Coconut Corn Mini-Breads (Dairy & Egg-Free!)

I knew there was a reason I bought this recipe book. Many years ago, I decided to buy a book titled ‘Quick Breads’ by Howard Early and Glenda Morris. I am a novice bread baker, so the idea of being able to make breads rapidly without much dough kneading or rising time was very appealing. However, I never made more than 2-3 recipes from this book over the past decade. This past weekend, we had company over and I decided to have another look at this dusty book on the shelves, to find something to complement the vegan lasagna I had made (we had forgotten to get dinner rolls at the store). To my surprise I found an easy recipe called Coconut Corn Bread using ingredients I already had at home, so I decided to modify the ingredients and give it a try. It was an intriguing combination: coconut and corn? I had made cornbread before but had never mixed both ingredients together before. The result? Our family and guests enjoyed it so much I wanted to share this simple modified dairy-free and egg-free recipe with you!

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut milk (I used the fortified Silk brand original flavor coconut milk)
  • 1/3 cup of oil
  • 1 flax egg (see directions below)
  • 1/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 tablespoon of honey (or maple syrup for those who do not want to use honey)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 9 inch cake or loaf pan (I used silicon muffin cups instead).
  2. Make the flax egg: Mix 1 tablespoon of flaxmeal combined with 3 tablespoons of water together with a whisk or fork, then let sit for 10-15 minutes. Before using, use the whisk and give it a good mix for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients together.
  4. Mix wet ingredients together.
  5. Gently combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (or when toothpick inserted comes out clean). Optional: at about 5-10 minutes before the baking time was up, I sprinkled some shredded coconut flakes on the tops of the cornbread muffins for an extra flair!
  7. Serve warm or let cool for 5-10 minutes then remove from pan.

You may adjust the ‘sweetness’ factor depending on your preference, by adding more or less honey or maple syrup. Serve warm to complement a meal, or add a little bit of vegan butter, jam or a drizzle of honey or maple syrup on top. Th

is is such a simple recipe that you can also enlist your little helper at home to help out with measuring and mixing the ingredients together!

Qn of the Month: What Are Key Infant & Toddler Feeding Transitions?

A: Have you ever wondered whether your baby or child is meeting or progressing well in terms of his or her oral motor development? For new mothers, it can be especially daunting knowing when to introduce a different texture or when to start teaching your baby how to drink from a cup. The following are key infant and toddler feeding transitions that are important for a child’s optimal growth and physical as well as oral motor development:

Feeding Transition Age of Occurrence
Establishing breastfeeding Birth to 1 month
Introduction of solid foods 4 – 7 months
Finger foods 6 – 8 months
Introduction to the cup 6 – 12 months
Introduction to table foods (texture) 9 – 12 months
Weaning from breast or bottle 12 – 18 months
Rotary chewing 2 -3 years

Even though it is true that every healthy baby develops differently and often at their own pace, it is still good to keep these general key infant and toddler feeding transitions in mind as you watch and help your baby progress.

[Source: Milano K. How Infant Feeding Transitions Relate to Feeding Difficulties in Young Children. PNPG Building Block for Life. Spring 2016, 39(2): 1-6]

 

 

Ready to Land? Handling Baby Jet Lag

Ready for Baby Jet Lag? - Dietitianmom.com

Ready for Baby Jet Lag? – Dietitianmom.com

This summer I traveled back from Asia with my husband. Like the other trips, this involved a long total flight time of about 16 hours with an additional 2 hour layover in Japan. This time though, I traveled with two children, one being just four months, and the other being three and a half years old. That was a challenge in itself, but I was preparing myself for the bigger challenge: that of adjusting my four month old to the time zone changes, and readjusting my infant’s bio-clock. In a previous post, I had described the excruciating process (involving nearly 2 weeks) of converting my oldest daughter (then 4 months of age) to Eastern Standard Time (EST) after we returned from Singapore in 2013. What my husband and I ended up doing was to move our child’s bedtime half an hour to one hour later every night, so that her long stretch of night-time sleep could be preserved each night. Eventually after about 12 days we got her bedtime to where we wanted it (see post Baby Jet Lag…It’s Real). However this method meant that we as an entire family had to follow her schedule, down to eating our meals at night and having black out curtains.

This time, traveling back with our second daughter to the western hemisphere, I was open to trying a different method. The baby would be sleeping in a crib in the master bedroom and the idea of the whole family following our infant’s pace of time adjustment just didn’t seem feible with a toddler. The toddler would be used to playing in daylight hours, so would be very noisy and may interrupt the baby’s sleep during daytime. It is also likely that the toddler won’t be able to sleep with a baby crying several times at night. So I decided to try a different method: going cold turkey.

So what happened? The first day we arrived home, as our baby ended up staying awake most of the daytime hours. Then that first night she woke up at least 4-5 times at night, about once an hour. Each time she started to cry I had to quickly scoop her up out of the crib and then shush her by feeding her, as I was afraid to wake up my toddler. She would feed a little bit each time and then go back to sleep. In the end I put her in the same bed as me, as it was easier to breastfeed that way since I felt so exhausted from the day’s traveling. In the morning the baby passed some gas so I suspected she was waking up and crying at night more from gas in her tummy, and was really feeding more for comfort since she didn’t feed for long each time she woke up.

The second night she woke up about 3 times. Once it was about an hour after she had slept and seemed to be more from gas or an unresolved burp. I was able to quickly pat her back to sleep. Then she woke up again about 2 hours later. This time I made sure she drank at least 10 minutes on both sides in the breastfeeding session before putting her down, in the hopes that this would settle her the rest of the night. However, I really felt I needed a place to put baby without having to worry about the baby’s crying waking up our toddler. I ended up using a spare room that was away from our toddler’s room and putting an infant bath tub with a pillow for the ‘mattress’ cushion at the bottom. When the baby then woke up a few hours later, I was able to then scoop her up quickly and take her to this other room. I could then close the door. Even though I still fed her via my breast, I noticed she didn’t seem as hungry. The spare room (in this case we used a storeroom) provided some insulation of her crying from our toddler and other neighbors in the surrounding apartments.

The 3rd night, baby woke up about 2 times. The moment the baby awoke and started crying, I took her to the spare room. There I breastfed her only 5 minutes on each side as I wanted to slowly wean her off of being fed breastmilk at night. This seemed to satisfy baby and baby went back to sleep for 3 more hours.

The fourth night was when I went cold turkey. I decided she needed to cut out feeding altogether. I made sure I fed her a lot during the day (about every 2 hours and offered both breasts each session). The baby ended up sleeping quite well, though she did wake up with brief crying spells twice in the night. When she did wake up, I put her in the bed in the storeroom, and closed the door. She cried about 10 minutes the first time and then went back to sleep. Then she awoke briefly an hour later but was able to put herself back to sleep with only a few cries before waking up another hour later this time wide awake and hungry. So by the 4th night, our infant managed to sleep a 7 hour stretch relatively well, and was able to put herself back to sleep without much intervention on my part. In the end our infant got over her jet lag in just 4-5 nights…truly a miracle! The dark storeroom and the white background noise I created likely also helped.

The rest of the family survived relatively unscathed. My eldest daughter managed to get over her jet lag within 3 days. This involved some intentional steps of not allowing her to have an afternoon nap or a minimal one at best, lots of physical activity and waking her up in the mornings at the desired time. I think she would have gotten over it faster if her sister didn’t wake up wailing at certain times in the night the first few nights causing her to wake up and then have difficulty falling back asleep. My husband had broken sleep the first few nights but was able to sleep well by the 4th night, and quickly resumed his working during the daytime. As for me, I ended up just having a few sleepless nights!

I am writing this post to share my experience. Of course every baby is different and the age of the baby as well as the traveling circumstances (e.g., how long the flights are and the duration of travel) will also affect how quickly he/she gets over jet lag. Hopefully as you travel during this winter season, your baby will be able to adjust smoothly to each location and time change! Merry Christmas!

Yum! Toastie Corn Black Bean Soup

Have you ever tried combining some toasted corn kernels with black beans? It’s a fantastic combination of health, taste, colors and texture. Our family tried out and modified a recipe we found a few years ago and it became a family favorite meal option. It’s super easy to make because it builds on a ready to heat can or carton of black bean soup as the base, with more added beans and veggies to pump up the taste and nutrition. Try it out and see for yourself!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can or carton of ready-to-heat black bean soup (e.g., Campbell’s Red Pepper Black Bean Soup)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 1-2 cups of water
  • 1 cup of frozen corn kernels (toasted first)
  • 1/4 to ½ cup of chunky salsa or salsa fresca (or to taste)
  • Pepper as desired
  • 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • Can be served with avocado wedges or guacamole and tortilla chips

Directions:

  1. Add the rinsed and drained black beans into a pot with the ready-to-heat commercial black bean soup. Add in 1 – 2 cups of water (or more depending on how thick you would like your soup). Cook over medium heat until the beans soften further and the mixture thickens.
  2. Add additional vegetables if desired (see notes below).
  3. Heat a separate saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 – 2 teaspoons of olive oil and heat the frozen corn kernels, stirring frequently until a toasted corn smell begins and the kernels begin to brown. Remove from the heat. Stir these kernels into the soup pot with black beans.
  4. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of salsa (homemade or store bought) in and stir well.
  5. Serve soup with tortilla chips, guacamole or avocado wedges (see additional notes below) a sandwich or side salad.

Notes:

You can adjust the amount of water you add, depending on how thick you would like the soup. You may also decide to add the salsa individually at the table according to each person’s taste preference.

It is very easy to modify this recipe especially if you would like to add in more vegetables. For example, you could add in  ½ cup of chopped button mushrooms, a diced orange bell pepper  or a 1/4 cup of chopped mini zucchini wedges into the soup at the beginning when heating up the black beans with water. Another delicious alternative is to cook pasta separately then add some into the final soup before serving. Makes a hearty meal!

To adapt this to a toddler’s meal: You can set aside some of the black bean corn soup for your toddler, prior to adding the salsa. This is so that you can decide how much to add of the salsa (if any) before giving to your toddler. Then you can put some cooked pasta and/or broken up tortilla chips (allow the chips to soften into the soup before offering to toddler) into the soup to serve as an all-in-one meal. Alternatively, offer the black beans, pasta and corn on a plate as delicious finger food pick-me-ups!

Qn of the Month: What Are Ways to Cook Beets?

A: For those who are unfamiliar with this supernutritious plant, there are actually a myriad of ways to cook beets, or the taproot portion of the beet plant. These include the following methods:

  • Steaming it and applying a bit of butter and salt
  • Adding it into soups
  • Eating thin raw slices as part of a salad
  • Blending it with juice (e.g., a beets, apple and carrot combination)
  • Incorporating it into Asian soups (e.g., make a beets soup with carrot, red dates and pork ribs)
  • Incorporating it into western soups: For example, chicken soup (chicken, potatos, carrots, onions, beets) or borscht soup (cabbage, beets, dill, onion etc.)
  • My toddler loves having the beets juices (from steaming) added to her rice to make ‘pink rice’!
  • Add a bit of the beets juice to your baby’s solids as well for added nutrition, or even blend down the steamed beets to make a healthy vegetable puree

Some additional Cooking Tips:

  • It might be a good idea to wear gloves when peeling and cutting this root vegetable to avoid staining your hands. Alternatively, wash your hands and the cutting board as soon as you can after cutting and peeling the vegetable.
  • For a shorter steaming time, cut the beets into as thin slices as you can.
  • Although beets can be added into soups for extra flavor and nutrition, be prepared that it will turn your soup a pinkish tinge!

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cost of beets at the store was not as expensive as I thought. A bunch of beets (3 beets with the attached leaves and stems) was about $3.79 Canadian dollars. This could be because it was still summer/fall at the time I first bought them, so the costs were lower. I cooked the leaves and stems, and still had the beets for 2-3 side dishes over the course of the next few weeks.

Store beets in the fridge and it will keep for about 1-2 weeks (depending on how fresh these were when you first bought them). If you chop off the stalks (leaving about an inch remaining at the top of the beetroot), then cook the beetroot in boiling water for 20-30 minutes or until cooked through, you will also be able to then peel and slice them to freeze and use at a later date!

Kitchen Spotlight: Beets!

 

beets2

Care to Try Some Beets? – Dietitianmom.com

When a friend passed me some huge home grown beets, I was excited to use them. Although I had not incorporated these into my cooking repertoire yet, I had heard that beets were a great healthy food choice and the internet is rife with praise for these red colored giant turnip-like vegetables. However, it made me curious. Just what exactly are the actual health benefits of eating them or what is the current research saying? Here is the result of my investigation:

The taproot portion of the beet plant, beets are known by many other names such as beetroot or sugar beets. It has been in use since Roman times, exists in various cultivated varieties and most people may not be aware that they are actually ingesting beets as it is used as a common food coloring agent called E162.

Nutritional value: A half cup of sliced cooked beets (about 85 grams in weight) provides a good source of fiber (1.7 grams), protein (1.43 grams) and iron (0.67 milligrams). This is equivalent to a small apple but 4 times the protein content, and more than 7 times its iron content! Beets also provide many other nutrients like potassium, zinc, magnesium, folate, vitamin A, vitamin E and B vitamins. Comparing the raw and the cooked (boiled, drained) versions, the two forms are comparable in nutritional value. The main difference between eating the raw version versus the cooked is that you get a measurable amount more folate (about 40 micrograms Dietary Folate Equivalents more per 100 gram weight).

Beets are a rich source of phytochemical compounds like nitrate, betalain pigments, ascorbic acid, carotenoids, phenolic acids and flavonoids. Research is showing that many of these compounds display strong  antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and chemo-preventive properties. Hence its consumption may be a health benefit in many areas, such as  in the prevention and treatment of certain chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, liver disease and cancer. Many of beets’ constituents are potent antioxidants, helping to keep our body’s cells in a state of redox balance. This means intake of these and other fruits or vegetables high in antioxidants help to fight excessive reactive oxygen and nitrogen species generated within the body from internal and external causes.  Beets may also increase the body’s existing internal antioxidant defenses, leading to a synergistic effect. In terms of inflammation, investigations so far are revealing that betalains and beet extracts may help to block pro-inflammatory signaling cascades, weakening the progression of chronic inflammation which is implicated in many chronic medical conditions. The role of beets’ compounds are also being further investigated in areas such as cognitive function and endothelial function both in the laboratory and on actual human subjects.

So the next time you see beets on offer at the store, try them! My husband and preschooler were skeptical trying these, but after cooking it a few different ways, these now make a regular appearance on our dinner table. See upcoming posts on some recipe ideas for ways to serve beets!

(Sources:

  1. Clifford T, Howatson G, West DJ, Stevenson EJ.  The potential benefits of red beetroot supplementation in health and disease. Nutrients. 2015 Apr 14;7(4):2801-22. doi: 10.3390/nu7042801. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425174/. Accessed September 26, 2016.
  2. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov. )

 

Qn of the Month: What Are The New Sleep Guidelines for Children?

A: In June 2016, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine released new guidelines to guide parents and health care professionals on the recommended amount of sleep that infants, children and teenagers need to receive for optimal health. This came after a 10 month process of an extensive scientific literature review, and multiple rounds of voting amongst a Pediatric Consensus Panel of 13 experts. The findings from the literature research found that those who followed the recommended daily sleep hours regularly tended to have overall better health outcomes such as improved attention spans, as well as better behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health. However, sleeping more or less than the recommended hours on a regular basis tended to be associated with adverse health consequences.

Supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, here are the recommended sleep hours by age in the consensus statement:

  • Infants four to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
  • Children one to two years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
  • Children three to five years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
  • Children six to 12 years of age should sleep nine to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
  • Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep eight to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.

According to the experts, besides having enough total hours of sleep regularly, reaping the benefits of healthy sleep also require having appropriate timing, daily regularity, good sleep quality and the absence of sleep disorders.

(Sources:

  1. Recharge With Sleep: Pediatric Sleep Recommendations Promoting Optimal Health. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://www.aasmnet.org/articles.aspx?id=6326. June 13, 2016. Accessed September 30, 2016.
  1. HealthDay. “How much sleep children need by age.” Chicago Tribune. June 13, 2016. http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/ct-child-sleep-recommendations-health-0613-20160613-story.html. Accessed September 30, 2016.)