This Valentine’s Day, Don’t Forget to Love Yourself!

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Chocolate is probably the best part about Valentine’s Day. I picked up some yummy nonpareils from Bomboy’s Home Made Candy in Havre de Grace! I love supporting local businesses and treating myself to chocolate almost daily is one way that I love myself. Remember to enjoy some heart healthy flavonols in dark chocolate today.

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I saw this on the mirror at Johnny Rad’s last week when I was there for happy hour and it was such a great reminder. I had some dark times in college when I felt like a slave as the mirror pretty much determined my mood and happiness each day.

There is so much pressure today through the media to be thin. I feel like all of us, men and women have had some sort of unhealthy thoughts surrounding food or our bodies and it’s important to fight against them. Remember that beauty starts on the inside and radiates out!

For more positivity about inner beauty, check out my friend Carin’s blog post here

I’ll close today with one of my all time favorite quotes.

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

-Dr. Seuss

B’more Merry

hampden

Merry Belated Christmas and Happy New Year! I’m not usually the most merry person around Christmas time. I am so prone to let the stress of family, singleness, presents, traffic, etc. get the best of me. I usually come to peace with things this season by realizing that those things I struggle with are exactly why I need Jesus and He came into this world to be near to my brokenness.  And this year, I was able to find a little Christmas magic just in time.

I started to feel it when I decided to take the advice of my new Royal Farms friend and just “be.” I’m a big quality time person so the best thing about Christmas this year was the people I got to spend time with.

My favorite Christmas song is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. It shows what I like Christmas to be about, the people (other than Jesus being born of course).

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas Let your heart be  light

From now on our troubles will be out of sight

Here we are as in olden days happy golden days of yore

Faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more

Through the years we all will be together if the fates  allow

Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a Merry Little  Christmas now..

I always think of my siblings and cousins with this song. Over the years, our family has been through a lot, but now we love the time we have together so much more and it’s just like the old days but better.

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Shipley-Dembeck girls!

candyland

Candyland

cousins in candyland

All the girl cousins and nan

We made our annual stop at “candyland” aka a random house that we frolic through every year after the lights in Hampden. It’s so magical and I’m convinced one of us need to get married there one day 🙂 What are some of your holiday traditions?

layla christmas

Get this girl an agent! She has to be the cutest baby in charm city!!

Merrily yours,

Cara

Chip off the ‘ol block

chip salad

Hello from Chipparelli’s! I celebrated a very special going away dinner Thursday night for my dear friend Mhinjine. Little Italy in Baltimore set the scene for this lovely dinner. We were supposed to see the tree lighting in Mt. Vernon, but gave up when parking proved to be impossible. The night ended up being just what we all needed. Good food, wine, people, laughter, and conversations about saving the world with healthy food, one corner store at a time.

My mom used to work as a waitress at Chipparelli’s back in the day, and the family joke is that she worked there just long enough to steal the famous recipe for their salad dressing. That may be where I got some of my waitressing skills from… or my love of salad. This salad has become famous in my family and is a staple at every Christmas Eve dinner. I’m not usually a fan of iceberg lettuce due to its lack of flavor and nutrients, but the combination of that with the oil, vinegar and freshly grated parmesan in the dressing made for buttery taste with a little crunch, making it one of the best salads I’ve ever had. Sorry  mom, Chipparelli’s does it better than you…

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After our salads came, I started off with a glass of Chianti (my brother, the Italian wine connoisseur’s favorite). Chianti, which comes from the Chianti region in central Tuscany, is hard to describe. It reminds me of Malbec with its spiciness. According to wine-searcher.com, it is characterized by its red and black cherry character, with notes of wild herbs, mint and spice, supported by a racy acidity and mellow tannins. It must be aged for a minimum of four months. It paired really well with the Gnocchi Bolognese that I ordered.

chip gnocchi

I heard from a friend that the gnocchi is one of dishes Chipparelli’s is known for.  I’m glad I took his advice! I love gnocchi and have tried quite a variety during my culinary adventures. The menu described them as handmade fresh ricotta dumplings with a traditional ragú of beef, pork & veal. These were the lightest, fluffiest little pillows of heaven I’ve ever had. This dish was so light, I did not feel like there was a ton of bricks in my stomach. I’m usually one to default to a vegetarian option when I got out to eat, but the meat had so much flavor and I’m glad I tried something different.

chip tiramisu

The night would not be complete without dessert. There is always room for dessert, and we got three forks so it worked out to be just enough. I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, but I make an exception for anything involving chocolate and/or coffee. The Tiramisu, which literally means “pick me up” in Italian, was creamy and rich, not too heavy, with subtle notes of coffee and a light dusting of cocoa on top. Perfection. My brother made us some Tiramisu when he came back from studying in Italy and I must say he did well because this authentic home-made Tiramisu from Little Italy reminded me of what he made us a few months ago. Maybe he is the chip off the ‘ol block!

Please pay Chipparelli’s a visit next time you are in Little Italy!

http://www.chiapparellis.com/

B’more Thankful

Celebrating Thanksgivukkah Baltimore Style!

natty boh

My celebration began Wednesday night serving up Natty Bohs while beer tubbing at Looney’s Pub! They know how to throw a good pre-thanksgiving party and it was so great catching up with old friends.

 

thanksgiving

My parents hosted this year, so it was a bit of a busier day than usual. However, our day began as a lazy morning as it always does with the Macy’s parade and french toast casserole.

On the menu was turkey of course (which is probably the second best turkey I’ve ever had, due to the chicken broth my mom put in the bottom of the pan to ensure it stayed moist). My sister and I were like the professional basting squad, basting obsessively at least every 15 minutes. There was also cranberry apple stuffing, sweet potato casserole (made with brown sugar and pecan topping not marshmallows), mashed potatoes, our polish staple of sauerkraut and polish sausage (which is amazing mixed with mashed potatoes), tarragon broccoli, and my grandma’s specialty of peas and dumplings.

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Thanksgiving and Hanukkah last overlapped in 1888 and it won’t happen again for another 77,798 years so Colleen brought some gelt. We don’t have any ounce of Jewish in us, but we figured why not try to appreciate the culture since it was the second night of Hanukkah?

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It would not be a holiday for our family without more dessert than we know what to do with! Fenwick bakery provided a lovely coconut cake. My grandma’s famous cheesecake of course was a hit as always. But I think what stole the show was an apple crumble pie with candied nuts on top.

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My night was complete with some Baltimore football. Despite Emmanuel Sanders’ completely disrespectful jerk move of doing Ray Lewis’ touchdown dance in our stadium, the Ravens still came through for a win! It was like the whipped cream on top of pumpkin pie 🙂

I know this post  is a day late (I still have not gotten the hang of blogging in real-time) but now it counts as a “Foodie Friday” post. I will have to post the recipes later and I may be working on adding a separate recipe page to this blog so stay tuned!

One thing I have have realized is that Baltimore has a lot of transplants (like people, not just kidney transplants). And I am so thankful that my family all lives in the Baltimore area so I did not have to spend the day traveling or running around. At times, I do take my family for granted, but have been recently reminded that I need to b’more thankful that I have them closeby.

Thankfully yours,

Cara

Hungry for change

hunger conference

I had the opportunity to attend the annual fighting hunger in Maryland Conference last Wednesday. It was something I went to last year as an intern, and decided to go this year to get my networking on, start getting some continuing education credits, and just get a reminder of things that inspire and motivate me. The beginning of the day was super depressing honestly. Everyone could not stop talking about the government shutdown, whether it was the speakers, or just chatter amongst the attendees.

I have to say though, things started to look up when there was a panel that included a few “witnesses to hunger.” I don’t know why, but I cry every time I see something like this. It must mean I have chosen the right profession. Their stories will haunt you and motivate you at the same time. You hear stories of living conditions that you thought only existed in third world countries.

That’s what this issue is all about. The faces and the stories. I get so angry when people try to say that people abuse this system. I know it is a broken system and I am sure it happens, but not to the extent that people say it does. Some reasearch shows that the food stamp program only has a 1% rate of fraud and 3% rate of error. I feel that the media.. cough cough fox news (which is not based on facts and is not even considered news in my book) blows things out of proportion such as the surfer dude in California using food stamps for a lobster dinner.

Federal programs need to be strengthened to get people out of the place where they are. It was designed to be a temporary type of system, but the system does not give people enough to get by even when they are working full-time or multiple jobs, so they become reliant on it in a way and stuck where they are.

Just a side note, I signed up to take the Food Stamp Challenge from OCtober 21-27 and I will have to eat with just $30/week. I will be blogging through my experience so come back for that. I think it will give me real perspective and increase my compassion towards people who have this as their reality every day.

Sign up here:

http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5118/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=68621

The food stamp program’s first administrator, Milo Perkins said this in 1939: “We got a picture of a gorge, with farm surpluses on one cliff and under-nourished city folks with outstretched hands on the other. We set out to find a practical way to build a bridge across that chasm.” The program ended when the conditions that brought the program into being , unused food surpluses and rampant unemployment, no longer existed. Imagine that?! This is a bipartisan issue. Access to healthy food is a basic human right and I’m pretty sure it is on the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs so we will never move forward as individuals or as a society without it.

25% of kids in Baltimore city live in food deserts. That seems to be a trendy term these days but according to the Baltimore Food Policy Intiative is defined as: An area where the distance to a supermarket is more than ¼ mile, the median household income is at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Level, over 40% of households have no vehicle available, and the average Healthy Food Availability Index score for supermarkets, convenience and corner stores is low (measured using the Nutrition Environment Measurement Survey).

I also thought it would be helpful to differentiate between food security, food insecurity, and hunger.

According to the official USDA definition, food security is defined as access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.  Food security includes the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods and an assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.  Food insecurity is limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.  Hunger is the uneasy or painful sensation caused by a lack of food.

Our kids are overfed, yet undernourished. Childhood obesity statistics are on the rise, so people don’t think we have a problem with hunger at all!  Every healthy society in the world has a low rate of income disparity. With more income disparity, there is a loss of opportunity. These issues are more than just food. There is a lot of expertise and collaboration needed beyond my scope of practice as a dietitian. The future of our country is at stake. People don’t realize how much nutrition affects kids’ ability to learn and focus in school. They are the future of this country and societies have problems when their citizens are not educated. I know some people like to think that churches and charities can pick up the slack and that it’s not the government’s job. But it would take every single church, mosque, synagogue etc, donating $50,000/year for ten years to cover the snap benefits.

And while I’m on my soapbox, just a note about Obamacare, which if some of you don’t know is the same thing as the Affordable Care Act.

Now, I’m no economist, but one of the speakers used a great analogy. You cannot just go into a supermarket and get food, so that makes it a market sort of model that runs itself. But because you can go into a hospital and receive care, it shows that it is not a market and requires some sort of government intervention. The entire system we have for insurance operating like a market is ridiculous. I heard a story the other day that a woman was pregnant and had to switch insurance when she got a new job. The new insurance would not cover her because her pregnancy counted as a “pre-existing condition.” That makes me sick. Haha pun intended.

Again, I’m sure Obamacare is not perfect and it will need some revision, but some sort of change definitely needs to happen soon. And for now, I am grateful that it allows me to stay on my parents insurance until I’m 26, considering I still do not have a steady full-time job and may not even receive benefits when I do find one. Another visual this speaker used it the hammock idea. Many conservatives try to say it’s time to cut the hammock. Well, there is no hammock, just a crappy, porous safety net. And a note on this whole government shut down, I think we’ve been doomed for a while considering the model of democracy works when their citizens are informed. But we do not have an informed society. People don’t have time these days so a lot of information comes to us through twitter or Facebook or if we happen to have time to watch tv and catch the news, which is usually biased anyways.

I’ll be honest, I am not as informed about politics as I was in college.  I cannot cite all the studies or where these statistics came from. You can cite statistics all day about the prevalence of poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity. But for me, the fact that it happens to one person is this country is unacceptable. And although this conference had a very liberal spin on things, I consider myself pretty moderate and think that these are not issues that should be divisive.

ben franklin

Now onto something more positive. The sessions after lunch seemed to have glimmers of hope sprinkled throughout. Baltimore really is a sort of hub for work in food insecurity and is leading the nation in creative approaches to tackling this multifaceted issue.

Things that make me happy:

-The EBT benefits (electronic benefit transfer aka food stamps) used at farmer’s markets has been increasing exponentially over the past three years, The pilot year, a total of $15,000 were used, $42,000 the next year, and $90,000 the next year.

-The work I have done with low-income parents over the past year at my internship showed me that 99.9% of them want to eat healthy food and want that for their kids, but just don’t know where to find it or how to pay for it.

-A program called Baltimore Bucks will double someone’s EBT benefits up to $5 at a farmer’s market since they are spending it on fresh produce.

-Baltimarket is a free, virtual pea-pod type of delivery program to reach people in food deserts.

-There is a prescription assistance program where a doctor can literally write a prescription for fruits and vegetables for a patient and they will receive $10 to spend at a farmer’s market. That just made my heart sing. And that’s why I probably could never work in a hospital when I’m really being honest with myself. That is the direction our healthcare system needs to be heading. From “Sick Care” to “Health Care.” From reactive to proactive.

-There are tons of community projects being funded that focus on urban gardens, mobile farmer’s markets, kitchen renovations, cooking classes , etc. and even one modeled after the Jamie Oliver community kitchen idea to give people the skills they need to prepare healthy food.

-Real Food Farm in Clifton Park was one organization I had the pleasure of working with during my internship. They have a mobile farmer’s market that visits low-income areas and last year 20% of their sale were SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program aka the new name for food stamps after the 2008 farm bill) benefit recipients.

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I know this post was super opinionated and probably very biased as well. But for me, this is not a political issue, it’s a heart issue. Because of my values and the way I live my life, I cannot help but feel called to be a part of the solution. I truly believe in the power of the individual. I can’t save the world of hunger by myself, but I can do everything in my power to make sure I am not harming others by my actions or votes.

A quote from the Dali Lama, “If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.”

And finally, to end with a quote from my favorite person:

.. whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.. Matthew 25:40

Again, thanks for hanging in there for all of this 🙂

Indignation: Anger aroused by something unjust, mean, or unworthy. I think the emotions this day brought out in me is just all the more confirmation that I want to dedicate my life’s work to pediatric research and be a part of the solution. Thanks again for joining me in this journey!

Indignantly yours,

Cara