Friday, November 30, 2012

Discovering sauerkraut

Portland is such a paleo-friendly city. We have a paleo food cart (with two locations!). We have Salt, Fire & Time. We have grass-fed beef and farm-fresh eggs at the ready. Portland Community College offers a paleo cooking class through its community education program. And now, New Seasons Market is totally getting on the paleo bandwagon too -- a few months ago, I noticed some paleo cookbooks on the shelf, along with an endcap display of paleo resources. And just this week, they had a paleo class on their events calendar: Modern Morsels For Your Paleo Holiday. I decided to check it out.

The class turned out to be more of a paleo store tour -- not exactly what I was expecting. Based on the title and description, I thought they would be talking about holiday recipes. That's OK, though, because I still learned a few things and I had the opportunity to try a few products that I've been curious about but hesitant to purchase because of the high price tags. Like SeaSnax. And Kaia sprouted seeds. And my favorite, Curious Farm sauerkraut (we didn't actually try this one during the tour -- but the class instructor, Leah, talked about it which piqued my curiosity).

I've never really been a sauerkraut fan, but lately I've been hearing so much about its health benefits. I've also learned that there's a big difference between the sauerkraut sold in the canned food aisle and the live-cultured version. Making my own would be the ultimate goal, of course, but I also wanted to find out if I even liked it before investing time into such a project (I kind of assumed I wouldn't like it). So, I forked over the $10.99 for Curious Farm's leek-horseradish variety.

Today we opened the jar, obliterating all of my preconceived notions about sauerkraut. I love it. My 13-month-old loves it, too -- she keeps asking for more. I even caught her licking the sauerkraut juice off of her high chair tray! Carl's on the fence, but I think it will grow on him. As for me, I'm hooked. Time to educate myself on the art of fermentation.

Do you like/make sauerkraut or other fermented foods? What are your favorites?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Helping babies feed themselves

Back in July, a reader emailed me with the following question:

"I've been pureeing (my 10-month-old's) foods, but he (and I) are ready for some solids. When I try to give him small pieces of bananas or avocados, they just slip through his fingers. The only advice I've seen online is to coat them in "Cheerio dust" or wheat germ, which I obviously don't want to do. Any suggestions??"

I didn't have any experience with this at the time, so I threw the question out to my Facebook followers. We received lots of great suggestions, so I compiled a quick list ... 

  • What about a little coconut flour?
  • You can start out with doing those mesh strainers to help him work on his grip and then transition to foods with more of a skin like a piece of orange or let him chew on a slice of grilled zucchini.
  • Put them in the freezer for like 10 minutes.
  • Or just start with foods that aren't aren't so slippery and are easier to blueberries or cut up carrots or sweet potato. Check out Wholesome Baby Food for good ideas (just ignore the grains part).
  • I say just let him practice, he'll get the hang of it!
  • We find that bananas are MUCH easier to hold if not sliced. We just break the banana into thirds and give him the big chunks. At 10 months of age a baby will have no problem biting small pieces off of a bigger chunk. With avocado, they are less slippery when they are a little less ripe, but often times we just finger or fork feed small bits of avocado because it's a lot less frustrating for everyone. BLW doesn't mean you can *never* feed baby with a spoon or fork, as long as you're respectful and don't force anything. It's a good learning experience for them, since the ultimate goal is for them to handle a spoon/fork by themselves.*
  • I liked to cut the avocado in spears and leave the skin on, so they could hold it and work around the skin, letting them figure out what part to eat and what part not to eat 
  • Wash wash wash the skin and give it (to) them with the flesh!
  • Almond meal or coconut flour.
  • Maybe try steamed chunks of sweet potato or pumpkin. That worked very well for our son. Also try steamed wedges of apple or sliced pear.

*This tip comes from Carli over at One Fit Mom. If you're not already reading her blog, definitely check it out! Lots of informative, detailed and well-researched posts about parenting and nutrition.
As for me, I used the practice approach. I actually spoon fed my daughter for quiet a while (we didn't do baby led weaning). When the time seemed right, I started giving her little chunks of food to work with. She struggled and struggled and struggled, until one day (about a week before she turned one) she just got it. Now, there's no stopping her.

How did your baby learn to grip food and feed him/herself? Did you use any of these tricks, or did you try some other method?

PS: Speaking of Cheerio dust -- have you seen this commercial? It totally perpetuates the idea babies need Cheerios to learn how to feed themselves. Soooo not true (Cheerios have only been around since 1941)! I think the first thing my baby picked up and put in her mouth was a piece of meat.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Coffee ... is it paleo?

Do you drink this stuff? I love it, but haven't had a sip in six weeks.
I'm on my sixth week without coffee! I'll explain why another time, but for now here's a link to a post I wrote a few month back about coffee: Is coffee paleo? Maybe not.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Broken refrigerator!

The day before Thanksgiving at 4:30pm is not exactly the ideal moment to discover that the refrigerator is broken. But alas, that is what happened to me. Now, I am grateful that I waited until the last minute to plan and shop for our Thanksgiving feast. I hadn't prepped anything at all, so casualties were limited.

Miraculously, I was able to find an appliance repair person to come out and take a look that night. The news was not good.

"Your control board is fried," he said.

Our fridge is sort of higher end and not that old (is seven years old for a refrigerator?). So frustrating. But, like the repairman said, they just don't make them like they used to. Especially GE.

We're still waiting to find out when the part to fix it will be available and how much said part it will set us back. If its too much, we may end up just shopping for a new fridge instead. Something less expensive this time. I'll save the fancy fridge for my dream kitchen.

Anyway, we are managing just fine without a working refrigerator. For now, anyway. When I first realized that we had a problem, I moved as many frozen items as possible out into my garage freezer (soooo glad we have this!). The frozen fruit and frozen bone broth had to be discarded, but I didn't lose any meat. Then, I put a big bowl of ice in the fridge (the fridge guy said this would keep everything cool for a couple of days) and moved a few things to the garage, like eggs and our Thanksgiving brisket, too (it was plenty cold out there). We waited until Thursday night to clear everything out and transfer it into big coolers with ice -- a really great opportunity to clean! Now our broken fridge is spic-and-span.

Oh, and here is a tip for you in case you ever find yourself in a similar predicament: after you empty the fridge, prop the doors open. Rumor has it that empty, non-functioning refrigerators start to stink when they lay dormant too long. Yuck! Also, remove the light bulb to save energy.

The fridge debacle was stressful at first, especially because when the whole thing went down Carl was stuck at work. Usually he's the one to deal with these sorts of situations, but he could not get away. In the end, though, everything worked out. We had a great evening with our friends, playing Scrabble, eating good food and laughing. I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving, too!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Our Thanksgiving menu

Nothing like waiting until the last minute to plan our Thanksgiving feast! I just got home from shopping, and the store was jam packed. Fortunately, all the shoppers seemed to be in good moods so we actually had lots of fun.

Anyway, Carl and I are not real big on the traditional Thanksgiving fare. It is OK, but we can both think of a zillion other things we would rather have on a special day. So, instead of trying to paleo-ize turkey, stuffing and green bean casserole we're just going to make a few things that we really like. We invited our friends Carla and Eric to join us, and they feel the same way we do about Thanksgiving food. Perfect!

Why is this dish so popular? I used to love it, too,
but now it looks unappetizing!

For the the main course, Carl is smoking a brisket. He did this for the first time a couple of months ago and now I am totally hooked. Total bummer that our most recent 1/4 cow purchase did not include this cut. I had to go buy one at the store. For $45! Yikes.

Side dish #1 will be Mexican acorn squash soup with smokey chicken (I wrote about how much I love this soup last week). Except I'll be leaving the smoky chicken out because I forgot to pick it up when I went shopping. Oops. With any luck, it will still be good. Side dish #2 will be Braised Green Beans from my favorite veggie cookbook, Fast, Fresh and Green by Susie Middleton.

For dessert I'm making grain-free magic cookie bars. None for me, though. We're doing a meltdown challenge at my gym, and this is week five out of six. I suppose it wouldn't be a huge deal if I indulged a little, but that just isn't how I roll (I play by the rules).  

I'll also be serving up Peet's Arabian Mocha-Java to Carl and our guests, prepared in my brand-new AeroPress (I'm also on a coffee haitus, boo-hoo). I've heard that the AeroPress makes the most delicious cup of coffee ever, so I'm anxious to take this new brewing device out of the box and give it a whirl. We'll also have red wine on hand for those who choose to imbibe (again, none for me -- wow, I'm feeling so deprived!), and Carla is bringing some paleo and gluten-free snacks (dip, veggies, crackers, etc.).

Our meal is going to be delicious, but mostly I'm looking forward to some downtime with my little family (especially since Carl will probably be at work the rest of the weekend) and hanging out with our good friends. We'll be missing our families, though. I always love spending Thanksgiving with my parents and/or Carl's fun relatives, but this year the timing didn't work out. I guess we'll just have to make up for it later -- I'm sure Pebbles' grandparents will be in Portland SOON to spend time with their favorite little girl.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2012

My running days are over

The old me wanted to be a part of this scene.

A few years ago, I got really into running. I ran 20 miles per week. I joined a running group. I cared about speed. 5Ks and 10ks were fun for me, and I saw half marathons in my future. Pregnancy didn't even stop me from running ... at first. I quit right around week 18 because it just didn't feel right anymore, but I vowed to pick it back up again when the baby arrived. I had a jogging stroller and I didn't mind running in the rain -- what could possibly get in my way?

Turns out, lots of things. My baby is now 13 months old, and I think I can count on two hands the number of times I've laced by my sneakers. And you know what? I don't care, because I don't miss it.

In the beginning, my reasons for not running were logistical. Even though I had a jogging stroller, my baby was too small to ride in it without the car seat attachment (and running with the car seat attachment is not safe). The weather was dark, gray and wet. I didn't have running gear that fit. I was tired. My time was limited. I wanted to get out there and run, but I really truly could not do it. I went to the gym a few days a week, and that was all the physical activity I could squeeze in.

Later on, it was about my physical recovery from pregnancy and childbirth. I realized in January (when my baby was three months old) that I needed physical therapy to rebuild my pelvic floor, and my PT wanted me to take it really easy for a while. No running.

A few months later, the pelvic floor thing became a non-issue. I started working out more. I was strong(er) again, summer arrived and the baby and I had a semi-decent schedule in place -- one that would allow for a run now and then.

The thing is, I did not want to run. I don't want to run. I'm so over it.

It is all about priorities, and my priorities have changed. Sleep, preparing healthy meals for our family, working out at the gym and trying to keep our home relatively organized are very important to me, and that is how I choose to spend my time (when I'm not playing with, reading to, changing or cuddling my little girl). Running does not make the cut.

The best part about all of this? I don't need to run! I used to think I had to run to maintain/build endurance, and I thought it was a necessary component in making sure I didn't "outgrow" my skinny jeans. Not true. While I don't think I have the endurance I had when I was running 20 miles a week, I'm building it back up again. And as for the skinny jeans thing ... my smallest pair of pre-pregnancy jeans fit perfectly (not that it didn't take a while to get back into them). At age 40, I feel stronger than ever, and I am far more confident about my body (both in its abilities and appearance) than I have ever been. No running required. Maybe someday I'll get the bug again? Who knows! But for now, it isn't for me.

Friday, November 16, 2012

My favorite paleo recipes

For the most part, I'm not really into "paleo" recipes. I just like good recipes. If I can easily adapt it, great. If it is paleo by default, even better. If it isn't paleo but looks delicious, I'll just enjoy the photographs (or save it for a special occasion).

I do, however, think there are lots and lots great paleo recipes out there. It is just a matter of finding them. Here are a few of my favorites -- three that are on regular rotation in my kitchen and one that makes a fabulous weekend treat.

1. Chocolate Chili from Well Fed. This puts every other chili recipe I've tried to shame. I pretty much make it once a week, and it is one of the few dinners I'll eat for breakfast as leftovers (try it over fried eggs). I usually skip the onions, and I don't chop the garlic. Instead, I just add six garlic cloves to the pot with all the liquids. I also use all beef broth (no water). An important tip: don't forget to take your meat out of the freezer in time to defrost. A few weeks ago, I defrosted it in the microwave due to a time crunch. The chili suffered. 
2. Health-Bent's Mexican Acorn Squash Soup with Smokey Chicken and Spicy Seeds. Soooo, I've been missing out my whole entire life. Until paleo came along, I never ate squash. Ever. I thought it was disgusting (I always liked pumpkin pie, though -- for some reason it never registered that pumpkin is squash, haha). I assumed all squash tasted like zucchini, which I don't like. Guilt by association. I'm glad I know better now, because this soup? It is the best soup ever. Ever. If you haven't made it yet, make it tonight. You won't regret it. The soup is so smooth, so creamy, so comforting. My one complaint about the recipe is the "peel the acorn squash" part. Don't bother with that. Just roast the squash in the oven until it is soft enough to scoop out. You'll save yourself a big headache, and it won't compromise the integrity of the recipe at all. Oh, and the seeds are best kept out of the soup -- they lose all their crunch once they hit the liquid. 
3. Paleo Pad Thai from Well Fed. Yum! I love this recipe. I actually find it to be a bit cumbersome, but the ROI is high so I'll gladly make it anyway. Again, I leave out the onions and I sometimes use carrots instead of snap peas (or both, to make it more colorful). Delicious!
4. Chocolate Coconut Doughnuts from Multiply Delicious. Doughnuts. Enough said.

What are your favorite paleo recipes?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Birthday cake

Call the paleo police. I gave my baby CAKE on her first birthday.

Not her actual cake.

The cake was chocolate and the frosting was vanilla buttercream. We also served Three Twins ice cream on the side (soooo delicious). We indulged, and I don't regret it.

I thought long and hard before deciding to let her have her cake. I considered a paleo cake, but quickly ruled that out because most contain nuts and/or nut flours and we're still keeping those things out of her diet (for now). I considered skipping cake altogether, but quickly ruled that out too because that would be so boring and so legalistically paleo. The only option, in my opinion, was to serve a really really really great cake and to allow her to have a small portion. I  mean, I go out and have treats now and then. Why shouldn't she? Especially on her birthday.

We ordered her cake from Crave Bake Shop, a gluten-free bakery in Lake Oswego (if you're a Cupcake Wars fan, you might be familiar with Crave). To me this seemed like the ideal solution, because I know they make great baked goods and I know they use high quality ingredients. I can make a pretty decent cake in my own kitchen, but gluten-free baking requires special expertise -- expertise that I do not possess. There is no way I could make a cake that would even come close to a Crave cake. Even with lots and lots of practice. So I decided to leave this feat to the experts.

Anyway, the cake was perfect. Really, truly perfect. I'm actually not much of a cake fan. If I'm going to indulge, I would rather have cookies or brownies (we didn't even serve cake at our wedding). But this cake was so worth it.

Of course, Pebbles' opinion is the one that counts. I was actually a bit concerned that she would like the cake too much, considering it was her first taste of sugar and grains. I wanted her to enjoy her cake, but I didn't want her to down a whole piece and I didn't want her to demand seconds. Luckily, her reaction was ... indifferent. She seemed to enjoy tasting it, and she had several bites. But she didn't clamor for more the way she does with avocados, bananas and meat. Confirmation that she loves her healthy, delicious paleo diet! Birthday cake success!

Do you allow your children to have non-paleo treats on special occasions? What types of parameters do you set for said treats?

Monday, November 12, 2012

12 things, revisited

Early in my third month of pregnancy, I wrote a post called 12 things I will still do after the baby is born. The post listed off a bunch of things people told me would probably fall by the wayside but that I was insistent on keeping up with. I thought it would be fun to look back and see how I'm doing. Here goes ...

1. I will still work out consistently. Check. This is still a huge priority for me. It requires some juggling, but I do what it takes to get to the gym. Three of four times each week.
2. I will still take a shower every single day. Check. I haven't missed a single shower. When my baby was teeny tiny, this meant bringing her into the bathroom with me (she hung out in her bouncy seat while I showered). Now it means getting up before she starts stirring (fortunately, she sleeps until at least 8am).
3. I will still get pedicures. Check. I've missed just one pedicure in the past twelve months because of a scheduling conflict.
4. I will still wear high heals. Fail. Well, not entirely. I have worn heals a few times. But for the most part I've been living in flip flops and flats.
5. I will still go out to to dinner, movies, parties and other events with Carl, alone. Fail. We've had just one dinner out, sans baby (my parents were in town so they stayed with her while we went out to celebrate our anniversary). I still believe in babysitters and intend to start using them in the near future, but the honest truth is my priorities have changed and the idea of going out at night and leaving my little one at home doesn't appeal to me all that much. I am sure I would feel differently if she slept through the night, but we're still struggling with this. Going out means less sleep for me. And I want as much sleep as possible.
6. I will still care about what I am wearing. Check. Probably more than ever. I just wish I could find some clothes that I like. Is it just me, or is everything on the racks these days flimsy and/or baggy? I've spent countless hours shopping over the past several weeks and ... nothing.
7. I will still meet my girlfriends for coffee, wine, shopping, etc. OK, I've done some of this. But this is basically a fail. The lack of sleep, the nap schedule and the juggling have pretty much kept me from maintaining my social life. I know I need this though. Case in point: Saturday afternoon. I spent two hours hanging out with some friends at a coffee shop, and I had the best time ever.
8. I will still encourage Carl to go sailing, to hang out with his friends and to pursue his own personal interests. Check. This was not the best sailing year for Carl, though, thanks to boat maintenance issues. The good news is the sailboat is now back in commission, ready for the 2013 racing season.
9. I will still wear mascara and lipstick. Check and check. This is such an easy thing to do! No excuses here, mamas!
10. I will still have long hair. Check. I like my hair and intend to keep it this way as long as possible. No short mom 'do for me. I have nothing against short(er) hair, but I do have something against the idea of living with a hairstyle you don't like for the sake of convenience.
11. I will still make time for personal, professional and spiritual growth. Epic fail. I've had the best of intentions, really. But I've come to the conclusion that the first year of motherhood is not the best time for these pursuits.
12. I will still follow paleo. Check. With varying degrees of adherence, of course. And while I've definitely had some off weeks, overall I am pretty happy with my ability to maintain a healthy diet and stick to my principals.

How about you? Are you keeping up with your workouts, your social life and other things that are important to you? Why or why not?