« March 2012 | Main | May 2012 »

13 posts from April 2012

April 05, 2012

Marcela Valladolid: Surviving and Entertaining on Passover and Easter

Earlier this week, I raced off to a women's book club meeting and left my husband the nightly duties of picking up kids from various fields and religious school. As I stood, cocktail in hand, nibbling on my appetizers and chatting with other working women, I realized how lucky I am to have a husband who can chip in with family responsibilities and cook dinner.

That is why I have such great respect for single mothers. With Passover and Easter upon us, I thought it would be helpful to have a single mom/professional chef weigh in with tips on how to make entertaining less stressful when we're already struggling with work life balance.

MarcelaMy guest blogger today is a single mother, chef, author and TV host of Food Network’s Mexican Made Easy, Marcela Valladolid. Marcela has learned how to juggle her ever-blossoming career as a celebrity chef while  making time for the most important person in her life; her seven-year-old son, Fausto. Here's how she does it.

As a single mom with demands on my time, I'm  selective in choosing projects to get involved with – from food festivals to appearances to sponsorships – only choosing endeavors that somehow have a special connection to me personally. Doing that, helps ensure I have ample time to spend with my son – be it cheering him on as he plays soccer, experimenting with him in the kitchen or chaperoning school field trips. 

I work like crazy and I’m not going to spend 3 hours cooking. Yet I feel this longing to eat the way I used to as a child; tostadas mollets, mole, such flavors give me pleasure and take me back and I had to find a way to blend them into my busy lifestyle. That's the premise behind my show and book Mexican Made Easy.

Some think that entertaining can add more stress than fun. I recommend entertaining potluck-style, the perfect way to spend less time stressing in the kitchen and more time enjoying the company of friends and loved ones.  

One of my favorite times to entertain is at brunch; it’s just the perfect occasion to unwind and reconnect with those you love in your life over delicious conversation all afternoon.  I find that creating simple and easy dishes with friends and family is the best way to maximize time reconnecting without spending too much time in the kitchen.  Here are my tips for hosting a fun, at-home stress-free gathering:

1. Instead of having a sit-down brunch, serve everything buffet style. A brunch buffet is a relaxed affair, so feel free to use any available surface as a serving table.

2. When determining what you’ll contribute, remember that your guests will most likely be balancing plates on their laps. Dishes like my Pineapple-Cajeta Empanadas (from Mexican Made Easy, Clarkson Potter/Publishers) don’t require serving utensils, so they’re perfect for a potluck brunch and easy to transport if needed!

3. Have guests bring their favorite dishes along with a story about why it’s in regular rotation in their recipe book for conversation fodder.

4. When putting together a brunch it’s always great to have some freshly-made dishes such as salsas on hand that are quick and easy to make; but no need to spend all of your time in the kitchen the day of your brunch!  Make dishes that can be made a day or two ahead of time like my Corn Tamales, which are a favorite in my brunch circuit.

5. Kahlúa has a special place in my heart when it comes to cocktails as part of my Mexican heritage.  Whether you’re fixing your brunch at home or bringing the bar to your host, whip up a simple two-ingredient cocktail such as Kahlúa and Club Soda. It’s simple to create at home and I love the sultry coffee notes you get from the Kahlúa in the drink that pair so perfectly with brunch. (see recipe below)

For more recipes and tips you can check out my brunch experiences and tips for the Delicioso Brunch Club at Facebook.com/Kahlua.






April 04, 2012

Why Your Employer Cares About Your Health

We've moved way beyond the days when our employer could care less if we are overweight, a smoker or on the verge of burnout. Today, our health is our employer's business -- particularly if they provide us health insurance. Worksite wellness is not only about cost savings. Healthy workers are more productive, creative, innovative and engaged.

Employers like Cleveland Clinic have figured that out. The hospital has gotten creative, video streaming employee testimonials about weight loss to co-workers as a way of encouragement. For example, a recent video  highlighted Sandy Donohue in Cleveland who participated in a healthy choice challenge. She weighed close to 240 pounds when she began. She lost 100 pounds and at 60 years old says she feels stronger, healthier and more centered than she did at 40. Dr. Cosgrove, CEO recognized Sandy publicly in the company wide broadcast that is shown to over 43,000 employees and presented her with a gym bag with exercise gear

I think we will see more of these types of creative approaches that incorporate technology and worksite wellness.

Most businesses launch into wellness by requiring a health assessment or biometric screening. Of course, there's some concern that once your employer assesses your health, the findings will be used to penalize you if you're not the picture of health they thought you were. I expect to see that topic debated a lot more in the future.

Meanwhile, because we're spending so much time in the workplace, we're discovering our co-workers have a huge influence on our health habits. A recent survey revealed that co-workers can make each other fat.  AWSJ story says some 29% of people on diets say colleagues pressure them to eat more, make fun of their diets or order them restaurant food they know isn't on their diets.

That's where office culture plays a role. Below is my Miami Herald article on wellness, corporate efforts to change their culture, and the new struggle to get employees to participate in programs. Let me know your thoughts on whether you think employers are headed in the right direction with wellness or whether they're going about it the wrong way.

The Miami Herald

Companies encourage employees to join wellness programs, get healthy

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

   Ian Clough, the CEO of DHL Express, always takes the stairs up and down four flights every day as part of the company's wellness program.
Walter Michot / Miami Herald Staff
Ian Clough, the CEO of DHL Express, always takes the stairs up and down four flights every day as part of the company's wellness program.
A friend of mine is overweight, probably about 100 pounds more than what would be considered healthy. She works long hours, eats when she is stressed and says she has no time to exercise.

Her employer is much less cavalier than she about the situation. After a health assessment showing she’s at risk for diabetes, she has been “encouraged” to participate in a weight-loss program and forced to pay a higher insurance premium. “I work hard. Should I really have to pay more than my slack co-worker because I’m overweight?” she asked me.

I expect to hear that question more often.

Increasingly, our health has become much more than just our own personal business. Employers are plunging deep into wellness programs, gauging just how far they can go to get their employees to make lifestyle changes that could reduce soaring health insurance costs.

“Health insurance is a big-ticket item,” says Hiram Marrero, senior vice president of Willis, Miami, an employee benefits consulting firm. “I think we’re at a point in time where employees understand that.”

A study released Monday by Willis North America’s Human Capital Practice found the wellness movement is evolving and encountering new challenges. About 60 percent of the companies surveyed have wellness programs, an increase of 13 percent from 2010. And the majority of organizations with programs currently in place are looking to invest and expand.

But Willis found employers still struggle with how to get employees and managers to participate and stay engaged. About 76 percent of companies say increasing participation is the top goal for their wellness program in the next year.

Yet for employers, coaxing participating is tricky. Wellness programs can spark culture change and boost morale — or they can break down trust and cause resentment. “A communication plan has to be the top of the list,” says Jennifer C. Price, senior health outcomes consultant for Willis Human Capital Practice.

Most companies start their wellness efforts by figuring out where their risks and costs lie. About 72 percent of companies require biometric screenings or health assessment participation to participate in the company health insurance plan, Willis found. Some even offer incentives to get screened.

Then employers are using those screenings not only to develop targeted programs, but also to set employees’ individual premiums. A non-smoker or someone with a low body mass index may receive a discount. Companies typically use a third party to administer screenings and provide feedback. But will that be enough of a defense should an employee who is fired later sue for discrimination?

“An employer’s best defense is ‘I didn’t know,’ ” says Mark J. Neuberger, an employment attorney with Foley & Lardner in Miami. “I didn’t fire him because he is a diabetic because I never saw the results.”

Read more.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/04/03/v-print/2730225/companies-encourage-employees.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/04/03/v-print/2730225/companies-encourage-employees.html#storylink=cpy


April 03, 2012

Why You Need to Learn Something New Every Day

I've decided, if you want work life balance, you need to learn something new every day. It doesn't have to be how to speak a new language or build the next great electronic gadget. It could be something small like how to shoot a video on your iPhone and share it on YouTube or how to use a new feature on Facebook.

Most of us feel fulfilled when we learn how to do something new. And that's same goal we're after with work life balance.

Over the weekend, I went to the SheStreams conference. Women and men from around the country had come to talk about the future of social technology. It was intimidating and fascinating. I've always been afraid of technology. There are so many things I don't know how to do. But at this conference, I learned from Jendi Pagano, creator of Simple Vlogging Tips,  that taking video and posting it to a blog is a snap using an iPhone and YouTube's editing programs.

 Almost every one of the speakers had ventured out into the digital media world with some knowledge and lots of eagerness to learn as they go. They have learned how to create mobile apps, video promotions, blogs, vlogs and podcasts. They've taught themselves from online tutorials on You Tube or other sites, webinars, by asking a friend or by trial and error.

Today, I've used the skills I learned from Jendi to post a video on my website, which is undergoing a makeover. What a feeling of accomplishment!

Next time you dismiss something out right because you don't know how to do it or think you don't have time to learn how to do it, think again.  I guarantee you, opening yourself to learning how to do something, no matter how small, will move your cluttered brain from chaos to clarity and bring you a better sense of balance.

See Jendi's tips for Vlogging below! She's great.