Lightened up green bean casserole with shallot crumb topping

close up of green bean casserole with crumb topping

image credit: skinnytaste

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds frozen whole green beans (defrosted and snapped in half)

For the topping:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup shallots, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tsp fresh)

For the green beans:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup shallots, minced
  • 16 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup reduced sodium chicken stock (or vegetable for vegetarian)
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

For the topping:

  1. Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the shallots and sauté about 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low, add breadcrumbs, grated cheese and thyme.
  4. Sauté until golden brown, about 5 or 6 minutes, stirring frequently, careful not to burn.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly spray a 13 x 9″ baking dish.

For the green beans:

  1. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add shallots and sauté 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and sauté 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Sprinkle flour over the mushrooms; stir constantly for about a minute.
  5. Slowly add chicken stock, then milk. Bring to a low boil, and cook stirring occasionally until thickened, about 3 minutes.
  6. Stir in Romano cheese.

Then:

  1. Add defrosted green beans and mix well, season with salt and pepper as needed; pour into prepared baking dish.
  2. Top with toasted bread crumbs and bake about 30 minutes.

Yield

Makes 10 servings. Serving size equals approximately 1 cup. (Each serving counts as 1 fat, 1 starch and low starch vegetables.)

Nutrition analysis per serving

  • Calories:          140
  • Fat:                  5 grams
  • Saturated fat:  1.5 grams
  • Trans fat:         0 grams
  • Cholesterol:     5 milligrams
  • Sodium:           180 milligrams
  • Carbohydrate: 19 grams
  • Fiber:               4 grams
  • Sugar:              5 grams
  • Protein:            6 grams

– Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D., is a registered dietitian with the Beaumont Health Center’s Weight Control Center.

Adapted from Skinnytaste.com

 

 

Celebrating National Kindness Day

woman holding basket of lilacs

What is kindness? One definition is doing something for someone without expecting anything in return.

Some kindnesses are big and memorable, like creating Halloween costumes for our tiny NICU patients. That thoughtful gesture made the day for so many of our families. (Thank you, Ingrid Peeples!)

Some kindnesses are smaller, but still can bring joy to those around you. In fact, it’s the little things we can do daily that make the most impact. Here are some simple ways to show kindness today and every day.

  • Pay it forward by extending someone’s parking meter or pay for coffee for the person behind you. (Stephanie Babcock)
  • Put a little note in your child’s lunch.
    • When I include a joke, my son likes to share it with his friends. (Becky Bibbs)
  • Give a handwritten note.
    • Giving encouragement or thanks to my family and co-workers in a handwritten note in the age of electronics really makes a personal connection. (Nicole Capozello)
  • When young children are learning about kindness, always show appreciation and respect towards people animals and nature. (Lucy Hill)
  • Give a stranger a compliment.
    • I love doing that because I can see how it makes them feel. (Lori Polakowski)
  • Leave a surprise on the doorstep of someone.
    • I like to leave a pot of flowers or a goodie basket with fresh jam, bread and favorite tea or coffee. (Deanna Robb)
  • Reach out to friends you haven’t spoken to in a while.
    • I don’t know about you, but throughout the day my mind will go to certain people, or I may have a memory that is sparked that makes me thing of someone. A simple text to say, “Hi, I was just thinking of you. I hope you have a great day” or “Oh my gosh, I just heard the Spice Girls on the radio and it reminded me so much of all the fun at our old apartment. Hope you are well!” Little random notes like this can make people feel really good and can brighten a gloomy day. (Kelly Ryan)
  • Leave an extra hefty tip above and beyond the typical 20 percent for great service, or to server who seems to need the pick-me-up.
  • Leave a penny by the Sandy horse ride at Meijer so a kid who may not have a penny can take a ride.
  • Give a smile to someone.
  • Allow someone to change lanes in front of you.
  • Give a friendly wave to the driver behind you when changing lanes.
  • Take a meal to a family member, friend or someone in need. Whether it’s a new baby, a loss in the family or just some overwhelming stress, providing a warm meal can be a kindness.
  • Volunteer in your community.
  • Hold the door for someone behind you.
  • Offer to help someone without them having to ask you.
  • Remember to say please and thank you.
  • Share lots of hugs in your family.
  • Remind (and demonstrate to) children to stand up to someone who is bullying another.
  • Listen, demonstrate presence, and show openness and empathy to those around you.
  • Try and live each day with intention and positivity.
  • Donate to your favorite charity.

And one final thought from Betsy Clancy:

  • “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
    • My mom was always saying this, but more importantly, she lived it. (In honor of my mom, Betty Farley 1920–2016. “Love you, miss you …”)

Is using a car seat covering safe?

woman carrying infant carrier with canopy

image credit: Amazon

As the winter months approach, children will soon be sledding down snow hills, building snowmen, and really little ones will be traveling in cold weather in their car seats. As a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST), I can assure you that there are many steps that a parent can take to ensure their children stay warm and safe this upcoming cold season.

One recommendation is to avoid heavy, bulky coats on children harnessed in their car seats; there are many articles and infographics that discuss why this is important. However, there is a hidden danger that many parents are unaware of: using car seat covers or aftermarket canopies that cover your infant’s head for a long period of time while installed in his or her car seat.

Before diving into the research and reasons why this is potentially dangerous, let’s rewind for a minute. The practical reason for a covering children is to protect them from wind, rain and snow while you transport them in and out of the vehicle. As the parent of a winter-born baby, I can tell you that I covered my child with a blanket in his infant carrier many times after strapping him in the car during our Michigan winters. My job as a CPST is to provide you with information so you can make an educated decision about keeping your child safe.

There is an increasing amount of research that discusses how car seat canopies and other coverings are potentially dangerous. A specific concern is the risk of CO2 rebreathing. During the breathing process, your body inhales oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide (CO2), maintaining a balance between these two gases. However, rebreathing CO2 can have harmful effects on the body. When an infant has soft, fluffy or loose fabric around his face, the carbon dioxide can build up around the baby’s head. Rather than breathing fresh oxygen, the baby is rebreathing the expelled CO2 (Blair, Mitchell, Heckstall-Smith and Fleming, 2008). Many babies may cry, turn their head or attempt to get out of this unsafe situation, however infants who are at-risk (i.e., preterm, respiratory concerns) may have extra difficulty notifying a caregiver they are struggling (First Candle – Rebreathing Carbon Dioxide and Suffocation as they related to SIDS, 2009).

In April 2014, Baby Carrier Industry Alliance (BCIA) issued an executive statement regarding infant carrying that is applicable to car seat safety and any situation to where a child’s face might become covered and breathing could be compromised. It stated, “[C]overing a baby’s face makes it impossible to monitor a child’s breathing, in addition to putting the baby at risk for suffocation, or CO2 rebreathing.”

This does not mean that you have to expose your infant to cold weather and crippling winds when taking baby to the car in the winter. The key is to protect your child with a temporary cover. Use a receiving blanket to protect your child from the elements, but be sure to remove it once baby is secured in the vehicle. The American Academy of Pediatrics (2016) recommends against over-bundling and covering the face and head.

My recommendations

  • Avoid car seat canopies that strap onto the infant carrier’s handle. Parents often pull back the cover and leave the strap for convenience, but this poses a suffocation risk if the fabric accidentally falls down over the infant’s face.
  • Avoid car seat covers that zip close to a child’s face.
  • Always be aware of your infant’s airways and the car seat environment. We recommend using the “visible and kissable” phrase, which means keep your baby’s face uncovered and able to receive kisses at any given moment. This ensures that you can easily see and assess your child’s breathing while in the car seat.

Together we can ensure all babies stay warm and safe while traveling to and from the vehicle. As we know all too well, the sledding and snowman season will be here before we know it.

– Stephanie Babcock, CPST, is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s also the proud mommy of two boys.

Fall into autumn books

child reading book on blankets

Cropped image. Image credit: babyccinokids.

Autumn is the time of year that tickles our senses, and it’s the perfect season to enjoy with your baby. The once-green leaves come alive with rich and vivid color. The red, orange, yellow, and purple leaves hanging in the trees, fly past us in the fresh air and crunch under our feet as we walk. The brisk and chilly air makes it a perfect time to spend outdoors gathering leaves. Cider, cinnamon doughnuts, pumpkin pie, and crisp, red and green apples tantalize our taste buds like no other time of year. Bright orange pumpkins dot the fields begging to be chosen by the right child; a pumpkin’s bumps and crevices are fun for children to run their hands over. Celebrate the colors of fall, the time for gathering and giving thanks.

Of course, whether reading under a tree bursting with color or under your favorite quilt next to the fireplace, there’s nothing better than cozying up with books and reading with your child. Here are some recommended books for sharing with your baby during this special time of year.

– Lori A Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer.

Random Halloween musings

My childhood Halloween outings took place in the 1980s. Never being one particularly fond of dressing up, my costume was usually one that was handed down from a random friend of my parents or cobbled together from cast-off sporting goods. My younger brother—also not one to go out of his way for, well, anything—usually ended up dressing as whatever I’d impersonated the year before.

One such costume we both experienced was the Smurf. A typical offering of the era, this costume was composed of only two parts: a rigid, plastic Smurf-face mask secured with a flimsy elastic band around the head, and a plastic vest/shield/tunic thing upon which was a silkscreened image of a frolicking Smurf. Vision was strictly limited to what was directly ahead and respiration was limited to near-asphyxiation. Mobility was hampered by the ill-fitting tunic thing. Misery was imminent. But candy was the ultimate goal, so the misery was borne.

And speaking of candy … what was the item you most feared? You know. The one you never, ever wanted to see in the depths of your Holly Hobby pillowcase but yet somehow always ended up with in abundance? This is a trick question because there is only one right answer: Good & Plenty. There must have been some wacky individual working in his candy lab, twirling his handlebar mustache and speculating to himself: “How would young, innocent children best enjoy nasty licorice?” Encapsulating it in a chalky white substance isn’t quite icky enough so let’s make it interesting and also use some chalky pink substance! Mwahahahahaha!

Back to costumes. Kids these days experience Halloween in a much different fashion (no pun intended). Store-bought costumes are detailed, readily identifiable, and breathable! For those who want to up their game, Pinterest brings the DIY attempt to a whole new level. Of course, it’s easy to become overwhelmed simply by the sheer number of choices at hand! Basing one’s selection on price is useless, as all costumes retail for the same cost as that of a small car. Choosing based on popularity is also tricky, as manufacturers employ small armies of researchers who can pinpoint trends months in advance and use their brand knowledge to exact maximum dollars from consumer’s wallets. Thus, everything on the shelves is trendy and current. Everything is equally necessary in the eyes of the young “costumees.” What is a parent to do?

To achieve that unique, yet inexpensive, costumed visage, perhaps one should look to less current ideas for inspiration. For the right bribe incentive, I just might have a Smurf costume to lend out. Just don’t try to use a bag of Good & Plenty as a bartering tool.

– Wendy MacKenzie is a mother of four, Parenting Program volunteer, and avid licorice avoider.

The stranger things of parenting

young girl making a silly face

Cropped image. Philip Dean, Flickr. CC license.

Sure, we all know having kids changes everything. Sleep deprivation, cold food, bodily fluids and more become part of the everyday. The ho-hum.

But there are some surprises—things that I find bewildering that happen with kids. These are the Bermuda Triangle Parenting Issues.

There will be toothpaste everywhere.

I have no idea how this happens. Not only are there large clumps in the sink (at least that part makes sense), but also, it’s down the cabinets, on the floors, and once, on my husband’s comb (unbeknownst to him). My friend has to wash her shower curtain on a regular basis because of toothpaste. It’s like The Blob.

You will go through hand towels faster than Bed, Bath & Beyond on Black Friday.

Every day and sometimes more, we need a new hand towel in the bathroom. I’d like to think the kids are using it to wash their hands, but I’m not that naïve. The towel is sopping, smushy, sticky or any combination of the above. Often, toothpaste is involved. Sometimes, it’s in the toilet. Or completely missing altogether. See, Bermuda Triangle.

Food will take on strange names.

The other day, we wanted Chinese food. Knowing that the kids wouldn’t eat it, we referred to it as “Ninjago food.” It went down faster than a chubby kid on a seesaw. We also have “ground apples” (onions), “flat ravioli” (lasagna), and just about every meat is called “chicken.”

toothpaste cap on light switch

Exhibit “A”

You will find things in strange places.

For an entire week this summer, one of my darlings kept putting the hand soap on the floor in the corner of the bathroom. Purposefully. Also, see the photo, labeled “Exhibit A.” That’s just last week at my house. Yes, that’s a toothpaste cap on the light switch. *shrug*

Laundry becomes more of an adventure.

Yeah, there’s piles of laundry. But now, underwear and pants are always melded into one. Clothes are always inside out. And you will wash lots of things that aren’t clothing: LEGO, toys, bits of food (mac ‘n cheese holds up remarkably well), candy, crayons, markers, loose change and countless stickers. The inside of my dryer has several stickers that will not come off. One is Elsa. I know the cold never bothers her, but what about the heat?

But, like anything, everything becomes the new normal. I can’t tell you how often I assess for damages/potential danger, shrug and move on. Sometimes, it’s just not worth it.

– Rebecca Calappi is a freelance writer, adoptive mom to twins and past Parenting Program participant. Surprisingly, she’s mostly sane.

 

30-minute dinner:  Sheet pan balsamic-herb chicken and vegetables

sheet page chicken and vegetables

image credit: skinnytaste.com

After a long day at work, it can be hard to find the motivation to cook a healthy dinner. I find myself not wanting to cook because I’m tired and don’t have the energy to put in an enormous amount of effort for dinner. With life being so hectic for everyone, I wanted to share a quick and easy recipe that takes me 30 minutes to prepare with minimal clean-up.

This balsamic-herb chicken and vegetables recipe is a great because it only requires one pan and the most work is cutting up the vegetables. Aside from the quickness of this recipe, I enjoy it because I can use it as meal prepping for the week. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

 Sheet pan balsamic-herb chicken and vegetables

Ingredients for the chicken

  • 16 ounces boneless/skinless chicken breasts, halved
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • ½ Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped or ½ teaspoon dried
  • ¾ teaspoon salt

Ingredients for the vegetables

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces, layers separated
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 teaspoons fresh parsley chopped or 1 teaspoon dried

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment.
  2. Mix marinade for chicken by combining balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, basil, parsley and salt.
  3. Place chicken in marinade. Let chicken marinate while preparing the vegetables (the longer the better).
  4. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, black pepper, basil and parsley.
  5. Spread the vegetables onto the large sheet pan. Place the chicken within the vegetables.
  6. Roast until tender on the lower rack in the oven (about 20 minutes). Serve immediately.

Freezer-friendly tip

Let the cooked dish cool completely and then portion into freezer containers. You may freeze the meal for up to three months. When ready to eat, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat in a 325° F oven until warm (about 20 minutes).

Yield

4 servings (Serving Size: 1 piece chicken, 1 cup veggies)

Nutrition information

251 calories per serving

– Lauren Baker was a dietetic intern with Beaumont Health. The Beaumont Weight Control Center offers cooking demonstrations to the community. View a list of current demonstrations here.

Source: http://www.skinnytaste.com/sheet-pan-balsamic-herb-chicken-and-vegetables/

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