Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Equals Comfort

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  Today’s guest author is Amanda Keefer. Welcome, Amanda!

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Tomato soup and grilled cheese is a classic, kid-friendly comfort food that many of us, including myself, relate back to cold winter days with family and friends. Even after moving away from the cold weather as an adult, the combo of tomato soup and grilled cheese still stir up a feeling of comfort for me. Now, I serve my own version of the duo to my family.

In this recipe I skip the sodium-packed canned soup and go for an easy, homemade version that’s packed with veggies! You can stir in 1 Tbsp. plain yogurt to each bowl for extra creaminess.

The mini grilled cheese sandwiches are perfect for little mouths and for dipping.

Now, As I share this recipe with my family, I feel a new sense of comfort knowing that I am passing along not only a taste, but a feeling for them to carry on to adulthood.

Want the full recipe? Check it out over at Produce for Kids.

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Saying “No” To Holiday Stress

Is Thanksgiving really less than a week away? If the thought sends a little bit of panic through your system like it does mine, you might find these tips useful.  My favorite? “Practice Saying No.”  As in:

No, I’m not going to try to out-do all the other moms when it comes to teacher gifts.

No, I appreciate the invitations, but I won’t be attending every holiday event.

No, I’m not going to participate in the rampant consumerism and keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-ism that often plagues the holidays

Oh and another thing: This lady’s stress would be a whole lot less if she ditched the heels. Check it out:

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Coping With the Tragedy in Paris

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Even though we’re thousands of miles away from Paris, many of us still feel a sense of pain, loss and fear after the horrible violence that occurred a few days ago.  Watching coverage of the events and the people who lost their lives, some of us begin to remember other, similar tragedies:

  • 911
  • Columbine
  • Sandy Hook
  • Aurora

The memories and constant news coverage of the event can start to have a real effect on our mood – even if we weren’t personally affected or involved.

The American Psychological Association offers several tips for coping with tragedies and mass shootings.  My go to? Turn off the TV, internet, social media on a regular basis.  Information is good, but emotional overload can happen quickly.  For more tips check out APA.

Cranberry Salsa Feels Like Being Home

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  I am excited to welcome guest author, Rachael Teufel – cake artist extraordinaire.  Welcome, Rachael!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. While there may be a little fuss with putting together a great meal, there’s no gifts to buy, cards to send, or candy laying around. It’s simply about spending time with family and giving thanks to all the wonderful people we love. Sadly, it’s not always possible to travel to be with family, so I have to bring our family to us in other ways. Making recipes that I would typically enjoy with them helps make me feel like I’m home for the holidays.

I thought I’d share one of my favorite holiday appetizers compliments of my Aunt Laura, fresh Cranberry Salsa. This is one of the most delicious salsas you’ll ever eat! It’s packed full of fresh fruits and vegetables and has a sweet, yet tangy flavor.


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1 bag (12oz) fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to thaw)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into eight pieces
1/2 large red pepper cut into large chunks
1/2 medium red onion cut into large chunks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup apple juice
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp chopped pickled jalapeno pepper
1 tsp grated lime zest

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Place all ingredients into a large food processor and pulse until desired consistency is reached.  Serve with tortilla chips.  The lime tortilla chips go great with this salsa adding a little more zing to each bite.

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Rachael Teufel grew up baking in the kitchen with her Hungarian grandmother, but she didn’t discover her passion for cake decorating until later in life while seeking a creative outlet from her day job. She always had artistic interests, so cake decorating seemed like the perfect activity after a long day working as a Physical Therapist. Rachael began her passion for cake decorating in 2001 with a few Wilton classes and continued to educate herself by taking classes with top designers like Ron Ben-Israel, Colette Peters, and Marina Sousa. In 2006, she started her own company, Intricate Icings Cake Design, out of a commissary kitchen and eventually opened her own studio in 2009. After 6 years in her studio, Rachael opted to scale back her company to focus solely on custom designed, luxury wedding and event cakes, while continuing to share her cake knowledge in private classes and through online Craftsy classes.

Rachael’s work is now nationally recognized in both the wedding industry and the cake decorating community. Her work can be seen on episodes of Food Network Challenge as well as in the pages of magazines such as Brides, Martha Stewart Weddings, and The Knot. Rachael has been awarded several top honors including being named one of Martha Stewart Weddings’ top pastry pros in the country and Brides Magazine’s “Top 100 Bakeries”. Brides Magazine has also featured Rachael’s cakes in the “50 Most Beautiful Wedding Cakes” and “America’s Prettiest Wedding Cakes”.


Chores, Marriage, and Fairness

I hate doing chores.

So do my husband, kids, and just about everyone else in the world.

The bummer is that they have to be done – and they have to be done most everyday.

So how do marriages and families get chores done, and remain speaking at the same time?

I was recently interviewed for this really cool article about managing the “chore wars” every couple deals with.  I love how the family in the story talks about splitting up their domestic duties.  Check out this little gem of advice:

“Putting forth effort equals results,” Cary Schram, 42, said. “That’s pretty much my motto at work, and that’s what I think about a lot of times at home. You can have a great job. But if you come home and nobody’s happy, then you’re not happy, no matter how much money you make. We want to be happy.”

You have to work hard to be happy at home.  Love it.

Here’s part of my advice:

“Just remember to give yourself and your partner a break because it’s never going to be fifty-fifty,” she said. “Some days, it’s going to ninety-ten. If your expectation is that it’s going to be fifty-fifty, you’ll always be disappointed.”

Check out the entire article here:

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Food and Mood: Virtuous Kale Salad

This post is part of the series: Food and Mood.  Today I’m welcoming Dr. Debbie Sorensen as a guest blogger. 

Kale Salad: From Guilty to Virtuous

Every now and then I feel something that could perhaps be called “Not Enough Veggies Guilt.” It is the shameful emotion that arises when I realize that I haven’t eaten nearly enough vegetables for a while. What better way to remedy that unpleasant feeling than to eat a big dose of super-healthy leafy greens, like kale?

I am not one who generally loves the taste of kale. For me it has mostly been more of a “should eat” in my diet than a “want to eat.” That is, until my in-laws introduced me to this really yummy kale salad recipe.

Although I don’t naturally love the taste of kale, I DO naturally love the strong flavors of garlic, lemon, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. And a little zip from crushed red pepper makes those flavors all the better. When you marinate raw kale in a dressing made of those ingredients, it is transformed into something I can’t stop eating! And with all that nutritious kale in my body, my feelings change from guilty to virtuous, a much more pleasant state indeed!

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I can’t guarantee that all children will love this recipe, but you might be surprised. My kids have been known to nibble a little kale out of our garden, and will eat some of this salad. And, it is a fun recipe for kids to help make- especially tearing the kale into little pieces and massaging the dressing into the kale.

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I have modified the original recipe a little to simplify it:
1. I don’t bother with the breadcrumbs, and the recipe is great without it.
2. I don’t really measure the ingredients for the dressing. I just sort of wing it, and I usually go heavy on the garlic and crushed red pepper.

This is how I make it:

Feeling Virtuous Kale Salad
(Adapted slightly from the website of Dr. Andrew Weil)
1. Wash about 4-6 loosely packed cups kale. We grow Dinosaur Kale in our garden and it works well, but any kind of kale will be fine.
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2. Remove thick stems, and tear into small pieces. Even small hands can help with this task!
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3. In a small bowl, combine: juice of 1 lemon, about 3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 or 2 cloves garlic (mashed or minced), salt & pepper (to taste), and crushed red pepper flakes (to taste).
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4. Pour over kale in serving bowl and use your hands to massage dressing into kale. Another great job for small hands.
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5. Add about 1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese and mix into kale salad.

6. Let sit for at least 5 minutes and then it’s ready to eat.

7. Top each serving with a little more grated Parmesan cheese.
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Enjoy, and savor that virtuous feeling while it lasts!
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About the author: Debbie Sorensen is a a psychologist who lives in Denver with her husband and two young daughters. She tries to eat a healthy home-cooked dinner with her family most nights, but isn’t always successful.

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Food and Mood

Welcome to my new blog series: Food and Mood!

We all know about comfort food, and it’s potential to cheer us up on a gloomy day, but in this series I will be exploring how food relates to all kinds of different moods.  When you’re happy do you crave pizza? Cantaloupe? When you’re worried do you reach for the steak?

Over the next couple months I will be welcoming guest bloggers who will share a recipe along with the mood that best represents it.  It’s going to be informative AND delicious!

I’m going to start things off today with a recipe that I like to make when I am feeling:


Here goes:



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Ingredients: 2-3 sticks butter, Italian Seasoning, Seasoned salt, 3-4 sleeves saltines

Step 1: Preheat oven to 275 and melt butter in large pan on the stovetop

Step 2: Add seasonings

I added about 1 teaspoon of each seasoning.  That makes for some salty crackers! If you like less salt, adjust seasonings accordingly.

I added about 1 teaspoon of each seasoning. That makes for some salty crackers! If you like less salt, adjust seasonings accordingly.

Step 3: Whisk gently until combined

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Step 4: Carefully dunk crackers in butter mixture.  Some days I have especially tough fingers and can dunk them in with my bare hands.  Other days I need tongs.  Who knows how that works?! The crackers only need to be submerged for a couple seconds.  Longer than that and they absorb too much of the liquid.

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Step 5: Place crackers on cookie sheet in a single layer.

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Step 6: Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden

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Step 7: Enjoy! These little treats are addictive, so beware! I usually store them in a ziploc bag or tupperware in the pantry.  I haven’t experimented with other seasonings, but I bet cinnamon and sugar would be delicious too!

Happy eating and stay tuned for the next post in the Food and Mood series!

Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman.

This Psych Major…

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If you weren’t a psychology major in college, you may have missed the kerfuffle Jeb Bush caused last weekend when he said this:

“Universities ought to have skin in the game,” the former Florida governor said at a South Carolina town hall with Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Trey Gowdy. “When a student shows up, they ought to say ‘Hey, that psych major deal, that philosophy major thing, that’s great, it’s important to have liberal arts … but realize, you’re going to be working a Chick-fil-A.'”

Oh boy.

Normally I wouldn’t weigh in on a political issue.  Too divisive. Too unproductive.  But this time I’m going to, because:

  • I was a psych major
  • I went on to earn both master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology
  • I believe whole-heartedly in the power of psychology to change lives
  • Mr. Bush will be debating tonight at the very institution where I received my (not-so-useless) psychology degree (Go Buffs!)

So here goes:

Psychology is an interesting, useful and relevant course of study.  Why? Because all of us can relate.  We all have brains, emotions, families and friends.  We all interact in groups and communicate with other people.  We all start out as infants, develop, grow, learn and age.  We all have a state of mental health, sometimes it’s good – sometimes not – but, it’s always there.  We all deal with issues like motivation, addiction, shyness, jealousy, and creativity.  Most of us become parents, even more of us enter marriages or committed relationships.  And almost everyone – at some point in their lives – has to deal with a boss, neighbor or family member that they would rather not.

Guess what? All of these things (and more, of course) are in the field of psychology.  What could be a better course of study to prepare a student for life? I can’t think of one.

And, what’s wrong with working at Chick-Fil-A, anyway?





Surviving Classroom Holiday Parties

Please note: This article originally appeared on LiveWell Colorado

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For lots of school age kids, the holiday season means school parties, pageants and plays. These can be a lot of fun, of course, but they can also mean an abundance of sweets and high fat foods.

Sure, we all love to have a treat now and then, but a recent LiveWell Colorado survey found that Colorado moms estimated their young kids can eat up to 2-3 sugary snacks per week (cupcakes, cookies, cereal treats) in the classroom.   As a mom of 3, I can assure you that many weeks my kids eat a lot more than 2-3 sugary snacks

That’s more than a “treat” – that’s a regular part of the diet! Oops!

Most of us enjoy an indulgence once in a while. In fact cupcakes and other desserts and snacks can be part of a healthy diet when eaten in moderation. Making sure that moderation (and not domination!) is in place, however, can be tricky, particularly when it comes to treats outside of the home.

So what is a family to do? How can we help our kids stick to a healthy eating routine while having fun at the same time? How can you be “that parent” who monitors nutrition at school but who isn’t at the same time annoying, embarrassing or pushy?


Plan ahead.

Teachers, room parents and administrative staff are often thinking about school celebrations months in advance. In order to ensure that healthy snacks and activities are incorporated into school celebrations, volunteer to help early and often.

Even though the winter holidays and Valentine’s Day are months away, now might be a good time to volunteer to coordinate the food for the parties. It will give you time to organize fun, healthy snacks and it will also be a relief to those in charge to know that aspect of the party is set.

Ask for help.

Whether it’s other moms or dads who share your ideas about nutrition or those whose children struggle with food allergies, lots of families are interested in providing a variety of food options at school. Ask your child’s teacher to put you in touch with families with similar interests, or send out a couple of emails to fellow parents. You may just find an enthusiastic and supportive group ready to help you provide healthy foods!


Keep it balanced.

Holidays and school parties can be excellent times to talk about and teach what it means to have a balanced, healthy diet. Talking about (and modeling!) a well-balanced diet is essential when teaching our kids about overall health. Providing lots of fruit, vegetable and lean protein options, along with one, small, special treat at a school party may be just the way to get started.


Have fun and get active!

Providing nutritious snacks is not the only way to encourage overall health during school parties. Consider holding a dance party, a limbo contest or a three-legged race during the event. Physical activity is not only an important part of overall health, it also gives the kids (and adults!) something to do other than hang around the snack table.

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