Sunday, December 14, 2014

10 Things No One Tells You About Breastfeeding

It's been a while since I've written a new blog post.  It's mainly because I have a 1 month old, newborn baby and she is keeping me quite busy - her, and her 2 year old sister.  I spend most of "my free" time cleaning up messes and trying to catch up on sleep.

So I decided that I should write a blog post about the thing I spend most of my time doing these days...Breastfeeding.

My newborn is what I like to call a "snacker" since she wants to eat like every 45 minutes when she's awake, and every 2 hours during the night.  The first few months of breastfeeding you kind of feel like a full time milk production station.

Since she is my second child I have been through all this before, but had forgotten all about all the things that happen that no one ever tells you about. So, for all you breastfeeding mommies, or pregnant mommies, here is my list of 10 weird things that no one ever tells you about breastfeeding...



1. Soaking Wet

For the first couple of months you may find yourself needed to sleep with towels and boobie pads since you will likely wake up covered in breast milk.  During the night is when you produce the most milk, and as a result you end up soaked in breast milk.  Yeh - I have to wash my sheets 2 to 3 times a week, and I sleep on a water protective pad.  Between breast milk soaked sheets and clothes, and poopy and puked on baby clothes I've never had to do so much laundry in my life.

2. Serious Nipple Pain

After the first two weeks the pain goes away, but you can be sure, no matter how prepared you are for some discomfort, the first few weeks your nipples will crack and it will hurt like hell fire!  Make sure to get some nipple cream before you go into labor.  Also, your pretty perky nipples will never look the same again. 

3. Warm Water Leakage

Taking a shower after getting no sleep for days on end seems like the most heavenly experience.  Warm water is also good for letting milk down - in other words, sometimes when you get out of the shower your boobs will start spurting milk like a fire hose.  There...now you won't be surprised when it happens.

4. Peek-A-Boob

Depending on your comfort level with exposing your breasts to other people, this one may or may not bother you.  No matter how descreet you try to be while in public, or even in your own home, sometimes people will see your breasts.  It's inevitable if you have a baby like mine that screams to the top of her lungs every 45 minutes and frantically searches for a nipple to latch on to.  You've got all your hooter-hider stuff ready to go, and you descreetly pull a boob out from under your cover to give to your squirming hungry baby, and with all the fumbling around and effort to make baby happy, your giant milk swollen boob will likely peek out at some point and give an eye full to whoever might be around.  My modesty has sort of gone out the window, and yours likely will too.

5. Boobie Hard-On

Ever heard of a boobie hard-on?  Well, it happens. There's some sort of instinctual reaction that happens when you hear a baby cry, and the results can be super awkward and weird.

One day you will find yourself at a grocery store or some other public place, and you will see a mother with a cute little baby, and then the baby starts to cry...next thing you know your boobs perk up like two giant torpedoes, start filling up with milk, and may even start to leak.  It's really awkward if you forgotten to put on water proof pads, or if they just don't really work enough to stop milk soaking through your shirt and leaving 2 big wet marks on your giant torpedo boobs. 

This same thing can also happen if you hold someone's baby and the baby starts rooting around your breast area searching for milk.  They know you have some, and your boobs react with a mind of their own.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

6. Shopping Dilemma

Once your baby is born you get excited about the prospect of wearing normal clothes again, but then is quickly shot down when you realize that finding clothes you can easily breast feed in is even more challenging than finding cute maternity clothes.

Yes, my new uniform is deep v-neck tops, and they have to be cotton!  There are so many challenges with pulling out your boobs in a flash when your baby is hungry.  Everything from discretion, easy access, comfort, style, and most importantly...finding tops that won't show leaks as much, and/or dry quickly.

I could go on and on about this one, so I think I will save all my shopping tips for nursing clothes for another blog post all of it's own.

7. Sleepless Nights

You made have heard about this one - but did you know that you are really the only person that will be waking up with the baby?

You may have this idea that your spouse or significant other, or grandmother, or whoever will get up in the middle of the night with you to help care for the baby.  WRONG. You should just rid yourself of this notion now, especially if you plan for your baby to be an exclusively breast milk baby.

Really the only one who can help your baby is YOU, since you have the milk.  When the baby wakes up you basically have 2 tasks, change their diaper and feed them.  There's really no point in waking up other people to suffer along with you when you are the only one who can feed baby.

You could spend a lot of extra time pumping milk during the day so your spouse can get up and give them a bottle, but let's be honest, that may work for one or two feedings, but for the first few months your baby will wake up 4 or 5 times (maybe more!) in the night to be fed, and unless you have super boobs and a whole bunch of extra time - you won't want to pump that much milk.

I'm lucky if I can pump once a day for those times when my husband helps me, especially since I have a toddler at home too.

I can't say for sure - I'm sure there are some couples out there that spend equal time getting up with the baby, but in my personal experience and for most breast feeding mommies I know - it's a singular job that likes squarely on the shoulders (or chest area) of mommy.

8.  MOOOO

You may have this idea that breastfeeding your baby is all about bonding, and the most wondrous natural, miraculous thing in the world.  And that is absolutely true...expect for the times when you are tired, run down, super busy, multi-tasking while feeding and generally feel like a giant COW. 

Sometimes when my grunty little baby is vigorously sucking all of my fluids out, and making loud sucking, slurping and piggy sounding noises, while I try and check my email on my phone, I get the strong urge to loudly call out, "MOOOOO"

Anyone else?

9. What Social Life?

So, you think you will be able to go out and drink and party it up with your friends after you have a baby?  Maybe you just want to go shopping with a friend and get your nails done.  Pssssh - yeh right.

While you may get the occasional excursion out without your little one, you probably will not be able to go far, or for very long since you will either have to get back in about 2 hours once your boobs swell up with milk, or you will have to pump while you are out. 

Your body's feeding schedule, and your baby's feeding schedule doesn't understand going our with friends.  So, you should just get used to going on little one hour excursions, either that or just take baby out with you.

10. Pump and Dump

You may have heard of this term before.  It's what you will find yourself doing if you decide to have more than 2 glasses of wine, or even just one really strong cocktail.  Unfortunately sobriety doesn't end with pregnancy if you are breastfeeding.  You can have a glass of wine here and there, or a beer, but unfortunately alcohol gets into to your milk along with every thing else you eat and drink. Really only a very small percent goes into your milk, but that's way too much if you decide to do shots, or drink an extra large long island ice tea.

So, for that night you come home from your only "girls night out" in a million years and you are pretty sure you are drunk or really buzzed, you might want to consider the old 'pump and dump' - meaning pump all your milk out and pour it down the sink.

Luckily you can always make more milk :)

P.S. - this is only meant to be a funny commentary on my personal breast feeding experience, and is no way meant to dishonor or discourage breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding has been one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences of my life - and I highly recommend it.




Friday, October 3, 2014

Smoothies for Toddlers

Mommy secrets for getting in some much needed toddler nutrition...

Lately I have been making smoothies for breakfast for my toddler and myself.  My daughter has really been picky with food the last few months, and I struggle to find ways to get her to eat vegetables, and many other foods for that matter!

So my new favorite thing is to make a smoothie first thing in the morning.  I love them for myself too since I am pregnant with my second baby, smoothies are a perfect treat to start my day.


Since I pretty much only use organic fruit and veggies (to avoid nasty pesticides) I tend to buy a lot of frozen fruit and vegetables.  They are usually cheaper than the fresh ones, and they last longer.  Trader Joe's has a nice selection of organic frozen fruits.


Forget Jamba Juice - this recipe is so yummy and super healthy!!


Banana, Mango and Carrot Smoothie...


1 cup frozen or fresh berries - like raspberry and blueberries
1/2 cup frozen or fresh mango (some people are allergic - just substitute with peaches or maybe pineapple if you don't want mango)
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup of Pumpkin Flax Granola cereal
2 whole bananas
1/2 cup of baby carrots

Blend in a blender or food processor - DONE!  So delicious and nutritious!  The granola and carrots give it some nice crunchy bits but it is still smooth and tasty :) My daughter will drink two large cups in the morning.  Then, even if she doesn't really eat much, or won't eat any veggies for the rest of the day I don't have to worry because I know she got her fill of fruit/ veggie power for breakfast, and also plenty of protein, fiber, potassium and calcium.

The smoothie will appear orange, pink or purple depending on which combination of berries you use.  I switch it up between blueberries, strawberries and raspberries.



Thursday, September 25, 2014

Beauty Products I Love



 My Favorite Beauty Products: 

Safe for Pregnant and Nursing (or just health conscience) Moms: 


Since becoming Mom-In-Chief I have had to alter my beauty regime to meet the needs of a hectic life with a little one.  I have also become more informed and aware of the harmful effects chemicals can have on your skin, your health and your baby's health as well.  Now, I'm pregnant with baby number two and I'm being extra careful with what I eat, drink and put on my skin.

Motherhood meant changing my lifestyle in almost every way.  For my beauty routine, I had to basically do 3 major things...


1) Quick and Efficient
Firstly, I had to speed things up - getting out of the shower and having only 5 minutes to get ready instead of my previous 45 minutes.  Everything needed to change, my routine needed to be faster, more efficient, and work some magic on my tired eyes, dull complexion and sad looking hair.

2) Go All-Natural
Secondly, I had to do research and read all the ingredients on products to make sure they were safe to use.  Now that I know how harmful a lot of chemicals used in beauty products can be, and how awesome the more natural products have turned out to be - I will never go back to my old ways.

3) Cut Back
I used to go to the salon about every 4 or 5 weeks to get my hair cut, and some kind of color touch up - usually highlights.  I also used to spend a ton of money on beauty products, spa treatments, hair products and hair appointments.  Now I go to the salon every 3-4 months - and have opted for more manageable hair cut and color so I don't have to go as often.  Mainly because, I don't have time, and I can't afford to spend so much on my hair anymore.  All my extra cash goes to baby clothes, toys and toddler classes. 

So, I recommend finding ways to keep yourself feeling good about the way you look, while cutting back on the time and money it takes to maintain the 'baby-free girl' hair and makeup habits.

For the All-Natural part of my new beauty habits I have learned a few things that are worth sharing...

Examples of chemicals to avoid in beauty products for pregnant or nursing moms:
(Unfortunatley - many of these chemicals exist in most products on the market)  

- Parabens (known to cause cancer) found in most shampoos
- Retinol (The biggest NO-NO of all - can cause major birth defects to unborn babies)
- Alcohol (certain types of alcohol is added to most over the counter shampoos, conditioners and facial moisturizers)
- Salicylic acid (a big NO-NO - can cause birth defects)
- Beta hydroxy acid
- BHA
- Soy derived ingredients - Soy itself is not bad in small doses but in large and regular doses it can act as an Endocrine Disruptor which basically means it can change your body's hormonal makeup - and that is not good
- Phthalates (found in perfumes)
- (DHA) Diyhydroxyacetone (found in almost all tanning products)

Note: the above chemicals found in many skin care and beauty products can cause damage (in some cases major birth defects) to an unborn baby, and also to infants through the mothers breast milk. Of course these chemicals are harmful to you as well - many are known to contribute to a range of health including cancer.

Me at 32 weeks with my 2nd baby


I've basically simplified my routine down to a few steps with a handful of products.

1. Cleanse, regularly exfoliate
2. Moisturize, SPF tinted moisturizer for day time, extra moisturizing cream for night
3. Apply all over body lotion when I get out of the shower.
4. Apply a tinted moisturizer with SPF, mascara, brow pencil, blush and lip balm - DONE
- Occasionally put on some eyeliner and shadow if I am feeling really fancy and have extra time.

For my hair - I spend 20 mins on it after I have washed it - but I only wash it every 3 or 4 days to keep it healthier and also to save time.  Not to mention becoming a new mom has meant I have to often go without a shower - so sometimes I have to settle with just washing my face and freshening up.

In the evening after I put my daughter to bed I wash my face and put on a great overnight moisturizer.  I have also found that baby bedtime is the perfect time to pamper yourself when you can - take a nice long bath, give yourself a pedicure and do a face mask.  I try to make time for myself for things like that at least once a week - trust me - it makes such a difference!!

Here is my list of top 10 mom friendly products and brands I love: 

(I focus mainly on beauty/ makeup products in this list) I will do another article specifically about hair next...(stay tuned)



1. Neutrogena Naturals - Purifying Facial Cleanser

Why I love it - it always leaves my face feeling squeaky clean and helps clear blocked pores.  Also, it has a small list of ingredients and is formulated without sulfates, parabens, petro-chemicals, dyes and phthaltes.  They also have an exfoliating cleanser which I like too.

Best part about this cleanser - the price - retails for about $7.50 and can be found at Target, CVS and other convenient places to shop.

http://www.neutrogena.com/product/neutrogena-+naturals+purifying+facial+cleanser.do

2.  ORIGINS - Plantscription SPF 25, Anti-Aging moisturizer

One of the few products I will splurge on is a good moisturizer with SPF in it.  It is worth it to me to have beautiful, hydrated skin that is protected from the sun.  This is one my 'expensive purchases' - I do it every so often because I love this product - but I also mix things up with some more budget friendly, and easy to find options.





3.  Lip Balm Lip Balm and more Lip Balm

 

I know I can't be the only mom out there to have 3 or 4 lip balms in every bag.  I had to list my 3 favorites for this one because this is honestly the most important product to me.  If I could only have one product - a great lip balm would be it.



- EOS - A standby - I have one in my medicine cabinet - I use it every time I go in the bathroom.
- Sugar Petal by Fresh (has SPF 15) - I like this one since it has color, and protects your lips from the sun - and therefor aging!
- Burts Bees - has a range of great all natural lip balms to choose from - some are tinted which is great for looking pretty
- Honest Company - lip balm trio pack.  The best part - you can get these at Target now! Woo Hoo

4. Lanolin-Agg-Tval (Eggwhite Facial Care Soap)

This soap has been a Swedish beauty secret for centuries - and now I know why! I've honestly noticed my skin tone being more even since I've been using it.  It's kind of like doing an egg-white facial since it's made with egg whites.
Purchase on Amazon


5. Organic Doctor Olive Oil Over Night Cream

Wake up looking beautiful and refreshed!

This all natural cream works wonders for your skin while you sleep.  Keep your summertime beauty routine simple with this amazing cream - you just apply it on your face and neck right before bed and wake up beautifully refreshed and moisturized.  I can't say enough good things about this product - you have to try it!!


6. Argan Hair Products: 



I was using Moroccan Oil products until I found out that they contained silicone which is like a liquid plastic.  Then I switched over to 100% Argan Oil and have never been happier.  Try this product and your hair will thank you!  You can also buy Josie Maran argan oil products which can be used for your skin or hair.




Argan Oil 100% Certified Organic Moroccan, 1 Oz, Acure Organics



7. Trader Joe's Enrich Facial Moisturizer with SPF 15:

Enrich Moisturizing Face LotionForget spending a ton of money on a daytime moisturizer when you can get this lightweight little gem at Trader Joe's for $3.99!

I love the way it feels - it gives the right amount of moisture and has SPF to protect your skin from the sun - it doesn't get better than that.

The best way to keep the wrinkles at bay is to keep your skin properly hydrated and protected from sun damage.  If only I had known that in my early 20's!







8. Organic Doctor Coconut Hand and Body Lotion:

I can not get enough of the Organic Doctor line of products.  I haven't tried them all yet - but the ones I have tried have really impressed me.  I LOVE their Coconut body lotion.  It feels wonderful and smells wonderful too.  Since coconut oil is one of the main ingredients - you know it's good!  Coconut oil is a fantastic skin and hair moisturizer (as well as used for cooking) just on it's own - I always keep a jar of it my pantry.


I am excited to try all of their products!! 

9. Lotions, Washes, Hair Conditioners, Sunscreens and more!

Kiss My Face

Kiss My Face is another brand I love - I often buy their face washes, lotions and moisturizers - usually I find them at Whole Foods and sometimes Target too.  They are reasonably priced, their products smell good, and you can feel good about using them on yourself or your kids. 

http://kissmyface.com/natural-lip-care/item/102/Kiss-My-Face-Shimmer----Garnet
(I love their lip balms and lip tints!)


10.  Makeup Products:

Instead of listing off all my favorite specific products I've decided to share my favorite trusted brands - since I use all different products and switch it up all the time.  These brands are the tried and true, most natural way to go when purchasing makeup that you can feel good about - and look gorgeous wearing!

 

Josie Maran
http://www.josiemarancosmetics.com/shop/lips/
Josie Maran's line of Argan Oil products are one of my favorites!  I love the tinted moisturizer - they protect and hydrate my skin, give just another color to even my skin tone - and have ingredients that I can feel good about putting on my skin.


Tarte
tartecosmetics.com
Tarte cosmetics brand description is 'High Performance Naturals' and I totally agree.  I haven't tried all their products - but I love their lip balms and mascaras.


Lavera
http://www.lavera.com/lavera-products/organic-makeup.html/ 

When it comes to all natural, organic, safe makeup products Europe is way ahead of the game.  European standards for healthy ingredients is much stricter than in the United States, and as a result there are a number of European brands that have developed high quality, safe makeup products.

I just recently discovered Lavera, and I tried a sample of their eyeliner and I was impressed with it.  I am excited to try out makeup from the rest of their line.  They boast all natural, organic ingredients without artificial perfumes and other harmful chemicals.



RMS Beauty
http://www.rmsbeauty.com/shop/index.php

This brand is a favorite among celebrities Victoria's Secret models like model-mommy Miranda Kerr.  The product line boasts a number of cheek stains, lip stains, bronzers and eye shadows that use all natural pigments and leave you skin looking dewy and refreshed.  You can purchase items on their website.


Hope this article has been helpful to you!  If we can all spread the word about all natural, organic products and demand higher standards for the ingredients used in our products we can make a difference and see a growing demand and variety of healthy products on the market.

Keep following me to see more articles like this.  My next article will be more specifically focused on hair products.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Secret Veggies - Popsicles For Kids

My Favorite Stealthy Vegetable Recipe...


Summertime Veggie and Fruit Popsicles


I've recently been confronted with the reality that despite all my diligent efforts to follow the recommended guidelines for introducing foods to my daughter, and providing healthy, organic home cooked food - my daughter (now 18 months) has lately started to exhibit some picky eating habits, especially when it comes to vegetables.  The broccoli, carrots and zucchini that she used to love are now pushed to the side of her plate or get the 'no, no, no' with closed mouth head shaking response when we try to give her a spoonful. 

Magical moments like the one below have become increasingly rare...



Yes, I now am experiencing what I swore to myself would never happen with my own children.

My little picky eater has developed all sorts of methods to avoid eating vegetables, from screaming, crying and throwing food to pointing and pleading for beloved food items like mac and cheese, blueberries or other toddler favorites. She has been causing havoc during meal times like a real pro lately.

So in order to maintain my sanity and ensure she is getting the nutrients she needs in her diet I have employed a 3 step approach that I know many others before me have done.

- First, I continue to make vegetables a part of almost every meal and offer them to her, as well as eat them myself to set a good example.

- Second, I feed her the things she loves like mac and cheese, spaghetti with meatballs, fruit, chicken quesedillas and things like that in order to have some peace at mealtimes and making sure she eats a full meal.

- Thirdly, and most importantly, I have learned the art of placing stealthy, sneaky vegetables into almost everything I make - which works well with my husband too.




I purchased a book called The Sneaky Chef  by Missy Chase Lapine which has given me all sorts of great ideas for hiding veggies and is a great reference guide for recipes that kids love.  I highly recommend this book!

The author is a mother we can all relate to - she's a pediatrician and healthy eater herself whose children would often refuse vegetables and other healthy foods despite all her efforts to start them off the right food with eating. 

After reading the book, and reading many a blog from mothers who have experienced similar trials with feeding their little ones, I started putting pureed veggies into almost everything I cook and by far my favorite thing to make is veggie filled popsicles.  I love to make them mainly because they are super quick and easy, and because my daughter absolutely loves them!

My home made popsicles are made with tons of veggie and fruit goodness in them.  It's the perfect afternoon snack to give her when she is fussy.  I give them to her daily, and we go and sit outside on our back patio and eat popsicles together.  I'm pregnant now with my second baby so they are the perfect healthy, refreshing snack on a hot day for me too.

Even if she doesn't eat another serving of veggies all day, these little popsicles are jammed packed with vegetables so I feel great knowing that she has gotten a healthy dose of her daily nutritional needs.  Also she has been rejecting milk more now too so I put yogurt in them sometimes which helps her achieve her daily calcium needs.

The secret is to make sure that color combination of vegetables to fruit gives you a nice pleasant, toddler friendly popsicle color like orange, red or purple.  When they end of up looking green or greyish brown that's when you might run into trouble.

The steps for making them are pretty straight forward and easy.  You just pick your combination of fruit and veggies, steam the vegetables if necessary to soften them, then puree the fruit and veggie combo together and pour into popsicle molds.  




For this one I used strawberries, steamed zucchini, steamed beets, honey and yogurt.


I get the beets from Trader Joe's - they are already steamed so you can just open the package, chop them up and throw them in.  They are a great veggie to add because they are a super food and their deep red/ purple intense color will make any popsicle turn out a pretty color.




Sometimes I put whole berries like blueberries in them for fun like the one below:


I don't have specific measurements for them - I just do about half veggies / half fruit and add more fruit for color if needed.  I just taste my purees after I mix them to make sure they taste good and then when I am satisfied I pour the mixture into popsicle molds and put them in the freezer.  It's easy-peezy!  With a blender or food processor full of pureed mixture I can usually make about 12 - 15 popsicles, which last me about 2 weeks if she eats one a day.


If I have any leftover mixture I just drink it down like a smoothie, or put it in a straw sippee cup for her and she slurps it down.

These are some of my favorite combinations to use:

Light Pink Popsicle:
steamed cauliflower
steamed zucchini
strawberries
peaches
a little apple sauce or apple juice for extra sweetness
plain whole milk yogurt

Light Pink Popsicle 2:
steamed zucchini
raw kale or spinach
whole milk plain yogurt
strawberries
peaches or mango (make sure your child is not allergic to mango if you use it)
apple sauce or apple juice

Orange Popsicle:
carrot
orange juice
pineapple
steamed cauliflower

Orange Popsicle 2:
carrot
mango (check to make sure your child is not allergic to mango before using)
peaches
steamed zucchini

Light Pink Popsicle 3:
cucumber
plain whole milk yogurt
honey (only use this if your child is 12 months or older)
strawberry
raspberry

Purple Popsicle:
kale
raspberry
blueberry
apple juice or apple sauce

Red Popsicle:
steamed beets
kale
strawberry
raspberry
pomegranate juice (the Langers brand has a version that is not from concentrate)

Red Popsicle 2:
cherries
apple sauce
spinach or kale
rasberry




Side Note:  Almost every vegetable, fruit and dairy product I use is organic mainly because a lot of the fruits and veggies I use are notorious for containing large amounts of pesticide residue on them (which doesn't come off even when washed).  So, I recommend buying organic when you can. When produce are in season you can often find them for the same price or similar price to the non-organic products.

If you can't buy organic all the time, here is a list of must-buy organics based on the amount of pesticides found in non-organic produce, often called, 'the dirty dozen' to help you decide when to buy organic -
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/health/the-dirty-dozen-and-clean-15-of-produce/616/

Here is another list:
http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-214




Monday, April 28, 2014

Important Food Safety Information About Bread Products...

Well, I am trying to keep myself informed about my buying options for food so I that I can make smart, healthy choices to the best of my ability, and within reason for my family.  If you are a mom with similar concerns, this article is for you...
I subscribe to an organization called EWG - Environmental Working Group, and they keep me up to date with all the information about chemicals and pesticides that are so prevalent in our food industry here in the United States.
I'm sure many of you have heard about Subway sandwiches changing their recipe for bread because they were pressured by a consumer group lead by Vani Hari to get rid of the chemical ADA or  azodicarbonamide - a chemical used to make yoga mats.  
Now the EWG has conducted research and found over 500 other everyday foods that contain this harmful chemical.  GROSS! NOOOOO!! is the appropriate reaction.
Some of the brands containing this chemical are Pillsbury, Sara Lee, Shoprite, Safeway, Smucker's, Fleischman's, Jimmy Dean, Kroger, Little Debbie, Tyson and Wonder. 
So I thought I would create this post to give you a list of foods/ brands to avoid if you don't want your kids and your family to consume this harmful chemical.
Here is a link to the entire list - 

Here's my shorter list of foods that I used to get that I will no longer purchase because of this nasty chemical:

1. Basically anything from Pillsbury
2. Van de Kamp hot dog buns
3. Mediterranean Pita
4. Oroweat Raisin Cinnamon Bread
5. Village Hearth 100% Whole Wheat Bread

Luckily I don't buy the majority of brands/ foods on this list anyway.  I have found that the best way to protect my family is to be well informed and always, always read the ingredients list on foods I buy, especially pantry items.  
Anytime you see a list of more than 10 - 12 ingredients in something as simple to make as bread, or peanut butter some warning signs should go off.  Often these long ingredient lists will contain a number of chemically processed sugars and preservatives. The names will likely be very long and hard to pronounce.  If you see a list like that on a food you are looking to buy - move on - it will not be worth it in the long run when you experience major health problems likely related to the consumption of chemicals in processed foods.
Here is some more info about this particular chemical, ADA...
Finding from the EWG:
This chemical, nicknamed ADA, is used in the plastics industry as a "foaming agent" and in the food industry as a dough conditioner for the convenience of industrial bakers.
In the plastics industry, it is mixed into polymer plastic gel to generate tiny gas bubbles, something like champagne for plastics. The results are materials that are strong, light, spongy and malleable. In many commercial baked goods, ADA is used as a "dough conditioner" that renders large batches of dough easier to handle and makes the finished products puffier and tough enough to withstand shipping and storage.
Below is a link to a petition to major brands to stop using this chemical if you are interested in helping to get rid of it in our food...
Okay - hope this was helpful!  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My husbands favorite soup - Spicy Potato

Spicy Potato Soup

This is my version of a classic potato soup.  I originally found the recipe in an Irish Pub cook book, along with having learned a similar soup from my granny, and I have added my own twists of flavor to it over time.  It is my husbands absolute favorite soup.  It is really comforting to eat and filling enough to be a meal on it's own.

 

 This soup is pretty basic to make, you basically chop and prep all your ingredients and throw them in a pot.  There are a couple of extra steps at the end to make this soup extra creamy and delicious, but it's really pretty easy.

 

Ingredients:

- 1lb pancetta or bacon - diced into small chunks (I buy the diced pancetta from Trader Joe's) - you can omit this ingredient for the vegetarian version of this soup
- 1 tablespoon of veggie oil
- 2 celery stalks diced
- 1 hot pepper (jalepeno or serrano) finely chopped for a little kick (omit this if you don't want it to be spicy)
- 1 diced onion
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 8 medium size potatoes peeled and cubed (I use Yukon Gold)
- 4 cups of chicken stock, veggie stock or water
- 3 to 4 tablespoons of butter (or veggie oil if you want less fat)
- 1/4 cup of all purpose flour (sometimes I use chickpea flour or rice flour for a gluten free option)
- 1cup heavy cream and half a cup of plain yogurt or milk (you can just use yogurt for the healthier version)
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon of coriander
- 1 teaspoon of oregeno
- 1 cup of chopped chives or green onions to garnish
- sometimes I add a little tumeric for color and subtle flavor - it also has amazing health benefits



 Directions:

- I start by prepping all my ingredients.  I chop all the veggies and put them aside.  I put the celery, onions, garlic and peppers into one bowl, the potatoes in another, and the cilantro into it's own little bowl.

- Using a heavy bottomed pot like a cast iron dutch oven, turn the stove to medium heat and begin by browning the pancetta or bacon in a tiny bit of vegetable oil.  Cook for 3 or 4 minutes until lightly browned, then carefully remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

- Now add a tiny bit more vegetable oil, and a tablespoon of butter to the pot and throw in your onions, garlic, celery and pepper.  Cook for about 5-6 minutes on medium heat until the veggies are softened.



 - At this point you can add in your spices and salt and pepper to the veggie mixture.  Once the vegetables are soft add in the potatoes, and also the pancetta that you set aside.  Cook this for about 2 minutes and make sure everything is incorporated together.

- Now add in the chicken stock until the potato/ veggie mixture is fully submerged and bring to a boil.  Once boiling turn the heat to low and let simmer for about 45 minutes.


- While that is cooking you can start your roux - which is the creamy component to your soup.
- To make the roux, in a separate small pot, add in the rest of your butter and the flour over medium/ low heat.



- Once the butter is all melted and incorporated with the flour, turn the heat to low and slowly add in the heavy cream and milk.


- Now whisk the mixture until it begins to thicken, then turn off the heat.


 - Then you can add in the chopped cilantro and a little salt and pepper to taste.

- The roux/ cream mixture should be very thick at this point like cake icing.

- Once the potatoes are softened in your soup you can add the cream mixture to it and stir it around.


At this point you can serve it as is or you can mash the soup down a bit to make your chunky soup a little more creamy.  I use a hand held mixer and just mix/ mash the soup a little just on the top so I still have a good amount of chunkiness.

Your done!  Serve with green onions for garnish if you like or just as is.  I hope you like this soup as much as we do!



 Bon apetit!



Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Safe and Healthy Brands for Famillies

Chemicals in our Food? Yuck - NO thanks!  How about GMO's, Pesticides, Pink Slime, Petro-Chemicals, BPA, Hydrogenated Oil or Hi-Fructose?  Definitely NOT! 

Navigating the food aisles of Supermarkets in America can be quite the daunting task, especially when you have a screaming baby, you are tired, and you just need to pick up a few things to make dinner.  Now add trying to decipher cryptic words on ingredients lists you've never heard of, and trying to work out which foods are safe to feed your baby.  OOOF!  It's too much sometimes...

Lately I have been growing more and more concerned with the ingredients, and food handling practices of food companies in the U.S.

Why?  Well, there have been a string of recalls lately on food, everything from Ground beef, Uncle Ben's Rice, Hot Pockets, Falafel Wraps, to Organic frozen berries and more.  My husband and I bought a bag of organic frozen berries from Costco, only to find out a week later that they had been recalled for containing Hepatitis A!!!  Luckily I hadn't actually opened the bag yet.

It sent some alarm bells off in my head though. You can read the article about it here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/05/31/frozen-berries-hepatitis-a-outbreak/2378139/


photo courtesy of -http://www.thefutureofhealthnow.com/fruits-vegetables-protect-mental-health/

What's Happening to our Food?
In addition to an increase in food recalls, a series of consumer driven pushes have lead companies to get rid of certain ingredients in their food due to health and safety concerns.

Well, you say,  we have a Federal Food and Drug Administration (the FDA) that protects us, right?  Yes we do, but they are not necessarily always looking out for what's best for consumers.  Like every other political branch they are subject to lobbying by huge food corporations that push hard to keep certain chemicals and misleading food labels in the food supply.  The FDA deems all kinds of harmful chemicals okay for consumption as long as they are in small enough doses.  Well, I for one am not interesting in eating chemicals no matter how small a quantity.  Accumulation of those chemicals over time can not be good for anyone!

Not to mention there are so many GIANT, MEGA food corporations that process food in giant factories that are difficult to regulate.  So, if you are a concerned mommy like me, read on...

I recently learned about MORE chemicals in foods I thought were okay, after that whole 'Subway sandwich' debacle (Subway decided to take a gross chemical out of their bread after consumer complaints. The chemical is also used in making yoga mats and shoe soles. GROSS!)

Anyway, it lead me to start looking into other foods and their ingredients lists - and the ones that were really long and hard to spell, or the ones that were a cryptic series of numbers...

for instance, R12-135 which is a chemical used to clean machinery.  It was listed as an 'ingredient' in the Oroweat bread I was buying.  It is banned in most other industrialized countries, and is labeled a "hazardous material".  Maybe it's just used to clean the machines the bread is processed in - I really don't care - I don't want it anywhere on my food!

What is it doing in supposedly healthy whole wheat bread?  Good question! 

Rather than drive yourself crazy trying to decipher all the crazy ingredients in food, and spend a bunch of money (I certainly can't afford to buy everything at Whole Foods), I am working on creating a list of safe, healthy foods and ethical brands to help us all out.  I will create a series of lists from best of the best to chose, to worst offenders to avoid.



I found this link which I found really helpful to get me started...
http://www.organicauthority.com/foodie-buzz/the-top-20-most-credible-natural-food-brands.html

There are definitely other brands besides the ones on my list - but I think these are the ones that I see the most in stores, and cover a variety of food types, from dairy products, to meats, cereals, snacks and baby foods.  In general it's a good idea to try and buy 'certified organic' foods whenever possible (which I know is not always available, and is more expensive).  Whenever we consumers buy organic we are encouraging more food companies and grocery stores to produce better quality foods, and stock more in their stores.

Here are the guidelines needed to be 'certified organic'...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_certification


Okay here is my first list...

Top 15 Best Food Brands 
(in no particular order)
My list of the most trustworthy, ethical, certified organic, healthy brands available...(found in most grocery stores)


1. Trader Joe's Brand
http://www.traderjoes.com/
I know Trader Joe's stores are not everywhere in the U.S. but this store is hands-down my favorite place to shop.  Their prices are much lower than other healthy food stores, and they carry a ton of great products, including their own brand.  The Trader Joe's brand foods are free of GMO's and also their canned goods do not contain BPA.  They carry a lot of organic products from local producers.




2. Stonyfield Farms
Organic yogurts and dairy products. They are certified organic and I think all their products taste fantastic.


3. Horizon Organic
http://www.horizondairy.com/milk/
I always buy this brand of milk for my daughter.  Because my daughter drinks so much milk it is really important to me to make sure it does not contain hormones, or anti-biotics - which a lot of milk that isn't organic does contain.



4. Bob's Redmill
http://www.bobsredmill.com/
Great selection of gluten-free products and different types of flour and grains.  I find all kinds of great products from them in the 'healthy' section at my local Ralph's grocery store.




5. Eden Foods
http://www.edenfoods.com/ 
BPA-free cans, organic soy, no gelling agents in the soymilk, commitment to organic, local and traditionally made foods for three decades. Family-owned.



6.  Nature's Path
www.naturespath.com
The go-to brand for organic cereal and a commitment to non-GMO ingredients, but beware, they still use a lot of sugar and ingredients like soy oil.



7. Earth's Best
http://www.earthsbest.com/
Earth's Best is a full line of organic baby food.





8. 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods Brand)
http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/product-lines/365-everyday-value
Whole Foods brand has high quality and pretty much all organic products.



9.  Organic Valley and Organic Prairie
http://www.organicvalley.coop/
Founded in 1988, Organic Valley produces award-winning organic milk, cheese, butter, soy milk, produce, healthy snacks, and more.
The mission of the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP) is to create and operate a marketing cooperative that promotes regional farm diversity and economic stability by the means of organic agricultural methods and the sale of certified organic products.



10.  Simply Organic
http://www.simplyorganic.com/
Herbs and Spices, and pre-made meals for when you need a healthy option for something quick.
Simply Organic's pure, organic herbs, spices and seasonings plus fresh food equals delicious, healthy meals for you and your family. Once you've tried Simply Organic®, you'll agree we provide a simply healthy way to incorporate organics into your life. We travel the world over to bring you fresh and aromatic seasonings of unsurpassed quality. You'll taste the difference in every bite.



11. Amy's Kitchen
http://www.amys.com/

I like their line of Macaroni and Cheese.
Amy's Kitchen is a privately held corporation which manufactures natural and organic convenience and frozen foods. 



 12. Back to Nature
www.backtonaturefood.com

Back to Nature foods are made with simple and delicious ingredients รข€“ plus no artificial flavors or preservatives, hydrogenated oils, or high fructose corn syrup.




13. Applegate
http://www.applegate.com/
Organic meats - Sliced deli meats, hot dogs, sausage and bacon that are free of antibiotics, gluten, casein and taste enhancers



14. Neiman Ranch
http://www.nimanranch.com/Index.aspx
Niman Ranch is a San Francisco Bay Area based ranch, meat processor and distributor of high quality "natural" beef, lamb, and pork, founded by rancher Bill Niman. Niman Ranch offers a complete line of fresh beef, pork, lamb, poulty, cage-free eggs and a variety of smoked and cured meats. Niman Ranch is leading the industry in sustainable and humane agricultural practices. 






15. Annie's
www.annies.com/
Annie's Homegrown is a Berkeley, California-based maker of natural and/or organic pastas, meals and snacks.  I get their cheddar bunnies for my daughter.

One final note...

The main reason to buy organic for every food type (meat, vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy etc) is because you can be sure the food will not contain harmful chemicals, pesticides, hormones and other bad things.  The consumption of pesticides and chemicals has been linked to increased cancer rates, environmental damage, brain developmental issues in children, and obesity.

In my opinion, it's worth it to spend a little more on organic and save your family from medical bills and heartache in the future.  I know that I can't always protect myself or my child from all the crap that goes into food all the time (I'm sure we will eat it sometimes) - but I can control what I buy at the grocery store.

 My daughter Sofia helping me put away groceries.