Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Safety

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP

Winter is here, so is the snow, ice and frigid temperatures, and while winter activities may seem mundane, they can be dangerous. Winter wonderland offers plenty opportunities for various outdoor activities than can be fun, but may present all of us with safety challenges. 

Accidents are the most obvious safety issue of winter outdoor activities. However, let’s not forget frostbite, hypothermia, and heart attack. I always tell my patients that prevention is the best medicine. In agreement with this principle, I have outlined important safety measures below that you should take this winter to keep yourself and your family safe.

Before You Head Outside
- Dress in light layers, paying special attention to your nose, ears, hands, and feet.
- Wear a hat, as the most heat escapes our bodies through the head!
- Wear gloves and thick/warm socks.
- Cover lips/cheeks with a thin layer of Vaseline or Eucerin to prevent excessive skip drying and chapping.
- Check out these safety tips for sledding: Winter Sledding Safety Tips
- Check out these safety tips on ice safety: Danger Thin Ice

Getting Ready To Shovel
- Snow shoveling increases heart rate and blood pressure, so if you have a heart condition or are out of shape, do not shovel unless your health care provider says that you can.

- If you are over 40 years old, or physically inactive, check with your health care provider before trying to shovel your driveway.

- Snow shoveling is aerobic activity, so warm up before you grab the shovel.

- Pace yourself! Take frequent breaks and drink fluid to prevent dehydration.

- If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of heart attack, stop shoveling and immediately seek emergency care!

- Pushing snow in front of you is easier on your back than lifting and throwing it.

- If you have to lift, use proper body mechanics: squat, bend knees, and lift with your back straight. Scoop some snow, and walk to where you want to dispose of it. Throwing snow with a shovel, especially if you twist your body, puts too much stress on your back.

- Before you operate a snow blower, read the instructions. The most important thing to remember: Never stick you fingers in the snow blower to remove impacted snow! Use a stick instead.

When On The Road 
Have these emergency items in the car with you at all times in winter:
- Cell phone
- Flashlight
- Jumper cables
- Snow scraper/brush
- Small shovel
- Blankets
- Flare
- Sand or cat litter for traction

For long car trips, pack water, energy bars, food, extra blankets, and necessary medications.

When you stay outside on cold winter days, come inside every half hour to warm up. Every couple of hours drink a cup of hot cocoa or broth. Do not drink caffeine. Warming up will prevent hypothermia.

What is hypothermia?
Hypothermia is a term to describe low body temperature that results from extended exposure to cold temperatures. Each year over 700 people die from hypothermia, so it’s important to be aware of it and know how to prevent it. About half of deaths due to hypothermia occur among people younger than 65 years of age. However, anybody is at risk in wintertime, so take steps to prevent it!

How to prevent hypothermia?
- Dress in light layers.
- Wear gloves, hat, thick/warm socks, and water proof shoes.
- Go indoors every half hour to warm up.
- Every couple of hours, have hot cocoa or broth.
- If you are cold, stay indoors, and do not venture out again until you warm up adequately.

What is frostbite?
Frostbite results from exposure to freezing temperatures. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in the affected area, and it may settle in as little as 20 minutes! Frostbite can lead to permanent damage of the affected area, and if severe, may lead to amputation. 

Signs and symptoms of frostbite: numbness, waxy white or grayish-yellow skin. If you see these signs, seek medical care right away. If you cannot see a health care provider immediately and have no signs of hypothermia, get into a warm room right away, do not walk on frostbitten toes as it may increase damage, immerse the affected area in warm water, do not rub it, do not use a heating pad. If hypothermia settles in, seek immediate medical attention!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How To Talk To Your Teen About Relationships

Heather Mikkelsen

As contemporary parents of teens, we are pretty progressive. We have used anatomically correct terms for body parts since our children can remember. We’ve banished “The Sex Talk” from our collective vocabulary, understanding that it is a conversation that is ongoing. But there is one area we may overlook in our zest to pass on our understanding of hard science. We need to talk to our teens about relationships.

When we talk to our teens about abstinence and delaying sex, we make marriage the end goal. However, we know that marriage does not necessarily create a healthy relationship, but a successful marriage cannot exist without one. So, what does a good relationship look like?

You may feel as if you are teetering on the brink of “do as I say and not as I do” when the conversation about relationships begins with your teenager. Don’t be afraid to admit your own struggles. Demonstrate kindness with yourself as it will heal you and model this behavior for your children. Keep talking even if it seems they aren’t listening. By doing that, you are creating a space for future conversations and letting them know that this is not an area you are afraid to explore with them.

Below, find excerpts from my book Be Smart that I hope will give you some ideas for ways to begin a dialogue with your teens about relationships.

When your teen comes to you to talk about a friend, a break-up, or any struggle, comfort her as you would a friend, listening and reassuring, being present while she finds her own answers. I tell myself to listen with heart. To me, this means listening with compassion, but respecting the other person’s need to experience this. The widening of one’s frame of reference can be painful. Just be there for your child.

Teach your teen that the most important relationship he or she will ever have is that with oneself. Joseph Campbell said, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are." It takes practice to do this, because it is much more common and acceptable to be self-critical than respectful and loving. Teach your teen to treat the self lovingly and with respect, and they will never settle for anything less in future relationships.

Every relationship is a tapestry of experiences, history, and feelings. Some of the most important ingredients of a quality relationship are mutual trust, respect, dialogue, desires, honesty, and faithfulness. Without these the relationship will run out of steam. Teach your teen to be observant of the self and the other person, learn, and then use this new knowledge to improve every relationship.

What readers are saying about Heather's book, Be Smart (Your Nurse Practitioner's Guide to Sexual Health and Well-being):

"This book is perfect! I'm a college freshman and I plan on taking it with me for a reference for my friends and I for any questions that we encounter! Finally someone knows what they are talking about and put it in a non-embarrassing manner! Thanks Heather! You're the best!" ~ Elizabeth Harkey

"Be Smart is a well written and informative book for all young adults. It is the book you wish every teenager could read before becoming sexually active. Heather Mikkelsen has provided parents with the perfect handbook to give to our children which fills the gaps in the information they are receiving from both home and school. Cheers!" ~ Patricia A. Cook

"As a nurse, I have worked to educate adolescents and adults about sexual health and well-being, often struggling to explain health practices and processes in a way my patients can understand. I believe this book has a great deal to offer readers from puberty and onward; clearly answering the sexual health questions many of us either don't know how to discuss or don't give needed attention. This book gives understandable, to-the-point info in a non-judgmental way which I believe is absolutely necessary in reaching teenagers (and many adults). Highly recommend!" ~ Pazoo Xiong
Heather Mikkelsen has been a Family Nurse Practitioner for ten years. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and her graduate degrees from San Diego State University and University of California San Diego. She currently works in a setting where she sees primarily adolescent patients. It was their honesty and questions that lead to the writing of her book Be Smart (Your Nurse Practitioner’s Guide to Sexual Health and Well-being).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Probiotic Use in Children

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP

In today’s medically savvy society, parents often seek "natural" remedies for health ailments, or to help their children feel better. They also reach for supplements in an attempt to improve health and seek "super foods" to promote wellness.

"Super foods," known as functional foods, describe foods or nutrients that promote health beyond providing nutrition. Probiotics are considered to be a functional food, and in the recent years they have received increased attention from the scientific and general communities.

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as live organisms, usually bacteria, that are used to change or re-establish the intestinal or gut flora and improve our health. In the early 20th century, a Russian scientist and Nobel laureate Eli Metchnikoff, PhD proposed that ingestion of certain bacteria, like those that come from fermented milk, had a beneficial impact on health. Today we have scientific evidence that certain bacteria, probiotics, play a beneficial role in certain diseases in adults and children. For example, there is compelling evidence that probiotics are effective in the treatment of viral and antibiotic induced diarrhea.

Every year thousands of children become ill with gastroenteritis, or "the stomach flu." They experience a rapid onset of watery diarrhea with vomiting, nausea, abdominal pain, and fever. Research indicates that in the United States diarrhea is associated with 150,000 to 170,000 hospitalizations annually. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, scientists estimate that 1 out of 23-27 children will be hospitalized with diarrhea by age 5.

Recent scientific findings indicate that probiotics are extremely effective in preventing acute diarrhea in children. They are also effective when administered during the early stages of viral diarrhea.

Antibiotic treatments often lead to the disruption of intestinal flora and cause diarrhea. Studies show that the administration of probiotics to children taking antibiotics reduces the risk of diarrhea.

So far, the research on probiotic use in the treatment of irritable bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or eczema shows no benefit of probiotic use to prevent or alleviate symptoms.

Most probiotics have been used in foods like yogurt and kefir and have a long-standing history of safety. Therefore, they are considered safe for use by healthy people. Individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those with chronic diseases or undergoing chemotherapy, should not take probiotics, as there have been reports of probiotic-associated sepsis and endocarditis.

One thing to remember is that probiotics are not regulated by the FDA, thus over-the-counter products may vary widely in quality. Infant formula containing B. lactis is the only exception. The FDA considers it safe to use in infants.

The bottom line is that probiotics may be beneficial for certain diseases, but may prove harmful for certain individuals. Therefore, before considering a probiotic supplement, talk to your health care provider.

Monday, December 17, 2012

When To Keep Your Child Home From School

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP

Has your child ever been sent home from school because of "pink eye?" Did you know that conjunctivitis DOES NOT warrant immediate exclusion from school?

Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated its guidelines for school exclusion due to infectious diseases. Here is what you need to know about the recommendations on when your child should stay home when sick. Bear in mind that these are just recommendations and your school’s policy might differ.

According to the AAP, children with fever should not be excluded from school unless they exhibit behavioral changes, or other signs and symptoms of illness. The exception is infants younger than 4 months of age with unexplained fever.

Most respiratory illnesses do not require exclusion. However, if there is a persistent cough or difficulties breathing, your child should be evaluated by her health care provider as soon as possible.

If your child is in pain, he/she should stay at home.

If your child is vomiting, you should keep her at home until she stops and has not vomited for 24 hours.

The AAP recommends that children in diapers who have diarrhea may remain in daycare if the diarrhea is contained in the diaper and the child has no more than two abnormal stools above what she normally has.

This guideline includes ALL skin infections, including those caused by MRSA. Your child should be excluded from school only if the infection is accompanied by a fever or behavior change.

Once the rash of fifth’s disease appears, your child is not contagious. Therefore, she should not be excluded from school.

According to the AAP, children should be excluded only if they have sores in the mouth and are drooling, or if they have a rash and a fever.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Holiday Salads

Cheryl Tallman  

Including a salad on your Holiday dinner menu offers guests a pleasant balance to some of the more traditionally heavy side dishes.  Ensure your salad pairs nicely with the rest of the feast by including traditional holiday ingredients such as dried fruits, nuts, apples, and beets.

Salads and dressings can be made ahead and refrigerated until you are ready to serve. For maximum freshness, toss the dressing into the salad just before serving (unless the recipe specifically states otherwise). 

Waldorf Salad
In the 1890's, the famed Waldorf Salad was invented by the maître d'hôtel of the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. Our version includes carrots, apples and grapes making it kid-friendly. 
Salad Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups julienne or shredded carrots 
1 apple peeled, cored and diced 
2 tsp lemon juice 
10-12 seedless grapes, cut in half 
¼ cup chopped dates 
¼ cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Directions: Toss apple and lemon juice in a medium sized salad bowl.  Add remaining ingredients and gently toss. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Waldorf Dressing
1/3 cup mayonnaise 
2 tsp. sugar 
1 Tbsp lime juice 
1 Tbsp olive oil
Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Before Serving: Drizzle dressing over salad ingredients and toss gently. 


Broccoli Slaw
This recipe uses store-bought broccoli slaw mix and ramen noodles. It's simple and full of great flavor.
Salad Ingredients:
Directions: Crush ramen noodles.  In a skillet, heat butter, walnuts and ramen noodles over medium heat.  Stir constantly until golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Drain on paper towel and cool. Set aside at room temperature until just before serving.

Salad Ingredients:
¼ cup butter 
1 cup chopped walnuts 
1 3-oz package of ramen noodles, chicken flavored 
1 16 oz. package shredded broccoli slaw mix 
¼ cup thin sliced sweet onion 
2 Tbsp olive oil 
2 Tbsp sugar 
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar 
2 Tbsp soy sauce 
Chicken flavored seasoning packet from Ramen noodles
In saucepan, combine all ingredients over medium heat.  Stir constantly until sugar dissolves about 2 minutes.  Set aside at room temperature until just before serving.

Before Serving: Toss broccoli slaw mix and onions together in salad bowl. Toss nut mixture into salad mixture. Whisk the dressing and drizzle it over the salad ingredients and toss gently. 

Spinach & Beet Salad
This colorful salad is a more traditional tossed green salad with a holiday lift. 


9-12 oz baby spinach, washed and dried 
½ cup canned beets, drained, sliced or julienned 
½ cup mandarin oranges, drained 
¼ cup feta or blue cheese, crumbled 
¼ cup sunflower seeds 
¼ cup balsamic vinegar 
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil 
1 Tbsp sugar 
1 Tbsp minced garlic 
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped 
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in an airtight container, cover and shake. Refrigerate until ready to use. (Dressing can be made a day ahead). 

Before serving: Whisk salad dressing and toss with spinach leaves.  Spread spinach on a large platter or flat bowl.  Add beets and oranges on top of spinach. Sprinkle cheese and sunflower seeds.  Serve.

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.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Parenting on the Fly: The Joys of Holiday Air Travel

Erik Fisher, PhD
Ahhh, the joys of holiday air travel. So much to do before you leave, and add the stress of rushing around to the airport and through security. Then add potential stress of family conflict when you get there. Finally add your kids to this holiday cocktail and it can become an experiment in hair loss.
So, just what can you do to keep your sanity and your hair line intact?
Many parents know and are prepared for the fact that many air travelers feel a sense of dread when they see infants and young children board a plane. Because of this, parents can be prepared for the worst instead of expecting the best. So just how can you make the most of this situation and make your holiday travel pleasurable for you, your children, and the passengers around you?
Here are my Top Ten Tips and Tricks to help you parents out there on your flight.
1. Prepare your kids for the flight. Start to talk about air travel with your kids and what they should expect days in advance.  Don't think your child is too young to understand what you are talking about.  Try to point out pictures of planes in books, on television or movies, and let them know where their destination is and what they will be doing there. Children often need to be prepared for new events and/or change, and when they know what to expect, they often adapt to it quicker than if they were not prepared. Add the excitement of the holidays to this, and kids can be off the hook.
2. Bring your own snacks/drinks on your trip. And plenty of them. You never know when you may be delayed or stuck on the tarmac or at the gate and food / drink is not available. When your kids feel hungry, there is often no stopping their discomfort, and patience is not a virtue that many of your kids understand.
However, on my recent trip I was able to discuss the concept of patience with my 2 year-old daughter. She wanted get on the plane (unrelated to the food issue), but it was not time to board. She saw other people boarding and began to cry and plead to get on the plane. I talked about patience and waiting. I said that patience is when someone waits for something and they choose not to feel upset. She stopped crying and started saying “patience… wait…”.  The biggest disservice I feel we do with our children is to not believe that they can understand concepts. The second disservice is getting upset when we set our expectations too high.
3. Realize that you are taking your child out of their normal routine. Keep in mind how they respond to change in other situations involving change, and don't expect them to behave any differently. Be aware of your child's temperament (easy, slow to warm up, or difficult or any mix of the three), and know that even if they normally do behave well, they may react out of character when under stress.
4. Note that when you are under stress, your children are under stress. You cannot avoid this. Travel is rough enough, but visiting family can add to the undercurrent of your stress. Your children are often a mirror for you, whether you recognize it or not.  In my work with children and families, I can confidently say that most of the time that children are having challenges, it is because the parents are also having challenges in some way.  Check your own attitude and your feelings about traveling with your children before you leave, and check in with yourself or spouse many times throughout your flight, if necessary.  If you are having a tough time with your stress, calmly let your kids know and be honest about it.  If you know that you may feel stress before you take a flight, prepare yourself and prepare with different strategies to keep your kids and yourself cool.
5. Don't blame your kids for your stress. This is your stress, and even if they are doing things to contribute to how you're feeling, be careful not to take it out on them. When parents are in public situations, they're less likely to outwardly lose their temper, however sometimes they may say things or do things to try to quiet their children. Don’t make threats or promises that you will not or cannot follow through on.  Realize that you are affecting their trust in you and are likely using fear or manipulation to gain control.  While this may get you what you want in the short run, it can have long-term consequences on your relationship.
6. Don’t expect the friendly passenger to baby-sit your child the entire flight. There are many passengers who enjoy kids and will talk with them and play peek-a-boo for a few minutes, but they don’t want to spend their flight with your kids. The hard part is finding the balance. Some parents are almost militant about not letting their kids talk to or play with passengers, because some don’t trust others or feel afraid of upsetting fellow passengers.  So ask the passenger if they mind your child interacting with them for a few minutes. You can usually glean their feelings from their response or body language. Put a cap on your child’s play time with other passengers so as to not over extend their welcome. It also helps your kids learn limits and boundaries. If they want to play later with the passenger, just ask the passenger again. We once had a passenger ask if our daughter could sit on their lap after a few balanced interactions. We were fine with this, because we had spent the past hour talking with them and we were right there.
7. Make sure you have activities to keep your kids occupied. Even if your kids are not interested in what you may have brought or planned. Instead of feeling upset, get creative. The plane is a great place to teach about colors, letters, numbers and also to play “I Spy”. One of my favorite games is to play who can be quiet the longest. Make up games, and see if your children can make up games too. The more that your children feel invested in what you are doing, the better response you will get.
8. Use technology in moderation. There are a number of parents who bring DVD players or game systems for their kids, and from the moment that they get on the plane until the moment they land, their kids are glued in front of the DVD player or game system. I am not a proponent of these to the degree that they are often used. You are developing habits that your kids are going to have possibly for a lifetime. Be careful not to develop a tendency for your child to bury themselves. The plane flight is a great time to interact with your kids. You have a captive audience. Make sure you pay attention to all of your kids. While kids who are younger may need attention for their needs, older kids also require attention and communication. Take the time to talk to your kids about school, friends, dreams, and hopes.
9. Create an area where your child can move. You don’t have to keep them tethered to their seat, and you don’t want to let them wander the plane. Let them know their boundary and have them stick to it. Some kids cannot sit in their seat for an entire flight, and if you expect them to, you are setting all of you up for failure. Give your kids a little space to be kids, but put limits around it. If they want to stand or move a little, show them their area to move around in when the seatbelt light is off. If it is time to sit when the seat belt light is on and they do not want to, have a consequence in place.  If your kids get upset and cry or scream, you have to be willing to weather this storm so that they understand the limits of their behavior. Keep in mind that you are setting the standard not only for this flight, but for all future flights.
10. Remember that your kids are only young once. See the wisdom in creating positive memories, especially on these special events and seasons. Find the joys in your children and bring that energy into your experience, not just on your flight but every day.
About the Author: Erik Fisher, PhD, aka Dr. E…, is a licensed psychologist and author of two books whose work has been featured NBC, CBS, FOX and CNN. Visit him at

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bullying and Beyond: How to Stop Violent Behavior

Lisa Firestone, PhD

Every day, an average of 160,000 children in the United States stay home from school for fear of being bullied. Last year, bullying made national headlines when physical and emotional violence towards LGBT teenagers led to a series of painful suicides. The immediate response to this was impressive. Dan Savage created the “It Gets Better Project” and inspired thousands of people, from Adam Lambert to President Obama, to send in videos about their own experiences with teenage bullying, violence and prejudice. The issue of bullying even made primetime television on popular shows, like “Glee.” The public outcry against bullying was a positive movement, but in its wake we must continue seeking ways to stop violence.

Violence is a behavior we can all help prevent. While there is no single easy solution to ending violence, raising our awareness and learning how to deal with violent behavior can help prevent and reduce violent acts.
The first step in preventing violence is to learn the warning signs that indicate whether someone is likely to become violent. These warning signs often include a history of early aggressive behavior, such as enjoying hurting animals, expressions of violence in drawings and writings, as well as physical fighting with siblings and peers. Other warning signs have to do with feeling constantly disrespected and thinking that a person has to be tough to get respect. These patterns of belief, along with the notion that violence is an acceptable solution, often mean the difference between someone having occasional violent thoughts and someone who does not hesitate to act on aggressive impulses. Similarly, individuals with antisocial beliefs and attitudes, who have a hard time acknowledging and relating to other people’s feelings, tend to be much more inclined to commit violence.
People who lose their temper consistently and have a hard time controlling their behavior are more likely to act destructively. Other serious warning signs include making plans or announcing desires to hurt others, carrying a weapon and knowing peers affiliated with gangs. Often an increase in emotional distress and agitation can be the tipping point in someone acting out violently. Similarly, an increase in drugs or alcohol can often trigger violent behavior.
If you know someone who is exhibiting these characteristics, it is important to understand how to deal with the warning signs. First and foremost, you must be safe and protect yourself by not spending time alone with that person. Tell someone you respect and trust about your concerns and ask for their help. Whether you choose to confide in a family member, a counselor, a member of the law enforcement or a friend, it is also a good idea to seek help from an experienced professional.
If you are worried someone is going to become violent, it is important to ask direct questions about the individual's history of violent behavior, as well as their current thinking and feelings. Have they ever hurt someone in the past? Do they have plans to hurt someone now? The more specific your questions are, the better you can assess the level of risk. If it is possible to remove the person from the situation that is making them feel violent without putting yourself in danger, you should do so. For example if someone is having violent thoughts about a domestic partner, you should alert the partner. If a child is having violent thoughts toward classmates, you should keep them out of school until they have received help.
If you notice yourself feeling violent, there are ways you can deal with your anger to reduce the chances of becoming violent. Learn to talk about your feelings. Find a trusted friend or family member and begin to discuss your violent thoughts so that you can discover where they are coming from. Understanding the source of our feelings often diffuses them and keeps us from acting destructively. When you find yourself in a conflict, express yourself calmly without losing your temper or fighting. Make an effort to understand the situation from the other person's point of view. Developing our capacity to feel empathy makes us less inclined to hurt each other. Most importantly, consider the consequences of acting violently. Stop and think before you act.
Although, ideally we could stop violence by observing warning signs and defusing violent behavior before it is acted upon, it is also essential for us to know what to do when someone does become violent. Standing up to violence is critical to breaking the pattern and preventing future outbursts. If someone is threatening you with violence, it is important to remain calm and confident in the face of fear. Take a deep breath and stand up tall, maintain eye-contact and speak with a calm and assertive voice. Do not engage in any argument and avoid making threats, using provocative language and name-calling. Reply briefly and directly. Remove yourself from the situation, and then seek help.
There are three types of people involved in a violent situation: the perpetrator, the victim and the bystander. Our society is largely made up of bystanders -- people who observe violent or bullying behavior, but do little or nothing to stop it. The phrase "innocent bystander" is ironic; in reality, bystanders are as guilty as perpetrators when it comes to perpetuating the patterns of violence in this country.
To this day, domestic violence is still the leading cause of injury to women in the United States, and an average of 15 teenagers die from violent causes in the U.S. each day. America has a serious problem when it comes to violence. Our only hope of breaking the pattern is to provide our children with an emotional education and do away with the concept of the "innocent bystander."
By breaking out of our comfort zones and taking a powerful stance against violence, each of us can help prevent it. When it comes to violence, there is truly no excuse for looking the other way.

About the Author: Lisa Firestone, PhD, is the Director of Research and Education for The Glendon Association. Since 1987, she has been involved in clinical training and applied research in suicide and violence. In collaboration with Dr. Robert Firestone, her studies resulted in the development of the Firestone Assessment of Self-Destructive Thoughts (FAST) and the Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts (FAVT). Dr. Firestone has published numerous professional articles, and most recently was the co-author of the books: Sex and Love in Intimate Relationships (APA Books, 2006),Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice(New Harbinger, 2002), and Creating a Life of Meaning and Compassion: The Wisdom of Psychotherapy (APA Books, 2003).

Reprinted with permission from

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Baby’s First Hanukkah

Cheryl Tallman

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a celebration of the rededication of the Holy Temple after it was reclaimed from the Syrian-Greeks more than 21 centuries ago.  Fried foods are traditional fare during Hanukkah, commemorating the miracle of the Hanukkah oil that lasted eight days when it should have only last one. 
Here are some ideas and recipes on how to include your little ones in the flavors of Hanukkah. 

Baby’s Age:  about 6 months
Common first food purees that have a Hanukkah flavor include: 
  • Applesauce
  • Green Beans
  • Broccoli

Broccoli Puree:
Prep 1 ½ pounds of fresh broccoli by washing and cutting off the stalk ends.  Cut the broccoli into one inch chunks.  If fresh broccoli is not available, use 20 ounces of frozen, already cut, broccoli instead. 

There are two ways to cook the broccoli before pureeing.

Microwave: Place the broccoli in a microwave-safe dish with 2 Tablespoons of water. Cover with a lid. Cook on HIGH for 8-10 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. The broccoli is done if a fork slides easily into them or they can be mashed easily. Place the broccoli, cooking juice, and 2 Tablespoons of water into a blender or food processor.

Stove: Pour 1½ cups of water in a large saucepan. Put a steamer basket in the saucepan. Place broccoli pieces in the steamer basket. Cover the saucepan and place it on a stove burner. Set the burner temperature to HIGH and bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for the suggested cooking time in the table. Don’t let the water boil away. Check the water level during cooking and add more water if needed. Let stand for 5 minutes. The broccoli is done if a fork slides easily into it or it can be mashed easily. Place the vegetables and 4 Tablespoons of cooking juice into a blender or food processor.
Once your broccoli is cooked and cooled you can puree it.  Puree broccoli in the blender or food processor to a smooth texture. You may need to add ¼ to ½ cup of additional water to get a smooth texture. At least once during the puree process, stop the appliance and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Spoon the pureed broccoli into ice cube trays and cover them. Put them in the freezer for 8 to 10 hours or overnight.
Baby’s Age: 7-12 Months: 

Instead of Latkes, one of the most common Hanukkah foods, try this delicious puree for baby. 

Kohlrabi-Potato Puree
Kohlrabi tastes similar to the stems of broccoli. When choosing kohlrabi at the market, look for kohlrabi bulbs that are about 2½ inches in diameter. Any larger and the skin may be tough and the insides can be woody.

  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 kohlrabi bulbs (about 2-1/2 inch wide each) 
  • 1/4 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 medium button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock

Wash, peel and cut potatoes into 1-inch chunks. Remove leaves and stems from Kohlrabi bulbs, wash, peel and cut them into 1-inch chunks.

Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add potato and kohlrabi chunks. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 15-20 minutes. To check if they are done, a fork should slide through the pieces easily. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion, mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté over medium-low heat until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Drain potato and kohlrabi and place in a food processor or blender. Add soup stock and puree  until smooth, adding more or less liquid to achieve desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the mixture into So Easy Storage Trays, Cover and Freeze.

To serve: Defrost cubes and warm slightly.

Older babies who are already enjoying finger foods and toddlers will enjoy a hearty applesauce and these delicious potato pancakes. 

Toddler Treat: Potato Pancakes 
  • 2 medium Russet potatoes
  • 2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp of each salt and pepper
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • Perfect Applesauce (see below for recipe)
Wash, peel and grate potatoes (for grating use a box grater or a food processor). In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat the egg, scallions, flour, salt, pepper, nutmeg and egg. Add potatoes and mix thoroughly.
Pour oil into a large, frying pan. The oil should cover the bottom of the pan about 1/8-inch deep. Heat oil on medium high heat.  Using about 1/3 cup, drop the potato mixture into hot oil and flatten with the back of a spoon. Fry 3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and keep warm in low oven until serving time. Repeat until all potato mixture is used.
Makes about 8 potato pancakes.  Serve warm with applesauce

Perfect Applesauce
  • 4 cooking apples (such as Golden Delicious or McIntosh)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
  • 1/3 cup water                                                                                          
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
Wash, peel, and remove the core from the apples
Place apples, butter, sugar, water and cinnamon in a heavy pan.
Cook on low heat until apples are soft and mushy, about 25-30 minutes.

Make about 3 cups, 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.

Festive Vegetable Side Dishes

Cheryl Tallman

Side dishes made with lightly cooked fresh vegetables can add rich flavor, festive color and a dose of delicious nutrition to your holiday dinner table.  Try a few of these side dish recipes:

Mashed Potatoes & Parsnips
4 medium/large baking potatoes 
3 medium parsnips 
5-7 garlic cloves, peeled 
4 cups (32 oz) Chicken broth 
4 Tbsp butter or margarine 
Salt and pepper to taste 

Directions: Wash and peel the potatoes and parsnips. Cut them into 2-inch chunks and place them and the garlic cloves in a 5 qt. stockpot; add chicken broth until it covers the potatoes. Set pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 12-15 minutes, until a fork slides easily through the potatoes. Drain potatoes, reserving ¾ cup of the cooking liquid. Mash the potato-parsnip mixture with a potato masher until smooth and lump-free. Stir in butter or margarine. Add the reserved liquid ¼ cup at a time, until potatoes have a creamy, whipped texture. Serves 4-6.

Green Beans with Corn & Bacon
2 lbs green beans 
1 ear sweet corn, kernels cut off cob 
1 clove garlic, minced 
¼ cup onion, diced 
3 strips bacon 
2 Tbsp butter 
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions: Slice bacon into small (1/2 inch) pieces and fry in saucepan until crispy.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Set aside.

Leave 1-2 Tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan, add garlic, onion and corn kernels. Saute about 5 minutes over medium high heat.  

Wash green beans and remove ends.  Place beans in microwave-safe dish, cover and cook on HIGH for 3-4 minutes (until bright green and crisp tender). Toss with butter and place in serving dish. Spoon the corn mixture over the green beans and sprinkle with bacon bits. Serve. 

Mixed Mushroom Casserole 
2 Tbsp of olive oil 
1 pound mushrooms (different varieties) 
1 small onion, chopped 
1 cup chicken broth 
1 tsp Italian seasoning or Herbs de Provence 
Juice of ½ lemon 
Salt & pepper, to taste 
½ cup breadcrumbs (panko crumbs preferred) 
1 Tbsp butter
Directions: Clean and slice mushrooms.  In large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat, add mushrooms, onion, chicken broth, seasoning and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and reduce liquid by about half. Season with salt and pepper.  Turn mixture into an oven-proof casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs and dot with butter. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. If needed, broil for 1-2 minutes to brown bread crumbs.  Serve.

Spinach and Sweet Potato Risotto
Risotto (see recipe below) 
1 medium sweet potato, diced 
2 cups of fresh spinach, washed and chopped 
3 Tbsp. olive oil 
Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions: Prepare risotto using recipe below. In a separate pan, sauté the diced sweet potato in the olive oil until soft and nicely browned (about 10 minutes over medium-high heat), add the chopped spinach. Toss gently and let the spinach wilt in the pan. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix sweet potato-spinach mixture with risotto. Serve.

1 ½ cups white arborio rice 
1 Tbsp. olive oil 
1 large onion, chopped 
1/2 cup white wine 
5 cups hot chicken broth 
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions: Heat olive oil in a heavy non-stick 2-quart pot at medium heat. Add onion and sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Add rice and stir until grains are coated with oil.  Add wine and stir constantly on medium heat until wine is absorbed. Add 1 cup hot stock or water, stirring until liquid is absorbed. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes and adding the remaining liquid 1 cup at a time. This rice will create its own creamy sauce. Remove from heat, stir in cheese. 

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.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dinner Advice for the Hectic Holiday Season

Cheryl Tallman

Homemade foods have always been healthier than processed, prepared, or restaurant meals which are generally much higher in fat, salt and calories than home cooked foods.  Eating too much of these unhealthy foods can pack on the Holiday pounds and slow your kids down at school. 
But let’s face it, the days leading up to the holidays are hectic. Getting a home cooked dinner on the table during the holidays may seem to be an impossible feat, but here are few tips to ease the burden of getting dinner on the table during the hectic holiday season: 
  • The holidays are a great time to entertain with friends. Make dinner at home a reason to get together.  Team up with a friend and have a family dinner at their house one night and switch to your house on another. Divide up the menu between families and have each family bring a dish. 
  • The Holidays are a great time to make family memories. Get closer to your kids. Invite them into the kitchen and teach them a few things about cooking. It’s a life skill that they will certainly thank you for some day. Some of the meals you make together can become family traditions for Holidays to come!
  • Invest in a slow cooker. This is fabulous machine for busy families on-the-go. A slow cooker allows you to make simple, one-dish meals in a snap.  Simply prep the ingredients in the morning, turn the slow cooker on and come home to a delicious ready-to- eat dinner.
  • Make foods in advance and freeze them in family sizes and individual servings too. Have some fun and cook with a friend, double each other’s recipes, and split up the meals for both families.
  • The clean and prep is often the most time consuming part of cooking. Buy pre-washed veggies in the produce section of stores. The “open and steam” convenience of these pre-washed products is great.
  • Serve “no cook” side dishes with your dinners.  Apples, pears, avocadoes, tomatoes are just few foods that don’t need to be cooked and taste great all by themselves. A fruit or veggie plate makes a terrific side dish.
  • Plan on Holiday leftovers. Don’t spend all your time in the kitchen cooking just one big feast. Make enough food to make several “leftover meals”.  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.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Holidays: Where Food and Tradition Make Memories

Cheryl Tallman

The holiday season would not be complete without thoughts of great dishes being served to friends and family. Family food traditions draw us to the season, and the dining room table. Whether you carry on the traditions of your family or invent new ones, these on going traditions provide your family with something to look forward to, talk about, and of course add to the memory of the season. 
In addition to serving traditional recipes from your grandmother at a holiday feast, there are many ways to celebrate with your family. Here are a few ideas for starting food traditions that may remain with your family for generations: 
Pot Luck Dinner Party: This type of party is an easy and economical way to get friends together in celebrating the holidays. Here is how: Invite each family to the Pot Luck party and ask them to bring a dish. To get a good variety and enough food, specify the type of dish (i.e. pasta, veggie, appetizer, main dish, etc.) and how many people it needs to serve. Before the party, set up a buffet-style serving table and as guests arrive add their dish to the table.
For more fun and memories ask your guests to bring recipe cards for their dish. Collect all the recipe cards and send each family home with a "mini" cookbook of the evening.  
Make homemade gifts: Preserves, salsa, relishes, and candies make thoughtful gifts. Find one of your grandmother's famous recipes and bring it back in her honor. The kids can help cook, decorate the package/cards and deliver a homemade gift made with love. 
Volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen: The holidays are a time of giving and volunteering your time is a great way to help those who are less fortunate. Your children may not realize how many people go hungry in this country. Helping out at a food pantry or soup kitchen is great way to enlighten them, and can be a great bonding experience for everyone. 
Winter Outdoor fun: Playing in the snow (if you have it) or just playing outside for a while can sure build up an appetite. It creates the perfect atmosphere to start your own food tradition. Try bringing along a thermos of thick, creamy hot chocolate with plenty of whipped cream when you take off on outside adventures. Or simply have a nice pot of the warm soup ready when you come inside from your winter activities. A new jigsaw puzzle, firewood, hot spiced apple cider and cheese fondue (recipes follow) are a great way to celebrate the first snowstorm of the year too. 

Traditional Recipes from my mom’s kitchen:

Hot Spiced Cider
½ gallon apple cider 
1 quart cranberry apple juice 
½ cup orange juice 
Juice of a lemon 
8-10 whole cloves 
4 cinnamon sticks 
¼ - ½ cup sugar, to taste 
It’s best to make apple cider a day ahead. Heat all of the ingredients in a large pan and stir them in until the sugar melts. Refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, reheat and ladle into cups. Cloves and cinnamon sticks are only for flavor, so avoid putting them into the cups. 

Cheese Fondue:
8 oz of each Emmentaler and Gruyere cheese
1 ½ cups white wine
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp. butter
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 Tbsp apple juice
½ tsp salt
Dash pepper

Crusty French bread cut into cubes
Fondue pot and fondue forks

Shred cheeses and set aside. Mix corn starch and apple juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside

In a stock pot (5 Qt), simmer wine, garlic, butter, nutmeg and lemon juice until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add cheeses 1/3 at a time while stirring with a wooden spoon (use a back and forth motion do not stir in round circles) until cheese is melted. Stir in the corn starch mixture
Pour into a fondue pot 

Make 4 cups (serves about 4-6 people) 

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.