Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Summer Squash Bread

I'm really lovin this Squash Bread.  The original recipe from Heidi is made from Zucchini, but I have an abundance of squash in my new garden and needed something to make with it besides pickles.  Yes, I have made 9 jars of squash pickles so far.  I've given away maybe 2 dozen fresh squash and yet they just keep coming!  That is really the joy of growing your own food.  Watching the little plants spring up practically overnight and becoming a tangled web of vines that you wonder if it is going to open your door and bind you up in the middle of the night.  Ok, I haven't actually had nightmares that my squash is going to eat me, but I am definitely enjoying eating it.

This recipe may border on weird for some of you but I promise the flavors and seasonings are stellar together in the bread.  Walnuts, poppy seeds, candied ginger, curry, and a touch of lemon fragrantly season this Thai spiced bread.  All of these ingredients are optional, but doing it "fully loaded" won't disappoint.  The squash bake right in and practically disappear.  I would have no idea that there is vegetables in it if I didn't make it myself.  

Heidi's Zucchini (or Squash) Bread

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus a few to sprinkle on top
1/3 cup poppy seeds (optional)
zest of two lemons (optional)
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (optional)

1/2 cup unsalted butter ( I used fragrant coconut oil)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fine grain natural cane sugar or brown sugar, lightly packed
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon curry powder (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the two loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside. Alternately, you can line the pans with a sheet of parchment. 

In a small bowl combine the walnuts, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and curry powder. 

In a separate large bowl or mixer, beat the butter (or coconut oil) until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini (low speed if you are using a mixer).  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.

By hand, fold in the walnut, poppy seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter, it should be thick and moist, not unlike a butter cream frosting.

Divide the batter equally between two 5x9 loaf pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40-45 minutes on a middle oven rack. Err on the side of under cooking this bread because you don't want it to dry out. Keep in mind it will continue to cook even after it is removed from the oven as it is cooling. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling so it will not become soggy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Not even in moderation: Soda

Soda!?  I'm sure about 99% of America drinks soda daily, whether in regular or diet form.  I believe that soda made the old fashioned way, while still terrible for you (hello 40 g of sugar!) is a lot more tolerable than the way soda is made today.  If you really want a soda, in moderation, you should go for an "all natural" variety - one without artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors.  But even that, after reading the following, may not sound like such a good idea.

In the words of the website Dr.Momma.org:

According to the Nutrition Research Center, this is what happens to your body within one hour of drinking a can of soda:

-10 minutes: 10 teaspoons of sugar hit your system, which is 100 percent of your recommended daily intake. You'd normally vomit from such an intake, but the phosphoric acid cuts the flavor.

-20 minutes: Your blood sugar skyrockets. Your pancreas attempts to maximize insulin production in order to turn high levels of sugar into fat.

-40 minutes: As your body finishes absorbing the caffeine, your pupils dilate, your blood pressure rises, and your liver pumps more sugar into the bloodstream. Adenosine receptors in your brain are blocked preventing you from feeling how tired you may actually be.

-45 minutes: Your body increases dopamine production, causing you to feel pleasure and adding to the addictiveness of the beverage. This physical neuro response works the same way as it would if we were consuming heroin.

<60 minutes: The phosphoric acid binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, which boosts your metabolism a bit further. High doses of sugar and artificial sweeteners compound this effect, increasing the urinary excretion of calcium. The caffeine’s diuretic properties come into play. (You have to GO!) Your body will eliminate the bonded calcium, magnesium and zinc that was otherwise heading to your bones. And you will also flush out the sodium, electrolytes and water. Your body has eliminated the water that was in the soda. And in the process it was infused with nutrients and minerals your body would have otherwise used to hydrate your system or build body cells, bones, teeth.

>60 minutes: The sugar crash begins. You may become irritable and/or sluggish. You start feeling like crap. Time to grab another? 

That description makes me want to cringe from all the times I drank soda.  Can you imagine the people that drink almost nothing but soda all day?  How really horrible they must feel and not even know it?  Or they know it and are attributing it to being tired, not getting enough sleep, allergies, stress, thinking they are getting sick, etc.  And to see children drinking this stuff?  Lord, help us all.  

Some people may think that Diet Soda has to be better because it doesn't have the sugar.  Here's another excerpt from the same site on Diet Soda:

A study from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center reported that healthy women who drank diet cola excrete more calcium and phosphorous than non-cola drinkers.  The findings were presented by Dr. Noelle Larson in a presentation at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society and focused only on diet soda. She focused on diet cola mainly because of observations that young women tend to drink large amounts of diet cola.

In the study, 20 healthy women were randomized to drink 24 ounces of water or diet cola on two different days. Their urine was collected repeatedly up to three hours later. Those who drank diet cola excreted more calcium and phosphorous than the control group. The mean calcium excretion three hours after drinking cola was 6.85 milligrams higher than after drinking water. Mean phosphorous excretion was 41 milligrams higher in the cola group than the control group, according to the abstract.

Calcium and phosphorus are both important nutrients that work together to build strong bones and teeth. Previous studies have reported that cola drinkers (both diet and regular soda) have lower bone mineral density and increased fracture rate compared to non-cola drinkers.

“Our study suggests that diet cola ingestion may result in a negative calcium balance acutely in young, otherwise healthy women,” wrote Larson and her colleagues in the abstract. “This may help explain the clinically observed decrease in [bone mineral density] and increased fracture rate in women who consume these drinks regularly.”  

So there you have it.  Soda, even in moderation, just should not be consumed. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Not even in moderation: Trans Fat

Recently a friend was talking about how she wanted to feed her child healthier snacks.  Her typical snack includes Oreos and other boxed crackers and cookies.  She knows that these things are not healthy but she made the statement "there is nothing wrong with it in moderation."  Being the compassionate friend that I am *eh-hem*, I blurted out unceremoniously "YES THERE IS!"  You hear the term "everything in moderation" all the time.  Weight Watchers has made an empire and has helped millions lose weight (or not lose weight) with that very mantra.  However, I have to argue that there are some things that should never be consumed, not even in moderation.  That statement has prompted me to do a mini research project on things I believe are not ok, not even in moderation.  The first ingredient that should never be consumed is trans fat which most often comes in the form of partially hydrogenated oils.

Partially hydrogenated oils are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  In 1890 the chemistry of hydrogenation was born.  At first it was just done to vapors, but then in 1901 it was done to liquid oils. Hydrogenation adds hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats, eliminating double bonds and making them into complete or partial saturated fats.  Partial hydrogenation converts them into trans-unsaturated fats instead of hydrogenating them completely.  This turns liquid fats into solids and makes them stable, increasing shelf life and allowing them to be unrefrigerated.  In 1911, Proctor & Gamble started making the first hydrogenated shortening, Crisco.

Why was it invented?
Prior to 1910, dietary fats consisted of mostly butterfat, beef tallow, and lard.  When the U.S. started growing soybeans they had an abundance of soybean oil and looked for something to do with it.  Meanwhile there was a shortage of butter, so they started hydrogenating the soybean oil to make it solid and *poof* you have a cheap substitute for butter that they would call margarine.  People liked margarine because you could spread it on a piece of toast right out of the refrigerator, unlike butter.  Hydrogenated oils also worked better in baked goods than lard.  Production of hydrogenated oils increased steadily until the 1960's as it was cheaper than butter and then people began to argue that trans fats or margarine was healthier than saturated fats of butter.  Processed foods like packaged cookies and cakes often have partially hydrogenated oils so they have a long shelf life.  If they were made with real food ingredients like butter, they would have to be refrigerated and would go bad within a week.  This is the main reason trans fat bombard our grocery shelves.

The problem
As early as 1956 there was suggestion that trans fats were increasing coronary artery disease but it mostly went unstudied until the 1990's.  In 1994 it was estimated that trans fat alone caused 30,000 deaths in the U.S. each year from heart disease.  By 2006 it was estimated that around 206,000 deaths were caused by trans fat.  Trans fat increases LDL (bad cholesterol) while also decreasing HDL (good cholesterol).  In comparison, saturated fat increases LDL but it does not decrease HDL.  The health concerns are not just heart disease, but trans fat has been linked to Alzheimers, Cancer, Diabetes, Obesity (duh on that one), Liver Dysfunction, Infertility in women, and depression.

FDA has required labeling of trans fat on nutrition labels but the problem is that they only require it to be listed if it has .5 g or more.  So a product can contain .49 g per serving and it will show as 0 g trans fat and even be advertised as "Trans Fat Free".  This is why it is so important to read the ingredients.  Anything that has "partially hydrogenated oils" in the ingredient list means that it has trans fat and you should drop it like its hot.

With that long list of adverse health effects, this is why I say that trans fat is not ok to eat, even in moderation, yet most of America eats them daily.  If our food industry doesn't have a serious overhaul in the next few years, all of our children will be consuming these fats whether you want them to or not, probably daily.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Curing a sinus infection naturally

I haven't featured a lot of natural remedies on this blog because *toot my own horn* I don't really get sick much.  When I do, I usually do absolutely nothing and just ride it out.  However, this year, I have had a cold several times.  I blame the toddler.  This past cold has lasted in some form or another, seven weeks now.  I was sick (achy, congested, sneezy, lethargic) for about two days and then I had congested sinuses pretty much every night for the next five weeks, until it came to a head again about two weeks ago with sever congestion, sneezing, and otherwise utter sinus misery.  My nose was so stuffy I thought I might suffocate.  Unfortunately, congestion is REALLY hard to get rid of naturally.  If I wasn't nursing I might have just taken a Benadryl and called it a day.  Even if I didn't avoid chemical medication, decongestants have always given me terrible side effects including restlessness, out of body experiences and feeling just plain high.  Decongestants are absolutely not safe for pregnant and nursing moms.  I finally decided that I must have a sinus infection (though I don't know for sure).  After all, you can't be stuffy for two weeks and not have it worsen.  Once I figured out to treat an infection instead of just the symptoms, I started to get better.

Here's what works and what doesn't for me.  Any number of these remedies might work for you depending on the severity and the cause of your congestion.

For congestion:

Worked for me:
Boil a pot of water and remove it from the stove.  Add 3 or 4 drops of tea tree oil.  Cover your head and pot with a towel and inhale (as much as you can).  You will need to inhale for 5 to 10 minutes.  This helped, but only for 10 or 15 minutes, then the congestion was back.

Didn't work for me (but may for other types of congestion):
- Neti Pot - this is great if you have allergies and need to flush something out of your nose.  It is also good to use if you have a sinus infection to keep the mucus moving.
- Stinging Nettle - this only works if you have a true allergy.  Take capsules or drink tea.  Can be taken regularly through allergy season to avoid allergy flare ups.
- Bamboo Extract - I have no idea what this was supposed to do, but I went to my herbalist in a state of desperation asking for something that will "clear my nose and do it TODAY." I choked up the $42 and took it for 3 days and it did nothing to clear my congestion  Maybe it would help to get over the cold, but I don't know.  Bamboo extract should not be taken during pregnancy. 
- Saline Spray - Good for "light" congestion associated with pregnancy or allergies.  Doesn't help for inflamed sinus passages like I have.

For the infection:
Grapefruit Seed Extract - This is really the only treatment I have tried that has given me relief.  GSE is a strong natural antibiotic and works really well against fungus also.  You can buy a spray from NutriBiotics that is a GSE spray, or you can make your own by adding 2 oz of distilled water and 3 drops of GSE to an eye dropper.  Tilt your head back and drop a whole eye dropper full into each nostril and swing your head forward so that it is upside down.  Hold like this for 20 or 30 seconds for it to fill your sinuses.  Bring your head back to upright and let it drain and blow your nose gently.  Obviously, the pre-made nasal spray is going to be easier.  Do this every hour or as close to every hour as possible for a week.  I know it sounds like a lot, but it depends on how desperate you are to avoid antibiotics.  I didn't start doing this until just Saturday, and my nose finally started to clear (at least during the day) by Monday.  It isn't fast, but it works.  If I would have started the GSE nasal spray weeks ago, I bet I wouldn't be going through this now.

Another GSE option is to use it in a Neti Pot.  Add 2 or 3 drops to your pot and flush.  Do this every hour.

I also think you should take GSE internally.  You can get capsules or take the liquid in some sort of beverage.  It tastes terrible so you need a strong beverage (perhaps some decaf coffee).  Take this several times a day.

General tips
- Avoid dairy like the plague.  Dairy thickens your mucus and it will make you so much more miserable.  I know, I ate frozen yogurt one night and the congestion was instantly magnified.
- Take something to thin your mucus.  Fenugreek thins mucus and moves it out of the body (not to be used during pregnancy, but is great while lactating).  Warm lemon water or apple cider vinegar does too.  Squeeze a whole lemon into 8 oz of water.  Sweeten with stevia and drink regularly.  Or add 2 tbspns of ACV to 8 oz of water and drink.  I didn't do the ACV, but I've read it thins mucus quite well.  You need your mucus thin and watery not thick, slimy, and green.
- Drink lots of water.  That will thin your mucus too.
- Avoid sugar.  Sugar weakens your immune system and if you have an infection, sugar will feed it.
- Take an immune booster.  Astragulus or Black Elderberry, and always take Vitamin C.  Echinacea is a good option too.

Internal infections are really hard to get rid of naturally.  You'll have to really be persistent and throw some good stuff at it.  But it can be done.  I'm still trying to get rid of mine, and I've been taking the GSE for 5 days now.  If you know of any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Who's "still" nursing?

Well, here it is.  The cover of Time Magazine for May 2012.   I'd say its a pretty great cover considering the point of a magazine cover is to draw attention, and boy, has it.  A thin model-like woman breast feeding a nearly four year old boy.  Of course they chose a pretty young woman and of course they chose a pretty young woman with a child that looks more man than child.  And of course they are in a position that one would never use to breast feed a child so we can all see exactly how big the boy is.  I do appreciate TIME magazine covering extended breast feeding and am glad that it is getting publicity, but they could have done a better job if they really wanted to.  But they didn't really want to, they wanted to shock.  

I absolutely believe that extended breast feeding (breast feeding beyond the age of one year) should be seen as normal and should be talked about but I really think TIME missed the mark on this one.  I believe this is a step back.  This is not going to make anyone see that breast feeding a nearly four year old is normal or natural.  There is not much natural about the picture to begin with.  Here are some pictures that I think better deserve a cover of a magazine and an article on parenting.

this child is also three

The only way we Americans are going to see "awkward" things as normal, natural, and beautiful is to be exposed to them in positive, reassuring ways.  If you talk to a mom who breast fed her children into toddlerhood or beyond and talks positively about it, you are likely going to think good thoughts about that situation.  Myself for example, I always knew I wanted to breast feed my child beyond infancy because I was breast fed until I was two and a half.  My mom always talked about it in a joyful way, telling me that she enjoyed it and I know how healthy I am and how healthy she is partially because of breast feeding, so I knew I wanted to do it too.  We need to encourage one another in our abilities and choices.  Not make it into a competition or laughing stock (thank you, Saturday Night Live).

Which leads me to the subtitle.  Why is it that here in America we have to make everything out to be a competition?  The subtitle says "Are you mom enough?"  I never knew I could be more of a mom than someone else.  Either you are a mom or you are not, there are not degrees of motherhood.  And just because the skinny blonde can breast feed till almost four years old does not mean that everyone can or will.  If you breast feed till four, that is great!  Good for you!  If you breast feed till two, that is great!  Good for you!  If you breast feed for one year, that is great!  Good for you!  And if you bottle feed because you or your child needs it, that is great!  Good for you!  Making someone feel inadequate or making it into a competition where you measure yourself up to what everyone else is doing is a big step backward.

The cover also says "Why Attachment Parenting drives some mothers to extremes.."  Which is a condemnation of extended breast feeding in my opinion.  It is saying that anyone who breast feeds till three or four years old is "extreme".  Maybe it is here, but it really isn't that extreme in other parts of the world.  Why also do we have to follow some method of parenting to "extremes" anyway?  Can we not think for ourselves?  We have to have Dr. Sears or the Ezzos or Ferber telling us what to do with our child every moment of the day?  Why can't we do what is natural to us and what makes sense for our family?  Why do we so often do things just because our friend told us to, or not to, or because Grandma told us to, or not to, or because some author who doesn't know me told me to, or not to?  I think if we take a step back and start looking at parenting truly as family centered (what is best for MY family, regardless of what my neighbor does) then we would have a lot more happy parents and children, and we would have a whole lot more peace about our personal decisions.

Lots of moms all over the world are still nursing, or nursing for the first time, or nursing for the last time. More people than we know are still nursing because they only nurse at home and don't talk about it for fear their friends and strangers will think they are weird.  But it isn't weird, its just weird to our culture.  I was recently called a "third world country mama" teasingly by a friend who found out I am "still" nursing.  Yet there are many other cultures, not just third-world cultures that nurse way longer than Americans do.  Most Europeans wouldn't bat an eye at a two year old nursing.  Maybe we will catch up some day, then we will start having some more positive experiences to share of people who are "still" nursing.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Strawberry Cake

One of our favorite spring time activities is picking strawberries at the local strawberry farm. Rows and rows of sun warmed fresh strawberries; one for my mouth, one for the bucket. My little strawberry picker was great at it! She knew to pick only the red ones and she loved to eat all she could. The local U-pick places don't like to use pesticides because they cost money, so they generally do not use chemicals unless they think they might lose the crop. That way we know we can eat strawberries off the plant and we don't really worry about chemicals that non-organic strawberries hold from the grocery store.

Because we ended up with two gallon buckets full, I had to figure out a way to use them fast. We froze one bucket, but the bucket we kept fresh went bad pretty fast. So I whipped up this great strawberry cake. When you google search "Strawberry Cake Recipe" you find that those deep red southern favorite cakes start with "white cake mix" and "strawberry flavored gelatin". While this cake isn't near as pretty as those cakes, and is lacking frosting, it certainly isn't lacking sweet deliciousness! It is so moist and so good. I could eat the whole thing myself.

Strawberry Cake

I used fragrant coconut oil instead of butter and let me tell you, it is fabulous! Seriously consider trading your butter in this recipe. Also, I cooked it less than the 1 hour it calls for - a lot less actually, because I cooked it in a toaster oven which cooks faster. But the middle of my cake is pretty gooey (not raw) and I like it that way, so play with the time you cook it. Cook it a little less if you want a softer cake. Also, you could use any berry in this recipe. I'm going to try it with blueberries in the summer.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, or coconut oil, softened, plus more for pie plate
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch pie plate. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together into a medium bowl.

Put butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low; mix in egg, milk, and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Transfer batter to buttered pie plate. Arrange strawberries on top of batter, cut sides down and as close together as possible. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over berries.

Bake cake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool in pie plate on a wire rack. Cut into wedges. Cake can be stored at room temperature, loosely covered, up to 2 days.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

10 reasons why we still nurse

As I nursed my baby before bed tonight I was thinking of how wonderful it is to breastfeed a toddler and how different it is from nursing an infant. Commonly, mothers stop nursing at one year (or sooner) due to a variety of reasons, but I fear mostly it is because breastfeeding a toddler isn't considered normal. There are so many good reasons to continue nursing. Here are my personal top 10.

10. Left the house without a snack? No problem! I self-generate snacks.
9. Toddlers are on the go all the time so sometimes it is really nice to just hold her still in my arms and snuggle.
8. Nursing burns calories like crazy and so I get to eat all the dessert I want!
7. I am healthier. Breastfeeding reduces my risk of breast, ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancers. It protects against osteoporosis, and reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
6. I don't have to worry about if my toddler is eating a balanced diet. Picky? Refusing to eat greens? What about calcium? Is she getting enough fat? I've got it covered.
5. I don't have to roam the halls to get her back to sleep when she wakes in the night.
4. It is my all-purpose mothering tool. Cranky? Let's nurse. Hurt? Let's nurse. Scared? Let's nurse. Nursing is the fastest and easiest way to calm her down whether she took a fall or is having a tantrum.
3. She is healthier. Children's immune systems are not fully developed until the age of 3. While other children may be eating chicken nuggets and chocolate milk, mine is getting breast milk. Because of her diet, environment, and the immunity in breast milk, my child has never had anything more than the sniffles, and she only had that a few times. (I should also point out the fact that she does not have to go to daycare. But she does go to the Y and to the church nursery, so she is exposed to other children several times a week.)
2. The nutrition. Breast milk doesn't have an expiration date. There is no time in a child's life that breast milk is not beneficial or even less beneficial. In the second year (12-23 months), 15 oz of breastmilk provides:
29% of energy requirements
43% of protein requirements
36% of calcium requirements
75% of vitamin A requirements
76% of folate requirements
94% of vitamin B12 requirements
60% of vitamin C requirements.
(From Kellymom.com)
1. The bond. Hands-down, nursing is the most precious to me because of the bond it gives me with my daughter. As her nursing needs have become less pure need and more emotional, nursing is a way for her and I both to say I Love You.

click on the picture to enlarge

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Zucchini Ricotta Cheesecake

It's been awhile since I've featured a recipe. Probably because we eat the same old stuff all the time. I'm sure we all get stuck in the recipe rut. We have a few staples, Rice and Beans, and some sort of soup tend to make our weekly menu. Finally, for Easter we decided to make something new. It's from 101 Cookbooks, as usual, but it branched out of my comfort zone considering I thought it would be eggy. Fortunately, this Zucchini Ricotta Cheesecake was not eggy at all! It was delicious and is a great way to eat less bread and gluten in the morning. It is not at all sweet and not at all like a dessert cheesecake. It was cheese cake in the true sense of the word "cheese."

I'm a terrible photographer, but Heidi is quite good, so check out her website for the pretty pictures of this cheese cake.

Zucchini Ricotta Cheesecake
Heidi made hers in a springform pan. I don't have one, so I just used a pie plate and it worked fine.

2 cups zucchini, unpeeled & grated
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
zest of one lemon
2 large eggs, well beaten
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
drizzle of olive oil

Preheat oven to 325F degrees, racks the middle. Butter/oil a 7-inch springform pan or pie plate.

In a strainer, toss the shredded zucchini with the salt and let sit for ten minutes. Now aggressively squeeze and press out as much moisture as you can. Set aside.

In the meantime, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, shallots, garlic, dill and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Stir in the eggs and continue mixing until well combined. Now stir in the shredded zucchini. Fill the springform pan with the ricotta mixture and place on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for sixty minutes. If there is any moisture left on top of the cake at this point, carefully use a bit of paper towel to dab it off. Now sprinkle with the goat cheese and return to the oven for another 20 -30 minutes or until the goat cheese is melted and the cake barely jiggles in the center (it will set up more as it cools).

At this point, if the cake is baked and set, but the top isn't quite golden, zap it with the broiler (just about a minute) to get a bit more color on top. Remove from the oven and let cool five minutes, then release the cake from its pan. Cool completely, serve at room temperature drizzled with a bit of olive oil and a few sprigs of dill.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Books I Love: The Vaccine Book

OK, so I don't actually love The Vaccine Book, but if it were up to me, each baby would be born with this book.

Did you know you have choices when it comes to what vaccinations you give your baby and even when you give them? I know many, many, too many parents leave all of their children's health care decisions up to the "professional" but YOU know your baby better than anyone and YOU are responsible for your baby's health. The AAP has a recommended vaccination schedule that a group of doctors and the vaccine manufacturers came up with together. The schedule is purely a recommendation and thank God, it is not law. You can actually pick and choose your vaccines, even different brands of the same vaccine, and pick your own schedule. The Vaccine Book by Dr. Robert Sears puts vaccination decisions back in the parent's hands by informing parents of each vaccine.

The book lists each vaccine out on the market today and tells what disease the vaccination targets, how common or rare the disease is, if it is serious, what the vaccine is made of, what the controversial ingredients are, what you should consider by getting it or not getting it, and then a small personal note on the way he sees it. This book is about as unbiased as you are going to get with straight facts (and a sentence or two of Dr. Sears' opinion.) You are not going to get this kind of information at the doctor's office. The doctor is going to tell you what the recommendation is, nothing more, nothing less. They may give you a pamphlet of the vaccines that is made by the manufacturers for parents and only lists what they want you to know. It is going to be completely biased and you are not going to get good information. If you want to really know about vaccines you have to do your own research and this book is a great place to start. In fact, it may be all you need to make your own decisions.

Doctors often do not take too kindly to being told what to do, so you should really shop around for a doctor that fits your philosophy and will treat you, the parent, with respect, and leave the decisions up to you. This is also why they recommend shopping for a ped while you are still pregnant. Not just so you can "get in with the good ones" but so you can find one that fits your parenting philosophies.

Happy reading! Truly making informed decisions about your baby's health is really difficult. You must weigh everything- the facts, your gut instincts, and when you have to make a decision about something so controversial you must pray, pray, pray! After you have weighed all the options you can choose to vaccinate with all the recommended ones, on the recommended schedule, you can choose to vaccinate some on the recommended schedule, you can choose all on a delayed schedule, you can choose some on a delayed schedule, and finally, you can choose none. There are endless combinations and possibilities so don't let anyone else, not your mother, friend, sister, mother-in-law, or even your doctor, decide what you should do. And finally, if you aren't 100% sure, then wait. Don't let anyone jab your baby without your full informed consent. You can always get the vaccine later, but you can never take one back once given.

Further reading, and a preview: The Vaccine Book's Website

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Finishing Potty Learning: An Update!

Isn't she just darling. Sitting on the potty and brushing her teeth. What a big girl!

You can read about our potty learning journey in We Like to Potty, A 3 Week Update, and a How-To as I've learned it.

When I first started helping Mary Abilene learn to use the potty at 12 months, I had a loose goal in my head of her finishing potty training at 18 months. 18 months is still pretty early in this culture, but hey, I'm ambitious. By 17 months I really didn't think we were going to make it, but I'm proud to announce that we did! Mary Abilene now at 18 months and one week has FINISHED potty training. Well, almost. She only wears diapers at night, which is totally fine. I don't expect her to be diaper-free at night for awhile. Especially considering she still nurses at night. The other "almost" part of finishing potty training is that she is not very comfortable using the big potty, which makes it difficult when we are out, and at places where it isn't socially acceptable to carrying around a baby potty.

The Update
Her potty training was stalled somewhere after 14 months. By 13 months she was successfully going in the baby potty and by 14 months she would go on demand, and would hold it for a considerable amount of time. We had taught her a sign to use when she needed to go potty, but she wouldn't use it very often before she had to go, only while she was going. I put her in panties or bloomers at home and never wore diapers at home, except while sleeping. And that's where she stayed until about 17 months. She had a couple of accidents a day, would most always go when we took her, but wouldn't go or tell us she had to go on her own. And then one day I read an article on Baby Center about the Diaper Free Toddler. It was about a method that toilet trains in about three days. You can read the method if you want, I think it is a pretty good idea. We were a little beyond this point, but I did get two major take home points from this and I think these points apply to EVERYONE who is potty learning.

The keys to potty training
1. The child needs to be naked on the bottom all the time while at home
2. The child can only wear loose pants when you are out. No diapers, no underwear, just loose pants.

The article says that you should keep this up for three months. The point of this is so they know when they have to go and know when they have gone. The only way for it to "click" is for them to see when they are going, and connect the feeling with the action. Pants and underwear can feel like a diaper, or can make a child forget that they are not wearing a diaper and then they have accidents.

Once I read this I thought that would help us make progress, so from that point on Mary Abilene ran around our house naked from the waist down. From the very first day that we kept her naked she had remarkable improvement. In fact, that first day, she took herself to the potty twice and she had never done that before! She suddenly started telling us before she had to go, and she would hold it until she was at the potty. I can probably count on one hand how many accidents she had while she was naked in the last month! I also started keeping her out of diapers if we were going on a short trip. I quit using panties and would just use loose pants like the article said. It really worked! And finally, just this weekend, we gave up diapers for good. We had 6 people over at our house on Thursday night and we put pants on her with no diaper. She was super distracted, playing with everyone, and she still used the potty and had no accidents. Because she proved that she could be distracted and remain dry, we took her out Friday night for her first night out diaper-free. We were out for 2.5 hours, went to dinner and the mall, and we took her baby potty with us. She went in it twice and had no accidents! Hooray! Saturday she went to a birthday party, the grocery store, and took a short nap and all day had no accidents and remained dry! So that's it. We get to say "bye bye" to diapers at 18 months of age!

Potty Training at Any Age
A child has been trained for one, two, three, or even four years to potty in their diaper. In every way I treat my daughter I try to look at things from her point of view. Children have been trained to potty in their diaper and sometimes, especially if they are older, it is so ingrained that they have no idea how to go anywhere else than in their diaper. It would be like you, who has learned that the only place you go is in the toilet suddenly being forced to go in a bucket in the living room. This is not where you usually go, this is not even how you are normally sitting when you go. Its hard! You have to be comfortable enough to relax the muscles in order to go. Despite popular opinion, and child's bladder does not just leak. The child has to be relaxed enough to go, just like adults. A child being forced to use the potty after years of going in a diaper may find this a pretty difficult task. Try to approach it from the child's prospective and it might be a bit less frustrating.

This is also why I really believe that potty training at a younger age is easier than potty training at an older age. Sure, it might have taken us six months, and it would only take a 3.5 year old one day, but it was an incredibly relaxed, fun, approach. There was no pressure, no stress, just a lot of fun and enjoyment. Also, I think that Pull-Ups set a child back rather than help. I don't think a child with a Pull-Up on really feels like that old commercial "I'm a big kid now!" because it is just a diaper that can slip on. Because it is a diaper, it feels like a diaper, and your child knows very good and well it is a diaper so they will likely use it like a diaper. In order to potty train, you have to get them out of diapers. Keeping them in diapers or Pull-Ups until they can keep it dry simply doesn't work. I have never potty trained a preschooler, so I know I don't have room to talk, but all the people I know that have potty trained preschoolers quickly and efficiently have gotten rid of diapers completely. They didn't slide into potty learning, they said "That's it, we say 'bye-bye' to diapers. Period" I also know what worked well for us and I know that is the only way I am going to potty train any of my future children. In fact, with my next, I will likely start putty them on the potty as soon as they can sit up. I'm also going to have them naked from the waist down earlier, so my next child might be potty trained even sooner.

Sure, it depends on the child. Absolutely, it depends on their disposition, temperament, personality, etc., but I really think that early potty learning could work for every family who has time to implement it. Day care could complicate things and might take longer, but the director might be willing to help if you tell them this is what you want for you child and that you need their help. Being busy and spending a lot of time out of the house could complicate it too, but the Diaper-Free Toddler (article above) says that you can do it in three days. Just one long weekend at home could be enough.

It is so awesome to have a diaper-free toddler. I want to tell everyone! "Hi, this is my daughter, Mary Abilene. She's potty trained." We have been bragging on her all weekend. We just can't help it, she's so awesome and we are so proud!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bottle Nursing

Nursing a child is so much more than food or nutrition. It is comfort, bonding, showing love, and even the earliest form of communication. Nursing a child doesn't even have to involve the breast. While breast is best, some are unable to breast feed, or need to bottle feed breast milk. Other situations including day care, foster parenting, or leaving baby with daddy or grandma requires bottle feeding. Bottle feeding is not all bad, or even not bad at all, when done in a nurturing way. Unfortunately, I have seen people bottle feeding their children in ways that are neither loving nor nurturing. Bottle feeding in a car seat always breaks my heart. I've seen a lot of variations -propping a bottle up while the parents have dinner, having an older sibling hold a bottle while the infant is in the car seat perched on a grocery cart, they even make an apparatus that holds the bottle tipped upside down and dangles from the car seat handle. I've known people to prop a bottle up while the infant is in the crib (not only is this sad, but it is very dangerous!). And when the baby is old enough to hold their own bottle I've seen parents just lie them on the floor and give them a bottle, or of course, give it to them in the car seat.

To be fair, breast feeding is not always nurturing either. A nursing mom can find ways to busy herself while feeding too, but it is impossible to breast feed and not touch in some way.

You don't have to breast feed in order to nurse. Bottle feeding done in a loving and respectful way is called Bottle Nursing, or bottle feeding using the breast feeding model. Bottle nursing is:

- Holding the baby close while the caregiver focuses on the child. This enables the baby to gaze at your face, smell your scent, feel security in your arms and in essence, bond.
- Holding the baby close and giving comfort while a baby sucks on a pacifier (mimicking the natural comfort sucking done on the breast.)
- Switching sides while feeding to promote eye-hand coordination (and lets face it, to keep your own arm from going to sleep)
- Feeding on demand.
- Carefully observing when the child is finished, being sure not to over-feed. It is easy to over-feed with a bottle because it often pours out with a little manipulation. Over-feeding at the breast is virtually impossible.
- Allowing your child to seek comfort from you, rather than a bottle, pacifier, or thumb. Not that these "transitional objects" are all bad, but they often replace the needed comfort of a parent. These objects can be useful if a child is in day care, or away from the parent for any period of time, but they shouldn't be relied on when the parent, or primary caregiver is near.

Bottle feeding can absolute be a bonding time if you want it to be. If it is not used as simply a convenience tool, and you focus on your child as you bottle feed, bottle feeding can be just as loving and bonding.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: French Onion Soup

French onion soup and Salmon salad. That's what my 18 month old had for lunch yesterday. She actually loves this soup and dips her bread in it like she's been dipping bread in soup all her life! Oh, she has.

There is no such thing as "kid food" in our house. She eats what we eat, and every once in a while I am really surprised by the variety of things she will eat. Like, for example, French Onion Soup. She sops up all the broth with her bread and then eats all the onions out. My husband also said that this is quickly becoming one of his favorite soups, second to Broccoli Cheddar Soup. This recipe is from A New York Times article.

Vegetarian French Onion Soup
The recipe calls for water, and in most recipes, I ignore the water and use veggie broth, but I'd advise actually using water not broth. The miso makes this soup so rich and salty that it can not afford any more salt or flavoring for that matter. Water it is!

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 pounds large Spanish onions, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
8 diagonal slices of baguette (home-made is nice!), about 1/4 inch thick.
1/3 cup miso
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large slices Swiss cheese

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup olive oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring constantly and adjusting heat as needed, until the onions are soft and deep golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow onions to cool in the pan.
2. Brush both sides of the bread slices with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake, turning once, until just crisp, about 4 minutes a side. Remove from oven and set aside.
3. Pour 3 cups of water into a 2 quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Add miso, thyme, and cooked onions; mix well. Simmer and season with salt and pepper as needed.
4. Preheat a broiler. Place a large oven-proof serving bowl or four small oven-proof bowls on a broiling pan or small baking sheet. Pour the hot soup into the large bowl or divide among the small bowls. Place the croutons on top of the soup, and top with Swiss cheese slices. Place the pan holding the soup directly under the broiler until the cheese is melted, and the soup is bubbling. Serve immediately.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Changing sleep = better sleep?

I'm pretty sure that if my friends knew how often my 18 month old daughter woke to nurse in the night my mailbox would be stuffed full of BabyWise. But we don't do BabyWise - not in the slightest. We have not, and will not Cry-it-Out. In fact, we have not attempted to sleep-train Mary Abilene at all. I truly believe in letting baby take the lead when it comes to nursing and sleep.

I have read about baby sleep on many blogs/forums and in several published books. You see, it isn't all puppy dogs and rainbows at our house - not at night, and not during naps. Naps, *sigh*, oh naps. Mary Abilene has been a bad napper since the day she was born. I'm not even going to get into naps. The precious, oh-so-needed oh-so-hard mid day snooze. Naps - she'll have to just outgrow her nap issues. But so many people are having the exact same "problems" with their toddlers. These "problems" are normal and only "problems" if they are disrupting your family dynamic. I have read so many people say "I've made my child HAVE to nurse to sleep. I've created a monster!" It isn't your "fault"! It is extremely natural - a God given instinct. There is a reason every baby in the whole world is able to fall asleep while nursing or even taking a bottle - because mothers' milk is the perfect sedative. It was created that way and is one of your greatest mothering tools. So why WOULDN't you use it!? But sometimes, eventually, you do end up wishing or hoping that your child can go to sleep without the breast.

I would love to let her continue on her own path, nursing happily to sleep at every wake-up until she outgrows the need of my comfort. Left to their own devices, children usually start sleeping through the night somewhere between 2 and 4 years of age. That's right. Let me say that again - children start sleeping through the night between TWO AND FOUR! So next time great-aunt Bessie asks if your newborn is sleeping through the night, just smile and say "She's doing great!" because it actually isn't normal or natural for a baby to sleep through the night. Most every baby who sleeps through the night was trained to do so. Usually by being left alone to cry. Some babies do sleep long stretches on their own, but most wake often. I (mostly) do not mind nursing Mary Abilene at night. In fact, I don't even want her to sleep through the night, I'm just asking for a 4 or 5 hour stretch. Nursing at night wouldn't be an issue if she were my last child. But since I'm hoping to have more children, and the frequent nursing is making that a little difficult, we've gotta do something.

We've decided to take the plunge and start semi-night-weaning. It is so complicated. I am my child's lovey. I know I am. Just as you wouldn't snatch away a child's teddy-bear when they awake looking for comfort, so I can't just take away the breast. I want to do it as loving as possible, while still being available for her. I also am not interested in her sleeping 12 straight hours without needing me. As I said, I'm hoping to just go for a four or five hour stretch. We plan to use Dr. Jay Gordon's method. This method is the most baby-friendly method I have found outside of The No-Cry Sleep Solution. The NCSS is great... if it works for you. It doesn't seem to be working for us, because I've been working on some of her advice for the past six months, with no significant changes. Dr. Gordon's method is for night weaning for at least a seven hour stretch. I'm going to cut it down to five and see how it goes.

Mary Abilene is starting to show signs of readiness. She can actually fall asleep without the breast at the beginning of the night now. She nurses to sleepiness and pops off on her own and rocks the rest of the way to sleep. Because she can do this now, I think that she should be able to do it during the night. She eats more solids than milk these days, and another important note is that she is not sick or teething (that I'm aware of). I've thought about this and prepared myself and her as much as possible, its just time to do it!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Home birth is safe, says new study!

I was very happy to log onto my favorite news source (uh-hem, Facebook) and find this article from USA Today that reads "Study: Home birth with midwife as safe as hospital birth" Glory Hallelujah! I couldn't be more excited to find a major U.S. news source stating what the home birth community already knows.

The study was done in Canada, where midwifery is a more open and more accepted practice than here in the U.S. They documented 13,000 births, about 1/3 were home births with a midwife, 1/3 hospital births with the same group of midwives, and the other 1/3 hospital births with an obstetrician and compared the data sets. They found that out of 1,000 live births, the infant mortality rate among the home birth group was .35, the hospital with a midwife group was .57, and the hospital group who birthed with an OB was .64. The statistics alone say that home birth is actually not as safe as hospital birth - it is SAFER! However, I will concede that they are not necessarily comparing apples to apples. What we need to know is how many of the hospital patients were low-risk births. Midwives will usually not attend home births for clients who have high-risk factors or who have breech babies or premature babies. Many home birthing mothers are overall healthier and pay more attention to diet pre and post conception, which may help have a positive outcome of birth. The article also states that women who birth at home need less medical intervention and have fewer complications like hemorrhage and vaginal tearing.

The article also states the problem with midwifery here in the U.S. is that many states do not regulate midwives. It says that the medical community sees home birth as unsafe because many "midwives" may not have the proper education or necessary credentials. However, there are about a dozen states in the nation where practicing midwifery is illegal, several states who do not license midwives, and several more states where midwives are totally unregulated. This is a complete double-standard where the public is warned that home birth is dangerous because midwifery is not regulated, while the states could choose to regulate and license midwives.

Articles like these bring home birth and midwifery to the public eye, and for that I am very grateful. The more home birth is seen as a safe and good option, the more pressure will be put on states, like my home state, to certify and legalized Certified Professional Midwives.

The picture is my wonderful midwife, checking out my newborn Mary Abilene.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy 2012!

I just wanted to say Happy New Year!

I have not forsaken my blog, we have just been SO busy! The hubby got a new job and we bought a house and moved all over Christmas. It has really been a whirlwind but we are super excited. I'll hopefully have a good post soon. Plan on giving an update on our potty learning!