(This is the beginning of a series of recipes for my friends who are offering to cook meals for me after the baby comes :). I’ll be focusing on nutrient-dense, iron-rich recipes to help me regain my strength and rebuild any blood lost during delivery.)
During my pregnancy I became anemic. What with my blood volume increasing 50% (!!) and the little one drawing from my iron reserves to build its little body, it’s not really a surprise. I’m sure that being a vegetarian for nearly 2 decades prior (I became an omnivore again developing my food allergies) probably didn’t help either.
My midwives, doula, and doctor have pumped me full of advice about building my blood: iron supplements with vitamin C, eating red meat and liver, cooking in cast iron, drinking nettle and alfalfa infusions, etc. I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of red meat and when I looked up its iron content on the charts, it wasn’t as impressive as I’d imagined, given its reputation as the King of Iron. I was delighted, on the other hand, to find out that clams and other shellfish have up to 8 times as much iron as most cuts of red meat (unless you can stomach beef liver, which rivals clams).
I’ve been trying to incorporate more such foods into my diet, but I have to say that my favorite recipes are still vegetarian. Animal sources of iron are more easily absorbed by the body, but perhaps its all those years of romancing vegetables that makes me crave a crunchy kale salad over a juicy hamburger.
This recipe is currently my favorite, iron-rich recipe - chock full of iron-packed superfoods like kale, beets, and pumpkin seeds and melded together with a creamy, tangy, herbacious vinaigrette.
Iron-Rich Kale & Beet Salad with Cilantro Vinagraitte
SALAD 1 Bunch Curly Kale, deveined, washed and torn into bite sized pieces 2-3 beets (any color), roasted* & sliced 1/3 c. toasted pumpkin seeds goat cheese (optional) * To roast beets, cut off greens and scrub. Preheat oven to 350. Place beets in a deep baking dish, add 1/4” water to pan, cover with foil. Bake for 60-90 minutes (less for smaller beets, more for larger) to a knife cuts through the center easily. Let cool before peeling.
DRESSING 1/3 c. whole milk yogurt, sour cream or greek yogurt (dairy free - sub one small avacado) 1/4. c. olive oil 2-3 T. white balsamic vinegar pinch of citric acid (or 1/2 T. lemon juice) 1/2 t. black peppercorns (or 1/4 t ground black pepper) 1 cup, loosely packed, washed and chopped cilantro dash of salt
Dressing: Put all above in blender and puree till smooth. Salad: Toss Kale with some of the dressing. Top with sliced beets, pumpkin seeds and goat cheese. Serve!
One thing I’ve missed since developing multiple food allergies is granola. In my pre-allergy days I was never the biggest fan, but deprivation, it seems, makes the heart grow fonder.
It’s not just granola I miss, it’s any kind of tasty cereal. But because of my multiple food allergies and gluten intolerance, I can’t eat 95% of commercially or restaurant prepared gluten-free products, including cereal. Seriously – try to find a gluten free baked good made without: brown rice flour, oats, chocolate, almonds, citrus, coconut, millet… the list goes on. Good luck! This is why I do most of my own baking. And even though my allergies are unusual and numerous, my recipes can be adapted pretty easily to those with different allergies sensitivities. (One of these days I’ll make a post on the basics of substitutions in gluten-free baking.)
But back to breakfast… the nice thing about cereal is how fast and convenient it is, and when most breads are also off limits, I miss having quick and easy breakfasts. I’ve found about 2 cereals on the market I can eat and neither of them is amazingly tasty on its own. One is Perky’s Crunch Flax Cereal, a crunchy, grape-nuts-esque number made from sorghum flour and flax. I enjoy the satisfying crunch, but it’s flavor is a bit lackluster… although it dresses up reasonably with bit of fruit or honey.
The other day I had the idea of trying to make granola out of it. Most people who avoid wheat can eat gluten-free oats – however I am actually much more allergic to oats than I am to wheat, to which I’m intolerant. (Food allergies are complex, and foods such as oats contain multiple different proteins other than gluten that one can be allergic to.) The results were downright addictive! I ate so much for breakfast I wasn’t hungry until dinner. It’s delicious with milk, yogurt or your favorite substitute and is quite high in both protein and fiber. In other words, a nutritious AND delicious way to start the day :). The recipe is also eminently adaptable and I’ve suggested several variations at the bottom and you can adapt to your allergies/tastes.
Give it a try, I dare you to eat just one bowl :). (OK, maybe you have more self control than I do.) Also, to use the whole box of cereal, just double the recipe.
Now that I’m 5 1/2 months pregnant, I’ve become accustomed to one of the first things people say to me after “congratulations!” which is: “do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?” My sweetie and I decided not to find out the supposed sex of our baby, in part because it doesn’t particularly matter to us, and in part because we know our little one will have a lifetime of well-meaning friends, family and the world pushing highly gendered clothes, toys and expectations onto them… and although it isn’t much, it feels nice to put off the all-blue-everything/all-pink-everything frenzy for a little longer.
When we respond, saying “no, we’re going to let it be a surprise”, people often nod and respond with something like, “Well, as long as it’s healthy.”
As long as it’s healthy, of course - who can argue with that? It’s an innocuous enough and seemingly universally agreed upon sentiment, right? And yet, something about what is implied, what remains unspoken in that statement (what if it isn’t healthy?) makes me uneasy. *
Like any parent, of course I don’t want my child to die, nor do I want it to have to suffer, although of course I know I ultimately have only limited control over both of those things. I have heard that watching one’s child suffer is something one can’t fully imagine until it’s experienced, and this I believe. Yet while having a less than “healthy” child would pose significant challenges and difficulties, I do not dread nor view the prospect of an unhealthy child as tragedy in the way that seems implied by the “as long as it’s healthy” refrain.
This was not always so. In fact, I think that before I became chronically ill, before becoming part of a community where many of the people I love and respect most are disabled or chronically ill, I would have felt the same way. They and we have lives worth living - rich and meaningful and yes, different from those of the non-disabled and healthy. Yes, often full of struggle - but disabled and sick people aren’t the only ones who experience suffering and challenges in life and some of life’s most beautiful treasures and sweetest fruits (insight and wisdom, friendships, passions) may come through engaging with our struggles.
My view also changed when I stopped viewing disability or illness as the source of suffering, but realized that much of the suffering chronically ill and disabled do face is caused by a society that isn’t set up for us, that doesn’t value or include us, that tells us we are burdens to the nondisabled, that tells us we are valuable only in as much as we can be economically productive and ignores the multitude of other ways we contribute to society, that tells us that really the only way to be is to “overcome” our disability (translation: be as much like non-disabled people as possible).
No, before I experienced a chronic illness that left me bedbound and in chronic pain for long periods of time, I probably would have echoed the “as long as it’s healthy” refrain. I would have thought an unhealthy or disabled baby would be an unspeakable tragedy, a nightmare of sorts. Indeed, back then I couldn’t imagine a fate worse than chronic pain, than losing the ability to do some of the activities I loved most. I didn’t have meaningful relationships with people who were severely and chronically ill or disabled, and what I did know came from media representations that painted disability and chronic illness with the brushstrokes of pain and pity. I imagined disability akin to or worse than a death sentence. I would have agreed with the friend who recently bemoaned the tragedy of family friend whose child was born with one arm paralyzed. The whole family was devastated and in a kind of mourning. Their hopes and expectations for a healthy child had been dashed.
This happened shortly before my partner and I had started trying to and became pregnant and in that moment, I suddenly realized how much my outlook had changed. Because my first thought was not, “What a tragedy!” but rather, “How sad that this baby’s birth is met by her family with mourning instead of joy.” And thoughts of, “That’s not a tragedy, she’s just different. Sure, she and her family will need to figure out some adaptations, but she can be fine! Especially if she is surrounded by people who embrace human diversity and disability pride and don’t constantly compare her to two-armed people who they imagine to be superior.” **
I don’t know what this or any child will bring into my life. There are never any guarantees about the kind of child we are going to get. But I do know that my life is about to change profoundly and forever in ways both unimaginably joyful and challenging. And isn’t that what we all sign up for when we embark on the journey of parenthood?
* Please don’t feel bad if you’ve said this to me, in fact I’ve said it countless times to others. I sincerely appreciate that your intentions are good and the sentiment of hoping for the best possible health for any child. I’m just interested in exploring some of the unconscious assumptions behind our well wishes to one another.
** I do have compassion for families facing the unexpected disability of someone they love - whether at birth or in adulthood. But I think if ableism wasn’t so deeply and uncritically embedded in our society, if people with disabilities and their families were embraced, supported and valued for our unique gifts and abilities, such transitions wouldn’t need to be as difficult as they currently are.
Ever have one of those weekend mornings where you’re craving something luscious for breakfast, but too tired for the hassle of anything fancy and too broke/sick/unmotivated to go out for brunch? I have a lot of those mornings :), and this is the perfect recipe for it. These crepes come out tasting like something that you’d get at a sweet little brunch spot or your favorite crepe stand, yet they’re ridiculously easy. The batter takes less than ten minutes and the crepes cook up in just a few more. They’re so good sometimes they don’t even make it from the skillet to the table, but land in my stomach in between :)
Top them with whatever suits your fancy: powdered sugar and lemon, maple syrup, jam, berries, whipped cream, nutella or bananas. One more day and D. could have had fresh strawberries from the garden (they’re not quite ripe). Or go savory with fresh herbs and goat cheese or sauteed mushrooms and gruyere (which sound delicious like a bit too much work for me). I ate most of mine spread with berry jam and fresh bluberries and rolled up like little crepe-style kati rolls. You could easily make this dairy free by subbing non-dairy milk (plus a squeeze of lemon juice) and non-dairy margarine for the butter.
Here’s the deets:
Lazy Morning Gluten Free Crepes serves: 2 people
2 medium or large eggs (not extra large) 1 scant cup buttermilk 1/2 - 3/4 c. gluten free flour blend (I use a combination of 2 parts sorghum to one part tapioca) 1 1/2 t. vanilla (omit for savory crepes) 1 T. sugar (omit for savory crepes) pinch or two of salt 1 T. butter, melted
1. Heat large skillet over medium heat.
2. Beat eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and sugar in large bowl.
3. Whisk in gluten-free flour and salt till all lumps are gone (1/2 c. will make a very thin and incredibly delicate crepe - I prefer 3/4 a cup for a slightly thicker but less fragile crepe). Whisk in melted butter till thoroughly incorporated. Batter will be thinner than pancake batter but thicker than heavy cream.
3. Lightly butter the skillet, then ladel 1/4 cup of batter onto the hot surface. If desired, spread gently with the back of a spoon to make it uniformly round (we don’t bother).
4. Cook till golden brown on one side (1-2 minutes), then flip and cook on the other side till golden spots appear.
5. Serve with whatever deliciousness makes your heart happy:).
[pictured: a stove with a cast iron pan in the background and a cast iron skillet in the foreground. A mottled, golden, crepe of slightly uneven shape lies steaming on the skillet]
[picture of a table set with: a patterned blue and white table cloth, a salad made of greens and sliced radish, a cobalt blue plate piled with canteloupe, and a cheesy gluten-free pizza baked in a cast iron skillet]
Gluten Free Radish-Pesto Pizza
Normally I adore greens. Greens of any variety. I don’t discriminate. Collards and kale, spinach and sorrel, chickweed or chard, I love them all! Mostly straight up - raw in salads or lightly sauteed for a quick meal. Some of my favorite vegetables are those that offer a two in one package of tender greens and succulent roots - turnips, beets, and radishes. But ever since I got pregnant, I’ve had an aversion to greens (among many other foods). In my entire first trimester, in fact, if I choked down a single carrot and a boiled turnip mashed with butter in the same week, it was a small victory.
Luckily my vegetable aversion has eased in month 5, but my previous love of greens is slow in returning. Of course, this would be the spring I have a bumper crop of almost every green you can imagine. This week our refrigerator held: 5 bags (each stuffed to the gills) of collards, 1 of chard, 2 of radish greens, 1 of salad greens, and 1 of spinach - not to mention the braising greens that have gone to flower in the garden and the many other greens yet to be picked. I managed to give away some of the harvest, but was still left with mountains of green. But since my standby of a quick sautee with garlic sounds about as appealing as ice cream made of soggy canned spinach, I’ve had to get creative.
I’ve been meaning to try this recipe for radish greens pesto for sometime and this week I’d been craving a nice slice of gluten-free pizza, so tonight I decided it was time for the two recipes to meet. For the pesto, I used pumpkin seeds and pine nuts, more cheese than the recipe called for (parmesan and a little left over comte), olive oil, garlic, a dash of citric acid (you could use lemon juice) and salt. The final product was alarmingly bitter, so I threw in a tablespoon of basil pesto in hopes of salvaging it.
For the gluten free pizza crust, I’d been eyeing a recipe on King Arthur’s website for a while. It receives rave reviews, although it sounded a bit more bready and foccacia like than a crusty pizza. But I’m flexible with my pizza, I like both thin crisp crusts and more a good, doughy crust. To give it a crustier bottom, cook it in a preheated cast iron pan or skillet. This pizza crust earned rave reviews from D. who remarked that he never misses wheat when eating my gluten free baking, yay! (The second time we made this he went so far as to say it was better than wheat pizza :) As for the pesto, we spread it on thick and heavy (I had a LOT of radish greens) and it mellowed out during baking, resulting in a nutty, mild flavor that D. exclaimed “tastes like a spring morning!” We topped it with a tomato from the farmer’s market and some shredded parmesan and just like old times, I couldn’t get enough greens!
Below are my modifications to each recipe.
Gluten Free Rosemary Pizza Crust (or Foccacia)
(Yield: one 12”-14” pizza crust)
1 1/2 cups gluten free flour mix (I use approx: 1 c. sorghum flour, 2 T garbanzo flour, 1/3 c. tapioca flour, 1-2 T cornmeal*) 2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder (if you don’t have this, try substituting 1 cup warmed milk/soymilk for water later in recipe) 1 tablespoon sugar or honey 1 teaspoon baking powder 3/4-1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon xanthan gum 1 T. dried rosemary, crumbled 1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast 1 cup warm water 2 tablespoons olive oil (for dough) 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (for pan)
1) Mix the dry ingredients except yeast in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly blended. 2) Pour warm water, olive oil, yeast, and 1/2 cup of the dry mixture in a small bowl. Mix well although a few lumps will remain. Let sit for approximatley 30 minutes. 3) The liquid mixture should now be bubbly. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients, and beat on medium speed with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes. The final mixture will be similar in consistency to a brownie batter. 4) Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes. 5) Preheat the oven to 425°F. 6) If using a cast iron skillet to bake the pizza/foccacia in, put it on the burner on medium heat for several minutes. 7) Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons olive oil onto a baking sheet, 12” round pizza pan or the hot, cast iron skillet/pan. Transfer dough onto baking surface. Get a small bowl of water and wet your fingers thoroughly. Use wet fingers to spread it into a 12” circle. 8)** Bake the crust for about 10 minutes, it will not be fully baked at this point but that’s ok. 9) Remove from the oven and top as desired (we did radish green pesto, sliced tomatoes plus mozzarella & parmesan cheese). Return to the oven and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes. If you like your cheese bubbly and with those chewy brown patches, turn the oven to broil for the last 2 minutes. 10) Remove from the oven, let cool a few minutes (so as not to burn the roof of your mouth) and devour.
*As with most gluten free baking, you can usually substitute one whole-grain flour for another, and one starch for another, although with varied results. I love sorghum for its nutrition, neutral flavor, and lighter texture. But you could substitute brown rice flour (grittier) or a blend of millet, quinoa, etc. For starches, I find tapioca, corn and potato to be fairly interchangable in recipes.
**This step is optional. The second time we made it I forgot to prebake the crust, and it turned out fabulously :).
(this is a work in progress, there are tons of other great resources out there. please point me to those you find new or more useful ones. also, our communities are so diverse and i still have a lot to learn, so feel free to point out places where i’ve missed something, used the wrong language, misrepresented.)
* Advertise in what ways your event is accessible so people know if they can come. Here’s a tool to help generate an accessibility statement (although it’s from the UK so some of the terminology is different and needs to be adapted) :http://www.disabled.cusu.cam.ac.uk/resources/access-info/
b. Advanced/comprehensive checklists (don’t be overwhelmed, you can start small!):
c. Fragrance Free Spaces: people with chemical injuries, sensitivities, or asthma can become severely ill if people smoke or wear scented/perfumed products to your event (more likely, they will just stay home):
e. ASL interpreters - can be expensive, but fundraise in advance! Write it into grants! Be creative! Build relationships with those in the deaf and hard of hearing communities. If you offer ASL upon request, ask for RSVP’s in advance of the event as it’s often difficult to get interpreters at the last minute. (link to more resources coming soon)
Also, consider including trigger warnings for topics that could be deeply unsettling to people who have experienced various kinds of trauma (sexual assuault, domestic violence, child sexual abuse; trauma related to: war, racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, audism, etc.)
"But why are they so upset/angry?" Be patient, be sensitive. People with disabilities have been systematically excluded from so many social and political spaces (not to mention being imprisoned, killed, selectively aborted, institutionalized, involuntarily sterilized, mocked, denied basic rights, abused and sexually assaulted at high rates, denied education,and fired from jobs, etc.) for a very long time. If people with disabilities you work or consult with sometimes seem frustrated when you don’t prioritize making your event accessible, try and remember there’s a long history of discrimination and oppression at play (which has also shaped your assumption that it’s ok/understandable not to spend the energy/resources needed to fully include and value people with disabilities.)
* Although, ironically, this page is not accessible as it doesn’t include descriptions of the images for people who can’t see them