Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pizza, the Perfect Food

This week, the food issue of the New York Times Magazine did a photo journey through breakfasts for children in various parts of the world. There is Saki, from Japan, whose favorite breakfast foods are fermented soybean, salmon and miso soup, and Nathanael from Paris, who not surprisingly prefers crepes and hot chocolate (me too!), and Emily from Malawi who eats a soy porridge, boiled sweet potato and a dark juice made from hibiscus flowers. I read the article with Alex and Izzy at bedtime tonight and we talked about what they eat for breakfast. Izzy is French through and through, much preferring crepes and hot chocolate to her oatmeal and eggs. Alex is happy with bacon and eggs. My kids were incredible eaters as babies. I mashed up whatever I was eating and turned it into baby food (so much for the special sterilized bottles and organic veggies). They loved everything from salmon to peas. They are becoming pickier in their older age, which has led me to find creative solutions. I also have to take into consideration Alex's need for low sugar, high fat, and low carb and gluten food. So, I created the super pizza. The recipe is like this: mix 1 1/2 cups of whatever flour you have into a bowl (you need SOME white flour, so don't leave this out completely, although you can buy the gluten free kind these days), with a teaspoon of salt and stevia, about 1/4 cup of oil (olive, melted coconut, avocado, etc) and enough water so that you can mix it up to dough consistency. Then roll it out into some form, very flat, with a rolling pin on some flour. Once it is flat, you place it on a greased cookie sheet. (Don't forget to grease the cookie sheet or you will be having hotdogs for dinner after you smash the entire pan over the dog bed when the pizza refuses to come off.) Then you can add anything in your kitchen for topping, then cheese, then bake for 20 minutes or so at 350 degrees. For toppings, I often saute veggies of all kinds, add some red sauce and use my immersion blender to blend it all together. My kids have no idea they are eating 12 different veggies in their sauce. Tonight I fried up eggplant and sausage. Be sure to peal the eggplant, or your daughter will pick it off her pizza, one tiny skin at a time. I also use a lot of pesto. Buy it at Costco. It's cheap and really good. I layer the pizza with a smear of pesto, then the veggie laden sauce, then cheese. We add fresh tomatoes to the top or sometimes prosciutto. Whatever is in your fridge, just saute it, puree it and add. Pizza takes me about 15 minutes to prepare. I make it in the afternoon and then cook it when we are all finally home from our afternoon activities. Pizza. It's the perfect food. High fat, low sugar, low carb, loaded with veggies, some calcium and proteins. Your kids think they are just having pizza for dinner.

Running in the Rain

On Saturday, I ran the Hartford Half Marathon. I ran beside my cousin's husband, Artie, who was running for Team MAD (Team Making a Difference) to raise money for The Baby Alex Foundation. The morning started out like any other pre-race morning, except that I wasn't all that pumped to be running. It was cold and rainy, and we would be running in a huge crowd on pavement through one of the cities that I dislike the most--the city where Alex was born and where I spent three of the worst months of my life. I don't really run marathons anymore, unless they take place on trails. But I was running for our cause, with a team, and next to Artie. The energy of the race was incredible, and when the gun went off, I was feeling good about the event and our effort as part of a team. As we rounded the first turn and ran up the same street I had driven dozens of times to and from Alex's NICU space, I suddenly burst into tears, and that one small act of taking one step after another, making contact with pavement in the cold drizzling day, changed everything. Alex was almost 3 weeks old during the 2007 running of the Hartford Marathon. I remember that morning clearly. It was a beautiful fall day. Erik and I drove in silence to the NICU, and as I glanced out the car window that morning, I noticed some signs, some runners...oh, yes, a marathon. It hardly registered in my mind, except for a brief memory of the life I had before Alex was born, when I was most defined by my running and career, and not as the mommy of a child with brain damage. On this day in 2007, I was just barely hanging on. If I could only have had a glimpse 7 years into the future, one tiny peek at what our life would become in 2014, I would have been spared significant pain. (Life did get better, much better.) But, such is not life. In my speech to the team Friday night, I spoke about Alex's Library, funded by Team MAD's efforts. I spoke about the importance of embracing pain, cleansing yourself of fear and dread and trusting that you are capable of meeting life's challenges. With those challenges come life's pleasures, and happiness. Without those challenges, you will never know profound love and deep appreciation. So, I ran and embraced the pain, and tried to tearfully tell Artie what was going through my mind. For many miles I pondered over the last 7 years, and then we hit mile 9. I looked up. There was a sign for Elizabeth Park and a long line of runners entering into it. I nearly choked. I have been avoiding this park since the day Alex was born, the day Erik and I wandered into the park many hours after Alex was born, when Alex was too sick for visitors, too fragile for more than a short glance through his incubator from his parents. Erik and I had to pass some time that morning, the first of 100's of hours that we would wish away. We walked through the rose gardens and lay down in the grass and watched the clouds pass by. I lay there 7 years ago wishing somehow I would be swallowed up by the earth. I have never been able to go back to Elizabeth Park. I don't even drive down that road into Hartford. In preparation for the race, I guess I should have looked at the race course map or at least assumed the race might run through the only beautiful part of the city, but I had not. I had simply showed up at the start of the race and started running when the gun went off and here I was, running through hell. Tears streamed down my face again and that's how I spent a few miles, running on tears. Artie was in enough cramping pain by then that I didn't bother him with explanations. The rain continued to pour down and I thought about how cleansing the whole process of running is for me, and in the cold rain, well, all the better. As a kid, I used to pretend I was a horse. I ran for countless miles every day through trails and fields with my horse legs growing stronger, and when the weather was miserable, I loved it all the more. As Artie and I finally arrived to mile 12, and headed downhill for the final mile, I began to feel that something had brought me to the race that day, something more than my connection with Team MAD and the Foundation. Perhaps it was fate or some spiritual guide. Or maybe, it was just running, my beloved salve for all things. I felt exhausted at the finish line. It isn't easy to run and cry and relive terrifying events at the same time. We will build a library of hope and inspiration with the money we raised on Saturday. In the process, I conquered some personal demons. All in all, it was a good run in the rain.