Keep food safe in your kitchen with these tips

  • Written by ARA

How safe is your kitchen? It’s a question you should always be asking yourself.

The majority of Americans find food safety important both at restaurants and in their own kitchen, according to new National Restaurant Association research. America’s restaurants serve 130 million customers each day, making the restaurant industry a critical component of the food safety universe. The industry has a long-standing commitment to food safety as there is nothing more important than the health and safety of guests. Almost all consumers say it is important to them to know that the restaurants they visit train employees in food safety.

When it comes to cooking at home, virtually all consumers say they have at least basic knowledge of food safety. Sixty-three percent say they are aware of proper food safety practices and always follow them, while 33 percent say they are familiar with some food safety practices and follow those when they can.

In order to prevent foodborne illness, avoiding cross-contamination is essential. When cooking at home, remember to follow these tips from food safety experts at the National Restaurant Association:

1. Wash your hands: Hand-washing is the first defense against cross-contamination. Wash your hands before handling any food and always after handling raw meat.

2. Touch nothing but your food: Don’t rub your nose, touch your hair or cough into your hand while preparing food, as germs from anything you touch can be transferred onto food.

3. Keep foods apart: Don’t store raw meats next to or above ready-to-eat foods in your fridge and use different utensils, knives, cutting boards and prep surfaces for raw and cooked food. A good way to remember which is which is to use different colored cutting boards, for example red for meats and green for vegetables.

4. Treat friends with food allergies to a safe meal: Take extra care to prep dishes for guests with food allergies, as it’s not enough to simply pick the item in question off a dish. Prepare the dish separately from other food, including using separate cutting boards and utensils.

September is National Food Safety Month, with an annual campaign to heighten awareness about the importance of food safety education.

This year’s National Food Safety Month theme is Be Safe, Don’t Cross-Contaminate, providing tips and education on preventing the transferring of germs from one surface to another.

National Food Safety Month highlights components of the NRA’s ServSafe Food Safety program - the leading source of food safety training and certification for restaurant and foodservice industry professionals for nearly 40 years.

While the campaign is held each September, remember that food safety is critical year-round and should be practiced every day. For more information and free resources, visit

Certified Nurse Midwife for Life

  • Written by Snoqualmie Valley Midwife

More and more women are seeking midwives for care during pregnancy and for birth. It is not a surprise since worldwide research has demonstrated midwifery care to be associated with higher satisfaction and healthier mothers and babies. Midwives are the experts in normal and acknowledge that being pregnant and birthing is something women are designed to do. What many are not aware of is that a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) is qualified not only to care for pregnant and birthing women, but also to provide ongoing care for women through all their life cycles.

In Washington, CNMs are also Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners (ARNP). ARNPs are independent health care professionals. CNM, ARNPs are qualified to provide women’s health care including annual exams, family planning, preconception counseling, problem visits for menstrual irregularities, infection checks, etc. Generally, CNM, ARNP visits are longer with more time devoted to listening, teaching and strategizing for improving and maintaining vibrant health and well being.

Listening is the cornerstone of midwifery practice. Midwives are fully aware of the importance of each individual’s beliefs and values and acknowledge each individual as the expert in their personal feelings and experiences. Midwives realize the value of forming a trusting relationship to support quality care-giving.  Therefore, listening as one shares their perceptions promotes a chance to sort through one’s thoughts and feelings to be able to identify what the real issues are at any given time.

Teaching is another emphasis midwives have. Midwives believe in the importance of presenting evidence-based information. Midwives want to help dispel beliefs and practices which do not promote health and well being. Midwives provide information on the risks and benefits of options so that a decision can be made. Midwives approach health from a holistic perspective and often include alternative health care  information.

Perhaps the most important aspect of midwifery care is strategizing how to achieve and maintain vibrant health. It is often said, we know what to do to be healthy but somehow simply knowing what to do does not make it happen. Through the in- depth communication of an individual with her midwife, barriers can be identified and steps can be determined to lead to the path of vibrancy. In addition, knowing someone is both invested in one’s success and supporting all of one’s efforts makes a huge difference.

If the description above is not the way you receive your women’s health care at this time, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment with a CNM, ARNP. And remember CNM care is for all your life cycles.

Creative and healthier after school snack ideas

  • Written by ARA

When school starts, kids’ schedules fill up fast, and that means they need the right fuel to keep their growing bodies and minds satisfied. After a long day of learning, kids require a snack that will get them through homework, after-school sports and other activities until dinner is served. Before you reach for the default bag of chips, consider these healthier alternatives that are just as easy and convenient.

Creative, healthier after-school snack ideas that your kids will gobble up:

1. Refresh with frozen apple sauce

Apple sauce has been a snacking staple for years, but now you can add a little excitement to those prepackaged apple packs. Simply buy Tree Top apple sauce cups, made with 100 percent USA apples, and place them in the freezer for a tasty treat similar to sorbet, and a healthier alternative to most ice cream and frozen snacks. Kids can grab them on their own when they get home from school so mom and dad don’t have to lift a finger. Stock up on Tree Top apple juice boxes, too, for a complementary, easy grab-and-go drink option.

2. Delight in dip

It’s no secret kids love to dip, so make after-school snacking more interesting by providing dip along with fresh fruit, veggies and crackers. Instead of salad dressing, change things up by mixing a single serve apple sauce cup with two tablespoons of peanut butter for a healthier dip alternative. Watch as your little ones wolf down their carrots, celery, apples, pretzels and more. Parents love that this dip option has many nutritional benefits - the apple sauce in it is a good source of vitamin C and peanut butter is packed with protein.

3. Wrap it up

Keeping whole wheat tortillas on hand is a smart move for any parent because they are extremely versatile. When kids come home from school hungry, it’s easy to take a tortilla and fill it with their favorite nutritious fillings. For example, spread with classic peanut butter and jelly, add some banana and honey, or fill with turkey and mozzarella for a satisfying snack that keeps kids focused through all their homework.

4. Happily hydrated

Making sure your kids are hydrated is an important part of keeping them healthy and feeling great each day. When kids are busy at school and with after-school activities, they can become dehydrated quickly. Instead of sugary sodas, choose a more nutritious alternative like Tree Top reduced sugar 100 percent fruit juices. These tasty and refreshing drinks are made with hydrating coconut water and no artificial sweeteners and have 25 percent less sugar than regular 100 percent juices.

5. A smooth finish to the school day

Smoothies are a fun way for kids to get a ton of nutrients in one single drink. It’s easy for parents to stock up on frozen fruit at the local grocery store. Then, when kids get home, they can choose what flavors they want and you can blend the fruit with low-fat milk, yogurt and ice for a cool and delicious drink. You might even sneak in a few veggies by adding a splash of vegetable juice, or a couple pre-steamed vegetables like carrots, kale or squash. The fruit flavors are so robust, your kids won’t even notice the veggies.

Healthy after-school snacks don’t have to be boring or bland. Try these ideas and you can feel good about what your kids eat - they may love them so much they’ll be requesting them every day.

Smart solutions for busy parents

  • Written by ARA

15942149_webMany parents are busy these days juggling everything from work, car pools, soccer practice, and cooking dinner. But a hectic schedule doesn’t have to mean poor food choices. Here are a few time-saving tricks to make mealtime easier and nutritious for the whole family.

Create a family calendar

Whether you prefer the old fashioned calendar posted on the refrigerator or smartphone apps that sync your schedules, a key to reducing stress is to find an organizational system that works for you. By tracking everyone’s daily activities in a central place, you are less likely to forget any important work or family events and minimize the chance of double bookings.

Shop for groceries on a schedule

Schedule a regular time each week for grocery shopping.

Create a list so you stay focused when you shop, helping to save time and money. Post the list in the kitchen where the whole family can see it and everyone can easily add in a variety of their favorite items as soon as you run out.

Make a meal in a minute

Ready-to-go meals are a smart choice for working parents.

For example, family-owned pasta company Barilla offers microwaveable meals made from 100 percent natural ingredients. These palate-pleasing favorites like Mezze Penne with Tomato and Basil Sauce or Whole Grain Fusilli with Vegetable Marinara Sauce don’t require refrigeration, so they can be easily stored in the kitchen pantry or a desk drawer for lunch at work. Better yet, they are ready in just 60 seconds in the microwave so you can have a wholesome lunch or dinner - no cooking required.

Engage the whole family in menu planning

Ask everyone in the family - especially the kids - to plan a balanced dinner menu for one night of the week. Encourage them to think of creative themes like Italian night. Menu planning eliminates the last-minute scramble for something to eat, saves money on takeout and ensures healthier meals.

It doesn’t have to be a daunting task to maintain a wholesome lifestyle for the family. If everyone chips in, it can be easy and fun.

Thai-based restorative treatment works wonders on tired, sore and stressed bodies

  • Written by Deborah Stone

(I’m always on the lookout for unique body treatments offering variations on the theme of healing and relaxation. Being a massage connoisseur, I’ve tried everything from hot stone and reflexology to Lomi Lomi and Watsu. Whenever I travel, I seek out treatments that are indicative to the region or culture I am visiting. My latest favorite, however, is one I discovered right here in my own backyard.

It’s called “Thai Herbal Balls” massage and it’s conveniently offered at The Spa at Willows Lodge. Heated cloth balls filled with a special blend of herbs are the key components of this treatment, along with a technique that involves rhythmic tapping, followed by rolling or kneading with the herbal spheres.

Its roots stem from the practice of Thai herbal compress therapy, which dates back nearly 5,000 years to an era when knowledge of plants and their effects on the body were studied and then subsequently passed on through the generations.

This therapy was designed to relieve pain and reduce inflammation via the use of herbs such as prai, ginger, turmeric and lemongrass, which were wrapped in a muslin compress, steamed and then applied to the body in gentle pressing and circular movements. The treatment continues to be popular today in Thailand and is offered throughout the country from storefront massage establishments to high-end spas. In recent years, it has made its way to the West and now an increasing number of practitioners are becoming trained in the practice.

The Spa at Willows Lodge began offering Thai Herbal Balls massage four years ago, according to the spa’s director, Val Simkins. “When I first heard of it,” says Simkins, “I was intrigued. I then experienced it and instantly loved how it made me feel. It has so many benefits, much more than a hot stone massage, in my opinion.” She adds, “The combination of aromatherapy, thermal therapy and herbal therapy works to target joint and muscle pain and is great for people who suffer from arthritis, as it really soothes and also helps with circulation. The herbs in particular really help with inflammation, as well as detoxification. I think it is very relaxing and stress-reducing, too.” Simkins notes that the treatment is popular at Willows, though not as well-known as some other massage techniques. She comments, “People are curious about it and are drawn to the description. Those who try it are never disappointed. They rave about it and come back for more.”

Nancy Sleeth, the therapist who performed my Thai Herbal Balls massage, has been doing the treatment since it was introduced at the spa. She says that there is specific training involved in learning to do the procedure effectively and that it takes time and practice to become successful at it.

She emphasizes that it’s the combination of the properties of the herbs, the aromatherapy, the heat and the technique that give the treatment its “power.” Sleeth adds, “They all work together to send people to a different place, a good place.”

Sleeth tells about two past clients she had, one with chronic pain and another who was very leery about massage in general, especially deep pressure. The first had tried everything to relieve her pain to no avail. With the Thai Herbal Balls, she was finally able to relax – something she hadn’t been able to do for a long time – because her pain eased just enough so she could finally let go.

The other client put several restrictions on her massage, creating a challenge for Sleeth to sufficiently modify the procedure. “Even with it being modified, she was blown away by the experience,” explains Sleeth. “She told me that it was so soothing and that it really helped with her inflammation.”

After my session with the Thai Herbal Balls, I can attest to similar feelings. I went in with a sore hip, a bruised foot and plenty of tightness in my shoulders, neck and upper back.

The heat felt marvelous, but it was the ability of the herbal balls to penetrate into these problematic areas that made the difference.

Sleeth notes that because of their shape, she can employ the spheres to reach deep inside the muscle via the rolling or kneading technique.

She adds, “I also think the rhythmic nature of the compressions and the repetitive motion are really essential to the whole process.”

The icing on the top for me was the gentle stretching that followed, along with the “finish” massage work.

I left the spa feeling intensely relaxed, yet energized and invigorated, from this restorative treatment. And what’s more, I was able to take the herbal compresses with me and use them again for my own home massage purposes.

For more information about this treatment or any others offered at The Spa at Willows Lodge: (425) 424-2900 or