Monday, August 27, 2012

Mocktail hour

As a pregnant lady in the beginning of my second trimester, I tend to get slightly overwhelmed by the negative. For instance, my abdomen is being stretched at an alarming and painful rate and I haven't slept through the night in months. Instead of focusing on the miracle of life, bundle of joy and all that jazz, I wind up crying (literally, crying) over the fact that none of my tops cover my belly (which at this point doesn't look pregnant, but rather like I ate a dozen Krispy Kreme for breakfast...every day...for a month.)

In these moments, when I've passed over the border into crazy-town-Preggo land, I like to mix myself a drink.

The ritual of making myself a delicious beverage and sitting down to enjoy it calms and satisfies me, even though said beverage doesn't contain two shots of bourbon, which is my traditional pre-Preggo means of relaxation. I keep the fridge stocked with mixers--orange, pineapple, cranberry and grapefruit juice, club soda, ginger ale and various other fruit sodas or drink mixes that catch my fancy. My fridge is half full of assorted beverages.

I usually have one 'mocktail' a day: measuring the ingredients, mixing, pouring it into a fancy glass and garnishing make it a special indulgence (any more than one and I'll start to feel guilty about the sugar.) I savor my 'mocktail' hour; I want it to be a time during the day when I can put my feet up and just enjoy.

If I relax enough, I can forget about my Krispy Kreme belly and look forward to meeting the little peanut inside.

Simulated Sangria

1/4 cup orange Juice
1/4 cup pineapple Juice
1/2 cup Sparkling Pomegranate Juice
(available at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods-- can be substituted with 1/4 cup pomegranate juice and 1/4 cup seltzer.)
Fruit slices (lemon, orange, lime)

Mix juices in a measuring cup. Fill a large goblet or wine glass with ice and pour mixture over. Garnish with fruit slices.

Ginger Punch

1/2 cup ginger beer or good quality ginger ale
2 Tbs real maple syrup
2 Tbs pineapple juice
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
lime wedge
candied ginger (optional)

Vigorously shake liquid ingredients and pour over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a lime wedge and candied ginger.

Grapefruit Mock-tini

1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/4 cup grapefruit soda
1/2 cup ruby red grapefruit juice
1 tsp maraschino cherry juice
maraschino cherry

In a cocktail shaker, shake liquid ingredients with ice. Pour over a maraschino cherry in a chilled martini glass.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The freezer is my friend...

Frozen Fruit Smoothie

6 oz vanilla greek yogurt
1 heaping cup frozen fruit (bananas, berries, peaches, pineapple...)
1/2 cup juice or milk (I like orange or apple juice)

Puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Serve in a chilled glass.

 I hate wasting food. My least favorite chore is cleaning out the refrigerator because it's inevitable that I find some spoiled food item that was purchased or prepared with the best intentions, and promptly forgotten about.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are the worst. I painstakingly troll the grocery store or farmer's market, picking out the freshest, most beautiful, usually organic produce. I come home with my gastronomic booty and put it in the crisper--the drawer where vegetables go to die.
Best case scenario I use anything perishable within a couple of days, but with my new unpredictable Preggo appetites, there's no telling when I might feel like kale again.

Enter the freezer.

My generation seems to have eschewed the stand-alone and chest freezers of our elders for the notion that the only good produce is fresh produce. (There is a growing resurgence in the canning and pickling department, but that's irrelevant here, as there's no way I'm going to spend all day canning tomatoes--maybe when I get that second trimester burst of energy I keep hearing about.) However beneficial fresh produce is, it's worthless when it's wilted, rotten, or moldy. With the proper preparation, frozen fruits and vegetables can retain much of their nutritional value, while drastically increasing their shelf-life.

In On Food and Cooking, Harold McGee recommends blanching vegetables before freezing to limit "the enzymatic breakdown of vitamins and pigments (p 278.)" This is a quick process of immersing the vegetables in boiling water for one or two minutes, draining, and placing in an ice water bath to stop any further cooking. I've personally used this method to freeze green beans, kale, corn (I cut the kernels from the cob after blanching,) broccoli, cauliflower and peas.

There is no need to blanch fruit before freezing. For delicate fruits prone to browning like peaches and plums, you might think about covering them with sugar syrup or making freezer jam--which is generally fruit cooked with sugar syrup, then frozen.
When I have berries that have seen better days (not moldy--just starting to get slightly battered looking) I wash and trim them, cutting any large berries into smaller pieces. Then I dry them briefly with paper towels and drop them in a freezer bag to be frozen. Overripe bananas I simply peel and freeze--blend frozen bananas up with some milk for a creamy confection to rival a milkshake!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Powerhouse pancakes

These tasty little cakes combine pregnancy 'superfoods' oatmeal and cottage cheese in an easy to prepare, home cooked, comfort breakfast.

1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup cottage cheese
3 egg whites
1 whole egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth.
In a preheated, greased skillet or griddle (over medium heat: hot but not smoking, a few droplets of water should 'dance' on the surface for several seconds before evaporating if the temperature is correct) pour batter into 3 inch cakes, making sure not to over-crowd.
When edges look dry, flip and brown the opposite side. Repeat with remaining batter.
Serves 2.

These aren't your fluffy, buttermilk style pancakes (they also aren't full of refined flour and sugar.) They have a pleasingly dense, somewhat chewy texture...think Asian style scallion pancakes.

I ate mine with maple syrup and raspberry jam for breakfast.  You could just as easily omit the vanilla and stir in some salt and black pepper, minced onion or sesame seeds for a savory snack dipped in soy sauce or sriracha (depending on how well you're tolerating any of the above items these days.)

Powerhouse pancakes freeze well, so you can make a whole mess of these whole grain, protein and calcium rich beauties ahead of time. Wrap the individual portions tightly in plastic wrap and you've got yourself a super quick and nutritious meal or snack ready to reheat in seconds.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Snacks, naps, and salt

As I approach the end of my first trimester, I am eagerly anticipating the nausea-free zone. I am constantly being assured that it's coming, that somewhere around thirteen or fourteen weeks I will miraculously start feeling like a million bucks. I'm ready.
In the meantime, I have been relying on a few foods to see me through the minefield that is the "iffy" stomach, and safely satisfy my preggo cravings.

Apples-- Honeycrisp, Fuji, or Pink Lady as they have thinner skins, thus eliminating the need for excessive chewing, which gets the saliva going...and we know how that ends. I've been cutting them into slices and, if I need an extra protein boost, spreading them with all natural peanut butter.

Trail mix-- I carry this around in my bag with me at all times. I'm a trail mix purist. That is, I use the same recipe we used for Gorp when I was in the Girl Scouts some twenty years ago: Equal parts peanuts, raisins, and M&Ms. I have made the small concession of opting for dark chocolate M&Ms since I can make myself believe they are better for me (If I were very good I would use a candy that didn't contain all those artificial colors, but...I'm just not ready to go that far.) There's a reason trail mix exists, ladies. Just a handful gives you a perfect proportion of protein, carbohydrates, and fat to keep you going when your energy's flagging.

Fruit leather, cereal bars and granola bars from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods-- All the convenience of convenience food, without the high fructose corn syrup and weird additives.

Cucumbers and Carrots-- We've got to get our veggies, and lots of them, but most days I just don't want to look at anything green. I dip sliced cucumber and baby carrots in hummus or organic ranch dressing to obtain my veggie benefits. I've also toasted a slice of multi-grain bread, spread it with a little cream cheese and topped it with cucumber slices and capers (you can even throw a tomato slice on there if you're feeling adventurous) for a quick and cool open-faced vegetable sandwich.

Cottage Cheese-- The perfect afternoon snack: loaded with protein and calcium, and incredibly versatile. You can eat it on its own or with blueberries, fresh pineapple, or peaches. You can eat it with sliced beefsteak tomatoes, or my personal favorite: fresh ground black pepper and a dill pickle on the side (what can I say, I'm pregnant.)

Which bring me to salt. In addition to those extra 300 calories a day (yes, only 300) pregnant women are also advised to increase their salt intake. If you were already a sodium lover before you got pregnant (not pointing any fingers) chances are you're getting enough, but it's recommended that you not try to cut back on salt during pregnancy.

A craving for pickles or potato chips may be your body's way of telling you that you need more salt. We lose sodium when we suffer morning sickness, and Progesterone makes us lose more sodium in our urine. At the same time we're increasing our blood volume, and thus, our need for salt.

Opt for whole-wheat pretzels, nuts, string cheese or (yes) pickles to tackle your craving. As with all cravings, it's best to try to obtain some nutritional value from the foods we choose. So, you're craving french fries...your brain may be interpreting your nutritional need for salt as a craving for a food that will deliver plenty of it. That doesn't mean it's the best choice, or that your craving won't be satisfied by, say, a baked potato with low-fat sour cream and a liberal dose of kosher salt.

That being said...some french fries every once in awhile won't kill you. This is a time when we should be mindful of our bodies and kind to ourselves. I believe an occasional indulgence, if it makes you feel good, is necessary for mental health. So too are lots and lots of naps.