Guest Writers, What's Cookin?

Four Simple Tips to Healthy Eating

2 Comments 21 October 2011

guest post by Gabriela

Have you noticed how often foods are labelled “healthy” these days?

In fact, I would venture so far as to say that now that we all know that natural means absolutely nothing anymore, marketers have gone and found a new word to entice us so-called conscientious buyers to purchase their products.

And that word is healthy.

For truly healthy and natural meals, the way to go is to cook everything from scratch. 

Of course most of us would love to have the time, energy and gumption to do that. But let’s face it: it simply doesn’t happen.

For those hoping to eat healthy while buying meals in the ready-made section of the supermarket, it’s important to remember that just because a food is labelled as good for you doesn’t mean it will boost your immune system, enhance your brain power or energize you.

However, it is possible to eat relatively healthily at any budget and no matter how busy we get.

Really what this all comes down to is educating ourselves and making the best choices within the realm of what’s possible in every individual situation.

There are a few ways to ensure that even when the food on our plates was prepared by someone else, we’re making the best choices for ourselves and our families.

  • Firstly, there is what I like to call the Rule of Thumb: when you’re looking at the list of ingredients of any product, if it is longer than your thumbnail, you probably won’t want to eat it. When you think about it, how many ingredients go into the meals you cook at home?
  • Secondly, there is the Rule of Semantics: if you don’t understand an ingredient, chances are your body won’t know what to do with it either.
  • Thirdly, I like to Rule Out: there are certain things that are simply not part of our food repertoire as a family. GMOs, for example, are not welcome in our house– so we’ve banished most mainstream, non-organic soy and corn products. We try to eat as humanely as possible, which means that we stay away from factory-farmed anything.
  • Lastly, though organic and local produce can be more expensive, we eat as much of it as we can afford. It’s important to know what fruits and veggies are worth investing in: for example, I will buy conventionally grown avocados but apples and celery are always organic.

When checking out foods and household products, I like to consult the Environmental Working Group website.

It’s a great resource for finding
out basically anything you need to know about toxins, pesticides, and other nasties in everything from sunscreen to wet wipes.

They have also put out a list of produce in terms of what is more pesticide-heavy and what is safer to eat non-organic.

Remember: nobody is perfect, and that includes our diets, but let’s do what we can to stay truly healthy – not because we are marketed health, but because we feel great!

I’d love to hear from the readers of Bring Birth Home! What are some of the tricks you use to ensure your family gets the healthiest food possible?

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As a result of multiple health challenges, Gabriela left a lucrative career in television production to become a Holistic Health Consultant, writer and, most recently, a mother. These days, when she in not blogging about health, working on new and delicious recipes or spending time with her family, Gabriela is leading workshops and writing about nutrition both on and off the plate. She lives in New York City with her husband and baby girl as well as on the web at The Picky Foodie.

Guest Writers, What's Cookin?

Tahini: Nutrition for Moms and Their Families

1 Comment 16 September 2011

a guest post by Gabriela

The term “superfood” is bandied around a lot these days.

Every green powder, tropical berry or exotic ingredient, it seems, is a
superlative version of the boring old stuff we have in our pantry.

One of the characteristics that separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes
to food is its nutritional content – in other words, how much healthy bang do you
get for your well-intentioned buck?

In my opinion, superfoods don’t have to be expensive or hard to come by.

In fact, I would venture to say that simply by adding more whole foods into our diets,
most of us will be significantly enriching and enhancing what’s on our plates.

One food I like to encourage people, and especially Moms to experiment
with is tahini. In case you haven’t come across it, tahini is a popular Middle
Eastern paste made from sesame seeds. It is available in health food stores and
sometimes in the specialty sections of large supermarkets. Alternatively, you can
order it online.

Tahini is a real superfood in that it is choc-full of nutrition like calcium, zinc
and
fiber. What makes it fun to play with is that it is extremely versatile –
in the
Middle East, tahini is used in both sweet as well as savoury dishes.

But not all tahini is created equal.

For example, much like brown rice contains more health benefits than white
rice, tahini made from unhulled seeds contains more than double the amount of
calcium than its hulled counterpart.

Also, because it is high in Omega 6 fatty acids, raw tahini is your best bet. If you
prefer the taste of the roasted kind, why not mix them together so you’re getting
the best of both worlds?

Here are a few ideas for ways to enjoy tahini:

- Add a Tablespoon to your morning smoothie. It will help keep your blood sugar steady. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself belly dancing through the morning.

- Combine 1 part blackstrap molasses with 3 parts tahini for a fantastic iron,
calcium, magnesium, fibre-rich pregnancy and post-partum super-spread.

- For a happy little snack that will please big and small, mash a cup of
raspberries with a tablespoon of tahini, ½ tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and 1
teaspoon raw honey (or to taste). Spoon on top of sliced banana, garnish with a
dusting of raw cacao powder and enjoy as dessert for breakfast (or breakfast for
dessert).

- And lastly, perfecting classic savoury tahini is a challenge in and of itself.
Finding the right balance of lemon juice, cumin and salt, chopping the parsley
just so, figuring out how thick you like it and whether you prefer it with or
without garlic is nothing to turn your nose up at. Tahini preferences are as
personal and crucial in the Middle East as tea brewing is in the UK (and let me
tell you, they take their tea very seriously over here!).

I will leave you with a little-known hummus secret: when making your own,
make sure you’ve mixed together the perfect tahini BEFORE adding it to
the chickpeas. The quality and flavour of the tahini will make or break your
hummus.

*******************************************************************

As a result of multiple health challenges, Gabriela left a lucrative career in television production to become a Holistic Health Consultant, writer and, most recently, a mother. These days, when she in not blogging about health, working on new and delicious recipes or spending time with her family, Gabriela is leading workshops and writing about nutrition both on and off the plate. She lives between London and the US with her husband and baby girl as well as on the web at The Picky Foodie

Guest Writers, What's Cookin?

Natural Whole Food Snacks for Mamas and Babies

1 Comment 09 August 2011

guest post by Danielle Greason

What’s your trusted go-to snack when your tummy’s grumbling, you only have one hand free and 2 minutes flat to satisfy the unswerving demands of your toddling babe?

For me it used to be honey sandwiches.

Okay, so they were pretty awesome honey sandwiches… made with a scrummy whole grain or spelt bread and the best quality honey I could afford. But… when I began to suspect that my 18 month old might in fact have bread running through her veins, I thought it might be prudent of me to start getting a little more creative in the kitchen!

Exploring and experimenting with some classic raw food recipes lead to the conclusion that I could in fact start to add in some solid nutrition to our constant daily snacking, with only a little more effort required than spreading a slice of bread.

These would be my new secret weapons on mission “get family healthy”:

1. A pantry full of quality nuts, seeds, dried fruits, coconut flakes and a good quality coconut oil.

2. A freezer chocked full of ripe frozen bananas and berries.

3. A food processor always out and at the ready.

I was truly astonished at the textures, flavors and yumminess that could easily be created with just these 3 preparation steps in place.

Here I’ll share with you a few of the favorites that have stood the test of time and taste buds in our home, proving to be a winner with every member of the family.

Homemade Banana Ice Cream

If you’ve never tried this before you’re going to be truly amazed and delighted!

Buy a whole stack of bananas, wait til they get really ripe, then peel them and put them in a big container in the freezer. Any time you’re ready for a sweet healthy treat, throw 3 or 4 bananas into your food processor and whiz them up. Make sure you stop to stir in any big chunks but be careful not to over-blend. The resulting texture is literally just like a store bought soft-serve ice cream.

Add in a little coconut oil for a wonderful creamy texture.

Serve straight into bowls, and make it beautiful for you and your little people by adding some crushed nuts (walnuts are brilliant) or berries on top. To top it off with some added indulgence, mix up a happy-making sauce of:

  • Virgin coconut oil
  • Raw cacao powder
  • Some raw honey or agave nectar

The coconut oil will set into a crisp, crackly chocolate layer when it touches the cold ice cream. Take a break and enjoy!

Raw Energy Balls

There are endless recipe variations available and you certainly don’t need to
use specific quantities of ingredients. You just need an understanding of the
basic concept for creating health energy balls, and then you’re free to play and experiment.

Grind up about a cup of raw almonds in your food processor, and if you have
some other nuts on hand (cashews, walnuts or brazil) add in a half a cup of those too.

Include a handful of seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and for added
crunch and quantity, coconut flakes will do the trick (stick to organic here if
possible).

Combine your dry nut and seed mixture with about one cup of dates that you’ve allowed to soak in water for softening. Blend in the food processor until you have a sticky dough consistency. For a superfood boost and a dash of colour, include some soaked goji berries at this stage as well.

Taste test for sweetness and feel free to add some raw honey or agave nectar to the mix.

Now here’s the fun part… roll it into snack-size little balls of goodness, coating
each ball in some coconut flakes or coconut flour. Keep your toddler content
with a small bowl of the mixture while your busy getting your hands dirty.

Make up a big batch of these on the weekend when you do have two hands
available for a moment. Store them in the freezer and when you’re ready for
an outing, pop a few in a container to take along with the usual piece of fruit.
They’re the ultimate cookie replacement!

Chia Pudding for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

Chia seeds are little powerhouses of nutrition full of calcium, potassium,
antioxidants, iron and essential fatty acids. They’re also a complete source of
protein, providing all the essential amino acids in an easily digestible form.

It’s surprisingly easy to get more of them onto your daily menu. Not only that, they are the perfect base for delicious creamy puddings that you could serve up for breakfast or lunch, and even a super easy dinner after a hectic day.

Once again, no need for recipes and quantities, just knowing that this option is
there and available is all you need to get going.

There’s just three easy steps to making a Chia Pudding:

1. Soak the chia seeds in filtered water for a few hours, or leave some in a
bowl on the bench before you go to bed. As a rough guide, add about 4 tablespoons of chia to 1 cup of water. This will form the chia seed ‘gel’.

2. Blend up the chia seed gel in your food processor (or a high-powered
blender) with the fruits and flavourings of your choice. Banana,
blueberries or raspberries work wonderfully.

3. Add some sweetener of your choice to taste: a few soaked dates, some
raw honey or agave nectar will do the trick.

For added creaminess, try this: instead of water, soak your chia seeds in
almond milk (you can buy it from the health food store or make your own).
Alternatively, throw in a half cup of well-soaked raw cashews.

For an on-the-go toddler snack, make up a big batch of chia pudding and pour it into a whole stack of mini snack size containers. Store these in the freezer. As you’re heading out the door, pop one in your bag with a spoon, and with a bit of a stir it’ll be a satisfying little treat ready to go at the critical moment when you’re at the shops or down at the park.

So there you have it, whole food snacks at the touch of a whizzing button!

The real key to success here is becoming a modern day ‘gatherer’.

Instead of wandering the fields, babe in carrier, basket in hand, you’re wandering your health food store aisles and online stores searching for the best deals and bulk discounts on quality seeds, nuts, oils and fruits. Getting your hands on great nutrition at a good price means you’ll always feel happy and confident to experiment and play with your ingredients.

I’m sure many of you reading this are already using these recipe ideas and making them your own. Please share with the rest of us health-seeking mamas your favorite variations and tips. Just one idea has the power to totally transform the health, simplicity and ease experienced in another family’s life, and you never know just whom that family might be.

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Danielle Greason is a nature-loving mama who loves to hang out with the Raw Moms, Raw Divas and Green Smoothie Queens as blog editor at The Raw Divas. She lives in Costa Rica with her husband and two toddlers, where the greens are wild and the mangoes are ripe!

Want more Danielle? Read her previous contribution to the BBH Blog, Homebirth, Green Smoothies and Banana Cream Pie

Guest Writers, Pregnancy, What's Cookin?

Home Birth, Green Smoothies & Banana Cream Pie

2 Comments 19 July 2011

guest post by Danielle

I’m a foodie at heart.  Always have been. Always will be.

When I began planning my home birth at 7 months of pregnancy, little did I realize that the experience would literally change the way I thought about indulgence, treats, and gourmet dining… forever!  Food was about to get a whole lot more exciting!

Here’s how it all started:

We were getting ready to welcome our second daughter at home, with about 6 weeks or so to go, and our first daughter was just on 12 months old at the time.   Between late night pregnancy bathroom trips, night time toddler parenting, and carrying my pre-walking babe between chores each day… I was feeling downright fatigued and struggling to get through the day to say the least. You know how it goes!

I was certainly in no physical or mental state to cope with labor, let alone to look forward to the birth with excited anticipation (the emotional place that I really wanted to be).  You read in all those lovely pregnancy books, and glossy mags to rest in late pregnancy, put your feet up, nap during the day, do a little deep breathing outside on your morning walk, and hey… head on out and treat yourself to a maternity massage once a week.  But, as I’m sure many of you know only too well… these tips work wonders with the first pregnancy… sometimes a little (or a LOT!) more challenging for the second, with toddler in tow.

So here’s what I did in my state of exhaustion:  I asked for a solution to present itself to me. “There’s gotta be a way for this to work” I thought.  “Geez I can’t be the only tired, exhausted, run-down mama who’s desperately wondering how she’s going to ‘do this birth thing’ all over again.“

You know what, I must have put my intention out there pretty clearly, or with the right vibe, or something…. because in less than one week from sending out that heart felt request to the universe, I had my answer!

You wanna know what it was?

Greens!

Yep, I’m talking good ol’ spinach and celery (and later I would come to discover kale, carrot tops, dandelion and wild growing weeds).

I’d stumbled across a flyer for a Green Smoothie Workshop being held at my local health food store.  On that very same day I’d ‘co-incidentally’ received an email from my good friend and kiniesiologist proposing that the magnesium minerals (and other goodies) found in high doses in dark leafy greens may be just the solution to my predicament that I’d been looking for.

Now don’t get me wrong, I really didn’t get too excited about this at first.  After all, everyone knows greens are good for you right?!  That you should eat more of them?

But…. there was something about the way those few ‘green smoothie converts’ spoke at that little health food store workshop that night:  the high-energy passion in their voice, the sparkle in their eyes, the apparent relief that they had in fact found the solution that they had been seeking (whether that be increased energy, or weight loss or a calm nervous system).

I knew I had to find out what this was all about for myself.  I had to know.  I had to feel it.

So… with less that 6 weeks till B-Day, I re-allocated my pregnancy multi-vitamin funds, and started to have a big fresh green smoothie box’ delivered every week.

I committed to myself that by the end of each week, every single leaf and stem and apple that was in that big box in the fridge was going to have gone through my blender, and then gone through me.  If I could do that for 7 days straight (I was drinking about 1 to 2 litres of smoothie per day), I’d know if I was on the right track.

Within 2 days I began to feel more energetic, clear headed, and able to again cope with late pregnancy while mothering my toddler; within 7 days I was feeling more alive and excited about life than I had done certainly within the last 2 months of pregnancy, and probably within the last 10 years of my life!

The transformation was quite startling and obvious to my husband, and he soon wanted to partake in this weird green swamp sludge that was coming out of our blender.  Again, the benefits were clear for all to be seen as he started to rapidly recover from long held body aches and pains that had accumulated through years of working in the construction industry.

My 1 year old didn’t want to miss out on the daily ritual either, and as she began to drink her own little cup of sweet, green goodness, the dark circles under her eyes (which to be honest I hadn’t really even noticed up to that point) disappeared within days.

We all began to radiate with health (even as we continued to eat our regular meals of pasta, bread and potatoes).  We had enough energy to be present for each other despite long days working or mothering, and most exciting of all, I had my wish granted: I was now looking forward to this birth with confidence, knowing I had the energy I needed to see it through.

So where does the Banana Cream Pie come in here I hear you ask?

Well, as yummy as Green Smoothies are… I knew they probably weren’t going to satisfy those nagging pregnancy cravings, or desires for indulgence that popped up daily (at least not for me anyway!).  But with all this good I was doing for my body, it seemed odd to then duck down to the store and buy a packet of trans-fat filled chocolate biscuits to munch on top of it (a regular favourite in my first pregnancy).

I did a little research, and found out that “these raw food people”’ who had taught me about the magic of combining greens and fruits in a blender, also had a few other nifty tricks up their sleeve!

They could show me how to indulge in delicious desserts every day, that included only those ingredients that were pure and delicious: good for me and my growing babe!  I learned how to make:

  • Banana Berry Cream Pie
  • Velvety Chocolate Mousse
  • Walnut Fudge Brownies
  • Scrumptious Energy Balls to snack on during labor…

… and a whole lot more, using nothing but fruits, nuts, seeds and a little raw, organic coconut oil and honey.

Wow!  What a revelation this was for me!  Sweets that were as good as the real deal, but without the heavy uncomfortable feeling that usually follows.

My favourite was making the Banana Cream Pies (I just love to say those words Banana Cream Pie too… that’s almost as satisfying in itself).

I’ll share with you here how I did it:

To make the pie crust, I ground up a cup of raw almonds with a cup of soaked dates in a food processor.  Pressing the sticky dough into the bottom and sides of a pie dish to form the crust, I then left it to set in the freezer.

Next, I’d take about 6 ripe bananas, half a cup of soaked cashews, half a cup of desiccated coconut (I hunted down the organic kind without the preservative 220), some raw organic honey to sweeten, and a few big tablespoons of coconut oil to make the whole mixture creamy and luxurious.  Blending it all up in a blender or food processor, it was then ready to pour it into the pie crust.

To add some beauty and zest, I’d decorate the top with beautiful fresh strawberry slices, or a big pile of raspberries, and allow the whole thing to set in the freezer.  Once it’s a firm consistency (but before it’s frozen solid), you can slice up a piece of creamy luscious pie.  The ingredients are all so nutrient-dense and good for you, sometimes my toddler and I would even sit down to a slice for breakfast (after our morning green smoothie of course).  Kept her happy.  Kept me happy!

If this kind of dessert gets your mouth watering, go ahead and do a Google search, for raw food pie recipes. You’ll find endless variations.  Sometimes I’d add raw organic cacao to make a chocolate cake, other times I’d whiz up some ripe mango and swirl it into the top with a chopstick, pretending I was a gourmet French pastry chef.

As you don’t bake this pie, there’s no need to be exact with ingredients.  Just sit a pile of yummy stuff next to your blender or food processor.  Then pour and taste test between nappy changes, nap times and breastfeeding.  There’s nothing to measure, nothing to burn, and no hot ovens to keep little fingers away from.

So there you have it.

My homebirth experience not only changed the way I view birth forever… it literally changed the way I approached eating and indulging, and nourishing myself and my babes.

The whole world starts to look brighter when you have the energy to show up to it fully, and in no other area of life am I more grateful for this than in being a mother.

Stay tuned for next time Kaitlin invites me to share, and I’ll be sure to post my recipe for those little power-packed Energy Balls that I prepared for snacking on at home during labor.

*Note: If you think you’d like to try Green Smoothies in the large quantity that I mentioned above, speak to your midwife, naturopath or doctor for advice first.  I’m glad that I kept my midwife informed of my diet along the way, as it meant that she didn’t have cause for alarm when I had some greater than expected blood clotting.  She knew immediately that the cause was all the Vitamin K I’d been ingesting through dark greens, and could respond accordingly.

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Danielle Greason is a nature-loving mamma who loves to hang out with the Raw Moms, Raw Divas and Green Smoothie Queens as blog editor at The Raw Divas.  She lives in Costa Rica with her husband and two toddlers, where the greens are wild and the mangoes are ripe!

What's Cookin?

Super-Charge Your Health With the BBH Green Smoothie Recipe

9 Comments 07 May 2011

I make this delicious and nutritious  green smoothie for my honey and I every morning.

The original recipe came from the lovely Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy Life (the Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor). I’ve altered it a bit to make it even more healthy – it’s literally packed with nutritious goodness.

Without further ado, here’s how ya make it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 cup orange juice (or cranberry, apple, carrot – your choice!)
  • 1 whole banana
  • 1/2 organic frozen mixed berries (add more for a fruiter flavor & color to trick the kiddos!)
  • 1/4 cup organic yogurt
  • 1/2 fresh squeezed lime
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 tbs hemp seeds
  • 1 tbs raw pumpkin seeds, ground fine
  • 1 tbs golden flax seeds, ground fine
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp maca powder
  • 1 tsp barley powder
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • 1 packet of Emergen-C
  • 2 heaping handfuls of fresh, organic spinach

It may seem like a lot to put into a smoothie, but the health benefits are there!  Of course, you don’t need to add all the powders and seeds – a simple green smoothie can be made with juice, water, fruit, honey and greens of your choice!

I love drinking out of these fancy glasses. Makes me feel like I am really
treating myself and reminds me that good health is a beautiful thing!

**

Do you make green smoothies? Please share your recipe below!

What's Cookin?

Lentil Veggie Soup Recipe

5 Comments 26 February 2011

Great (adapted) recipe taken from VegNews Magazine, February 2011 issue. It turned out so well, I just had to share!

2 Tbs olive oil
1 sm. yellow onion
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 cup lentils
1 14oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
5 cups vegetable broth
4 cups baby spinach

I added black beans, one potato, a leek, 1/2 a zucchini, extra carrots and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

You could add anything extra veggie along with quinoa, barley, rice or pasta.

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a pan and add onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Cook for approx five minutes until soft.  Add lentils, tomatoes, salt, pepper & broth.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for 45 minutes until lentils soften. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking!

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