Ann Douglas was one of my parenting  heroes before I’d ever thought of Healthy Mum or conceived yoyomama. In fact the first book I purchased after I really did conceive the first time was her Mother Of All Pregnancy Books (I’d already been given a dog-eared copy of What To Expect), the second edition of which has just been published.

But Ann Douglas became my über hero when I, an unpublished author she’d never heard of, asked if I could send her a draft of Healthy Mum to see if she’d be up for writing a blurb for the book cover. I could not imagine anything more exciting than having Ann endorse my book. And not only did she offer to read it but she wrote a lovely blurb for the cover and this great review on Amazon! I was honoured that she was so supportive of a beginning writer and so very star struck!

Fast forward a few years to the launch of yoyomama.ca and my first forays onto Twitter and there was Ann, a vibrant part of the community who I connected with again (and who remembered me!) and have been connected with online ever since.  She’s always gracious and supportive and connected to the Canadian parenting community.

However, I’ve never met her in person despite feeling as if I know her. But all that will change next week when she hits Vancouver for the book tour for The Mother of All Pregnancy Books. She’s hosting a Tweetup at the Opus Hotel and I’ll also be sitting down with her one-on-one to ask her our readers’ burning questions.  Squee!! In the meantime if you have a question you’d like me to ask Ann please submit it here and I’ll be sure to pose it to her next week!

I have some other exciting author news coming up that I’ll share when I have more details. I’ll be interviewing another great Canadian writer at an event here in town but this time it’s mysteries and not mummies.

I am an admitted CBC nerd, it’s the soundtrack to my day while I’m working at home. And today I heard a repeat broadcast of a piece by Dr. Brian Goldman on breastfeeding. I always enjoy his White Coat, Black Art show but this one struck a special chord.

He examines the problem of new mothers who face pressure to continue nursing even though they’re having problems with breastfeeding. He also talks about how many Canadian children are breastfed to the age of six months (less than 20%) and the fact that Vancouver has Canada’s only donor milk bank.

All this got me thinking back to when I had my first baby and breastfeeding was such an issue (and inspired Healthy Mum!) and I reflected on the pressure I felt, or didn’t, to continue despite the problems I was having.

To recap: my now seven-year-old would not nurse for the first three and a half weeks of her life. Literally she’d look at my breast, twist away and scream as though I were offering her poison. Imbued with the breast is best message I persevered. I pumped milk and then fed her with a syringe, a spoon and finally on the much-needed advice of a lactation consultant, a bottle. I’d continue to occasionally offer her the real thing and eventually one day she went for it. And never looked back. To the point where she never actually took a bottle again, graduating directly to a sippy cup.

Aside from the pressure I put on myself, I was extremely stressed out by a book by Dr. Sears which implied that if you couldn’t nurse you just weren’t trying hard enough. Not the message a harried, worried new mother needs to hear. And I was trying really, really hard. Too hard perhaps. The local community health nurses were incredibly supportive, offering me assistance and ideas but they couldn’t help either. Then they referred me to a lactation consultant and to my amazement the first thing she said to me after I explained my dilemma was: You don’t have to keep doing this you know? You can switch to formula.

Now if anyone was going to judge me or push me towards breastfeeding I’d assumed it would be the lactation consultant. But she relieved me of a huge amount of pressure because she made me realize I was going to keep trying because I really wanted to, not because I felt guilty or felt judged by Dr. Sears. Despite not actually, you know, knowing him…

Anyhow, Dr. Brian’s show brought back all those feelings and memories from the early day’s of M’s life. I was also pleased that I did exclusively nurse my child til she was six months old, but I would have started her on solids sooner had she seemed interested. And again this made me realize how hard we are on ourselves and each other when it comes to the choices we make as parents.

In fact I walked away from listening to the show feeling guilty that I hadn’t donated some of my milk – I had oodles and oodles, I even gave it to friends who will remain nameless for their babies – to the milk bank. But honestly in those early, hazy, exhausted days it was all I could manage to feed my daughter and myself.

All this got me wondering how long you exclusively breastfed your child (if you breastfed)? Or if you had problems with nursing what solutions you came up with. And if you didn’t breastfeed how judged you felt and who you felt the most judged by (your doctor, your friends, random strangers in the store commenting on the fact you were bottle feeding)…

Here’s the podcast if you’d like to take a listen.

I’m sad to say that with the advent of yoyomama and yoyobelly I just don’t get to focus as much time here as I would  like to! But as I was working on our weekly menu plan as the girls played their weird (as in oddly creative) hybrid Mary Poppins/Cinderella game this morning and my DH was enjoying a bit of a sleep in, I thought why not share it here. After all, making the grocery list is easy once you’ve got the meals planned out.  So here it goes, and I hope to do this weekly from now on in hopes of saving someone else a little time. Admittedly this takes into account planning around all our different schedules and days we have more time to cook (or not), our spud delivery and more.

And just so you don’t wonder what kind of children I have and why they eat this variety of food, I have shared or predicted what they will eat. I do live in hope that continually exposing them to new foods will eventually expand their palates.

Sunday: Parmesan Chicken from Whining & Dining. Here are a few of their other recipes, alas I can’t find their Parmesan Chicken one online. We had it with roast potatoes and broccoli. And all the kids ate was broccoli and roast potatoes.

Monday: Baked ham with scalloped potatoes made in the slow cooker thanks to Canadian Living: The Slow Cooker Collection which we’re using all the time these days. I haven’t made this recipe before but ham and cheesy potatoes sounds so good. I just bake the ham and baste it with a mix of Orange Juice, brown sugar and mustard. I’m seriously in love with our slow cooker these days and using it all the time. L will eat ham and will try the potatoes. M, I’m not sure. Broccoli probably. Hmm…I’d better lay on some bread and olive oil for her, which are, after hummus, her fave default.

Tuesday: Whole Wheat Quesadillas with Mushrooms and Guacamole. I have a wicked guacamole recipe in the book (in includes yogurt and tomatoes) and I found this recipe in a magazine. M will eat plan cheese quesadillas with hummus and L will eat mushroom quesadillas with cut up avocado. No guac.

Wednesday: Pork Tenderloin (seriously the easiest meal to make EVER!) with roasted potatoes and green beans. Basically you marinade the pork for about an hour in a mix of balsamic vinegar, mustard and honey, cook it for about half an hour and then make a gravy or reduction. So yummy. M will eat roast potatoes and green beans. L will eat pork. And that’s it.

** update: here’s the pork tenderloin recipe from my mum:

  • 1 TBSP each Honey, Grainy Mustard, Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Rub all over tenderloin and put in fridge for at least two hours or all day. Turn once or twice if you remember (editor’s note: I never remember & just baste it before I put it in the oven)
  2. Roast in 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes, turn at least once. Time will depend on size of tenderloin (editor’s note:  I rely solely upon my meat thermometer set at medium for pork to tell me when it’s done, not being a fan of rare pork.)

Thursday: Halibut with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette. Love this recipe and just rediscovered it when I was trying to find an apple pancake recipe for breakfast today. Best of all it’s from Epicurious so I can share it with you! I always forget how much easier it is to just make fish straight up rather than fiddling about with a recipe like Halibut Pot Pie, although HPP is so delicious! We’ll have it with rice and green beans and I know the girls will eat rice. And maybe green beans. Next week I’ll include more of their fave recipes just so you don’t think my kids exist on carbs and veggies…

Friday: Boeuf Bourguinon, again from the Canadian Living Slow Cooker Collection but this time I found the recipe online in case you want to check it out. I haven’t tried it before but I watched Julie & Julia last night so I’m inspired. I’m going to try it with parsley buttered noodles like the blogger suggests (that’s my one beef about the collection, they don’t often offer up what sides and starches to serve meals with which I find very helpful, specially if I haven’t made something before). As for the kids. Well I know they’ll eat buttered noodles. I hope.

I have to confess I buy Vogue Magazine. Not for the pictures, but for the articles. Wait. Where have I heard that before?

Actually it’s mainly because I love Jeffrey Steingarten’s food column. And in this month’s issue (with Cameron Diaz on the cover) he writes about “the unforgettable taste of brown butter.” Just reading the article made my mouth water and want melted butter. The article included recipes as well, including one for what he calls “the best oatmeal cookies”. I couldn’t resist trying it out and they are SO yummy. Not healthy. No breastfeeding friendly necessarily. But really, really good, and not like any others you’ve had lately. They’re not the kind packed with nuts and seeds, or tough and tasteless. Instead their thin, crispy, crumbly and buttery. Mmmm…

The recipe – with a few small changes – is below:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup very soft, room-temperature butter (for baking unsalted butter is always best as it has less water content)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups uncooked instant oatmeal
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (low-protein if possible. I have no idea what this meant and as I’d already splurged and bought instant oatmeal I didn’t want to buy special flour as well, so just used whatever regular all-purpose flour we had on hand and it seemed to work fine.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. The recipe had no temperature so I just took a guess. If you have any suggestions let me know.
  • In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar using a wooden spoon, not a mixer.
  • In another bowl combine the oatmeal, baking soda, salt and flour.
  • Still using the wooden spoon, mix the dry ingredients into the sugar and butter mixture. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper – we didn’t have any so I just buttered the baking sheet. With your fingers, shape the dough into 1 inch balls. Place them on the baking sheet 2 inches apart.
  • Dip your fingers into a bowl of cool water and flatten each ball so it’s about 1 cm thick. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cookies are a pale, golden brown. Don’t keep cooking them if they look more anemic than you’re used it, they’re supposed to be “paleish” as far as cookies go. Let cool for a few minutes, then remove to a rack with a thin metal spatula and let cool completely.

Once these start baking the smell will make your mouth water and I’m guessing you’ll find them very hard to resist. We did!

The article also contains recipes for Khun Pao’s Thai Butter Cookies, Solidified Brown Butter, Nearly Fat-Free Brown-Butter Nuggets & Brown-Butter Ice Cream. Hmmm…testing all these is not good for my waistline or my budget, but my tastebuds are very, very happy!

When you work at home lunch can be an odd meal. I generally don’t have much time, so I tend to hope there are leftovers or quickly cobble together a sandwich or graze on weird combos of whatever’s available. But today there wasn’t even any stale bread to toast, so I whipped up these yummy cold peanut noodles:

You need about two cups of cooked noodles. The original recipe that morphed into this recommended spaghetti noodles, but I prefer the kind of asian noodles you just pop into boiled water for about three minutes.

For the sauce combine 3 TBSP peanut butter (smooth or crunchy), 2 TBSP each soy sauce and rice wine vinegar and 2 tsp toasted sesame or peanut oil. The add 2 TBSP water and 1 TBSP orange juice and 1 clove of garlic, crushed. Mix it all together. At first it’ll just seem lumpy, but it’ll turn into a proper sauce pretty quickly.

And here’s the kicker, combine the noodles with some veggies: cooked broccoli florets; cucumber slices cut into half rounds (my personal fave); grated carrots; sliced bell peppers. Whatever you’ve got handy or strikes your fancy.

Then just pour the sauce on top, mix and enjoy.

I love this because it’s one dish, it’s yummy and it’s an easy way to get more veggies. Also, because M has some odd nut allergy we don’t eat food or meals with nuts in them en famille, but I do love nuts, so tend to indulge in them when I’m on my own.

When I recently discovered MealBaby and wrote about it for the first edition of yoyobelly I was thrilled. Food really is one of the best things you can give a new mum. To whit, two friends recently had babies, Nher third, H her second.

MealBabyFor N we used MailBaby. The meal registry really did make things easier. The registrants got an email asking them to sign up for a day and choose a meal. We could see what others were bringing – it really did up the competitive factor – plus it meant N didn’t get four spaghetti dinners. Her address, contact info and likes and dislikes were all laid out. N got an email each day saying who was bringing what, and we got reminder emails that we’d promised a meal too. It meant P, who arranged it all, just spent about 20 minutes organizing the info and hey presto, it was done.

For H her friend C arranged everything. Because I recently had to go without my computer for a few weeks while it was in the shop some of the emails went AWOL. I had to ask her twice to send their likes and dislikes, plus I didn’t have their address or phone # and the dates were all up in the air. I’m guessing organizing it has taken C a lot more time and backing and forthing with people.

The thing is, when you already have kids, it’s actually quite hard to make a meal for another family in the sense of finding time to make it, to take it by etc.  So anything that makes that easier has got to be good.

MealBaby probably had added appeal to me because I suggest a “food shower” in Healthy Mum, Happy Baby, so I’m already on that train anyhow. Plus I’m all for anything that saves time.

Now if they could just combine MealBaby’s registry with SpringPad’s organizational and menu tools that would be something special!

fine dining

Have resolved to post my dinners (when they work out) if they may be a good resource for busy mums. Here’s my first go at it.

Now why I took so long to realize that roasts were easy is beyond me. My mum’s been telling me for years, but finally I succumbed to cook a roast that had been hiding in our freezer for years and yum! The only hard part about them is timing everything, making sure it gets in the oven early enough and – in our case – taking it out of the freezer soon enough so we’re not defrosting it in the microwave long after it should have been oven-b0und.

Tonight’s meal was pork tenderloin with roasted potatoes and roasted, curried cauliflower, a recipe I discovered in Kitchen Playdates, my new favourite cookbook, though not for playdates, just for life. The cauliflower was seriously the best cauliflower I’ve ever had. Usually we never have it as a veggie, or at best smothered in cheese sauce but this recipe was so good we’ll definitely be adding it to our repetoire.

The pork tenderloin is a recipe my mum gave us, here it goes:

  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic squashed or minced
  • salt & pepper to taste

Mix together and rub all over the tenderloin (we usually just do it in a plastic bag) and put in fridge for at least two hours. Turn it once or twice if you remember. We often don’t do this & just put rub/marinade on around when we put in the potatoes. It would probably taste better if we let it sit for a few hours, but it tastes good enough the way we cook it.

BBQ on medium heat for 25 – 35 minutes, turning twice OR roast in 400 degree oven for c. 30 minutes, with temperature gauge (we choose medium), turn at least once.

An addition I’ve made to my mum’s recipe is splashing some wine in with the tenderloin before we roast it and then putting the roasting pan over a burner once the meat’s out of the pan and bringing it to a simmer, scraping any bits off the bottom and adding a bit more wine or water from veggies like broccoli and making a reduction or turning it into gravy. Extra yum!

As for timing, we pop in the potatoes an hour before dinner’s planned. Then the roast half an hour beforehand, and the cauliflower about ten minutes after that and hey presto, it all comes out at roughly the same time. So if you’re home you can be entertaining your toddler with short kitchen breaks rather than mixing and stirring away in the kitchen.

When Nayla Natural Care contacted us about reviewing TruKid products on yoyomama, owner Gwen also said she’d first picked up Healthy Mum, Happy Baby at the library, and then bought a copy for herself and wanted to review it. Imagine how chuffed I was when she sent me her review last October, and it was glowing. I love when people totally “get” what I was trying to do with the book, and Gwen did.

I’ve just starting twittering for Healthy Mum, Happy Baby – it’s a great way to tweet about recipes, books or tips and tricks I find that compliment the book. Do you twitter too? You’ll find me at: http://twitter.com/healthymum

Because we’ve spent many a day testing the recipes in Healthy Mum, we often take a break from it before dipping back into it to rediscover family favourites. We just recently cracked it open again when our eldest chose Pollo Salsa Verde as her dinner of the week, and now we’re munching on our favourite Blueberry Lemon muffins which are perfect for snacks or breakfasts on the go, Pollo and Broccoli and Orecchiette. Lots of comfort food with all the snow we’re having!

To help offset picky eating while still maintaining some variety in our meals each week we ask each girl what they’d like for dinner in the upcoming week and they each get to pick a meal. M varies between Pollo and Broccoli and Orecchiette, while L invariably chooses cheese toast.