Author Archive

Cookbook Q&A: A Chef Mom Shares Her Secrets

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Michelle Dudash is an Arizona-based Registered Dietitian and Cordon Bleu-certified chef. She’s also a busy mom who wants to feed her sometimes-picky 4-year-old a healthy, balanced diet. Over the years she’s created appealing family dishes and helpful strategies for getting a home-cooked meal on the table quickly. She shares her recipes and advice in her cookbook Clean Eating for Busy Familiescookbook

 Q: What do you mean by “clean eating?”

A: At its foundation, clean eating means consuming foods in their most natural and least processed state. (Also, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the label, you probably shouldn’t eat it.) Clean eating to me also means opting for in-season foods whenever possible. Finally, enjoy every bite. I’m a food lover and believe that food is something to be savored and celebrated. Enjoy food intentionally while seated at the table, and avoid mindless snacking.

Q: What ingredients are important to you to buy organic? Why?

A: Organic expeller-pressed canola oil, since most conventional canola contains GMOs.

Sometimes, depending on availability, I buy organic meats, eggs, and poultry because that guarantees that these animals aren’t given drugs, antibiotics, or growth hormones.

Q: What are some tips for getting a healthy dinner on the table quickly?

A: Properly stock your kitchen early in the week. That way in the time that you would call in and pick up your takeout order, you could have prepared a fresh meal at home. My book offers weekly, monthly and quarterly shopping lists, breaking down grocery shopping into manageable pieces to provide healthy meals. Try to plan meals ahead and have a go-to recipe arsenal. Your best bet: prepare one-dish or make-ahead meals whenever possible.

Q: Healthy is all well and good. What if a mom has picky kids who won’t eat any veggies, for example?

A: That makes two of us! My daughter loves hummus, edamame, and spaghetti sauce. Beyond that I need to incorporate vegetables into other things like in my Turkey, Vegetable, and Oat Mini-Meatloaves—with mushrooms! I bake them in muffin tins and call them “meatloaf cupcakes,” dicing them and serving over whole-grain spaghetti. My daughter, Scarlet, also loves fruit so I make sure to offer fresh options at every meal. hummus

Children are more likely to try the foods that they help prepare so get them in the kitchen with you. If your child still turns up her nose, don’t give up. Continue to offer—not force—a variety of foods, namely vegetables, with most meals. It can take eight to ten exposures before a child decides whether she likes a new food or will even try it. Eventually, your child will probably surprise you. Scarlet continues to surprise me every day!

Q: How do you feel about “hiding” vegetables in foods so kids eat more vegetables?

A: “Hiding” vegetables should be your last line of defense and used only when necessary. You don’t want to add sweet potatoes to brownies and tell your kids, “Yay, eat up, now they’re healthy!” But even I succumb to hiding vegetables to add more nutrients to my 4-year-old’s diet. It’s still important to continue to offer vegetables in plain sight regularly.

Q: How else can moms encourage their kids to eat healthfully?

A: Lead by positive example. Kids become curious when they see other people, including you, eating—and hopefully it is healthy. Come up with cute names for food that resonate with your kids, like my “meatloaf cupcakes” (or anything-cupcake, for that matter).

Q: What are your daughter’s favorite dishes in the book? 

A: Scarlet’s favorite recipe is Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders with Dill Dip, which tastes even better than deep-fried versions. She also loves the Scarlet-Approved Lemon Cilantro Edamame Hummus. When I gave her a taste, she said, “I want more” and ate it by the spoonful. Her favorite desserts are Four Seasons Fruit Pizza, Dark Chocolate Whole-Grain Brownies, and Almond Butter Oatmeal & Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies. chicken tenders

Q: What are some simple changes someone could make to improve her family’s diet quickly?

A: Purge your pantry of the junk snacks made of refined flour, added sugars, and lots of sodium. Replace with whole foods, like fruits and vegetables for snacking.

Switch everything in your kitchen to whole-grain, preferably 100% whole-grain, including pastas, breads, crackers, tortillas, waffles and pancakes. If you face some pushback, stick to your guns and only keep whole-grain versions in stock. Your family can take it or leave it. They might not even notice, or eventually they will take it.

Q: What is a typical weekday breakfast in your house?

A: During the week, my husband, daughter and I all eat something different, which is easy to do because I keep plenty of quick-fix items on hand. One of my favorites is oatmeal and a cup of coffee with raw sugar and a splash of milk.

Q: What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

A: Right now I am really into Coconut Bliss Vanilla Ice Cream. It’s so creamy and delicious, especially with dark chocolate sauce. I eat dark chocolate regularly, though I don’t consider that a guilty pleasure since I have just a few bites and it contains some beneficial nutrients.

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Cookbook Q&A: How To Be a Good Cookie

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

 

cookiesSometimes a cookie is more than just a cookie. When Gretchen Holt-Witt’s son Liam was diagnosed with pediatric cancer in 2007 she realized how underfunded children’s cancer research is. To raise money she organized a giant bake sale – baking and selling a whopping 96,000 cookies. That initial fundraiser proved to be so successful that Gretchen and her husband launched the non-profit Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Since then thousands of people across the country have chosen to “Be a Good Cookie,” raising money to fund research and treatment. Although Liam passed away in 2011 at age 6, Gretchen continues the mission of Cookies for Kids Cancer and has just published her second cookbook, All the Good Cookies, packed with more than 60 mouth-watering recipes. Author proceeds benefit Cookies for Kids Cancer.

Q: How many American children are diagnosed with cancer each year?

A: There are approximately 13,000 new diagnoses each year, and any point in time there are tens of thousands of children in treatment. But pediatric cancer receives less than 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s budget.

Q: Tell me about the original 96,000 cookies.

all the good cookies

A: Liam was cancer-free at the time, and I was so grateful that he was cancer-free, but I kept hearing the voice of his oncologist who said to me that nobody cares about kids with cancer, and there just isn’t enough funding. The holidays were coming up, and people are always looking for homemade baked treats. I decided to get friends together to bake cookies, but I wanted to really push my boundaries. I started calculating … and the number 8,000 dozen came into my head.

So I made this goal, and it was much harder than I expected. It was this crazy experience. We had more than 250 volunteers, most of whom I didn’t know. It was supposed to be a nine-day baking event. But all of the ovens in the kitchen broke so it ended up being 17 or 18 days under very trying circumstances. But failure was not an option. We sold all of the cookies.

When it was over my husband and I realized that this wasn’t just a holiday thing. Cookies for Kids Cancer officially launched in September 2008. Since then we’ve had nearly 5,000 events in 50 states and 15 countries. A lot of events are bake sales, but some are garage sales, bowling tournaments, or races.

liam

Q: After Liam passed away did it occur to you to stop?

A: I think about it all the time. I’ve become incensed at the lack of funding available, just disappointed that this is the state of our affairs. But then the reason I never give up is that I know when I see Liam again he will look at me and say, “Mommy what did you do to make it better for others?” And that would be his expectation, and I can’t let him down.

Q: Why cookies and not, say, pies or cakes?

A: It is hard to cut a pie neatly! Cake, also, is difficult to cut and serve on a napkin. Cookies are just universal. They’re fun and they’re wholesome. Plus, with baking there is a sense of sharing, a sense of community. I couldn’t take out my stand mixer without Liam pulling up a chair and standing next to me. He totally loved cooking and baking.

Q: What makes this book special?

A: Because it’s based on love. If you page through the book you’ll see more than 40 profiles of event hosts of all ages from across the country. It’s so inspiring. The recipes are awesome, simple to make, with no complicated ingredients. And all the author proceeds go back to charity.

bake sale

Q: Are there one or two cookies that are especially fun to make with kids?

A: I can’t think of any that wouldn’t be good to make with kids, although the Rainbow Sables are particularly great. The Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies have only five ingredients. They’re so quick to make; you get almost immediate results.

Q: Which are your favorite cookies in this book?

A: The Faux Re-os and the Speculaas. I could just sit there with a feed basket on and eat. But there are so many.

Q: How much money has Cookies for Kids Cancer raised?

A: Over $5 million in just under five years. Seven of the projects we’ve funded have become treatments that children are receiving. But, it’s not enough. There’s no resting on our laurels.

Q: Why is it so important for grassroots groups like yours to contribute to fighting pediatric cancer?

A: The thing I find so dumbfounding is that we’re actually making an impact. I didn’t think that me and my girlfriends could do something that would help fund a treatment that would be amazing in a couple of years. How is it that easy?

Q: What can the average mom do to help support this cause?

A: Make the decision to get involved—in whatever way is best for them. The reality is that every dollar counts. You never know what research holds. But you know one thing: nothing happens unless there’s funding.

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The End of DOMA: What Families Need to Know

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

courthouse

The Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act earlier today, 17 years after the law blocked the federal recognition of gay marriage. A separate case was also declined, making it legal for same-sex couples to marry again in California.

Before today’s landmark decision, gay couples faced many obstacles in terms of marriage equality. They didn’t receive Family Medical Leave Act benefits, Social Security survivor benefits, veteran benefits, benefits for spouses of federal employees, and spousal impoverishment protection for Medicaid long-term care. In addition, gay couples paid almost $1,000 more in yearly taxes and dealt with higher estate taxes.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote for the majority of the decision, said, “Striking down DOMA would give dignity to same-sex families and help end suffering of children caused by the current law.”

Children of same-sex parents will benefit from an increased income in the household because they can now be covered under the same health insurance policy as their parents. These families will also have access to Social Security benefits.

Cheers could be heard outside the Supreme Court, but the loudest cheers were coming from same-sex parents. These couples have the same rights as any other husband and wife. Children are realizing that they’re as good as everyone else, regardless of who their parents love.

Image: Courthouse via Shutterstock

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Get Ready For Summer with the Perfect Picnic App!

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Picnics are a great way to enjoy warm summer days, but food poisoning can ruin the fun. The Partnership for Food Safety Education launched the free Perfect Picnic app, just in time for the summer grilling season. Perfect Picnic teaches kids ages 8-11 about the importance of food safety and how to reduce their risk of food poisoning.

I recently tested Perfect Picnic to see what I could learn, and I was so impressed. I was the master of my own park filled with trees, outdoor kitchens, and several of my park “friends.” In order to pay for all of my park amenities, I rented out barbeque spots and kept my visitors happy.

However, I quickly learned that if my park wasn’t clean, my “friends” would leave. I needed to act fast! Luckily, I made sure all visitors knew how to wash their hands to reduce the risk of contaminating food and use a food thermometer to avoid problems from undercooked meat. I also needed to keep coolers filled with ice, so all perishables stayed chilled to 40°FIn addition, all food preparation surfaces needed to be kept clean.

Perfect Picnic is a great way for kids to learn about safe food handling practices in a fun, engaging way. After a few rounds on the app, kids will be ready to help out at the next barbeque. Click here to download Perfect Picnic.

 

 

 

 

 

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Rebuilding After Hurricane Sandy is NYC’s Real Marathon This Year

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

This is a guest post by Isabel Kallman, the founder of Alphamom.com. Isabel is volunteering with Meredith Corporation in Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit that believes everyone deserves to live in a safe, healthy home. The Parents team will be spending tomorrow cleaning, painting, and gardening at Gerritsen Beach, New York, a Brooklyn neighborhood hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Visit parents.com/WeRebuild to see photos of the workday, volunteer for a project, or to make a donation to support Rebuilding Together’s efforts.

 

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Bloomberg cancelled the NYC marathon and instead marathoners visited hard hit areas to help clean-up. Many New Yorkers and neighbors from NJ and Connecticut joined them in the weeks that followed.
hurricane sandy 1

Rockaway Beach after Hurricane Sandy

I wasn’t planning on running the NYC marathon, but have come to see the Hurricane Sandy rebuilding efforts as NYC’s real marathon this year. Along with friends I did as much as I could. I tried to help with cleanup in the Rockaways. With my sister, I delivered donations– that poured in from online friends from around the country– to relief centers in Staten Island. My friend Jessica Shyba and I also delivered donations to Staten Island and then finally Coney Island, where I had spent many summer days as a young girl growing up in Brooklyn.

nathans in coney island after hurricane sandy

 I’ll always remember the sense of relief when I saw Coney Island’s boardwalk again that November afternoon. I was scared that it had washed away, like so much of the Rockaway Beach’s boardwalk. Yes, of course it could be rebuilt, but the Coney Island boardwalk had been such an early memory of my three-year old mind that its loss would hurt. I was so grateful it was still there.

coney island after hurricane sandy

Coney Island boardwalk after Hurricane Sandy

I didn’t write much about my visits to the hurricane-affected areas because my contributions were so small compared to what many others were doing. However, what I have since come to realize and learn is that if we all do a little, together we can move the needle and make what at least feels like a noticeable difference for the better amongst so much destruction.

So, I am eager to help Parents Magazine and its owner, The Meredith Corporation, rebuild some homes in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn. It’s a small seaside community where 75% of the homes were unexpectedly flooded during Hurricane Sandy (the area was originally Zone B and thus wasn’t evacuated). Gerritsen Beach can be described as a tight-knit multi-generational family community with some residents living there 50 or more years. Gerritsen Beach had never experienced flooding that reached as high as 6 feet in the basements or first floors of their homes and along with it destroying the most cherished belongings of its residents. I feel so fortunate that I can go back to my hometown of Brooklyn and do a little bit more to help.

with sarah bryden-brown at gerritsen-beach

with Sarah Bryden-Brown of GoMighty speaking to local Gerritsen Beach resident Jimmy

Along with my friend Sarah Bryden-Brown of GoMighty and the editors of Meredith’s magazines, we visited some of the homes and properties we will help to restore on June 6. Now, there’s going to be a whole team of helpers on June 6th.

One special area that I hope to help restore is Kiddie Beach. It’s a small beach area along the Plum Beach Channel that serves as a gathering area for the Gerritsen Beach community. It’s where Gerritsen neighbors– especially the kids and families– gather during summer nights and hang out. There’s a basketball court, a playground and a small stage where the kids put on their shows– all of which needs to be refurbished. Originally, the community wasn’t expecting Kiddie Beach to be open this summer season. Coney Island is my Kiddie Beach and I would love for it to be available and safe for the kids this summer.

kiddie beach before hurricane sandy by gerritsenbeach.net

Kiddie Beach before Hurricane Sandy

 

kiddie beach gerritsen after hurricane sandy

Kiddie Beach after Hurricane Sandy

Remember the theory I’ve embraced? If lots of us can do a little bit, we can move the needle. That’s the goal here. There will be hundreds of volunteers from Rebuilding Together and the Meredith Corporation. Together with the members of the Gerritsen Beach community we hope to help finish a process that first began with a tremendous clean-up effort back in early November.

I’ve never had any desire to lace up sneakers and run in a marathon, but if helping to rebuild is NYC’s marathon, then it’s one I’ll always sign up. I love this city so hard.

Photo credits: top photo by Adrian Kinloch and Kiddie Beach Before by GerritsenBeach.net

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