Archive for November, 2013

Holiday baking with kids is easier than you think

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Looking for a low-cost activity that brings the family together and produces delicious results? Try introducing your children to baking.

Involving your kids when preparing a meal provides time to bond as a family and can help kids learn a few basic kitchen lessons at an early age. When you start with bread or pretzel dough, you have plenty of simple and fun options that will lead to entertaining adventures in the kitchen.

From the joy your children will derive from making shapes with dough to the simple and tasty dishes you can make together, a day of family baking will leave your whole family smiling and satisfied.

If you’re looking for a place to start, consider Auntie Anne’s At-Home Baking Kit, which includes pretzel dough mix, yeast, and fixings like salt and cinnamon sugar to top your hand-twisted soft pretzels. Here are a few examples of the types of meals and snacks you can prepare using the dough as your base:

Pretzels: What better way to start than with something simple and delicious? Twist into the classic pretzel bowtie or keep it simple with pretzel sticks. Coat sticks with cinnamon sugar for a sweet spin on a savory delight. Or for a fun activity for the kids, create numbers, letters and shapes with your pretzels.

Appetizers: Beef up your pretzels by wrapping dough around mini hot dogs for tasty pretzel dog bites. Or cut dough into small pieces, coat with salt and serve pretzel nuggets along with a variety of your family’s favorite dipping sauces like queso and honey mustard.

Pizzas: One of the easiest and most fun doughy recipes is the simple homemade pizza. Make mini crusts for each of your kids, lay out the toppings and let them go to town making the pie of their dreams. Also great for dessert pizzas.

Breakfast goodies: Monkey bread is a great family baking adventure. Your children can help tear the dough into pieces as you build your masterpiece, then have tons of fun ripping apart the finished product when they dig into the baked pastry.

Desserts: Fried dough is a simple yet divine snack, and you can add extra sweetness with chocolate, caramel or cinnamon and sugar. Or concoct some bread pudding for a sweet and doughy dessert that your kids are sure to love. Or try making apple dumplings for a crisp, sweet seasonal treat.

For more dough-based recipes, visit or try this easy deep-dish pizza recipe:

Dough preparation:

1. In a large bowl, dissolve contents of one yeast packet in 1 1/4 cups lukewarm tap water (105 F). Let sit about 2 minutes. Water temperature must not exceed 115 F.

2. Add one packet of Auntie Anne’s dough mix to yeast/water mixture. Using a rubber spatula (or your hands), mix until dough ball forms.

3. Place dough ball onto lightly floured surface and knead until soft, slightly tacky dough is formed (approximately 5 to 7 minutes). Add a small amount of flour if dough is too sticky.

4. Place dough ball into a large bowl that has been coated with nonstick spray. Coat a sheet of plastic wrap with nonstick spray and place on top of dough ball, tucking sides down around dough (to prevent dough from drying out).

5. Place bowl in a warm spot (85 to 95 F) for 30 minutes so the dough can rise.

Pizza instructions:

 1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray pan with nonstick spray and dust with flour so the dough won’t stick.

2. Place dough ball in center of pan and gently stretch the dough out to the edge. Press edges up the side of the pan to contain sauce.

3. Pour pizza sauce in center of stretched dough and spread evenly, leaving an inch of uncovered dough around the edge. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella over the sauce. Optional: top the pizza with your favorite seasonings, meats or vegetable toppings.

4. Place pizza on bottom rack of oven. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until the cheese starts to bubble and the bottom crust is crisp. Baking times may vary due to oven variances.

Let cool, serve and enjoy.

Courtesy of BPT

Make time for family dinner: It’s good for your body and soul

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

We all yearn for moments like the Norman Rockwell illustration of a family sitting around the dining table, enjoying their meals, laughing and spending time together. Sometimes those moments seem like fairy tales in hectic lives filled with endless activities and deadlines. Yet researchers are learning more and more about the importance of family meals relating to good nutrition and better health. Family meals aren’t just good for your body; they’re good for the soul.

Researchers at Rutgers recently evaluated results from 68 previously published scientific reports that analyzed the association between children’s health and family mealtime. They looked at how the atmosphere or frequency of family meals correlated with the consumption of healthy foods versus unhealthy foods. Their review showed numerous benefits to children associated with having frequent family meals, including increased intake of fruits, vegetables, fiber, calcium-rich foods and vitamins. In addition, the more a family ate together, the less children consumed dietary components thought to be harmful to health.

Additional studies showed that:

* Supper can be a stress reliever for working moms. A 2008 Brigham Young University study of IBM workers found that sitting down to a family meal helped working moms reduce the tension and strain from long hours at the office.

* The family dinner table is a great setting for getting kids to try new foods. A 2003 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that more exposure to new foods will teach kids to like different foods. Frequent family dinners provide the perfect opportunity to introduce a variety of healthy foods.

* It’s more budget-friendly to gather around the dinner table for a meal. The average cost for a meal in your kitchen is approximately $4.50 per person versus $8 per person outside the home. Do the math – eating in is better for your budget.

Making family meals happen in real time

Today’s over-scheduled lives may make it more difficult to get a meal on the table for family dinners, but there are many shortcuts you can take to reduce the stress and enjoy your time together. Many people are turning to companies like Kansas City Steak Company that provide ready-to-cook meals right to your door. From scrumptious ribs to succulent roasts, steaks, ground beef, poultry and seafood, family meal time is as easy as bake and serve.

“We find that more customers are seeking Bake and Serve Gourmet products so they can enjoy more time with family and friends and less time in the kitchen,” says Ed Scavuzzo, president of Kansas City Steak Company. “It’s never been easier to get a meal on the table without the fuss.”

But family meals can be as simple as ground beef patties, a salad and some fresh fruit. “It’s all about time spent sharing stories, sharing events of the day or just quiet time together,” says Scavuzzo. “The meals bring everyone to the table, but it’s family time that brings them back.”

Making family meals a priority

It’s easy to plan ahead for more family meals together. You can keep meals simple by sticking to nutritional basics and following a few tips:

* Purchase ready-made sauces, seasonings or marinades and add chicken, beef or seafood for a great main course.

* Cook on weekends and double the recipes. Roasts, soups and casseroles are great options to freeze, thaw and enjoy for a great, healthy family meal.

* Stock staples in your cupboard and freezer. Frozen meats and vegetables are easy to thaw and use at your convenience. Rice and pasta take just a few minutes and round out any meal.

* Fresh fruit and yogurt make healthy, flavorful desserts in just a few easy steps. Be sure to tuck away a sweet dessert or two for those special occasions.

The next time you reach for your car keys or the phone to order take-out, reach into your freezer and cupboard for meals that are good for your family and your soul.

Courtesy of BPT

Tried-and-true come together with new in creative holiday traditions

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Every holiday season is built upon family traditions of years past. Whether it’s enjoying holiday baking with friends or shopping with loved ones for gifts, traditions define the season. While honoring the past, traditions also open us to the opportunity to create new family observances, along with some great memories.

This year, introduce some new traditions to your holiday celebrations with these ideas for blending the traditions of yesteryear with new ones of your own:

Decorating in the digital world

Decorating for the season is an important part of many holiday observances. Whether it’s an heirloom Christmas tree ornament, a menorah handed down through generations, or an African drum that highlights Kwanzaa celebrations in the home, a cherished decoration can be central to the season.

Technology makes it easy to give the time-honored tradition of decorating for the holidays a modern flare with items like personalized photo ornaments and digital picture frames. An ornament that preserves a holiday memory with a personal photo would make a treasured addition to any tree ornament collection. Another way to merge memories of holidays past with contemporary style is to load favorite photos on a digital frame and place the frame in a central location in your home.

The taste of a happy holiday

Holiday food traditions allow us to savor flavors and revisit memories that we don’t experience at any other time of year. Treats like cookies add sweet enjoyment to the season. In fact, 42 percent of people bring cookies or dessert as a hostess gift when invited to a party, according to a survey by Archway. With 30 percent of survey respondents saying they attend three to four holiday parties or gatherings between Halloween and the New Year, and 66 percent saying they will host at least one holiday event, there are a lot of cookies going around.

Busy modern life can make it difficult to find time to bake as many types of cookies as you might like, so options like Archway’s winter cookies – including holiday classics like Bells and Stars, Cashew Nougat, Gingerbread Man, Iced Gingerbread Man, Wedding Cake and Pfeffernusse – are a great way to enjoy the flavors of the season without the extra work.

The movies that move us

Whether you’re chuckling over Chevy Chase’s challenges in Christmas Vacation, pining with Ralphie for the perfect gift, or having your heart-strings tugged by Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life, holiday films can be a focal point of family holiday traditions. While the classics like A Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street will likely always have their place, it can be fun to incorporate some new options into your holiday viewing for a fresh spin on an old tradition.

Looking for something family friendly? Settle in with an oldie but goodie, like Home Alone. Don’t forget to serve treats. Make plenty of popcorn for both eating and stringing, and serve up winter cookies like Archway’s Iced Gingerbread Men cookies – always a family favorite.

Gathering with loved ones

Spending time with family is the holiday tradition 58 percent of people most look forward to, according to the Archway survey. For all the fun of gift-exchanges and feasts, sharing time with those we love is the real heart of the holiday season.

Traditionally, loved ones come together during the holidays for occasions like meals, parties, religious services, caroling and sports events. It can also be rewarding to create new family traditions by bringing loved ones together in fresh ways. For example, tap the season’s spirit of charity by volunteering as a family to work at the local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or by participating in clothing and toy drives for those in need.

Holiday traditions are as much a part of the season as cool weather and good will toward all. Blending time-honored ones with new ideas can help your loved ones create unique memories that will last long after the last cookie is eaten and the decorations are packed away for another year.

Courtesy of BPT

Longer life spans shifting focus toward dignity, quality of life.

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

The life expectancy for average Americans is longer than ever before – 78 years for a child born in 2007 versus 71 who was born in 1970, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

That’s the good news, and it’s been evolving over decades. Until recently, however, that positive change has come with a less happy corollary: More aging Americans are entering long-term care facilities, where they cope with basic issues of dignity such as incontinence, and independence, like the ability to choose their own waking and meal times. 

The need to address the issues of dignity and independence is spurring change in the health care and extended care communities.
“With people living so much longer, a sea change is occurring in the health care community, and especially among providers of extended care,” says Dan Love, president of the personal care division for Medline Industries, Inc. “The focus is shifting away from simply extending life and toward a greater emphasis on enhancing quality and maintaining dignity in the later years of life.”

To better preserve the dignity of those in long-term care, a culture change movement is afoot in long-term care facilities, which is good news for older Americans. Today’s long-term care facilities are transforming services for older adults through better attention to patient-directed values that include choice, dignity, respect, self-determination and purposeful living, according to the Pioneer Network, a not-for-profit advocacy group. 

“The resident-centered care in long-term care  encompasses nearly every aspect of life, from simple things like incontinence products that fit properly, to allowing residents to determine when they would like to get up in the morning and have dinner at night,” Love says. “These changes focus on preserving an individual’s dignity and autonomy as much as possible.”

In fact, incontinence is a good example of a simple, yet pervasive need that directly impact’s an individual’s sense of dignity. More than half of all nursing home residents are incontinent, and it’s the second leading cause of institutionalization, according to the National Association for Incontinence. Yet in the past, incontinence products have been little more than extra-large diapers that did little to preserve an individual’s dignity. 

Demand for better fitting products prompted Medline to develop a new design in adult briefs. FitRight provides a more comfortable, garment-like fit, with odor protection and leak guards that enhance the wearer’s dignity, mobility and independence. Visit to learn more about incontinence products.

“By switching to better-fitting, discreet and more absorbent incontinence products, facilities have taken steps toward mitigating the embarrassing effects of this issue,” Love says. “It’s a good example of how facilities are emphasizing the need to listen to – and respond – to residents’ needs and concerns.”

With Americans living longer, that means there will be a lot more of them. About 13 percent of the population (nearly 40 million people) are 65 or older, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2030, that number is expected to rise to 72 million, or nearly one in five Americans; and the need for quality extended care facilities and products like FitRight will almost certainly rise with that number.
If you need to seek extended care for a loved one, the Pioneer Network offers some advice on how to evaluate whether a facility is on board with, and acting on, the concept of patient-directed care.

The organization recommends you ask these questions:

* How will they get to know your family member? – The facility may have a questionnaire to gather information about your loved one, and should be prepared to spend time with you and the patient to learn about their preferences, past, current interests, goals and wishes for the future.

* Will your family member be able to choose his or her own wake-up and meal times?

* Will your loved one be able to choose to have a shower or bath, and when that will happen?

* What recreational activities will be available?

“Every day, we’re learning more about how to extend life,” Love says. “Now, the challenge is to ensure that extra time is lived with the most dignity and best quality possible. Extended care facilities are finding that they can achieve that goal, often by taking some of the simplest steps.”

Courtesy of BPT

Protect your family this winter with vaccinations

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Whether you are an adult or a child, viruses, bacteria and disease can strike at any time and are not something which can always be dismissed with bed rest and soup. Terrible viruses, such as measles, have vaccines available, but have seen a continued rise in cases over recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Adults may take on a little of the ‘not me’ idea where they feel it’s not something they personally have to worry about because their body is strong enough, says Dr. Sherly Abraham, residency program director of the Family Medicine Department at The Brooklyn Hospital Center. But the reality is many of these individuals will become sick over the fall and winter, which could have been prevented with a vaccination.

To help minimize the number of vaccine-treatable conditions, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Foundation, through support from Pfizer Inc, presents awards to family medicine residency programs that have achieved increased immunization rates in their communities through creative solutions. The mission of the AAFP Foundation is to advance the values of Family Medicine by promoting humanitarian, educational, and scientific initiatives that improve the health of all people.

The Brooklyn Hospital Center (TBHC) Family Medicine residency program was recognized for its outstanding achievement in improving vaccination rates. The team, led by Dr. Abraham and Dr. Vasantha Kondamudi, chair of TBHC’s department of family medicine, has been recognized the last two years for its outstanding achievement in improving vaccination rates among children and adults. The program overcame a number of challenges – including vaccine availability, language barriers and community concern regarding vaccines – that contributed to low immunization rates.

Abraham noted one of the best things patients can do is ask questions about vaccines and treatments so each are fully understood. If parents are unsure about a vaccine for their child and choose not to immunize, that child may be extremely vulnerable to future diseases.

Once at TBHC, Abraham noted one of the most effective ways to accommodate patient schedules is giving work notes at the end of each visit to alleviate the stress of missing work. In addition, Kondamudi emphasizes pre-visit coordination to further strengthen the patient/physician partnership.

Prior to the patient’s visit, our staff reviews the medical record and alert the physician to any needed services such as seasonal flu vaccination or childhood immunization, Kondamudi says. This helps ensure that patients receive vaccinations in a timely manner.

Their Family Medicine Center became recognized as a Patient Centered Medical Home in 2010. As a Patient Centered Medical Home, the Family Medicine Center coordinates patient care over time and works to build an active partnership between patients and staff. These centers, according to Kondamudi, work to provide education and support for patients to take active role in their own health care.

To help ensure you and your family remain properly vaccinated this season, Abraham and Kondamudi recommend considering the following:

* During an upcoming medical visit, ask your doctor to check your immunization history and confirm all vaccines are up-to-date.

* If you have additional questions concerning a vaccine after speaking with the doctor, office support staff is readily available to help answer any questions.

* Ask for “work notes” when scheduling a medical visit during the week to help alleviate the stress of taking time off from work.

* Don’t be afraid to call the office and speak with an assistant to confirm your immunizations. They can usually check your chart and let you know if an appointment is needed!

Founded as the borough’s first voluntary hospital in 1845, TBHC’s Community Family Health Centers bring the resources of the hospital directly into a variety of Brooklyn neighborhoods, offering a full range of primary and specialty care services for adults and children.

Curable diseases cost the U.S. over $83 billion every year, Abraham says. Adults may be afraid of missing a few hours of work for vaccinations, but the truth is they are putting themselves at risk to miss more substantial time by missing these appointments.”

For more information, including a tip sheet of best practices from past winners, visit

Courtesy of BPT

Simple steps to a healthier heart

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

(BPT) – For millions of Americans, the battle against heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions goes on year round. About 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making heart disease the leading cause of death for both men and women.

However, despite the grim realities of heart disease, the steps to achieve better heart health can be simple. Experts agree that heart disease can be both preventable and controllable with the appropriate lifestyle changes.

Registered dietician Elizabeth Somer, author of “Eat Your Way to Sexy” believes there are clear steps a person can take to turn around his or her heart health.

“Many people with heart disease may be able to improve their heart health by making a few changes to what they eat, how much they move and their lifestyle,” Somer says. “There are four key things to think about for heart health: keep your blood fat levels down, keep your blood pressure in check, promote healthy blood flow and circulation, and keep inflammation down.”

Here are five simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and improve your overall health.

1. Take control of cholesterol with oat fiber: Numerous studies spanning a decade or more of research support the claim that dietary fiber from whole grains, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower the risk of heart disease. The fiber in oats is a soluble fiber called beta glucan. This fiber works by flushing cholesterol out of the system. Additionally, fiber-rich foods such as whole grains help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories and so may help with weight management.

2. Better your blood pressure: Nearly one-third of all American adults have high blood pressure and more than half of them don’t have it under control, according to the CDC. The risks that accompany uncontrolled high blood pressure are serious. However, taking easy steps will lower that risk. Exercising and maintaining a healthy body weight, in addition to eating a low-sodium diet, can all contribute to a healthier blood pressure. Also, if you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, you have more than twice the risk of a heart attack than people who’ve never smoked.

3. Keep your blood flowing: Products are now available that provide a natural way to help promote healthy blood flow by supporting normal platelet function. A tomato-based concentrate made from select Mediterranean tomatoes called Fruitflow is a natural, healthy and safe ingredient that has been proven through clinical research to keep platelets smooth, thereby promoting healthy blood flow. Try products with this ingredient like Langers Tomato Juice Plus or L&A Tomato Juice with Fruitflow as healthy daily beverage choices.

4. Decrease inflammation: Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA may help reduce inflammation and may also help lower risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease. Load up on heart-healthy foods like colorful fruits and vegetables, salmon, mackerel, nuts and foods fortified with EPA/DHA Omega-3 fatty acids such as certain milks, snacks and even cooking oils.

5. Shed the layers: It’s nothing new. We know that being overweight puts us at risk for numerous health problems, including an increased risk of both heart disease and stroke. The change in seasons can serve as the perfect springboard into a new exercise routine. Take advantage of extended daylight hours by sneaking a sweat session into your evening routine and take control of your diet, making sure to cut back on foods with saturated and trans fats.