Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Mung Beans and Brown Rice

mung beans and brown rice.jpg It’s the start of a new year so why not make it a healthy one from day one? I whipped this dish up pretty quickly and ate it for lunch for a few days. I used leftover brown rice that I always have prepared in my rice cooker. Treat yourself to a rice cooker in 2015. It will change your life!
Alma’s Mung Beans and Brown Rice:
1 cup dried, sprouted mung beans (can get at Whole Foods and other health food stores)
2 1/2 – 3 cups already cooked brown rice
1 tbsp butter or olive oil, coconut oil or any other healthy oil you like
2 tsp curry powder (more to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper, ground
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cashews, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped finely
In a large pot, add the sprouted mung beans and cover with about 1 inch of water.
Boil until the beans are tender, about 20 minutes.
Stir in cooked rice, butter or oil, curry powder, pepper and salt.
Stir over low flame for about 5 minutes until rice is heated through.
Serve and top with chopped cashews and cilantro.
For more great recipes, please visit: takebackthekitchen.com

Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Chick Pea Salad For a Crowd

chick pea salad with cilantro and burberries.jpg A few weeks ago I had to make a dish for a large pot luck dinner I was attending. I had nothing prepared but remembered my giant can of chick peas. Costco has a huge can that I keep in my basement in case of emergencies and I am so glad I remembered it! With a little browsing through my pantry and fridge, I came up with this very simple and healthy dish that was a hit. I hope you like it!
Chick Pea Salad For a Crowd:

1 110 oz. can chick peas, about 13 cups
4 cups cilantro, loosely packed, washed and chopped finely
4 cups kale, chopped and sautéed in 1 tsp olive oil until wilted
3 oz. dried barberries, soaked for 15 minutes and drained or 1 cup dried currants (can get Barberries in Middle Eastern stores)
2 cups shallots, minced and sautéed in 1 1/2 tbsp butter until wilted
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar and the juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Combine all the above ingredients and let marinate for at least 1/2 hour before serving at room temperature.
For more great recipes, please visit: takebackthekitchen.com

Five Easy Ways to Be a Secret Santa This Holiday Season

santa-clip-art-3.gifReceiving and giving gifts around the holidays to friends and family is insanely routine. It’s a pleasure for many, and a dreaded chore for others. For me, its definitely the latter. But think about how different you feel when you get a gift from someone totally unexpected during the most random time of year. I know that I am more likely to remember when a friend bought me lunch for $20 in April than when I get a new $100 sweater from someone in December. If you are like me, there is fun in finding ways to make memorable moments for people even if you don’t know them. Since the holiday season is supposed to be about fun and giving, I have identified a few ways that you can accomplish both by being a Secret Santa to the public without breaking the bank.
1) Pay the toll for the car behind you when you are traveling assuming that you are in the cash only lane. I mean it really sucks to have to deal with traffic during the holiday season. Can you imagine how happy you made that person behind by forking over $5 for the toll. (may not want to do this on the George Washington Bridge where its like $17 to $100 now to get over)
2) Pay for a large cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts (or Starbucks or Coffee Bean or McDonalds or wherever you get your caffeine fix) for someone when you leave. Don’t worry, the person behind the counter won’t think you are crazy and more often than not they will follow your instructions. If they don’t, then shame on them.
3) Pay for two drinks (alcoholic or non) next time you are sitting down at a restaurant. Make sure the server does not identify you to the recipient of the drinks and do not stare at them while they are consuming them!
4) Pay for two tickets to the movies next time you are standing in line at one of the mega movie complexes. Hopefully you can find an independent small movie theater but sadly, those seem to exist anymore. You can accomplish the same thing by buying two bags of popcorn which will cost you less. (probably not a lot less) But I find the food concession lines at these theaters to be unbearably long and slow so you may not want to put yourself through the aggravation. Again, don’t stand around waiting to see if the recipient of the tickets knows its you that bought them.
5) Pay for someone’s breakfast at the diner. (best to take a look at the prices on the menu first just to make sure the diner doesn’t think Emeril Lagasse is working in the back) But is there a better way to start off someone’s day than having them be told that their meal is free?
If for some reason these Secret Santa suggestions don’t fit your style, then go and find a way to make a difference in someone’s life where it really counts. Donate to a food bank, visit a soup kitchen, give away some toys or buy a meal for a homeless person on the street. Make the holiday season mean something more than just a routine gift exchange. Only corporate America benefits from that.

Important Small Business Advice from Jen Groover and Avon

images.jpegThis past week, I participated in the second of three lunchtime twitter chats with serial entrepreneur and author, Jen Groover. Jen is the creator of the wildly successful Butler Bag and is a motivational speaker who works closely with Avon to inspire small business owners to pursue their passion no matter the obstacles.
In her latest Twitter conversation with small business owners, Jen talked about how we can earn an income on our own terms and asked what we feared most being small business owners as well as what we loved about taking that leap of faith to start a business. Here were some of my responses to Jen’s questions and I have to say, it’s given me a lot of clarity on what I need to accomplish in 2015 to take my business to the next level.
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After celebrating with co-workers this year at our annual holiday dinner, we talked about the clients we loved as well as those we would never want to work with again. The most interesting thing that we found was the choice of our favorite client was overwhelmingly unanimous. While she didn’t pay us the most, she was the most appreciative of our efforts and referred new projects to us, so working with her was an absolute dream and if given the opportunity, I would absolutely work with her again.
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The one thing I absolutely hate as a business owner are the finances. I hate having to chase after clients for money. I hate having to keep track of bills. I hate that we waste money when we hire consultants who do not deliver on what we had initially asked of them. But most of all, I hate worrying about taxes. In 2015, I vow to do things differently and the first thing I will be doing is consulting with a Virtual CFO who can take a look at my business and advise me on how to manage our finances, hire the right people and most importantly, grow and prosper.
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My third and final business resolution is to avoid crazy clients at all costs. You know the type. At first, they seem incredibly enthusiastic and while they seem to have unrealistic expectations, you believe that with your experience and ingenuity, you will find a way to make them happy. Even if they are happy for a moment, the next day they will eviscerate you if you do something that’s doesn’t meet their expectations. No matter how much money they may have for a campaign, life is too short to work with crazy people who are unrealistic and overly demanding. Slow and steady wins the race, which means that in the new year, I will search for clients who are reasonable, kind and appreciative of our efforts.
And now for some great advice from Jen Groover…
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Avon Brand Ambassador-thumb-237x229-5200.jpgAs we approach the New Year, it’s time to really focus on what’s important as business owners. And with the help of Avon and Jen Groover, there’s still time to get focused, embrace your fears and do what you love!
Join us for the final installment of the Avon entrepreneur twitter chat series with Jen Groover on Wednesday, January 21 (12:30-1pm ET) where Jen offers advice on creating professional fulfillment. Make sure you follow @jengroover and use the hashtag #MyAvonStory to participate. You can RSVP to the Twitter chat by emailing AvonRSVP@bm.com. If you RSVP and attend the Twitter event, you’ll be entered for a chance to win an Avon product bundle.
Disclosure: As a paid Blogger Ambassador for Avon, I will be discussing many aspects of Avon’s brand; from the entrepreneurial side, to career, to beauty tips, Avon staples, and more in a series of posts. The opinions in these articles are mine and are not indicative of the brand.

Children’s App Review: There’s a New Fish in Town: Henry the Little Fish

splash.jpgI used to love reading to my kids when they were little. They won’t let me do it anymore since one will be getting ready to drive soon and the other will be getting Bar Mitzvahed. While there was never a short supply of books to choose from to read, it’s incredible how many many times we would go back to reading one or two books over an over because of how much the kids loved the story, the pictures and in many cases, the interactive pop up features. Admittedly, I am a traditionalist and prefer hard copy books over reading on a phone or other gadgets. But for the tech embracing families out there with little kids, I have come across a story book app that I know my kids would have really enjoyed as toddlers. Its called Henry The Little Fish by Pipit Press and it’s available for download on the iPhone or iPad for only $2.99. The app gives you the choice to just read or read and play as the story unfolds. If you value graphics, great sound, a good story and talking fish (who doesn’t?), then inexpensive probably doesn’t do the app justice.
I might be a bit biased since the story makes me think about the movie and story of Finding Nemo which my family and I are completely obsessed with even to this day. While the story and interactive play features of the app have nothing to do with Finding Nemo, the little fish named Henry is entertaining in his own right. During his travels in the water, Henry comes across a discovery that he is anxious to share with new fish friends in the sea. As he meets each new fish to share his discovery, Henry notices how different he is from each fish that he encounters. After several interactions with other fish, Henry realizes that his biggest discovery was recognizing his own unique traits, learning to be proud of the family he has and that no one should feel compelled to be something they are not to fit in. The amazing colors used in the app, entertaining narration and character voices, cool sound effects and optional play features make the story a quick enjoyable read that is sure bring a smile to your young one’s face.
To order the Henry the Fish app on your mobile device, visit the iTunes story and order it for your child in time for the holidays!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. However, all opinions are 100% my own.

Exclusive Interview with the Cast of Night at the Museum

NATM3.jpgI recently had the opportunity to watch a sneak preview of the third installment of “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” and am happy to report, I laughed, I cried and came away really excited to take my kids and my husband to see it. You see, we are die hard ‘Night at the Museum’ fans, having seen the very first film when Ben Stiller first starred as Larry, a single dad who can’t seem to find a steady job until he takes a position as a security guard at the Museum of Natural History and the exhibits miraculously come to life during the night.
The first edition of ‘Night of the Museum’ turned my whole family into believers. The second installment which featured Jonah Hill and took moviegoers into the mysteries of the Smithsonian had us laughing from the moment we took our seats. But the third and perhaps final installment may be the best since it touches upon elements in my own life that really hit home on a number of levels and features a touching scene with Robin Williams that will absolutely have you reaching for kleenex towards the end of the film.
Get ready for the wildest and most adventure-filled Night At the Museum ever as Larry (Ben Stiller) spans the globe, uniting favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever. Two incredible new additions this year include Rebel Wilson as a British security guard who will have you laughing out loud and Dan Stevens, who portrays Sir Lancelot who is on a lifelong quest to find his Guenevere — trust me, the scene with Hugh Jackman (who plays himself in the film) and Dan Stevens is priceless.
“Night at the Museum features an all star cast including Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Dick Van Dyke, Dan Stevens, Ricky Gervais, Ben Kingsley, Rebel Wilson, Mickey Rooney (in one of his final film roles), and Rami Malek. Two things that resonated with me was the connection Larry had with his college bound son who is actually a little kid when the film first started. As his son tries to assert his independence and defer college for a year, Larry is not too happy with his decision and instead takes him along on an adventure to the British museum in London where he discovers how amazing his dad’s night job really is and even gets the chance to save him with the help of Sir Lancelot, played by the incredibly talented and comedic Dan Stevens.
But what really affected me while watching the film was seeing Robin Williams, who reprised his role as Teddy Roosevelt and shared an incredibly touching scene with Larry towards the end of the film that will absolutely have the audience reduced to tears. When I got to attend a private roundtable event with the cast and producer Shawn Levy, we found out more about that touching scene and what made Robin Williams so incredibly special as well as a behind the scenes story about the actor’s incredible comedic talents. Take a look….
The Culture Mom: The movie turned out to be a fantastic tribute to Robin Williams. I’m sure for all of us it really–it was such a touching tribute to him. And I was wondering what it was like for each of you to work with him and how the death was more meaningful to you in light of the fact that you just worked together?
NIght-At-The-Museum-Secret-Of-The-Tomb.jpgShawn Levy: Well, first of all, thank you because obviously this was Robin’s last movie. So, it was really important to all of us and certainly to me in the editing room every day to have it be, as you say, a fitting and loving kind of piece of his legacy.
So, I’m glad that you felt that it had accomplished that. We finished shooting this movie less than three months before he passed. And he did some voice work for me a month before his death. In fact, you know that little Garuda statue in the movie, that’s Robin.
Robin saw that picture on my laptop. And he said that guy’s cute. What’s he? And I said, oh, he’s this statue in the British Museum. I want to bring him to life.
And he goes, well, he looks kind of mischievous. Let me take a whack at that, huh? And it wasn’t his job, it wasn’t planned. And he just recorded an entire language for that little Garuda.
That was kind of emblematic of this guy who was certainly a grown man, but very much still a boy with all the playful spirit of that. And so, it was a horrible day when we heard. And it’s been a rough few months since. And there’s kind of no positive spin on that.
But I certainly am very, very grateful that I got the experience of being friendly with him and being collaborative with him.
Question: Making the third movie in a franchise is always a tricky thing. What made you guys decide to come on board?
Owen Wilson: Well, we had a story that I think also you know when we made the first one I don’t think any of us expected it to get the reception that it did and for people to enjoy it as much as they did.
And so, then that obviously leads to, well, you know, make another one. And we did. And I think we all enjoyed making both of them.
But I think it was important with this one, the third one, to kind of try to figure out a way to tell it in an interesting way that wouldn’t just be, okay, now we’re going to a new museum that’s dealing with kind of letting go and some of the more poignant themes that are in the movie, but also hopefully still entertaining people and people having a good time.
And, yes, I think we did it.
Question: Going to a museum is such a classic weekend activity with the kids or the family. What is your favorite weekend activity with your kids or your family members? What is the thing that you would enjoy doing the most?
Ben Stiller: Well, I like taking my kids to museums and things like that. But they don’t love it. I would do that every weekend. My kids really love to just hang out at the house and play. I mean I love to watch movies with my kids. But they don’t love that much either.
I say, do you want to watch a movie? He’s like, no, I want to play. I’m like, all right. You want to be creative and actually come up with your own stuff? You don’t want to just sit and stare at a screen?
But they really do love to just hang out. And we don’t think about it. But they do have a lot of pressure going to school and after school activities and things like that. They really appreciate having that free time when they have it.
And then, what’s great is that things then if we’re just hanging out at the house over the weekend, the things that develop, what you get into, whether it’s going outside and playing baseball or something or going inside and just playing, you know, something that they’re into.
Maybe I might not necessarily be into in the beginning. But then you get into it with them. And then it’s great because it leads to something else. And that’s the best really.
Fortunately for me, I have a son who loves to hang out on the couch and watch movies and best of all, I’ll be taking him to see Night at the Museum 3: Secret of the Tomb when it opens in theaters this Friday, December 19. Trust me when I tell you, you will fall in love with the Night at the Museum franchise all over again! Check out the trailer below and mark your calendar for this must see holiday movie of the year!

Join Us for a Holiday Baking Twitter Party with Honey Maid! #ThisIsWholesome

photo-4-thumb-300x224-5237.jpgWe’re less than two weeks away from Christmas and you know what that means….time to buy pants in the next size so that you can enjoy all those holiday treats that you’ll be inhaling this time of year. There’s something about the holiday season that puts my sweet tooth into high gear and this year, I’ve teamed up with the folks at Honey Maid Graham crackers to host a twitter party where we’ll be sharing fun recipes and tips for the holidays. Of course, all our recipes will include Honey Maid Graham crackers and we’ve got some of the most talented bloggers I know sharing their amazing recipes! Oh and did I mention there will be prizes too so that you can make sure you can purchase all the ingredients you need to make this holiday extra special!
Join us on Tuesday, December 16 from 8-9 pm ET and make sure you follow @Rolemommy, @dawnchats @HeatherM74 and use the hashtags #Honeymaid and #ThisisWholesome. We’ll be sharing great recipes direct from our blogger ambassadors – from crunchy smores fudge pops to Honey Graham’s holiday cheese cake to graham cracker christmas trees to gingerbread cream pie, we will have you salivating for dessert once the party’s over. Better yet, why not bake something in time for the party and in between forkfuls, you can share a few tweets and win some prizes.
Need some more baking inspiration? Then check out the Honey Maid website for these amazing recipe ideas! Can anyone say Frozen Lemonade Squares???
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RSVP via the link below and we hope to see you at the Twitter party on Tuesday night!

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Honey Maid Graham crackers. However, all opinions, especially those involving baked goods are 100% my own.

Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts

BrusSprout.JPG Brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that can be oh, so bad or oh, so very good. For example, the boiled or steamed, mushy version of my childhood, not so good. These buttery, mustardy roasted ones? Delicious!! Try to find cute, little ones for this recipe if you can. Enjoy!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Hazelnuts:
1 lb small brussels sprouts, washed trimmed and cut in half
drizzle of olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp grass fed butter
1 tbs organic Dijon mustard
1/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
salt to taste
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
Lay parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
Take prepped and dried sprouts and lay them on the paper.
Drizzle the oil all over them and then toss them with your hands to evenly coat in the oil.
Place in the oven on the top third rack.
Meanwhile, melt butter and whisk in the mustard until it is completely emulsified and set aside.
Remove sprouts after about 25 minutes or when they are all getting crispy and brown.
Drizzle the butter/mustard sauce over them, toss to coat and top with the toasted hazelnuts.
Salt and serve immediately.
For more great recipes, please visit: takebackthekitchen.com

10 Guiding “Manhood” Principles

IMG_2128.JPGIt’s just a few months away now until our son Dylan gets Bar Mitzvahed. My wife and I are veterans of the process, having proudly seen our daughter Rebecca do a masterful job for her Bat Mitzvah back in May 2012. Similar to what our Rabbi asked Rebecca during the introductory Bat Mitzvah preparation consultation for the family, the same question was again posed to our son. “What does it mean to you to become a Bar Mitzvah?” To no surprise, the way most 12 year old Jewish boys respond , Dylan said it is the day that “I become a man.” Oy Vey. His answer got me thinking. What have I instilled in my son during the first 12 years of his life that will eventually prepare him for “manhood”? I hesitate to use the word manhood as society apparently frowns upon the characterization of a particular gender being associated with a certain trait, activity or demeanor. So not to offend those with gender sensitivities, I would say these guiding principles for my son can easily be shared with any child no matter what stage of life he or she is in. I view these principles as a reeducation of our youth that seems to have lost its way with certain values, work ethic and conduct.
1. Make sure you never throw the first punch, but be sure to throw the last No one should ever lay a hand on another person to resolve their differences. However, once that line is crossed, the last thing I want Dylan to do is to just walk away. In school, kids are encouraged to report physical confrontations to a teacher right away. I tell Dylan to hit the kid back first, then find the teacher to report it. Win or lose, nothing helps a kid’s self confidence more than standing up for himself.
2. Never welch on a bet
Don’t encourage your kids to gamble. Its a bad habit that leads to bad outcomes. Nevertheless, I like to remind Dylan that if he chooses to make a bet with someone, he better have the means to pay if he loses. Welching on a bet is breaking your word. There is nothing more sacred than a person’s word and once broken, it can never be repaired.
3. Don’t be embarrassed to say “I love you”
It’s a requirement in our house when he leaves the house, leaves the car and before he goes to sleep. If your son can’t learn to say I love you to his parents, who is he ever going to be able to say “I love you” to?
4. Be on time for wherever you are suppose to be
Tardiness isn’t funny. Its rude, inconsiderate and definitely a sign of immaturity. I always tell Dylan, don’t keep anyone waiting for you. Want to be a man? Then be where you are suppose to be when you say you are going to be there.
5. Look at a person in the eye when you talk to someone – One of the hardest things for anyone to do is to look at a person square in the eye when talking. Distractions, uneasiness, lack of interest all cause kids and more than a fair share of adults to have trouble with eye to eye contact during conversation. Dylan has learned that the best way to trust someone’s words is through their eyes. And for him to be trusted by others in life, the same will be required of him.
6. Always give a firm handshake
Did he give you the dead fish Dylan? Yeah Dad, he did. Thats terrible! What’s that you say? Its the handshake from that person that feels like you could actually detach their hand from their wrist and walk away with it if you chose. Dylan has learned to appreciate what a handshake actually means and why it is so important. It demonstrates attentiveness, respect, enthusiasm and most importantly, confidence. For those of you that subscribe to the “elbow bump” instead of a handshake out of fear for germs, I really don’t know what to tell you. Oh wait, yes I do. Invest in hand sanitizers!
7. Not everyone wins a trophy
There was nothing that I disliked doing more as a coach for my son’s baseball team than giving participation trophies. Its one of the worst messages a kid can receive. Success in life comes through failure and perseverance, not by rewarding mediocrity. One of my proudest moments for Dylan was when he made his school basketball team in 5th grade, a year after failing to make the team. The coach never gave him a 4th grade “thanks for trying out” trophy. Do they even have those?
8. The more difficult choice is usually the right one
Whether its including an unpopular kid in a group activity or keeping a plan with a friend instead of opting for something for more fun, Dylan knows that his actions eventually come full circle. The more you have to rationalize your choice with yourself or others, the more likely it is the wrong one. Nothing symbolizes “manhood” more than the choices one makes.
9. Never make excuses
Dylan’s favorites expression is “Excuses are like ….holes, everyone has one”. He knows thats its okay to make mistakes and not be flawless. But no one, including me, wants to hear excuses for failure. If you have excuses, it means you don’t have a plan for making things better. Men have plans and children have excuses.
10. You are no better or worse than anyone else
It is really the simplest principle of all. It doesn’t matter how much money a person has, what religion they practice, what physical advantages they might have, what their sexuality might be or what the color of their skin is. Dylan has come to realize at early age in life that not everyone he comes across will have his respect, but everyone has an equal chance of earning it.

When Your Daughter Turns 15, It’s Time to Get Sentimental

1928720_1104499691840_2966_n.jpgI don’t know what it is about being 15 years old but for me, that was the most pivotal year of my life. It was the year I was on top of the world at high school and it was the time my friends and I did some really stupid things and thankfully, lived to tell about it.
Here I am 30 years later and I am now the mother of a 15 year old. I still can’t believe it and sometimes think about that “Freaky Friday” movie with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan and wonder what it would be like to switch places with my daughter just for one day. I’d probably be flunking her physics class, I’d be that annoying show off in English Honors and be bored out of my mind in AP Global. I mean there is nothing fun about Imperialism – I even had to google it tonight to figure out what exactly it is. Okay, I know I shouldn’t admit that but there are certain periods in history that I completely forgot about and am not ashamed to admit it. But I digress…
I would also hit the mall and try on 20 pairs of jeans in a size 0 because even when I was 15, I was never ever a size 0! I would eat what I wanted and not worry about putting on weight the next day. I would make sure that no matter what I did, I would never lose sight of what I loved. I would also say ‘yes’ to anything my parents asked me to do including taking the dog out for a walk when she starts whining.
If my daughter and I switched places, I would totally tell off those cliquey girls and tell her really close friends what amazing girls they are and how I’m certain their friendships will last forever.
While, I’m not going to be switching places any time soon, I am going to be reuniting with my girlfriends who I’ve been friends with since I was 15 (some I’ve known even longer). We’re all going out in January for a special night in Manhattan. While we won’t be taking a shot of everything in my parent’s liquor cabinet or hitting the movies to see “Dirty Dancing,” “Footloose” or “The Breakfast Club,” we will be getting together to reminisce, reflect and catch up on the last three decades.
There is something so special about being 15 and no matter how much time passes, I still remember those days like it was yesterday. The ups, the downs, the hardships, the heartbreaks and the friendships. And I hope my daughter enjoys 15 as much as I did. More importantly, I hope she continues to hang on to those amazing friends. Because nothing quite beats having old friends who knew you when anything was possible. In my heart, I will be forever 15. I’ll also be a size 0 forever. Dare to dream, I keep telling myself. Dare to dream.