Monthly Archives: November 2014

Veggie Taco Salad

I love hard tacos but I hate the mess created when eating them. I am a messy eater as it is, and having my food fall apart on me halfway through my meal doesn’t help matters.

That’s why taco salad is great. It’s basically a sloppy, broken-up hard taco that you eat with a spoon. My vegetarian version uses beans in place of the meat (meat eaters can substitute chicken or beef), and some extra greens. Because you can never eat too many greens!

Ingredients:
2 cups dry pinto beans
1 onion, diced
2 cups kale or spinach, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
1 cup salsa
3 cups shredded lettuce
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 bag whole grain tortilla chips
Taco sauce

Taco seasoning:
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp chili powder

Directions:
1. Rinse the beans and boil them in a pot of water until soft. Once cooked, reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the rest. Mash the beans with a potato masher and mix in the taco seasoning as well as reserved water.
Note: if you prefer a spicier taste, you can add red pepper flakes to the seasoning as well.

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2. Sauté the onion in a little oil for about 5 mins until tender. Add the kale (or spinach) and cook until soft. Add the tomato and cook a few mins more.

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3. Add the mashed beans and salsa to the cooked vegetables, and stir until combined.

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4. Scoop about a cup of the bean mixture into a bowl and add a handful of shredded lettuce, grated cheese and drizzle a little taco sauce on top. Add the chips and crush them into the mixture.

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Easy Veggie Moussaka Recipe (gluten free!)

I love moussaka but finding a good vegetarian recipe is not easy, especially one that is gluten free.

My recipe is a combination of Jamie Oliver’s veggie moussaka and Martha Stewarts’s meat moussaka with my own variations thrown in. I pre-bake the veggies in the oven instead of pan frying them to save prep time, and the typical bechamel sauce is replaced with a feta and ricotta cheese mixture to make this moussaka gluten free.

Although this recipe is quicker than others, making moussaka is time consuming so save this for a day that you have a little extra time to put dinner together. It is worth the effort though, and even meat eaters find this veggie moussaka to be delicious.

Ingredients:

1 LARGE eggplant
2 medium zucchini
4 small red potatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
12 tbsp Coconut oil  (or Vegetable oil)
1/2 cup Sprouted green lentils (regular lentils will work too but take longer to cook)
1 red onion
1 jar (25 oz) of Pasta Sauce
1 cup Feta cheese
1 cup Ricotta cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400*F.
2. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-1inch slices. Combine the salt and pepper with 6 tbsp olive oil on a baking sheet and toss with the eggplant. Place the eggplant slices in a single layer on the baking sheet (you may need more than one). Place the baking sheet(s) in the oven and bake for 20-30 mins until soft and fully cooked (the eggplant slices will shrivel and shrink a bit).

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3. Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Cut the zucchini into 1/2-inch slices as well, and toss both the potato and zucchini slices with the remaining 6 tbsp in oil. Spread the slices into a single layer onto baking sheets and bake in the oven for 20-30 mins until soft and slightly golden.

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4. Cook the lentils according to package directions (sprouted lentils cook in 5 mins, regular lentils will take much longer). Drain any excess water and set aside.
5. Dice the onion and sauté in a little bit of oil for 4-5 mins in a saucepan. Add the lentils and tomato sauce. Stir until combined then set aside.

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6. Layer half of the eggplant slices in the bottom of a 3-quart casserole dish. Layer half of the potato and zucchini slices on top of the eggplant.

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7. Pour half the sauce mixture over the layered vegetables. Then layer the rest of the eggplant, potato and zucchini slices over the sauce. Pour the remaining sauce on top.
8. Combine the ricotta and feta cheese in a large bowl and then spread evenly over casserole.
9. Broil in oven until cheese is spotted brown (about 10 mins).

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10. Cut into squares and serve.

Is Mommyshop The New Photoshop? Moms On Social Media

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Social media can make a lot of people feel inadequate after seeing everyone else’s seemingly perfect lives, especially moms. With all of the photos of gourmet meals snapped in a seemingly spotless kitchen with seemingly perfect kids in the background, it’s no wonder that some moms are feeling down.

People tend to put their best face forward on Instagram and Facebook, which can be misleading. Those photos may have been taken in the only clean corner of the kitchen after countless mishaps while making dinner.

Some moms have nannies and maids to help, while others have no support or help at all. So it’s not fair for a woman who is trying to juggle everything on her own to compare herself to another who makes fantastic pastries while her nanny watches the kids and the maid cleans the house.

My point is that no one is perfect, and moms have enough on their plate without worrying about not being able to make elaborate meals like Mary on Facebook or have a clean house all the time like Susan on Instagram. Everyone has their strengths, so instead of feeling depressed about others’ skills remember that they have flaws as well (no matter what their social media accounts portray). Focus on your own strengths and don’t compare yourself to others. If you are genuinely doing your best for your kids then drop the guilt.

Give your kids a good start: feed them healthy food now and it will pay off later

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I am a textbook parent. I read all the parenting books I can get my hands on and follow all of the rules. I made homemade baby food from scratch and refused to give my child ANYTHING with added sugar or salt during her first year of life (not even a small lick of icing or ice cream). I refused to let any processed food touch her lips until she was well over a year old, and even now at 2 years old it is still a rare occurrence. To some, this may sound extreme. But to me, it just makes sense.

Prenatal and early childhood nutrition can have long-term effects that do not manifest until later in life. Exposure to toxic chemicals early in life can cause epigenetic changes in developing babies and children which may lead to diseases in adulthood5. Food additives as well as chemicals in food packaging that leach into the food may be toxic and so they should be avoided, especially by children3. This is probably why some adults who eat healthy and exercise still end up with some sort of non-inherited disease despite their best efforts. They may be healthy eaters now, but who knows what their parents fed them as children.

I practically lived off of Pizza Pockets and Pepsi during my teenage years. I hope I have good genes 😳.

It is not just the infancy and early childhood years that are crucial for long term health. The teenage years are also an important period of growth and maturation. A diet high in animal protein and low in vegetable protein and isoflavones is correlated with early puberty, which has been linked to metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer as well as other hormone-related cancers1. This is just another reason why feeding your kids McDonald’s regularly is bad for them. Today’s “fast food” diet is high in meat and low in vegetables which is a recipe for disease.

If you give your kids “junk” calories that means there is less room for nutritious calories. That unhealthy cookie you let your kid have as a snack every day (and most kids don’t stop at just one) could be replaced by a serving of fresh fruit. Children who consume more antioxidant-rich foods and whose mothers had an antioxidant-rich diet during pregnancy are less likely to have allergies later in life6. Since babies and children are growing, their brains, bodies and immune systems are still developing which is why they need all the nutrition they can get.

Children’s food preferences are determined by both genetics and familiarity2. So even though kids already have predetermined preferences for certain tastes and textures, they can also learn to prefer healthy foods simply by trying them frequently and watching the people around them eat the same foods as well7. These learned preferences carry on into adulthood; if you teach your kids to eat healthy at a young age they are more likely to continue eating healthy later on in life7.

I see other parents give their babies and young children junk food on a regular basis and it makes me cringe. Some of those kids have chronic rashes, allergies, and/or constant stomach upsets, probably due to their diets.
Unfortunately, those are just minor symptoms compared to the long-term damage that a bad diet early in life can lead to.

Some parents are simply unaware or uneducated about the implications of junk food on their kids. Some are perfectly aware but feel bad when their kids ask for the same food that they are eating and give in (which is exactly why parents should model healthy eating themselves). When kids ask to eat the same “junk food” as their peers it makes it that much harder to say no. Others simply don’t want to put in the extra effort required to prepare healthy food for their children as it is much easier to just open a wrapper or box when their kids are hungry.

Feeding kids healthy food is not easy. It takes more time and effort to prepare, not to mention the extra time actually feeding it to them if they are fussy eaters. But no one said being a parent was easy. And the reward of seeing your kids grow up to be happy and healthy adults is worth it.

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References

1. Cheng, Guo; Buyken, Anette E; Shi, Lijie; Karaolis-Danckert, Nadina; Kroke, Anja; Wudy, Stefan A; Degen, Gisela H; Remer, Thomas. Beyond overweight: nutrition as an important lifestyle factor influencing timing of puberty. Nutrition Reviews. Mar2012, Vol. 70 Issue 3, p133-152. 21p. 1 Diagram, 3 Charts, 3 Graphs. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00461

2. COOKE, L. The importance of exposure for healthy eating in childhood: a review. Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietetics. 20, 4, 294-301, Aug. 2007. ISSN: 09523871.

3. El-Wahab, Hanan Mohamed Fathy Abd; Moram, Gehan Salah El-Deen. Toxic effects of some synthetic food colorants and/or flavor additives on male rats. Toxicology & Industrial Health. Mar2013, Vol. 29 Issue 2, p224-232. 9p. 6 Charts. DOI: 10.1177/0748233711433935.

4. Hörnell, Agneta; Lagström, Hanna; Lande, Britt; Thorsdottir, Inga. Breastfeeding, introduction of other foods and effects on health: a systematic literature review for the 5th Nordic Nutrition Recommendations. Food & Nutrition Research. 2013, Vol. 57, p1-27. 27p. DOI: 10.3402/fnr.v57i0.20823

5. Lahiri, D. K.; Maloney, B.; Zawia, N. H. The LEARn model: an epigenetic explanation for idiopathic neurobiological diseases. Molecular Psychiatry. Nov2009, Vol. 14 Issue 11, p992-1003. 12p. 3 Diagrams, 1 Chart, 2 Graphs. DOI: 10.1038/mp.2009.82.

6. Patelarou, Evridiki; Giourgouli, Gianna; Lykeridou, Aikaterini; Vrioni, Evagelia; Fotos, Nikolaos; Siamaga, Eleni; Vivilaki, Victoria; Brokalaki, Hero. Association between biomarker-quantified antioxidant status during pregnancy and infancy and allergic disease during early childhood: A systematic review. Nutrition Reviews. Nov2011, Vol. 69 Issue 11, p627-641. 15p. 2 Diagrams, 3 Charts. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00445.

7. Venter, C.; Harris, G. The development of childhood dietary preferences and their implications for later adult health. Nutrition Bulletin. Dec2009, Vol. 34 Issue 4, p391-394. 4p. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-3010.2009.01784

Note to Celebrities: You ARE Role Models Whether You Like It Or Not

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I had some “me” time the other day and decided to spend it watching the latest pop music videos. I was quite disturbed to say the least. As a mother, I find the direction Hollywood is currently going in to be frightening.

One of the most common defense mechanisms of celebrities who receive backlash from parents for publicly exhibiting bad behaviour is to claim that they did not sign up to be role models. They also complain that parents are responsible for what they allow their children to watch and listen to.

You’ve probably heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. Well, in today’s media-driven world celebrities are unfortunately a part of almost every child’s “village”. So if they don’t want to be role models they shouldn’t get into show business; it goes with the job.

I do agree with them that it is ultimately the parents’ job to censor media.

I do not plan on letting my child play violent video games or watch television shows and music videos with inappropriate content.

I will not allow her to listen to inappropriate music under my roof.

I will not allow her to follow celebrities with racy or otherwise inappropriate pictures on social media.

I will definitely not allow her to have unlimited and unsupervised access to the Internet.

However, I cannot say the same for other parents.

There are, unfortunately, plenty of bad parents these days who irresponsibly let their children be exposed to inappropriate content in the media. I personally know parents who let their children watch adult programs and play violent video games all the while neglecting to monitor their internet usage.

The children of those parents will go to school with my kid one day.

What happens when those children start to expose my kid to inappropriate things at school and other places?

What happens if the kid whose parents allowed him to watch too many violent movies, listen to violence-promoting music and play too many violent video games shows up at my child’s school with a gun?

I can protect my child in my own home but I cannot keep her locked inside the house, nor can I completely protect her from the kids of all the bad parents that unfortunately do exist out there. I can try to strengthen my bond with my child as much as possible and teach good values at home, and in some situations this will be enough to prevent her from being corrupted or harmed by outside influences.

But she may find herself in a situation where no amount of good parenting on my part can save her. What then?

It really does take a village to raise a child. The media and celebrities need to be mindful of that. They cannot simply say that it’s the parents’ job to censor all the bad stuff. We’ve already established that there are a lot of bad parents out there. It is society’s job to help the kids of those parents. They did not choose their parents. We cannot change what they learn from their families.

We can, however, change what they learn from the rest of their “village” by demanding that the media as well as celebrities act more responsibly. We can ignore celebrities that exhibit bad behaviour instead of giving them more publicity. We can refuse to buy their albums and boycott any companies that pay those celebrities for endorsement. We can pay less attention to news programs that focus on celebrities and more attention to actual news.

I am not saying that all celebrities are bad people. There are some that are extremely talented at what they do yet still manage to remain humble and keep their morals intact.

But unfortunately there are too many who climb to the top by shaking their scantily clad derrières every chance they get to distract their audience from their lack of any actual talent. Others use sex tapes to catapult themselves and their entire families to fame. Some glorify violence or objectify women. Then there are the ones who make excessive partying and substance abuse look like a great “lifestyle”.

Even more disappointing are the “role models” who actually did make it to the top with real talent, but once there started using less than respectable gimmicks in a vain attempt to stay at the top.

Those kids who grow up with bad or no parents look to other role models for guidance. Sadly, many of those other role models are too focused on making money at any means necessary to care.

Shame on you Hollywood.