Motherhood, Marriage and Other Wild Rides

Health, Happiness and the Pursuit of Mommyhood

Timing is everything–getting your preschooler to eat veggies May 16, 2010

It’s been proven that consuming sugar begets the desire for more sugar. Apparently, the same is true for eating veggies!.

Barbara J. Rolls, Helen A. Guthrie Chair of Nutritional Sciences reports, “We have shown that you can use portion size strategically to encourage children and adults to eat more of the foods that are high in nutrients but low in calories.”

Hmm, maybe there should be a plate of raw veggies placed on restaurant tables, instead of that ubiquitous bread basket–aka: tons of high-carb calories.

Barbara Rolls and her Penn State colleaguess served lunch to 51 children at a daycare center on four occasions and measured their vegetable intake. Children were provided with no carrots or  1 ounce, 2 ounces, or 3 ounces of carrots as the first course of their lunch.

The children had 10 minutes to eat the carrots, after which researchers served them pasta, broccoli, unsweetened applesauce and low-fat milk.

They found that when preschool children received no first course of carrots, they consumed nearly 1 ounce of broccoli from the main course.

When the children received 1 ounce of carrots at the start of the meal, their broccoli intake rose by nearly 50 percent compared to having no carrots as a first course. But when the first course was increased to 2 ounces of carrots, average broccoli consumption nearly tripled to about 63 grams — or a third of the recommended vegetable intake for preschool children.

The extra carrots eaten at the start of lunch did not reduce the amount of broccoli eaten in the main course, but added to the total amount of vegetables consumed. The team’s findings appear in the current issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“We gave the children carrots first without other competing foods,” explained Rolls. “When they are hungry at the start of the meal, it presents us with an opportunity to get them to eat more vegetables.”

According to Maureen Spill, graduate student in nutrition and study co-author, “The great thing about this study is the very clear and easy message for parents and care-givers that while you are preparing dinner, put some vegetables out for your children to snack on while they’re hungry.”

Spill also add, “Parents also need to set an example by eating vegetables while children are young and impressionable.”


A warm cup of tea, and savory honey scones–perfection April 27, 2010

A good cup of tea can be transcendant, warming chilled bones, soothing frayed nerves, or settling a tired body after a busy day. It is shared with a good book, over good conversation, or when in presence of royalty. The many methods of enjoying tea can take us far beyond the comfort of our own kettle. China, Morocco, France, England, Kenya, and Russia are all tea-drinking countries with their own unique serving traditions and tea preparations. Lisa Boalt Richardson’s latest book, The World in Your Teacup: Celebrating Tea Traditions, Near and Far illuminates the rich culture of tea around the world. For each of eight different countries, you’ll learn about the culture and history of tea, how tea is served there, how to prepare tea in the style of the country, and which foods (recipes included!) can accompany the tea.
Stunning photographs by Lauren Rubinstein, one of Atlanta’s premier food photographers, illustrate the wide variety of teas and accompanying menus eaten all over the world.

Savory Honey Scones
2-1/4 teaspoons rosemary, finely chopped and divided
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/3 cups semolina
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
6 ounces soft goat cheese
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
1 egg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix 2 teaspoons rosemary with all the other dry ingredients. Add goat cheese to the dry ingredients and set aside.
Whisk together honey, half the cream, and egg. Stir this mixture into the dry ingredients until a soft dough forms.
Form the dough into a ball. Turn out onto a floured surface and separate the dough into 2 equal portions and pat each portion into a circle about 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 16 wedges. Separate and arrange wedges on a baking sheet.
Brush tops with remaining cream and sprinkle with remaining rosemary. Place in oven and bake 1o to 12 minutes or until golden brown. It is yummy to serve these with butter, honey, and/or softened goat cheese! Makes 16 scones.

For more interesting and elegant recipes, visit my other blog, Thanks!


Mother’s Day foodie gifts you’ll actually want! April 23, 2010

Mother’s Day is a wonderful excuse to receive gifts reflecting your favorite food passions. Rather than the same-old, these treats from look unique and special. I don’t tout products I haven’t tried, but these look tempting enough that I simply must post–if only as a hint!

For the Gluten Free Mom

Caren Wize, chef and owner of Truly Wize Bakery, makes delicious all natural, gluten free products that are beautifully packaged in eco-friendly gift boxes.  We recommend  Assorted Macaroons,  the extra rich and moist Gluten Free Brownies, and the fruit flavor filled Whoopie Pies.

For the Chocolate Lover Mom

Roni-Sues Chocolates of New York City offers several truffle collections, including the Cocktail Truffle Collection, unique handmade truffles featuring a variety of classic cocktails like the Manhattan,  Mojito, Dark & Stormy, Mimosa and Margarita.  They’re made with the finest local ingredients and some include tequila, coconut rum, bourbon and sweet vermouth.  In addition, Roni-Sue’s exclusive Regional Chocolate Collection features a variety of flavors each very different and unique to represent regional flavors throughout the United States, such as blueberry, cherries jubiliee and pecan pie.

For the Garden Lover Mom   
Artisanal Shortbread from Simply Nic’s in New Jersey is available in luscious varieties like Rosemary, Lavender and Cardamon Candied Ginger.  Artisan Baker Nicole Bergman gets  fresh rosemary from local farms, and gardens in and around Princeton, NJ.  She harvests rosemary from the herb garden that Littlebrook Elementary School’s Garden Club (in Princeton, NJ) plants, as part of the Princeton School Garden Cooperative.

For the Breakfast Lover Mom

If mom is a coffee or tea lover, you can’t go wrong with Kohana’s Best Coffee Sampler, a selection of Kohana’s best roasted coffees, or the Flowering Teas Sampler from Great Lakes Tea and Spice.  The teas are absolutely gorgeous served in a clear class pot or cups.

For more great ideas, check out RegionalBest’s gift guide.

What foodie gift would YOU like to receive for Mother’s Day?


Healing gallstones naturally, a closer look April 16, 2010

Yesterday I posted my story of an emergency laparoscopic appendectomy that left me reeling with the news that I have large stones in my gallbladder. I saw them on my CT scan film, and of course my surgeon didn’t help when she said, “it could rupture tomorrow, or you may not feel symtoms for some time. Either way, it needs to come out.”

As I stated yesterday, I simply don’t accept this as the solution and I’m certain there are other ways to treat it. I announced immediately that I would undergo a gallstone flush using a fast, which clearly alarmed my husband. He called and had an earful for me about how there are dangers involved with such flushes, and that my gallstones have a lot of traveling to do before they are evacuated and there is a risk of pancreatitis–something that occurred to one of his employees’ relatives when she tried a similar measure.

All drama aside, I do need to approach my health rationally and thoughtfully. I’m still shocked that this could even happen to me. I have finally found an MD who shares my ideals for food as medicine, alternative natural treatments before pharmaceuticals and surgery. She is as surprised as I am to hear of my condition, and when we meet next week for the first time, we’ll be discussing other causes of gallstones, besides the usual suspects: high cholestral/high fat diets, multilple pregnancies, being over the age of sixty, being obese, etc. I am entirely atypical. There is a possibility I have too much estrogen? We’ll look into it.

As I recover from my appendectomy, I am resolute about this: I don’t want to have to recover from a similar surgery in the future. I am also suddenly, for the first time in my life, afraid of food. Not in the way one might be afraid after watching Food, Inc., Supersize Me, or Fast Food Nation, but genuinely afraid my gallstone might rupture if I eat the wrong thing. (My perforated appendix didn’t exactly tickle.) If you’ve read my other blog (UnassumingFoodie), you know how tragic this is for me. (As it would be for anyone.) I’ve spent half my life eating a highly nutritious, all natural diet, so I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can adopt a new eating lifestyle. The first step is going to be to learn everything I can about a gallbladder-friendly diet and begin making changes.

A good, gallbladder-friendly diet includes:

  • A lacto-vegetarian diet is best: Only non- or low-fat dairy (Thank goodness I’ll be able to hold onto my favorite 0% fat Greek yogurt and non-fat frozen yogurt!). But, that means no eggs–and no other animal products, even lean chicken or pork. (If I have trouble in this area, I’ll just have to rewatch any of the movies mentioned above. That’ll crush my craving.)
  • Daily consumption of fresh veggie juices, 100 ml each of carrots, cucumbers and beets. Hmm.
  • Plenty of apples, pears, watercress, grapes, and oranges–YUM
  • Plenty of veggies–YUM
  • Nuts, lentils, beans, etc. No problem! Love it!

Things to avoid:

  • No animal products: No meat, chicken, pork, high-cholestral seafood, eggs
  • No high-fat dairy: butter, high fat cheeses, ice cream (may lose some tears over this)
  • No refined carbohydrates: No problem! I only eat super-high-fiber/high protein breads, tortillas and cereals. And then only in moderation.
  • No sugar: I don’t eat refined carbs, so this isn’t SO much of an issue… But what about birthday cakes? Christmas treats? Is anything sacred?
  • Processed or de-natured foods: Yuck, good riddance!

On the fence/Needs more investigation:

  • Chocolate. Well, let’s be serious now. I’ll need to talk to my doctor, but this is an area of highest importance to me. I love chocolate with 70% or more cacao, and I’m not about to wave bye-bye to it forever. I’ll have to investigate how much I can get away with, and how frequently.
  • Coffee. Some of the information I’ve read say that 2-3 cups per day help patients avoid the formation of stones. Other info states that coffee causes stones. Must do more research.
  • Alcohol. Same as above. Some information claims that half a glass of red daily should help. Others say that alcohol is a big no-no. I’m wondering if the “alcohol” that causes the problem is high-sugar alcoholic beverages such as white wine or mixed drinks, hard liquor, 0r malt/carb-laden beverages. Like the health properties of chocolate, red wine offers more than a complement to a good meal.

Lower risk of heart disease with dark chocolate. Done! April 11, 2010

According to research published in the European Heart Journal last month just one small square of chocolate a day can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. The study is

Researchers in Germany followed 19,357 people, aged between 35 and 65, for at least ten years and found that those who ate the most amount of chocolate — an average of 7.5 grams a day — had lower blood pressure and a 39% lower risk of having a heart attack or stroke compared to those who ate the least amount of chocolate — an average of 1.7 grams a day. The difference between the two groups amounts to six grams of chocolate: the equivalent of less than one small square of a 100g bar.

Dr Brian Buijsse, a nutritional epidemiologist at the German Institute of Human Nutrition, Nuthetal, Germany, who led the research said: “People who ate the most amount of chocolate were at a 39% lower risk than those with the lowest chocolate intakes. To put it in terms of absolute risk, if people in the group eating the least amount of chocolate (of whom 219 per 10,000 had a heart attack or stroke) increased their chocolate intake by six grams a day, 85 fewer heart attacks and strokes per 10,000 people could be expected to occur over a period of about ten years. If the 39% lower risk is generalised to the general population, the number of avoidable heart attacks and strokes could be higher because the absolute risk in the general population is higher.”

However, he warned that it was important people ensured that eating chocolate did not increase their overall intake of calories or reduce their consumption of healthy foods. “Small amounts of chocolate may help to prevent heart disease, but only if it replaces other energy-dense food, such as snacks, in order to keep body weight stable,” he said.

The researchers allocated the participants to four groups (quartiles) according to their level of chocolate consumption. Those in the top quartile, eating around 7.5g of chocolate a day, had blood pressure that was about 1mm Hg (systolic) and 0.9mm Hg (diastolic) lower than those in the bottom quartile. [2]

“Our hypothesis was that because chocolate appears to have a pronounced effect on blood pressure, therefore chocolate consumption would lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks, with a stronger effect being seen for stroke,” explained Dr Buijsse.

The researchers found lower blood pressure due to chocolate consumption at the start of the study explained 12% of the reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes, but even after taking this into account, those in the top quartile still had their risk reduced by a third (32%) compared to those in the bottom quartile over the duration of the study.

Although more research needs to be carried out, the researchers believe that flavanols in cocoa may be the reason why chocolate seems to be good for people’s blood pressure and heart health; and since there is more cocoa in dark chocolate, dark chocolate may have a greater effect.

“Flavanols appear to be the substances in cocoa that are responsible for improving the bioavailability of nitric oxide from the cells that line the inner wall of blood vessels — vascular endothelial cells,” said Dr Buijsse. “Nitric oxide is a gas that, once released, causes the smooth muscle cells of the blood vessels to relax and widen; this may contribute to lower blood pressure. Nitric oxide also improves platelet function, making the blood less sticky, and makes the vascular endothelium less attractive for white blood cells to attach and stick around.”


It’s not to early to begin 10 New Year’s resolutions for weight “release” November 19, 2009

The actor Freeman Michaels MA, who played Drake Belson on The Young and the Restless in the mid-1990s, is now a nationally known weight-release coach and seminar leader, and author of a new book about his successful approach, called Weight Release: A Liberating Journey (Morgan James Publishing, $16.95).

Before we take those first bites of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie, it might be useful to take a moment ot listen to Michaels’ approach to eating and weight loss, and how it can affect (for better or worse) our self image. 
“If you’re like I was when my weight ballooned to 275 pounds a few years ago,” he shares, “you’re probably wondering if you’ll ever again have that healthy feeling of being light, quick, and carefree. For some, childhood may have been the last time you were at a size and weight that felt good. Take heart! You can begin to release weight by following my 10 New Year’s resolutions. I’m more than 70 pounds lighter now, thanks to a self-care practice I developed and that is helping hundreds of others do it too.”

Curious? Here are tips from his new book: 

1. Stop thinking of weight in terms of “loss.” Food and eating behaviors have provided comfort to you. When we focus only on “losing” the weight without dealing with the underlying purpose those behaviors have served, we’re apt to “find” it again.
2. Replace self-judgment with self-compassion. Self-judgments–I’m fat, I’m unattractive, I’m undisciplined–are roadblocks to releasing weight. Learn to be compassionate toward the part of you that holds shame, blame, or guilt, and you’ll begin to release the weight of unresolved issues. Actual weight release will result.
3. Stay in the safe zone. Identify some “safe zones”–areas or people with whom you feel safe. Establish who might be allies in your weight release journey and find places where you feel comfortable being yourself.
4. Minimize bad days. For many of us, bad days can quickly translate into bad days of eating. Practice unplugging from negative people energetically in order to create your own positive reality.
5.  See slips as teachers. When you catch yourself in a negative pattern around food, don’t slide into self-criticism. Instead, ask yourself what’s going on with you that wants to be addressed.
6. Change something–anything. Make a change, preferably something you have resistance to, that has nothing to do with food, diet, or exercise–e.g., rearrange your bedroom. Note how the mere act of changing something affects you emotionally.
7.  Plan to “snack consciously.” Buy and prepare foods you can snack on throughout the day. Schedule in snacks twice or more per day; don’t wait until you’re starving.
8. Eat before you eat out.  Before you go out to dinner, eat a healthy snack so you’re not impulsive and motivated by hunger when ordering.
9.  Prepare “meal” affirmations. Before you eat, say a silent affirmation. Examples: “I choose to eat what my body needs,” or “I love my body, and I offer it sustenance.”
10.  Embrace discomfort. “Comfort food” suggests the presence of discomfort. The goal is to embrace the discomfort and allow it to be your teacher and your guide. It will lead you to the unmet needs that are causing anxiety or distress–and influencing the way you eat and think about food.


A little love from Orange County Register… November 10, 2009

I am positively blushing–but excited–about my coverage today in the Orange County Register.

Orange County Fare: A Culinary Journey Through the California Riviera,” the first cookbook produced by the Junior League of Orange County in more than 20 years, is a finalist in the cookbook category of the 2009 National Best Books Awards sponsored by USA Book News. The book focuses on fresh California-style cuisine – colorful dishes easily mastered by the home cook.
One of the recipes featured is by Rebecca Lacko of Capistrano Beach. Here’s a closer look:

Rebecca Lacko of Capistrano Beach donated her recipe Chicken Sausage Crostini to the Junior League of Orange County’s cookbook, “Orange County Fare: A Culinary Journey Through the California Riviera.”

Q. What was it like to be included in the new Junior League cookbook?

A. I was absolutely flattered to have my recipe appear in the same book with chef Jeff Lavia, chef Jamie Gwen, Richard Nixon, John Stamos and Vanna White. The proceeds from the book directly impact our Orange County neighbors and friends.

Q. What is your recipe?

A. I was pleased to donate my recipe Chicken Sausage Crostini (Page 21) to JLOCC, which devotes its trained volunteers and resources to five community projects focusing on the improvement of the lives of families in our community. The current projects are Orangewood Mentoring Program Activities, Florence Crittenton Services, CHOC Reading Program, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Emancipated Youth Program, and Orangewood Kinship. Through these projects, JLOCC returns more than $50,000 and gives more than 1,500 volunteer hours to the Orange County community each year.

Q. What is your full-time job?

A. Mother to two young boys, produce a national column on green living, and write for a variety of national publications and Web sites.

Q. What were your career dreams as a kid?

A. I always wanted to be in some creative field – writing, painting or singing, although I can barely carry a tune. I can remember relishing the idea of being able to live anywhere in the world while weaving stories for readers or painting scenes from my adventures on canvas. And I always wanted lots and lots of kids.

Q. When did you become interested in writing about food?

A. I began writing about food and nutrition more than six years ago. It seemed natural and effortless because I am always thinking about eating good food and I want others to join me. I’m also curious about how different kinds of food and spices can heal or provide specific nutrients, and how they grow or earned a peculiar name. Creating and sharing a nutritious meal with friends and family is, in my opinion, a great act of love.

Q. How so?

A. Humankind has been gathering to eat since the dawn of time, and it is a ritual that honors and nourishes everyone at the table. When we can make something that tastes good, fuels the body and is pleasing to the senses, we have in essence, created art. This may seem a lofty perspective on something as routine as eating, but when you stand back and study the process of preparing food and feeding others, there is a lucid beauty to the task.

Q. Why do you think volunteering is important?

A. We all know in our hearts how important social programs are to those in need. Living in close proximity to the ocean, we also are reminded to be good stewards of our environment. However, studies prove volunteering benefits the volunteer the most. When we give, we truly receive. A community can only be as healthy, vibrant and active as its members are willing to make it. As Dr. Albert Schweitzer remarked, “The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

“Orange County Fare” is available at ($29.95), as well as Friday through Sunday at The Christmas Co. at the OC Fair & Event Center (fairgrounds), 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa. For more information, visit


Born and raised: Ontario, Canada

Food heroes: chefs Bobby Flay, Alice Waters and Tanya Petrovna

Family: husband, Joseph; two sons, Joseph, 4, and Noah, 2

Favorite quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” – Marianne Williamson

Hobbies/spare time: reading, going for walks or hikes, traveling, cooking, painting, yoga and dance, playing with her kids

Motto: “When you look at your troubles from God’s point of view, you realize that everything is working together for good. Meet every circumstance with forgiveness and joy.”

Working on: a fiction book about an Orange County-based family, and beginning the outline for a nonfiction book that will be a series of essays about living by design