Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tasty Tuesday - Tostadas

I love, love these tostadas. When I first made them, I think I exclaimed out loud "This is the greatest thing I ever ate!" Which might be an exaggeration, but every time we make them, Patrick and I sit there and go "mmmmmmmm" with the first bite. There is just something about them.

Not only are they insanely delicious, but they are so super fast. Talk about a quick lunch or dinner, you can be eating these things in 15 minutes.


1 chopped avocado
1 (or 2 if you use little ones like romas) chopped seeded tomatoes
a couple stalks of green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 a fresh lime, juiced
1/2 diced jalapeno
Pinch of salt

1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 diced jalapeno
1/2 a fresh lime, juiced
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp water
Pinch of Salt

Whole Wheat Tortillas
Monterrey Jack Cheese
Shredded iceberg lettuce

Preheat broiler and combine all ingredients for the salsa in a small bowl.

Combine all ingredients for beans in a food processor and give it a whir until the beans are smooth.
Place tortillas on baking sheet and spread the black bean mixture on top. Top with cheese. Broil for about 3 minutes or until cheese bubbles and tortilla edges are brown. This goes super fast, don't leave the kitchen even for a second and keep your eye on the tortillas. They can go from cooked to burned in seconds.

Top each with lettuce and salsa, sour cream and anything else you want.

Nutrition: Protein, Fiber, Omega-3, a ton of Omega-6, Folate, Vitamin K, B6, Calcium

Monday, February 22, 2010

Book Review - Your Best Birth

Your Best Birth: Know All Your Options, Discover the Natural Choices, and Take Back the Birth Experience
by Ricki Lake, Abby Epstein, Jacques Moritz

While Ina May Gaskin certainly was the leader in bringing midwifery back into American homes, Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein are grabbing the baton and making midwifery better known today. Your Best Birth is a down to earth, no nonsense approach to describing the female body during labor and birth and describing medical interventions that are prevalent in the United States. Lake and Epstein are the makers of the documentary film The Business of Being Born (which if you haven't seen you must Netflix immediately and move to the top of your queue). Their documentary is what convinced me I want a home birth (though, I have to go to Tennessee to get one) and has enlightened many, many women throughout the U.S. on unnecessary interventions in the obstetrical community.

What I enjoyed most about this book was their chapter on the female body and the cascades of hormones that release when an unmedicated woman is in labor. They beautifully describe the hormones that trigger labor, dilation, and contractions. That one hormone release results in another hormone release to start the most amazing process of all human life. The book also outlines the many synthetic drugs that try to mimic these natural hormones, but each can not compare to the natural wisdom, and each comes with its own set of side effects that creates a cascade of interventions because the drugs can not work in harmony and force the body into an unnatural rhythm that often does not work according to plans, as opposed to letting the body do what it knows how to do. They also describe the uterus as an amazing muscle that stretches to the size of a watermelon at full term and within minutes is down to the size of a grapefruit. There is no other muscle or organ in the human body with such ability. This organ should be celebrated! The entire process leaves me in absolute awe of our Lord.

The book doesn't carry the same home birth centered tone that Business of Being Born carries. Instead, it carries a more natural-minded birth whether in the hospital, at home, with an OB, or with a midwife. They do outline all of a woman's choices, and I think this book would be excellent in preparation for ANY birth, whether a woman wants to be knocked out dead for her birth, or have no interventions, this book in the very least educates women on their body's abilities and empowers them to make a decision for their birth on their own terms, as opposed to just doing whatever their OB tells them to do. This book helps women to think about their birth as an experience that each woman gets to personally design, as opposed to just going through the motions.

I got the sense in this book that they really want you to feel as though you are sitting down with them to have a cup of coffee and chat about birth, with their modern voice and personal tone that sets this book from the beginning. I found that much of Lake and Epstein's research came from Ina May Gaskin's Ina May's Guide to Childbirth (will review later). Much of the information is the same in the two books, except that Your Best Birth does not include the personal research or years of hands on experience that comes from being a midwife. Instead, YBB is from a mother's and a woman's perspective, also having a fresh modern tone, that many young women and mothers might appreciate. I personally like Ina May's book better, and would recommend that book above any other childbirth book, but if you read a 2nd, take a look at YBB.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Puddles of Chocolate?

Even though I don't like much of any food right now, these cookies look so unbelievably good I might have to make them. There is absolutely nothing healthy about them and even Heidi (the author) says that she usually features sweets with nutritional value (i.e. whole grains, lower sugar, etc) but she loves these cookies so much she couldn't help but post them. I am going to make a chocolate pie this weekend (I'll save that for a Tasty Tuesday) for a potluck I have on Sunday, else I might run out and make these cookies. Let me know if you try them.. I'm dying to have one!

Friday, February 12, 2010

2nd Trimester!

Today is the first day of my second trimester! It is almost bitter-sweet, like I'm passing a grand milestone. It makes my pregnancy more real, especially since I'm getting this pooch. A friend looked at me intently last Sunday and set "Yep, that's a pooch." But look at it now! I can not believe how much I popped this week. I don't know what little scooter is doing in there, but I just got huge this week. I actually didn't even know I was this big until Patrick took this picture a little bit ago. It shocked even me. I really didn't think I'd get so poochy so soon, but I do have a short torso, so maybe there is nowhere for it to go but out! But I love it, I think its just a precious pooch.

I want to share my first trimester maintenance. Through trial and error I found what worked for me to ease my discomfort (mainly nausea) and what I just had to live through. Week 5 was by far my worst since I had such a wicked cold just as I started to get really nauseous. Weeks 7-10ish was off and on for me, with a nagging constant dry queasiness that I just learned to live with. Weeks 11-13 have been mostly good with only 1 or 2 hard days. So here is my maintenance routine:

1) Drink tons of water! I aim for about 100 oz a day. Since my post on water in December, I'd say this is time tested now, and it is so true that not drinking enough water makes me feel worse the next day. Much worse.
2) Never (never, never) let myself get hungry. If I was actually hungry, then it was too late and I was already queasy. This led to eating every hour at least every two hours.
3) Consistently take ginger and alfalfa supplements. I take the lowest recommended dose on the bottle. My midwife even told me to keep taking the alfalfa all throughout pregnancy because it is so good for you (and will produce "copious amounts of breast milk").
4) During Week 5 when the nausea was really bad I drank a ginger tea consisting of concentrated ginger drops in hot water. This helped a lot, but soon I equated ginger with nausea and I still hate even the smell of ginger.
5) Ginger candies. I got these at my local natural pharmacy. They helped with the dry queasiness.
6) Always eat before going to sleep, which prevented me from waking up feeling too nauseous.
7) My husband makes me breakfast every morning and brings it to me in bed. I eat before I do anything else, even before I get up to pee.

I hope, well, that a) a new mom finds my list and 2) that some of the things may work for her!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tasty Tuesday

Tasty Tuesday isn't so tasty today. I ask, what pregnant woman hates food? Me. I hate the thought, smell, taste, action of eating, anything that has to do with food, I want none of it. I'm hoping I will get my appetite back in my 2nd trimester (which starts this weekend!), but right now, every meal is a chore.

My husband does a really good job of taking care of my nutritional needs, so I'm doing ok in the health/nutrition department, but only cause he cooks and puts it in front of me. Last night in the grocery store I was whining "But Baby, I hate dinner." He reminded me I already stated that I hated food, so hating dinner was assumed. The only food item I willingly eat is fruit. And its still winter. Not a good time for fruit. I've broken my rule of buying fruit outside of the US just because I really want some fruit. But it was hard and crunchy so that didn't help. :\

Share your experiences! Did you have a love or hate relationship with food while you were pregnant?

Monday, February 8, 2010

My First Child

My first child is actually not my current bun in the oven.
That's right.
I have another child.

He's orange, furry, and slightly rotund. He loves tuna, a good nap, and a long rub on the chin. His name is Oliver, and yes, he's feline.

I can't possibly go on with this blog without writing a somewhat obsessive post about my dear kitty because he's just a part of me. If you know me, you know Oliver.

I adopted Oliver in College Station, TX from an animal shelter in 2002. He was 8 weeks old, and he actually picked me. I was at the shelter, looking at a kennel full of orange kittens. All I really wanted out of life was a big fat orange cat, and I was wondering which of these tiny kittens might grow up to be a "big fat orange cat". I sifted through the kittens and picked up would-be-Oliver and he lunged at me, latching himself onto my face. I, slightly panicked to have 20 tiny claws in various parts of my neck, cheek, and hair, wondered how extensive the damage would be if I pryed him off. I decided it was too risky, and pointing at my face said "I'll take this one."

One by one, his claws retracted and I had to hand him over to the staff, who's policy was to whisk him away to the vet to get shots and to have him fixed. So, the next day, I picked him up from the vet, brought him home, and he immediately fell asleep nestled against my neck. He never had a freak out moment again like in the shelter, so I assume it was because of the chaos and dogs barking, because once I got him home, he made himself right at home and we instantly bonded. He has slept snuggled up against my back pretty well every night for the last 7 years. When he was a baby, I was afraid I might roll over on him and suffocate him. Now, I'm afraid he might roll over on me. As you can see, he met and exceeded my expectations of being large, and orange. He's 3 feet long from head to tail and weighs 22 pounds. Yes, he could afford to lose a few pounds, but a even a svelte Oliver would probably be about 16 pounds. He's just a big kitty. The better to keep me warm.

He's been through college, grad school, 5 moves, countless road trips, a year long stint in Kansas City, a second rather surly kitty, my marriage, and now he'll have a human baby to contend with. I think he'll be a great big brother though!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Like a Burnin' Ring of Fire

I had a friend ask me a few weeks ago what I would do about heartburn. I don't really get heartburn (yet) so I didn't have a good answer for her. But I added it to my "to learn" list. I have been really fascinated by what I have learned about acid and alkaline foods. This is probably going to be a long one, but its good stuff that I didn't know until I started this mini research project.

An Overview of Acids and Alkalines
Acids, defined by Webster are "proton donors that yield hydronium ions in water solution, or electron-pair acceptors that combine with electron-pair donors or bases." Or simply put, acids release hydrogens. Which means that alkalines, or bases, remove hydrogens. Ph is a measurement of hydrogens in a solution on a scale from 1 to 14, with 7 being neutral. A pH below 7 is acidic and a pH above 7 is alkaline. Acids are things that taste particularily sour, while akalkines are bitter.

That said, all foods are either acids or alkalines. When a food enters your stomach it either creates hydrogens or removes hydrogens. To digest the foods, your stomach secretes hydrochloric acid. Your pancreas then secretes bicarbonate which neutralizes the stomach acid so that pancreatic enzymes can work properly. Anything that upsets the acid alkaline balance can have an impact on the digestive system. An acid alkaline balance doesn't just affect digestion, however. Many other body parts hop on board to try to keep your system in a good balance. These functions include respiration, excretion, digestion, and cellular metabolism. Your lungs aid in regulating the acid alkaline balance by eliminating carbon dioxide from the blood. Your kidney also responds to the ph of the blood. If your blood is too acidic, the kidney excretes extra hydrogens into the urine and retains extra sodium. Phosphorus in the form of phosphate is needed for this exchange. The body obtains this phosphorus from your bones if it is not available elsewhere.

These processes also have an effect on many aspects of your health. Not just preventing heartburn, but controlling free radicals which cause aging and many types of sicknesses and even cancer. Free radicals are extremely reactive and are often associated with cell damage, mutations, and even malignancies. A free radical is any kind of atom that has split (has an unpaired electron) and become unstable. Extra hydrogen atoms caused by unbalanced diet high in acidic foods, can split and become unstable if they are not removed by alkaline foods. This is where the famous antioxidants come in. Antioxidants repair split atoms by giving them an electron, making them whole again.

A lot of the research I have done on this subject has been on preventative and cancer treatment websites. These treatments are high alkaline diets that are thought to help in cancer treatments; my guess is by repairing damaged cells and not causing other cells to damage. I think they also might be aiming to change their blood pH, which may or may not be possible. But if your blood is too acidic you can become very, very, very sick (like cancers and whatnot).

I want to stress that your body's pH is completely different from your blood pH. Some resources I have found state that any diet aiming to change your blood pH is a bunch of baloney and you should laugh at them. This may be true, but I think when homeopathic doctors and natural nutritionists suggest you can affect your pH balance positivily or negatively by what you eat, they are talking about the pH of cells and bodily fluids. You can have a healthy bodliy pH range between 6.5 and 7.5, while the blood changes very, very little. A blood pH of 7.35 is healthy, but if it dips down to 7.2, you die. You can measure your body pH with urine and saliva tests; which I stress, is different from blood pH. BUT.. we're talking about heartburn here, not cancer!

Acid/Alkaline and Heartburn
Acidic foods are acidic by the process in the body, not by taste. Remember, acidic foods are ones that release hydrogens. In the stomach, acidic foods are ones that cause the stomach to spasm and twitch which creates more stomach acid and more stomach gas. The harder your stomach has to work to digest something, the more acid it will create. When this acid and gas comes back up through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), either by pushing on the LES, or if the LES is already relaxed and open, then you get heartburn.

Heartburn during Pregnancy
Many women experience heartburn for the first time during pregnancy because of the ever-so-important hormone, progesterone. Progesterone tends to relax many, many parts of your body (good for childbirth, not so great for stomach acid). Progesterone tends to relax the LES causing it to open, which allows stomach acid to pass up in the esophagus without much effort. Another reason women get heartburn late in their pregnancy is because your growing uterus presses on the intestines causing the acids to push up. So we already have our bodies working against us in preventing heartburn, so we need to be particularly attentive to acid and alkaline foods. Eating less acid foods will create less acid that can be pushed back up. Can you completely prevent heartburn in pregnancy? I don't know. If you get heartburn you can try to eat more alkaline foods and reduce your acidic foods, and if you still get it, just keep reducing those acidic foods to see if it helps.

Acid/Alkaline Foods
So we know that a diet rich in acidic foods causes heartburn, and potentially worse ailments, so its time to look at a list of acid and alkaline foods. Personally, I was shocked to learn exactly which is which. It may surprise you.
Here's a great, to the point, list of acid and alkaline foods I found.
What I found particularly surprising is that fruits that we think of as very acidic like lemons, oranges, and grapefruit are actually alkaline, with lemons listed as "extremely alkalizing". I did some research on this and found that yes, these fruits are alkaline in the stomach, but citric acid does cause the LES to relax, so that is something to watch. Whole grains are also acidic. But almost all vegetables (except potatoes) and fruits (except cranberries) are alkaline. I love the fact that chili peppers are alkaline! People think that spicy foods are giving them heartburn, when in fact it is probably what the spice is on! Fried hot wings, chili dogs, chili with all its red meat. It is red meat and processed foods creating the acid reflux, not the actual chilies! Instant and highly processed foods such as hot dogs, potato chips, white flour, white sugar, and cows milk (pasteurized), as well as red meats like beef and pork are all highly acidic. Milk - one of the foods that we generally consider to be very basic actually produces stomach acid because of its pasteurization process. More stomach acid needs to be produced in order to digest these highly processed products.

I should also point out that in that list, it states at the bottom that an alkaline diet depletes your body of potassium and they recommend taking a potassium supplement. Like all good balance, you need a BALANCE. This would include both acid and alkaline foods in your diet and striving to maintain a good Ph. I think eating nothing but alkaline foods would be like eating no fat. Fat, even though the word itself even sounds dirty, is essential to proper nutrition, and so are acids. So please don't take the supplement, just eat good food.

There are a couple of natural remedies that I know of for heartburn (besides eating alkaline foods). One is papaya enzyme. My midwife suggested it to me for gas and it works wonders for preventing gas and heartburn. Another natural remedy is chewing on fennel seeds. I haven't tried the fennel seeds, so I can not vouch for taste or effectiveness, but if you have some lying around, give it a shot! Otherwise, if and when I do feel the burn, I think I'll grab a soothing pear or some watermelon!