Archive for 2010

New Year's eve food

Today was a fun day. Our 4 and 8-year old friends, accompanied by their father, spent the afternoon and evening with us. And I got to prepare a lot of fun foods. We started with Dr. Fuhrman's almond chocolate dip, available at the recipe center (for members only, sorry), or p. 283 in the new edition of Eat to Live. It's like chocolate frosting! I thought it was too rich at first, but of course it's a dip meant to be eaten with fruit and it was very good that way. We had it with strawberries (frozen, but partially thawed), apple slices, fresh pineapple and bananas. The adults enjoyed it, but the kids preferred m&ms and hershey's chocolate candies. That was partly because the m&ms came from a machine that you had to stick pennies into.


Later on we had nachos, and chips and salsa and guacamole. I used a recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz' new cookbook, "Appetite for Reduction: 125 Fast and Filling Low-Fat Vegan Recipes." called guacomame, made with avocado and edamame. I think I prefer just plain guacamole. I searched my blog and don't seem to have a recipe for classic guacamole, but it's similar to this one, only without the beans. I fed everyone else the unhealthy salted oily chips they like, and toasted my own chips from unsalted corn tortillas (about 5 minutes in the oven at 350 F). Then we had ice cream for dessert. I had some dates and cashews to use up so added them in. It made it a little too gooey for my tastes. My favorite is still the simplest banana walnut, or banana-berry-walnut.

I like cooking for several people because I can enjoy tastes of several things without eating too much of each one. It was a good New Year's Eve splurge without being excessive.

Regarding my pre-New Year's temptations, this morning I got a few things at the grocery store and once again was tempted by all the vegan bakery treats. They even have vegan donuts now, made from a popular local bakery! Wo. And my favorite "nothing muffins" looked attractive too. So of course the devil (over my right shoulder) was saying, "want to splurge before New Year's?" Finally the angel (left shoulder) asserted herself and said, "Look, you know you can splurge anytime--you can splurge on Jan. 2 if you want. And isn't it nice to know those donuts will always be there? So you don't need them today." That seemed pretty reasonable, but I did decide at that moment to make some chocolate almond dip as my splurge (Dr. Fuhrman's version).

I was going to take pictures of the food today but there was too much activity with the children to bother with photography. Here were the results at the end of the day:

























Eat to Live

I recently received my copy of the new edition of Eat to Live. I'm looking forward to reading it. I started with Chapter 8, to remind myself of what his recommendations are for following the eating plan. Even though I probably know it by heart and try to follow it already, I'm influenced by the New Year traditions and think this a good thing to re-commit to. Then I will enjoy reading the first 8 chapters to remind myself why I'm eating this way. It's updated with the latest information from the scientific literature.


The recipes are better than the old edition. I thought it might be fun to try out each one. It will be a fun way to expand my repertoire. Part of the reason I'm feeling temptations now is that the novelty of this way of eating has worn off. Maybe trying out these recipes will reinvigorate me. Then after that I could try out all the recipes that Dr. Fuhrman emailed us as part of his Holiday Challenge. Of course, all of these are on the recipe center website, but I think these were picked because they were highly rated so that's a good selection.

Here's tonight's update on my temptations. We went to a hockey game, first stopping at a friend'a house to drop off presents for an 8-year old's birthday. We were invited to eat chocolate cake, and I had to decline of course, but housemate enjoyed hers. Then our team scored 5 goals so our ticket can be reimbursed for free ice cream at a local custard shop. I gave mine to the 8-year old. None of these were too serious temptations but I still felt them a little more than usual. All of us "nutritarians" have to say no about, what, 10 times a day? It's just harder this time of year I guess. I should remember that I don't regret it later on. I don't regret now saying no to the chocolate cake.

Yesterday's and Today's food

Yesterday I had more ice cream for breakfast/lunch. In one serving I added mangos to the bananas and walnuts. The other was just pure bananas and walnuts--still the best! Then, fortunately, I ran out of bananas. Dinner was some lettuce, carrots, and red cabbage. I also ate a small apple. I was going to make a big ole' squash lasagna meal but I'm not in the mood for cooking while I have this cold. I've notice that my congestion is correlated with how much I eat. Eating less at dinner makes me sleep much better.


Today I made a week's worth of smoothies for housemate. I had some of the cashew pistachio date cream on some fresh berries, and sampled the smoothies as well--probably ended up having 1/2 of a serving. Dinner was similar as last night: lettuce, carrots, red cabbage, and sugar snap peas. That's all I desire right now with this cold. It's not too bad of a cold, especially if I don't eat too much. Tomorrow I'll be out of ice cream ingredients, so maybe I'll have a pomegranate for breakfast. yum!

Slaying the sugar beast

This is a great post on diseaseproof. The sugar beast is definitely on my back this holiday season. I've avoided it so far, but have compensated by eating more nuts and a lot more bananas than I need. Every time housemate pops a piece of chocolate or a christmas cookie in her mouth (she got a lot of both for Christmas), I think, I want something too! I'm also suffering from the urge to splurge before New Year's Day. It's our custom to reform our ways after New Year's and party hard before. Maybe I'm lucky I have a cold because that is moderating my behavior. My congestion is pretty strongly related to how much I eat. The less I eat at dinner time, the better I sleep. But every time I go near SAD food this week, I am tempted. This is so different from normal for me. The little devil over my right shoulder says, why not splurge before New Year's? Come to think of it, why is the angel over my left shoulder silent most the time?! This time he/she actually came up with a good counter-argument: How about if I don't splurge before, and then if I regret it on New Year's, I can splurge then? 'cause that's what the little devil on my right shoulder is implying is that I'll regret not having fun with everyone else. Well, let's see if I do regret it.


Overall, I'm feeling the frustration of being different. Normally, it doesn't bother me to be different because I've been different from most people all my life in so many other ways. I guess I'm feeling like I want to be in the herd right now (unfortunately, the herd is being led to slaughter, to put it bluntly). I'm going to a meeting in Seattle in a couple of weeks and a friend sent me a list of vegan restaurants near the hotel. It's something of a vegan paradise. But the problem is, it's not healthy! A lot of vegan restaurants are trying to show that their food can be just as delicious as SAD food (Standard American Diet). Of course it is, if you add enough refined grains, sugar, salt and fat. Actually one of the restaurants looks to have more whole grain options so I can probably find options that are loaded with only a little sugar, and a lot of salt and fat. If I could avoid the salt which makes me all puffy because I'm not used to it, I wouldn't be so bothered by a few high-fat meals. So should I compromise? The good part of me resents having to compromise my health, and the devil on my right shoulder says, why compromise, go for it and enjoy all the things you miss. So they both resent compromise, but offer very different solutions.

The reason I am craving the SAD food isn't because it tastes any better. Today's berries and cream were delightful. I don't get why I'm tempted. I know what my health would be like if I ate this way all the time. I've lived on both sides of this and the results of eating healthy are dramatic. I know I don't want to go back. I enjoy my food. It even offers me financial stability and the opportunity to take rewarding but low-paying jobs, because my chances of having a heart attack or diabetes is near 0. Even my chances of getting cancer are decreased, though not completely because of my previous 45 years of eating unhealthy. So why on earth do I want to join the herd that is being led to slaughter? That really shows the power of our social needs. I'm a social creature. But I have to learn to satisfy my social needs while being different in the way I eat. I guess it is as simple as that.

When I'm in Seattle and I'm tempted by those vegan restaurants, the devil will be saying, how often do you get to go to a place with vegan comfort (junk) food? implying that I'll regret it if I'm in Seattle for a week and then leave without trying it. I know already this will be a powerful draw for me. I hope the silent angel will pop up and say, well, my home town now has a very good (I mean good-tasting) vegetarian restaurant full of vegan comfort (junk) food too. So if I regret it, I can always go there. So maybe I should just try resisting and see if I don't regret it. An why is the angel so da*@ silent anyway? I have to coach her all the time!

mmm, cashew pistachio date cream

I got some cashews, pistachios and dates for housemate's smoothies, and I decided to mix them up ahead of time and enjoy some of the results myself, over berries, which was yummy.


Ingredients:
cashews, pistachios, dates and water.

You are probably wondering, how much? well, it depends on what you are using it for. The smoothies don't need much extra water so I used less, making it very rich and creamy. I got the dates and pistachios already packed in small bags at the store, so it was about 1 cup pistachios, 1 cup cashews, and 10 medium medjool dates. I added about 2 cups of water, so it was very creamy. If you want more of a milk, use fewer nuts and dates, and more water. You can weigh amounts to make sure you are getting reasonable daily portions of the nuts and dates.

Next, blend it all up in a high-speed blender.

Here it is before blending:




















And after:




















It has a green tint to it from the pistachios. Does it ever taste good! Here was my cut of the profits, poured over fresh blueberries and blackberries.



















Yum! The rest I poured into cups for making housemate's smoothies (4 batches totaling 8 servings).


Hemp milk
















Ingredients:
1/8 - 1/4 cup hemp seeds
1 cup water
1-2 dates and/or other dried fruit (optional)
1/4 tsp vanilla (optional)

Blend in a blender until smooth. The amount of hemp seeds determines if you want more of a milk or cream. I used the full 1/4 cup, and it was very creamy. I tested it out on top of a few blackberries:


















It was yummy! I used some more in ice cream.

I stored it in a couple of small mason jars.

Easiest and best banana walnut ice cream

This is my all-time favorite ice cream.

Ingredients:
frozen banana pieces (to freeze, peel ripe bananas, break into small pieces, seal in a plastic bag in freezer).
handful of walnuts

Blend in a high-powered blender. Now, with no liquid, it's hard to blend at first. Sometimes it catches and makes a real creamy thick ice cream, like here:


















Other times, especially if you make a small portion, it doesn't blend so well and then it's chunky, which is good too! I like it both ways, creamy and chunky. I've tried many ice cream recipes with added nut milks, sweeteners (e.g., dates) and berries, and this is my favorite. But of course, for variety, I like the others too.

Today's meals

Since I have a cold, I'm working from home this week and have more time to play in the kitchen, so I'm enjoying healthy comfort foods. They really do make me as satisfied as any SAD (Standard American Diet) food and I don't feel awful after eating them (except when I eat too much).


This morning I made some pretty good banana oat bars. I modified Dr. Fuhrman's recipe enough that I could post it, but I'm not sure I want to repeat it. I can get the same flavors from a bowl of oatmeal: oats, chopped dried fruit (dates, apricots, and prunes), banana, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. And that's easier to make and can be prepared in a single serving. Fortunately I made a small batch and shared them with housemate so it wasn't too over the top. That was breakfast and lunch.

Dinner was, ice cream, and a carrot and some raw cabbage and spinach and some orange remainders (I still like these!). However, it was, um, several helpings of ice cream. First I made a batch of banana/strawberry/blueberry ice cream. It was good. But then I made a much simpler version of banana walnut ice cream that was even better. I realize that I like crunchy ice cream.

Okay, from now on I need to eat normal amounts. I still want to try one more ice cream recipe, which is called "Jenna's peach freeze." I'm hoping we'll be entertaining friends this weekend and I have several fun meals planned.

I'm back

Well, I guess I was over-confident heading off this weekend. Eating healthy was harder than I thought. Aunt Margie's cookie balls were the most tempting, even knowing they are loaded with butter, white flour and sugar. I resisted, but acted out in other ways: by overeating when I returned home--both yesterday and today. I've really been susceptible to the social situations lately. The problem is that when you give in once, like I did in France, it makes it a lot harder to resist the next time. I have a harder time now than I did my first few years because the novelty and fun experimentation with recipes has worn off. And I let myself think I'm healthy and can afford a few lapses. Unfortunately that food is so addictive that a lapse just leads to more. I need to try to be more aware of my weaknesses and prepare for it. Yesterday was kind of a humorous incident even though it led to overeating. I was in the grocery store and saw friends with their new baby so I ran over to talk with them and they were standing in front of all these freshly baked vegan treats--chocolate chip cookies, chocolate bars, and other stuff. Well, after watching everyone around me eat cookies and chocolates all weekend long, I wanted those cookies! Somehow I resisted and ended up buying nuts and dates and overeating. dang it.


I have a cold and my overeating is only making it worse. You are supposed to eat much less while sick so your body can fight the cold. Oh well, my ice cream was good today. I'll post about that next.

today's lunch and dinner










...and tomorrow, and Sunday. See yesterday's post for more description. It's repititive, but easy, yummy, and even looks Christmasy! At right is my bean veggie soup from the freezer. I'll be off the internet unless I get to escape to a coffee shop, but that's not likely. So see you on Monday.

My weekend trip

Okay, it's Christmas this weekend. My situation is not normal. I will be visiting family and will bring my own food--they are used to it--and, let's just say, this is not a situation where I am tempted to misbehave. For one thing, I don't think there will be a vegan item in any house I'm attending, not even veggies or fruit. Believe me, I have many demons and situations that are triggers for me. This just isn't one. So don't get the impression I'm a saint. It's social situations with friends here in Madison or while traveling that are difficult for me, like the last 3 weeks have been. But this other situation is like escaping into a monastery for a few days. In fact I almost wish I could just fast for part of the time because it's so sedentary and quiet with no temptations; but even though they accept I'm crazy, I think they would freak out if I did that. So with all that long-winded description of my weekend, here is what I bought at the grocery store for 3 days + one breakfast:


3 heads lettuce, 3 baby bok choys, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, 3 apples, 3 grapefruits, 4 pomegranates (there's still a few left!). And from the freezer, 3 servings of veggie bean soup, and my seed mixture.

Breakfast will be snacking on salad ingredients and carrots while preparing lunch and dinner. It will be most convenient for everyone if I prepare my lunch and dinner ahead of time and stay out of the way during these meals. That is why the simple salad is the main course.

Lunch: big salad, with the lettuce, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, apple, grapefruit, pomegranate seeds, seed mixture.

Dinner: big salad and veggie bean soup.

Breakfast on the 4rth day: pomegranate.

I'll let you know how it goes when I return.

this week's food

This week got hectic so meals took a backseat. Fortunately or unfortunately I had a fair amount of bananas, soy milk, and walnuts, so I continued my ice cream obsession. When I ran out of berries (Monday morning), I had the still wonderful banana walnut ice cream (Monday night and Tuesday). I went overboard on both days. oops. In a way, it made Wednesday easier because I wasn't hungry and I had a huge deadline. I can work from home if I want, so I got up at 7 am, walked 10 feet to my home office, and sat in my chair grading job applications until 9:45 pm. I got up every once in a while to make herbal tea, or decaff green tea, or grab a carrot or lettuce or cabbage from the fridge. Talk about a sedentary day, body wise, though it was a marathon brain-wise. But I didn't need much food. It paid off, because I made the deadline and we had a productive 2 hour telecon this morning and accomplished what we had planned. Then I thought, time for a well-deserved break! So I threw together some food, and went swimming followed by ice skating with my good friends, whose ages range from 4 to 61! Both were wonderful!


So here are the meals I had today: Before the telecon, a serving of veggie bean soup (from the freezer, thawed overnight). Then to get me through the rest of the day, I made a quick salad from everything left in the refrigerator: lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, baby bok choi, apple. no salad dressing, just thought of it as finger food--didn't even bring a fork. And I made a big bag of sliced carrots and celery. Here's a picture of the goodies and the almost empty fridge that resulted:



























I eat a lot of raw carrots because we get really good local carrots at my co-op for several months of the year. They taste kind of like candy. Carrots are probably the most calorie-dense raw vegetable that's enjoyable to eat (potatoes might be calorie dense, but they aren't enjoyable to eat). This is a good thing because you can't survive on raw veggies for long if you don't get enough calories. I would have added nuts but I wasn't that hungry after the beans. I nibbled on this before and after swimming. Then this evening I went grocery shopping for my weekend trip and stopped at a fast-food joint with house-mate. I dumped my blackberries and frozen mango on the rest of my salad at ate that while house-mate enjoyed her hamburger and fries. My fast food meal was also quite good.

Some readers commented that they are interested to see what I do for simple meals. Well, this is about as simple as you can get. I feel pretty lame posting about it, but this sort of quick and easy stuff works for me.

tomorrow's food

Tomorrow's food will be a repeat of today:


breakfast: ice cream.

Lunch: fall micro salad. this is the last one of the season, I think. Several of the pomegranates were in bad shape so I combined the best of all of them. This salad has lots of pom seeds in it and will be yummy, so I'll savor it.

Dinner: micro salad and veggie bean soup.

I wonder what I'll make on Wed. I'll be low on groceries so it should be fun to see what I come up with.

Tomorrow's food

I think I bought the last 5 pomegranates of the season yesterday. Today there were none at the store. I'm glad I got them! So I will probably be eating my favorite fall microsalads every day. That's what I made for tomorrow, and it filled up two large bowls. I'm still excited by my newest ice cream concoction so I will have a smaller version of it for breakfast tomorrow. Lunch will be a microsalad. Dinner will be microsalad and veggie bean soup.


The rest of the week will probably be similar for lunch and dinner. Breakfast will have some variation. I have a grapefruit to eat, which I might do on Tuesday. Maybe I'll have oat groats one morning. Maybe more ice cream using different fruits, like mango.

I was thinking of going back to logging my daily meals. In addition to maybe being useful to others, it might help me stay on the straight and narrow. After all, it's embarrassing to post too many mistakes. But I will have to see if I have time. I don't think it takes long. This post didn't. What do you think, would you like to see my daily food logs?

winter bean & veggie soup

I decided to add more veggies to my beans so it's a real soup instead of just beans. You can add whatever veggies you want in whatever amounts. I chose collard greens because they are in my freezer, brussels sprouts because housemate loves them and we still get them locally, mushrooms and leeks because they are good cancer fighters, and zucchini to help make it a nice thick stew. Last week I used butternut squash but that in combination with the beans produced too much gas. :)


Ingredients:
1 lb beans (today's were Christmas lima)
juice from 5 lbs carrots, or about 1 qt
several cups water
collard greens, about 1 lb
2 large leeks
1 lb mushrooms (today's were a mixture of crimini, oyster and shiitake)
1 zucchini
brussel sprouts, about 1 lb (housemate really loves them)

I juiced the carrots last night and soaked the beans in the carrot juice overnight, with a few cups water. This morning I added more water and cooked the beans, while I was away for a few hours (housemate monitored water levels). Then when I returned I ran the rest through the food processor and added it in, along with more water. The leeks, zucchini, even the mushrooms, pretty much dissolve in stew after being chopped so fine and that thickens it up nicely. It tastes like a rich hearty winter soup.

If you don't want to bother with the carrot juice, just use water, then add some spices. Maybe some thyme and oregano--other suggestions?

Desserts!

Well, you can see from the next 4 posts, I've been making a lot of desserts lately. Looking at all those treats I can't eat at the holiday parties finally got to me! Now I could say that it's okay to splurge and go off-plan every once in a while, like I did last year (or last week in France!). But I've been to 5 events with treats in the last 5 days, and I have several more to go this week. That's more than every once in a while. Plus, I feel crappy when I eat that stuff. So I decided to make my own treats. I did eat more than I needed to, especially the oat balls, but that's an acceptable holiday splurge, and best of all, I didn't feel like crap afterwards.

apricot oat balls

Dr. Fuhrman is running this "Holiday Challenge" and he sends us a recipe a day. I decided to try Friday's recipe, the "No-cook Apricot Oat Bars." Well, I'm not a good baker (even when it's "no-cook"!) because I don't follow directions like I should, so this turned into something else quite different. And since it did, I figure I can post it as a new recipe.


Ingredients:
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup raw almonds
2 Tbsp raw sunflower seeds
1 tsp flax seed
2 cups dates, pitted
1/2 cup dried apricot, unsulfured, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon

Blend the oats to a coarse flour in a blender (my first mistake, I was suppose to process until coarse in a food processor!). Blend 1/2 cup cashews until fine. Add the cashews to the food processor with some water and dates, and process until it smooth. Blend the other nuts and seeds until coarse or fine, in the blender. Add these and everything else to the food processor and process until it stops doing anything useful--a big ball rolling around. Roll into a bunch of little balls.

This is super sweet! I wouldn't call this "healthy". And it's quite high-calorie. You could probably half the amount of dates. However, this is great to take to a party. I ate several and then decided I'd had more than enough, so I saved the rest for a party. Just to make sure I didn't eat any more and to make sure the SAD eaters would like it (SAD = Standard American Diet), I combined cocoa powder and powdered sugar in a bowl (hot cocoa mix works too!), and doused all the nut balls in this mixture. They became chocolate covered nut balls. People loved them and they disappeared quickly! Sorry I forgot to snap a picture. They were cute little balls.

"cake", berries, & "cream"



















Ingredients for 2 servings:
2 essene buds or 2 slices of manna bread (optional)
1/2 cup cashews
1 ripe banana or 2-4 dates
1/4 cup soy, almond or hemp milk
1/4 cup water
2 cups berries or cherries (can be fresh or frozen)

Blend the cashews, milk, and banana/dates to make the cream--add the water as needed, it varies depending on whether you used bananas and/or dates. My bananas weren't fully ripe so I used dates instead. It was too sweet for me (obviously I used too many!). I will try bananas next time. Place the essene buds or bread on 2 plates, heat up in the microwave, top with the cream and berries. The blackberries were fresh and yummy. I enjoyed this a lot. This was inspired by Essie's Christmas dessert, from the Fuhrman forums. She didn't include the "cake" part, I was just in the mood for it. I'll try it next time without

My favorite ice cream

















Wow, I loved this. It's not super sweet. I'm realizing I don't like the really sweet stuff. But it's easy to sweeten to taste with your favorite sweetener (e.g., dates, date syrup, maple syrup, etc.). I'm also realizing I like the taste of soy milk. If you don't, use hemp or almond milk instead. Oh, I should give credit to the inspiration for this. It is a modification of "Healthy Elijah's Chunky Blueberry Walnut Sorbet". His recipe calls for 2 cups of walnuts which is about 1.75 too many for me!

Ingredients for 2 servings:
2 bowls in the freezer
1 banana, frozen
1/3 cup unsweetened soy, almond, or hemp milk
1/2 oz walnuts (about 8 halves)
2 cups frozen berries or other fruit
1/8 tsp vanilla (optional; I usually do without)
sweetener to taste if you prefer (dates, syrup etc). (optional; I prefer without but guests might prefer with)

Blend the banana & soy milk (and optional sweetener and vanilla) until smooth. Then add half the berries and blend some more, then add the rest and blend until chunky. It will get very thick and that's good.

I made this today with strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. I love the chunkiness!

(I updated this after making it the second time).

Total calories: 376. protein 10 g (10%), fat 13g (31%), carbs 62g (59%).

Changes to Working Connections Child Care subsidy eligibility

Additional reductions are being made to the WorkFirst budget (which includes child care subsidies) to balance it for the current fiscal year (which ends June 30, 2011) and the 2011-2013 biennium. This is in addition to $51 million in cuts to WorkFirst announced last August, which at that time included moving from 200 to 175 percent federal poverty level for Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidies eligibility.

These new reductions are needed in part because assumed emergency Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding was not appropriated by the federal government, and in part because of increased caseloads.

Here is what the new reductions mean for WCCC (information clarified on Jan. 10). 
  • Families who currently pay a monthly copayment of $50 or more will see a $10 increase in their copayment. 
  • All new families applying for WCCC must also receive a TANF grant or be determined eligible for TANF to be eligible for WCCC.  
  • All eligible families who currently receive WCCC are income eligible until their income is more than 175 percent of federal poverty guidelines. For example, a family of three can’t earn more than $2,671 a month.
Please note: Families must reapply for WCCC before their current eligibility period ends or they will need to meet the new WCCC eligibility requirement.


As part of the August 2010 cuts, on Jan. 1, anyone receiving WCCC subsidies who is above 175 percent FPL will no longer receive the benefit. The 1,112 families affected by this, and the child care providers who serve them, have been notified.

All the WorkFirst reductions will be posted online next week at www.dshs.wa.gov/TANFimpacts.shtml.
We at DEL know that these are tough messages for families and providers. We must keep working to come out of this economic situation stronger than before, and smarter about leveraging every available resource. DEL is participating in an effort to put forward to Gov. Chris Gregoire a set of recommendations around redesigning WorkFirst, and will share more information about that when it is available.

Early learning in the Governor’s proposed 2011-2013 budget

When releasing her proposed 2011-2013 budget this morning, Governor Chris Gregoire said the single most common denominator of individuals in state prisons is not drugs or alcohol, but lack of education. Her proposed budget tries to protect education, she said, especially in children’s earliest years.

Still, Washington faces a $4.6 billion shortfall in the coming biennium due to the national economic downturn. The Governor’s proposed 2011-2013 budget includes many difficult choices. It is one that reflects the fact that demands and costs for state services are up when revenues are down.




You can find the Governor’s entire budget proposal here. This is the budget for the biennium that begins on July 1, 2011. Her proposal goes to the Legislature as a “blueprint” for budget deliberations during legislative session.

Specific to our state’s youngest learners, the proposed budget:
  • Increases enrollment slots for 4-year-olds in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, while reducing slots for 3-year-olds. (Total of 460 slots cut from ECEAP, and a proportional cut to DEL ECEAP administration, for $9 million savings)
  • Eliminates the Career and Wage Ladder program ($3 million savings)
  • Reduces funding for administration for Seasonal Child Care subsidies ($2 million savings)
  • Does not carry forward Reach Out and Read literacy funding, and does not fund Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS)
  • Suspends planned increase of state-funded all-day kindergarten—continuing to fund the program for lowest income schools ($57 million savings)
  • Suspends the smaller class size and employee salary increase initiatives under Initiatives 728 ($860.2 million savings) and 732 ($253.3 million savings).
  • Eliminates K-4 class-size reduction funds ($216 million savings)
  • Eliminates the Children’s Health Program, which provides medical coverage for 27,000 children whose citizenship has not been documented ($59 million savings) and eliminates the Basic Health Plan ($230.2 million state fund savings; $117.3 million federal savings)
  • Proposes a new public/private partnership focused on reducing the impact of toxic stress and trauma (adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs), building on the success of the Family Policy Council and the Community Public Health and Safety Networks.
We at DEL are still looking at the entire proposed budget and will provide more information as we have it.

berry-banana ice cream

Ingredients:

1 banana
2 cups frozen berries (today I used strawberries and raspberries)
1/4 cup raw cashews + 1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp vanilla

1 date or 1 Tbsp date syrup

blend everything in a high-powered blender. Serves two. Now today I made it a little differently. I made some cashew cream first. I used 1/2 cup cashews, date syrup, water, and vanilla. I used half of it for the ice cream and saved the rest for smoothies tomorrow.

Legislature wraps up assembly days: What was the early learning conversation?

The Legislature finished up a week of committee meetings today. During these “assembly days,” lawmakers get updates on key issues that they’ll likely focus on during the upcoming legislative session (the 2011 session starts Jan. 10).

 
Our state’s youngest learners continued to be a hot topic on Capitol Campus. DEL updated legislators on several initiatives:
  • On Monday, we and our partners at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction updated the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee on the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) pilot, currently under way in 115 classrooms around the state. Click here to watch that presentation, which includes a “real world” view from a kindergarten teacher participating in the WaKIDS pilot.
  • On Thursday, we shared information with the House Education Appropriations Committee on the progress of the preschool work group established in Senate Bill 6759. The work group is charged with creating a plan that looks at what a “voluntary program of early learning” might look like in Washington. (You can read more about this on the preschool work group web page.) Click here to watch that presentation.
  • And earlier today, DEL Director Bette Hyde updated the House Early Learning & Children’s Services Committee on DEL’s accomplishments and next steps. Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and Thrive by Five Washington President & CEO Nina Auerbach joined Bette to talk about our strong Early Learning Joint Resolution Partnership, and the key priorities from the Early Learning plan we are focused on implementing in 2011. Video of that work session will be online at www.tvw.org soon.
Thrive by Five Washington President & CEO Nina Auerbach, DEL Director Bette Hyde and Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn present to the House Early Learning & Children's Services Committee on Friday, Dec. 10.

Also this week: Both House and Senate committees heard updates on an effort to create recommendations to redesign WorkFirst, Washington’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The WorkFirst program includes Working Connections Child Care subsidies.
 
Recommendations for how to redesign WorkFirst as a sustainable program that helps vulnerable residents on the path to self-sufficiency are expected to be delivered to the Governor in January. Watch the Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee work session here and the House Health & Human Services Appropriations Committee work session here.

Resources from early learning symposium now available online

Earlier this month, scientists, early learning leaders and others met together in Seattle for a symposium highlighting the newest research on children’s brains and development and how to use that knowledge across Washington. Participants heard from:
  • Dr. Jack Shonkoff, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University 
  • Dr. Robert Anda, consultant with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Dr. Patricia Kuhl, the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington
The event was sponsored by Casey Family Programs, who made the symposium resources and presentations available online. Click here to check them out.

The first video includes Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Susan Dreyfus, Department of Early Learning Director Bette Hyde and Department of Health Secretary Mary Selecky who have committed to working together to improve outcomes for Washington children.

“The three of us put our hands on the table together, and we made a pledge,” Dreyfus said. “We made a pledge of a commitment to early childhood in the state of Washington.”

The three agencies recognize early childhood spans physical health, mental health and every development milestone, Dreyfus said. The new state Early Learning Plan aims to tie together all these efforts into a cohesive approach to support children and families, said Hyde, who followed Dreyfus at the podium.

“We are looking at partnerships in a whole new way,” she said.

Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large also attended the symposium, and you can read what he took away.

DEL boosts child care licensing performance, earns applause from Governor

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) child care licensing team got kudos and applause this morning during the Government Management Accountability and Performance (GMAP) forum on vulnerable children.

GMAP is Governor Chris Gregoire’s tool to hold government accountable for performance. DEL is involved in two GMAP areas: vulnerable children (for our child care licensing) and education (for our Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP).

We are proud of the incredible effort our team has made to improve timely monitoring visits, licensing complaint inspections and inspections involving allegations of abuse or neglect. These GMAP measures are tied to child health and safety in licensed child care. We had work to do to make sure we were focusing on and meeting these measures.

Our entire agency, especially our licensing team, worked together over the past months to:

• Increase our performance on timely monitoring visits of licensed facilities by 33 percent
• Exceed our target for closing complaints that do not involve allegations of child abuse or neglect.
• Decrease the average time it takes to close licensing complaints involving allegations of child abuse or neglect.

You can watch the forum shortly on http://www.tvw.org/ by going to “Media Archives.” More information on DEL’s GMAP measures can be found at http://www.accountability.wa.gov/. Learn more about DEL’s child care licensing work and why it matters by reading You Have a Choice! A Guide to Finding Quality Child Care.

We are proud of this hard work to make sure licensed child care facilities are safe, healthy, nurturing places for children in Washington!

Give your input on the draft policy recommendations for Washington's Birth to 3 Plan

The Legislature passed a bill last session (House Bill 2687) asking DEL to create a plan for how to ensure a "robust continuum of services" for parents and caregivers of children birth to 3. The plan is to look at education and support around healthy child development.

DEL and Thrive by Five Washington have led the drafting of the plan, which will be delivered to the Governor and Legislature in December. We need your input on the draft policy recommendations in the plan!


Click here to read the draft policy recommendations, and then click here to take a brief survey to give your input.

DEL's agency strategic plan now online

So what exactly is the Department of Early Learning's mission, and how do we know whether our work is having a positive impact on outcomes for children in Washington?

Our 2011-2014 Agency Strategic Plan is now online. Click here to read about our work and how it aligns with our state's Early Learning Plan.

Our vision: Our state offers world-class, developmentally and culturally appropriate early learning opportunities for all of Washington’s youngest learners, so each child enters kindergarten with a solid foundation for success in school and life.


Our mission: The Department of Early Learning develops, implements and coordinates system oversight to early learning policy and programs that create safe, healthy, nurturing learning experiences for all Washington children.

Our strategic goals:
  • Provide high-quality, safe, and healthy early care and education opportunities for all children.
  • Partner with and inform parents, families and communities about early learning.
  • Support early learning professionals with professional development and technical assistance.
  • Promote excellence and hold the system accountable for results.

Core competencies mailed to licensed child care providers

Licensed child care providers should be receiving a copy of a new publication, Core Competencies for Early Care and Education Professionals, in the mail shortly.
 
In 2009, the Legislature asked DEL and the Professional Development Consortium (PDC) to create a set of core competencies for early learning and child care professionals. This set of guidelines defines what professionals need to know and be able to do to provide quality education and care. Spanish versions have not yet been developed.
 
The core competencies can be used in many ways. For example:
  • Providers and teachers might use them to decide where they should seek more training or education.
  • Trainers might use them to plan professional development.
  • College staff might use them to design course content.

Accompanying school-age core competencies developed by School’s Out Washington were developed simultaneously with the early care core competencies. These competencies delve more deeply into specific core knowledge and skills needed of school-age professionals who specialize in the care and education of children in kindergarten through high school. DEL and the PDC have worked with School’s Out Washington to ensure that the school-age core competencies and these early care and education core competencies are aligned. These will be available shortly.
 
DEL used federal funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to create, print and distribute the Core Competencies for Early Care and Education Professionals.
 
 
 
 

School-age programs: Encouraging our state’s budding artists!



Recycled material masterpiece!
One of the best parts of working at the Department of Early Learning is getting to see children’s works of art when we’re out and about in child care facilities, preschools and other early learning settings.

A child care licensor in our Spokane DEL office recently noticed this beauty (see right) while visiting the licensed afterschool program at Discovery School Center. A sixth-grader named Brevin made this creative bird last month using only recycled materials.

Licensed school-age child care programs are a great way for children to have structured before- and afterschool time to learn, make friends and build important social skills. Learn more about what to look for when seeking school-age care for your child by visiting the school-age care section of our website.

DEL postpones filing proposed family home child care rules

DEL will not be filing family home child care rules today and making them available for public comment, as had been planned. We are postponing filing to allow for more discussion time for DEL and other members of the family home child care negotiated rulemaking team (NRMT).

It is DEL’s responsibility to ensure safe, healthy licensed child care settings. Our goal with updating the family home child care rules is to make sure they are child-focused, research-based, consensus-driven rules that promote safety, health, and quality in licensed family home child care settings.

Members of the NRMT met for nearly three years to discuss current rules, review research and make recommendations on the proposed rules. As the regulatory agency, DEL then reviewed the team’s recommendations and prepared the proposed rules for formal filing.

DEL believes the proposed rules would support healthy, safe, high-quality family home care. We also want to honor the process and the work of the NRMT and ensure that team members feel their voices are heard and opinions considered before filing the proposed rules.


Working Connections Child Care eligibility changes to take effect Oct. 1

Eligibility for the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidy program will be reduced to 175 percent of the Federal Poverty Level effective Oct. 1. This program helps low-income families pay for child care while adults work, look for work or attend training.

The new level (a monthly income of less than $2,670 for a family of three) is reduced from 200 percent of the poverty level and is expected to affect about 2,500 families using the program.

"These are real parents and kids who depend on this program to provide safe places for their children during the workday," DEL Director Bette Hyde said. "The Governor made a very tough decision in order to balance the budget and still protect the most vulnerable families."

The change is part of $51 million in cuts to the WorkFirst program for the rest of state fiscal year 2011. WorkFirst is our state’s “welfare to work” program, which helps low-income families become self-sufficient through training and support services. Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the cuts in August, as a result of increased WorkFirst demand and decreased state resources. Cuts to WCCC are expected to save about $16.8 million.

Families will not immediately lose benefits but will be reevaluated against the new level when the time comes to renew. Eligibility for the Seasonal Child Care (SCC) program also will be reduced to 175 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

Click here for more information and for ways to give input on these changes.

Families who are looking for child care can contact their local Child Care Resource & Referral agency. There are also resources for children cared for by family, friends or neighbors.

Last “Learning for Life” segment features WaKIDS

For more than a year, our private nonprofit partner Thrive by Five Washington worked with KING 5 News to produce weekly segments about early learning topics here in our state. Today was the last in the series and featured our exciting kindergarten readiness pilot project.

Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) began this year in 120 classrooms around the state. It involves people important in helping kids achieve school readiness: parents, kindergarten teachers, child care providers and other early learning professionals. They meet together throughout the year and share information about a child’s strengths and needs.

As the kindergarten teacher in the KING 5 clip explains, it’s important to learn about the family, such as what language is spoken in the home and if books are available.



These discussions are about more than just if a child knows her letters and numbers, but how she learns, plays with others and uses her body. This assessment process becomes a baseline to help show what kids know when they enter kindergarten and how to support them through their education.

DEL, Thrive and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction worked together to design this pilot to support school readiness in both schools and communities. For more information about WaKIDS, including which schools are participating, visit www.del.wa.gov/wakids

DEL signs agreement with federally recognized Tribes

DEL Director Bette Hyde recently joined leaders from several of Washington’s 29 federally recognized Tribes in Spokane to sign communication and consultation protocols. These agreements guide how DEL communicates with and seeks input from each of the tribes as sovereign governments.


Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman
and DEL Director Bette Hyde sign the agreement.

Tribes have long been leaders in early childhood development and education, and DEL has worked hard to build strong partnerships that support culturally relevant early learning opportunities for all children, including Tribal children.

Both protocols are aligned with the Centennial Accord and New Millenium Agreement—agreements between Tribes and the State of Washington to ensure productive government-to-government relationships.

Read the consultation and communication protocols—and learn more about the way DEL supports and collaborates with Tribes—by visiting our Tribal Nations page.


Benefits of pre-k-3rd grade continuum featured at House committee work session

State officials and local school districts are working hard to “bridge the gap” between early learning and K-12. That was the message Wednesday during a House Education Committee work session on the importance of building a strong learning continuum for children pre-k through third grade.

DEL Director Bette Hyde opened the session by making the case for eliminating—not just reducing—the education achievement gap.

When Washington kindergarten teachers say about half of children enter kindergarten not ready, that doesn’t bode well for further success in the K-12 education system, Hyde said.

“Get rid of an achievement gap by never letting it start,” she said.



Hyde also talked about reducing the “fade-out” effect, which occurs when benefits gained in high-quality early childhood programs weaken over time. We can mitigate “fade-out” by helping ensure children have high-quality early learning opportunities and smooth, intentional transitions into kindergarten through 3rd grade, she said.

Also at the hearing, Annie Pennucci from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy presented preliminary research on how preschool opportunities impact test scores, graduation rates and other factors for low-income students.

DEL Deputy Director Bob Hamilton and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction WaKIDS Coordinator Dana Ziemba shared an update on the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), being piloted this school year in 120 classrooms around the state.

A key component of the WaKIDS pilot is creating connections among the child care and preschool programs, parents, kindergarten teachers and school districts. Listen to Katherine Cove, preschool cooperative director, discuss what success can look like from the Toppenish School District.



To view the entire work session, click here.

Seattle Times helps spread the word about Early Learning Plan

Here at DEL, we couldn’t help but be excited that local Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large shared the good news about the statewide Early Learning Plan with his thousands and thousands of regular readers.

You can check out his column “Getting kids off to good start” here, which ran in today’s paper.

The Early Learning Plan was released Sept. 1 after more than a year of work with partner agencies and stakeholders and feedback from Washington residents. It is our state’s roadmap for early learning.

We couldn’t have said it better than Mr. Large, who wrote:

“Washington state is putting what we know about building a strong foundation for children into practice in a more organized, coordinated way with a new early-education plan. The plan will get parents, day-care providers, educators and myriad social organizations talking to each other and working together.”

He further continues:

“All this is being done because brain-development research has made us increasingly aware of how important those early years are for children, and how important it is for the rest of us that children get on a good path early.”

You can see the plan and an executive summary at www.del.wa.gov/plan

The plan may be finished, but the work is just beginning. Keep watching for more updates!

Statewide toll-free number experiencing difficulties

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) reports that its statewide toll-free number, 1-877-501-2233, is experiencing major technical difficulties. This is the phone number for clients to call about public assistance benefits, such as cash, food, medical and Working Connections Child Care subsidies.

Callers are reporting being dropped from the call before they hear menu options. A temporary fix is in place; however, the state is expecting very high call volumes during the Labor Day weekend. DSHS is encouraging customers to delay calling if possible or be prepared for long waits.

In Eastern Washington, callers are experiencing poor sound quality and disconnected calls. Please be prepared to share your phone number at the beginning of the call so DSHS staff can call you back.

DSHS is working to fix these issues as quickly as possible.

The Washington State Early Learning Plan is born!

After more than a year of work and extensive outreach, the Washington State Early Learning Plan is now available. Visit www.del.wa.gov/plan to read the plan and learn more about our state’s 10-year roadmap for helping ensure all children start school ready to succeed.

We at DEL want to thank the Early Learning Advisory Council for leading this work, and to the staff at DEL, Thrive by Five Washington, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and other partners for their incredible work on making this plan a reality.

DEL, Thrive, OSPI and others worked hard to make sure Washington residents were able to weigh in on the plan as it was drafted—through online surveys, town hall meetings, meetings with key policymakers, ethnic groups and stakeholders, and other community gatherings. We are also proud that the plan was reviewed by a cultural competency expert to help ensure it reflects and honors the rich diversity of our state.

Keep watching for more information on how our state will begin implementing the plan—and how YOU can help!

Updated national standards to prevent childhood obesity in early learning settings

Preventing Childhood Obesity in Early Care and Education Programs is a new set of national standards on best practices in nutrition, physical activity, and screen time for early care and education programs.

 
 
"Preventing Childhood Obesity in Early Care and Education Programs contains practical intervention strategies to prevent excessive weight gain in young children. The standards detail opportunities for facilities and caregivers/teachers to work with families beginning on day one of an infant’s enrollment to prevent childhood obesity by promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.
 
These updated standards will be a part of the comprehensive Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards; Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs, Third Edition (CFOC, 3rd Ed.) to be released in 2011. The standards are for all types of early care and education settings – centers and family child care homes.
 
Areas of coverage:
  • General Nutrition Requirements
  • Meal and Snack Patterns
  • Requirements for Infants and Support Breastfeeding of Infants
  • Requirements for Toddlers and Preschoolers
  • Meal Service and Supervision
  • Food Brought from Home
  • Nutrition Education
  • Active Opportunities for Physical Activity 
  • Outdoor and Indoor Play Time 
  • Caregivers/Teachers’ Encouragement of Physical Activity
  • Screen Time Limits
  • Policies on Infant Feeding, Food and Nutrition Services, and Physical Activity
Caring for Our Children standards are developed through a public-private partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB)."

Working Connections Child Care 12-month eligibility form, information available

Beginning September 1, families that have a child in Head Start, Early Head Start or an Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) and are eligible for Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) benefits may qualify for 12 months of eligibility before having to reapply for WCCC. These families must still meet all WCCC requirements during their eligibility period. You can learn more about 12-month eligibility here.


 
How do parents apply for WCCC and the 12-month eligibility?
  • The first step is to apply for WCCC. Call the DSHS Customer Service Call Center at 1.877.507.2233 or apply online. DSHS will determine your eligibility based on your completed application within 30 days. You can learn more about WCCC here.
  • You must also complete this verification form that states your child is enrolled in Head Start, Early Head Start or ECEAP when you apply or re-apply for WCCC benefits. This form is also available at local Head Start, Early Head Start or ECEAP programs, and at local CSO offices. DSHS needs the information on this form in order to verify your child’s enrollment in Head Start, Early Head Start or ECEAP before authorizing 12 months of eligibility.

Cuts to WorkFirst services ordered for rest of state fiscal year

Today, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced cuts of $51 million to the WorkFirst program for the rest of state fiscal year 2011 (which ends June 30, 2011). WorkFirst is our state’s “welfare to work” program, which helps low-income families become self-sufficient through training and support services. WorkFirst includes the Working Connections Child Care program, which offers child care subsidies to low-income families who are working, looking for work or in job training.

 
Cuts to WCCC for the rest of this fiscal year are expected to save about $16.8 million and include:
  • Reducing WCCC eligibility to 175 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (a monthly income of less than $2,670 for a family of three). This will be effective October 1, and will be phased in as families using WCCC come up for reauthorization.
  • Requiring only one parent in two-parent families to participate in work activities to reduce child care costs for an expected 1,900 WorkFirst families.
 
These cuts are due to increased WorkFirst caseloads and a decrease in state revenue collection. Click here to read more about WCCC and other cuts to WorkFirst.
 
The Governor has challenged the five state agencies involved in WorkFirst—the Department of Social and Health Services, DEL, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, the Employment Security Department and the Higher Education Coordinating Board—to redesign the WorkFirst program to focus on cost-effective, sustainable, evidence-based best practices. That proposal will be delivered to the Governor this December. 
 

Give input on the draft Core Competencies for Early Care and Education Professionals!

Now is your chance to give input on a draft document that will define what early care and education professionals in our state need to know and be able to do to provide quality care and education. Click here to read the draft Core Competencies for Early Care and Education Professionals and take a short survey. The survey is available until August 20.


The core competencies were developed by the Department of Early Learning in partnership with the Professional Development Consortium, at the direction of the Legislature. They include standards around eight areas:

• Child growth and development

• Curriculum and learning environment

• Ongoing measurement of child progress

• Family and community partnerships

• Health, safety and nutrition

• Interactions

• Program planning and development

• Professional development and leadership

Child care providers: New resources to help build children's early language/literacy skills!

We were excited to see some new research-based resources for child care providers with easy ideas for supporting early language and literacy development. Both were issued this summer by the federal National Institute for Literacy.


First, the Make Time to Talk tip sheets have simple, fun ideas for center-based and family home child care providers to help build early language skills that last a lifetime. Among the tips:

• Two-way conversations are best. The child should be doing at least half the talking.
• Tell stories to the children and ask them to tell you stories about their families and lives.
• Act out stories with the children, re-using words from the book you read aloud with the children.
• Kneel or squat to be able to have eye contact with the child.

Second, Learning to Talk and Listen: An oral language resource for early childhood caregivers, is a short booklet with information about why adult-child conversations matter and how to talk with young children.

For more information on early literacy, visit http://www.nifl.gov/.