Friday, February 26, 2010

food-the best gift ever

My Mom was in town close to my birthday recently. The dreaded "What do you want for your birthday?" came up. Our home is small, so I insisted nothing I had to find a place for. Nothing I can't consume or throw away. Then I said it, "Can you cook for me and freeze a couple meals?" I was going to be away working during parts of the visit and Mom put on the apron and filled my freezer with pouches of hearty beef stew, silky vegetable soups, spaghetti sauces and more. It was the BEST GIFT EVER!!!
Families are busy, and anything that can help get a home-made, delicious meal on the table quickly is amazing. Can't tell you how great it was on a busy day to pull out a soup, bake a loaf of bread and make a salad. Thanks Mom! It wasn't just food, it was a gift of sanity and more time to enjoy with my family.
Would you feel comfortable asking your family and friends to help out with a few meals? What about a meal circle? A gift for a new mom, or a mom in transition with work, marriage, housing?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Just Dance, finally a Wii game I love

We got a new Wii game called "Just Dance." It's a hoot. It's the best workout I've had from the Wii, way better than any Wii fit game, way more fun and less annoying. My 4 year old loves it. She does it while I cook, before school, or we dance together to the club hits from my dancing days. (Anyone remember The Nectarine in Ann Arbor??) It's fun hearing your kid rock out to "Pump Up the Jam." If you're looking for a fun and active game for the whole family, this is it!
(Wii FIT is to be approached with caution. Aside from almost every game being too complicated for my preschooler, it has terrible body-image implications.)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

disordered eating

Laura Collins linked to this on her blog and I am too :)

This article gives a glimpse into one kind of disordered eater. It describes an ice-dancer's overly controlled and restricted eating and how it left her weak and irritable. Thinner is not always better- even in ice-skating.
My goal as a childhood feeding specialist is to try to help parents feed their children in a healthy, nurturing way so they have the best chance of raising competent, not disordered eaters for whom eating is a trial and a struggle, something that takes up much of their waking energy and thoughts.
FYI, the majority of American women are categorized as having "disordered eating." Does that surprise you?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

lamb lessons and recipe

My husband loves lamb stew. I used to love it, then the last few times we had it, for some reason it put me off. Since I'm the family cook, aka gate-keeper, we haven't had it for at least 3 years. We were menu planning on Saturday and decided to give it a try again. That little lamb stew had many teachable moments and it was delicious. 4 year old M was suspicious and didn't eat very much. She dipped some bread in the sauce and had a few pieces of lamb, but this was not a hit for her the first time around. Since this was a new main meal, I prepared peas and had cut up vegetables with a salad and bread so I knew she would get enough to eat even if she didn't like the main item.

1) Ask the meat counter guy what kind of meat to buy if you don't know. I told him I was going to make stew and asked for him to cut some off the lamb leg, he said shoulder would be better. It was and it was cheaper
2) If you see a big roast, or leg of lamb that is tied with string, they will often cut some off for you. You don't have to buy the whole thing. Especially for expensive meat like lamb, some slices off a boneless leg or shoulder roast are much cheaper than chops. They will fall apart, but they grill up and make good stew meat.
3) If you had a bad experience with food in the past, it may take some time, OK maybe alot of time to pass before it sounds appetizing again. (Like the time you threw up salsa Freshman year of college and didn't eat salsa for almost two years?)
4) If you are a picky adult, and haven't tried a food for many years, give it a try. Make the food, smell it, maybe take one bite or not. Give yourself permission to approach foods slowly. Have a napkin nearby so you can spit it out if you need to.
4) Kids who have bad experiences with food (gagging, pressure, trust issues after sneaky chef discoveries etc.) may also take a long time to get back to a food. The less you pressure them, the better that process will go.
5) If you're making an entree, consider paring it with pre-prepped sides if you're short on time or imagination. Alexia frozen breads, potatoes, sweet potato fries, frozen veggies, refrigerated mashed potatoes.

prep time 25 minutes, cook time 45 or so...

1 -2 pounds of lamb meat for stew (can use other meat...) can ask butcher to chop for you too
2 celery stalks chopped
2 carrots chopped
2 cans of drained cannelini (white) beans, or prepared (soaked) dry beans
1 can 14 ounce of diced tomatoes, do not drain
1/4 tspn dried rosemary
1 tspn dried mustard powder
1-2 teaspoons crushed garlic (1-2 cloves)
1 cup or so chicken broth as needed for moisture (more if you want it soupy, less for thick)
1 -2 bay leaves optional
salt and pepper to taste

Clean and chop one large leek, carrots and celery. Sautee in your soup pot over medium heat with about 1/2 -1 Tbspn of butter for about 8 minutes, or until soft. Add lamb meat and cook about 8-10 minutes. Don't let scorch. Add broth to prevent scorching. Add all the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 45 minutes or so. Serve with fresh bread. (Alexia frozen baguettes are nice, or home-made...) Serve. Salt and pepper to taste.

Yes, you probably should dredge the meat in flour and brown it in batches and then add the aromatics, but this takes more time and for a quickish dinner doesn't make enough of a taste difference to me to mess around in the kitchen an extra 30 minutes...

What convenience foods do you like? I'm always looking for a decent tasting one...

Monday, February 15, 2010

pull up a high-chair...

"How do you do a family meal with a 9 month old!?" I was asked. All too often the high chair is standing in the middle of the kitchen, someone puts a handful of Cheerios on the tray, a few mashed bananas and then cleans the kitchen or unloads the dishwasher. I get how crazy life can get so sometimes this is OK, but...

Pull your kids up to the table and sit down with them and eat a meal or a snack. Smile, chat, enjoy your food.

Most high-chairs today come with detachable trays so they can get right up to the table. If not, pull them up next to you and use the tray. These cool chairs in the photo are probably some of the smartest I've seen, but they're really pricey. They allow for the feet to rest on a platform which can be really great for fidgety or easily distracted kids. (A child on the autism spectrum might benefit from a chair like this.) This is a great solution for several years. (I can't tell you how many boosters and Kaboosts we tried. If I had to do it over again, I'd get one of these...)

As your children are able, you share the foods you are eating. Perhaps some softly cooked green beans mashed up, ground beef in broth or sauce, or pieces of watermelon or mashed potato...

Eat with them. Enjoy your time together. The pre-toddler phase is a great time to introduce lots of tastes as kids this stage are pretty accepting. (Children get naturally more picky as they get into the toddler and preschool years.) Enjoy the mess. Change out of your work clothes before sitting down, enjoy watching them intently scrape food into their mouths. Staying close is the best protection against choking. Know that some gagging is normal. Know that some meals they will eat a lot and at others they will eat less. Let them decide how much. Consider breast feeding or bottle feeding after they have had their meal with you. As they eat more solid foods, they will naturally take in less milk. They are still getting most of their nutrition through breast milk or formula, so don't worry too much about fruits and vegetables. Remember, if the experience of eating is pleasant, and you offer a variety of fruits and vegetables and other foods and you enjoy eating them, chances are your kids will too.

support with Eating Disorders

local Eating Disorders Parent Support Group
Becky Henry is an author, life-coach, activist and mother of a daughter with an eating disorder. She also has a rare empathy and power to connect with people and just really wants to help. If you are living with a child with an eating disorder or a child in recovery, there is a new local ED support group. Check it out.

Friday, February 12, 2010

video on leek prep

I use lots of leeks in my recipes.
They are in the onion family, and I like their mellow taste. I know not everyone has used them before. This is a nice little video to encourage you to give them a try! Enjoy the official vegetable of the country of Wales!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mommy MD Guides

The best advice I get from my pediatrician usually involves some anecdote about what she did with her kids. (Toothbrushing for example or potty-training.)
Recognizing the value of her advice as a doctor and a mom is part of why I share what goes on in my own home with my readers and clients. I know that being a mother made me a better doctor and is part of what makes me effective as a childhood feeding specialist. Readers and clients tell me that the stories that help them most are my accounts of dealing with my own feeding issues –from M's public melt-down over snack to her acceptance of a new food or her low milk intake. EVERY parent works hard at this. In the spirit of the Mommy expert, I recently contributed to a cool project called Mommy MD Guides. Mommy MDs share their pregnancy and child-rearing tips form their own homes– grounded in their medical knowledge and training. I hope you'll check it out!

Monday, February 8, 2010

subverting the princesses

Alas, my daughter loves the Disney Princesses. I guess I think of it like "forbidden foods." If we don't make a big deal out of it and let her have access in moderation she will lose interest eventually... Meanwhile Princess stuff is cheap, and we often are given coloring books and stickers etc. I have taken a subversive pleasure in making the princesses a little more anatomically correct. (See before and after above.)
Did you ever notice that their eyes are wider apart than the diameter of their waists? So I add a few more "inches" here and there. My daughter doesn't notice and it makes me feel a little better. I still think my enhanced princess is lovely and wouldn't be any less appealing to little girls and might just help improve body image satisfaction a little bit.

(There are studies that girls as young as 4 who play with Barbies experience lowered body satisfaction. Body image dissatisfaction is a risk factor for disordered eating, dieting and weight gain...)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

different appetites

So I asked my daughter what her favorite part of the vacation was.
"When I got to eat ice-cream from the box for breakfast! Oh, and the calamari!" (We were emptying out the fridge on our last morning and there was some ice-cream left. M spotted it and asked if she could have it for breakfast. Sure! I handed her a spoon, a banana and some toast with butter and jam.)

After some reflection and prompting, she admitted that the pool was pretty cool, as was the big splurge of petting a dolphin! (Highlight of the trip for me, though the local peel- and-eat shrimp for $5 a pound were AWESOME!)

What I'm getting at is that some people are more interested and tuned-in to food than others. My early vacation memories are literally about the food, so this made me chuckle. My mom asks if I remember Williamsburg, and I think for a minute. "Was that where we went to that brick restaurant where I had my first clam chowder and J. had a baked potato?" I'm not kidding you.
Of course, we ONLY ate out on vacation, so it was extra special, but I am very aware and appreciative of food. I could not comprehend "forgetting" to eat a meal. I don't like feeling hungry. Other people, like my husband, are the opposite.

This can be a problem in the feeding relationship, for example when feeders and kids are opposites in their interest, joy and experiences around food and hunger.
One mom I worked with could forget to eat, was naturally thin and didn't mind being hungry. Her daughter had a hearty and emotional appetite. She was joyful when eating and tantrummy and scared when she didn't eat. This child needed lots of structure and predictability with her food, and Mom struggled with that. Mom didn't remember snacks sometimes and was perplexed and even worried about her daughter's relationship with food.

They ended up doing well. It was enormously reassuring to Mom to hear that her daughter's interest and experiences were normal and healthy, not an obsession or indication of "overeating." She was better able to plan and prepare and provide what her daughter needed when she empathized with how her daughter felt when she was hungry or scared she wouldn't get enough.

If on the other hand you LOVE food and eating and it's something you look forward to and your kid could care less, that can be challenging too. Still provide the structure, support and yummy food, but don't take it personally if your child isn't bouncing up and down in her chair over Gramma's spaghetti sauce.

Are you tuned in or out to food? How are the people around you with food? Does it cause conflict? Got one kid who loves to eat and another who could care less?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

a carrot by any other name would taste as sweet...

So we were eating carrots and cucumbers last night with our home-made ginger dressing. (We had leftover turkey curry, home-made bread, and broccoli cream soup experiment.*) She used to like eating carrots cut into thin fingers. She was not interested last night, and I started cutting the carrots into little circles and dipped them myself. I said, "would you like some carrot coins?" She thought this was pretty nifty and nibbled on several more carrot and cucumber coins.
I didn't pressure, but offered another option, a fancy name. There are studies that suggest some kids eat more veggies when given exciting names like "X-ray carrots" or "Power peas." Most of the time that feels like too much work and energy, but give it a shot.
Remember, kids are fickle. They like things one day and reject them another. They might like crust on a sandwich one day, and not the next. The more you can relax and keep the power struggles out the better.

broccoli soup: in an effort to not throw so much food away, I froze leftover broccoli from the last two times we cooked it. I sauteed an onion, added a Tbspn of butter, a box of broth, the broccoli and a half can of evaporated milk. I blended it all. Verdict? Good flavor, a little watery. Maybe I'll add potatoes next time...