Sunday, April 17, 2011

Maurice Sendak Saves Dinner

Dinner time can be a huge struggle for parents, even if your children are normally "good eaters." Food, and whether or not it gets eaten, are areas of control for children, especially young children . . . so how do you get them to eat a dinner you throw together at the last minute? Books!

The other night I was in a bit of a pinch: I had set out a chicken breast for dinner and that was about as far as I had gotten on dinner prep, to include deciding what is was I planned on doing with said chicken breast. It was approaching 5 o'clock, or as my sister-in-law calls it, "arsenic hour." Yes, that lovely time of day when nothing can pacify the tyrant inside a hungry, getting tired child. What was I going to do for dinner?

It occurred to me my children like chicken - check. They like rice, ok, I'll toss some of that into the rice cooker (brown rice, of course) . . . but that's pretty boring. And colorless. And tasteless. Then it hit me: Chicken Soup with Rice!! We had been reading that book along with Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue, the pocket novellas from Maurice Sendak. Well, chicken soup with rice was going to take me a few minutes, so I had to think fast. How was I going to occupy a two and a three year old long enough to make a meal when they were already hungry?

Yep, you guessed it: YouTube. What?!? I got all my ingredients out, started the rice and then went to find "Really Rosie" (Part I, Part II) on YouTube. It's a great cartoon from the early 80's that has a bunch of Sendak's short stories. Carole King sings the narrative and it's just long enough to make soup. Perfect!
The other nice part about this little vignette is when the kids looked at the soup like it was gruel I was able to say, "oh no no! THIS is Chicken Soup with Rice! Just like the TV show!" It was gone in a matter of minutes and I was serving seconds! Crisis averted!

Here is the recipe:

1 box of store bought chicken broth (low-sodium, organic and free range) - or your own broth
3-ish cups of water
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 small onion, chopped (I used a vidalia)
1 large chicken breast, thawed
Poultry Seasoning (thyme, rosemary, marjoram, sage)
1 cup uncooked brown rice
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Cook the rice separately. I used a rice cooker and it took about 30 minutes. Start this BEFORE you start the "Really Rosie" movie. Start movie.
2. Drizzle about 2 T EVOO in the bottom of a large soup pot. Bring up to heat, not smoking.
3. Add in all the chopped veggies, a dash of salt and black pepper to taste. Stir until onions are translucent.
4. Pour in the chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil, removing foam at the top. Lower heat and simmer while you finish the recipe.
5. Go to computer and start Part II of "Really Rose."
6. Cut the chicken breast either into toddler sized pieces or into larger chunks you can shred. Heat a skillet over medium high heat, add chicken, sprinkle with poultry seasoning and cook until no more pink.
7. Add chicken to simmering mixture in soup pot.
8. Add rice.
Serve and (hopefully) enjoy your Chicken Soup with Rice!

Monday, November 15, 2010

What's in Your Kitchen?

So, of course I know what's in your kitchen. A refrigerator, a stove, a microwave, food . . . but, what's really in your kitchen?

I admit it, I have found "science projects" deep in the back of my refrigerator and some that look like crystal farms in my freezer, but those days are long past. When trying to get my family onto healthier eating, I realized I had to make the kitchen a healthy place, too. Part of that is keeping the kitchen not only clean and full of healthy food, but keeping it organized!

Getting into the habit of regularly cleaning and cleaning out the fridge is important. No one wants to eat moldy cheese, fruits or veggies and let's not even talk about sour milk. Scraping weeks old, dried on, spilled juice literally requires a jack hammer and sticky anything is aggravating when you are in a hurry (and who isn't?).

The good news it it's EASY to keep a fridge clean and organized. You don't need anything fancy and you don't need Kelly Ripps'a Electrolux fridge, either! Here are some steps to take to reclaim your fridge and get yourself and your family on the fast(er) track to healthy!

  • Open the fridge and pull out the things you see immediately that need to go: wilted and moldy are a good place to start.
  • Look through the items on the doors. Anything expired needs to go. Clean out the containers and send them off to recycling.
  • Pick ONE SHELF AT A TIME. Pull things out and wipe down the shelf. Wipe off the bottoms of containers and place them back in BEFORE you start another shelf. You don't have to do more than one shelf a day, either.
  • Now, for the scary part . . . open up the tupperware, ziploc or other containers and try to figure out what's inside them. Toss anything suspect, clean the containers and save them as long as there isn't an odd smell and you can get them clean.
  • Repeat with your freezer.
Ok, so your fridge and freezer are cleaned out and cleaned up. Now what? We need to try to keep it clean. One of the best ways to do this is to clean out your fridge and freezer when you make your weekly grocery list. As you check through to see what you have versus what you need, double check that nothing has spoiled. This is a good time to get spills you may have missed at other times during the week.

Organizing the inside of the refrigerator doesn't have to be expensive. Even small fridges can accommodate a variety of foods, neatly. Most fridges have movable shelves and at least two drawers. Here are some steps to take to organize the inside.

  • Place vegetables (except leafy greens and lettuces) in one of the two drawers.
  • Place fruits in the other drawer.
  • If you have a third drawer, this is a good place for lunch meats and cheeses. If not, look through your tupperware. If you have some pieces that will fit the meats and cheese, place those items in there and find them a new home in the fridge.
  • If you have leftovers, and who doesn't, find ONE spot in the fridge for them and be sure to use them. If something is in the fridge for more than three days and hasn't been eaten, toss it. Use masking tape to label the containers.
  • Adjust the shelves to give yourself one area for tall items like milk jugs, milk cartons and juice containers. If you have spots for these on the door use them!
  • Your leafy greens should stand up if possible. This keeps them from getting smooshed. I stand mine up in the door of my fridge.
  • Condiments should be grouped by both type and size. This way you can move the shelves around as needed and you'll ave a general idea of what goes where . . . no more "where's the jelly?!?" when your toddler is screaming hungry!
  • If you are unable to move shelves around, adding small shelves purchased from department stores or value stores will work wonders. Try to get the ones marketed for use in cabinets as they will fit better than larger sizes.
So, congratulations! You now have a clean, organized fridge! You will save money at the store by not over buying items, food won't spoil since you will be able to see what you have easily and every time you open the door you will be smiling! You are on the fast track to a family replete with wellness!

If you want or need help with your fridge contact me and I'd be happy to help! Another good website for info on how to clean is!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Perfect Pumpkin "Cheesecake" or Pumpkin De-Lite!

It's been awhile since I've gotten on here, so I will pass on my new favorite dessert recipe. I promise to get on more frequently, in the mean time, enjoy!

Perfect Pumpkin "Cheesecake" or Pumpkin De-Lite!
1 c. Pumpkin puree (not pie filling, 100% pumpkin)
1 c. Light or Fat-Free Ricotta Cheese
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ginger (ground)
1/8 tsp Cloves (ground)
1/8 tsp Nutmeg (ground)
1/2 tsp Brown Sugar (optional)

Mix all ingredients together, chill to help it solidify a little bit. Top with crushed pecans or walnuts and enjoy! I recommend trying the recipe without the sugar first, then adding it if you feel like the dish needs to be sweeter!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Get Toddlers and Preschoolers on the Right Path (Eating wise)

  So my posts have been sparse and I am going to blame it on the fact that I am back in classes for the fall. As some of you know, I am pursuing a second career as a dietician and was inspired to do so by my husband and children. My kids are great eaters and I get complimented all the time on their affinity for vegetables.

How did I do it? I'm not really sure. I did read and re-read the book "Super Baby Food" which was a passdown from my sister-in-law,who's kids are picky eaters, but picky in the sense that they don't want salad dressing on their greens. I wanted my kids to eat like that, so I read the book.

The more I got into preparing foods for my infants and then toddlers, and for my husband who was into some intense physical training, the more I realized we weren't eating optimally. We were eating well, but not optimally. Hence the foray into nutrition and now the second career!

My goal is to help moms, mainly, educate their families. Moms (and dads) need to be the one making the choices for their family's health and well being and passing those good habits and reliable information on to their children. One way we can do that without turning our homes into actual classrooms is turn them into learning laboratories.

The website is a fabulous way to get started. Not only can you figure out if you are even on the right track you get some great, easy to read, analytic tools. My favorite part of the website is the analysis where you get smiley, neutral or sad faces based on your daily intake of certain nutrients. My other favorite page (ok, I have 2) is the one with ideas on how to get 2,3,4 and 5 year olds into the kitchen, safely.

I hope you enjoy these ideas for your little chefs. I will try to keep the blog a little more updated. What is a Whole Grain, Part II should be up on the blog soon!

Happy Eating!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Healthier Brownies (No Spinach Required)

I have been promising this recipe to some friends and now that I have my class schedule for this semester situated, I am back to blogging!

Here is the original recipe:

Grandma Reed's Brownies

1/2 c. Shortening
1 c. Sugar
2 eggs
2/3 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 squares chocolate
3/4 c. chopped nuts (optional)
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325F and let it heat for 20 minutes after it reaches temperature.
Mix ingredients in order up to the salt.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
Add chocolate and remaining ingredients to the sugar/egg mixture.
Pour into greased and floured 8x8 brownie pan and bake for 30 min or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean!

Ok, so I modified the ingredients and this is what the new recipe looks like:

1/2 butter (even though this has saturated fat, I still like butter better than vegetable shortenings because I can get organic butter)
3/4 c. turbinado sugar (raw, unbleached sugar)
2 eggs (organic or local if available)
2/3 c. Stone Ground Whole Wheat flour (doesn't change the taste or texture too much)
1/4 tsp sea salt OR iodized salt (iodized salt is important for those withh thyroid diseases)
2 or 3 squares of semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 c. nuts (almonds or walnuts are best, but I omit because I use this recipe frequently for group gatherings and like to avoid allergy issues)
1/4 c. milk (organic or local if available)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (why go chemical when natural is readily available?)

Follow the recipe as listed above, but instead of using butter or shortening to grease the pan, I use olive oil. Oils that are liquids at room temperature are healthier for us and this is a way to add important fats to our diet that we frequently lack!

This is also a great recipe for your kids to help make. The measurements are small, so if you have an aversion to messes, the ones created by inexperienced hands with these brownies are small! I hope you enjoy the recipe and use it this weekend!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Twisty Tuesdays - Pranayama (Breath)

One of the most challenging skills to acquire in yoga is mastering the breath, or pranayama. Your breath connects you to every body system you have, but most notably the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. How does this relate to wellness? The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) controls the fight or flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) controls your relaxed state.

Try to recall the last time you had a scare or where startled. Your heart jumped up into your throat, your pulse raced and your breathing changed. Perhaps you gasped. This is the SNS kicking in. It has a wonderful purpose: to keep you alive in an emergency. As such, turning on the SNS and turning off the PSNS changes what is going on in your body. The SNS raises your blood pressure, redirects blood from your digestive system to your brain, your pupils dilate, your breathing rate increases.

We are going to focus on the breathing rate in this Twisty Tuesday (I promise, there is yoga in here). Short shallow breathing triggers your SNS. It puts the PSNS on the back burner and takes over. Americans, and westerners in general, take short, shallow "chest breaths" all the time. We live in a constant state of "fight or flight." Our organ systems are put under tremendous stress in this environment. The digestive system gets less blood and slows, our blood pressure is constantly elevated and we get headaches.

How do you arrest the cycle? Deep belly breathing. The ancient yogi's knew this and developed Yogic Breathing or The Three Part Breath. Their lives were not without stress: no grocery stores, no clothing stores, if you wanted to eat or be clothed, you were responsible for doing something about satisfying that need. There was no Valium, but they were able to control their breath. So, they did.

The yogic breath is easy to learn and immediately shuts off the overdrive of the SNS. It is easiest learned laying down, but can be practiced sitting up, standing, driving, etc. Read this through a couple of times and then try it on your own! To teach your children, have them lay down and read them a story. I recommend a poetic or relaxing story: The Giving Tree 40th Anniversary Edition Book with CD or A Child's Book of Poems are good choices and non-arousing as are CD's aimed at relaxation for children.

  • Begin by getting comfortable: laying down, sitting reclined, standing.
  • Notice your breath. Notice the way the air feels moving in and out of your nose.
  • Close your eyes. Close your mouth. Place the tip of your tongue just behind your upper teeth.
  • Wiggle your fingers and toes just a bit to be sure they are relaxed.
  • Place your hands on your belly.
  • Begin your first inhale and concentrate on filling the belly with air. Physically inflate your belly: this forces you to breath using only your diaphragm, the way your children breath when they are sleeping.
  • Exhale fully and draw your navel into your spine.
  • Do this 3 times.
  • Place your hands on your ribs.
  • Inhale, filling the belly and continue to inhale causing your ribs to expand.
  • Exhale, first focusing on deflating the ribs, then pulling the navel into your spine.
  • Do this 3 times.
  • Place your hands on your upper chest, just under your collarbones.
  • Inhale, filling the belly, expanding the ribs and finally, stretching the sternum.
  • Exhale, releasing the sternum, deflating the ribs and pulling your navel into your spine.
  • Release your arms to your sides and continue to breath this way as long as you please!

Teaching children a breathing exercise like this is difficult. It is possible to have them put their hands on their tummies and feel the expansion and deflation of their bellies, but beyond that, it is more important to teach them to relax. Reading a quiet story or listening to a CD while they lay down are what I recommend. Both parents and children will benefit from this state of relaxation and when times get stressful, the Three Part Breath can be used to help diffuse the reflexes of the SNS and allow your PSNS to take over, leading to better health and overall wellness!


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Safer Bubble Bath

from psychology today
With reports coming out all the time touting various additives in health and beauty products as dangerous to our bodies, how can you preserve simple pleasures like bubble baths for your children? You have to do a little research and play with some trial and error. Here are two bubble baths we have tried lately that seem to work great as far as high volume bubbles and long lasting bubbles. (Meaning you don't have to use as much of the stuff so it lasts longer!)

Aromasaurus Rex Aroma Therapy Bath, 20-Ounces (Pack of 2):
We are loving this paraben and pthalate free bubble bath powder right now! We have hard water where we live and the Aromasaurus bubbles up really nicely. The bath we have now has a lavendar "sleep" scent but they also have bath washes with light citrus scents, so you can avoid what becomes the annoying repetetive bubble gum scents and as parents, you can benefit from some light aromatherapy helping you keep and even keel with the kids! Another added plus: it has a dinosaur on the package. Our three year old boy digs dinos, so this bubble bath won him over pretty quickly!

Burt's Bees Baby Bee Bubble Bath, 12-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 2)
Whew! That's a mouthful, but this company does it again! Sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate free as well as paraben and pthalate free baby products from Burt's work really well. They have an actual "baby" smell, not quite baby powder, but still a baby scent. It isn't overpowering and is nice and calming, not only for baby, but also for mom and dad! We need a little more of this in our bathtub to get the big bubbles, again, we have hard water. If you have mid-range or soft water, you won't have to use nearly as much!

You may find some other products you like, these are our favorites right now. They rated high for mommy in safety in ingredients, non-annoying smells and bubble production. The boy like the dinosaur picture on Aromasaurus and the girl liked the "baby bee." Happy Bubble Bathing!