in a roomful of shrieking toddlers - take a deep breath....breathe in and breathe out...

credit: UntiltheEnd89

How are you doing with your personal self-care challenge?

New to the Seven-Day Self-Care Challenge? Check out our previous posts:
Self-Care Challenge - Make Yourself a Top Priority
Day One - 50+ Ways to Start Taking Care of Yourself

Day Two - A Restorative Yoga Pose for Everyone

Day Three - Move Your Body!

Day Four - 101 Ways to Cut Yourself Some Slack!
Day Six - Bottoms Up!
Day Seven - 10 Tips for New, Breastfeeding Mamas

Friday, November 4, 2011

Self-Care Challenge - Day 4: 101 Ways to Cut Yourself Some Slack

I'm going to let you off the hook now. No, that doesn't mean you don't have to complete the personal goal you've set for our self-care challenge. It does mean you should stop trying to be perfect. Because it ain't gonna happen, my friend.

“There's no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” 
~Jill Churchill, author

No one can keep up with perfection; you'll just run yourself ragged trying. Why not choose to breathe a little easier, worry a bit less? It's hard, I know. But you have to let some things fall a teensy bit by the wayside, so that other parts of your world can flourish. 

What will you worry about less? It's up to you. You can stop making your bed in the morning, if it's something you couldn't care less about. However, if an unmade bed kind of stresses you out (it makes me feel like the room is much messier than it is)...keep making that bed.

Sometimes I feel like I need to be given permission to do something "wrong." Like, I need my parents to say, "We'll watch the boy...why don't you go in the other room and grab a nap?" Why can't I just give myself permission to take a nap?

So, if you find it difficult to cut yourself any slack, I'll do it for you! I am hereby officially declaring that it is okay to...
  1. have the same dinner a few nights in a row.
  2. tell your partner/spouse that you need alone time even more desperately than you need a date night.
  3. eat leftover dessert for breakfast (just make that your only dessert of the day).
  4. have a sink full of dirty dishes and pots; it means you're feeding your family.
  5. admit to your kids when you've made a mistake - it doesn't make you weak, it makes you a role model.
  6. put off laundry in favor of playing with your kids or just taking a nap.
  7. order dinner in or get take-out sometimes.
  8. leave the house without make-up.
  9. say no.
  10. say yes.
  11. forgive yourself any time you want.
  12. not buy something your kids want, even if you can afford it.
  13. tell your kids you need a few minutes to yourself. Lock yourself in the bathroom, if you have to!
  14. take a candlelit shower, even if that somehow seems "too indulgent." Hey, you're saving energy.
  15. eat last night's leftovers for breakfast. Most people probably have more nutritious dinners than breakfasts, anyway.
  16. wear whatever the hell you want to the gym, just as long as you're going to the gym.
  17. not pass your newborn baby around to all your visitors (even if they're family); you can hold your baby all day long, if you want to. 
  18. not shower every day.
  19. have cereal or eggs or sandwiches for dinner.
  20. let your kids have a PB&J every day, if that's what they want (try to get peanut butter that doesn't contain hydrogenated oils, though!).
  21. not immediately change your kids' clothing if it gets splattered with paint or mud; let them get messy all day and just wash and change them before bed.
  22. let your children eat as much fruit as they damn well please.
  23. spend hours preparing a meal, and then decide you're not in the mood for it, after all; stick it in the freezer for another night.
  24. ask for help when you need it; we all need help sometimes.
  25. not let your children eat things that you believe are harmful (whether that's artificial colors, genetically-modified foods, or hydrogenated oils).
  26. let your kids watch some TV. 
  27. not prepare meat for dinner every night. Rice and beans, pasta with veggies or tomato sauce, soup, and omelettes are all perfectly nutritious, budget-friendly, and yummy meals.
  28. take a shower at night instead of in the morning.
  29. not eat when you aren't hungry, even if you're a guest at someone else's house.
  30. flip through a magazine while your kids are playing in the playground (as long as you keep an eye on them, of course!).
  31. expect your kids to take on age-appropriate chores, like putting dirty clothes in the hamper, making their beds, setting the table.
  32. let your child sleep in bed with you, if it means you both sleep better.
  33. lose an argument.
  34. not love every meal you eat; some meals can just nourish you without knocking your socks off.
  35. buy the big bags of raisins and portion them out into small, reusable containers for your kid's lunchbox; those little red boxes are just a waste of money and paper.
  36. not love yoga.
  37. prefer Eric Carle's books to Dr. Seuss'.
  38. not like some foods that you know are good for you.
  39. make mistakes. How else will you learn?
  40. not make separate meals for your kids. If they don't like what you've prepared they can have some fruit or make themselves a sandwich. They will not starve.
  41. not order for your child from the "kids' menu." It's usually just overpriced junk, anyway. Your child can have real food from your plate, or order a standard portion and have lots of leftovers.
  42. make a big salad for dinner. Any family members that aren't cool with that can fix a bowl of cereal.
  43. be proud of the fact that when you kiss a boo-boo your child immediately feels better.
  44. not keep soda in your house for guests.
  45. feel a little hurt when your child won't hug or kiss you.
  46. be the bad guy.
  47. not force your kids to drink milk. They can get those nutrients from other dairy products (obviously) but also from foods like nuts, greens, and beans.
  48. feel bad if your kid says you're "stinky" or "yucky." Just because he says it doesn't make it true, though.
  49. put a time limit on how long you'll push the swing at the playground.
  50. have dust bunnies under your bed.
  51. get wistful, thinking about the days before marriage/kids/homeownership/massive debts.
  52. not cook for a big crowd of guests. Order in pizza or get some platters of food and everyone will survive.
  53. remember fondly those times you'd sleep in and just stay under the covers, watching Lifetime movies all day.
  54. have days when you'd prefer to hang out with your dog than your kid.
  55. compliment your own cooking
  56. hate Yo Gabba Gabba (we still think you're cool!)
  57. want nothing to do with the PTA.
  58. not listen to kiddie music. Put on some songs for the whole family to enjoy.
  59. ask for advice and then decide not to take it.
  60. taste your own breastmilk.
  61. not want visitors at the hospital after you give birth.
  62. accept a compliment.
  63. want to run away from home.
  64. send email invitations.
  65. covet another woman's body (she probably doesn't think it's half as awesome as you think it is).
  66. change your pediatrician, ob/gyn, midwife, etc. You don't owe them anything.
  67. use disposable plates for big gatherings.
  68. eat real butter.
  69. not have a theme for your child's birthday party.
  70. have a glass of wine.
  71. assemble a Halloween costume from stuff you already own (tutu + cape = Super Ballerina!).
  72. only invite your child's closest friends to birthday parties.
  73. exchange a gift that you don't need or want.
  74. not dress your daughter in pink or your son in blue.
  75. be flexible.
  76. hate - I'm talkin' the fire of 1,000 suns kind of hate - ear infections. 
  77. resent everyone else in the world when you're on your hands and knees, cleaning up vomit.
  78. not make your child hug someone (even if it's a loving relative).
  79. eat olives, pickles, or marinated artichoke hearts right out of the jar.
  80. talk to yourself as kindly as you would to your child. (If your child made a mistake, would you berate him, call him dumb? Nope. So, don't do it to yourself.)
  81. treat yourself to groceries delivered instead of facing the schlep to and from the store with the stroller.
  82. take your kids out for a hike, if only to ensure they'll sleep more soundly later.
  83. like grilled cheese sandwiches as much as your kids do.
  84. feel lonely, even if you're in a houseful of children.
  85. give a compliment to someone you don't particularly like.
  86. crave a soda once in a while. Yes, you know it's the ultimate junk but you also know it tastes good (especially with pizza).
  87. be silly.
  88. break your own rules sometimes.
  89. indulge your child's food idiosyncrasies ("The peanut butter has to go on top of the jelly, Mom!").
  90. think Shrek is overrated.
  91. get back in bed after dropping your kids off at school.
  92. spend some money on new undies to replace those period panties you've kept for far too long.
  93. keep a potty in every room of your house.
  94. scrape your child's plate into the compost bin or garbage bag - don't be so worried about "wasting" that you eat something you don't really want.
  95. use ear plugs when the noise level in your house is just unbearable.
  96. be psyched that - if nothing else was accomplished - at least you brushed your teeth this morning.
  97. not want to defend or explain breast-feeding.
  98. put on makeup or perfume even if you're not going anywhere. 
  99. send the laundry out this week - folding sheets alone is sometimes lonely.
  100. do a little extra today with every intention of doing zero tomorrow.
  101. think you're the only one with all these crazy, conflicted feelings. But you're totally not.

What do you beat yourself up about? Post your additions to the list in the comments below and I will officially let you off the hook!
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