These cinnamon twists are fun to make after school. Get friends to help and then dig in while the Twisters are still warm from the oven.

Polka Dot Twisters

Ingredients

1-1/2 cups all-purpose baking mix
1/2 cup milk (“Mom” prefers organic)
3/4 cup Sun-Maid Natural Raisins
All-purpose flour, as needed to roll Twisters
1 egg, beaten (“Mom” prefers organic)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preparation

PREHEAT oven to 425 F. For easier clean up, line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper, or spray with cooking spray.
STIR baking mix, milk and raisins in medium bowl for 1 to 2 minutes until a soft dough forms. Dough becomes less sticky as it is stirred.
PAT dough onto well-floured surface, and with floured hands, shape into a ball, using extra flour as needed to keep from sticking. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces.
ROLL each piece into a rope 12 inches long. Fold each rope in half and gently twist together. Place on prepared cookie sheet. COAT the top of each Twister with a thin layer of beaten egg, using fingertips or a brush. Mix together sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon over each.
BAKE for 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove Twisters to a cooling rack. Serve warm.

Makes 6 Twisters.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Sun-Maid.*

Fun-sized, nutritious snacks are an ideal item for placing in lunchboxes or in backpacks for after school sports this Fall! Sun-Maid has a variety of Mini-Snacks to choose from that kids will love and that are not overloaded with artificial ingredients or an abundance of sugar! Since Sun-Maid Mini-Snacks are all-natural, children will avoid a sugar crash later in the day. Packed with fiber and protein, kids will love these yummy snacks as a treat!

Sun-Maid Mini-Snacks are perfect for busy families on-the-move, as well, as they tuck easily into purses, diaper bags, backpacks, and more for a quick snack. Mini-Snacks are available in both Raisins and Vanilla Yogurt Raisins, which “Mom” really enjoys!

To learn more about Sun-Maid Mini-Snacks, to locate a store near you, or to order online, visit SunMaid.com.

*Company generously provided samples and images for this piece.*

September marks the start of the season every parent comes to dread: cold and flu season. As children take their play indoors, germs circulate more quickly, leading to six months of increased infections that can, at any point, turn a day of school or work into cancelled meetings and time spent coughing on the couch.

As with all illnesses, prevention is better than the cure. While many parents turn to hand sanitizer to kill germs, these store-bought concoctions can contain alcohol and harsh chemicals. Dr. Lawrence Rosen, a nationally recognized expert in Pediatric Integrative Medicine, shares this recipe for a gentler – and equally effective – homemade hand sanitizer:

Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Ingredients

3 oz. filtered water
1 tsp. aloe vera gel
10 drops cinnamon essential oil
10 drops clove essential oil
10 drops rosemary essential oil
10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
20 drops lemon oil

Instructions

Mix ingredients in a 4-ounce spray dispenser, and shake gently. Spray on children’s hands, and teach them to massage the spray into their hands for 30 seconds. The result is a natural, chemical free, hand sanitizer to keep germs at bay.

Of course, some illnesses are unavoidable. When a cold or flu does strike, Dr. Rosen recommends using Sambucol (black elderberry extract) to help alleviate symptoms faster. Researchers have found that influenza patients treated with elderberry recover four days faster, on average, than those not receiving treatment. Elderberry is safe for children two years or older – which means your kids can get back to school faster when recovering from the flu.

About the Author

Dr. Rosen, along with holistic-minded parent Jeff Cohen, recently published a book of natural remedies for nearly 100 common childhood ailments – everything from acne to urinary tract infections. The book, Treatment Alternatives for Children: Reduce Serious Side Effects with Natural Equivalents to Conventional Remedies for Common Childhood Ailments, is a resource for parents who want to find alternatives to prescription antibiotics and other conventional treatments that sometimes have harsh side effects. Like Dr. Rosen’s approach to preventing, and treating, the flu, each ailment is addressed from the perspective of the child’s overall wellbeing.

A Favorite Summer Dessert Reimagined With California Avocados

After all the hard work of getting into tip-top shape for the summer season, many folks have a tinge of guilt while they enjoy those traditional picnic dishes.

Fortunately for summer foodies everywhere, Liz Weiss, MS, RD and Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD—better known as The Meal Makeover Moms—have partnered with the California Avocado Commission to put a healthy spin on a summer favorite…pie.

Desserts made with fresh, seasonal produce are a great way to celebrate the summer. With California avocados in season from spring to fall, they are a delicious ingredient for any summer dish, including dessert. The Meal Makeover Moms reimagined the traditional Key Lime Pie and developed a zesty California Avocado Yogurt Key Lime Pie recipe that combines limes, creamy Greek yogurt and avocados nestled inside a delicious homemade graham cracker crust.

One might not immediately think of avocados as something to use in baking, but the versatile California avocado adds a creamy rich flavor to any recipe. In addition to their consistent quality and exceptional flavor, they also offer an array of nutritional benefits. California avocados are naturally sodium and cholesterol free and contain “good” fats (both poly- and monounsaturated fats), along with nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Since the greatest concentration is in the dark green fruit closest to the peel, The Meal Makeover Moms suggest nicking and peeling the skin from the avocado to get to the most nutrient-rich fruit.

To view more of The Meal Makeover Moms’ recipes or learn about California avocados, visit www.CaliforniaAvocado.com.
California Avocado Yogurt Key Lime Pie

Serves: 10

Ingredients

2 ripe Fresh California Avocados, quartered, peeled and seeded
1⁄2 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
1⁄2 cup light agave nectar
1 lime, zested
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
1⁄2 cup light coconut milk
1⁄2 cup lime juice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
Graham Cracker Almond Crust (see make-ahead recipe below)
Raspberries and light whipped cream, for garnish (optional)

Preparation

1. Place avocados in the bowl of a food processor with the yogurt, agave, lime zest and vanilla extract; pulse until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Set aside.

2. Place the coconut milk in a small saucepan and bring to low boil. Set aside. Place the lime juice in a large bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the juice and let stand 1 minute. Gently whisk in the hot coco¬nut milk. Continue to whisk until the gelatin completely dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stir in the avocado mixture until well combined.

3. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust. Carefully transfer to the refrigerator and chill, uncovered, until firm, about 3 hours. Garnish with optional toppings. (Store leftovers in the refrigerator and cover with plastic wrap.)

Graham Cracker Almond Crust

Ingredients
1⁄2 cup unsalted, whole roasted almonds
7 whole graham crackers (14 squares)
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1⁄4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 egg white

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add the graham crackers, sugar and salt and pulse until finely ground. Add the butter and egg white and pulse until evenly moistened and combined.
3. Press the crumb mixture firmly on the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until fragrant and golden. Cool completely before filling.

*Article courtesy of NAPS.*

Crisp beans and a savory dip of puréed carrots make a great finger-food starter or an excellent addition to a picnic.

Steamed Green Beans with Carrot-Dill Dip

Ingredients

3 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 pound green beans or yellow wax beans or a mixture of both, stem ends trimmed
2/3 cup lowfat sour cream
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 shallot, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 cup lightly packed chopped fresh dill

Preparation

Steam carrots until they are very tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer carrots to the bowl of a food processor. Set aside to cool.

Steam green beans until bright green and crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately cool beans in cold water. Drain and pat dry.

When carrots are cool, add sour cream, mayonnaise, shallot, salt and cayenne to the food processor and process until smooth. Add dill and pulse until combined. Transfer dip to a bowl and serve with green beans for dipping.

*Recipe and image courtesy of Whole Foods Market.*

Pack a healthier dessert option in your child’s lunchbox this Fall! This tasty, nutritious alternative will satisfy their craving for something sweet, and moms everywhere will love that their child is eating both fruits and veggies baked inside! Kashi’s new Banana Chocolate Chip Soft n’ Chewy Bars are made with half a serving of fruit from apples and bananas and half a serving of vegetable from pumpkin, and boast 4 grams of fiber per bar! At only 140 calories, these bars are ideal for lunchboxes or as an after-school snack.

Think delicious banana bread baked with decadent dark chocolate chips – “Mom” tried warming the Banana Chocolate Chip Soft n’ Chewy Bars in the microwave for 20 seconds, and the taste of the chocolate really stood out! We can see why this made Kashi’s Kid-Friendly Top 10!

To learn more about Kashi’s new Banana Chocolate Chip Soft n’ Chewy Bars, other Kashi products, or to locate a store near you, please visit kashi.com.

*Company generously provided samples & images for this piece.*

Fish tacos can be filled with either fried fish (not healthy!) or grilled fish (healthy!). Here’s the healthy version, with a citrus marinade and tangy cabbage slaw.

Basic Fish Tacos

Ingredients

1 pound firm white fish, such as tilapia, snapper, cod, mahi mahi, or catfish
2 limes, halved
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for oiling the grill grates
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 small head of green or red cabbage (about 14 ounces), cored and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
6 to 8 soft (6-inch) corn tortillas
Sliced avocado, for garnish (optional)
Guacamole, for garnish (optional)
Salsa, for garnish (optional)
Sour cream, for garnish (optional)
Hot sauce, for garnish (optional)

Preparation

Place the fish in a baking dish and squeeze a lime half over it. Add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season with salt and pepper and turn the fish in the marinade until evenly coated. Refrigerate and let marinate at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the slaw and warm the tortillas.

Combine the cabbage, onion, and cilantro in a large bowl and squeeze a lime half over it. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary; set aside.

Warm the tortillas by heating a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tortilla at a time, flipping to warm both sides, about 5 minutes total. Wrap the warm tortillas in a clean dishcloth and set aside while you prepare the fish.

Brush the grates of a grill pan or outdoor grill with oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Remove the fish from the marinade and place on the grill.

Cook without moving until the underside of the fish has grill marks and is white and opaque on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip and grill the other side until white and opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes more. (It’s OK if it breaks apart while you’re flipping.) Transfer the fish to a plate.

Taste the slaw again and season as needed with more lime juice. Slice the remaining lime halves into wedges and serve with the tacos. To construct a taco, break up some of the cooked fish, place it in a warm tortilla, and top it with slaw and any optional garnishes.

*Recipe and image courtesy of CHOW.com.*

A Nutritious Start Can Turn Kids Into Champions

For many parents, getting their kids off to school with food that’s both tasty and good for them can be a challenge. Fortunately, finding foods kids love to eat for their breakfast, lunch and snacks may be easier—and more fun—than parents realize.

Mom of two, softball’s Olympic Gold Medalist Jennie Finch knows how busy school days can be and what it means to work hard and keep everyone happy and healthy at home. No stranger to healthy diets and exercise, Jennie has some helpful tips for helping kids eat right during a busy school-year schedule.

Finch suggests:

• Make it Look Fun — If it looks good — it tastes good! Think about presentation when it comes to packing lunches to make it just as fun to eat. Bring color into the mix with snacks like cherry tomatoes, carrots and various types of fruits and berries. A sandwich can be made more appealing by using cookie cutters to create fun shapes for kids to show off at the lunch table. To get them to look forward to lunchtime, include a few surprises to brighten your child’s day. Let him or her find a new pencil, key chain or a special note to keep things fresh.

• Nutritious Options for Anytime — Like many parents, I’m always on the go. So I look for nutritious options for my sons that I can grab and serve anytime to keep them at their best. Wholesome Chobani Champions Greek yogurt is both nutritious and delicious and perfect for breakfast, lunch or snack time. Chobani Champions authentic strained Greek yogurt is made just for kids and comes in delicious flavors my sons love such as Vanilla Chocolate Chunk, Orange Vanilla, VerryBerry and Honey-Nana. It is a good source of protein, vitamin D and bone-building calcium.

• Making Healthy Eating a Family Activity — Get your kids to participate in all the things that make going back to school exciting and fun! Try packing lunch with your children, guiding them in making the right food choices, and they’ll look forward to eating the meal they created. Print out a chart and come up with a variety of sandwiches, fruits, healthy snacks and some sweet treats to have them choose what they want for lunch.

• Don’t Forget the Team Snack — Healthy eating can continue on the field after school. I love to pack a cooler of Greek yogurt for my son’s baseball practices since it provides a balance of protein and carbohydrates that helps the whole team recover after practice. This is perfect for soccer, football and field hockey moms too!

For more tips for kids’ healthy diets, information about Chobani Champions and Jennie Finch, visit www.chobanichampions.com.

*Article courtesy of NAPS. Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.*

5 Green Alternatives To The Package Vacation

When it comes to planning the annual vacation many of us look to long haul, package trips to far flung destinations. The problem with these is the cost to the environment from all those jet emissions, plus in some destinations valuable environmental resources are being plundered just to satisfy our desire for exotic vacations. So this year why not think about booking something new? Summer is the perfect time to enjoy nature and getaway with family and friends. Instead of doing the same old mundane package vacation, you may want to think about exploring some different ideas for you and your family.

The following are some creative ideas which offer green credentials as well as giving you all a new experience you may just want to repeat for years to come.

No Frills Camping

Most people think that camping is already a no frills adventure. To take your camping experience to the ultimate level in green living, try leaving your electronics, fancy camping gear and any other items you think you can’t live without at home. Only bring the necessities like a tent, sleeping bag, basic survival gear and a cellphone in case of an emergency. Imagine yourself fishing, eating, hiking and camping out underneath the stars without any interruptions or connection to the real world. This type of trip will do wonders for your stress level, and it will surely recharge your mental batteries.

Retreats

There are a number of organizations that offer green getaways for you and family. They can last anywhere from an entire week to a long weekend. This is an interesting and fun experience that is typically held in a campground type of setting. You and your family will spend time learning about green living and sharing ideas within the community. This is a different type of vacation that gets the entire family involved. You could learn how to grow organic produce, get involved in nature and gain exposure to the various aspects of how to live a green lifestyle.

Visit Your Local Attractions

Staycations and visiting your local attractions is another creative green vacation idea. This saves on jet fuel, and it gives you a chance to discover the popular places in your own city. Visit zoos, museums, festivals and parks. Instead of taking your car, you may want to go green by traveling via bicycle or public transportation. This saves on gas, is better for the environment and is probably better for your pocket too.

Timeshares/Fractional Ownership

If you’ve had your eye on a luxurious vacation property and thought that it was out of your reach, you may want to think again. Fractional home ownership gives middle-income buyers a chance to share ownership in vacation homes that they’ve never dreamed about owning. The property is divided into more affordable sections per each individual, and it gives an owner specific privileges and property usage that is based on their shares. There are even fractional green vacation homes where the communities recycle, and they use only organic and environmental friendly products. Timeshares offer a lower budget option but you will be sharing the property with a larger number of people and their will be greater restrictions on when you can use your home.

Train Travel

Trains can be an adventurous way to see different parts of the country, and it can take you off the well-traveled path that most visitors take. This is an excellent way to travel green, and you can find fun and exciting places to visit. Take a train ride to a state park and learn about the various conservation methods that are being implemented to save our animals and nature. Combining train travel with any of the above ideas will give you the perfect stress free break without the hassle of airport queues, traffic jams and delays!

Most people are concerned about our planet today, and they want to do everything they can to be kind to the environment. When planning your next vacation, you can find a number of fun things to do, from camping to staycations and utilizing membership in your home clubs, as well as exciting places to see and still be good to Mother Earth.

About the Author

This article was written by Georgina Clatworthy who is an environmental blogger, and a contributing writer for Ritz Carlton Club, which offers fractional home ownership to those who want the ability to revisit their favorite locations, without the worry of upkeep and maintenance – backed by a company with a reputation for excellence and distinction.

Pita pizzas are super easy and fun for kids to make and a great way for parents to get in the recommended daily amount of vegetables. Kids will love to make these themselves!

Pita Pizzas

Ingredients

1 C Super Quick Chunky Tomato Sauce

1 C grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced (about 2 small breasts)

1 C broccoli, rinsed, chopped, and cooked

2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp fresh basil, rinsed, dried, and chopped (or 1 tsp dried)

4 (6½-inch) whole-wheat pitas

Preparation

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 450 °F.

For each pizza, spread ¼ cup tomato sauce on a pita and top with ¼ cup chicken, ¼ cup broccoli, ½ tablespoon parmesan cheese, and ¼ tablespoon chopped basil.

Place pitas on a nonstick baking sheet and bake for about 5–8 minutes until golden brown and chicken is heated through. Serve immediately.

*Recipe and image courtesy of the by