Last time around, it felt like MIL was dropping by every day to drop off food and coo over the newborn and be that first-time grandma who – it seems to me – is as much into it for herself to extract information from us and turn it into bragging rights as nourishing her son (and daughter-in-law). She was the “hero” saving me from the ills of a bad recovery. In fact, I was lucky that after an emergency C-section, I recovered without much incident and was mobile pretty much immediately. Was I going to be ordering McDonald’s or crappy take out were it not for her? Probably not. Was I going to subsist on pasta dinners? Potentially.
As far as I remember, she brought the gamut with the highlights including pig trotters (“pig hands”) in vile vinegar with chunks of ginger the size of a small fist that she swears are so tasty to chew on alone and ginger fried rice, and date tea.
This time around, she touts having three grandchildren to take care of (not full-time and not without a daughter who is on mat leave and living under the same roof as her, and one of the three is our kiddo whom I’ll endeavour to keep with us as much as possible) so she hasn’t the time to make the same food and she told me there are some local services she got wind of that will give you the month of food for a fee. Huh. Or I can be practical and tailor things to my tastes and make things myself. Because I’m resourceful and conscientious and all that.
So for the last two months, I’m like a squirrel preparing for winter. I’m expecting it could be a hard(er) recovery because (1) I’m older, (2) I’m fatter, and (3) there is a toddler running around.
When I was browsing through VPL’s collection of e-books that were immediately available, I came across Heng Ou’s The First Forty Days: The Essential Art of Nourishing the New Mother (2016). Ou is ABC (I think) and didn’t subscribe to all of the postpartum diet until her TCM-practicing aunt descended upon her house after the birth of her first child. These days, Ou has a business serving postpartum women and draws mostly upon the Chinese beliefs but claims global inspiration, that many other cultures have similar practices.
So I read through all of the text because I wondered if such concepts as “wind” and “cold” were elaborated upon but not really directly, to my disappointment. I cannot deny that there is a large vacancy immediately created in the body by the exit of the fetus but what is the scientific term for “wind” and I still don’t totally buy the heating/cooling foods. Food is food, isn’t it! Granted, childbirth is something to recover from and even in Western sensibility, we heal ourselves with healthy and comforting foods and not cold salads and junk food.
Before coming across Ou’s book, I thought I would be referring off my former classmate’s Confinement Soup section on her (Chinese) soup-focused blog.
For my part, I have to do everything myself. I don’t mind it because I’m a planner and it gave me a goal. I found it exciting to have new recipes to look forward to and tackle (alongside the Conscientious Cooking bender I’m on) and I had incentive to clear out the freezer – finally – to make room. Thus, this is what I made and the total stockpile in my freezer is listed at the end of this post:
Chicken, red dates & goji soup I bought two packages of cut-up chicken from T&T to get up to the 2- 2.5 lbs of chicken required by the recipe. That is twice as much chicken as I normally would use in soup which is why the kitchen smelled so incredibly good, the chilled soup was so jelly, and I was hard-pressed to discard the meat as my mother does. It was not fun to shred the meat to try to salvage some or get some tender dark meat for the kid. I was fearful of shattered chicken bones being ingested by the kid (and us) and getting into the Garburator. The kid loved the carrots and broth. (12 May)
Healthful ingredients: goji berries boost circulation and enhance inner warmth; Chinese red dates “bestow amazing postpartum health benefits”
Black sesame seed paste This one was a doozy to make and I went the olive oil route given I don’t keep coconut oil at home (NPY is terrified of the reports of how bad coconut oil is for the heart). Thus my failed attempt at a paste wasn’t nearly as fragrant as if coconut oil was used and, in fact, the olive oil scent bothered me quite a bit until I got used to it. At the end of the day, it was a cup of black sesame seeds I didn’t want to waste and I finished it, eating it straight or spread on a Breton cracker. It’s not a particularly practical postpartum dish in my opinion. (12 May)
Healthful: black sesame seeds support lactation, longevity and beauty
Shiitake immune-boost broth For the lofty purposes that I’m making this food, I would have purchased reishi mushroom – I’m guessing it’s expensive – but there was none to be found at the T&T I was shopping at. I also expected to find fresh tumeric but maybe need to go to a more South Asian market. At first, I was startled at how more minestrone this broth was compared to the thin mushroom broth I anticipated but it made for delicious vegetable sides for dinner for us – not very Asian on account of parsley and tumeric but yet kind of Asian and good flavour profile. (19 May)
Healthful: “immune-boosting power mushrooms” “rich in B vitamins and minerals”; kombu helps with digestion; tumeric; parsley
pig trotters pork belly Hellz no, I didn’t want to work with pig trotters because it’s working with pig trotters – further, we wouldn’t enjoy eating it. Not using the trotters – meat from pig’s feet – we are forgoing a “gift from Mother Nature, rich in body-heating fat and healing gelatin”. Heh, pork belly which is conveniently available in four-portion Costco economy pack is plenty fat-enough! I haven’t had sweetened black vinegar in my pantry before and the sauce had really great flavour it’s easy to make this dish. Further it required less blanching time with pork belly than trotters, and a lot less ginger is required in this recipe (and others) than I would have thought. (21 May)
Healthful: “I didn’t know then what its magical alchemy of ingredients was doing for me: The black vinegar was cleansing my blood, the ginger was dispelling wind, the brown sugar was chasing dampness, and the sesame was boosting circulation.”
White rice congee I found myself having to make this because of having a sick kid in the house – I was curious too, congee always sounds good for a change. I made half the recipe and according to instructions, using Jasmine & glutinous rice. Shortly after, I made it again and used Jasmine & Japanese, as my mother has before suggested. I accidentally made the full recipe and omgosh it was so much congee. I think it tasted better with glutinous rice, which is fortunate because we do have a package of it and I’m not making tricky stick rice again any time soon. (22 May)
Cashew chia milk I have been curious about making nut milk because it’s purportedly SO EASY to make, and that commercial products are really diluted for nut content – why did I wait to try it until this recipe though? Shrug. I only had about 1.5 cups of cashews from my Bulk Barn haul left so I made 1 quarter of the recipe that called for 4 cups of nuts and served four. What if it was a real fail because I was using my trusty Kitchen Aid (green) immersion blender instead of a blender of Vitamix. It was not bad – not overly flavourful but also not terribly thin – a “labour of love” pushing it through a mesh sieve – will get a nut milk bag and make this easy next time! But what to do with 1 cup of cashew (and chia) meal … ?
Chicken broth In what I consider to be one of the last easy broths to make, I made the “good ole” chicken broth – NPY helped by procuring the chicken and chicken feet and cleaning up the “salmonella sink” resulting from me rinsing the chicken in there and then disposing of the chicken carcass – otherwise the clueless guy wouldn’t know what goes into it at all, doesn’t know who made what and assumes it just came courtesy of his mom. It smelled damn good because of the veggies (not from the herbs like last time) and made excellent chicken noodle orzo soup with sweetest of carrots flavour for kiddo the next day. (25 May)
Healthful: chicken (warming properties), ginger (warming, also boosts circulation and supports immune system and digestion)
Seaweed soup Okay, seaweed soup was probably the last easy broth to make. It had super low yield as a lot of the water was absorbed into the seaweed and dried anchovies. The kiddo hated it and I don’t blame him. It was kind of gnarly to be eating whole anchovies with a little crunch (somehow). This recipe used up all the millet in my pantry (1/4 cup) and made the microwave at work smell like the ocean LOL. It is very umami (seaweed + shiitake + anchovy!) – and I added kombu that was purchased for that shiitake broth above as it’s another seaweed to amp this one up. (26 May)
Healthful: seaweed helps to promote lactation, support the hormones and calm the nervous system
PB & J smoothie It’s a bit like a game: see how many recipes I can make from one cookbook. Well, compared to the number of recipes I “bookmarked” (i.e., copied to One Note from the e-book, using One Note’s cool OCR function). The statistic for how many recipes are actually made when you purchase a cookbook is dismally low. On the other end, you have Julie Powell who cooked all of Julia Child’s recipes. If I’m going through the effort of “bookmarking” these recipes, I want to try a larger portion. I had a carton of coconut milk just waiting to be used and there were two post-partum recipes calling for it although I was sure at least one of them wasn’t a winner. The PB & J smoothie doesn’t have that much to recommend itself except for healthful berries and it’s packed with protein. It looked pretty but wasn’t too tasty. (1 June)
Ceremonial hot chocolate It seemed like this ceremonial hot chocolate was so often mentioned through the book and in a way “proves a point” that not all the recipes are Asian-based. But… it wasn’t great. Maybe it’s my super-bland coconut beverage just not carrying the ingredients overly well. I did make a couple of substitutions (allspice for cinnamon, cayenne for chili powder, oat bran for cormeal) it was unappetizingly oily-looking and too thin. (2 June)
Black almond milk I was quite afraid I soaked the almonds too long and that the black sesame – like chia – wasn’t making it into the milk. But it turned out to be pretty good milk. It was less of a “labour of love” as my first attempt at nut milk and I didn’t get a nut milk bag because I still don’t know how many times I will make nut milk – it ain’t cheap! I figured out a better way to squeeze the milk out of the meal, using a sturdy small metal ladle, but the somehow the meal made a disaster of non-muffins. Perhaps I did not adequatly note what substitutions I made to the Magical Almond Cookies recipes because it was just damp meal and not the least muffin-like. (22 June0
Healthful: black sesame seeds support lactation, longevity and beauty – a triple threat!
Fish, papaya & peanut soup So I took a long break from post-partum recipes – about a month – but (1) I’m getting to the end of the recipes I wanted to try and need to make beforehand (2) my freezer is getting full and (3) I didn’t want to be buying fish I wasn’t using the same day! I was afraid I would have a timing issue, too: where my fish is fresh today but the papaya isn’t ripe enough. I was at T&T and looking at the fish tank and thinking of the onerous task ahead of asking for one of four kinds of fish (black cod, trout, tilapia or red snapper) and thinking that a fish I could see swimming in the tank would shortly be gutted and in a bag getting intimate with my other food. But they didn’t have tilapia that day, red snapper was cominng the next day, but there was ffrozen whole tilapia and that’s the route I went with. I made this the week I was off before mat leave. I omitted the peanuts because I thought we had some and didn’t and it’s not nearly as milky as I thought it would be. And it turns out I forgot the dates. Still, working with fish – uck! (29 June)
Healthful: “tradition says it’s the mix of papaya juice, fish proteins and peanuts that stimulates the milk ducts to released their bountry.
Oxtail broth Okay, this was the last broth. Between the beef bone broth and oxtail broth, this one sounded easier to make, to get the required meat instead of it sounding so open for the beef bone broth. NPY did the shopping and exclaimed to me that the 3.5 lbs of oxtail cost $26! I was surprised and then pleased he paid for it because – uh – I’m the one cooking it into something super delicious. So I found that 3.5 lbs of oxtail and some onion wedges will fit in my tabletop oven roasting pan and away I went with the recipe. I added carrot into the mix with daikon because kiddo would like and omitted the peanuts because I found that I didn’t have any. Compared to the chicken and fish broths, we weren’t throwing out the meat for this soup! It made excellent oxtail carrots orzo soup the next couple of days. (30 June)
No-Bake Lactation Energy Bites (Mom Makes Dinner recipe) Last time around, I made lactation granola bars for new mom friends and for myself. At this point, I don’t know what that recipe was any longer and besides, I was not making granola again because that requires (1) baking and (2) emptying out my real oven currently used for storage. Nope – no-bake all the way this time. The recipe called for the triumvirate of lactation-boosting ingredients of brewer’s yeast, oats and flax but I couldn’t get the brewer’s yeast as the brewing supplies shop was closed for two days. But I have faith that (1) I won’t be despearate for a lactation boost given I was leaking before giving birth and (2) having two of the three lactation-boosting ingredients would have an effect anyhow. I had spontaneously purchased sunflower seed butter at Bulk Barn and it substituted for most of the 1 cup of peanut butter called for.
Amazing morning microwave muffins (America’s Test Kitchen make ahead meals cookbook, or something) I was curious about this recipe for a while and finally the idea of instant muffins with
infinite many choices of mixin’s was highly attractive. I only made half the recipe but it’s going to be a good test. For mixings, I plan on using raisins that otherwise don’t get used and sunflower seeds. I purchased a “berry tropical mix”. I also purchased Skor bits and have carob chips for a decadent muffin at times. It makes a pretty ugly and sickly pile muffin but you know it’s fresh baked and it gets impressive volume!
There are a couple of recipes that didn’t make it to this advance prep because they won’t freeze well but I think it will be relatively easy to make: they include ginger fried rice and the red date & goji tea.
Assuming that 250 mL of sauce is enough for one meal provided someone makes a carb (pasta/rice),
there are 16 meals in my fridge (not counting the Cozy Gravy) and liters upon liters of broth
for which I’m not entirely sure how to serve (probably orzo+vegetables)
- 500 mL turkey-lentil pasta sauce (Chatelaine recipe)
- 1 cup all-purpose cheese sauce (Oh She Glows recipe)
- 2x 500 mL beef barley stew
- 500 mL mushroom bolognese sauce
- 2x 500 mL butter chicken & chickpeas (Foodess recipe)
- 500 mL braised eggplant & turkey
- 1 cup sundried-tomato cashew cream sauce (Sneaky Mommies recipe adapted from Oh She Glows)
- 1/2 cup Cozy Gravy (cookbook version of this Oh She Glows recipe)
- 21 large & 9 small No-Bake Lactation Energy Bites
- 5 Amazing Morning Microwave Muffins
- 3x 0.75 – 1.0 cup Oh She Glows Miracle Healing Broth
- 2x 400 mL chicken, goji & dates broth
- 2x 400 mL shiitake immune-boost broth
- 2x 400 mL chicken broth
- 400 mL seaweed soup
- 2x 500 mL & 250 mL fish, papaya, tomato soup
- 1x 1,000 mL oxtail broth
Red date & goji tea I only made half a portion because I realized that I don’t have enough dates for a whole lot of tea. I opted to use sweetener and chose honey and it was a super-sweet drink so I’ll try without next time. It’s a beautiful coloured drink and I found that I lost a lot of water during the one hour of simmering so I added some when adding goji berries at the last stage. Although not mentioned in the post-partum book, I think it is believed that dates promote uterus tightening. It’s not just a random ingredient!