Quick Veggie Quesadillas

I don't know about you, but I'm pacing myself. I know that Christmas and holiday parties will take a lot out of me and I RE-FUSE to get worn out this year. So I'm falling back on the super-easy recipes that allow me to throw together something nutritious and pop it into the oven while I do (or don't do) something else. Here's what you'll need:

8 oz. of shredded cheddar cheese
One onion
A bag of baby spinach
A pack of 10 flour tortillas
A can of Hunt's diced tomatoes

By the way, be sure to load up on the tomatoes in the new year. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that lycopene* absorption is 2 to 3 times greater in canned tomatoes than in raw tomatoes. ConAgra recently had some interesting findings about heart health and tomatoes. Personally, I've been inspired to look after my own cardio health because heart disease and high blood pressure run in my family.

Alright, back to the recipe. Open the can of tomatoes and drain. Chop the onion and spinach, and keep them in two separate piles. Next use your favorite cooking spray to mist a large baking pan. Lay out 8 or 10 of the flour tortillas on the baking pan. Put two tablespoons of cheese into the center of each tortilla. Put a tablespoon of each of the vegetables into the center of each tortilla. Fold each tortilla. Bake the quesadillas at 375 degrees for 8 minutes, then turn them over with a spatula and bake for 4 minutes. Take them out and enjoy!

*Lycopene is a potentially powerful cancer-fighting agent found in fruits, vegetables and plants.

Although this is a compensated post, the opinions and recipes are strictly my own.

Behind The Scenes of "The Muppets"

Are you excited about the return of the Muppets? If so, you might be a 30- or 40-something with small children. We're told a good bit of nostalgia is going into the new movie "The Muppets" which is filming in Los Angeles. The plot involves all of the characters living in different parts of the world. But, as the story goes, they'll need to get back together to save their old television show. Here are some pictures from the set.

What do you think? Are you planning to take your kids to see it? Or maybe just yourself?

Photos courtesy of OnLocationVacations

Toddler PJs and a Pajama Sale

If you're like me, you recently realized that putting the little one in the old t-shirt-and-underwear number at night isn't going to work for the winter. That means the rush is on for warmer (and affordable!) PJs and just in time Diapers.com is having its Pajamarama sale. I've bought tons of things from Diapers.com in the past including -as you might imagine - diapers, baby bath products, and toys. The service has always been great so now I'm considering getting some toddler/preschooler pajamas from there as well since brands like Tea Collection and Carters are in the mix.

Also I'm searching for a place that sells 2-piece footie pajamas for preschoolers. I'm talking 4T and 5T, but does such a thing even exist??? If so, please let me know!

Halloween: Trick or Treating

Here's my question for parents: Does anyone go trick-or-treating anymore? I've been asking around our area and it seems trick-or-treating is less popular than ever. Participation in local neighborhoods seems to be spotty at best. But that's where we live. What are things like in your area? If your children aren't going trick-or-treating, will they be doing celebrating Halloween another way? I would love to know what you all are doing!

picture courtesy of Syracuse.com

Sesame Street Sings "I Love My Hair!"

Like lots of African-American parents these days, we stress the importance of self-esteem and self-love in our home. So, of course we love the new Sesame Street song aimed at teaching children to love their hair. If you haven't heard the song yet, now is your chance. The entire YouTube video is posted below. Once you've heard it, tell me what you think!

My Experience with Dannon Activia

I'm at the end of the Dannon Activia challenge and here's what I've found:

Overall this was a very positive experience. I really like that Activia doesn't taste weird and is basically a good yogurt with extra good stuff added in. I'm glad that I've found an easy way to fit more calcium in my diet without having to guzzle milk.

The kicker is that I've lost two pounds since the start of the challenge, but I think that's down to eating yogurt for breakfast instead of pastries or other unhealthy things. That's one reason why I'm going to continue having it every morning. Here is a picture I snapped just a few minutes ago here at work:

Don't forget that you can get your own coupons for Activia at the website or by clicking below.

Halfway Thru The Activia Challenge

I'm on day seven of the Dannon Activia. I think good things are happening, but I'll reserve complete judgment until the challenge is over. Since I'm already a fan of yogurt, it has been fairly easy for me to incorporate it into my morning routine. It tastes really good, just like regular Dannon yogurt. I've found that I'm partial to the strawberry flavor so I'm mostly sticking with that. I like that I'm getting more calcium in my diet and I do feel that eating Activia at least once a day is having a positive effect on my digestion. BUT. Is it better at all those things than regular yogurt? That's what I'm hoping to find out over the next week.

Don't forget you can get your own Activia coupons by clicking here.

Dannon Activia 14-Day Challenge

For months now I've been looking for healthy ways to get more calcium into my family's diet and to keep our digestion on track. So when I got some coupons that could be used for free servings of Dannon Activia, which contains a special culture that could help with digestion, it seemed like fate. I've decided to take this opportunity to participate in Activia's 14-Day Challenge to find out if incorporating this yogurt into my daily diet will boost my nutrition and help me to feel better. I'll be keeping all of you posted! In the meantime, you can find out get your own Activia coupons (yay!) by clicking below.

The Big Eggs Recall

So, basically, if you have eggs in your fridge right now you might need to think about chucking them. Or at least I would, until federal regulators figure out what's happening. That's because the recall has grown since it was announced last week.
So far hundreds of people have been sickened by an outbreak of salmonella on egg shells. The egg brands affected by the recall include: Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph’s, Boomsma’s, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms, and Kemps.

Here's how to check your carton to find out if your eggs are part of the recall.

Back To School: Old Navy Sale!

If your child is getting ready to go back to school this month, you owe it to yourself to check out a major kids sale going on at OldNavy.com. Right now, lots of separates for boys and girls are going for just ten bucks. That includes dresses, shirts, and pants.
Several other items are a nice 20-40% off. On top of that, you can get free shipping on all Old Navy orders of $50 or more until 8/14. Just click here and enter the code ONSHIP50 at checkout. The $10 sale ends on Friday, August 19th.

I've already nabbed a few things for my munchkin and I'm sure lots of other parents are doing the same. Don't miss out!

Say Goodbye to Drop-Side Cribs

After years of incidents surrounding drop-side cribs, government regulators have seen enough. The Consumer Product Safety Commission - that's the group that keeps an eye on items that might be unsafe - is rolling out new guidelines that will essentially ban the sale of drop-side cribs. This is one of those things that some people may be resistant about because they feel drop-side cribs make it easier to put a baby into a crib or because they've been handed-down a drop-side crib. But these kinds of cribs might not be worth it anymore - not when the CPSC says the cribs could pose a "suffocation or entrapment risk to young children."

What do you think? Is the government over-reacting? Did you have a drop-side crib that was "just fine"?

Running for A Cause

If you've been following the fitness journey of Renee on CutieBootyCakes, you know that her training has been an inspiration to many of us who want to live healthier lives.
But now she's preparing to run in the Nike Women's Half Marathon (that's 13 miles!) for someone who has inspired her. She is running with Team in Training in honor of a friend's 4-year old daughter, Ja'Naya, who is battling (and currently winning against) leukemia.
You can get involved in the fight against childhood leukemia by helping Renee to reach her fundraising goal of $4000 by August 5th. All proceeds will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Click HERE for the link to Renee's donation page.

Sponsored: Summer Grilling

Over the weekend, lots of families in our neighborhood fired up their barbecue grills. We all know that this is the perfect time of year for it, but we may not know how to turn a simple cookout into a backyard bash. Our friends at Kraft have some simple tips for lighting your fire.

Happy Father's Day!

Here's to all the fantastic Dads out there who enrich the lives of their children every day and in every way. Happy Father's Day!

Seven Tips for Expectant Fathers

by guest bloggers
Dr. Michele Hakakha & Dr. Ari Brown

This year alone, there are 4.2 million expectant fathers--and they're much more involved in pregnancy and childbirth than ever before. In fact, many fathers-to-be are so intertwined with their developing baby that they experience symptoms such as weight gain, nausea, insomnia, and even labor pains, called Couvade Syndrome.

Fathers-to-be go through changes that rarely get discussed, and have decisions to make that are uniquely theirs. Here are 7 tips especially for expectant dads:

Mind your own baby bump. Are you eating for two right along with your wife? Newsflash: Your wife will lose a lot of her weight automatically when she has the baby--you won't! Studies show expectant fathers often gain extra pounds of "sympathy weight" during their wife's pregnancy.

Take one for the team. Get your TdaP shot as well as seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccines to protect your precious cargo, who will soon be joining the family. Seventy percent of babies who get whooping cough are infected by immediate family members like you.

Baby yourself. Have you even been to the doc lately? Studies show many men ages 25-45 don't even have a primary care physician. Go get a checkup. Find out how you're doing, healthwise. Your baby needs a healthy dad who will grow old and wise.

Mind your moods. Research shows that partners are not only at risk for gaining sympathy weight, but may also suffer postpartum depression. Seek help if you feel overwhelming feelings of sadness, lack of desire to be around family and friends, severe fatigue, or trouble eating or sleeping after delivery.

Prepare for a dry spell. Hate to say it, but there can't be intercourse 6 weeks after the baby is born. The good news? Barring any health issues, you and your wife can have sex up until the last day before she delivers. And, no, sex does not trigger labor--that's an old wives' tale.

Engage in baby talk. We now know that babies recognize their parents' voices inside the womb. So go ahead--sing Hank Williams songs, recite your favorite poem, or just shoot the breeze with your unborn baby. When your baby is born, she or he will already know you.

Dads can nest too. Expectant dads are allowed to nest too--and often feel an overwhelming need during their wife's pregnancy to rev up the power tools. Feel free to paint, spackle, drill, and build to your heart's content--but avoid toxic materials and fumes in the baby's room.

* * * * *

Michele Hakakha, MD, is an award-winning obstetrician/gynecologist in Beverly Hills. Ari Brown, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician in Austin, TX, an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, the children's health expert for WebMD, and a medical advisor for Parents magazine. She has appeared widely on TV, including Today, ABC News, CNN, Dr. Phil, and Rachael Ray. They are coauthors of Expecting 411: Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Pregnancy (Windsor Peak Press, 2010, www.expecting411.com), the only pregnancy guide written by two MDs who are also moms, and part of the bestselling book series that includes Baby 411 and Toddler 411.

Etsy Find: Ankle Biters

Looking for ultra cute and colorful fare for your baby, toddler or preschooler? By the looks of things, Joey and Aleethea have you covered with lots of adorable pieces. I'm most impressed with the 100% cotton pants, called "ankle biters", after buying a pair for my son last year. They're perfect for daycare, playing outdoors, or just lounging around.

Now these will be a bit more expensive than pants you might pick up from the nearest discount or department store. But keep in mind that they're handmade and 100% cotton.

Biological Time Bombs & Cougars

by guest blogger Savannah George of Marvelous-Girl.com

The other day I was chatting with a friend whose father was in his 40s by the time she was born. That got me thinking…with a time frame on our baby-making years, we’re really just hostages of our own fertility. It’s not the biological clock; it’s the biological time bomb.

Meanwhile, men like Charlie Chaplin are having children at the age of 73, while the average American woman is having her first baby at age 25 and experiencing menopause symptoms as early as her 30s! So, I propose a theory: Women would have more fun if unbridled by their fertility.

In fact, that’s why we’re seeing the rise of “cougars” or women age 35+ who are in relationships with younger men. The majority of these women are victims of their biological time bomb, having children and too many responsibilities too young. Consequently, with the divorce rate at an astounding 50%, these women end up single and living out their repressed youth later in life.

For example, one of the most notorious cougars is actress Demi Moore, who had her first child at the age of 26. But, by age 38, Moore was divorced from the father of her children, Bruce Willis. At the age of 43, she remarried Ashton Kutcher, 15 years her junior.

In 2007, stylist Tameka Foster was 36 when she married singer Usher who was 14 years younger. The two split last year.

Now that we know the driving forces behind a cougar, it’s easy to identify cubs in training. One person who fits the criteria perfectly is Kate Hudson. Hudson became a mom at the age of 25 and was divorced by 27. Now she’s become know as a “maneater” or “serial dater”. As time passes by and Hudson matures, we’ll likely see her boyfriends staying the same age.

So, what can we do to avoid the biological time bomb? I’d like to think identifying the problem is the first step to solving it. While we can never beat the clock (with exception of freezing our eggs), being aware that life is not a race but a marathon will set us on the right path to fertility freedom. What do you think? Is it different for women-of-color?

Photo: Usher and Tameka Foster before their breakup last year.

Plan to E.A.T. R.I.G.H.T.

by guest blogger
Margaret Lewin, MD,FACP
Medical Director, Cinergy Health

Eat the rainbow! Not only do foods of varying colors pack a wealth of nutrition, they also look ever so enticing on the plate!
• Red fruits (think cranberries, grapes) and vegetables (think beets, red peppers, tomatoes) are high in the anti-oxidants which help fight heart disease, cancer and age-related memory loss.
• Orange and yellow fruits such as citrus and vegetables (sweet potatoes, squash, carrots) are high in beta-carotene for healthy skin and eyes, Vitamins A and C and anti-oxidants.
• Green leafy vegetables (think kale, spinach, cabbage, Brussels sprouts) – the darker the green the better – broccoli, bok choy, avocados, and snow peas. They are high in fiber and most are rich in folic acid, vitamins A, C and K and potassium.
• Blue and purple fruits (grapes, raisins) and vegetables (purple cabbage, blue potatoes, black beans) are high in fiber, anti-oxidants and many important trace elements.
• White and tan fruits (pears, dates) and vegetables (garlic, ginger, mushrooms, shallots, onions, turnips) add spice, phytochemicals and anti-oxidants to any meal. Cauliflower is rich in vitamins C, K, and folate, and is one of the cruciferous vegetables that reduce the risk of many cancers.
• Brown grains, seeds, legumes (beans, lentils, split peas) and nuts are high in fiber, zinc, iron, folic acid, minerals, healthy fats and B-vitamins.

Avoid processed foods. Take advantage of your time at home to multi-task by making your own soups and stocks and steaming some fresh vegetables while you prepare the main course (note that micro-waving removes many valuable vitamins). Cook larger portions than you need and freeze the extras in individual portions to reheat for lunch or to thaw quickly when you’re in a hurry to get dinner on the table.

Take a list with you when you shop – with a mind to whole meals containing those fresh fruits and vegetables of varying colors as well as whole grains.

Read package labels carefully. Pay attention to serving size (for example, you’re likely to be surprised that those little boxes of dried pasta contain 8 servings!) and choose products low in hydrogenated and saturated fats, salt and added sugar, altogether avoiding products containing trans fats.

Inspect fruits and vegetables carefully for signs of spoilage, store them properly, and wash them immediately before using.

Get locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables when possible, in order to maximize nutrition, decrease the risk of contamination and save money.

Have fish at least twice weekly – it’s high in protein, low in calories and fat, and high in omega-3 fatty acids. There is evidence that dementia and impairment of thinking are significantly decreased, the incidence of heart attacks and sudden deaths are decreased by more than one-third, and the risk of death from all causes is decreased by more than 15%... and benefits can be seen in as little as 3 - 4 months! Fish’s ability to reduce inflammation can decrease symptoms of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and it may also help to control diabetes.

ake time to enjoy your meals, eating slowly to decrease portion size and to help digestion.

So… celebrate good nutrition by trying at least one new seasonal vegetable or fruit every week of this month, going to the Internet to find new and interesting ways to serve them, and making your meals brilliant with color and nutrition.

Dr. Margaret Lewin specializes in nutrition and prevention who believes ‘you are what you eat’. She is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology.

Breastfeeding Saves Lives

For lots of reasons, breastfeeding can be a touchy subject for many families of color. On top of that, some new mothers are unable to nurse because of health issues or work situations. But new research offers encouragement for those who are able to produce milk for their babies and those who are considering breastfeeding. According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, if 90% of American women fed their babies only breast milk for the first six months of life, the lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year.
My own experience is that nursing my son is one of the most rewarding things I've done as a parent. The health benefits are immediate and tremendous. My little one never had an ear infection and did not catch a serious cold until he went to daycare at almost 18 months. Today he's a healthy, happy, rambunctious 3-year-old.

What is your experience? Did you choose to nurse or use formula? How do you feel about your decision? Would you do anything differently if given the chance?

Tuning In: Tiny & Toya

The hit BET show Tiny & Toya returns to the air tomorrow night for a second season. As many of you already know, the show focuses on two women attempting to live their own lives in the shadow of their children's fathers- namely, rap superstars T.I. and Lil Wayne.

Want more information on what Tiny and Toya have been up to? Click here. So, what do you think? Will you be watching?

Sponsored: Spring Cleaning with Arm & Hammer Plus OxiClean

In my house, kids mean stains. I first noticed this when my son was just months old. My husband and I were always changing him out of food-soiled onesies. To make things worse, we would wash the onesies only to find out that the stains were not coming out. And things have not changed. Spaghetti sauce, gravy, and juice try to make permanent marks on shirts and pants. We've had mixed results with various sprays, but Arm & Hammer Plus Oxiclean detergent might have saved us the trouble. It has the popular spray OxiClean built right in for brighter colors and whiter whites. Click below for more information on getting your child's laundry cleaner for less.

De La Soul + Kid Robot = Throwback Fun

Not sure if today's post is for the parents or the kids. But someone out there will appreciate this. 20 years ago the hip hop group De La Soul released the groundbreaking album 3 Feet High and Rising. Now the guys are celebrating the 20th anniversary by teaming up with the hip toy company Kid Robot to roll out three limited edition action figures designed to resemble the style of Trugoy, Pos, and Mace from back in the day. Find more information on KidRobot.com.

Yo Gabba Gabba - Season 3!

Want to guess what rollicking event gets underway on Monday, March 8? I don't mind telling you - it's the third season of the hit Nickelodeon show Yo Gabba Gabba. We're told the season premiere is called "Circus" and will feature appearances by Weird Al Yankovic and Sarah Silverman. Through the rest of the season, be on the lookout for Paul Scheer, Anthony Bourdain, Of Montreal, Mos Def, Devo, The Aquabats, Biz Markie, Travis Barker, Erykah Badu, The Flaming Lips, The Killers, Solange Knowles, and Mix Master Mike. But, as any parent knows, the REAL stars of the show are Muno, Foofa, Plex, Toodie, and Brobee.

New episodes will run every day next week, so check your own local listings for exact times. You know our DVR will be set to record. Even with reruns, we continue to enjoy this show and its life lessons for toddlers/preschoolers. Get a sneak peek of season three by checking out new videos that were just uploaded by the folks at Yo Gabba Gabba.

Photo source: Ben Clark/Nickelodeon

New Viral Vid: Beaker from the Muppets

Remember Beaker? He didn't have the most extensive vocabulary, but he could always be counted on for a chuckle during his misadventures. Well now he's also the star of a new viral video in which he sings the song "Dust in the Wind."

Happy Groundhog Day!

No, we don't know if the little guy saw his shadow today. Yes, we will play the "I Hog The Ground" video every Groundhog Day from now 'til eternity because it is perfect. If you've never seen it before, it's from Jack's Big Music show and it stars Steve Burns (former Blue's Clues guy) and Steven Drozd (of the Flaming Lips). Learn some fun facts you DIDN'T know about the groundhog!

"I Hog The Ground"

Sponsored: Keeping Your Family Fresh With Frigidaire

All families need hardworking appliances, but it isn't always easy to get quality items without planning ahead. Frigidaire is making it a little easier by giving you the chance to win a Frigidaire Affinity washer and dryer. Each day you register or log in to the sweepstakes, you'll be automatically entered for the chance to win a randomly selected prize AND the washer/dryer set. The great part is, no purchase is necessary to enter or win. This sweepstakes is worth entering even if you don't need a new washer and dryer, because Frigidaire will donate a dollar to Save the Children for every entry received.
The promotion runs through April 26th. Enter the Spin & Win Sweepstakes or get more information by clicking below.

Goodbyn: Lunchbox for the Picky Eater

Let's face it: Some kids just need more choices in life. Lots of parents claim to have a picky eater. I actually have one. Making any meal for my 3-year-old is a chore, but lunch is especially tough. There's just no way to tell at seven in the morning what he's going to want to eat at noon. Many days last year his teacher at daycare would have to tell me that the little one didn't eat anything at all or only picked through his lunch. In November, she suggested getting him a bento box to hold lots of different foods instead of just one. It sounded like a great idea since I had long since given up on controlling exactly what he ate during the day and was far more concerned that he eat something healthy. But it also sounded like an idea that could potentially make things more complicated. How would packing more food be less troublesome?
I was browsing Amazon.com
for gifts during the holiday season when I spotted the Goodbyn. It was advertised as a good-for-the-planet lunchbox that eliminated the need for disposable packaging, was BPA free, and could go in the dishwasher. But I'll admit my first thought was simply, "compartments!" Let's face it, the Goodbyn was probably as "bento" as I was going to get. So after a few more days of stalking, gazing, and figuring, I bought it in green. (I see that they now have blue, too. Dern it!) It was 29.95 with free shipping. I love Amazon.

When the Goodbyn arrived, I immediately put it to work - actually packing my son's lunch that night (not scrambling the next morning). I'd made the decision to pack only healthy things because with all these choices my preschooler would eat something, I just wouldn't know exactly what. I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (that's actually a soy nut butter and Polaner All-Fruit on whole wheat), wrapped it and put it in the compartment shaped like a sandwich. Then I filled the juice container with Motts-for-Totts and tossed in a cheddar cheese stick, some sliced apples, a container of yogurt and a handful of veggie crackers. It was a pretty quick process and I reminded myself that I wasn't making a meal, I was providing (fairly) healthy choices. I sealed the Goodbyn and popped it into the refrigerator, happy that I'd fixed lunch without the pressure of coming up with the one perfect thing that might be eaten at daycare. I couldn't wait until that evening when we got the lunchbox back. I ripped into it to see what was left and just about everything was gone. Weeks later, my son is still eating better than he ever has at daycare and I can say that I highly recommend the Goodbyn. It really has saved my sanity and it's always easy to use no matter what I have in the house. I can pack leftovers, fruit, cheese, cold cuts, pudding, soup - just about anything - and something will be eaten.

Now, here are some things you should know if you're in the market for a bento-ish lunchbox like this one: Sue me, but I still use a small amount of disposable packaging such as sandwich bags, because it keeps the lunchbox nice and clean. Working on that part. Also, the Goodbyn is slightly larger than most lunchboxes, but it still fits in the backpack. I see that the website shows children carrying it by its handle, which is very very cute, but we're trying to cut down on the number of items we carry to the car. Also, closing the lunchbox is a lot like closing Tupperware, but we've had no problem at all keeping it closed. Once it sealed, it's sealed. But what your little ones will probably appreciate is that the Goodbyn comes with two big rolls of stickers so they can "decorate" their new lunchboxes as they see fit.
Read more about the Goodbyn Lunchbox here.. If you have any other lunchtime ideas for toddlers or preschoolers, please share them with us by clicking on comments!

Will You Be Awesome?

I can't really answer that question myself, but hopefully we can all wind up with photos of ourselves on a blog like "My Parents Were Awesome" one day. It celebrates the "coolness" of parents before they were parents through pictures sent in by adult children. Here are some faves:

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