All Entries For sparkmoms

Meals That Serve A Crowd


I recently came across my great grandmother's focaccia pizza recipe and was surprised that it served 100 people. Apparently, cooking for a crowd was the norm in my family. One thing my family has taught me is that cooking a big meal doesn't have to be complicated or unhealthy. My guests often mention how surprised they are how tasty a healthy dish can be and how inspired they are to try simple substitutes in their recipes. Here are seven SparkRecipes that can easily be doubled when cooking for a crowd.

 
Posted 10/19/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 7 comments   53,326 views
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Super Meals for Big Batch Cooking


Cooking in batches is one of the best kept secrets for saving time and money, while promoting good health at the same time. With three school age kids, time is a rare commodity. Instead of turning to processed and packaged foods, I take advantage of the days I can cook and select healthy recipes that I can easily double or triple the batch. We enjoy these meals the next night as leftovers or we take them to work or school the next day in a thermos or Tupperware. Here are my favorite batch cooking recipes and resources. 
Posted 10/17/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 14 comments   36,384 views
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Is Your Child's School Commute Safe?


Walking to school can be a great way for kids to get some exercise and socialize with friends out in the fresh air. It helps get their heads straight for the school day and allows them to decompress on the way home after long hours behind a desk.
 
But for parents, it's hard to know when a child is old enough to walk alone safely.
 
The school district in which I live only offers busing for students who live more than two miles from school. My soon-to-be kindergartener is very active--he plays tee ball and has run kids' races--but I'm not sure he'd be able to walk four miles daily. I'm also fairly certain I'm not willing to ask him to, considering the lack of sidewalks in our neighborhood and on the couple of larger roads he would have to cross to get to school. For us, age 5 is too young. But growing up in a very small town, I had friends who lived on the same street as our elementary school who, even as kindergarteners, made the short walk home alone every day along the tree-shaded sidewalks. Every situation is different.
 
Posted 10/17/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 15 comments   7,453 views
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I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends


A couple of months ago, I wrote about popularity--and why it matters less than it once did. It sparked some interesting discussion worth following up on. The quality of friendships matters more than the quantity of friends, I wrote then. Today, let's talk about what matters most in choosing friends. And parents, listen up: This matters as much to you as it does your kids.

My dear friend and colleague, Dr. Catherine Bagwell, and I spent two years writing our book, Friendships in Childhood and Adolescence.  The overarching question we encountered: What is the significance of friendship? We learned it is one of those questions to which everyone immediately answers, "there is a lot of significance in friendship," but answering with substance takes more effort (as our editor pointed out).

So what is the significance in friendship? And how can you both choose good friends and be one yourself? That, my friends and readers, is what we're discussing today.
Posted 10/11/2012  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 9 comments   8,830 views
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Confession: Parenting is Hard (Even for the Experts)


Even though I consider myself to be a parenting expert, with multiple degrees on my wall and years of research under my belt, no textbook or research study could ever prepare me for my role as a parent.

A couple of weeks ago, my 8-year-old son had an outburst (that’s what I’ve termed it), which could be likened to a 3-year-old tantrum with a 13-year-old attitude.  I told him to go to his room.  He answered, ''I am not going to my room.''  I tried to calmly explain that there would be consequences for his behavior.  To this, he responded, ''I don’t care.''  I reminded him that his behavior was rude and inappropriate.  He replied, ''No, yours is.''  Through all of this, he went between being defiant and crying.  We covered a lot of ground.  As I went along, I searched my brain using terms like ''discipline,'' ''defiance,'' ''authoritative parenting.''  My searches eventually came back with ''no results found.''  I was at a complete loss.
Posted 10/10/2012  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 13 comments   7,563 views
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How to Squeeze in Exercise as a Busy Mom


Do you feel more like a chauffeur than a parent? We all know that exercise is important for us to stay healthy, but between cooking, cleaning up, budgeting, homework help, and—oh, yeah—sleep, who has the time?

Next time you feel too busy to exercise, try squeezing it in to your schedule with these tips.

During Drive Time
Try some isometric exercises: Squeeze your glutes, contract your abs, and work your calves by raising your legs up on your toes at red lights. Park far from your destination so you have to walk farther. Arrive early to your event, if possible, to allow time for a brisk walk.

At Programs, Practices, and Games
Walk around the facility before or after the event; look for chances to combine a class or activity with those of your children. For example, take aerobics while your daughter has basketball practice at the YMCA.
Posted 10/7/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Nicole Nichols : 8 comments   13,206 views
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Fabulous Fall Salads


As the trees begin to change color, I'm reminded of so many dishes I love to cook. Fall is a busy time with back-to-school, sports, and after-school activities. To maintain a healthy rhythm, I turn to soups and salads that are quick and nutritious. Start with seasonal dark green leafy veggies at your local grocer or farmer's market. Create a base of arugula, lettuce, and/or kale, and top it off with peppers, corn, beets, and cucumbers. Mix in fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, and parsley to taste. Don't forget a splash of sweetness with apples pears, figs, and grapes. You can also add protein and crunch with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, fish, boiled egg, and beans. Enjoy these fabulous fall salad recipes from SparkRecipes
Posted 10/3/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Samantha Donohue : 11 comments   24,224 views
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Backpack Safety 101


Do you know how much your child's backpack weighs?
 
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a backpack weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of your child's weight. So, if your kindergartener weighs 50 pounds, his backpack should be no more than 10 pounds when it's full.
 
Posted 10/3/2012  2:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 13 comments   6,512 views
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Get Kids to Eat Veggies by Offering More Veggies


My young kids like to be in control.  Whether it’s what they are wearing, which toy they play with or what’s for lunch, they like to make decisions.  Although it can get frustrating at times (“I’m sorry honey, we aren’t going to wear winter boots today because it’s 97 degrees outside.”) I can understand.  So much of their lives are planned out for them that it’s exciting when they get to make a few choices on their own. 
 
I’ve started involving my children more in the meal planning process.  I don’t mind cooking dinner but I hate having to come up with ideas all the time.  So I’ll ask them for suggestions, or give them choices to pick from, either in the planning stage or once I make the food.  It doesn’t bother me to make a few different vegetables and then let them choose which ones they want.  I know the food will get eaten eventually, and I like having leftovers for future meals.  I find that when given the choice, they don’t usually pick just the carrots or just the green beans.  They usually want a little of both, and end up eating more vegetables than they would have if there was just one.  A new study of adults came to the same conclusion:  variety helps increase intake.
Posted 10/2/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Jen Mueller : 12 comments   10,376 views
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6 Ways to Combat Rising Food Costs


This summer was hot, with temperatures averaging in the 90s for months here in Cincinnati with no rain for weeks on end. The heat took its toll: Gardens wilted, fields dried up, and farmers struggled. With summer fading fast, you might think that the worst is behind us, but a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests otherwise. The drought that plagued much of the country this summer will mean higher food costs for all of us in the next year. While it's still too soon to say exactly how much the costs of specific foods will rise, the effects will be seen as early as this fall.

According to the USDA, the first price increases will be seen in beef, pork, poultry, and dairy--especially milk--in the next couple of months. In 10 to 12 months, we'll see the prices of processed grain products rise. Retail food prices rise on average between 2.5-3% a year due to inflation, and next year that increase will be between 3-4%. That means your gallon of milk that cost $3.43 in July, according to the Consumer Price Index, could cost 10 to 13 cents more next year. If you bought a gallon a week, that would add up to an extra $6.76 a year.

The good news is that those increases should be mostly in a few areas. The bad news is that those sharper increases are in foods most of us eat quite often--and they're the foods that already are costly: eggs, meat, and dairy. Rather than dwell on the negative, let's focus on finding ways to combat those rising costs while still enjoying the foods you like.

Posted 9/26/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Stepfanie Romine : 32 comments   82,193 views
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Helping Your Kids Cope with Back-to-School Exhaustion


Parents quickly learn this equation every school year: New ideas + new skills + new routines = a tired and cranky child.
 
My oldest son was so exhausted every day after his first week of preschool last month that I thought he had a virus. Then I saw a storm of tweets and Facebook posts from other parents in similar situations. There were stories about kindergarteners suddenly becoming holy terrors every day at school pick-up, teenagers eating the contents of the refrigerator and then passing out, and elementary students reverting to their toddler bedtime. I realized my son wasn't sick; he was learning.
 
His brain was working so hard on his new skills and routines that there was no extra room for anything else. It's the same reason babies experience sleep regressions when they're learning a new developmental skill, or why my 2-year-old is extra stubborn as he wraps his head around potty-training. Adults experience this, too. Have you ever managed to control your temper during a truly awful day at work, only to snap at your family once you got home? Now, imagine you're a 4-year-old learning how to follow classroom rules, or a 12-year-old encountering algebra for the first time. Or, worst of all, a 16-year-old facing the looming pressure of college requirements, as well as the daily gauntlet of high-school halls.
 
It's no wonder our kids come home exhausted and cranky.
 
So, how can we help them? Each child is different. Some might need a quick after-school snack to re-energize them for the evening. Others might need a nap or quiet time on their own. Here are five things to try to get your little learner on a more even keel.
Posted 9/25/2012  10:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 6 comments   9,118 views
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Simple Sauces for Chicken


Chicken is the go-to protein for a light and healthy meal, but when you announce that you're having grilled chicken breasts for dinner, does anyone applaud or yell "great, I can't wait"?

What if you said you were having Grilled Chicken Breasts… with a Citrus-Infused Sauce?

And the crowd goes wild! 
Posted 9/24/2012  6:00:00 PM By: Meg Galvin : 14 comments   113,581 views
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Schools Putting Healthier Lunch Options into Action


As you know, earlier this year First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the new National School Lunch Program nutrition standards. Since more students eat school lunch compared to school breakfast, schools first started to implement the new standards with school lunches.
 
Perhaps your family has incorporated tips that help you pack a nutrient-rich lunch for your children to take to school. Hopefully you have found a month worth of fun and healthy lunch ideas your children enjoy to help take the hassle out of packing school lunches. However, if you have a teenager like mine who doesn't want anything to do with packed lunches anymore, selecting a school lunch may be part of his or her daily routine.
 
It seems many school districts did major overhauls of their school lunch menu offerings over the summer to improve the nutritional quality offered to students this school year. I know there are many new changes in our son's school. Here is a sample of the types of new school lunch offerings popping up in school districts around the country.
Posted 9/24/2012  10:00:00 AM By: Tanya Jolliffe : 15 comments   5,282 views
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Your Kitchen: Built for Speed!


We’re all pressed for time. Kitchens often go unused because it can simply take too long to cook, and seems more like a hassle than a help when you're trying to feed a busy family. In this hurry-up world, a clean, organized kitchen will get more use than a cluttered mess that’s difficult to use. Creating an efficient workspace makes for healthier, faster and more enjoyable meal preparation for everyone involved.
Posted 9/23/2012  2:00:00 PM By: Nicole Nichols : 24 comments   14,262 views
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Better Than Store-Bought: Multi-Purpose Baking Mix


Baking mix is an easy pantry staple—because it includes leavening and shortening, you can quickly transform the mix into pancakes, biscuits or quick breads by adding liquid (usually milk and/or eggs).
 
Did you know how simple it is to make your own? This Homemade Multi-Purpose Baking Mix incorporates whole-wheat flour and costs about the same (about 15 cents) per serving as the national brand. It has about 15% fewer calories and 70mg less sodium per serving, as well. It is sugar- and dairy-free.
 
Keep this Homemade Multi-Purpose Baking Mix in a plastic container or bag and refrigerate it up to 6 months. Substitute this in place of the name-brand store-bought baking mix. For example, it works well in a classic streusel-topped coffee cake.
 
Here's how to use your baking mix!
Posted 9/20/2012  2:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 35 comments   25,465 views
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