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Recipe: Quinoa Pizza Bites

August 29, 2014

Article and Photographs by Jessica Vician

Recipe: Quinoa Pizza Bites | Three quinoa pizza bites sit on a plate with a side of marinara sauce.

A few months ago, a co-worker told me a story. One day, her six-year-old nephew realized that the meat he was eating—chicken, beef, pork—came from an animal that used to be alive. This concept upset him so much that he immediately declared, “I’m not eating meat anymore.”

At first, the family thought he would forget about it within a few days, but several months later, he’s still holding strong. Knowing that I follow a pescetarian diet (the only “meat” that I eat is sustainably-caught fish and seafood), my co-worker asked me for vegetarian recipes that her nephew might enjoy. I told her the first thing the family should do is introduce quinoa to his diet, since quinoa is a great source of non-animal protein, which is something her nephew would be lacking without consuming meat.

My favorite quinoa recipe for kids is for quinoa pizza bites. They’re a good source of protein and vegetables with the kid-friendly convenience of handheld delicious eating. My co-worker and her nephew made them that weekend and even he loved them!

I made these with mushrooms and spinach, but you can add any vegetable you want, as long as it’s chopped into small pieces (when dealing with picky eaters, I find that the smaller the vegetable is chopped, the more likely it is to be eaten). I’ve modified the original recipe, but it used pepperoni, which would work for the meat-eaters of the group.

Ingredients include: cremini mushrooms, shredded sharp cheddar, quinoa, red pepper flakes, eggs, spinach, salt, garlic, spinach, and marinara sauce.

Quinoa Ingredients
½ cup quinoa
1 cup water
¼ tsp. salt

Remaining Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
8 cremini mushrooms, chopped
3 handfuls of fresh spinach
3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
Marinara sauce to serve

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Rinse the quinoa in a sieve under cold water until the water runs clear.

The quinoa and water start to boil.

In a small pot, add quinoa, water, and the ¼ tsp. salt and bring to a boil.

Cooked quinoa.

Once boiling, cover the pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed.

While the quinoa is cooking and the oven is preheating, you can prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Lightly sautéed spinach.

In a skillet, coat the pan with the olive oil. Add the fresh spinach and lightly sauté until just starting to wilt. Leaving as much oil/moisture in the pan as possible, put the spinach in a medium bowl.

Sautéed mushrooms.

In the same pan, lightly sauté the mushrooms until they start to brown. Drain and discard the liquid and add the mushrooms to the bowl with the spinach in it.

The quinoa, vegetable, egg, and cheese mixture.

In a small bowl, whisk the two eggs gently. Add the eggs, garlic, basil, cheddar, ½ tsp. salt, and red pepper flakes (if using) to the medium bowl with the mushrooms and spinach. Add the cooked quinoa when it’s done and mix all these ingredients together.

The quinoa pizza bites in the muffin tin ready to go into the oven.

Lightly grease a muffin tin and add a large spoonful of the mixture to each muffin cup. Press down on the mixture gently to ensure it reaches the bottom of the pan.

The cooked quinoa pizza bites after coming out of the oven.

Bake for 20-35 minutes. The cooking time will depend on the accuracy of your oven temperature and how much of the mixture is in each cup. Use a rubber spatula to scoop the bites out after they have had about three minutes to cool outside of the oven.

Serve with marinara sauce for dipping.

The quinoa pizza bites served with marinara sauce.

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Prepare for Kindergarten in 8 Steps

August 27, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

Prepare for Kindergarten in 8 Steps | A young girl sits in a preschool classroom drawing on paper.

Starting kindergarten is difficult for some children, especially children who have had no preschool experiences. There are so many expectations and skills needed to survive the first year of school. It’s a big deal! But take it easy, plan for the transition, and give your child the tools he or she needs to succeed and have an awesome experience in school. Here are some ideas to facilitate the jump from home to school.

  1. Consistent Schedule. Begin a daily schedule and stick to it. You can have a visual daily schedule with pictures of activities to help you and your child stay on track (similar to what his or her school will have). This helps your child develop predictability and assists you with organization.
  2. Give Responsibilities. Offer new chores to do and review the importance of completing tasks within the time allowed. These efforts will help your child begin to understand the importance of beginning and finishing assignments and tasks.
  3. Take Turns. If your child is an only child, this particular strategy will help your child learn to share the materials easier in his or her classroom. As you and I know, everything in the classroom is “owned” by the teacher. Kindergarteners have to take turns with all of the supplies in the school. Practice turn-taking at home to help your child learn to share property with others.
  4. Model Behavior. Your child is a reflection of you. Always model good manners and assist your child with being respectful of everyone in his environment when needed. Be polite and model the use of proper words.
  5. Safety. Talk about stranger danger and about the people who are going to pick your child up from school. Discuss emergency scenarios to empower your child with options on what to do in different situations. Visit the school and talk to your child about safety and rules.
  6. Homemade School Book. Take pictures of the school, playground, classroom, and teacher to make a book with your child. Look at the book daily to familiarize your child to the new setting and talk positively about it. You can also check out books about starting school from your public library.
  7. School Supplies. Make school shopping fun and positive, which will motivate your child to begin school. Encourage individuality keeping the school list in mind.
  8. Stay Involved. Attend all meetings with your child before the first day of school to expose your future kindergartener to the importance of school involvement. Look for other Internet resources to help prepare your child for kindergarten.

Remember YOU can make the difference!

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My Story: Learning to Express Love To Your Children

August 25, 2014

By Beth Wilson

My Story: Learning to Express Love To Your Children | A mother holds her smiling daughter and looks lovingly into her eyes.

“I love you” was not a phrase my mother used. She felt that too often those words were meaningless and that we—my sister, my brother, and I—should know that she loved us by the things that she did for us. Physical affection, such as a hug, a touch of the hand, or an arm around the shoulder, was also out of the question—touching was not her thing. Growing up I felt more tolerated than loved.

Several months after the birth of my first child, I glanced at her and was overwhelmed both with love for her and sorrow for me. Tears came to my eyes as I wondered, “Didn't anybody love me like this when I was a baby?” Unfortunately no one came to mind. In that moment I resolved that one of my goals as a mother would be to insure my children knew their mother loved them.

Many years later, my husband and I were working on our marriage and discovered Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages. We learned that when you want to communicate your love to someone, use the language that speaks love to him or her the loudest, which might not be the language that speaks loudly to you. My mother’s statement about knowing that she loved me by the things that she did for me tells me that she feels loved when someone does something for her.

My husband and I studied our children closely to see if we could determine which one of the five languages of love really spoke to them. We used the following types of showing love as our assessment tools:

  • physical touch
  • words of affirmation
  • quality time
  • gifts
  • acts of service

Then we looked for appropriate ways to express our deep love and affection for them. 15 years later I am confident that my children know I love them. How do I know? Periodically I ask them.

Within a couple of years of reading the book I had the opportunity to describe to my mother, in a non-threatening way, the premise of the book, what I thought her love language was, and that for me to feel loved I need to hear, “I love you.” Today I am confident my mother loves me. How do I know? Because since that conversation, every so often, she will say, “I love you.”

Do your children know that you love them? Tell me in the comments below how you show your children you love them.

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5 Steps to Start Freshman Year Right

August 20, 2014

By Kevin Rutter

5 Steps to Start Freshman Year Right | High school students walk through the hallway at school.

High school can be a big adjustment with a new building, teachers, rules, and fellow classmates. In recent years school administrators have recognized this challenge and put supports in place to assist you and your student in making the transition a smooth one. Here are my top five tips for making the first year of high school a successful one.

  1. Register for and participate in an orientation program. Many schools offer week-long programs for incoming students so that they can begin the process of learning about how to get around the building, where to find support, what the dress code entails, etc. This is a great opportunity for your teen to get acclimated before the entire student body shows up, bells are ringing, and the teachers are giving assignments. In lieu of a formal orientation program, you can stop by the counseling office during registration and ask for a tour of the building with your student and any guidance they might have for new students.
  2. Sign your student up for a sport or club. High schools offer a wide array of extra-curricular activities. Get your student involved in one or more. Activities provide a context to meet new friends and build collaborative skills. Studies also show that students in sports or clubs perform better in the classroom and are more engaged with their schools. 
  3. Check out the school’s website. Every high school has a website that has loads of information. Take the time to browse it with your teen. You may find programs or opportunities that you were not aware of. Additionally, once you know your student’s schedule, you can look at the homepage of your student’s teachers. Usually teachers have brief biographies, course syllabi, and their school email address posted. Look at these so you can reinforce class expectations at home. 
  4. Send an introductory email to your student’s new teachers. The teachers work directly with your student every day. Send them a quick email with a brief introduction and your contact information. This small action will open up a line of communication so that behavior and performance issues can be addressed immediately. As a teacher, I would also appreciate knowing how to get in touch with you and that you are an active supporter of your teen’s education. 
  5. Encourage and make time for your student to try new things. High school is a very important time for your teen’s social and academic growth. He or she must be given time to explore interests and try things for the first time, which will help your student develop a sense of self and learn what he or she might be good at after school. Give your student the support and time needed to do so.
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Teaching Teens to Dress Appropriately

August 18, 2014

By Nely Bergsma

Teaching Teens to Dress Appropriately | A teenage girl looks at her clothes in the mirror, debating whether to bare her shoulders.

I recently went on a shopping excursion with five 16-year-old girls in an attempt to guide them on the appropriate dress for their summer externships. I was prepared to offer minor suggestions on putting simple office wear together but found myself in the midst of a daylong discussion on overall appropriate dress for the average teenager.

Here is a sampling of the questions we considered:

  • How relaxed should a look be? Is it okay to wear pajama, yoga, or sweat pants? 
  • How much of one’s body part should be revealed, especially for girls? 
  • Why should teenagers present themselves well? How will dressing appropriately help them in the future? 

As one may imagine, there were a variety of opinions between the five teenage girls and one middle-aged woman, which made for a very lively discussion. Teenage fashion, I discovered, is all about the message the teen wants to send. It is a form of teenagers expressing themselves to others. Here are some answers to the questions posed during our daylong conversation. Hopefully they can help you when discussing the topic with your teen.

How relaxed should a look be? As active as teens are, they look to wearing comfortable clothes that easily take them from place to place and activity to activity with minimal effort.

How much of one’s body is appropriate to expose? How much would depend on where the young person is going. When selecting tops, shorts, skirts, and pants, a teen should try to cover and not expose or accentuate certain body parts, like chests, thighs, butts, etc. Clothes should be practical, comfortable, and suitable for the occasion.

Have your teen try this simple test: sit, stand, walk, and reach up and down wearing the selected outfit. If “adjustments” are needed throughout the test because too much of the body is revealed or the fit is not right, then it is not an appropriate outfit.

Why is it important to “dress appropriately?” Wearing ill-fitting or revealing clothing can send the wrong message to others about who the teen is, both professionally and personally. Will your teen be able to navigate through the situations that may arise, should someone misinterpret how he or she has chosen to express him or herself?

Teaching teens to dress appropriately takes compromise. It’s important to understand where they are coming from while also helping them understand what and why certain looks are more appropriate than others for school, work, and fun.

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