Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Product Review – Theo Chocolate 75% Blend May 30, 2008

Filed under: Chocolate,Food & Recipes,product reviews — rjlacko @ 8:10 pm
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I’ve been curious about Seattle-based Theo Chocolate. I’ll admit that attractive packaging can pique my curiosity, and Theo’s enthusiastic commitment to green initiatives, organic farming and fair trade make a product purchase an act of moral justice. (One can never be too dramatic when justifying a chocolate obsession.) The company is the first North American roaster of organic fair-trade cacao. Founder Joseph Whinney pioneered the manufacture and supply of organic chocolate products, importing organic cocoa beans into the US in 1994. Notably, every product is made with “Fair Trade certified cocoa beans,” according to the company’s website.

The packaging is indeed alluring. In April 2008, Theo’s array of gorgeous packaging made Time magazine’s Design 100.

I selected the Ghana-Panama-Ecuador 75% Cacao bar (3oz), a combination of Ghanese cacao, Panamanian cacao from the remote rainforest of Bocas del Toro, and Ecuadorian Arriba cacao. Theo’s Ivory Coast bar sat next to it on the shelf, and when I compared the two, the Ivory smelled infinitely more intriguing; I chose the blend because there were very few left and I felt it was time to break my single-origin habit.

I shouldn’t have. The blended bar seemed fresh, it had no signs of bloom and had a good snap, but the scent and flavor fell flat. Subtle to the point of uninspiring, the bar lacked personality and the finish was uneventful. A beautiful chocolate keeps me ooh-ing and ah-ing long after I’ve finished a single bite. There was nothing to savor with this bar, although searching and hoping I tasted and tested longer than necessary.

I ought to have known better. One of my benchmarks for chocolate tasting is how long it lasts in the pantry. If it goes fast, I note its “Mediocrity Paradox”. Seem contradictory? Therein lies the paradox: more bites than necessary are taken while chasing an expectation of flavor, of satisfaction, a gustatory reward, but the product’s poor quality fails to deliver. Anyone who has eaten a large portion of “fat-free” anything, only to be left stuffed and unsatisfied, understands. I’m willing to argue that all foodies agree that a few bites of something sublime always surpasses a larger portion of any mediocre dish.

That said, the very scent of the Ivory Coast bar, (even through the packaging!) was memorable enough for me to give Theo another shot. And, the next time I’m in Seattle, I will certainly stop by for a factory visit.

If love good food as much as I do, check out my other blog, the Unnassuming Foodie!

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Fun Things to Do with Your Family This Weekend #1 May 24, 2008

Filed under: Fun Family Weekend Ideas — rjlacko @ 3:53 am
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It’s the long weekend! My husband came home early from work and little Joseph and Noah enjoyed cuddling and rough-housing with him before their mealtime chaos. Have you made any plans for the weekend? I have a few ideas for you!

Create a gorgeous brunch dish the entire family will love.
Peach Abracadabra is an easy dish with fresh, ripe peaches and a built-in magic trick! This recipe begins with a ramekin placed upside down in the center of a pie plate. Sliced peaches encircle the ramekin, and are then drizzled with a lovely mixture of brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and vanilla. A buttery cake dough covers the peaches, and then this unusual dish goes into the oven. Once cooled, the pie plate is flipped over to reveal tender peaches nestled into a crumbly biscuit-cake. And where is the creme brulee-like syrup? In the ramekin, warm and ready to be poured over each serving! (If the weather is nice, eat it outdoors with your morning cup of coffee.)

For more great recipes, please visit my blog UnassumingFoodie.com.

Talked your sweetie into cleaning out the garage this Spring?
Dig out the Halloween supplies, and let your kids dress up in their favorite costume. Use leftover Halloween make-up to do some Spring-themed face painting: red and black make-up can be easily transformed into a ladybug. Purples, blues and yellows can be used to create a lovely butterfly design. Take your little bugs and butterflies out to spot tiny buds on trees and talk about what will happen when they open.

What does your family do for fun on the weekend? I’d love  to hear from you!

 

Wash my own dishes! What would the neighbors say? May 23, 2008

Have you seen that new commercial for Dixie paper plates? It begins with a mother smiling, “I won’t be defined by the number of dishes I do!”

What the?! How could any person be defined but such an arbitrary activity?
What on earth could this possibly mean? In what situation could this make sense?

At the Mommies Group:
—“Oh, there’s Jane. Did you hear that she does 17 dishes?”
—“I heard it was more like 24! Can you believe it? She must be…”

Be what? Managing a household? Living her life?
Really, who judges someone for cleaning what is soiled?

Maybe what Dixie is trying to infer is that doing dishes means you must be too “poor” to have a dishwasher—and who wants the shame of admitting economic struggle?

Or perhaps what Dixie is getting at is that people who can be defined by the sheer volume of dishes they must wash are fat. After all, how did all those dishes get dirty?

Later in the commercial, another mother shares her relief about how using paper plates allows her more time with her kids. Wouldn’t a mother who has her kids’ best interests in mind prefer to teach them about the environment, recycling and reducing waste? Not to mention the cost saved from not throwing away plate after plate, or the impact on landfills, you would think she’d be more relieved to know she’s protecting her children and grandchildren’s future by also saving some trees.

I’m not anti-paper plate. But I won’t be defined by them, either. And I’m confident that, unlike another one of the ad’s moms, I am stronger than even a Dixie paper plate.

 

Baby’s Nutrition Needs, Part II May 19, 2008

As I mentioned in Balancing Baby’s Nutrition, Part I, I’ve come to a crossroads with Noah’s nutrition needs. At age one, he’s an unpredictable, finicky eater who will only regularly accept edamame and whole-milk yogurt. I became especially concerned when Noah’s blood test results came back indicating anemia. This was a big surprise to me; not only is he breastfed, but I consume enough vegetables every day to feed a small village, in addition to lean, organic proteins.

Yogurt in and of itself makes a wonderful baby-food. Whole milk yogurt contains necessary  calories, brain-building fat, and nutrients. But most importantly, it contains conjugated linoleic acid, which has antioxidant and antitumor properties (the lowfat variety does not). According to blogger Spinach and Honey “while lowfat yogurt has less calories, whole milk yogurt contains fatty acids that help trim fat—specifically in the abdominal area! Most new mommies, who are carrying around a few extra pounds, love this.” 

Considering the limitations little Noah has when it comes to food selection, I supplement his yogurt occasionally, just to be sure he’s getting enough greens in his diet. My answer? Spirulina. An interesting study published in 1995 (Author: Sevulla) showed an 81% improvement in the academic scores of children who took one gram of spirulina daily for six months.

According to Mike Adams, author of Superfoods For Optimum Health: Chlorella and Spirulina, “Certainly the GLA content of spirulina is another important factor. Nerve tissues in the brain need “healthy” fats in order to function properly, and GLA is one of the healthiest fats you can consume. That’s why human breast milk contains high quantities of GLA. In fact, breast milk is the number one source of GLA on the planet, and spirulina is number two.”

Spirulina is richly supplied with the blue pigment phycocyanin, which is a major biliprotein of the blue-green algae and has been shown to inhibit cancer-colony formation. Predominant blue pigmentation in food is rare. In Healing With Whole Foods, Paul Pitchford reports how  phycocyanin helps draw together amino acids for neurotransmitter formation, which increases mental capacity.

When Noah refused his prescribed iron supplement, I was relieved to discover a study published in Nutrition Research (Vol 6, 85-94, 1986), where P. Johnson and E. Shubert reported, “Spirulina contains a highly available form of of iron. It is unusual to find plant-derived iron that is highly available,” and continues to give evidence that when test subjects received a supplement of ferrous sulfate, it was only half as effective as spirulina.

I’ve also learned that in Seattle there is a history walk along Alki Beach with brass markers which tell the story of early settlers in the area. One particular story tells of how some settlers couldn’t breastfeed their children because of breast infections, and were worried their children would get sick or worse. The natives took clams and seaweed, ground them up to a pulp and made a warm drink for the babies. Not only did they not reject it, but they thrived and were able to nurse this until the mothers got well.  

This website has a long list of excellent home-made infant formula recipes. Every last one contains some kind of green, be it spirulina or otherwise. Most of the recipes call for maple syrup as a sweetener; It is important to remember that honey and Karo syrup are big no-no’s for babies under age one.

 

Balancing Baby’s Nutrition Needs, Part 1

Filed under: Food & Recipes,health — rjlacko @ 4:23 pm
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I’ve come to a crossroads with Noah’s nutrition needs. Now that he is one year old and sitting in a high-chair eating finger-foods and able to drink from a small cup, I am faced with a dilemma I really hadn’t expected. Noah is an unpredictable, finicky eater.

None of us saw this coming. Born 8 lbs., 12 oz., my little boy took immediately (and hungrily) to breastfeeding, and his voracious appetite lead my pediatrician’s staff to suspect I may be raising the next Jolly Green Giant. He was just HUGE.

Then, when the time came for solids, my giant baby surprised me. He didn’t like infant staples like bananas or apple sauce. To this day, he refuses fruit. The only thing that he’ll eat that is sweet is whole-milk yogurt. Sometimes he will devour garbanzo, kidney or pinto beans, and other days he will flit them, one by one, over the side of the high-chair. Same goes for cheese, tiny pieces of diced chicken, or pasta. At a year, he is a healthy 25 lbs., but 3 times each day I’m at a loss for what to place in front of him and I do a lot of after-meal floor clean-up. A lot.

I’ve narrowed it down to those items he’ll eat most regularly: soybeans (edamame) and yogurt. Soybeans seem my best bet since they contain all three of the macro-nutrients required for good nutrition: complete protein, carbohydrate and fat, as well as vitamins and minerals, including calcium, folic acid and iron. The amino acid profile of soy protein is nearly equivalent in quality to meat, milk and egg protein. Most bang for my buck, it would seem, but I felt I’d better double-check because I am popping them out of their pods at increasingly more and more mealtimes.

Soy formula, tofu and edamame (fresh soybean pods) contain genistein, a plant estrogen found in soy products. A few years ago, questions arose about the effect of the plant estrogens on human development (particularly sexual development) since genistein, which can mimic the effect of estrogen in humans. Soy has been used in formula more than 35 years, so when Penn researchers decided to research the long-term safety of soy use in babies they looked up participants in a landmark study at the University of Iowa, which first started looking at the effects of soy formula on infants beginning in 1965 and lasting until 1978.

“We have found that, in terms of sexual development, there is very little difference between children who, as infants, were fed cow milk formula and those fed soy formula,” said Brian L. Strom, MD, MPH, director of the Penn Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology. Their results, published in the August 2001 Journal of the American Medical Association, reaffirm the safety of soy infant formula and offer evidence against the harmful effects of soy that have been presented in the popular media.

Read Part II of this story here. I discuss whole milk yogurt supplemented with spirulina!

 

The Unassuming Foodie May 14, 2008

Foodie (): A person who has an ardent or refined interest in food; a gourmet: “in the culinary fast lane, where surprises are expected and foodies beg to be thrilled” (Boston Globe).

At the risk of getting ahead of myself, I’m very excited to share my new blog with you. It is called The Unassuming Foodie.  You may have noticed that I love to talk about food–eating it, sharing it, and ensuring my family enjoys nutritious, creative and wholesome meals every day. I’ve certainly noticed that my recipes are the pages my readers flock to first. So, it’s a win-win. I call it “unassuming” because the blog is devoid of snobbery or pretension, maintaining only a passion for real, good food.

Yes, there are plenty of recipe-centric blogs out there, and God bless them, every one. The Unassuming Foodie is a place to satisfy those of us who are truly interested in food–not just the tasting and consuming, but delighting in how different kinds of food and spices can heal, provide specific nutrients, and how they grow or earned a peculiar name. Each recipe finishes with an intriguing Food Fact, or check out Food Fact Round-up, an alphabetized collection of every Food Fact written.

I’m hand-selecting gorgeous recipes that are quirky and unexpected, yet elegant and tasteful and suitable for a variety of diets. The blog is configured with links to recipes for Soups, Salads, Main Courses and Desserts, of course, but those recipes are also cross-referenced by special diet, including Raw, Vegan, Low-Glycemic, Gluten-Free and Kid-Friendly. For readers in limited markets, I’m compiling an Amazon store of hard-to-find nutritious food items, for your convenience.

You will also find a handy How-to Guide with links to great resources online for tricky kitchen maneuvers, such as butterflying a chicken.

If you have a special recipe, I would love to prepare it in my kitchen and write about it for the blog, along with your supplied photo of your family, or of the dish (for those who are shy). It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a tried-and-true dish that your family loves to eat. Your contributions are most appreciated, and so are your suggestions! Please have a look and share your thoughts. Bon appetit!

 

I’m Not Afraid of Fearless Chocolate

Want to put a smile on my face? Hand me a dark-chocolate bar I’ve never tried before. Better yet, a quirky raw, organic bar like this 72% Midnight from Fearless Chocolate. That’s just what my husband did when he returned from a business trip to Vegas, where he enjoyed lunch at GoRaw Cafe, purveyor of Fearless Chocolate.

Company owner Jordan Schuster founded Fearless Chocolate only a few years ago, in San Francisco–a neighbor to our beloved Scharffen Berger and the popular Ghirardelli. What makes Fearless Chocolate different is that it is made with raw cacao—aka unroasted. The package states that the cacao is prepared at a low heat (under 118 degrees), “preserving the natural nutrients, enzymes, amino acids and antioxidents.” It is also sweetened with rapadura, essentially pure dried sugarcane juice, a traditional sweetener common in Latin American countries such as Brazil and Venezuela (where it is known as papelón) and the Caribbean.

What’s odder (and irresistibly charming) is that the packaging (and website) appear as nothing fancier than chalkboard drawings, underscoring the bar’s back-to-basics organic nature.

When I opened it, I noticed the bar is die-cut to suggest a bite has taken from it. The idea behind this is explained as follows: “this bite is given to folks who need to eat chocolate as much as you.” When I checked the website, it would seem that no giving has been done to date, although the company requests recipient nominations. Hmm, maybe locate pre-menstrual tension sufferers who would/could never pay $5.98 for a single chocolate bar? (Yes, you read that correctly. SIX bucks!) Or maybe package up those little bites for wee trick-or-treaters on a raw diet, who are never able to enjoy even a fraction of their loot?

But what does it taste like? It tastes like raw cacao, folks, and that’s a big compliment. My bar had no signs of bloom. It did not snap as sharply as a fine, roasted counterpart might, however. Its scent is earthy and nutty, and I could detect its included cinnamon, sea salt and vanilla. The texture is very grainy, from start to finish; This is to be expected, considering its production process.

Only a few squares in, and I am delighted by its wholesomeness and balanced composition. I am a person who keeps a bag of raw, organic cacao powder in the fridge, stirring it into plain yogurt with agave nectar at alarmingly frequent rates, so perhaps I am biased.  My overall impression is that is a wonderfully delicious and nutritious treat. Surprisingly low in calories and sugar content, I daresay it’s pretty low-glycemic, although bars sweetened with agave are available by special order. Fearless Chocolate also offers the following varieties: Nice Rice Milk, Mynt, and Baanaanaa Waalnut, but for some mysterious reason, you can’t order from the Fearless website! And, it’s worthwhile to note that the company blog is powered by WordPress.

If love good food as much as I do, check out my other blog, the Unnassuming Foodie!