Archives for the month of: September, 2013

Everyone loves kale chips. Except me.
IMG_5739They’re easy. They’re cute. They taste like fried kale. I’d rather have it steamed with tahini. Or a potato chip.

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Chris liked them. Even Catherine liked them.

IMG_5751 IMG_5762I don’t think I’ll be making kale chips again soon.  On another note, have I mentioned I have a very silly, playful girl?

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Catherine’s school has a new catered lunch option. I’ve written this first paragraph several times now, trying not to sound annoyingly obsessive but by now, you all know that’s exactly what I am, right?  Or, maybe I’m just informed and want to inform others and that makes me annoying.  Either way, I’ve got to accept who I am and stop apologizing for it!  So let’s just stop pretending and get to it.

Naturally, I analyzed and scrutinized over the menu. Asked the caterer questions. Tasted samples. I really, really wanted it to work. Because if I don’t have to send Catherine with a lunch every day, that means less pressure, and more quality time together. I already stopped pumping last week, and not having to plan and prepare a lunch menu each week on top of working full time would leave room for more spontaneous weekend and weeknight fun. So – as I was saying, I assessed the menu, and here’s what I found.

Overall, I’m happy. The food tastes  good. It’s fresh and mostly homemade. And I specifically asked about the meat, which I was assured has zero antibiotics or added hormones.  I was not given the source of the meat.  The owner didn’t know and had to ask the “kitchen.”  So I plan to follow up on that.  But there are a few problems. There are no whole grains on the menu. Sure, the bread and pasta are called “whole grain,” but if you know how to read a nutrition label you know they’re actually highly processed and not really whole grain.  Surprisingly, it’s very difficult to find real whole grain bread at the supermarket.  I  buy it at the farmers market and freeze it.  Otherwise you’re left with the actual whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, oat groats, millet, hulled barley, etc and that’s really your most nutritious bet.

Also, the catered food isn’t organic.  Organic is an option, but they’ll only do it if parents request it across the board.  So Catherine would be potentially eating GMOs and pesticides for lunch 5 days a week.

Then, there’s a lack of quantity, variety, and quality of vegetables. In one month’s menu, I counted only 5 different types of vegetables. For example, peas, carrots, corn, potatoes, and tomatoes. Which are great, but what about the thousands of other varieties of colorful, delicious vegetables out there? Don’t our growing babies deserve to be exposed to those to, if we can? Each meal only comes with 1, at most 2, vegetables.  Aso, a kids’ caterer should know that celery, cucumbers, and romaine lettuce have very little nutritional value. And for toddlers, they require a good bit of energy to actually eat. So they just don’t make sense or belong on a menu for 1-year olds.  Finally, I noticed the caterer is using “baby” carrots. These aren’t real baby carrots – they’re “cored” carrots.  Which means they loose the most nutritious part of the carrot.  Why not buy real carrots and get the nutrition of a real carrot??

The meals are very meat and cheese heavy. Most lunches contain a meat and cheese. The caterer could save money by serving more beans, which are healthier anyway.

Filler. Many lunches include highly processed, packaged items like craisins (raisins with red dye and sugar) veggie straws (these are chips with food dye to make them look like vegetables), and graham crackers (I love graham crackers, but for a 1-year old these should be an occasional treat or emergency snack, not an everyday lunch item). Not only are these are snacks, not lunch, but they have almost zero nutritional value.  A child’s stomach doesn’t hold much, and I don’t want mine child’s to be filled with empty calories if I can help it.  I’m ordering lunch – not junk food.

I agonized for weeks over this menu, because I wanted it to work, but couldn’t accept its inadequacies.  So I resigned myself to continue making Catherine’s lunches myself.  I decided I WOULD become the most genius, efficient lunch maker the world has ever seen.  I’d just MAKE IT HAPPEN.  I felt pretty determined.  Until I had a lightbulb moment.  A compromise.  I’d simply supplement and substitute.  Every week I’d take a look at the menu, cross off items and add my own.  Here’s an example.

Chicken taco salad with corn and tomatoes.  I add chopped raw red bell pepper (which C likes) and avocado (which she some days likes, most days doesn’t but I keep trying) from home.

Chicken salad sandwich, carrot salad, craisins.  Craisins get replaced with real dried fruit without added sugar and dye – or better yet, a vegetable, since she gets plenty of fruit for snacks.

Turkey burger sliders, veggie straws, and applesauce.  Veggie straws (glorified potato chips) get replaced with roasted sweet potatoes (which C eats like candy).  Packaged applesauce gets replaced with sauteed squash (C can eat an entire pan herself – this girls LOVES sauteed squash the way my momma taught me to make it). Now if you think I’m no fun for taking away the applesauce – I’m only doing it because she gets homemade applesauce with her cereal every morning, so she just doesn’t need a processed version for lunch.

Three cheese baked ziti, carrots, peas.  I’d probably leave this alone.

Cheese quesadilla, corn, pinto beans.  Well, it makes me happy that we’re finally seeing some beans.  But again, more cheese.  Cheese isn’t that good for us, it’s kind of a myth that kids need tons of cheese.  Ask any doctor or better yet Doctor of nutrition.  Ask the scientists at Harvard what they think.  I’m not making this stuff up.  Anyway. I’d add a vegetable to this. Maybe halved cherry tomatoes.

It isn’t that I take out all the fun stuff and leave Catherine with boring old healthy stuff.  I still give Catherine plenty of fun treats.  I make homemade cookies or muffins every week to send with her for snack time.  They’re easy to do and I love doing it.  I just make sure they have nutritional value by using whole grain flours like wheat, brown rice, and spelt,  minimally processed sweeteners like maple syrup and honey, and plenty of nuts, fruits, and even vegetables.  And believe me – there are plenty of days when Catherine eats far worse than graham crackers for dinner.  But these days are the exception, not the rule.

So I feel good about our compromise.  I’ve noticed she isn’t eating the food at school as well as she eats what I pack for her, which makes me a little nervous but not too nervous, because I’m still supplementing enough that I think it’ll be fine.

Oh – I also send her with snacks every day, rather than have her eat goldfish, instant pancakes, and other nutritionally void snacks every day, several times a day. I send her with things like berries, melon, whole grain crackers, homemade muffins and cookies, green smoothies, and yogurt. She breastfeeds in the morning, in the afternoon when I pick her up, and right before bed. For breakfast she’s still eating her magic multigrain cereal with fruit or sometimes a breakfast smoothie or, today, her first toast with Earth Balance butter, honey, and cinnamon (I cubed it and put it in her snack cup – perfect self-serve breakfast that allowed me to get dressed and made her super happy!).  For dinner I try to make up for the lack of whole grains at lunch by serving a whole grain like brown rice or quinoa, with some sort of bean (usually tossed in a little soy sauce and a LOT of sesame seeds – delicious and high in calcium) and sauteed or roasted vegetables.

Next on my list…work on my own horrible sugar habits.  I take care with Catherine’s diet, I need to start taking better care of my own!

Also – I really need to start breaking this information down into more digestible (pun) pieces.  I do have a lot of good tips to share and it’d be easier for everyone if I’d dedicate a post to a real recipe – a healthy, yummy, easy, and best of all, FAST one.

I just had to write about the night we just had, so I don’t forget it.  Chris has been traveling a good bit lately, and he’s actually going to be gone almost the whole month of October.  So I’ve been thinking of fun things for Catherine and me to do, so life doesn’t get all monotonous and overly routine – or lonely.  Ever since Catherine’s school got a lunch caterer (with me still supplementing and substituting to make it healthy and yummy to my standards), we’ve had much more time in the afternoons to enjoy each other, and fit in a little spontaneity.  So in the afternoon at work, I got to thinking.  It’s been rainy, dreary, and a little chilly outside all day.  What can we do…bingo!  I had it.

I picked up Catherine from school and we headed straight to Whole Foods.  Boy, when we walked in was she excited!  Her reaction to all the gorgeous fruits and vegetables in the produce section? “Ooooooohh!!!!”  LOL!  I mean, don’t you feel the same way when you walk in Whole Foods?  hahahaha.  Anyway, so we pickedout a couple veggies to cook later in the week. Some corn and squash, two of her favs.  Then we headed to the buffet.

This girl was so hungry, she kept pointing and oohing and ahhing over the buffet selection.  We loaded up a container with buffalo- and chicken-fried tofu, chicken and rice, cooked chopped spinach, mac and cheese, and black eyed peas.  Oh, and their famous tofu chocolate pudding and a cinnamon roll for dessert.  Then we headed home, put on our pajamas, spread out blankets and pillows on the floor, put on The Velveteen Rabbit movie, and had a comfort feast and snuggle-fest.  We both could not possibly have been happier unless Dada had been there.  You could clearly see that Catherine was enjoying our night as much as I was.  She wriggling with excitement as I put spoonful after spoonful of mac and cheese with spinach hidden underneath it in her mouth.  Then she would turn around and look at the movie, then turn around and wriggle for another bite.  By the time she was done eating her belly was so full she looked like she was about to pop.  I mean, who could not love Whole Foods comfort food, a pallet on the floor, pjs, and The Velveteen Rabbit while the dreary rain comes down outside?

Loved this night with my girl.  Hope we have a million more like it!

This weekend we drove to New Albany for Lorene’s funeral.  Mrs. Mada Lorene Cox Belyeu passed away at 99 years old.  She was a kind, wonderful woman who lived through, as James pointed out at her funeral, the Great Depression, both World Wars, and countless other events that shaped our nation.  It’s amazing to think of one person living to see so much change…and probably so much lack thereof, come to think of it.  I only had the privilege of knowing her a few years, but I always thought very highly of her.  She was a kind and giving person, never seeming to put herself first, or put on airs.  But she had a vain streak, which was charmingly girly.  Everyone, especially Chris, made it clear to me that her cooking and  virtues were something to strive for.  I don’t think I’ll ever make cornbread or tomato soup as well as she did, and I know I won’t grow a tomato or cantaloupe that tastes better than her homegrown ones.

By the time I met Lorene, she was very hard of hearing.  If you wanted her to hear you, you had better assert yourself loud and clear.  Being reserved, I found this difficult at first so I missed out on conversations I could have had with her.  But eventually I found my “Lorene” voice and am thankful I did.  When Catherine and I went to Mississippi without Chris, we got to spend some extra time with Lorene.  We made breakfast together, looked through old photos, went to Walmart for some groceries.  Lorene mentioned she really wanted some new shoes and clothes.  But I had to get back to the house to breastfeed Catherine, who was still too little to be away from me for very long.  I planned to take her back to Walmart for a real shopping trip the next chance I got.  But Lorene fell and hurt herself, and we didn’t get another chance.

We spend Catherine’s first Christmas in Mississippi.  Since by then Lorene was living with James and Margaret, we got to spend more time with her than usual, though she couldn’t get around easily and so spent much of her time upstairs in her chair.  Catherine was just learning to sit up.  In the morning, I’d spread out a blanket and prop Catherine up with pillows and give her toys.  I’d sit in the chair next to Lorene and drink coffee and work on sewing Catherine’s Christmas stocking.  We didn’t talk too much but I figured she’d like some company and I enjoyed hers.

Lorene’s eyes were pale blue and she had very good hair, especially compared to most 99-year-old women – even though she was always critiquing it.  She never had children, but she had a husband named Carlton who died in the 80s, and a brother named Hunter who died in 2009 at age 100, I think.  When Hunter went into the nursing home, Lorene went with him to make sure he was taken good care of.  When he died, she went back home to live out her life.  Last year, she was still planting a garden.  One day as we sat in her kitchen watching her slather a ridiculous amount of Country Crock margarine on a “cathead” biscuit (these are the large frozen biscuits she liked, from Stokes), she told us how people always poked fun of her for eating so much butter.  “I’m 98,” she said.  “I guess it must be good for me.”

When Catherine is older, we’ll show her pictures and tell her stories about Lorene.  I think the biggest thing about Lorene is her sweetness.  I’ve heard she has a temper, too, though I was never close enough to her for her to show me that temper.  I wouldn’t expect anything less though.

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UPDATE. This post was published a couple weeks ago but taken down that day because I wanted to edit something…then I never got around to publishing again……

I was doing a little thinking.  Well, actually, reading.  The other day, my new friend at work asked me if I kept a blog.  I told her about my old food blog, the one I abandoned about 2 years ago.  I also told her about this blog, with the disclaimer that it was embarrassing.  All this telling about my blogs got me curious…what exactly had I written?

So I read some posts on this blog.  And I cringed a little.  What’s my deal?  Lately I sound cheesy, overly sentimental, at times defensive, and…rushed.  That last part is no wonder.  When do I EVER have time to actually write something coherent these days?  But the other stuff, where did that come from?

I think I know.  From the time I announced my pregnancy I began to get all kinds of “ohhh just you wait” depressing advice.  I didn’t like it.  I didn’t want to be the sort of mom that complained about the burden of motherhood.  I’ve always liked to be optimistic.  That doesn’t mean I don’t get scared and express that.  It just means in the end, I choose to believe it’s all going to be perfect.  As a result, I went out of my way to prove “them” all wrong.  I rarely admitted, even to myself, that sometimes it wasn’t fun.  I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad quality.  Sometimes, what you choose to believe and how you choose to perceive things is what they become.

The other reason for my defensiveness though, is that sometimes I feel judged for my choices.  I feel the need to apologize for breastfeeding past a year, or for being wary of what sort of plastic containers or toys my baby is exposed to, or for caring about GMOs.  Some people just don’t care about these things, possibly because they haven’t done the research I have.  Or, possibly because they believe it’s all hype.  There’s a part of me that thinks it may be, and maybe one day we’ll realize how silly we were to spend extra money for organic and “non-toxic” toys.  For goodness sake, shouldn’t the word “toy” imply that it’s non toxic?  Yet, science seems to say otherwise, and I shouldn’t be such a people pleaser that I feel the need to apologize for these choices, and I especially should not shy away from owning my most deeply held beliefs and sources of pride, like my decision to continue breastfeeding as long as Catherine and I deem appropriate.  If I didn’t care so much what others thought, I wouldn’t be so defensive and I wouldn’t spend my posts trying to argue my case.

So I defiantly say how smoothly things are going, how perfect it all is, my underlying message being how wrong they all were.  I guess I showed them. 🙂

Here’s the thing.  I always will choose to believe I can do it.  That the rough days aren’t so bad.  I think it’s a smart approach, to a certain extent.  At times, I’m deliriously happy.  At moments, I’m at my wits end.  Some weeks – like this one – are rough, and I complain a lot to my husband.

Anyway.  It feels good to have an honest moment.  Since I’m being honest, I think something may have to give.  It only took a few days of work for me to realize I will be a working mom.  I loved it.  Oh,  I know just how lucky I am to truly love what I do!!!  But while some weeks go smoothly, others I drive myself insane trying to do it all.  Those weeks, I need to be at peace with peanut butter and jelly and cow’s milk.  I didn’t pump tonight and it felt great, but I feel guilty, too.  Yeah – I’ve still been pumping nights and weekends to be able to send Catherine to school with breast milk for her sippie cup.  I felt quite proud of myself until I realized I might be doing more harm than good since it was taking its toll on me.  But I’m having a hard time letting go.

I read a few old posts from my food blog, too.  I used to be so fascinated with each simple ingredient.  While I don’t have the time to devote to a food blog that I used to, not even close, I have a feeling that if I can stop trying to do it all, I might somehow end up doing a lot more.

Today Catherine did all sorts of clever things to get my attention. We were sitting on the bed and I was searching the Internet for a carrot muffin recipe. She sat sweetly in my lap – then started banging on the keyboard aggressively. I set her aside. She looked slyly at me – then popped open the baby wipes container and waited for my reaction (she knows I don’t like her to pull them all out). Downstairs she brought me toy after toy then laughed melodramatically when I made her stuffed animals talk. I rarely find the time these days to document all the adorable things she does which is sad because she’s at her most hilarious, precious, and charming so far!