Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Sneaky Mom! Feeding Your Child. - The Sneaky Chef Book Review.

I have to say that SO FAR (knocking on wood), Henry is a pretty good eater.  He at least tries everything.  He may try it and then spit it out and hand it back to me while making the face of disgust, but he tries it.

He also eats a nice variety of foods each meal.  We have tried very hard to make sure he eats as healthfully as possible while we still have influence and control over his eating.  We know someday he may become pickier, though we are hoping not!

He loves cheeses and even Parmesan cheese is one of his favorite cheeses.  He looooves broccoli, no really.  I buy frozen broccoli florets 2 bags at a time and steam batches of it for him every week and the boy just devours it.  Pasta and rice are probably his favorite foods and staples in our house.  Terry makes batches of brown rice every week and we mix that with veggies, turkey, or leave it by itself.  And mac and cheese or plain pasta with a little butter and Parmesan cheese or even pasta with sauce are weekly foods.  He also loves bananas and applesauce and has those every day.

BUT….so you are not rolling your eyes at me as I talk about what my child does eat, I have to say there are things he will not touch.  For example; potatoes.  He is NOT a fan of potatoes…mashed or otherwise.  (How can he be our child?!?!)  I made tater tots one time and he was just eh… with them.  And he wants to have nothing to do with mashed potatoes.  And sweet potatoes will also not find their way into his belly.  He loved them jarred, but I think it is a texture thing when they are mashed.  And speaking of textures, things that have a “skin/shell” on them like peas and beans are a no.  Well really, he just likes to push them into his tray with his finger instead of eating them.  While he does like pureed fruits, he is not a fan of sliced fruits like pears or peaches.  I think because they are slippery and he just wants to smash them.  Not sure when I can start feeding him apples as those are crunchy, but perhaps he will like those.

So while he does eat many things and there is a fairly wide range of foods he will eat and that are nutritious, he is still like every other kid out there and likes snack foods and/or will throw food over his high chair or refuse to eat something because it doesn’t feel right, look right, or because it is 1pm on a Wednesday and he has decided he doesn’t want to eat it.

(Henry figured out what I was doing!  heehee)

A couple weeks ago I bought the book “The SneakyChef”.  I thought perhaps there would be good suggestions on how to add some more nutrients to foods he already loves and even expand what he eats while letting him eat foods I may not normally feed him.

I was slightly skeptical about this book when I first read it…..yeah right a brownie is going to taste good with spinach in it!!!

The way the book works is there are 4 different healthy vegetable and/or fruit purées that you can make and store in your freezer and then as needed you can add to different kid friendly and influenced recipes in the book.  That is the sneaky part.  Each recipe tells you which puree/s you can add to it.  Most recipes are made from scratch but there are also some that can be combined with pre-packaged foods, like boxed mac and cheese.  None of the recipes are suppose to take long to make and all are influenced by what kids like to eat.

The first recipe I tested was something I knew Henry would love…..mac and cheese.  You had the option of taking boxed mac and cheese and adding a puree to it or making one from scratch.  I made mine from scratch, but as we do make boxed mac and cheese regularly this will be good to add.  I did adjust their recipe slightly because I didn’t want to bake mine and like my recipe, but the ingredients where the same.  I choose to add the orange puree to mine.  The orange puree consists of a sweet potato and three carrots chopped and boiled together until tender and then pureed with a little water and that is it (made 1 – 1 ½ cups).  I made the mac and cheese and added about ½ cup of the puree to the ¾ pound of mac and cheese.  I also added broccoli for even more of a nutritional boost.

Henry LOVED it.  He devoured it like he normally does.  I tried it and I thought it was delicious!  I couldn’t taste the carrots or sweet potatoes at all, though there were chunks because I used a blender instead of a food processor...I should use the food processor.  It tasted like my normal homemade mac and cheese and infact the puree made it slightly creamier and a hint sweeter.

 (This is the face he makes when he poses for pictures...silly boy)


Now I am assuming that many of the savory dishes may be easier to sneak in veggies, but what about sweets….how can those have fruits and veggies and still taste good?!

So enter test two, brownies.

The recipe calls for spinach and blueberries to be pureed with a bit of water and lemon juice.  I didn’t have lemon, so just water.  The puree smelled like fresh cut grass….I was skeptical.

You then make a batter with only a half a cup of sugar (compared to most homemade recipes that have a cup or more), some cocoa powder, ¾ cup chocolate chips, butter, flour (you are supposed to do a flour blend of reg. flour, wheat flour and wheat germ….I just used regular flour), vanilla, eggs, and ½ cup of the spinach puree.  You then bake for 30 minutes.

(Uh, this can't taste good....)

Folks, these actually tasted great!!  They tasted like chocolate brownies and I couldn’t taste the spinach or blueberries at all.  I was totally surprised.  

A couple notes: it suggested a 9x13 or 9x9 pan.  I used a 9x13 and these things do not rise very much so they are very thin brownies.  A great size for kids, but I would prefer them a little thicker and will try a 9x9 pan next time.  They taste better cold rather than warm, unlike most brownies.  You store them in the fridge and I tried them again later that evening after being in the fridge and they almost taste fudgy at that point.  They would be amazing with frosting or powdered sugar on top….and with spinach and half the fat and calories you could do that!  Finally, I have a small food processor so I don’t think my puree was chopped as fine as it should be.  I should have done it in batches to get a finer puree.  Terry thought they tasted good, but we both noticed a slight textural thing with the blueberries.  I tested one at work with a couple parents and they thought they tasted great and would defiantly pass kid pickiness! 

(No picture of Henry eating it as he usually doesn't get chocolate, I know mean parents, and he devoured his brownie!)


Overall, I am impressed and happy with the book.  I am not interested in all the recipes, but there are good ideas and tips and I will keep trying different recipes.  I am not sure how many nutrients stay when you boil your veggies, I may try steaming them.  However, I know the spinach as it was frozen and the fresh blueberries were packed with great nutrients!  

Only really complaint with the book so far: I really wish the book had nutritional information for each recipe so I could see how it compared and how much healthier they were.

I will also still be pushing to get Henry to try more foods, but if I can add an extra layer of nutrition to what he eats, especially to foods that may not be as nutritious then bring on the sneakiness!

If you are interested in any recipes, let me know :)

Any tips for getting your kids to eat healthfully?  Do you sneak foods?

Friday, January 04, 2013

A New Year = Fresh Start & Admitting You Are Not Always OK.

So 2012 has finally come to a close and I have to admit, I was ready and I am excited for 2013. 

Don’t get me wrong, 2012 had many wonderful things…the biggest being Henry turned one!  And in the three months since Henry turned one I think he also turned 2 as well :) 

But 2012 hasn’t been all great, unfortunately.

Terry is working part-time and going to school which is stressful not only financially but just mentally and physically.  Because he watches Henry during the day, he works every weekend and most evenings.  A few days during the week I see Terry for 15 minutes within a 24 hour period and it is after I get home from work and before he leaves.  We say our quick hello’s while Terry is in the shower and Henry is running around.  This routine has been going on since Henry was 7 weeks old, but school on top of that was a new addition last August and will continue through summer.  Most times we are solo parenting far more than we are together.  It can be hard and exhausting and sometimes you feel like you never have one minute of relief.

Here is the thing.  I wasn’t myself much of 2012.  I was and still am at times, just OFF.

I don’t know exactly what it is or how to explain it, but I know I haven’t been myself for about a year.  Was/is it post partum depression…not sure, but right now I am just focusing on MYSELF and what I need to be ME.  To continue to get better.

It isn’t that I feel like this every day, I have great days…even weeks.  But there are far too many bad days, bad moments….and the moments, well they can get ugly.  There is this anger that is hard to control, I want to hit things (not people, unless they are people at the store... just things), I curse and say mean things and I then get extremely sad.

It is not that I am unhappy either.  I know it may not sound like it, but I am happy most of the time.  The issue is, when something does set me off I go to this extreme place and I go from being perfectly fine and happy to yelling, cursing and being flat out mean.  Most of the time it is over something stupid…. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN’T F&$KING PUT THAT IN THE DISHWASHER!!” “DON’T TOUCH THAT!” “WHY DIDN’T YOU ANSWER MY TEXT?!!”  “WHY IS THIS MOTHER F&^K’N CHAIR SQUEEKING EVERY TIME I ROCK IN IT?!?!” Things that should not require me to be filled with SO much anger.

If you know me, you know I am pretty relaxed.  OK, yes, a little high strung at times and I do have a temper on occasion….but snapping to this extreme, so often and for no good reason is not normal for me.  And the fact that it has been going on for a year and has gotten worse over the year is definitely not normal or healthy.

At first I thought it was the stress of having a new child and I was actually not bad the first few months.  Probably totally normal for any new parent.  But it (me) started getting worse but I then attributed it to breastfeeding. (oh how I loathed pumping and Henry never took to the breast. Many many many sessions were spent crying while pumping. I HATED everything to do with pumping, but felt I needed to do it.) I also thought, coupled with pumping that it was the lack of sleep I was getting.  Again, I blew it off and figured when I was done pumping I would get better.  I finally finished pumping around 8 months and things were OK for little awhile.  But shortly after that, Terry started school again and the stress just amplified.  Now, even when Terry was home he was studying and though Henry was getting easier and more independent I just couldn’t get myself out of this funk that I was quickly falling deeper in. 

I then thought, “when he turns a year it will be all good, just hang in there”.  Henry’s birthday came and went and I tried to de-stress, but then Henry started with the attitude.  Now for most his attitude may not be that bad as he is a great child and it is normal behavior, but as I am sure all of you parents know and can relate too; when you are already stressed and off that the constant battle to change a diaper or the crying EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I wash his face off after eating or just even whining because he can’t communicate that well can just push you too much and you snap at little things and more quickly.  It shouldn’t happen, but it does.

And then enter the guilt. 

The guilt of feeling so emotional, at getting angry at the people you love the most, the guilt of feeling like there is something wrong with you, the guilt of feeling like as hard as you try you just can’t be your best self, the guilt that you are letting your husband and even your son down as a wife and mother….it can just really drain you and pull you down even more making it harder for you to feel better. 

I try to keep a happy face for everyone, but it becomes too much and when I get home from work that I become reclusive, I don’t take care of myself physically (which then my weight and lack of exercise affects my mood and attitude even more - circle), I put blame on myself for everything, and I shut down.  Then because I keep everything inside, am stressed, frustrated, exhausted I become angry or emotional so very easily.

When I do yell and become crazy Jenn, it always feels like an out of body experience.  Like I am looking at myself saying “you are crazy, why are you acting a fool?!  You are ridiculous Jenn, calm down!”  But I can’t stop.  I just become so filled with rage and anxiety that it makes things worse. 

A few months ago I said something not nice to Terry.  Yelled at him and used a few not nice words.  He waited a moment and calmly asked if I still wanted to be with him and if I still loved him and if he was the problem.

I felt like I had just been slapped in the face, and I probably should have been.

Tears, instantly.

YES.  Yes I wanted to be with him!!!  Why would he say that?!?!  But I could see how, because he was the main person that I lashed out on and who took a brunt of my anger and though it wasn’t because of him, it was directed towards him…..and in reality it wasn’t because of him at all, it was me.

The reality hit…..Jenn, you need stop and refocus.  You are not yourself and cannot continue like this and ignore this and keep putting it off.  It is not healthy for you, your marriage and definitely not for your son. 


After a long talk and the suggestion of talking to someone, Terry told me that whenever I start getting angry and going to that place that I feel I can’t control, that I need to refocus on something that makes me happy.  At first I was skeptical but I recall the first night I tried it.  I was rocking Henry and we had this old rocking chair that just squeaked and was driving me crazy.  I didn’t want to go off while I was holding Henry but the anger just kept building and I remember I was about to push the table beside me over in anger but instead I took T’s advice and thought of the first moment I saw Henry.  I went back to those moments where I was filled with pure joy and love and I saw his beautiful face, this miracle we had created.  Of course I cried, but the anger was gone.

That is what I do now.  When I start feeling it come on, I just think of that single moment.  Nothing before, nothing after….just seeing my son for the very first time.  Now sometimes I still need to walk away from the situation…you know, redirect like you have to do with toddlers :)  BUT, it has helped.  That little mental exercise, I guess you could call it, helps me calm myself down enough to refocus.  That is a huge issue; I just focus on things that make me angry instead of letting them go.  (I am most likely going to have to talk to someone about that in time, along with the other thing that sets me off which are sounds.)  But I have come a long way the past two months, and I am very proud of that.

And that is why I am looking forward to 2013.  A new start and being able to refocus.  The past couple months I have been focusing on controlling my anger.  Now that I am aware of it, I try SO hard to prevent myself from going there.  If I start to feel angry or am in a situation that I know may make me stressed and angry I think of something happy and/or walk away.  If Henry does something that he shouldn’t, I try SO hard not to yell and get mad first and instead breathe, talk softly, and redirect the both of us. 

Overall, I am just trying to take back control of my emotions and be aware of my triggers and prevent myself from getting to that angry place.  I haven’t been perfect, but I have been sooooo much better the past couple months! And for the first time in a year, there are FAR more happy days then sad/angry ones.  I know I am a great mom.  I have questioned that a lot over the year….but seeing Henry reassures me that even with all my issues, that when it comes to him I have done something right.

So why am I sharing this long and totally boring post.  I think it is good for me.  Even if no one reads it (and if you still are, I am sorry for taking your time!), but I need to put it out there for ME.  I need to be accountable for my actions and how they affect those I love and by acknowledging that I have been angry and sad and probably a bit depressed, I think I will keep getting better….I know I AM getting better!! 

And I am not looking for sympathy at all; I really am getting to a better place.  I have been writing this stuff down for over a month, unsure if I will post it or just keep it for myself.  Then a friend of mine with twin 8 week olds (God bless her!!) emailed me and she is experiencing things and feelings I had that I ignored.  I think so many new moms ignore or are embarrassed or perhaps are even unaware of these feelings because they are so focused on their child/children that they don’t take care of themselves….physically and mentally. It isn’t easy. I told her to talk to her doctor and provided her with what little and unprofessional advice I could.  But the fact is that no matter what our situation, we all have to make sure we don’t overlook our mental well-being.

I never make resolutions, but this year I am.  I need to refocus this year. 

I need to refocus my anger/emotions, my marriage, my health, my lifestyle, my relationships with people that I have ignored the last year, my habits, and even my home.  I need to get out of this FUNK that I have been in this last year or so and focus my attention on myself, my husband and my son.

And with all that said, I am ready for 2013.  I am hoping it brings a new outlook for me.  Better health, mentally and physically and a much calmer attitude!

I am sure those around me wish that too :)

Because 2012 was so stressful and Terry and I have both been off, we decided to go at this together.  We have a motto - "It is 2013, The Year we Handle Our Business and Get Shit Taken Care Of!" Yes, a long motto :)  So here is to a new us and doing new things, being more positive, getting our shit together, and refocusing our lives!!  I think 2013 is going to be a great year.

Happy New Year!!