25 August, 2009

The importance of not overcooking your boiled eggs

Lots of great new posts to come, but first I thought I'd write about the incredible, edible egg so let's "get cracking":

A. Theme songs have been catchy for a long, long time. But then, I've also watched this like 20 times in a row trying to figure out what the heck the kids in the first scene are eating - I'm sure they didn't have french toast sticks back in 1980!

It all starts with my older son, whom I fear may turn into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or maybe just peanut butter. In my quest to provide a wholesome and diverse set of lunch options, I have hit the brick wall otherwise known as childhood creature of habit and it's only week 2.

Recently I've had a hankering for egg salad; it is yellow after all. That's it! I thought. Big CL loves eggs, ergo he will like egg salad. Wrong! Luckily, I like egg salad - someone has to eat that large batch I whipped up. In fact, I'm waiting right now for my bread to toast so I can enjoy a nice sandwich.

I've consulted several sources to find a delicioso recipe because, let's face it, there are some pretty bad egg salad sandwiches out there and it's hard to imagine something worse than runny or gray eggs on soggy bread... Joy Of Cooking doesn't cut it - I'm actually quite miffed that one of my most beloved books utterly fails in this regard. The Joy's recipe would be the most bland one ever if not for the pinch of curry powder it calls for... So, I'm still on the hunt for that kick-ass preparation.

Most standard recipes call for Dijon mustard, paprika, celery and/or lemon juice along with mayo and S&P to taste. I always use celery, mustard (either Dijon or mustard powder) and lemon juice but am on the lookout for suggestions. Some of the more intriguing additions I have come across (that go in the egg mix and not just separately in the sandwich):
curry powder
shredded carrot
chopped cucumber
minced/chopped red or green onion
pimento-stuffed green olives
hot peppers

The horseradish reminds me of wasabi, which reminds me of tamago sushi. I'll have to try a Japanese-inspired version using furikake or just roasted seaweed (nori). I have also seen in several places and came to this on my own, too, the substitution of sour cream or Greek yogurt for the mayonnaise - definitely two thumbs up for Greek yogurt here.

A few little egg-cellent tricks I've picked up over the years that make all the difference:
  • Don't overcook your eggs unless you are serving Green Eggs and Ham. 8-10 minutes at a gentle boil is plenty (the moister the yolk, the less mayo you will need).
  • Place the eggs in the water when you set the pot on to boil and not after the water is boiling, or you risk cracking the shells. Better yet, use eggs at room temperature.
  • Dunk the eggs in an ice bath after removing from the water to stop the yolks cooking any further.
  • In terms of egg salad, toast your bread and it won't be soggy (especially if you are packing lunch for school or work).
While 80% of the egg salad sandwiches out there are horrid, a good egg salad on a pumpernickel bagel is very hard to beat, unless you add bacon and then it's game over.

05 August, 2009

Summer bliss

I love Jamba Juice. Actually, I love most kinds of all-fruit smoothies.

A creature of habit, I usually get the 16-ounce Mega Mango or just make my own (see below).

So what could be better than a buy-one-get-one-free offer during the peak of summer? Go to SummerBlissIsBack.com and print. But hurry, offer only good thru August 9!

My DIY Kick-A$$ Smoothie
4-6 frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
4 heaping spoonfuls of plain, nonfat yogurt
1 banana
2 T flax meal
1 scoop protein powder
Blend on high with milk or a juice (I like orange) of your choice to desired thickness

29 July, 2009

Are you there, God? It's me, [name]

I was checking my blog stats over the past month, and whoa! My visits and page views are increasing though still meager. But the overall trend is increasing!

Since none of you leave comments, I'm curious - are you lurkers or do I know you? I'm pretty confident most of you must be acquaintances, friends or family since I really haven't done any blog promotion of any kind.

So, I hope you'll indulge this little request - please post a comment upon reading this. Share your favorite movie quote, tell me your favorite book, discuss this article on Mourning the Death of Handwriting, heck, simply say "I'm here!"

Thanks! And stay tuned for more chunkiness and August grab bag...

28 July, 2009

More on the U.S. rate of C-sections

Now I'm just fired up.

Based on the complexity of childbirth and cesarean sections in this country and my hesitation to throw the kitchen sink in the previous post, here is some additional information on C-sections in the United States that may be helpful for first-time moms or others considering/anticipating additional children.

First, I freely admit my bias, as previously stated, that pregnancy and childbirth are natural processes that require minimal-to-no medical intervention in most cases, but I have attempted to provide good representation of the facts.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the reasons for a C-section include multiple births, failure of labor to progress, concern for the baby, a problem with the placenta, or a previous delivery by C-section.

Vaginal birth after C-section carries a risk of 1-4% of uterine rupture; that's serious, no question. At the same time, cesareans are not without their own risks, to both mother and child.

The U.S. has one of the highest C-section rates of any developed country, and one has to wonder why we're different. I'm not convinced that doctors or our healthcare system bear all the blame, though the latter certainly plays a big part. Consider:

Once reserved for cases in which the life of the baby or mother was in danger, the cesarean is now routine. The most common operation in the U.S., it is performed in 31% of births, up from 4.5% in 1965.
With that surge has come an explosion in medical bills, an increase in complications -- and a reconsideration of the cesarean as a sometimes unnecessary risk.
It is a big reason childbirth often is held up in healthcare reform debates as an example of how the intensive and expensive U.S. brand of medicine has failed to deliver better results and may, in fact, be doing more harm than good.
It's true: scheduled, repeat cesareans are not "medically indicated," at least not according to the research evidence. After a cesarean birth, a woman is left with a scar on her uterus, and there's a small risk of that scar rupturing in subsequent deliveries, which has led to concerns about vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). But a VBAC baby has excellent odds—the risk of severe harm or death is 1 in 2000—the same odds as for a baby born vaginally to a first-time mother.
The cesarean delivery rate rose 3 percent to 31.1 percent of all births, another record high. The cesarean rate has climbed 50 percent since the 1996 low.
Obstetricians' rising malpractice insurance premiums may play a role, too. Individual doctors in many states now pay upwards of $100,000 a year for coverage, a figure that can spike if they're sued for something that goes wrong during labor, regardless of the legal outcome. "If there's no labor, there can be no lawsuit related to labor," says Flamm, who points out wryly that parents rarely sue over unnecessary C-sections.

For more information, check out these government agencies and other organizations

WOW. Refusal to have C-section = child abuse and neglect?!

Women take note! Especially those of you of child-bearing age.

I cannot believe this report, but it's true. Sort of. On the surface, a New Jersey woman's newborn child was removed from her custody because she refused a C-section and "behaved erratically" while in labor.

Show me a woman who is not erratic while in the throes of labor. Seriously, the baby was born vaginally and was fine, yet still removed from the mother's and father's custody at birth. Also, the hospital in question apparently has a C-section rate of 44%, while the national average is around 30% (and of which as much as half may be medically unnecessary). Hmm...

Not being a legal expert, I can only imagine what kind of precedent this case might set for women across the country, if these were the only facts in the case. However, there is more to this story than meets the eye (isn't there always?). While the lower court judge sided with the state of New Jersey that the mother's refusal to cooperate (i.e., have a c-section) was evidence of child abuse and neglect, upon appeal the court reiterated that there was "substantial additional evidence of abuse and neglect."

Nonetheless, one of the issues before the appeals court was the question of whether the refusal of a C-section is tantamount to child abuse/neglect/endangerment. And on this question, I believe the appeals court, in its majority opinion, fucked up punted:

Where we part company is his discussion of whether V.M.'s [the mother's] refusal to consent to a cesarean section (c-section) can, as a matter of law, be considered an element of abuse and neglect.

On the record before us, we do not agree that the issue need be decided.

I guess I can't say I am surprised by this or that I blame them for dodging the question. But I wish they'd had the balls to address it, like Judge Carchman did in a concurring opinion:

I concur in the result reached as to both V.M.[the mother] and B.G. [the father]. I am of the view that even with the limited concession of DYFS as to the narrow utility of V.M.'s refusal to have a c-section, the issue remains extant and requires a level of judicial scrutiny.

Consideration of V.M.'s refusal to submit to a c-section, in my view, is improper and beyond the legislative scope of the child protective statutes.

Here is the post from Momlogic; you should also check out the post at the NY Times blog Motherlode. As a rule, I don't generally read the Huffington Post but this is actually a pretty good analysis. And here is the New Jersey court ruling (pdf) for those so inclined to read.

Regardless of the details in this case, what this illustrates to me is the vast geographical differences in doctor's attitudes and hospital procedures. The approaches to birth and the predominant medical attitudes are not uniform across the country in the least. Meanwhile, the U.S. has one of the highest C-section rates of any developed nation. Bottom line: PREGNANCY IS NOT AN ILLNESS OR A CONDITION NECESSARILY WARRANTING TREATMENT. Delivering a baby (or babies as may be the case), for a great many women, is a natural process that requires minimal-to-no intervention.