I haven’t been very good in writing about food and cooking during most of this pregnancy. I guess I got out of the habit a bit during the first trimester Panda-Express-Orange-Chicken-as-a-remedy-for-nausea-palooza, and then I never really got back into it. But after my nausea subsided around week 12, I have actually cooked things. They were generally less ambitious than things I cooked before, and I often found myself shaking my head when Paulus would ask me at dinner if I wanted to take a photo of the meal. Nonetheless, I have an impressive backlog of photos from the last 5 or 6 months. I figured I would share them and use it as an opportunity to reflect about food, nutrients and practicality in pregnancy, which may be interesting for some of you.
Eating – and not so much cooking – in the first trimester
From about week 6 to week 12, I experienced some nausea. It was never particularly bad – it was just enough to make me not so enthusiastic about cooking. It also didn’t help that my main craving during this time was fried chicken, which is just so much easier to get as take-out than to make yourself.. Ironically, I found food to be the best remedy for nausea, and consequently, I ate a lot during the first trimester. And I gained a couple of kilos. But at the same time that I indulged in more fast food than I ever have before (sometimes two or three times a week!), I was also quite conscious about maintaining an otherwise balanced diet, with enough calcium, iron, and protein. I experimented with different ways of fulfilling nutritional needs along with the need to eat small, frequent meals to combat the nausea. One thing I did a lot was to have an early morning snack. I tried crackers, dried apricots (which I now have a major aversion against, yuck. But they have an excellent iron content, apparently), bread, and cereal. In an effort to up my calcium intake I tried to have yoghurt in the early morning. But as you may know, I’m not a big fan of sweet granola, and yoghurt on its own is just not that interesting. So I experimented with a savory granola, made with oats, seeds, lemon peel, and parmesan. It was surprisingly good, and I keep intending to make it again – I just haven’t felt like eating yoghurt in a while.
An additional reason for trying to eat yoghurt and cereal was that I lost my baking mojo. Before the pregnancy, I had gotten into a great routine of baking sourdough bread every or every other weekend – a large batch that would see us through to next baking. But baking sourdough bread is a lengthy process, and the prospect of having to get out of my bed-and-netflix-mode to handle sticky dough on a strict schedule all weekend just didn’t seem feasible at that point. So yeah, my poor starter was left to suffer at its lonesome in the fridge. I didn’t totally stop baking, but I opted for easier and faster recipes, particularly my trusted everyday bread dough. Which coincidentally makes great pita breads, too. I cannot remember for which occasion I made these, but if I ever go though a first trimester again, I will keep pita breads in mind for a very specific reason. I would often come home from work and be ravenous. The kind of hungry where waiting 40 minutes for dinner is just not an option. But you can’t eat anything too substantial (and you mostly feel like just eating ketchup anyway) because of impending dinner, and you cannot be making anything complicated because you know that you would starve to death before it was finished. But you can toast a frozen pita in about 5 minutes, which makes it a great option to calm the ravenous beast. And because pitas freeze very well, you can bake a big batch on a good energy day, and then just reheat them as needed.
All the pita breads
And just to show you that I did in fact cook dinner at least once during the first trimester – twilight meal of pork loin with horseradish, beet puree and roasted potatoes.
Pork with beet puree
Second trimester – all about the leafy greens
In the second trimester, I had a lot of energy. Or, reflecting back on this, I at least felt like I had a lot of energy, although it was probably more of a coming back to normal levels compared with the first trimester. Some of the energy went to cooking projects, but for the most part I focused on work. So even though I cooked more adventurous things, most of them didn’t make it to the blog, because there nevertheless wasn’t enough energy to cover all my projects.
But looking back, the second trimester was a time of trying new things, exploring new tastes, and searching for new ways to fulfill old nutritional requirements. In particular I experimented with different types of leafy greens, and different ways to eat enough protein.
As my second trimester squarely coincided with the hottest summer months (and whoa did we have a hot summer this year!), it was a great time to work on my salad repertoire. To wit, jicama salad, plum and dandelion green salad, and spinach salad.
Plum and dandelion green salad
This salad was my first time trying dandelion greens. They are quite bitter, and so I found it best to combine them with another leafy green, maybe a mild one like spinach, or to use them in a salad with fruits. California goes crazy with stone fruits during summer, so I saladed away with plums, peaches and nectarines. And almost always a citrus-type of dressing. This salad had the dandelion greens, sliced plums, a honey-lemon-mustard dressing, and some sliced cheese (I’ve forgotten what type, but then its primary purpose was to convince Paulus that this dish was in fact edible despite the vegetables, so perhaps it doesn’t matter). Anyway, leafy greens is a great way of upping one’s iron intake, something that is important in pregnancy, since many pregnant women run low on iron (probably due to the baby getting first dibs on the iron in the first place, and because one’s blood volume increases by up to 1.5 times to keep all the systems going). I found it helpful to alternate between cooked leafy greens (in omelets for example) and raw leafy greens, either for breakfast (a favorite breakfast classic for me has been a fried egg sandwich with lettuce or arugula, avocado, tomato and cucumber), for lunch (as substantial salads), or as a side with dinner (as in the lamb steak with spinach salad below).
As for protein, I took a step back from fried chicken and cheeseburgers in the second trimester. On the whole, I tried to work more beans, chickpeas and lentils into my diet, and I did really well with eating more fish and seafood (evidenced both here and here!). A definite keeper was the lentil “meatball”, made with red lentils, onions, garlic, eggs, and breadcrumbs. Great for lunch boxes and for snacking.
I also experimented with quinoa, which, if you don’t already know, is a grain (or maybe technically not a grain) with a lot of protein in it. It also happens to be very tasty and also versatile. You can cook it and serve it just like rice or other grains, but my favorite thing to do is to roast it and make it crispy. You can add spices if you want, and then use the quinoa as a tasty protein-rich topping for something more carb-heavy. For example a pasta dish, like the wholewheat pasta below, made with carrots, cilantro pesto, and crispy quinoa topping.
Cilantro-pesto pasta with carrots and crispy quinoa
Third trimester – staying creative when cooking for one (and a half)
In the third trimester, I stopped paying as much attention to my nutrition, and just sort of went on autopilot. I feel okay about this, because I generally eat a reasonably balanced diet. In addition, Paulus was away a lot for work during my third trimester, and sometimes I find that cooking just for myself is a great opportunity to get creative (though sometimes it’s the complete opposite…). Perhaps it’s because I reach for the more unusual ingredients when I’m alone – things we don’t usually eat because Paulus doesn’t like them much. Like farro, for example. Early on in the third trimester, I made an absolutely delicious warm farro salad while Paulus was at a conference. It consisted of cooked farro grains, grilled onions and eggplant, feta cheese and preserved lemons, topped with mint and fresh lemon juice. Ooh, it was very good.
As fall finally started to set in, I also got some sourdough baking done, and started rekindling my interest in root vegetables (Especially parsnips! How good are parsnips!).
I guess I didn’t forget how to bake sourdough breads…
And finally, I think I got a little bit obsessed with breakfast. For much of the third trimester, I did away with first-and-second breakfast, relying instead on a nice cup of coffee or tea with milk to keep me going from 6 to 8am. It was nice to feel like drinking coffee again, although I still alternated between decaf (on days when I had slept well), and regular coffee (on days when discomfort, Braxton Hicks and having to pee a million times had kept me up for hours in the night). I would still have my regular bread-egg-veg breakfast on most weekdays, but on the weekends I found a desire to jazz it up a bit. One week, I had gone with girlfriends to a specialty produce market (you know, one of those that supply produce to restaurants), and we had gotten some amazing quality goods. That weekend, I made brie toast topped with quick-sauteed figs.
Brie toast with sauteed fresh figs
That left me craving fresh figs for weeks afterwards. It’s just so rare that figs are both available and good, and when you get them, you have to use them right away so they won’t spoil. But the figs from the specialty produce store were everything that figs should be.
Another weekend, I made pancakes with grated carrots and potatoes. Snuck a few leafy greens in there too. But alas, the creative breakfast era would not last. In the second half of the third trimester, work got busy, and I found myself having to be on campus at 8am many days. Usually, Paulus is still waking up at this point, so we found it necessary to, gasp, not eat breakfast together. It’s weird how difficult it was for me to accept this. I think it’s because ever since we got together, we have cherished having breakfast and dinner together, almost every day. And I guess that this is taking on a new significance as a family thing for me now that we are going to have a baby soon. So I’m going to make an effort to get us back to sharing our meals. Although I suspect it will be a while before the baby will be eating at the table with us….
And that’s where were at, food-wise, less than a month before the baby is due. My next food related post will hopefully be about all the post-partum freezer meal preparation that I’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks. We will see how that goes.