Thursday, November 29, 2012

Guide to Seasonal Affective Disorder

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP

Are you among the 10-20% of the U.S. population who experiences the winter blues? Many people develop “cabin fever” during winter months when it’s cold and gloomy outside, and the days get dark earlier. These are common and normal reactions to the changing seasons. However, if you feel depressed, fatigued, and hopeless, you may have a Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or Seasonal Depression.

Winter SAD usually starts in fall or winter and ends in spring or summer. A rare form of SAD is summer SAD that begins in late spring or early summer and ends in the fall. An estimated 4-6% of the general population experience SAD.

SAD can occur at any age, even in children. However, it’s most common among adult women. Also, SAD is more prevalent among people living further away from the equator, where seasonal changes are more noticeable.

What causes SAD? 
It is unknown what causes SAD. However, changes in the availability of sunlight seem to be the likely culprit. Scientists postulate that decreased exposure to sunlight disrupts the circadian rhythm. This biological clock regulates mood, sleep, and hormones, so when it is disrupted, it may lead to depression.

Another theory proposes that winter depression arises from increased production of melatonin in winter months. Still, other research suggests that decreased sunlight exposure contributes to decreased production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood, thus possibly leading to depression.


How is SAD treated?
There are three treatment modalities for SAD: light therapy, medications, and psychotherapy.

Since exposure to sunlight improves symptoms significantly, light therapy tends to be the main treatment for SAD.

Some people with SAD benefit from therapy with antidepressants or other medications, especially if symptoms are severe.

Psychotherapy may help to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be worsening symptoms.

If you think that you are SAD or depressed, contact your health care provider ASAP!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Breast Milk Storage Tips

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP

First of all, kudos to moms who decide to breast-feed their infants. Even if breast-fed only for a short time, your infant will benefit from that long-term.

Here's what you'll need to store your breast milk:
- Clean container with tight lid, or
- Sterile breastmilk storage bags

Wash containers in the dishwasher, or by hand in hot soapy water. Use only a clean dish towel to dry them. Unused breast milk should be refrigerated immediately and should be used within 48 hours. If you do not plan to use it within 48 hours, freeze it right away. Breastmilk can be stored in a freezer connected to your refrigerator up to 1 month, and in a deep freezer for up to 3 months. Remember to label the container with pump date and time. Frozen milk can be thawed under warm water or in the refrigerator.

- Never thaw your milk in the microwave.
- Never let your milk stand at room temperature.
- Use thawed milk within 24 hours.
- Never refreeze your milk after you have thawed it.

Here are a few website resources for breast-feeding:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Biting Toddlers

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP

During toddler years, almost all children bite at one time or another. Studies show that about half of the toddlers in daycare are bitten on average 3 times a year! Now that's something you can sink your teeth into.

First things first: there are 3 stages of biting. The first stage occurs when your child’s teeth begin to erupt. Your child is likely to experiment by biting on a rattle or a teething ring. Breastfed infants who bite the breast will quickly learn not to, mostly because the mother will remove the child from the breast. Also, an infant senses the negative emotional response and eventually stops biting to avoid upsetting the mother.

The second stage of biting occurs around your child's first birthday. At that time, infants bite to express their excitement. If biting is consistently met with a firm response from the parent, the behavior should stop fairly quickly.

The third stage of biting may take place in the second year of life. During that time, your child learns new skills and has a very strong desire to be independent. If her attempts to gain autonomy are unsuccessful, she might become frustrated and bite to express her anger. Since your child's language skills do not let her express herself adequately at this stage, she might bite for attention, when she does not get what she wants, or when she is stressed out. Once your child develops language skills that allow her to express her feelings, this stage of biting will pass very quickly.

Aggressive children tend to bite more. Also, boys tend to bite more than girls. You can prevent biting when you learn what triggers this behavior in your child.

How to decrease biting in toddlers:

- Supervise your child closely.
- Acknowledge positive behaviors.
- Offer an object to bite on (i.e. teething ring, or a washcloth)
- Respond to biting right away with a firm voice, and place your toddler in time-out.

When your child bites another person, you must act immediately. Get down to your child’s level, look her in the eye, and say, "No!" Offer a simple explanation, such as, "We don’t bite people." Children 2 years of age and older can be put a in time-out, one minute per year of life. Remember that time-out serves as punishment for undesirable behaviors, such as biting, thus offer no interaction with your child during the time your child 'serves the sentence.'

Consistency in your response to your child’s biting will help you extinguish this behavior quickly and help your child learn that biting is not an acceptable way of expressing feelings.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Breast-feeding & Cold Medications

Dr. Hillary

Breast-feeding prevalence has increased in recent years. Many mothers recognize its benefits in terms of an infants’ overall health, improved immunity, and better growth.

This flu and cold season, we all might need to reach for some cold & cough remedies to relieve symptoms of upper respiratory infections such as colds. Since medications taken by breast-feeding moms may adversely affect infants, it’s always very important for lactating women to consult with their health care providers before taking any medications.

As in pregnancy, many medications can be safely used during lactation. Consider these “ground rules” when taking a cold medication:
  • Take the medication after breast-feeding
  • Use short-acting medications
  • Use the lowest effective dose
  •  Use medication for a short duration
  •  Use single-ingredient products to treat specific symptoms to avoid unnecessary ingredients

Antihistamines are not effective in the treatment of cold symptoms. They dry up all mucous membranes and may indeed worsen some symptoms.

Generally speaking, most decongestants penetrate breast milk poorly. Pseudoephedrine (e.g. Sudafed) can safely and effectively treat nasal congestion. However, it may decrease milk supply thus should be used short-term only.

A very effective and extremely safe alternative to oral decongestants is saline nasal spray. Saline solution moisturizes the nasal mucosa, eliminates dryness, and battles congestion.

When cough interferes with daily activities and night sleep, a lactating woman may reach for Robitussin DM. Otherwise, coughs should be treated with chicken soup and other warm clear liquids that thin out mucus.

When a sinus headache strikes, a breastfeeding mom can safely use acetaminophen. However, before reaching for a medication, she should try a cold or warm compress first. It’s always better to get symptom relief without using medications.

For a list of medications compatible with breast-feeding click here.

Dr. Hillary is a pediatric nurse practitioner with a doctoral degree in health promotion and risk reduction. She has worked with children for well over a decade, and answers online pediatric questions at Before she became a pediatric clinician, Dr. Hillary taught high school. Her hobbies include gardening, cooking, and traveling.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Breast Feeding 101

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP

You and your newborn are home at last. Your journey together has begun, and one of the first decisions you have made is to breast feed.

Hopefully your nurse midwife, obstetrician, or breast feeding consultant answered your questions and concerns about breast feeding before you left the hospital, but it never hurts to have a refresher. Below are the most important things to remember about breast feeding.

1) Breast feed on demand.
Feed your baby on demand whenever she is hungry. Typically that will be every 2 to 3 hours, or about 8 to 12 feedings in a 24-hour period. You will know that your infant is getting enough milk if she produces 6 to 8 wet diapers and at least 3 yellow stools by 3 to 5 days of life.

2) Look for signs of hunger.
Observe your baby for signs of hunger such as lip smacking, opening of the mouth, or hand-to-mouth motion. Also, if you notice that your infant’s eyes are moving underneath the eyelids, that signifies that she is in a light sleep state and might be ready to be fed.

3) Position comfortably.
Position your infant facing you at the level of your breast. Placing a pillow underneath your baby might help in achieving the most comfortable position.

4) Switch sides.
The most intense milk flow takes place during the first 7 to 10 minutes of breast feeding. Therefore your infant should feed about 10 minutes per breast at each feeding.

5) Supply is determined by demand.
The more your baby nurses, the more milk will be produced. Should you end up with surplus of milk, you can safely freeze it for later use.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Breakfast Brain Power

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP

We all heard our moms say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Well, they were right, so don't skip this very important meal! 

Scientists have shown that those who eat a daily breakfast perform better on the job, at school, and in sports. When we really think about it, it makes perfect sense. We eat dinner at seven or eight at night and perhaps have a bedtime snack. Since our bodies regenerate during the night, the energy from the last meal is being used up for bodily processes, such as breathing, digesting, cell repair, etc. When we wake up, our energy sources are depleted so we have to replenish them by eating a nutritious breakfast. 

If the body is not supplied with the necessary energy, the brain will not be able to function well, so it will be difficult to concentrate. The body will respond to low energy levels with shaky hands, sweating, dizziness, weakness, and irritability. Nobody wants to be sluggish and cranky. No one wishes to be scolded by his or her boss for not staying on task, or singled out by a teacher for not paying attention. You can prevent these situations by eating a healthy breakfast each morning. No excuses! Grab a banana and a box of orange juice or milk when heading out the door. For other ideas for a breakfast on the run. 

Daily breakfast is extremely important for those who would like to lose a few pounds. Studies have shown that eating breakfast keeps us full longer and prevents excessive snacking. For the purpose of weight loss, a good breakfast should include protein and some carbohydrates. Carbohydrates alone will not give the desired results. In one study, one group of people ate cereal for breakfast and the other group consumed 2 boiled eggs and 2 pieces of toast. People who had eggs for breakfast on average ate about 500 calorie less during the day than those who ate cereal.

It doesn't matter if you are fit and trim, or if you want to improve your physical image, it is important that everyone eat a daily breakfast. Doing this each morning will also teach your children to develop the same healthy habit, something they will continue to implement in their adult lives.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Winter Reads for Parents

Most parents want their children to do the right things, make and keep friends, and find meaning and direction in life. Some of us learn these things from our parents; others figure it out on their own.

However comfortable one is in his or her skin, teaching values to children is never easy. To make it easier, I recommend these three wonderful books that helped me understand how to provide guidance for my children, regarding friendships, morals, and purpose in life.

Good Kids, Tough Choices by Rushworth M. Kidder
This book gives "a crisp and practical framework" for teaching kids ethical behaviors based on honesty, responsibility, respect, fairness, and compassion. The author "focuses on the interface where parents and children personally encounter ethical challenges and have to find their way through them."
It's also a great guide showing parents how to teach responsibility, thrift, resolution of ethical dilemmas, moral courage, and how to control the influence of electronic media. It's a great tool for a modern parent. 

Friends Forever by Fred Frankel, PhD

This book shows parents how to help their children make friends and build long-lasting relationships. It shows how to weed out a child’s interests that are destructive to friendships and nurture those that build friendships. The book even teaches how to utilize social media (texting, face book, email, etc.) to make and keep friends.

The Purpose of Boys by Michael Gurian

Do boys who have no purpose in life develop a dark side? Do they lose a sense of self and set a stage for failure in life? These are the questions raised in this book by M. Gurian. He teaches parents how little boys develop their sense of purpose and how this journey changes in adolescence. Read this book to find out how to instill purpose in your son’s life through learning, work, and media use. Guide your son through adolescence by creating rites of passage for him.

Michelle loves sharing her unique product finds with everyone she knows, so blogging about them for seemed a natural fit. She married her best friend ten years ago, has two beautiful girls, and runs an interior design business out of her home.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Essentials of Dry Skin Care

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP
Frigid, dry weather is here! By using heat to warm our houses, we decrease the relative humidity of our environment, drying it even further. Dry air and low humidity cause loss of moisture from the skin. Many of us like to indulge in long hot baths or showers during the chilly months, but we forget these practices do not promote healthy skin integrity, especially in those who have eczema.

What is eczema?
Eczema is a chronic recurrent skin inflammation that is often accompanied by excessive dryness (xerosis) and itching. Irritants, such as fragrances in soaps or laundry detergents, low humidity, heat, stress, or rough clothing, trigger eczema.

There are simple steps that you can take to prevent alligator-like skin this winter season! Here is how:
  •  Take lukewarm showers/baths that last no longer than 7-10 minutes.

  • Gently pat skin dry with a towel. Avoid rubbing motion, as rubbing can cause microscopic skin injury as thus contributing to irritation and providing entry points for germs.

  • Moisturize your skin immediately after patting it dry with a towel to seal in left-over moisture.

  • Get into a habit of moisturizing to your skin twice a day with scent-free moisturizer.

  • If you suffer from chronic dry skin, avoid wearing clothes made from synthetic or rough fabrics (e.g. polyester, blue jean) as they will aggravate your condition. A good choice is 100% cotton wardrobe. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful For Small Things

Dr. Susan Bartell

November marks the official beginning of the ‘Holiday Season’…that time of year when commercialism kicks into super-high gear, and those of us who care have to work hard to remember, and remind our kids of the true meaning of the holidays (Mom, you mean it’s not about how many gifts I get?!)

November is also a month that reminds us to be thankful each year, even now during leaner, tougher times…when we may not be feeling overly optimistic.

However, the truth is that you can always find parts of your life for which to be thankful. Indeed, it is important to focus your energy on these positive aspects of your daily existence because these will carry you through the tough times. In fact, research shows that people who are more positive and optimistic are—by far—less stressed, and are better able to cope with difficult times than those who focus primarily on the negative parts of life. 

In addition, when you are thankful, positive and optimistic, you actually role model these traits and behaviors for your child. Did you know that a child is able to learn to be positive and optimistic—and actually be inoculated against depression—by behaving in the same positive, optimistic way a parent behaves? Really! Thankful, positive feelings and behavior are that powerful!

So how do you start being thankful even if you’re not in the mood? Begin by feeling thankful for your child (or children) and go from there. But wait…don’t focus on the nagging, whining, or bickering. Instead, when you’re concentrating on being thankful, pay attention to the hugs and kisses, to the curiosity and learning, and to the independence and determination that your child displays each day. Even on my worst days, if I focus on appreciating the three beautiful children growing up in front of my eyes, it’s difficult not to be thankful!

Next, make a list of the qualities and traits about yourself that you appreciate and value. Are you friendly, smart, loyal, hardworking, nurturing? Write as many of these down as you can. Add to the list as often as possible. Carry the list with you and read it often. Begin to be thankful for yourself and your ability to bring immense value to your own life, the life of your child and the other people whose lives you touch!

Last, aside from being a role model for your child, show her how to be thankful. Thankfulness is like a muscle—to be strong, it requires a little heavy lifting. Teach your child to be thankful and appreciative for the small and big things in his life. Begin by making sure he says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ every time, to every person in every situation. This may seem trivial, but it’s not! It teaches your child to be thankful for gifts; to be appreciative when someone holds open the door; to value a friend’s hard work at preparing a meal; and to be grateful when you buy her a new pair of sneakers.

This is a great start. Now keep going! Before long you and your child will recognize that there are so many things for which to be thankful, that you will be uplifted in the true spirit of the Holiday Season! 

About the Author: Dr. Susan Bartell is America’s #1 Family Psychologist. Her latest book is The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. You can learn more about her on her website at

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Reducing Holiday Meal Madness!

Cheryl Tallman
Is it your turn to host Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner this year? Lucky you! I wish I could give you an "Easy" button for your holiday meals, but the best I can do is to share some terrific tips that will help you get through the Holidays smoothly.
Develop the menu: The best way to get started with planning a big meal is to develop a menu. For inspiration, flip through magazines, cookbooks and ask friends for recipe ideas. Unless you’re a pro in the kitchen, don’t pick a bunch of new dishes with long lists of ingredients. It’s best to keep it simple.
Holiday meals should be feasts, but you don’t need to make an entire cookbook worth of side dishes. Side dishes are often the most time consuming part of making the meal. Select a menu that includes 3-4 side dishes that compliment your main entrée. As a general rule, the menu will include a main entree (i.e. Turkey), 3-4 side dishes and a dessert. If guests plan to arrive a couple hours before dinner, plan on having a simple light appetizer.
Select make-ahead foods: The less you need to do the day of the event, the more you will enjoy it. Most foods can be made 2-4 days ahead and warmed up prior to serving. Many foods often taste better when they have a chance to set. Review your menu and identify the dishes you will make ahead of time, and set aside the time to make them a few days before the event.
Accept help: When you call your relatives and friends to extend the invitation, be ready to graciously accept any offer to help. When they ask, “What can I bring?” have a suggestion ready and when possible, match up the person with what you know they do best. Keep track of who is committed to bringing specific dishes on your menu. If your relative does not cook, ask him to bring a no cook item - wine, juice, dinner rolls, pie etc.
Create a shopping list: Once the menu is set, review each recipe and write down the ingredients you’ll need for a shopping list. Depending on the size of your guest list you may need to double or triple your recipes.  When figuring the number of servings, count kids under 12 as a ½ serving.
For faster shopping in the market, organize your shopping list by the departments in your market.  For example, write down all produce items in one part of the list and Dairy items in another.  Grocery shopping is easier with a list.  Check the cupboards to make sure you’re not running low of the basics – flour, sugar, butter, etc…
Buy prepared foods and ingredients: It’s a holiday meal not a test to make dinner for 20 from scratch. Don't hesitate to buy prepared ingredients that will cut down on meal prep time.  Items such as canned soup stock, chopped nuts and dates, stuffing mix and pre-washed vegetables will all save time in the kitchen.
There is also no need to go out on a “culinary limb”. If you don’t know how to make gravy, buy it. If you are not a baker, ask people to bring desserts or buy them at the bakery.
The Table & Serving Plan: If you can do it, set the table the night before your party. A fun children’s activity is to have them make place cards for the dinner table. A quick Google Search for “Thanksgiving place cards” will provide plenty of kid-friendly place card ideas.
Decide if you will serve family or buffet style. Family style means that food is passed around the table.  Buffet style means that a food area is set up where guests fill their plates and then seat themselves at your dining table.
Get serving dishes ready by writing down menu items on small pieces of paper and place each piece of paper in the serving dish you plan to use for that food. If you are serving buffet style, set out the serving dishes as you want them for the meal. This type of planning and organization allows guests who have volunteered to help be the most helpful. Have a great get together.
Happy Cooking and Happy Holidays!

About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new book So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at for more delicious tips.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pumpkin Recipes

Pumpkin Time!
Cheryl Tallman 

Recognized in the literary world with stories such as Cinderella, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater, the pumpkin is no stranger to the spotlight. Each year in the USA, thousands of pumpkins are carved into jack 'o lanterns and many pumpkin pies are eaten at holiday celebrations! 

Pumpkin is excellent for you. It has no cholesterol and is low in fat and sodium and rich in vitamins. The bright orange color of pumpkin is a dead giveaway that it is loaded with the antioxidant, beta- carotene. Current research indicates that a diet rich in foods containing beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and offers protection against heart disease and other aspects of aging.

On top of being good for your health, Pumpkins taste good too. That's why they are a part of the diet in almost every country in the world. 

Age to introduce: About 8-10 months (cooked and pureed). 

Toddler Treat: Pumpkin Sauce 

This is the not-so-well-known cousin of apple sauce -- a side dish that can go with any meal, delicious as a spread on bread too! 

2 cups of fresh pumpkin puree  (see below)
1/4 cup apple sauce 
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 
1/4 cup of honey 


Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Serve 

Age to introduce: Over 12 months 

Storage: Refrigerate for 2-3 days. Freeze for up to 2 months. 

Fresh Pumpkin Puree: You will need 1 small to medium pumpkin. 
Prep: Wash, cut in half, and remove seeds. Cut each half into four pieces.
Cook: Place in microwave-safe dish with 1 Tbsp of water. Cover. Cook 13-15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Pumpkin is done if you can pierce it easily with a fork.
Puree: Scoop out pumpkin meat into blender/food processor. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Discard Skins. Process. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup additional water to develop smooth texture. 

Pumpkins for everyone 

Pumpkins find their place across the menu -- breakfast, lunch and dinner and dessert -- whether its pancakes, muffins, seeds for snacking, hearty soup, stuffed pumpkin or tasty pie. Here are few ideas for adding more pumpkin to your family meals: 

1. Add 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned) and 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to you pancakes for breakfast. They taste terrific with maple syrup and chopped pecans! 

2. Add 1-2 cups of pumpkin puree (fresh or canned) to your favorite chili recipe

3. Use pureed pumpkin (fresh or canned) instead of banana in your favorite banana bread or muffin recipe.

4. Make mashed potatoes with 1/2 white potatoes 1/2 pumpkin.

5. Bake pumpkin like a squash. Before baking, drizzle pumpkin meat with a mixture of balsamic vinegar, honey and chili flakes.

Roasted Pumpkin seeds: Don't waste pumpkin seeds after cooking or making jack-o-lanterns. It is easy to roast the seeds for a delicious and nutritious snack. The hulls are a great source of fiber with the seeds containing a high amount of phosphorus. Let the kids slosh through the slippery seeds and pick out the fibers. 

1 quart water 
1 Tbsp salt 
2 cups pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp vegetable oil or melted, unsalted butter (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 250°F.

2. Pick through seeds and remove any cut seeds. Remove as much of the stringy fibers as possible.

3. Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the seeds and boil for 10 minutes. Drain, spread on kitchen towel or paper towel and pat dry.

4. Place the seeds in a bowl and toss with oil or melted butter.

5. Spread evenly on a large cookie sheet or roasting pan (cover pan with aluminum foil for easy clean- up).

6. Place pan in a preheated oven and roast the seeds for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir about every 10 minutes, until crisp and golden brown.

7. Cool the seeds, then eat or pack in air-tight containers or zip closure bags and refrigerate until ready to eat. 
Pumpkin Fun Facts 

Original recipe for pumpkin pie: Colonists sliced off pumpkin tops; removed seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was baked in hot ashes. 

About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new book So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at for more delicious tips.



Pumpkin Bread

This moist and rich bread is great for desserts or breakfasts.

1-2 cup sugar (depending on desired sweetness) 
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
16 oz canned pumpkin, unsweetened
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two loaf pans and set aside. 
2) In a medium mixing bowl, mix together sugar and oil, then add the eggs and pumpkin. 
3) In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Slowly add to the pumpkin mixture, mixing until smooth.
4) Divide batter between the two loaf pans. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
5) Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pumpkin Centerpieces

Grocery stores are teaming with pumpkins this time of year. Why not use one for an innovative and easy centerpiece?

Start with an even-shaped, medium pumpkin, one that sits flat. 

With a knife or a craft saw, cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Tilt the lid off to the side, as shown.

Fill the bottom half with anything you like. We've chosen grapes in one, and floating flowers in the other. You can even float tea lights for a soft, harvest glow. The possibilities are endless! 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cranberry up Your Thanksgiving Meal!

Cheryl Tallman

Cranberry up your Thanksgiving meal by trying some of these tasty and simple ideas.

1. Football snack: Add dried cranberries to any nut mixture. 
2. Salad: Sprinkle dried cranberries on mixed green or spinach salad. The sweetness of the cranberries is terrific with any vinaigrette dressing and is a great compliment to crumbled blue cheese or goat cheese. 
3. Side dish: Add dried cranberries to your favorite stuffing, wild rice, or couscous recipe. 
4. Veggie: Sauté onions, diced zucchini and dried cranberries in olive oil. Season with a dash of turmeric, cinnamon, and rep pepper flakes. Great taste and awesome color! 
5. All American apple pie: Add ½ cup of fresh cranberries to your favorite apple pie recipe. 
6. Treat the whole family to fresh cranberry sauce: Here is a simple recipe that can be made ahead of time. 

Easy Cranberry SauceIngredients:
16 ounces fresh cranberries
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup cranberry juice
1/2 cup fresh orange juice or water 
Combine ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the berries pop open (about 10 minutes). Skim the foam off the surface with a metal spoon and discard. Cool to room temperature. 
Storage: Refrigerate, covered, for up to three months.

All about cranberries
The cranberry is a Native American fruit that grows on trailing vines like a strawberry, and thrives in wetland areas, called bogs. Cranberries are harvested in September and October. The most common technique for harvesting is known as a "wet" harvest, which involves flooding the bogs with water to float the fruit for easy collection. During the winter the frozen water insulates and protects the vines. 
The North American cranberry has a distinguished history. Native Americans used cranberries as food, in ceremonies, and medicinally. Revolutionary War veteran Henry Hall planted the first commercial cranberry beds in Dennis, Massachusetts in 1816. Today they are farmed on approximately 40,000 acres across the northern United States and Canada. 
Cranberries are available in a variety of product forms including: fresh, juice, dried and sauce. Cranberries are considered a healthy fruit. They contain no cholesterol and virtually no fat, and are low in sodium. In addition, they contain significant amounts of antioxidants and other phytonutrients that may help protect against heart disease, cancer, aging and other diseases. Cranberries also contain bacteria-blocking compounds that are helpful in preventing urinary tract infections, and possibly ulcers and gum disease. 
Age to introduce: Over 12 months (cooked/juice/sauce). Over 18 months (dried).

Here are a few recipes kids  - and grown-ups  -- will love for dipping.

Creamy Cranberry Dipping Sauce
3/4 cup 100 percent cranberry raspberry (or grape) juice
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt 

Place juice into a small saucepan. Boil until reduced to a syrup (about 3 tablespoons). Allow to cool. Add syrup to remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Chill and serve with a variety of fresh fruit slices. 

Cranberry Mustard Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup jellied cranberry sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar 

Combine ingredients in a small mixing bowl, whisking until smooth. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serve with raw/blanched veggies, baked tofu, chicken fingers or fish sticks. 

About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new book So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at for more delicious tips.

Thanksgiving Recipes

Non-Traditional Additions to Your Holiday Meal

Cheryl Tallman

Adding a warm cup of delicious soup to your holiday menu can help to stimulate the appetite without filling you up. Homemade soups are a great way to kick off your holiday meal, and they make great leftovers for a light lunch. And while pies are the norm at the Thanksgiving table, starting your own tradition with a unique dessert can create a memorable finish with annual requests for more. Delight in the flavors of the season with these yummy recipes.

Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Soup 
The bright orange color of butternut squash is a seasonal addition to your holiday meal. For families with babies over 8 months old, this soup can be easily made into baby food by thickening it with mashed rice, potato, or baby cereal. 
  • 1 Large or 2 small butternut squash (4 lb) 
  • 20 garlic cloves ,peeled 
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil 
  • ¼ cup water 
  • 4 cups (32oz.) chicken broth 
  • 1 can (12oz.) coconut milk or 1 cup half & half 
  • 1 tsp. tarragon 
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste 
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated 
  • Chives or Parsley, chopped as garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds and fibers. Using a vegetable peeler or a paring knife, remove the skin from the squash and cut the flesh into 1-inch thick slices.

In a roasting pan, combine the squash and garlic cloves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and toss with a spoon until well coated. Pour in the water. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the squash and garlic are soft and golden, about 50-60 minutes. Add a bit more water if the squash begins to look dry or scorched. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Combine roasted squash and garlic with 2 cups of the stock in a blender or food processor. Puree until very smooth, about 1 minute. (You may need to work in batches to prevent overflowing the blender). Transfer the puree to a large soup pan. Stir in the remaining soup stock, coconut milk (or Half & Half), tarragon, and lemon zest. 

To serve, warm soup thoroughly and ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle with chopped chives or parsley.

Makes 8 servings

Note: Can be made 1-2 days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator or frozen up to 2 months.

Soft Pumpkin Cookies
A nice alternative to pumpkin pie, these soft cookies are a delightful treat. The little ones can help with this easy recipe. Make them in advance and freeze them to seal in freshness. The cookies will thaw in one hour at room temperature. You are sure to create smiles with this dessert. 

  • 2-1/2 cups flour 
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 
  • 1 tsp. baking powder 
  • 1 ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar 
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened 
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
  • Orange Glaze (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease baking sheets. 
Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice and salt in medium bowl. Beat sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets. 

Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Drizzle Orange Glaze over cookies. 

Combine 1-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 2 to 3 tablespoons orange juice and 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel in medium bowl until smooth.

Makes 20 cookies.

Fall Favorite Potato Hash
As a distant cousin to the potato, sweet potatoes have a flavor all their own plus Vitamin A and beta-carotene for added goodness. Try cooking with a combination of potatoes for a comforting winter meal. Here's a simple hash recipe using Yukon Gold (Yellow) and Sweet Potatoes.

  • 1 lb (about 10 small or 5 medium) Yukon Gold Potatoes, diced 
  • 1 large or 2 medium Sweet Potatoes, peeled and diced 
  • 1/2 large sweet onion, diced 
  • 4 oz. package Shitake Mushrooms, stems removed and sliced 
  • 3 Tbsp. cooking oil 
  • 1/3 -1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock 
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
Heat cooking oil in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using a wooden spoon, toss the mixture to coat it with the oil. 
Add the stock to the mixture and bring to a boil. Cover and cook until potatoes are done, about 7 minutes. Remove the lid and test potatoes with a fork. They are done if the fork slides easily into the potato. 

Continue to cook with the lid off over medium-high heat about 7-10 minutes. Toss gently 1-2 times with a wooden spoon. Any liquid in the pan will evaporate and the potatoes will begin to brown and crisp around their edges. Serve hot.

Makes 6 servings.

About the author: Cheryl Tallman is the co-founder of Fresh Baby, creators of the award-winning So Easy Baby Food Kit, and author of the So Easy Baby Food and the new book So Easy Toddler Food: Survival Tips and Simple Recipes for the Toddler Years. Visit Cheryl online at for more delicious tips.