Healthful Mondays: Sick-busting

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

The babe has been battling a sniffly nose for a day or two now, and today is the day to kick it in the butt. A child with the sniffles is pretty lame. Not only are they dripping snot all over the place, they are small and cute and sick, which means they might not be the best company – or want to lie on you all day. Yes, this may sound like a lovely thing, but when you’ve got a sink full of dishes, tons of laundry to do, and work that needs to be done, being a snuggle-snot rag can be tough.

So, the fist thing I did was clear the schedule for the day. I feel bad not being at preschool today, but having a healthy babe is at the top of my “must have” list. Secondly, I tossed all items that are in any close contact with the wee tot into the dishwasher and laundry for some super hot washing. Thirdly, I got out a clean old onesie that the babe will never wear again and cut it up to use to wipe the snotty nose. And, lastly, I put on some nasty clothes and got ready for a day of sick-busting.

I shoved a bottle with water-downed orange juice in the babe’s hand and started chopping fruit. Strawberries are high in cold-fighting vitamin C and contain a good amount of fiber. Along with strawberries, red grapes (which are my daughter’s FAVORITE) have antioxidants and are gentle on the tummy. I’m also heading out to pick up some vitamin C filled red pepper to make a cold-fighting sauce for some pastas for lunch – yummy AND healthy!

Along with providing tons of fruits, liquids, and healthy cold-fighting foods for my daughter, we’re planning a nice walk in the fresh air followed by a long nap. I’m going to make sure I eat lots of fruit, drink loads of water, and attempt a nap later, also. The only thing worse than a babe with a cold is a mama with a cold, too!

Who wants to babysit?

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

We have never left our babe with a babysitter. There, I said it. It’s not like we’re against having someone come over and hang out with our child while we go and do something without her, we just haven’t had reason to. I’m a pretty trusting person, and we have a couple of friends that have offered to watch the wee tot, it’s just that the hubs and I aren’t really big “going out” kind of people, so the need for a babysitter hasn’t happened yet.

I’ve actually had others get slightly frustrated with me over the fact we have not left our child alone with someone yet. I get the big list of all the things that are going the happen the minute we try to walk out the door (screaming, total breakdown, distraught child) and how we are creating future potential issues with separation anxiety. Well, I’m willing to deal with that when the time comes.

When we go to preschool, she’s just fine. Yes, I’m pretty much right there with her, but there are totally times she’s on her own. I know, I know, it’s not the same thing. I see you shaking your head at me.

Maybe I’M the one that’s not ready to leave her alone with someone else. Maybe I’M not sure if I’ll be able to relax and have a good time without having the babe close by. Maybe the real situation is that I have separation anxiety issues and not my babe. Can you blame me? When others are telling me about the behaviors my child will exhibit when we attempt to walk out that door, I’m worried I’ll be the one screaming and crying.

So, my goal this month is to have someone come over and babysit. I know my daughter will be just fine. And, I think it’s time to do it – I’m pretty sure I will be okay. At least I hope I’ll be…

Who wants to babysit?

Beef ribs braised in beer

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

I would love to say that I am a vegetarian – but I’m not. For a good amount of time I didn’t eat meat, but that was due to living alone, not really having the heart to roast a pork loin all for myself and deal with tons of leftovers, and because good meat is expensive. So, I got by on vegetable stir fries and lots of spinach, garlic pasta (coated in parmesan cheese). But, things changed when I met my husband. For those of you that know him, you remember that super-skinny state he was in back then. Well, someone had to feed him – and he’s no vegetarian.

I love to cook. I create an interesting dinner every night. It’s my stress relief and I totally enjoy putting something together that is tasty and fun. Along with loving to cook, I am totally addicted to cook books and foodie magazines. But, the funny thing is, I don’t like using a recipe. I might copy ideas here and there, but to put a recipe in front of my face with all that measuring and stuff – I just zone out. I prefer to use what ingredients I have in the kitchen, get creative, and have no expectations. For some reason, it all works out in the end.

So, the other day we took a drive to Point Reyes Station to walk the strip and hit Marin Sun Farms. We had a couple of extra dollars that needed to be spent and the husband was having a big meat craving. You totally can get your meat craving taken care of at Marin Sun Farms. These guys rock – and have the best meat around. Yup, you pay the price, but the animals are allowed to roam on some of the most glorious fields over looking grand vistas enjoying the sun, sea, and fog. Amazing.

It just so happened that on the day we made our visit, they had some of the biggest and baddest beef ribs hanging out in the meat cooler just waiting to come home with us. Our purchase was quickly wrapped up and we made our way home drooling over our beef ribs.

Hiding in the back of the fridge was a bottle of Guinness, which was poured over the honking-huge beef ribs along with a chopped onion, a big sprig of rosemary and a couple of garlic cloves. I put a lid on the whole thing and let them cook for two hours at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Once they started falling off the bone, I cranked the heat, removed the lid, and basted the ribs to give them a nice crispy-almost burnt outer coating.

Those beef ribs disappeared fast.

Wow, they were oh-so good.

Pumpkin prints

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

Well, fall has found its way into my home. The cooler evenings have encouraged those cozy blankets to be dug out from the closets and the whirling, falling leaves are all around. As much as I don’t want to admit it – I’m really glad to see fall this year. Our summer months weren’t the best and if it’s going to be on the cool-ish side, I’d rather have fun fall leaves to play with and the excitement of the holidays just around the corner.

Even though my daughter can’t talk yet, I’m pretty sure her favorite holiday is Halloween. How can’t it be, right? Halloween means costumes to wear, trick-or-treating, eating candy, and all that crazy spookiness. So, I figured my babe would want to make some adorable Halloween cards to pass out to all her new friends in preschool. My local market had the cutest (and smallest) pumpkins out front the other day, and a couple made their way to our home. But, instead of using them to decorate the mantel, I decided to turn one into a fun arty activity.

First, I cut a wee little pumpkin in half. Then, I placed a small amount of paint on a paper plate, positioned a piece of classic orange construction paper on the worktable and let my daughter stamp away. When I thought she’d got a couple of good pumpkin halves on the paper, I would deftly switch it out with another blank orange paper for her to continue stamping away. The result was several great pumpkin stamps that I could use.

I searched through my stash of old cards until I found several outdated Christmas cards that had matching envelopes. I got out my trusty paper cutter and cut nice squares framing those stamped pumpkins. Then, I used some letter stamps to write out “Happy Halloween” and my hot glue gun to connect the finished product to the front of the card – wonderfully covering the cat with the Santa hat saying “Meowy Christmas.”

I just know that my daughter’s going to love sharing these cards with her friends along with passing out some tasty treats on Halloween.

Well, maybe I’m a bit more excited about it than she is…

Healthful Mondays: Pets

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

I have two cats. One that my husband had before I met him over 10 years ago, and the other I picked up seven years ago because I thought having a kitten would be fun. Well, that kitten grew up, the other cat has gotten old, and now our cat pets are the topic of many discussions in our home.

When I got pregnant, I was so worried about the cats. That was “before.” Those of you that have kids and had pets “before” know what I’m talking about. You USED to slather your pets with attention (even if they acted like you didn’t exist) and go out of your way to do nice things for them – like buy fancy shmancy food and stuff. Were the cats going to be okay with the new addition to the family? Should I get a cat cover for the crib so they don’t want to snuggle with the baby? Are they going to scratch the babe – or bite her?


Our cats didn’t care a fig about us other than to make sure we fed them and opened the door to let them out. Neither one ever slept in the bed with us or snuggled with us on the couch – so they totally weren’t going to do that with a new wiggling screaming thing.

AND. If they didn’t like the addition of a new baby – tough. They’re cats. They’ll get over it.

Thankfully I didn’t invest in any cat screen covers or anything, and when we brought the baby home (the hubs even took the baby blanket home for them to smell the night before as suggested) they sure didn’t behave any differently. In the almost two years of our child’s life, only one cat has let her touch it, and we’ve figured it’s due to the fact that she can’t hear, or probably really see, anymore.

Our cats want to go outdoors all hours of the night, which keeps me awake the entire night, making me feel a bit crazy in the morning – like I’m breastfeeding an infant again. The old-deaf one walks about making this horrid yowling noise mainly because she can’t hear herself and because she feels she should be fed every five minutes. And, they scratch scratch scratch at everything.

Okay. Pets DO have wonderful benefits. They are adorable. They are soft and petting pets helps lower your stress level and increase your ability to bond and create healthy relationships. Interacting with pets also encourages activity – even if it’s dangling string in front of your kitty.

So, on the days that I’m ready to lock the cats out for good, I think about how cute they are, how the big old one lets our daughter pull her tail and even sit on her, and that the other wee one brings us snakes because she loves us.

Ah, pets.

Zucchini ricotta muffins

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

I’ve been craving some zucchini muffins and picked up a ton of fresh locally grown zucchini the other day at the market for what seemed like nothing. But, the weather had other plans, and with a couple straight days in the triple digits, those tasty muffins were put on hold. Luckily, zucchini is a tough veggie and held up in the fridge until I was able to bear some baking in the kitchen. Yesterday, those lovely green things were grated, and mixed together with another of my favorite ingredients, to make some super yummy (and healthy) muffins.

My daughter isn’t so excited about her vegetables, other than peas, so I’m always looking for various ways to mix veg into her meals and foods. She also just started preschool and putting any sort of meat in her lunch isn’t a great option. First, by the time she gets to it, the wee chunks of meat are usually not so appealing. And, secondly, if her little group eats outside, the bees are awaiting to get at that meat. No one wants babes eating bees, so I leave it out and prefer other protein options. Ricotta not only offers a protein punch – but creamy and healthy calcium, and total yumminess.

And, I use whole-milk ricotta. Anything else is pointless. Seriously.

These are simple muffins to make and you can add other ingredients along the way to create your own spin on things. I made itty-bitty muffins so my daughter could easily eat (and walk around with) her own little muffin, and a couple regular sized for me to enjoy during my own lunch breaks.


2 cups shredded zucchini (about 4 zucchini)

1 egg

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup milk

A dash of salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups flour

1/2 cup whole milk ricotta

How to make them

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and get out your grater. Give your hands and wrists a couple of good wriggles and shakes to stretch them out before grating to prevent sore muscles later – or just get out your trusty food processor. But, I prefer the sore muscles and grate my own zucchini. It makes me appreciate the muffins oh-so-much more later.

Shred up your zucchini into a large bowl. Add the egg, oil, vanilla, and milk and mix together creating a big slurry mess. If you’ve got kids, this is a great time to let them do some stirring – just make sure no one does any taste testing and that everyone’s washed their hands first.

Add the sugar, dash of salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda giving everything a good mix. Then, slowly add in the flour, mixing gently along the way.

Once the batter has come together, gently fold in the ricotta. This ensures that the muffins are flecked with big chunks of ricotta, which equals total goodness once baked.

Slightly grease your muffin tins with a paper towel dipped into a bit of vegetable oil, or spray them with cooking spray. You can also line your muffin tins with liners if you prefer not having those muffin tins to clean out later (which can be a bit of a pain).

Fill muffin tins with batter until they are just about full and then place into your toasty-hot oven. The muffins need to bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick comes out dry.

Let the muffins cool in their little muffin tins for about five minutes and then remove and allow to cool completely before eating. This will ensure lovely cake-like muffins instead of nasty doughy ones.

These muffins are great packed in your babe’s lunch box, for a family gathering, or as a tasty treat after dinner. Because they don’t have loads of sugar, you can feel good about sharing them with your kids and not having them climbing the walls later from a total sugar buzz.

Other options

If you want to go crazy with these muffins, you could add:

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup silvered almonds

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Yes, you could add ALL of the above listed ingredients for crazy good muffins, or just a bit of this or that. The recipe is easily added upon to make the perfect muffin for your taste.