Baby & Toddler · kid-friendly · News · Tips and Tricks

Food news you can use

Hey everyone! We’ve been busy with Mark’s show opening (check out his cool writeup in the Boston Globe last weekend) and as a result I’ve been eating pretty lame lately. One of my favorite things to do when I’m dining solo after baby’s bedtime is to whip up a fried egg over Trader Joe’s frozen tikka masala or palak paneer. As with any frozen entree, you have to watch the sodium, but they are great vegetarian options for those no-effort nights. I particularly love serving their soft Tandoori Naan Bread alongside, and boy does Georgia love nibbling on Naan as a snack! It’s a great size and consistency for babies to grab.

Has 4 p.m. got you hunting for something non-work-related to read? Here’s a roundup of some fun tidbits from the world of food. Have a great week!

Sarasota becomes 1st school district in FL to do “Meatless Monday”

A list of the best and worst pumpkin ales

Will you sign this pledge to end factory farming?

This recipe looks perfect for teaching kids to help cook

Taking the stress out of weekday breakfasts

Wondering why your cookies didn’t turn out right? Consult this FAQ

Easy toddler recipes: a printable guide! (with this sample menu)

Have you heard about men who drink breast milk for the “health benefits?”(seriously!)

…and then there’s this lady who makes jewelry out of it.

Last but not least, this roundup of the best new baby products from last month’s ABC Kids Expo in Vegas.

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My favorites are the Silly Skin Straw Tops, which turn any cup into a sippy cup; the Chicco Lulla Go basinnet; the new Aden & Anais toddler bedding sets that have a layer at the end so kids can’t kick off their sheets; the Puj Filla Cups for toddlers that attach to your fridge; and the new Britax Click Tight convertible car seats that use your seatbelt (not the LATCH system) to make moving form car to car simpler. (As I mentioned in my last post, we pre-ordered this immediately because we have three sets of grandparents, occasional sitters, taxis and flights to Florida to contend with). There were also some cool updates from Baby Jogger, Orbit, UppaBaby, Bumbleride and others, but I refuse to contribute to the culture of stroller-as-status-symbol in this country…if you are buying a new Bugaboo because it now comes in camo, you need something better to do with your time and money! ($1300 on that one, to be exact). I did drool over Balmoral bringing its line of totally old-fashioned, impractical and gorgeous prams to the US from across the pond, though. Now when Georgia meets her future husband Prince George she can do it in the proper style of buggy! 🙂

Baby & Toddler · News · Pregnancy

Why don’t doctors talk to pregnant women about toxic chemicals?

I recently read something that I think most mamas would find disturbing.

Boston Globe via iStock

Acoording to the Boston Globe, reducing pregnant women’s exposure to environmental toxins was recently deemed ‘critical’ by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to prevent birth defects and other fetal health problems. But a recent survey of more than 2,500 physician members of that group found that fewer than one in five ask pregnant patients about any exposure they have had to unsafe levels of toxic chemicals.

“It’s not surprising that they’re avoiding these discussions,” said Dr. Alan Woolf, director of the pediatric environmental health center at Boston Children’s Hospital, who was not involved with the study. “Very few doctors feel comfortable in their knowledge of this issue to discuss it.”

A 2011 study found that pregnant women are exposed to at least 43 chemicals known to affect fetal development including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), and phthalates that interfere with hormones.

For this reason, ACOG recommended last year that its physicians “identify specific types of exposure that may be harmful to a developing fetus” during the first prenatal visit. Doctors should be asking about workplace exposures — such as chemicals used in a lab or factory — and whether a patient lives in an older home, which could contain harmful lead paint, or has undertaken do-it-yourself home renovation that involves toxic agents. (And a Huffington Post story about this study pointed out that many women are at increased risk for exposure during pregnancy precisely because it’s a time when many families move or undertake renovation projects to prepare for baby’s arrival.

Yet half of the obstetricians-gynecologists surveyed in the new study said they rarely take this kind of environmental health history.

“Doctors told us they have so many more pressing issues to talk about,” said study leader Naomi Stotland, an associate professor of obstetrics-gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. “Their patients may be cigarette smokers, drink alcohol, or eat fast food every day, which they need to deal with first.”

But those who serve highly educated populations often find themselves flummoxed by questions from pregnant patients about which cosmetics, cleaners, and sunscreens to use.

You can read the rest of the article here. In it, doctors went on to say that they don’t want to “stress their patients out” by mentioning environmental exposure issues, and that there are other concerns they’d rather focus on — such as getting more women to eat the “good” kinds of fish that are free of mercury. But some of the things that should be no-brainers during pregnancy, like avoiding aerosol room fresheners or antibacterial soaps and products containing triclosan, just aren’t on most women’s radars.

Here’s a helpful guide to avoiding environmental toxins at home. You can also visit the Environmental Working Group website for more resources.

On one hand, I can see the doctor’s point of view on this. Americans do seem to be riddled with so much extra anxiety around pregnancy and childbirth, and to be seen as adding to that — especially when so many patients deal with poor working conditions, food choices and home lives that are beyond their control — must be stressful for OBs. But I think lots of people aren’t worried about the issue of environmental toxins because they assume the government is protecting us from harmful ingredients, when the reality is quite the opposite. As consumers and as parents we have to be so careful about what we bring into our homes and bodies, and our income level shouldn’t preclude us from being empowered to make educated choices. It sounds to me like the doctors in this study who suggested enhanced training to equip OBGYN’s to discuss toxic exposure are right on the money.

How about you — did your doctor ever discuss this with you? What do you do to avoid contaminants in your food, cleaning products, home life or workplace?
News

Is ‘maple water’ the next trend?

You’ve heard of coconut water. But what about maple water? A few entrepreneurs in the Northeast are banking on it being the next big thing in beverages. 

Kate Weiler and Jeff Rose founded DRINKmaple in Concord, MA. They learned of maple water on a trip to Quebec for a triathlon. Courtesy Boston Globe.

Says the Boston Globe today:

The time is now for maple water. There is a tight spring window of two to three weeks to draw the water from maple trees. A few maple water products are on shelves now. More are expected in stores next month.

“Coconut water has already proven this is a valid concept,” said Michael Farrell, a maple specialist and the director of The Uihlein Forest at Cornell University. “Maple water is local, tastes better and has less sugar. It’s a no-brainer.”

But Farrell and others say companies drawing maple water from trees in the Northeast and Canada need to overcome a few mass market hurdles. The biggest problem? Most people have never heard of maple water.

In the spring, water flows through maple trees naturally and delivers nutrients from the ground up. Farmers tap the trees to draw maple water, which is also known as maple sap. The same liquid is commonly boiled down to create maple syrup.

In its raw form, maple water is roughly 98 percent water and 2 percent sugar, Farrell said.

To give her product, called “maple,” a shelf life, Weiler said the maple water is pasteurized in a way that retains its original minerals and nutrients. Then the maple water is bottled in sterile packaging to further extend its life.

Read more here. 

What do you think? Would you try it? Something tells me that my sweet tooth would be on board, even if the taste is subtle.

 

Recipes

Apple Kielbasa with Sauerkraut

This is a great one-dish comfort meal. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve started occasionally eating meat again. This recipe satisfied both Mark and I, and is a very filling option for chilly fall nights. Make it in a big casserole dish and go oven to table with it!

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This recipe comes courtesy of the Boston Globe.
I mentioned it in my fall flavors post a few weeks ago and finally got around to trying it. I used turkey kielbasa to be a little bit healthier, a mix of Cortland and Mackintosh apples because they were in season in New England when I made this, and packaged mashed potatoes from Ikea, which saved time and was super delicious.

Apple Kielbasa with Sauerkraut

Served over mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 1 package turkey kielbasa, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored & sliced
  • 1 jar (16 oz.) sauerkraut, drained
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 TBSP grainy or French mustard, like Dijon or spicy brown
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil for sauteing the onions

20131024-043654.jpgDirections

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and prep your sliced ingredients.

In a flameproof casserole dish, such as this Le Creuset french oven I used, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and one apple. Cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes or until the onion starts to brown.

(Note: if using a cast iron pan such as Le Creuset, it is VERY important to start the heat on the low end. This type of cookware heats up very efficiently and you can’t cool the dish once it has gotten too hot.)

Stir in the sauerkraut, wine, mustard, salt and pepper. Place the sausage slices on top.

Bring to a boil then transfer to the oven (uncovered) and roast for 45 minutes, or until the sausages are pretty well browned.

If you are making the prepared mashed potatoes, place them in the oven a few minutes before the casserole dish as they require slightly longer to cook.

Remove the pan from the oven and stir in the remaining apple chunks.

Serve over the mashed potatoes with a glass of wine or a bottle of beer!

20131024-043633.jpgBy stirring in one apple before you roast the dish and another one right before serving, you create a sweet sauce that also has a touch of tartness. Otherwise, all the apples would turn to mush!

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To plate, spread a layer of the mashed potatoes on each dish and top with the kielbasa. You can obviously make mashed potatoes from scratch if you have more time than I did, and you could also serve over egg noodles or rice if that’s more your style.

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A little bit goes a long way. Yum!

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In other news, Georgia had her first Halloween a couple weeks ago! We went trick-or-treating with friends whose son was a bit more age appropriate for appreciating the holiday. Baby G’s age didn’t stop us from dressing her up, even if it meant Daddy had to carry her around in his arms all night. (We kept it to less than 10 houses and she still fell asleep).

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By the way, I feel like I owe a huge THANK YOU to everyone who reads this blog and has stuck by me through a challenging postpartum period (is there any other kind?) Even though I’ve only managed to post every other week (at best) since having Georgia, my readers have hung around, and the blog has had high traffic and plenty of new comments and visitors. In fact, I’ve recently started to get as many as 500 visitors a day, which is so much more than I ever thought would happen when I started OrganicGlory and hoped that anyone beside my mom would read it. My dream is to keep writing, trying new recipes, and sharing my life with you, and I’m honored that people I’ve never met have taken the time to visit my site and share it with others. That so many have stayed and shared some of themselves in return is truly amazing.

#blessed

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes

Pumpkin Madness

At least, that’s what Fall in New England feels like sometimes!

It started with the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, and seems to have spread from there. Now everyone has pumpkin something on the menu. To wit:

Dunkin’ Donuts has gone Pumpkin crazy. I’ll admit, I love the pumpkin coffee flavor, both hot and iced. It’s pre-sweetened and I just order it plain with a dash of skim milk. And by that I mean, I send my husband out to fill my order while I nurse the baby every morning. Yum!
Pumpkin Spice Whiskey, crafted by the Sons of Liberty Spirit Company. Available starting this week in liquor stores around Boston.
Yes, there are even pumpkin spice M&M’s. I can’t decide if these sound good or not?

I love me some pumpkin flavor, but I wonder if there’s such a thing as too much. And let’s not forget that other classic New England fall staple: apples! I can’t wait to take the baby out apple picking — she’s a little small this year — and to eat apple cider, cider donuts, and caramel apples. Since she’s so tiny, our fall festivities so far are confined to taking her for walks and drives among the foliage near our house. The Boston Globe had some great apple recipes in the paper Tuesday: apple crostata, apple-bacon tartines, and turkey kielbasa with apples and sauerkraut. And the Pioneer Woman also just posted a collection of her best pumpkin recipes, from soup to muffins to pumpkin cream pie. Even Make Magazine jumped on the bandwagon this year, posting a recipe for pumpkin cheesecake martinis the other day. Yum!

Courtesy: BostonGlobe.com

Here are some of my own fall recipes:

Pumpkin Spice Enchiladas

German Apple Pancake

Pumpkin Bread from Scratch

pumpkin-bread

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Sangria

Apple Cinnamon Hard Cider

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie.

What about you — what do you do with pumpkin?

News · Tips and Tricks

Austin-Boston Food Swap

This year, for the first time, I was lucky enough to participate in the Austin-Boston Food Blogger Swap (#atxbos), which matches food bloggers from Austin, TX and Boston, MA to swap foodie care packages in the month of October. The only rules? A $30 limit and a passion for local food products!

I swapped with Austin blogger Christy Horton, a pastry and dessert blogger at Epicuriosities.com, last week. Check out the fun stuff she sent me:

Make sure you check out Christy’s blog, Epicuriosities, and follow her on Twitter @Christy111luv. She sent me her own recipe for Southern Corn Bread, which I’ll definitely be making (and blogging!) soon. I may even take her tip to throw in the candied Jalapenos to keep it Texas style. I hope she enjoys her Boston food package as much as I liked getting her sweet n’ hot Texas goodies!

And here’s what I sent to Texas: Bostonians will recognize Taza Chocolate, Slumbrew’s Porter Square Porter, Pemberton Farms mustard & more.

Thanks to the Boston Food Bloggers and Austin Food Blogger Alliance for putting this swap together. I can’t wait to participate next year 🙂

Did I miss any awesome local products? If you have ideas, leave them in the comments!

Recipes

Fall Comfort Food Recipes…

…from the Boston Globe. There are more than 50 featured, so I selected my favorite vegetarian (and seafood) options from among the group:

Pizza with butternut squash, onion and spinach

Courtesy: Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/articles/2012/02/01/recipe_for_pizza_with_butternut_squash_caramelized_onion_and_spinach/

Fish roasted on caramelized onions

Courtesy: Boston Globe.  http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/articles/2012/06/20/recipe_for_fish_roasted_on_caramelized_onions/

Baked Shrimp with Feta & Orzo

Courtesy: Boston Globe.  http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/articles/2010/12/29/baked_shrimp_with_feta_and_orzo/

Seared Sea Scallops with Parsnip Puree

Courtesy: Boston Globe. bo.st/P0Dkxa

Click each picture for the full recipe. I’m trying the pizza one this weekend!

Tips and Tricks

A few food photography tips …

… from the Boston Globe’s amateur photography page, Raw. These tips come from Montreal blogger Jennifer Bartoli, who writes the Chocolate Shavings blog.

Boston.com / Chocolate Shavings Blog

Her advice?

Some foods are inherently easier to photograph than others. It’s a simple fact that some foods are very aesthetically pleasing, colorful, and crisp, and some are not.

Think, for example, of taking the photograph of a perfectly frosted three-tiered strawberry cake as opposed to a chunky, hearty soup. Even with minimal effort, the cake will tend to look more palatable, and, the stew, no matter how delicious and aromatic, will most likely come across as messier and less appetizing.

I would suggest that beginners first start to photograph easy subjects like well-groomed desserts, savory tarts, and whole vegetables or fruit. Once you’ve mastered the easier shots, you can start taking the stews, sauces, pastas etc.

My advice for those shots is to find a visual interest point on which to focus your shot, such as a touch of sour cream and a parsley leaf to top a stew, or a piece of crusty bread to accompany a shapeless sauce.

Lighting

Lighting is the essential ingredient to most photography, and food photography is no different.

It’s hard to fool your audience with color: if a plate or an ingredient is meant to be crisp and white, your shot will look off if the slightest yellow tint emanates. Shooting in natural light is thus your best bet. This, obviously, is harder to do in the winter months (for all of us living on the East Coast) but it really makes or breaks a shot.

Of course, you can invest in expensive lighting equipment to mimic studio light used in professional photo labs, but I would suggest sticking to natural light first. Try setting up a small table by a window (or outside if you can) when the light is clear and diffuse, but not too direct.

Try taking shots at different angles around your subject until you find the side with the least shadows and the most sharpness. The use of reflectors can help to decrease shadows and bring out detail around the food. A simple, sturdy white posterboard works surprisingly well, and will help throw light back onto the plate.

boston.com / Chocolate Shavings Blog

Food Styling

Photographing food can really benefit from a little thought about what goes around the subject of your photo.

Playing around with a glass, a colorful napkin, or some visually interesting cutlery can help make your subject stand out and convey the ambiance of the meal. As when you walk into a restaurant or a bustling family kitchen, the ambiance of the locale can tell you a lot about the food you are going to be eating. An easy trick is often to plate a portion of the food (a slice of cake, a portion of pasta) and have the rest of the dish placed suggestively in the background.

boston.com / Chocolate Shavings Blog

Camera setting

Depth of field is an essential point when taking food photos. Often, a nice blur will make the actual emphasis of your shot stand out. This is not true for all shots, of course (some aerial shots of a dinner spread for example can look wonderful without the slightest blur), but most shots will instantaneously have more impact if part of the picture is blurry.

boston.com / Chocolate Shavings Blog

From my experience, 2/3 of the photograph in focus and 1/3 of the background blurry is a ratio that tends to work quite well. I usually set the depth of field on my camera from f/1.8 to f/2.8, depending on the amount of focus I am after. As for equipment, a surprisingly simple setup can generate impressive results. An entry-level SLR with a 50mm lens can cover most of the angles that food requires.