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  • Theresa Gentile

An underutilized Italian cream cheese that is versatile and great for family snacks.


Mascarpone and peanut butter fruit dip


I had some mascarpone leftover after making tiramisu and experimented with a few easy ways to enjoy it (other than just slathering it on crackers) in a way my kids might enjoy it.


Mascarpone is an Italian cheese from the Lombardy region. It’s a thick, double or triple cream and is richer than American cream cheese. It has a high-fat content – anywhere from 60-75%. This makes Mascarpone cheese the perfect ingredient for desserts like Tiramisu and cheesecakes. (American cream cheese, by law, must contain at least 33% milk fat and not more than 55% moisture. Mascarpone can be smooth and creamy to buttery, depending on how it’s processed during cheesemaking. (It’s apparently so easy, it can be made at home – I’m not there yet.) Either way, it must be consumed within a few days as it goes bad quickly.


It is this beauty in cream and cheesemaking that makes mascarpone a wonderful addition to both sweet and savory dishes. It can also be used to thicken puddings and creams in desserts, thicken sauces or even used in rich French toast.


My uses for mascarpone are much simpler, for the busy person who adores the mouthfeel of creamy mascarpone or for when you just need to use it up before it goes bad J


1. Mascarpone and blueberry trifle

Here, I beat mascarpone with [more] cream (whipping cream) and with a drop of vanilla extract and layered it with blueberries. Pipe it in a fancy glass and the kids feel extra special (I did too ;)


Mascarpone and blueberry trifle


2. Whipped Mascarpone and Peanut Butter fruit dip

This is my favorite! I often beat cream cheese with peanut butter (you can add cocoa powder or a touch of Nutella here …. Nutella goes with EVERYTHING in my book), so I tried it with mascarpone. Delicious! Add a few drops of cream to thin it if you wish. Then serve with fruit for a fun dessert.




3. Mascarpone with blueberries on crackers

Ok, this one is just plopping together a few things, but my kids actually ate it. (I made this another time with strawberries and it was even better!) Just shmear some mascarpone cheese on crackers (I used Mary’s Gone Crackers because I like all that crunch) and plop on some pieces of fruit.


Mascarpone and fruit on crackers


Viola! 3 easy things to do with mascarpone!

Let me know if you try any of these!

Updated: Nov 14, 2019

It can be heartbreaking to watch your kids suffer from constipation. Read below for some tips.





After three different people asked me about natural ways to relieve their kids’ constipation, I thought I write about it. It can be frustrating and heartbreaking when your baby, toddler, or even, school-aged child is suffering from constipation. Incorporating a little extra fiber might help. (These dietary changes could be considered home remedies and you should always consult a medical doctor. )


What Exactly is Considered Constipation in Children?

It is a condition in which your child may have:

· hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass

· having fewer than two bowel movements per week


Additional Symptoms of Constipation in Kids May Include:

· having a swollen abdomen, or bloating

· abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, or poor appetite

· having daytime or nighttime wetting

· soiling (stool in his/her underwear that looks like diarrhea)

· shifting positions that make it look like your child is trying to have a bowel movement, but he/she is really trying to avoid/delay it


What Causes Constipation in Kids?

Just like adults, children’s bowel patterns differ from child to child. Most children have bowel movements 1 or 2 times a day, but others may go 3 days without having normal stools. Going 3 days or more without having a bowel movement is OK, as long as your child is healthy with normal stools that are passed without pain or discomfort.


Constipation is a common problem in kids, the most common causes being:

· a low fiber diet

· in infants, transitioning to solid foods

· withholding – delaying or avoiding a bowel movement because he/she is afraid of the pain that comes with passing stool, a yearning for independence or control, too busy playing or waiting for a more comfortable place to use the bathroom (like waiting to get home to use the bathroom instead of at school).

· Illness and/or medications (especially iron supplements)

· Changes in environment or routine (moving, starting a new school or activity)


When You Should See a Doctor

If the symptoms last more than 2 weeks or do not go away with treatment with natural remedies at home.


You should take your child to the doctor right away if your child experiences any of the following:

· bloating that doesn’t resolve

· bleeding from his/her rectum

· vomiting

· weight loss


What Should My Child Eat if He/She is Constipated?

Fiber – A good rule of thumb is 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. (Fibers from different foods will also help stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in her gut microbiome, which you can read more about here.)

These are the recommendations of the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. Your child’s needs may differ:



The Nutrition Facts label on a food product can tell you how much fiber per serving food has.

· Excellent sources of fiber have 5 grams or more per serving

· Good sources of fiber have 3 grams or more per serving


Good sources of fiber are:


Fruits and Veggies (with their skin!)

Whole fruits with their skin have about 3 grams of fiber (Pears have 4.5, peaches have 2). A cup of raspberries has 8 grams! Dark colored vegetables. Kale, swiss chard, broccoli and cauliflower are great. Consider making kale chips in the oven for a yummy snack. Dried fruits: raisins, prunes (a powerful, natural laxative), dates, figs, apricots. (Avoid candied fruits.)


Dried fruit, including prunes, dates and apricots, can help increase fiber and relieve constipation

Beans

Canned is OK, just rinse them well to remove the salt solution. Kidney, chickpeas, black beans, cannellini, lentils, split peas. (1/2 cup kidney beans have 7.4 g fiber and navy beans have 3!) Add them to soups and whole-grain pasta. Make a dip or spread. Make them the centerpiece of taco night, or just serve them plain. (My kids love to eat plain small, white beans. I put them in a small espresso cup with a small spoon and they love it.)

You can also integrate them into energy balls; the beans moisten the recipe without adding extra sugar and they add fiber. I make a batch of these energy balls each week and throw them into the kids' lunch boxes - or mine :)


Nuts and Seeds

If your child does not have a nut allergy, then add them as snacks (make a trail mix by mixing with dried fruits), top oatmeal and yogurt with them or grind them to use in baking. Don’t forget chia seeds and flax seeds, which can both act as laxatives. For kids, add a tiny bit (1/2 – 1 tsp) to yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies.


Whole Grains

Whole grain breads, hot oatmeal, bran, buckwheat, barley, bulgur, whole rye, whole wheat pasta. Cold cereals: Post Wheat ‘N’ Bran Spoon Size, Market Pantry (Target) frosted mini wheats, Grape Nuts, All Bran and Kellog’s frosted mini wheats, original are some of the best tasting (but not toooo much sugar), high-fiber cereals.


Fluids

So important! You should not bulk up your child’s diet without adding extra fluid. Clogging up his or her plumbing with too much stool bulk could lead to impaction, so ensure that your child is getting enough fluid from non-dairy drinks and fruits.


The Institute of Medicine recommends that, roughly, most children aged:


· 1 to 3 need at least 35 ounces of fluid per day

· 4 to 8 years old need at least 46 ounces per day

· 9 to 13 year old boys need at least 65 oz per day

· 9 to 13 year old girls need at least 57 oz per day


If your child is a big milk drinker (like mine), try to limit liquid milk to ~ 2-3 cups per day.


So tell me about your experience and what has worked for you!



References:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020 (PDF, 10.3 MB) . 8th ed. Published December 2015. Accessed November 29, 2018.

https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/many-glasses-milk-should-kid-drink-1100.html. Accessed November 29, 2018.

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Kids-Need-Fiber-Heres-Why-and-How.aspx. Accessed November 29, 2018.

  • Theresa Gentile

Updated: Oct 10, 2019

Cookie cutters make this cute breakfast or hors d’oeuvres super easy and versatile




Even if I’m not throwing a Halloween party, I still like to do little things to stretch a holiday as much as I can for the kids. I decorate inside the house, even if I don’t decorate outside; I slip little love notes in my kids’ lunchboxes on festive note paper (thanks to my Aunt who has supplied me with the most unique, personalized note pads and pencils since I was a kid – and I still have them); and I create festive food.


I don’t remember where I got these cookies cutters, but they’re autumn themed and include a pumpkin. So, I simply cut the shapes out of toast. I mean, what’s more fun than toast in the shape of a leaf? (Well, for my kids, probably one smothered in Nutella.)


I shmeared on some natural peanut butter, placed some blanched, sliced almonds as the eyes and mouth and presented a fun, Halloween breakfast. (I ate the crusts :)


These little toasts, of course, lend themselves to many variations. For a party, toast up slices of bread in the oven, cut out shapes and top with anything. Here are some suggestions:


-goat cheese and honey

-goat cheese and fig jam

-goat cheese or mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes

-avocado topped with a sprig of cilantro

-ricotta and jarred roasted peppers

-ricotta, cinnamon and strawberries

-cream cheese and smoked salmon

-marscapone and peaches

-marscapone and blueberries

-pesto and sun dried tomatoes

-cheddar cheese and tart apple (maybe broil this)


The possibilities are endless. If you have time, you could use cookie cutters to cut out shapes out of thicker vegetables, like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squashes (which would have to be cooked.)


Tell me if you made festive foods this year!!