What’s For Dinner? (Week of April 27, 2015)

Today we kick off a new series called, What’s for Dinner?. Each week, I’ll share a parent’s menu for their family dinners for the coming week. As the primary cook for my family, I find it easy to fall into a food rut.  I’m always on the lookout for tried-and-true meals that work for other families.  I hope you find the same inspiration in these menus that I do!

This week my good friend Courtney Recht-Debreuille shares what she plans to serve for dinner this week.  She is a fellow expat living in Lyon, where she tries to combine her American roots with her husband’s French heritage to bring balanced meals to the table that even satiate her 18-month-old daughter, Victoria.  Courtney is a wonderful cook and also loves to craft.  Check our her latest creations on her blog.

Courtney’s Family Food Philosophy:  Our philosophy is definitely shaped by the French influence of eating a little bit of everything, but not too much. I try to have fruits, veggies and a milk product present at most meals. We live in France where food is a religion, so we don’t starve ourselves of the things we like about living here – good cheese, pates, croissants, tarts, etc… but we don’t eat it all the time either. It’s important for me to instill a positive relationship with food for my daughter where she doesn’t go through life thinking a baguette is an evil carbohydrate or that having a piece of a tart au praline is going to make her fat.

What inspired this week’s menu?  I try to make my dinner menus so that I have leftovers to feed my daughter for lunch the next day. We don’t eat a lot of meat or fish so I’m trying to get better about bringing that to the dinner table more. My menu this week was inspired by a load of cabbage I have in the fridge (we ate this salad a lot last week), along with the fact that my daughter is coming back from a vacation with her grandparents, so I needed to think of things she would enjoy eating too.

So what’s on the menu?

Monday: Salmon with coconut rice and spinach
Tuesday: Cabbage with lardons in a mustard vinaigrette and poached egg
Wednesday: Lamb meatballs with a spicy yogurt sauce {via Design*Sponge}
Thursday: Baked penne with roasted veggies {via Giada diLaurentis}

Friday:  Mom’s night out for me; leftovers from Thursday night for my husband

Bon appetit!


Friday Link Love

The end of another week… My husband is traveling, so my plan is to relax and enjoy the sunshine cozy up while it rains.  Here are a few things to check out this weekend:

Balanced, an app that helps track all the little activities you should be doing–like drinking enough water, meditating, or simply remembering to get up from your computer every so often.  {via Cupcakes & Cashmere}

The French Market Cookbook, a wonderful collection of vegetable-centric recipes that is sorted by season.  This weekend I hope to try the buckwheat-asparagus tart!

I recently decided to lighten up the colors in my living room to make way for the summer months.  I fell in love with the pillows from 5CHomeDecor on Etsy, which come in a range of colors and patterns.  They’re very high quality and a great value.

Have a great weekend!

Healthy Hazelnut Truffles


I’ll go ahead and admit that, for me, a meal doesn’t feel complete unless it concludes with something sweet.   It doesn’t have to be a rich, decadent dessert (though I also love those!); most of the time something small will do.

Lately my husband and I have been gobbling up homemade hazelnut truffles, which I created in a quest to wean him from his Nutella-on-a-spoon habit.  They’re the perfect balance between rich but not heavy; sweet but not sugary. They taste very much like my husband’s beloved Nutella, only better.  They’re simple and quick to make–all you need is a few ingredients and a food processor.

Makes approx. a dozen

1 cup pitted dates (the softer the better)
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cocoa powder (or raw cacao powder if you want to be fancy)
1/4 tsp salt

Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse til smooth and sticky.  Roll into balls and enjoy at room temperature.  Can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days… if they last that long, which in my household they don’t!

Eating for Your Kids


Many of the women with whom I work tell me that they feel pressure, both from themselves and from society, to diet all. the. time. At the very least, they must constantly watch what they eat, lest one too many cookie go into their mouths and everything falls apart.

The first thing I ask a new client is to identify the top three goals they’d like to accomplish through our sessions.  Overwhelmingly, moms of young girls tell me that they want to change their relationship with food so that they can teach their daughters to find a balance between healthy eating and feeling crazy.

At first, as a non-parent, I didn’t fully understand.  Can’t kids be taught something that we ourselves don’t do?  Can we not pass on a more idealistic version of eating?

Then I had a baby. And now I get it. Starting very early, babies observe us and our actions and, as they get older, begin to mimic us.  Older still, they model their behavior on what they’ve seen us do throughout the years.

The New York Times’ Motherlode blog recently had a wonderful post about a woman whose 8-year-old daughter innocently asked her, when do adults stop eating breakfast? She had observed that her mother never ate breakfast (a result of severe dieting in her 20s), and concluded that there must come a time when morning meals end and semi-starvation begins. The mother was devastated, unaware that she had unknowingly encouraged this notion.

As parents, our food habits can profoundly affect our kids.  As women, it can be extremely challenging to model the behaviors we’d like our children to have. Growing up, many of us may have been taught–either purposefully or unconsciously–that our bodies could use some improvement. As grown women, we’re at an even greater disadvantage when it comes to eating and body image. The diet industry has invested billions of dollars in making sure we know that we’ll never lead successful, happy lives unless we can just have more willpower and lose those 5 extra pounds. In fact, this industry’s entire revenue stream is predicated on making us feel terrible about ourselves every single day.

But, as hard as it may be, it’s a battle worthy of our efforts. Studies show that an estimated 42% of girls in 1st through 3rd grades want to be thinner. A whopping 81% of 10-year olds are afraid of being fat. It gets worse with age: Ninety-one percent of female college students said that they have dieted to control their weight. Clearly, we need a different model of what normal eating looks like and better strategies for how we can achieve that.

For you moms out there, have you worried about passing along bad habits to your kids?  Have you promoted a different relationship with food than the one you were taught growing up? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Friday Link Love

It’s been a busy week!  My mom is visiting, so we’ve been running around introducing her to Alex’s favorite spots.  While we’re checking exploring new playgrounds, here are a few fun things to check out:

Since having a baby, I’m very much into skincare, as I’m convinced the past 14 months have aged me 14 years.  I’m seriously considering switching over to Stark Skincare, which is all natural, vegan, and made in small batches. They’re all about the less is more concept, which is perfect for us busy moms  The AM/PM duo looks divine:  not only do the oils protect your skin, but they also contain aromatherapy scents to help rev up for the day and, later, unwind from it all.  Or, if you prefer one product that does it all, the Meadowfoam Everybody Oil promises to be a panacea for the entire body (and hair)… and can even be used to moisturize a baby!

Speaking of unwinding, who says that cooking a delicious meal can’t be relaxing!?  I really want to check out Sarah Britton’s new cookbook, My New Roots. The recipes look interesting but not too difficult, and filled with wholesome ingredients.  Double score!

Lastly, for you fellow expats, check out Les Lolos, a new website for pregnant women and mamans living in Paris. I especially enjoyed this article about the challenges of being an expat while raising a family. It’s a great resource for expats moms everywhere.

Have a great weekend!

The results are in!

Several weeks ago, I created a survey to learn how new(ish) moms feel about their bodies and what their biggest challenges are. Women from across the U.S. and Canada participated, along with a few fellow expats living in Europe and the Bahamas.  As I reached out to friends to take the survey and pass it on through their networks, many of them expressed interest in learning more about the survey results.  They wanted to know, are we all in the same boat together!?

What I found so interesting about the results is that despite the geographic, socio-economic, and age differences amongst the participants, their experiences had many commonalities.  Most are not happy with their post-partum bodies, many find it difficult to eat healthfully and fit in exercise, and almost everyone is exxxxxxxhausted.  

One of the topics in which I was particularly interested is how how women felt about their bodies during pregnancy and whether or not they worried about weight gain during that time. Based on all the complaints I hear from moms (myself included!), I expected most women to report that they were unhappy with their bodies during pregnancy.  I was thus surprised that nearly half the participants reported that they looooved their body during pregnancy; another 35% said that they had a love-hate relationship with their body.  Fifty-one percent of participants said they did worry about weight gain during pregnancy; only 14% did not.

So what happened once the baby was born?  I asked participants to identify their top three challenges throughout the first year of motherhood.  During the first three months after birth, the stressors were clear:  lack of sleep, feeling overwhelmed, and difficulty breastfeeding.  During the 3-6 month period, responses were more diverse:  Finding “me” time, managing the transition back to work, and a general feeling of stress.  From 6-12 months, things got more racy:  the biggest challenges were finding “fun time” with their partners, battling a low sex drive, and finding time to exercise.

Participants indicated they were less satisfied with their bodies after birth.  Three months post-partum, 32% of has lost some –but not all–of the baby weight; 19% had gained weight.  One year out, most participants had gotten back to their pre-baby weight, but 20% had not. And for those who have lost the baby weight, their bodies still aren’t back to what they were:  “My belly droops in the saddest way“, said one woman.  “My body just isn’t the same,” said another.

Forty percent of participants modified their eating habits once the baby was born, many trying diets like South Beach, Weight Watchers or the Whole 30 challenge.   While these changes helped a few, many reported that eating habits that worked pre-partum were no longer effective. “Nothing I do helps me lose weight,” said one participant.

So what’s getting in the way of us moms living more healthfully?   Overwhelmingly, the top three challenges identified were lack of time (64%), sheer exhaustion (54%), and difficulty juggling schedules (42%).  Close behind was feeling overwhelmed by life (38%). “I’ve gained so much weight and I can’t find the time or emotional drive to lose it,” said one woman. “I want to find a way to feel like myself again,” said another.

I asked participants to describe their lives in one word.   The responses ranges from the ecstatic (“lucky,” “happy,” “wonderful”)… to the so-so (“still in transition,” meh,” “different”)… to the not-so-great (“at the service of others,” “Groundhog Day-esque,” “confusing”).

So who are these amazing participants?

  • 22% are 25-29 years of age; 41% 30-34; and 25% 35-40.
  • 74% have one child, 22% two, and 8% have another on its way.
  • 48% work full-time, 20% part-time; and 31% stay at home (of which 84% actively chose to stay home and 16% had to due to circumstances).
  • For those moms who work full-time, 52% see their kids more than 2 hours a day and 31% more than three hours.
  • 55% are the primary cook for their families (with 27% sharing the duties with their partner) and most spend under an hour per day cooking.

I’m so grateful to each and every one of these ladies for giving me an insight into their lives as women and as mothers.  You guys are rock stars!

For my readers out there, what do you think?  Are these results in-line with your experiences as a mom?

GROUP CLASS: Fall Back in Love With Your Body

Are you unhappy with your postpartum body?

Are you trying – but unable – to lose baby weight?

Is it difficult for you to fit healthy eating into your busy day?

Join me for a one-month group program designed to help you fall back in love with your body.  It’s all online and on the phone, so you can participate from from anywhere in the world.

Discover how you can improve your body image, create healthy habits that guarantee long-term results, and end the war you’ve been waging with your body.

The program includes 4 one-hour interactive phone calls, weekly recommendations, and access to a private online forum where you will receive on-going support from myself and your fellow participants.

Class Details:

Four weekly sessions for only $150.

*** Sign up by May 15th and it’s only $125! ****

Dates and topics covered:

Thursday, June 4
8-9pm EST
Loving What Is

Thursday, June 11
8-9pm EST
Constant Cravings

Thursday, June 18
8-9pm EST
Overcoming Negative Chatter

Thursday, June 25
8-9pm EST
Finding Time For You

Ready to commit?  Register here.

Eating It All

Recently, one of my clients confessed that the night before, she had eaten an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby ice cream.  Now I’m going to turn into a chubby hubby!, she wailed, so disappointed with herself. She hadn’t intended to eat the whole thing — in fact, she just wanted a taste — but it was there and it tasted good good and she felt like such a badass doing it and she couldn’t stop eating until every last chocolate covered pretzel was gone.

How many of you have had the same experience? Once you start eating something, you just can’t seem to stop. The food takes over control and you’re just along for the guilt-ridden, nauseating ride.

Um, I have!  Throughout my life, I’ve experienced this many, many times. Ben & Jerry’s is often the culprit, though it can also be Whole Foods spelt vanilla cake (because it seemed healthier?) or chocolate covered pretzels or tortilla chips. Emotional overeating can take many forms.

When we’re in the middle of emotional overeating, our first reaction is to feel guilty and/or ashamed.  Why can’t we control ourselves?  Why do we have no willpower! Why are we so WEAK?

But that response is what encourages many of us to continue eating — because we have to erase the proof that it happened in the first place.  If the entire pint/bag of chips/piece of pie is gone, then there won’t be any incriminating evidence the next day! There will be no reminder of us how flawed we are when it comes to food. So we eat it all.

So what to do? I would say that the first step is to try your very, very best notto  feel guilty. Yes, easier said than done BUT… sometimes we overeat. Sometimes we binge. Sometimes we eat emotionally. It happens to us all. It’s like getting angry at yourself for crying during a particularly sad film.

So instead of using your energy feeling guilty about your lack of willpower and creating elaborate strategies how you’ll work off all those calories the next day — try using that energy to delve deeper into what’s going on in your life. Is there something missing from your life that you’re using food to make up for? Are there feelings you’d rather not feel? Are you missing sweetness from your life? Do you feel empty? What’s going on?

Because with emotional eating, there’s always something else going on. It’s just a matter of identifying it and figuring out what you need that you’re not getting.

Gena’s Fig Bars


The above picture in NO way conveys the delicious of the fig bars I made this weekend. I made them in a hurry, on my way to a BBQ in New Jersey–so there wasn’t a lot of time for a photoshoot. Instead, you get to see them all piled up in a Tupperware ready for transport.

I saw this recipe a few weeks ago on my friend Gena’s blog, Choosing Raw. It looked amazing — and perfect for a family-friendly BBQ. ‘Cause who doesn’t like figs!?

Well, okay, I’m not a big fan of figs. That it, I wasn’t a big fan of figs before making these. I’ve now been converted.

The first step to making them it to make the fig jam — which is a (easy) recipe in itself. You could easily stop here and happily eat the fig jam for weeks to come.

But THEN you get to make this super-simple oat dough, put it all in the oven and in 30 minutes you have yourself a feast. Despite this being a vegan recipe, as the bars were cooking, I swear it smelled like butter. ‘Cause this recipe is a keeper.

I followed the recipe almost to a T, which is a huge compliment to Gena’s baking skills cause I usually always change a few things. The only change I  made–and this was pure necessity because I was out of cinnamon–is that I swapped it for nutmeg. I loved the results, but it also tasted a little Christmas-y. I’d recommend sticking with the original cinnamon.

Gena Hamshaw, ChoosingRaw.com
reprinted with permissio
vegan and can be gluten-free

For the fig filling:

About 12 large dried figs
6 pitted medjool dates
2 tbsp agave syrup or maple syrup [I used agave]
2 tbsp lemon juice (or the juice of 1 large lemon)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp brandy (if desired) [I skipped this]

For the oat dough:

1 1/4 cup oat flour (GF if following a GF diet)
1 cup rolled oats (see above)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sucanat or natural brown sugar [I used brown sugar]
*2 tbsp vanilla flavored brown rice protein powder (totally optional, but a nice way to amp up the protein if you want these bars to be a part of your breakfast) [I skipped this]
Dash salt
2 tsps cinnamon [I used nutmeg, see above]
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil (or safflower oil) [I used coconut oil]

1) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil an 8 inch square baking pan and dust it with oat flour.

2) Place figs in a small pot with enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer; simmer for about five minutes. Remove figs from the pot, drain them, and place them in your food processor along with dates, lemon juice, agave or syrup, cinnamon, and brandy if using. Process until the mixture resembles a smooth fig jam.

4) Mix oats, oat flour, cinnamon, salt, protein powder if using, baking powder, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

5) Whisk together almond milk, applesauce, vanilla and oil.

6) Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix till just combined.

7) Layer half of the oat mixture into your baking pan. Using an inverted spatula or regular spatula, spread all of the fig paste on top.

8  ) Spread remaining oat mixture on top of the fig paste.

9) Bake for about 35 minutes, or until top is golden.

10) Let cool, and cut into 9 squares.


Cooking for Two

Most people complain that it’s hard to cook for one.  Well, over the years I’ve gotten that one down pat. I can quickly whip up something that’s perfect for my mood at the moment, often with plenty of leftovers to eat for another meal.

For the past week, though, I’ve been cooking for two.  I’ve also been cooking in a kitchen that’s not my own.

At first, this frightened me. The idea of taking someone else’s food preferences into account seemed daunting. I cringed at the thought of having to make do in a less-than-perfectly-appointed kitchen. (Specifically, the kitchen wares I’ve been using include one frying pan, one sauce pan, a paring knife, and a spatula). Could I still make rice without my trusty rice cooker?! Would I still be able to chop vegetables without my santoku knife!?What if I needed more than two pans at once!?

At least there’s always take-out.

BUT I’m happy to report back that I have prevailed. Well, mostly. The first night I mis-estimated the amount of food we’d need and we were both a little hungry at the end. (In fact, my boyfriend supplemented his dinner with leftover homemade Pad Thai).

Aside from that misadventure, everything was okay. I just had to be creative. I managed not to burn my brown rice, despite the fact that the saucepan top had steam vents. I discovered that sauted mushrooms + a lot of white wine + some vegetable broth all cooked down for a while resulted in a delicious mushroom ragout that was perfect over coconut rice. I figured out that a saucepan can also be used as a mixing bowl for pancake batter. And a frying pan can be used to steam asparagus.

A lot of my clients find healthy cooking and eating daunting because it’s complicated. But it’s really not — and this week has forced me to re-prove it to myself. Healthy cooking is simple. It’s easy. A typical dinner for me is It’s a whole grain and lots of veggies and some sort of protein–usually all mixed (if not cooked) together.

But you do have to be brave enough to try. And to accept that you’ll probably make a few mistakes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve burned rice, even though I always follow the same procedure. But that’s okay — it’s all part of the fun.

For all of you cooks out there, what are some simple shortcuts or tips you have for the newbies among us?