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Chicken is a kitchen stand-by, but it can get boring if the preparation isn’t varied.  Especially when feeding a family, you’ve got to keep things interesting, and have your repertoire varied for picky eaters.  As I’ve said before, I constantly keep an eye out for new recipes, and collect my findings in a giant binder.  Flipping through a Rachel Ray magazine, I came across not only a chicken dish, but an entire dinner.  I was excited to try it and add it to my collection, and wasn’t disappointed when I did.

Crunchy chicken with green beans and rice

I followed this recipe closely, making only a few changes.  Rather than mayo in the recipe, I used light sour cream, and I found a crusty ciabatta roll to be perfect in the place of a baguette.  Finally, I steamed the green beans rather than boiling them, as I hate to lose veggie’s nutrients to water, and added 1/2 cup of pureed cauliflower to the rice.  Everyone enjoyed the chicken, and it was a nice change from a regular bread-crumbed breast.  It came together quickly, and paired with some strawberries, it was a great dinner.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

I got back into running this summer, and am prepping to run in a 3K event at the Jersey Shore in September.  The one thing that I have never been able to find was an attractive bag that could slip around my waist, and small enough so as not add extra weight (I have enough of that already), or too big and floppy like those attractive and ultra-chic “fanny packs.”  When the “hipzbag” came into our office with the request by its creator, Kathy Crifasi to review it, I gasped, and immediately said, “mine, mine, mine,” (just like the seagulls in the “Finding Nemo” movie.) 

The bag is perfect for moms who want to just throw in a set of keys and take off with a stroller that already has the diaper bag, bottles, wipes, etc.  It lays flat and fits snug enough not to shake, rattle and roll as you move about.  It can hold my keys, nano shuffle and cell phone if need be.  The creator, Kathy, originally a computer consultant realized that when there is a shift in the world, i.e. our attachment to cell phones, that new products need to come along with it.  Crifasi is very excited at the initial response of the bags (moving 4,000 in six minutes on QVC in January), and I see why.  At only $14.95, it’s even affordable for teens, who (like my daughters) keep their  phone stored in that very teeny-tiny backpocket of their “too tight” jeans, and thus the phones falls to the ground at gym, at the mall, or into puddles (I won’t go into the time my daughter left her phone in her pants pocket and it had a nice trip through the washer and dryer.) 

I’ve been using the bag now for about a month.  It’s stashed in my car so it’s at the ready whenever I head to the lakes in Monroe for my run.  The bag fits two ways: either with the strap around the waist, or fastened by clip to the belt loops.  Very clever, that Kathy. 

We are giving the other one away to the first mom who writes on our facebook page: “I’d surely like my own Hipzbag!”  

TTYL,

They are creeping into our lives more and more.  In magazines, printed ads, even people are being tattooed with them.  They’re called, “quick response” codes, or QR codes for short.  Inside those tiny boxes of black and white is a code that coincides with a website page, or pages.  These little guys can certainly hold a lot of information.  The only thing you need, as far as I know, is a smartphone with an app for a QR code reader.  But, it seems everyone and their mother is now sporting a smartphone of some type.

We at Hudson Valley Parent magazine think these cutesy pictures are a great way to blend the magazine world with the web and tech world. You’ll find our first foray into the world of QR codes on the table of contents page of the August HV Parent.  Those with the ability to scan the code will get a tasty summer BBQ recipe by our own terrific food blogger, Stephanie Sandler.  She even included a shopping list!  So, you can store the information into the phone, no need to clip out a recipe that gets lost in your bag.

And for those without a smartphone, just click on the link to the recipe (see above), and you’ll still be able to access it.

Please feel free to let us know at editor@excitingread.com what you think of it, and what you like or dislike about them.

Everyone knows how to make salad. A salad as a main course, though, is much trickier, especially if you are feeding it to children.  It must then be filling, supply adequate protein, and most importantly, be interesting. There are a few restaurants at which I look forward to ordering a big salad.  Like anything else, I analyzed what made the meal so special, and recreated it at home. What makes a salad enticing enough to serve as dinner? For me, it must be super fresh, offer plenty of variety, and contain items that challenge my expectations. It’s not the basics, like lettuce or carrots, which make the salad, but the extras that transform the dish from a side plate to a main attraction.

The Big Salad

Here are three salads-for-dinner I’ve made recently.  As you can see, there are some basic tenets, like romaine lettuce, baby spinach, carrots, and hard-boiled eggs.  Then there are the toss-ins that make each salad a little different– beans, crunchy noodles, homemade croutons, different fruits, etc., so that each salad is unique.   I use salad night as an opportunity for a vegetarian meal, letting the eggs and beans serve as the primary protein, but grilled chicken or steak could be a nice addition.  Finally, I always arrange each item on the plate individually, rather than a big messy pile, and then it’s fun for my kids to dip and eat.

Big Salad, one way: Baby spinach, romaine lettuce, steamed carrots, chickpeas, grape tomatoes, strawberries, chow mein noodles, and cucumbers.

Big salad, another way: Baby spinach, romaine lettuce, diced apples, grape tomatoes, steamed broccoli and carrots, zucchini sticks, cantaloupe, and hard-boiled eggs.

Big salad, a third way: Romaine lettuce, baby spinach, zucchini sticks, steamed carrot sticks, red peppers, cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, fresh berries, homemade parmesan garlic croutons.

Most importantly, include family favorites in your salad, and always keep one or two of the ingredients changing.  It’ll never be the same old, and with the opportunity to raid the garden or the farm stand for fresh fruits and veggies, salad for dinner is a treat, not a punishment.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

HV Parent blogger, Tenise, wrote about texting just as I was enjoying this new book on my desk, Crazy Things Parents Text by Stephen and Wayne Miltz.  There wasn’t much on these two guys, either in the book, or their website with the same name.  But they are definitely on to something funny, and something with endless material.  From a mom who loves to text her teen daughters, I know what I’m talking about. 

I’ve had the best conversations with my girls, via texts. The ones where theyadmitted doing something wrong and apologized, or when they were mad and used capital letters (which we all know is difficult to type on teeny tiny keyboards with an even tinier “shift” key, and doing so while annoyed).  One time, I actually had a real heated text argument with my oldest about something I insisted she do, which she didn’t like, and which she was very open and honest about.  We were still friends, but I did have to text her that I didn’t get a phone for her so that she could text, “I hate you,” in a message.  But, she was honest, and having it happen face to face would’ve been very traumatic.  Having it happen on the phone, while she was miles away, was almost comical.  I smiled at the goofy-ness of how far parenting has come (or the steps it’s taken backwards).  And there’s something very special when I nag my daughter about something like “do the dishes,” or “walk the dog,” and I get her little expression icon which is usually this:

 :l 

which is her way of giving me a smirky-kind of face that means she doesn’t like what she’s being ask to do, but is accepting of it.

In this new book, sure to be the rave for a while, the Miltz’ replay some funny texts between cool kids and their clue-less parents.  Here’s a good one from a mom, obviously new to texting, to her teen daughter:

   TEEN: Mom, I have to go ttyl

   MOM: No! Wait, what does TTYL mean?

   TEEN: Talk To You Later

   MOM: No! If you stop texting now without telling me what it means you’re in big trouble!

There’s more in this book, some laugh out loud funny, some with some tasteless innuendos, unintended mind you due to either misuse of phrases or a just plain old typo.  It’s a good book for older kids and adults to laugh at, but pretty much R rated in many instances.

I did want to mention a funny texting conversation I had recently. I was texting a friend, not a teen mind you, about wanting to meet up “tomorrow.”  However, I tend to vary my phrasing and rather than type “tomorrow,” I typed “manana.”  Maybe the keys were easier to find, who knows. But, unbeknownst to me, my new phone corrects words it doesn’t use (foreign terms fall into that category, I guess) and changes the word to match one that “it” recognizes.  My droid changed the word to “banana.”  So, my text went like this, “Meet you banana.”  Imagine my surprise when this reply came:  “OK, cantaloupe.” 

A little ironic that these phones meant to ease communication are actually causing a lot of mis-communication as well.

TTYL,

Have you noticed your pre-teen or adolescent speaking in text talk “Like OMG Mom!” I think many parents battle with the constant challenge of keeping up with what’s new in the lives of our children. But it’s not all bad.

Take these tips:

Forget the unlimited talk plans for their cell phones and go with the unlimited text. There are some children who are able to communicate more readily and easily through texting than a verbal conversation. Kids are drawn to texting because it allows for them to have multiple conversations at one time,to  respond briefly to a question without interrupting what they may be engaged in, and respond if and when they are ready rather than being accessed at will by a ringing phone. I guess it’s similar to the reasons some adults are drawn in.

Establishing some boundaries with cell phones and texting is a good rule of thumb. If your child is old enough to drive, having the no texting and driving talk is crucial. There are too many preventable car accidents a year directly related to distracted drivers.

Taking cell phones to bed should be off limits. Children need 8-10 hours of sleep each night for their growing bodies and minds that need to be alert for their day at school. Having their sleep constantly interrupted by the vibrating phone is hazardous to their health. The best sleep is a deep sleep, that REM sleep where dreams are found and equally important; uninterrupted sleep.

I believe that cell phones have a place, and can bring pleasure into our lives, but like everything, they should be used in moderation.  

(Tenise will continute to blog for us, but may have lapses due to her pursuit of a Ph.D. in Psychology — with an expected graduation date of 2014.  Her degree will enhance the services she currently provides to children, adolescents and families in our area, and we are thrilled she is one of our bloggers!  Good luck, Tenise!  You can keep in touch with her at Facebook and Visit my Virtual Office)

I love zucchini.  I eat it fresh, cut into sticks; I eat it steamed, with a little olive oil drizzled on top; and I grate it and put it into chili, bread, and muffins.  But this morning I did something new- I put it into pancakes.  Yep, zucchini in pancakes.  I thought it sounded a little kooky, but a friend emailed me a recipe from a cool blog we both follow, so I decided to give it a try.  I was a little unsure as I mixed shredded zucchini into the batter, but once I smelled them cooking on the griddle, I knew I’d found a new family favorite.

Zucchini bread pancakes

The recipe for the pancakes can be found on A Pretty Life in the Suburbs, which is a really nifty blog with cute recipes, home DIY projects, etc.  For once, I followed the recipe without modifications, although I probably used a little more shredded zucchini than she specified.  The oats gave it a nutty crunch, the zucchini tasted so fresh against the cinnamon, and they were truly delicious. My husband, who can be very picky about pancakes, raved about them.  With zucchini so plentiful, either from your garden or a local farm stand, I highly recommend giving this breakfast a try!

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

(editor’s note: We at HV Parent magazine hope parents with teens, or who know teens, will have them read this blog.  It’s an important message to teens from one of their own.)

Hello, I’m Chris, the summer editorial assistant at HV Parent. I also write for the website and was given an article to write on Texting while Driving. New York State recently passed a law increasing the fine to $150 (this is without the court charge) and three points on your license. Even as a teenager, and an avid text-fiend, I admit this is long overdue.

When I was younger and in the car with an older friend, I would be shaking in my seat when he sent a text, evidently he had decided that a miscellaneous girl was more important than my life, and his. I admit I  didn’t stop him from texting though; I was happy just to be in the car with the kid and wasn’t about to scold him.  But that makes me just as guilty. That’s something I think is important to tell your kids. If you’re in a car and the driver starts to text,  it’s your job to stop it!

It’s not enough to have your kid know not to do it because, like it or not, their lives will be in the hands of others.

I don’t expect a kid to scold an older friend, though; I would expect them to act like me. However, there is a way to prevent it without sounding like a nag. Tell your child just to offer to text for the kid. I do this now and ask my friends to text for me when I drive. This is a much more practical solution because it keeps the driver from texting and most important to your kid, doesn’t put the kid into an uncomfortable position. They won’t encounter any resistance either because texting while driving isn’t done for a cheap thrill, it is done because people feel the need to respond. Therefore, your kid is actually helping the driver instead of bothering them about their awful habit. Telling them to stop might not work because (I’m sure you know this by now) teenagers HATE being told what to do, yet if you ask them and are reasonable they might actually respond, you just have to watch out for that rebellious urge that kicks in when you yell at them or tell them not to do something. A simple “Hey, I’ll just answer that for you,” can help save lives.

Now when you’re driving alone and you get a text it’s quite simple, don’t answer it! I’m sure your kid has seen those commercials about the incomplete text that killed a car full of people, but what they usually watch on TV is probably more violent. We associate TV with violence and exaggerations making those realistic PSAs virtually meaningless. The important thing to do is to talk to your kids about it, sit them down and explain to them what a crash is like. The second you say some vague line used on commercials and preached to us in school, your kids will tune you out, that’s what I would have done. It’s important to make the dangers real to your kids, share a personal story of an accident (caused by texting or not) or maybe a friend’s story, just some way to drive home the reality of car crashes.

The new law doesn’t just apply to texting either, the fine is for “using handheld electronic devices while a vehicle is in motion” so that means no mid-drive iPod selections. That can be just as bad as texting, yet I’ve seen it done much more often, and a playlist of songs you like to hear while driving can fix that problem so easily.

One more thing I feel is important to mention is that in a crash, it’s not just you or the people in your car that get hurt. You might walk out with a few scrapes but the poor mother you hit could be seriously injured, or worse. Also, if something awful happens to you, then you’re hurting your parents, family, and friends as well. If you just get hurt it will take them a long time to recover, and your death, well they will never recover from that. So make your kids realize what driving a car means, what getting into a crash means, and how texting while driving is the dumbest way to ruin or maybe even end your life.

Sometimes a summer morning requires something as simple as a smoothie.  These days, we’ve been bringing a light, healthy breakfast out onto the deck, and enjoying the soft sun and birds chirping in the early morning.  The other day I came across a new smoothie recipe, and knew I’d make it the following morning.  I make smoothies often, and although I’ve used a wide variety of fruit, I’ve never ventured past, well, fruit.  I have friends who put vegetables in their juicers, but I’ve never been sure about putting vegetables into the blender with yogurt.  Would my kids eat it?

A green smoothie

Found in Hannaford’s “Fresh” magazine, this recipe appealed to me not only because it included vegetables, but because it was green. Green!  My kids eat green, of course, but not usually in a drink.  I got to work.  In a blender, combine 1 1/2 c. orange juice, 1 c. organic baby spinach, 1/2 c. plain nonfat yogurt (I had vanilla, so this is what I used), 1 t. fresh ginger (I had ground ginger, so I just sprinkled a little in), 1/3 c. walnuts (I omitted), 1/2 c. strawberries (fresh or frozen), and 1/2 c. frozen mango pieces.  Blend on low for 20 seconds, then blend on high until fully incorporated.  It made three servings, and everyone liked it so much that I made another batch.  “Martian juice” smoothies– success!

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

One thing I really like to make for my kids are healthy snacks.  Especially since I have a grade-schooler who needs daily packed snacks, I’ve had fun getting creative.  Mini granola bars, roasted chickpeas, and trail-mix blends are fun to make, and my kids enjoy the little treats they find in their bags.  The best part about these snacks is that you can assemble them in bulk, and store extras in the pantry or freezer.  With an adequate stash on hand, they’re ready to toss into a lunch cooler or backpack on the fly.

Power sticks

This recipe is a Weight Watchers recipe that a friend had given me almost ten years ago.  My daughter says they taste like cookie dough, so I take that as a very good sign.  It requires no cooking, is incredibly quick to assemble, and is very portable.  I always make this in a triple batch, wrap the extras individually in wax paper, and keep them in the freezer.  On a morning when we need a quick on-the-go breakfast or snack, a power stick accompanied with a banana is the way to do it.  To make a single batch, combine 1/2 cup of all-natural (sugar and oil-free) peanut butter, 3 Tbsp. of honey, 2/3 cup of whole grain flakes, and 1/3 cup of instant fat-free powdered milk.  Mix ingredients in a bowl until well-blended.  Form six sticks, and wrap individually in wax paper.  Store in an airtight container.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

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