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Eating Wisely

Postpartum Meals

Ruthie Lloyd
Durham NC USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 5, September-October 2006, pp.220-221

One of the wonderful things that our family has enjoyed with the birth of each baby is the supply of meals that friends and family have lovingly brought to our home to help us during the early weeks. Instead of fretting about coming up with something for the evening's meal, we dined on lasagna and salad as I learned to breastfeed my firstborn. Chicken pot pie seemed to be the theme of meals we received after the birth of our second child. Each meal was delicious and, coming from different kitchens, they didn't taste like repeats.

During my pregnancy with our third child, we purchased a deep freezer and I spent my nesting energy during the final weeks stocking it with after-baby meals. Again, delicious hot meals and congratulations made their way to our house in exchange for a peek at the new baby. A Taiwanese friend decided that I looked a bit pale when she saw me a few weeks after delivery and brought me a special soup made with Chinese herbs to boost my postpartum recovery. Otherwise, chicken enchiladas were the theme this time around.

I decided to continue this delicious precedent we had enjoyed by providing a meal for others when they welcomed a baby into their family. Two mothers in our Group recently gave birth, each to their second baby. One family is vegetarian and since the weather was still cool, I decided to take them a hearty chick pea soup along with ready-to-toast, parmesan-topped pita bread wedges, fruit salad, a healthy dessert, and a bag of muffins for the freezer (I've found that many postpartum mothers appreciate bran muffins!).

The other mother was working hard to counter some anemia that had been exacerbated by heavy bleeding following her baby's birth. I looked through my books and online for high-iron foods that I could combine into a meal for her and her family. I settled on "Granny's Easy 'Baby’s Here' Stew" from WHOLE FOODS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY, whole wheat bread, spinach salad with mandarin oranges, a three bean and lentil salad, "Healthier Chocolate Chip Cookies" (recipe published in a the Jan-Feb 2001 issue of NEW BEGINNINGS), and a bag of snack mix including dried apricots, raisins, almonds, and sesame sticks. It was fun to plan and deliver a meal that would make my friend's day easier and also promote healing in her body following her baby’s birth. One of the things I love about LLL is the mother-to-mother support. Providing a meal to a family with a new baby is just one practical way I delight in being able to support a fellow mother.

Three-Bean and Lentil Salad

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 to 1 c lentils, cooked and drained
8 oz fresh green beans, cut into 1" slices and cooked
1 small red onion, minced
3 scallions
1 tbsp chopped parsley
for the dressing:
5-6 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp dijon-style mustard
6 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
black pepper

Place lentils in a pot, add cold water to cover and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until tender, 30-40 minutes. Drain in colander and place into a large bowl.

For the dressing, in a bowl mix vinegar and salt with a fork until dissolved. Stir in the mustard. Gradually stir in the oil until blended. Add garlic and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Add chickpeas, red kidney beans, green beans, red onion, scallions, and parsley to the bowl with lentils. Add the dressing and toss well. Adjust the seasoning, adding more vinegar, salt, or pepper as desired. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Chickpea Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c chopped green onions
1/2 c sliced carrot
1/2 c sliced celery
1/2 c sliced mushrooms
5 c broth
1 tsp dried thyme
3 cups drained canned chickpeas
salt and pepper to taste

In large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the oil. When hot, add green onions, carrot, celery, and mushrooms. Cook gently, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened slightly, about 5 minutes. Add stock, thyme, and chickpeas; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the vegetables and chickpeas are very soft, about 40 minutes. Working in batches, ladle the soup into a blender and puree until smooth. Return the soup to the pan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reheat over low heat. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves and/or with generous amounts of parmesan cheese. Serve with pita toasts.

This soup freezes well and is a great way to sneak vegetables into the diet of a finicky eater. The dipping option with pita offers built-in toddler appeal.

Pita Toasts

1 package of pocket-less pita bread (about 6)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper

Brush each pita bread with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan and season lightly with pepper. Cut each round into four wedges and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake until lightly crisp and golden, about 12 minutes.

Serve warm.

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