Friday, January 21, 2011

Meat...What Meat?

Last October, Aaron and I decided to become vegetarian for health reasons. We started to slowly reduce our meat our of our diet, but we took the next couple months to eat the frozen stash and started to experiment with vegetarian meals. As of January 1, we're not completely vegetarian. We have eliminated all animal flesh from our diet. Instead we're getting our protein from a plant-based diet and dairy. In the past few weeks, we've pined for bacon at times, but haven't missed the meat! Our biggest fear of moving away from meat is, giving it up! We are surprised how satisfied we are without it.

Aaron and I both feel great. Aaron thinks his stomach and appetite have gotten smaller and I agree. We're completely satisfied after meals. I've stocked up on dried and canned beans, eggs, tofu, and whole grains from the bulk bins. We're feeling satisfied with all the fiber in our diet. At dinner, I always make sure to have fresh fruit to satisfy our need for sweets and it adds fiber.

Here's a sampling of what we have enjoyed so far....
  • Bean and corn chili - even my inlaws liked it!
  • Cauliflower and chickpea yellow curry with rice
  • Split pea soup in the slow cooker
  • Spinach and feta quiche with whole wheat crust
  • Chipotle macaroni and cheese
  • Black bean and sweet potato enchilada casserole
  • Vegetarian "meat" loaf made with quinoa and barley (pictured in this post)
  • Italian Spaghetti Squash Casserole
  • Spinach, olive, and cheese homemade pizza for our weekly movie night
Last weekend, we went to our friend's house for a vegetarian pot luck dinner. It was fantastic to be able to eat all the options! I made an Israeli couscous salad with chickpeas to share. Our host, Jill made a vegetarian shepard's pie, which was so delicious!

A downside with being vegetarian is attending conferences and eating hotel meals. At home when I'm preparing our meals, I cook with vegetables, whole grains, beans, and all the good balanced fresh foods that keep our energy strong. But, this week, I had my company's annual sales meeting and in the face of the meat covered buffet, I ate macaroni and cheese with a lackluster green salad. Another day, I ate refried bean tacos, which weren't bad, but I wished I had some vegetables. By the evenings, I was craving fruits and vegetables!

I went to a team dinner on Wednesday and my director asked for recommendations. I suggested a local brew pub, which has their own beer and a lot of vegetarian items on the menu. I love the vibe there and especially appreciate that it's smoke free. That was a treat for all of us because most of the team is from the West Coast.

I'll keep sharing our vegetarian favorites as we go along...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Over 1,900oz of Mother's Milk Donated

This morning, Ava and I went to the Indiana Mother's Milk Bank to drop off our extra milk. I donate extra milk about every month when our freezer fills up, starting back in June. Today, I donated 283 ounces! In total, I've donated over 1,900 oz (almost 15 gallons)!

It's such a gift to share this milk with babies and their families. The Indiana Mother's Milk Bank takes donor milk from health screened moms who agree to store milk safely. They combine the donated milk and pasteurize it, then repackage in bottles to distribute to hospitals and families in the Midwest region. Ava and I spent a day volunteering at the Indiana State Fair last August, staffing the milk bank's "Lactation Station" that offered an air conditioned trailer so moms can nurse their babies out of the sticky heat, recharge with cold water, and then head back out to enjoy the fair.

Most of the milk has been donated to the milk bank and I've donated some to three mom friends and their babies. There are different reasons that moms ask for shared milk, but the best is for temporary reasons otherwise supplementing with milk or formula can reduce the mom's supply because the body is getting the message that the baby needs less milk. In our case, I've shared Ava's milk with a mom of an adopted baby and a friend who works two days a week and has trouble pumping enough for her baby while she's at work. The other mom that I just donated 80 oz to last week ran out of her freezer stash and lost her supply from a bad case of food poisoning. She was really committed to giving her son breastmilk to 1 year and as she's weaning him to cow's milk now that she's out and he's 11 months. But, she found that breastmilk in his last bottle before bed holds him over much longer. I'm not surprised since breastmilk is specifically designed for human babies so it's more absorbed and used in the baby's body.

Why donated milk? Mother's milk is easily digestible to a baby's immature digestive system and provides antibodies to stave off illnesses. Also, breastmilk adds sugars to attract good bacteria to protect the baby's digestive tract. Here's a great summary of the reasons to use donor milk from the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA).

To learn more about milk banks and their charge, check out this amazing effort for a documentary film "Perscription Milk" about families who need mothers milk for their premature and sick infants. There are only about 11 non-profit milk banks in the United States. They provide mother's milk to NICUs and directly to families in need. If you have any extra milk to spare, please join me in the awareness and pleasure of helping these families.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy 10-Months

Ava is now 10-months old and growing like crazy. She's now only wearing 12-month clothing. I have some clothes that luckily is 12-18months, but I need to stock up on the next size up because she's growing so fast!

With 4 teeth already, she has another 4 on the way! We can see the 2 teeth on the top and bottom on either side of her current teeth coming out soon. Her gums are swollen and she needs to bite down, but doesn't put things (including teethers) in her own mouth. I put my own pinky finger and she bit down really hard, leaving marks on my skin. Nursing is interesting with the new teeth! The teeth are sharp when they first come out and she's still getting used to having them. It's not bad at all though.

Here's a quick look at some of her favorite activities right now...

Singing and dancing to music. Dancing includes bobbing up and down and the little baby rhythm, too! If you sing to her, she will sing with you. Her favorite music is Veggie Tales and I downloaded it for her from iTunes and she lights up when we play it in the kitchen. We are always dancing in the kitchen together.

Talking in every tone of voice and pitch. Ava loves to match the tone of the sound of the blender, coffee grinder or even another baby's cry.

Ava lo
ves to explore everything, including the cardboard boxes from shipping materials to spatulas, to fresh produce! Aaron will use a box to make a drumbeat and Ava will dance to it! She goes nuts with excitement when I pull oranges out of the refrigerator because she likes to play with them. Usually she rolls them like a bowling ball. And when you toss them in the air and catch them, it rocks her world.Grandma Anna and Bernard sent Ava this Amigo Carebear for Christmas and she loves it. It's a bilingual bear, helping her learn Spanish.

Getting mobile! Last weekend, Ava learned to scoot backwards on her bottom in a sitting position and on her tummy. Check out the short video. Her scooting is primarily on the hard wood floors, but the carpets are great for rolling around and pushing up on her arms and legs sometimes.

Transitioning (slowly) to her crib for more comfort. Last weekend, we bought Ava a crib mattress and put the finishing touches on her room. We've had her with us in the cosleeper bed, which has been so convenient and cozy, but the mattress on it is very thin and we think she'll be more comfortable with a bit more room and a cushy mattress in her crib. We put her in the crib on Sunday night for the first time. She slept very well in there and then when she woke up at 3am to nurse, I brought her to bed with us for the rest of the night since I had to wake up at 5:30am for work. It's going to be a slow transition because of night nursing. She sleeps in a crib at daycare, which helps with the transition. We put her in the crib while she was awake and playful to get her comfortable in it.

Ava is so snuggly! You can see my new ring sling in this picture. I love it because it's adjustable. Ava loves to snuggle and sleep in the sling. I just love it. The day I took this picture, I was making frosting for my red velvet cupcakes with the Kitchen Aid mixer and she woke up from her nap, but wanted to be held. I put her in the sling and made the frosting with her sleeping in the sling to the sound of the mixer. She even slept through Costco and Trader Joe's shopping trips in the sling! I bought the ring sling because it's easier to nurse the baby on the go. I haven't quite mastered that yet, but we've practiced around the house to try it out. Soon I'll be a pro.

We're loving this special time with Ava!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Yogurt Face

When Ava turned 6-months, we started slowly introducing her to solid foods. Aaron and I decided to make her own baby food instead of commercial baby food because we have a weekly organic produce bin and wanted to have her eat from the family table from the start. I've been making her purees and freezing them to have on-hand, but I haven't done too much. We have been following her lead on food. If she doesn't want to eat solids, not a big deal. Ava's daycare has had the most success with feeding Ava her solids. At around 8-months, she stopped gagging with solids so I started to pack her a small container for the caregivers to offer her at lunch when the other babies are eating. We've tried all sort of things from quinoa and banana to kiwi last week.

At Ava's 9-month well-baby doctor's visit, her pediatrician told me that many 9-month olds are eating table food so don't be shy about offering her what she's reaching for or what's on my plate. She gave me the confidence to offer Ava foods that I'm eating and not necessarily making sure it's pureed. I'm staying away from peanuts, honey, shellfish, and egg whites for now.

I've heard a lot about Baby Led Weaning from natural moms that I follow on Twitter and in the book that I read Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck. The concept of Baby Led Weaning is to follow your baby's cues and let them choose the foods that they will eat by parents offering them variety. Babies in this method are offered foods and encouraged to feed themselves. It has influenced the way that I think about Ava eating solids. If she doesn't want to eat, no big deal. I make very small quantities to offer her. Lots of days, I still thin out the food with expressed breastmilk. I know Ava is getting all she needs from mother's milk and food at this stage is for experimentation, rather than nutrition. There's no pressure even to give her iron-fortified foods because at her 9-month appointment, her iron levels were through the roof from nursing exclusively.

I've heard that babies are ready for solids at very different ages and that breastfed babies often delay solids. The latter is the case for us. At Thanksgiving, Aaron's mother gave Ava a tiny taste of mashed potatoes which made her gag and then throw up! For a few weeks in December, she refused solids every day. Ava is so satisfied by nursing and not a baby that puts things in her mouth. On Monday, Ava went back to daycare after we had 10 days at home together. She ate her homemade applesauce after going weeks without solids.

This week, Ava devoured mashed banana with plain organic yogurt, sweetened with a bit of maple syrup. The daycare caregiver told me that she was making sounds and opening her mouth really big, then when she ate it all, she was looking for more! Yogurt is so nutritious. I have been giving her sips of my morning smoothie, which she likes a lot. The smoothie that I made a lot is a mix of banana, pineapple, plain yogurt, and orange juice.

Ava is now much more interested in my plate. She was grabbing for my pizza on Friday night and loved the tomato sauce. Then we went to lunch with friends yesterday and I ordered an omelet with potatoes. I was holding Ava on my lap and she opened her mouth really wide for a bit of the soft egg. I gave her some potato and she bit off a tiny piece. The texture threw her off and she gagged herself and threw up a bit. It's all learning though.

This morning (check out the picture of my "Yogurt Face" babe) we experimented again. I made a berry smoothie with blueberries, strawberries, vanilla yogurt, and pomegranate juice. She didn't want to sip the smoothie alone. I scraped what was left of my favorite organic Brown Cow vanilla yogurt container and put a dab of my berry smoothie. She loved it! She opened her mouth really big and licked her lips! She made that puckered lips face that you do when you have something tart.

I just love my "Yogurt Face" girl!

If you want more information on Baby Led Weaning, I loved this post from a Twitter mom blogger, Kelly Naturally.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Italian Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Aaron and I have been transitioning to vegetarianism since October and now that it's the new year, we've gone completely meat-free. We're getting our protein from dairy, beans, and grains.

I got a spaghetti squash in my produce bin one week and since Aaron doesn't like squash, I thought I'd be creative to get him to eat it. I found this post from the Inspired Chef about Spaghetti Squash recipe from Moosewood, a vegetarian restaurant in New York. I modified the recipe because Aaron won't eat mushrooms and I thought I'd replace the fresh tomatoes with marinara sauce. I've made a Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Casserole and posted it to this blog, but this was a bit fluffier in texture. It turned out great! Sadly, though Aaron ate it that night for dinner, I'm on my own for the leftovers. I'm hoping I'll turn him into a squash lover eventually!

I cooked the spaghetti squash one day and stored it in the refrigerator, which made the casserole very easy to make quickly on a busy evening. I highly recommend to make that ahead since the squash takes an hour to cook in the oven.

Italian Spaghetti Squash Casserole: Serves 4

  • One - 1lb spaghetti squash
  • 1/2 large onion chopped
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 tbs or more Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 jar marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced black olives
  • Make the squash ahead if you can. Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place in about 1 inch of water in a large casserole dish in a 375 degree oven for about 1 hour. See my post about Spaghetti Squash Lasagna for a picture. When cooked let cool, then use a fork to pull out the noodle-like flesh. Set aside in a container and store in the refrigerator.
  • Saute onions and garlic in a small skillet over medium heat with olive oil.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked spaghetti squash with sauteed onion mixture, Italian seasoning, salt/pepper, shredded mozzarella, and breadcrumbs.
  • Spread squash mixture in a square 8"x8" baking dish. Spread evenly with marinara sauce. Layer sliced olives and shredded Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake casserole for 40 minutes.
Serve the squash casserole with a side salad or vegetables and brown rice.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year from the Berkey's

Here's a family picture from Christmas Eve. I love the picture, but next year, I want to take the picture standing next to Aaron because he seems so far away from us in this one. The Berkey's celebrate on Christmas Eve so we exchanged presents in the morning and went to church that evening. After church, we had a family gathering with the Berkey's family friends, the Bollinger's which was fun! It was a very long day, but Christmas Day was low-key because Aaron's sisters went off to their in-laws and we had the house to ourselves with his parents. Ava got to play with Grandma, Grandpa, Daddy, and I while exploring her new toys!

This has been a huge year for our family! A year ago, we moved into our new home that we bought to raise our family for years to come. We have settled in, but we have lots of plans and house projects. Here's a look back at my post New Year's 2009.

We moved into the house a couple months before Ava arrived on March 12. After 26-hours of labor, I might add! Childbirth and becoming a mother has been one of the most empowering aspects of my life. In fact, this past week, I've been very sick with the stomach flu and nursing my baby the entire time. I nursed her a lot in bed, but I noticed my milk supply had gone down as I was having trouble staying hydrated and nourished. Not only did I have to keep thinking of myself, but by doing that I was putting Ava first. I realized that is a new lesson for me in motherhood. Making sure that I'm healthy is essential for me to take care of my baby so I can't put myself on the back-burner. Aaron took care of me by bringing me home medicine at lunch one day and Gatorade so I could stay hydrated.

Last month, Aaron and I celebrated our 5-year wedding anniversary! We both feel lucky that we didn't "settle" and held out for each other. I'm so happy that we waited to have Ava because we had years of fun trips, late nights out, and lots of laughs with friends.

Today is the first offical day of our new vegetarian lifestyle and experiment! We started a "meat detox" diet a couple months ago when we cut back our meat consumption for health reasons. We didn't start right away to ease into it and also for practical reasons, we wanted to eat the rest of the meat the freezer. We have a couple steaks left in the freezer to serve guests in a pinch. I've stocked our pantry with grains, dried beans, and have been having fun experimenting with vegetarian food. See my recipe for Veggie "Meat" Loaf made of barley and quinoa. We waited until today because Christmas was a big "meat-fest." My in-laws serve almost every meal featuring beef or pork. But the cool part is that they're willing to let me cook in their kitchen and even try my food. I made vegetarian chili on Christmas night for dinner and they liked it! We're still eating dairy to help us with protein and we just can't live without cheese!

As we look at 2011 with hope and excitement, we are looking forward to watching Ava grow and become more independent and mobile.

We hope 2011 brings you good healthy and happiness!
Aaron, Amanda, and Ava