Thursday, December 6, 2012

Getting Personal: The Feeding of the Girlchild.

This post gets personal. You've been warned.

There are no photos anywhere of me breastfeeding. There are reasons for that.

Hunter was never tiny, not even at birth.
My daughter Hunter is one of four babies born into our social circle in a short span of time, between late 2008 and early 2009. Each of us moms decided we were going to breastfeed our child. Each tried. I was the one that kept on.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. There were circumstances, sure. One had a preemie and could never get the hang of the pump. Another had a terrible time with getting her child to latch.

I had a hard time too. Hunter was late by a few weeks. For whatever reason, my milk just didn't come in. She latched -- that was no problem, except the fact that maybe I wasn't quite prepared for 40 minutes of determined suckling. There just wasn't anything those first couple of days. 48 hours after she was born, I relented and allowed her to be fed formula -- which she all but inhaled, four ounces in under a minute. She was hungry.

Hunter at a week old.  Lots of hair.
But I was still determined to try. Neither my husband nor I had been breastfed past a month, and between my food allergies and his asthma I figured I owed it to my child to make the best attempt I could. The breastfeeding specialists at Baptist came to my room repeatedly, showing me the proper method to bring the milk up, how to use a pump and how to best hold my child while she was feeding. Eventually, the milk came.

Even this, though, came with its issues. See, my mom's generation was far more pro-formula, and even certain of my friends wondered why I'd go through the efforts. Hunter also initially lost weight, almost a pound, and the pediatrician's office put the fear of God into me about making sure she got all the nutrition she needed. And here I was, out of the hospital with almost no bottles or preparation for formula feeding, because I had been determined to breastfeed.

I ended up combo feeding. Yes, I was told from the get-go that most combo-fed babies would end up rejecting the breast quickly because it was too much work. We scheduled everything so she ended up with more breast time than bottle time. That first feeding of the day was always taken in bed, a quiet time for bonding and nourishment. It helped me relieve the pressure that had set in overnight, and was the easiest for Hunter. Later in the morning, especially if I was out of the house working on assignment, there would be a small bottle of formula. We'd alternate through the day, and the last feeding came from me as well.

There were other problems. Within a few weeks my nipples were horribly cracked and painful. I ended up with an infection on one side that took a couple of weeks to go away, and for that time I had to pump on that side, which was terrible. I never really did get along with the pump -- it was painful and it took forever, and I had to hold perfectly still while getting it to work. There were also breast pads -- I found that I leaked just enough for it to be an embarrassment. The pads helped not only to keep me dry, but to alleviate the pain and pressure of my bra.

If I had been holding a traditional job at the time, chances are the breastfeeding would have stopped at six weeks. Even as determined as I was, taking a pump to work just wasn't going to cut it. But as a freelance writer, I was able to spend a lot of time with Hunter, and I made allowances to take her with me with the help of my mom and my friends. She traveled with me out of state and in-state on overnight trips, and when I had in-state assignments I'd wait until she fed that morning, got in the car, rushed to my destination and rushed back in time for the next cycle of feeding and formula.

Hunter, Christmas 2009.
I had intended to do this for six months. But when it came time to wean, Hunter was not ready. I'd be holding her and she'd turn to me and bite through my clothes. She didn't have any teeth when that first started, but I got the message. When in public, we'd find a secluded space and I'd sit on the floor, indian-style, and cuddle her under my shirt. The whole breast-shield thing didn't work too well with us -- Hunter hated being swaddled or having her face covered -- so I would do what I could to find enough seclusion. Besides, for us that seated-on-the-floor position was what felt comfortable.

She last nursed on Christmas Day, 2009, nearly 13 months after she was born. The next morning I picked her up to feed and settled her in beside me, only for her to start clamoring for a new favorite toy. When she was done, she was done.

Wye Mountain, Spring 2012.
She's four now, and we've talked about it... she still remembers feeding from me. I don't know if she'll always have that memory, especially since there are no photos. I didn't feel at the time that it was appropriate. Today, it's different. It might have been of value to me to have taken just one. That memory, though, will never change.

Emerson PurpleHull Pea Festival 2012.
Cave City Watermelon Festival 2012.
Oh, remember she lost nearly a pound after birth? After that initial setback, she never stopped growing. Hunter registered over the 100th percentile in height and weight pretty much from the second month to the end of her third year. She was taller, busier and bigger than the other girls in her social group. She chose to take her first solid food at four month (wasabi paste -- that's another story) and ate bananas straight from the fruit in the same manner as she nursed for some time. While I was a year old before I cut my first tooth, she was about eight months. We dealt with that pain, too! She has no known allergies and she likes to try everything.

She was eager to eat my birthday cake this year.
Of course, my mileage has varied from other moms I know. Because she was combo-fed, I can't quite quantify which was better, formula or breast milk. I just know Hunter's a healthy, happy girl -- and I have to suspect that the dietary foundation laid for her didn't hurt that at all.

Now that I've gone through all that... and you've read it all... I suspect you have an interest in breastfeeding.  I have to turn you on to some very interesting information from Healthy Families.  It's spot-on.  I couldn't give you better advice.

Question is -- would you like to win a breast pump?  Healthy Families is sponsoring this contest... and let me tell you what, it's a good one.  There it is in the photo, the real deal.

Leave a comment below if you're interested.  It can be about your breastfeeding experience, or about how you hope to breastfeed when your little one comes along.  Trolls will be harassed and embarrassed to the best of my ability.  I'll announce a winner December 21st.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Excerpt: Zack Diemer's Cherry Cream Cheese Pie.

(from Arkansas Pie: A Delicious Slice of the Natural State. Learn more about the book here.)

My brother has the task each holiday season of creating a pie, and this is the usual suspect: the traditional cherry-pie-filling-topped favorite done large. He makes it up in a Tupperware Large White Round Storage Container (Tupperseal) that outdates both of us. The thing is thirteen inches in diameter and about three inches tall. You can substitute four eight inch pie pans instead.

You will need:
1 box graham crackers, pounded to crumbs
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup lemon juice
2 21-ounce cans cherry pie filling




If you haven’t done it already, beat the hell out of the graham crackers until they’re big moist crumbs of graham cracker dirt.


Press into the bottom of the Tupperware container or your pie pans.  Set aside.


Beat the tar out of the cream cheese until it’s sorta fluffy.


Add in everything else but the cherries.


Make sure the lumps are out.


Pour into Tupperseal or pie pans and slide into the fridge


and let chill for four hours.



Top with the cherry pie filling and serve. If you feel really fancy, get a can of cherry pie filling and a can of blueberry pie filling and go nuts with it.

Click here to see Kat's segment on Good Morning Arkansas, talking about this pie.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Improvising pie.

Have you ever been in a pickle when it comes to making dessert? There are just some times when you have to take matters into your own hands and make some crazy decisions in the name of sweet joy.

I've just had this happen to me again. Seems just when I need to start making Thanksgiving pie, I find myself stuck with the wrong ingredients -- and a crazy food restriction, too. I always enjoy a good challenge, though.

This challenge: make a pie. A particular pie -- a lemon pie. I had a great simple recipe from Mather Lodge from my new book, Arkansas Pie: A Delicious Slice of the Natural State. It's this simple:

Mather Lodge’s Lemon Icebox Pie

1 16-ounce package frozen lemonade concentrate
2 16-ounce tubs whipped topping
2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
4 graham cracker crusts

Blend concentrate, whipped topping and condensed milk. Pour into pie crust. Chill for one hour. Top with graham cracker crumbs and/or whipped topping if you choose.

Makes four pies.

So easy. Well, here's one of the challenges. About two weeks ago the ignitor on my stove went out. Dead. Kaput. I ordered the part and it finally arrived today -- but I have limited time in which to work. Hence the desire to make a no-bake pie like this particular lemon icebox recipe.

The second challenge: I'm in the middle of a corn syrup fast. I've had on-and-off reactions to corn products (but not sweet corn, which is what you get when you purchase corn on the cob)and to keep down the chances of running into the particular items that cause me rashes and swelling, I've just been avoiding it altogether. I went to get my ingredients and discovered some pretty startling things:

1. Frozen lemonade concentrate? Corn syrup is one of the main ingredients.
2. Graham cracker crusts? Yup, corn syrup.
3. Whipped topping? It IS corn syrup.

So three of my four ingredients were off-limits for me. I went home with my can of sweetened condensed milk and no clue what I was going to do.

At least, until I got home and went through the cabinets and the fridge. And what I figured out was, I could do this. I could make a good lemon icebox pie without touching the grocery store -- or any corn-related products -- again!

The start was the crust. You have to have some sort of crust for a pie to be called a pie -- else, it's custard or some other mess in a container. Pudding, if you will. Well, what did I have?

Traditional graham crackers, for the most part, were out -- though there are some Nabisco and Honey Maid graham crackers that don't include corn syrup. There are oatmeal cookies and ginger snaps. But I wanted something that wouldn't take away from that lemon flavor. So lemon cookies it was.

Now, I'll tell you this. You have two choices here. You can go with just the crumbs or blend in a half a stick of butter to bind it all together. However, it's really not necessary unless your cookies are stale.

So... those lemon cookies... I took a third of a pound package, put them in a ziptop bag and pounded them flat with a wee mallet. Those cookie crumbs I pressed into a standard pie pan and set aside.

So I had the can of sweetened condensed milk (which, by the way, is just milk and sugar, condensed. Really.) How could I make a lemon pie?

With lemon, of course. I happened to have some lemon juice, and I got a third of a cup set aside. The whipped cream I replaced with a block of cream cheese warmed to room temperature.

I blended together the lemon juice, cream cheese and the can of sweetened condensed milk until thoroughly incorporated and poured into that improvised crust.

And let me tell you what -- it makes a nice, lightly sweet and not too tart pie. Chilled in the fridge for a couple of hours, it sliced up nicely.

So... for the count:

A third of a pound of preferred cookies (lemon, ginger snaps, graham cracker, oatmeal), crushed (with or without a stick of butter)
A 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
A block of cream cheese
1/3 cup lemon juice

Beat the cookies into crumbs, press into pie pan. Blend all other ingredients together and pour into improvised pie crust. Chill a few hours, slice and serve.

How do you improvise your Thanksgiving pie?

Watch Kat talk about making this pie on ArkansasMatters.com.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pecans.

Toasted pecans from CARTI's Festivities, Too cookbook
On many a November day, along tree lined roadsides and across orchard-clothed flatlands, you may see people of all ages engaging in a particular rite of autumn. Each man, each woman, each grandparent or child gazes at the grounds, bends over and picks up a handful of brown ovoid nuts and places them in whatever they manage to utilize to carry such a bounty. It is time for the pecan harvest.

Last year an estimated 2.6 million pecans were harvested from orchards
E's Bistro's Lemon Pecan Pie.
around the Natural State. With prices running around $3 a pound, pecans are big business.

Pecans are native to Arkansas. They were highly valued by Native Americans, who traded and consumed them. Spanish explorers thought they were another sort of walnut and called them nueces, or “fruit of the walnut.” They’re a great source of protein, and somewhat easier to crack than walnuts.

Blue Mountain Bakery's Sticky Rolls.
When I was a little girl, the weekend before Thanksgiving was a common time to pick pecans. You don’t pick them off the trees; instead, you get yourself some sort of container or sack and go walking out where the trees are and pick up all you can before your back gives out. My cousins and I would pick up all we could, shoving the nuts into potato sacks or
Praline pecans from Ozark Candy & Nuts.
grocery sacks, until we’d either give out or it got dark. The evenings we’d spend with a set of nutcrackers, carefully popping open each shell and extracting the soft part inside. That’d go to whoever was making pies – because there was ALWAYS pie at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, usually a Karo-nut pie. We’d also eat our share. You learned quickly to examine the nuts before you ate them, because those little woody bits in the center that held the shell together
"Pecan Row" by Grav Weldon, taken near Scott.
are bitter.

Pecan trees are common across the state, and you’ll see them here and there. I even have one in my backyard, though the squirrels seem to reap the bounty the tree offers before the nuts hit the ground. There is a stretch of highway near Scott where pecan trees line either side of the road, offering a shady tunnel during the summer and a stark
Pecan pie at Chip's Barbecue.
reminder of winter’s arrival each December. To get to this pretty place, take 161 south from where it splits off from Highway 167 by the Plantation Agriculture Museum.

Nana Deane's Coconut Pecan Pie, recipe in Arkansas Pie
As I mentioned, pecan pies are a big tradition in my family. We have our own pecan pie recipe, as many families do. While criss-crossing the state, I have discovered many other pie varieties that focus on the pecan. Of note: the PCP (Pineapple, Coconut and Pecan) pie at Ed and Kay’s Restaurant in Benton; Nana Deane’s Coconut Pecan Pie at Ray’s Dairy Maid in Barton and the Bourbon Chocolate Chunk Pecan pie at Greenhouse Grille in Fayetteville. The Backyard Bar-B-Que Company in Magnolia and the Red Rooster Bistro in Alma both make a marvelous rendition of pecan cream cheese pie,
Pecan fried pie at Grandpa's BBQ.
and Ms. Rhoda Adams still makes the traditional version in miniature pie pans down at Rhoda’s Famous Hot Tamales in Lake Village.

Some places, like Skinny J’s in Jonesboro and Grandpa’s Catfish in Cabot even serve up fried pecan pies.

Pecans can be found in sweet potato casseroles, mixed into the cranberry relish and even included in a good cornmeal dressing. What better food to celebrate during November?

Now, as many of you know, I've been developing a rather ridiculous intolerance to corn grain.  I apparently can eat corn off the cob; it's the corn that's used as grain that's been
giving me issue -- and that's the corn used in corn syrup.  I've been avoiding the heck out of corn syrup since February.  My few encounters have lead to some swelling... which is not what I want, believe me.

Most pecan pies are made with Karo syrup.  How am I getting around that?  Simple.  I'm thinking for Thanksgiving, a brown sugar pecan pie will grace my table.

Brown Sugar Pecan Pie

2 eggs, beaten
2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar (the white stuff)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup pecan halves
1 blind baked flour pastry pie shell (store-bought is acceptable, too)
Caramel Pecan Pie at Sweet Treats.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the heck out of the eggs.  Pour in the melted butter, both sugars and the vanilla and incorporate thoroughly.  Shake chopped pecans with all-purpose flour and add to the mix.

Pour into pie shell.  Top with pecan halves.  Bake for 45 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

The 2012 Arkansas State Fair Food Preview.

As I always do, I've checked out the food you'll find at the Arkansas State Fair. Rather than rehash everything you already know at the fair, I'll direct you thusly to last year's compendium of absolutely just about everything you could find -- and introduce some new stuff right here, too.
The weird new food at the fair this year:  BACON LEMONADE.  I kid you not. 
Because it has actual bacon rendering in it, I cannot try it myself, but I am
told it doesn’t taste too far off from regular lemonade.  Coastal Concessions,
which is offering it this year, also has Peach and Raspberry versions, which
aren’t nearly as offensive and are actually quite good.


The tastiest of the new fair foods:  DO-RE-OHs.  These are
deep fried cookie dough wrapped Oreo cookies, and if you
get them when they are just out of the fryer, they are
phenomenal – 10 times better than a Chocolate Lava Cake. 
However, once they cool they’re kinda mushy and the charm
is lost.  The Fried What! Folks are selling these.
The folks that brought you Cheeseburger on a Stick are
branching out this year with Alligator on a Stick.  Yes, it’s been
offered at other fairs, but now it’s at the Arkansas State Fair. 
Tastes like chicken.
The Red River Catering Company is offering a tasty twist on
a classic:  Barbecue Nachos.  This is a pile of tortilla chips
topped with cheese, covered in your choice of shredded beef
or pork and drizzled with barbecue sauce.

Beef brisket sandwiches have been here before, but they're always yummy.


And yes, there is still Chocolate Bacon, first introduced at the Arkansas State Fair in 2009.
The Fried What! People are also offering Deep Fried Brownies. 
Served up with a hefty scoop of ice cream and whipped cream,
this is only a sharing dessert – total consumption by a single
individual might result in a sugar-related emergency.


Fried What! is also serving up Deep Fried Green Tomatoes.

Here's another shot of the Do-Re-Ohs, since I know some news folks might want a different image.  As always, yes, you can use my imagery... with attribution, of course.

This should have been a no-brainer... it's a funnel cake on a stick.  Of course.

Red River Catering is offering this meal-on-a-stick, a Chicken and Potato kebab, complete with bun.

Kathy's Kabana brings back a childhood favorite -- chocolate dipped bananas.

Colonial Nut Roll has your sweet tooth in mind with Black Walnut Salt Water Taffy.


Red River Catering will serve up a perfectly normal Fried Catfish plate if you ask nicely (and pay a little).

I personally find this a bit disturbing on a cholesterol level -- gravy covered deep fried steak bites.
Kathy's Kabana is selling steak and chicken quesadillas -- not unusual, but tasty.

You can also buy an oversized nacho plate at the Big Show Diner.

And finally:  The Walking Taco in all its glory, from Kathy's Kabana.