Summer Staples: Grilled Shrimp and Cold Rice Salads

This post is sponsored by La Crema. You can find the recipes I talk about below on their blog right here!

Herby Shrimp and Chilled Grain Salad | Freckled Italian
Summer Staples: Grilled Shrimp and Cold Rice Salads | Freckled Italian

For as long as I can remember, my mom has been the world's most amazing hostess--she could feed a crowd with one hand tied behind her back. I think back on Thanksgiving and Christmas with a lot of lovely memories, but the ones that stick out to me the most are in the summer--Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, or really any weekend in Virginia when the sun is out, the grill is hot, and the wine is pouring.

She also always had La Crema Chardonnay chilling in a bucket on the counter--even before I started working with them it was a staple in our house and we served it every single time people came over. (Her love for the brand and its presence in our fridge at all times both encouraged me to approach them over four years ago at Alt Summit in Salt Lake City.)

My family loves to feed people and I'm so glad it's a tradition and a passion that Rob has embraced as well--I love the idea of one day cooking a ton of food for Sophie and her friends when they're home from college every summer. Nowadays we don't do as much entertaining as I'd like to, but when we do I always stick to a few basics that I learned from my mom: flavorful but easy-to-prepare dishes that you can make or at least start ahead of time, using the grill as much as possible to get everyone outside and cook a lot of things at once if you need to, and--of course--a few bottles of La Crema. 

Summer Staples | Freckled Italian

When summer rolls around I love grilling seafood, especially shrimp. I buy the biggest ones I can find and leave the shells on so they don't fall through the grate, and I like to season them simply and then toss them in a ton of fresh herbs--I'm notorious for adding sliced green onion to everything in my kitchen, and grilled shrimp are no exception. Cilantro, dill, parsley, scallions--if it's fresh and green and you can chop it, you bet I'm going to be using it.

Summer Staples | Freckled Italian

Grilled shrimp is my go-to, but my newest favorite summer thing is a cold salad with a nice grain compontent--rice, quinoa, farro, whatever you like. I cook it and cool it and add whatever greens and veggies I have in the fridge. The recipe I shared on the La Crema blog has tomatoes, kale, and arugula, but you could add spinach and cucumbers or swap any other ingredient for something you like better. Even if you aren't entertaining, it's a great dish to throw together on a Sunday evening and enjoy throughout the week.

You can find my recipes for herby grilled shrimp and a chilled salad with rice and quinoa today on the La Crema blog. I live for autumn and often wish away the end of summer, but there's nothing like a July or August cookout with friends and family.

Summer Staples | Freckled Italian

Photos by Cue the Light.

How I Made Prenatal Vitamins a Priority During My Pregnancy

This post was sponsored by Avion Pharmaceuticals and opinions are my own.

How I Made Prenatal Vitamins a Priority During My Pregnancy | Freckled Italian

I'm so excited to be teaming up with Prenate® vitamins again to talk about the importance of prenatal vitamins. Once again, I can't stress enough how lucky I felt to have a straightforward, uncomplicated pregnancy and then be able to give birth to a healthy baby, so the issue of access to prenatal vitamins has become something I've been really passionate about these past few months.

Maybe it's my family's history of breast cancer or my BRCA gene mutation, but a lot of the time when I would imagine pregnancy and childbirth I always pictured complications that were out of my control, so it was really important to me to try to stay as healthy as possible leading up to getting pregnant and throughout my pregnancy. I focused on my diet, fitness, and actually started taking prenatal vitamins for about a year before we planned to get pregnant, which seems like a long time--but it takes time for folate levels to rise enough to help reduce the risk of birth defects, so it's recommended that you take prenatal vitamins for at least 4 weeks before conception. 1-3 Folic acid is one of the most essential nutrients women can take to protect the health of the baby, lessening the risk of neural tube defects 1-4 , so I really wanted to make sure I gave myself some time to get those levels up.

I think we all know how important it is to keep up with them, but a prenatal vitamin truly is one of the easiest things you can do to take care of yourself and your baby before (and after) he or she even gets here. During pregnancy, drinking enough water and taking my vitamin became the thing I knew I could do and control no matter what other symptoms I may have been feeling. I was super nauseated the first trimester and about half of the second. After that, I had heartburn that really defined what I did (or didn't) eat, so I was able to rest knowing that Sophie was getting the nutrients she needed from my prenatal vitamins, even when my diet was lacking a little bit. Iron is another important mineral that supports the baby's growth, development, and may prevent iron deficiency anemia in pregnant women. 5,6 I still ended up with anemia about halfway through my pregnancy, so my midwife added an iron supplement to my vitamin regimen as well and it took care of it after a few weeks.

And now that I'm nursing, I continue to take prenatal vitamins to ensure that Sophie gets the vitamins and minerals that she needs from me. I pictured my life after baby and it included lots of healthy food and plenty of exercise, but those first few months were a bit of a whirlwind. Between recovering from labor, sleep deprivation, and the crazy hunger I felt from producing breast milk, there were several months where I would eat pretty much whatever you put in front of me. Six months later, I'm finally starting to take control of my diet again, but I'm so glad to have my vitamins to fall back on when my diet and/or lifestyle is less than ideal.

That's just my experience so far, but on a more general note, did you know that women are more likely to take their prenatal vitamins when prescribed by their physician7? And that in many cases they can be covered by insurance? Prescription prenatal vitamins are often made more affordable through Medicaid coverage to women who would not have access to prenatal vitamins through other sources, giving as many women and babies as possible a solid start. In addition, many prescription prenatal vitamins often offer savings coupons to help reduce the cost. I didn't know that prescription prenatal vitamins were a thing, but i love the idea of prescribing vitamins for before, during, and after pregnancy--they're just as important as many other prescription medications, so I think making that shift is so smart.

You can visit Prenate.com to learn more about prescription prenatal vitamins, which I didn't even know about until recently! Thanks again to Avion for sponsoring this blog post--I'm honored to have the opportunity to spread the word about an issue so important.

This post was sponsored by Avion Pharmaceuticals and should not be construed to constitute medical advice. My personal story and opinions are my own. I am not a medical professional and am not qualified to give medical advice. Please talk with your doctor about your individual medical situation.

References:

1. Czeizel AE, Dudás I, Paput L, Bánhidy F. Prevention of neural-tube defects with periconceptional folic acid, methylfolate, or multivitamins? Ann Nutr Metab. 2011;58(4):263–271.
2. Chidambaram B. Folate in pregnancy. Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences. 2012;7(2):81. doi:10.4103/1817-1745.102559.
3. Greenberg JA, Bell SJ, Guan Y, Yu Y. Folic Acid Supplementation and Pregnancy: More Than Just Neural Tube Defect Prevention. Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2011;4(2):52-59.
4. NIH. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Folate. Office of Dietary Supplements, NIH Web site.
http://ods.od.nih.gov/pdf/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional.pdf. Reviewed March 2, 2018. Accessed April 24, 2018.
5. Scholl TO. Maternal Iron Status: Relation to fetal growth, length of gestation and the neonate's endowment. Nutrition reviews. 2011;69(Suppl 1):S23-S29. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00429.x.
6. Raman TR, Devgan A, Sood S, Gupta A, Ravichander B. Low Birth Weight Babies : Incidence and risk factors. Medical Journal, Armed Forces India. 1998;54(3):191-195. doi:10.1016/S0377-1237(17)30539-7.
7. Robison, J. More Women Aware of "Pre"-prenatal Vitamin. Gallup Organization, on behalf of the March of Dimes. http://news.gallup.com/poll/6130/more-women-aware-preprenatal-vitamin.aspx. June 4, 2002. Accessed April 23, 2018.

Product Review: Motif Duo Breast Pump

This post is sponsored by Aeroflow Breastpumps.

Motif Duo Breast Pump Review | Freckled Italian

I've really enjoyed sharing my experience with pregnancy and motherhood so far, and I'm excited to have been given the opportunity to try out not one, but two different breast pumps recently! Today I wanted to tell you a little bit about the Motif Duo, which I've been using for the past week or so.

I'm looking for a few things from my breast pump: effective suction is #1, but after that I want it to be easy to put together, easy to clean, and it gets bonus points for having a battery option and/or is easy to move (I like to pump on the couch at night but at my desk during the day).

My original pump was the Freemie Freedom Double Electric Breast Pump and it really didn't work for me. At first I liked that it had cups that went inside your bra instead of containers that stuck out, but after actually starting to pump I realized that that wasn't a super important priority for me. Technically it's nice to be able to pump inside your shirt, especially if you're at an office, but the cups stick out and are not nearly as discreet as they say they are. Plus, that thing is LOUD.

Moving on--most of the time at home I use my Lansinoh SmartPump, which was also sent to me for review (I wrote about it a little bit here). I really love it, so when Aeroflow reached out to ask if I'd be willing to try the Motif Duo as well, I was excited. As soon as I opened the box, I was relieved to see a "Quick Start" guide with an easy-to-read illustration that showed you how to put the pump together (it took me forever to figure out how to put together my first pump). I plugged it in and gave it a go! Here's what I noticed:

  • It's super easy to put together and take apart. They also sent me a nice tote that holds everything so you can take it with you. (This is exactly what I have.)
  • You can charge the pump and the battery will last 2.5 hours--I think this is awesome. My Lansinoh pump has the option to add batteries but I never do (plus it's just a little big to be carrying around with me at home or in a bag).
  • The pump's suction isn't super strong--I used both sides at first but then decided to see how it would be if I just did one at a time, and it was a bit more effective. 
    • Originally I felt like this could be seen as a drawback, but because the pump itself can be charged ahead of time and has pretty substantial battery life, I think this is the perfect pump to take with you on the go. 
    • I decided to test it out and pumped (one side at a time) in the car (I was buckled up and Rob was driving) on our way to a family BBQ about an hour from our house. Sophie was going to want a bottle while we were there and we were going to be gone long enough that I would have been feeling uncomfortable if I didn't pump or breastfeed, so it ended up working out perfectly! I put the milk I pumped on the road in the fridge when we got to my aunt's house and we were able to give it to her on the way home.

The pump is definitely on the lightweight side, but I think that was intentional (it was designed to be used on the go and it does that really well). The pump itself is only a pound and fits in your hand, so it's not going to take up a ton of room in your bag, and I really like that you can plug it in and charge it and not have to worry about batteries. It's also kind of pretty, which I don't think you can say about many breast pumps.

I hope this helps! I remember being totally overwhelmed when I was trying to pick out a pump at first, and I wish I had read a few more reviews before making a decision. If you have a pump you like, I'd love to hear about it! And thanks so much to Aeroflow for sponsoring this post--I love being able to share content like this with you guys.

Adventures in Babywearing | #NeverNotAMom

This post is sponsored by Boppy.

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Motherhood so far has been pretty amazing, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t learn something the hard way every couple of days. For the first few weeks, we’d lug around our stroller (which I love) everywhere and walk Sophie around pretty easily, but if she got fussy a lot of the time I didn’t know what to do to calm her down. A lot of the time I’d take her out and one of us would carry her, but that left us with an empty stroller to awkwardly push around.

Finally, I decided to try wearing her instead, and it was a huge success right away. She loved being super close to me and I loved having my hands free. I’d leave the stroller in the car or even at home and know I could go wherever I needed to with just my diaper bag, the baby, and my carrier. It made things so much easier, especially after Rob went back to work and I was starting to run errands on my own.

Because babywearing kind of became our thing, I was so incredibly excited when Boppy reached out to me to try out their new Boppy™ ComfyFit® Baby Carrier--we use and love both the Boppy Pillow and the Boppy Newborn Lounger, so I figured whatever else they came up with had to be just as good. The Boppy Carrier is inspired by yoga wear (something else that’s kind of my thing), so it’s soft and stretchy and super comfortable to wear.

It’s also really easy to put on, and I only needed Rob to help me get her in it the first time I used it (it’s always good to have someone else help you to make sure you’re wearing it right and have loaded your baby in correctly). It has arm holes and clips in the back, so you aren’t spending a bunch of time wrapping it around you or tying knots to hold them in.

My absolute favorite features, though, are 1. the little piece at the top that supports their neck so their head doesn’t flop around and 2. the POCKET at the bottom! There’s a pocket which is so great for holding your phone or your keys—it especially comes in handy for me when I’m walking Ender every morning (something I definitely wouldn’t be able to do without babywearing).

Any time someone asks me what my number one baby item is, I always tell them it’s this carrier—it makes going out super easy and getting things done around the house possible. I’ve taken Sophie on coffee dates with friends, to lunch, to visit Rob at work, to the barre studio, even to a couple different vineyards in Sonoma. It’s come in handy time and time again and I know it’s going to be a lifesaver when we take our first big trip by plane at the end of May. I really can’t recommend it enough, and I can’t thank Boppy enough for sending me one!

You can get yours at Target online or in stores!

I’d like to close today with this beautiful video Boppy created to celebrate the launch of this new piece. They say once you’re a mom, you’re never not a mom—something I can already understand to be true.

What baby gear was a game changer for you? I’d love to hear about it!

Recipe: Vietnamese Meatballs (for Pho)

This post is sponsored by La Crema.

Vietnamese Pho Meat Balls | Freckled Italian

My brother and I always cook together whenever we're lucky enough to spend time together (one of my favorite recipes is his tropical crème brûlée), so when he was staying with us for Christmas and New Years, we decided to whip up some homemade pho broth and delicious Vietnamese meat balls. It was the coziest way to start the new year, and we ended up eating it for breakfast, a snack, and dinner later that night--with enough leftover for me to have lunch the next day when he and his girlfriend flew home.

Pho has always been one of my favorite comfort foods--my friend Corri and I used to meet for lunch or get takeout so much that now when I visit Charlotte, we always have to get pho together. I couldn't think of a more relaxing way to celebrate New Years Day than a slow morning with Sean, Jane, Rob, Sophie, and Ender all cuddled up together on the couch as rich, spice-infused broth bubbled away on the stove.

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I was surprised by how easy it was to put it all together (although to be fair, Sean did do most of the work setting up the broth), and our meatballs turned out absolutely delicious. Usually you'll find beef meatballs when you order pho, but we decided to use pork instead to switch it up.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef or pork
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well until everything is incorporated. Use your hands to work the meat mixture together until it becomes slightly sticky (this can take 10-15 minutes). If you have time, place the bowl in the freezer for 20 minutes or so to really let the meat firm up. (You could also use a food processor or electric mixer.)
  2. Roll heaping tablespoons of the mixture into balls with your hands. You want them to be on the larger side of bite-sized so you can pick them up and eat them in one bite or use a spoon to cut them in half easily.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a boil and fill another bowl with ice water. Carefully lower the meatballs into the boiling water and allow them to cook until they float to the surface, then continue to simmer for another 3-4 minutes. (7-8 minutes total.) Remove from pot and transfer to ice water for 3-4 minutes.
  4. When you're ready, reheat the meatballs in pho broth and serve. 
Vietnamese Meat Ball Soup | Freckled Italian

The company was great and the wine, of course, was delicious--we paired our soup with La Crema's Monterey Chardonnay, which is one of my favorites. We set out all the toppings and let everyone doctor up their own bowls the same way you do when you're at a restaurant, only we enjoyed everything from the comfort of my couch, complete with sweatpants and a whole lot of Netflix.

Vietnamese Meat Balls | Freckled Italian

Don't forget to stop by the La Crema blog today to get my pho broth recipe! I hope you love it.