National Pizza Day on February 9th! [Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen]

February 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

I checked a couple of things off my bucket list last week. One was to visit New York City and to attend a Broadway production. I saw Kinky Boots. The other was to eat a slice of New York style pizza—the Neapolitan kind you have to fold over to eat properly. I did it. Twice. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed two slices of the best pizza I’ve had in a long time. Maybe it was the fact that I was in New York City that made it so delicious. Maybe it was the sassy and hilarious personality of the little Italian woman who waited on us. Maybe it was the fact that we’d walked over 5 miles before noon and I was really, really hungry. In any case, the pizza was fantastic!

I’m a bit of a pizza connoisseur. I remember making it with my babysitter as a child and being totally grossed out that she would put pineapple on her pizza. For the record, I now like a good Hawaiian pizza pie. In fact, I like most pizza pies. Whether it’s a chewy New York thin crust, a deep-dish Chicago style, or anything in between, pizza is a perennial favorite at the Radi house. Some of you may remember one of my early BLEND Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen blogs where we made crustless grilled pizza foil dinners or how we used naan bread as a quick and easy pizza crust.

Celebrating Pizza

Did you know pizza even has its own day? Yes, it’s a thing. National Pizza Day is observed annually on February 9th. To honor this much-loved dish, here are some interesting facts about pizza:

  • Pepperoni is the most popular pizza topping. It’s on 36% of all pies ordered.
  • Over 3 billion pizzas are sold in the USA each year. Add an additional 1 billion for frozen pizza purchases.
  • 17% of all restaurants in the United States are pizzerias.
  • Antica Pizzeria, the first Pizzeria, opened in Naples, Italy, in 1738.
  • Gennaro Lombardi, the first Pizzeria in the United States, opened in 1895 in New York City.
  • Americans consume on average 23 pounds of pizza per person each year.

Trade Up

Are you worried about the impact of pizza on your health? Frozen pizza is a convenient, once in a while treat, and is the perfect opportunity to use your NuVal knowledge! Of course, not all frozen pizzas are created equally. Just look at the NuVal scores on the shelf tags to select the more nutritious pizza option. The higher the NuVal score, the better the overall nutrition. It’s so easy! Just TRADE UP for a better pizza selection.

Let’s Have a Pizza Party!

Carve out some family time and celebrate National Pizza Day with a family pizza party. Instead of grabbing a frozen pizza, get the kids involved in production. You can use a pre-made naan crust or make your own. Use your NuVal knowledge to select a sauce and to gather a selection of toppings. Boost nutrition by preparing a bunch of colorful veggies. Your kids can help dice up some bright red or yellow bell peppers. They can help chop up some mushrooms, spinach, onions and tomatoes. Then let the fun begin! Kids are more likely to try new foods when they’ve helped in preparations. Encourage creativity. Make pizza faces with red pepper lips and black olive eyes. Or see who can use the largest number of different veggies on their pie. Not only are you introducing new foods and teaching kitchen skills, you’re making happy family memories. Remember, food is fun!

Here’s a fantastic 5-minute French-inspired pizza crust recipe from my friend Catherine Katz (wife of NuVal founder David Katz). Video used with permission from Catherine Katz/Cuisinicity.

Eat well,


This is a guest blog written by Kelly Radi.

Kelly is a former BLEND employee and current BLEND advocate who is passionate about food and nutrition. Professionally, she is a public speaker, freelance writer and author of Out to Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage. Kelly lives in Sartell where she is often spotted at Coborn’s scouring the shelves in search of the best NuVal scores. You can reach Kelly at

Help Fund the Good Food Access Program!

January 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 


Earlier this month, an opinion piece ran in the Star Tribune that explained the need for all Minnesotans to have access to groceries stores in the state, and with the loss of local grocery stores, rural areas across the state have lost their access to healthy and affordable foods at an alarming rate.

The Good Food Access Program would help address this critical challenge in our state, but we need your help to urge lawmakers to be part of the solution.

Take action now, share this opinion piece with your lawmakers and ask them to fully fund the Good Food Access Program.

With over 340,000 Minnesotans struggling with a lack of access to healthy, affordable foods, it is important that Minnesota fully fund innovative ways to improve access to healthy, affordable foods across the state. It’s critical that the Good Food Access Program have the resources necessary to invest in their solutions. The Good Food Access Program will do more than address critical food access challenges, it will also boost local economies and improve health outcomes for all Minnesotans.

Where you live in our state should not determine whether or not you have access to nutritious foods. By fully funding the Good Food Access Program, we can change this.

Pudding: It’s what’s for breakfast! [Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen]

January 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Breakfast Pudding BannerYou know the scene. Mornings are rushed. You’re trying to get a dozen things accomplished while waking kids and getting them dressed, fed and out the door. In all the chaos, it’s easy to set nutrition aside and pour a bowl of glow-in-the-dark marshmallow cereal for breakfast. As parents, we know this isn’t the best way to fuel their young bodies and brains. But sometimes we go into survival mode and forget the importance of a nutritious breakfast.

I’m not judging. I’ve been there. What if I told you that there was a way to get them to eat better breakfasts that wouldn’t take a lot of time on a busy morning? And, what if I told you that they’d think something good for them was a real treat? What if I told you they’d actually help you prepare it?

Okay, parents, if you’re feeling light headed at the possibilities, please sit down! Let me tell you about the magic of overnight refrigerator chia-oatmeal pudding. This stuff is super-easy to prepare. You put four ingredients in a mason jar in the evening and let your refrigerator do the work. In the morning, you have a “cooked” cereal your kids will love.

Ch-ch-ch chia

Remember the Chia Pet? These clay heads that sprouted grass-like hair were all the rage of my childhood. Fast-forward a few decades and the seeds from the same chia plant are now considered a superfood. Chia is an edible seed that contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium.

The mild, nutty flavor of chia seeds makes them easy to add to foods and drinks. We’ve added them to hot cereals, rice sided dishes and made a variety of smoothies and puddings with them. When soaked in a liquid, they take on a gel-like consistency, which makes them perfect for puddings like the breakfast one I’m sharing with you today.

Start ‘em young

Even young kiddos can help prepare the pudding by measuring ingredients and, of course, shaking it up. The secret here is a tight fitting lid. Secure the lids before they shake so you don’t have a chia pudding explosion in your kitchen!

Basic Chilled Chia Pudding

(makes one serving)

In a 16 ounce jar, add:

1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

1 Tbsp. chia seeds

2 tsp. maple syrup or honey

2/3 cup milk (almond milk works, too)

Cover tightly and shake vigorously to combine well.

Refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, shake it once more and pour into a bowl or let your kids eat it right from the jar. It’s one less dish to wash that way. Eat as is or add toppings and stir-ins. For a kid-friendly PB&J pudding, stir in a spoonful each of peanut butter (or favorite nut butter) and jam. Top with berries and enjoy.

Mmmm…morning made YOUR way!

You don’t have to stop with PB&J. Feel free to experiment with other flavors and textures. It’s simple and the options are endless. Once the basic pudding is made, each family member can customize their chia pudding to suit their own taste buds.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Monkey Madness: stir in honey, peanut butter and bananas.

Tropical Delight: replace milk with 3/4 light coconut milk and top with coconut shreds and your favorite tropical fruit. Fresh mango chunks are delightful!

Dark & Delicious: stir in mini dark chocolate chips, raspberries and vanilla extract.

Brownie Batter: stir in 1-2 teaspoons cocoa powder and some chocolate-hazelnut spread. Top with chopped nuts.

Until next time, shake up your breakfast routine and have a fantastic week!


kellys-headshotThis is a guest blog written by Kelly Radi.

Kelly is a former BLEND employee and current BLEND advocate who is passionate about food and nutrition. Professionally, she is a public speaker, freelance writer and author of Out to Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage. Kelly lives in Sartell where she is often spotted at Coborn’s scouring the shelves in search of the best NuVal scores. You can reach Kelly at

Guest Blog: An Early Start to Nutrition – Breastfeeding & Infants

January 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Many of you know, BLEND is working on various initiatives to improve the health of kids and families in Central MN. We assist and support schools, public health departments, clinics/hospitals and communities to create greater access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity. You may not be aware that BLEND supports breastfeeding. We haven’t talked (or blogged) much about it because we’ve placed most of our attention on school-aged children over the years. Recently, though, we were approached to advocate for and promote breastfeeding. We said YES!…because, after-all, we really do want ALL kids – even newborns and toddlers – to thrive and grow up healthy.

We are excited for this opportunity to educate young moms in our communities, work with local partners to enlist more worksites to allow spaces for breastfeeding, and encourage child care sites to use mom’s milk. We have reached out to professionals within our CentraCare Health region to assist in this new, exciting adventure and conversation! More is certainly on its way, but for now here’s a start! 

While many medical authorities strongly recommend breastfeeding your new bundle of joy, you and your baby are unique and the decision is up to you. A lot of research points to breast milk as being one of the best first foods your baby can receive for many different reasons. There are health benefits for both baby and mom that can help you make the decision to breastfeed.


  • Become sick less often with acute illnesses such as ear infections, respiratory illnesses and diarrheal diseases
  • Reduces risks of long term diseases like Type I Diabetes and Crohn’s Disease
  • Lowers their risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • More likely to maintain a healthy weight throughout childhood and as adults
  • Builds their immunity


  • Return to pre-pregnancy weight sooner
  • Have lower risks of certain ovarian and breast cancers
  • Helps mom bond with baby
  • May lower risk of Osteoporosis
  • Cheaper than buying formula


This guest blog was written by Mallory Voit, RN, BSN, IBCLC at CentraCare Health – Monticello.

Mallory started working as a Registered Nurse (RN) for CentraCare Health Monticello in October 2013 when they opened their Birth Center. The hospital asked if she would be willing to learn the lactation role, so in July 2015, she become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She went back to school for her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree in May of 2016. What she loves most about her job is that she can do labor and delivery and work with mom’s and babies during their time at the hospital and sometimes for weeks after in the outpatient setting. She really enjoys reading and spending time with her family, especially her 2.5 year old daughter.

The 10th Annual Sons of Norway Bernelopet is Almost Here!

January 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Sons of Norway BarnelopetAny time of year in Minnesota is a great time of year – but winters in Minnesota just might be my favorite. What’s not to love about it? I get to Nordic ski, teach kids how to cross country ski and help plan the annual Sons of Norway Barneløpet (a cross country ski event)!  As you can tell I love cross country skiing and it’s been keeping my family active and very busy lately.

To kick off the cross country skiing season, the Central Minnesota Youth Ski Club hosts 8 sessions to teach kids the fundamentals of this lifelong outdoor recreation activity. The sessions are scheduled for every Sunday from mid-January through mid-March. We just completed 2 of the 8 sessions planned for this season. The sessions are a great way to get kids active in the winter and start building the love of cross country skiing. We take a break in the action on Sunday, January 22, 2017 to help host the 10th Annual Sons of Norway Barneløpet. This is a free children’s Nordic ski event for ages 3 to 13 and let me tell you, it keeps getting better every year. I look forward to the laughter and smiles it brings to everyone…both young and old.

The Sons of Norway Barneløpet event is a celebration of Norwegian heritage and cross country skiing and it promises to bring fun, adventure and education. Amid a festive atmosphere – complete with plenty of food, demonstrations and sampling of Norwegian treats – kids and families get to enjoy music and see members of the Sons of Norway dressed up as Vikings. The Viking Age Club from St. Paul is planning to come and let’s not forget – kids get to CROSS COUNTRY SKI (some for the first time) using skis provided by the local Central Minnesota Youth Ski Club and it’s all FREE!

Here is a previous year’s WJON video that shows you just how fun this event is!

Planning the Sons of Norway Barneløpet is a coordinated effort. It is hosted by the Sons of Norway members from Trollheim of St. Cloud, Vennekretsen of Anoka, and FjellSyn of Mounds View Lodges. The Central Minnesota Youth Ski Club and Nordic Ski Club of Central Minnesota provide a lot of assistance along with many contributions from local businesses and organizations. Check out the 10th Annual Sons of Norway Barneløpet poster and see all those who help.

With so many enthusiasts helping us plan this event, we know it’s going to be awesome. Here are the details for this year’s 10th Annual Sons of Norway Barneløpet:

  • Who: Kids – 3-13 years old
  • When: Sunday, January 22, 2017 (Youth “race” starts at 1:00 p.m.).
  • Where: Riverside Park, 1725 Kilian Blvd. SE, Saint Cloud, MN 56304
  • Cost: FREE!
  • Registration: On-site registration start at 11:30 a.m., but pre-registration is preferred. Print registration form, here. This gives organizers an idea of how many participants to expect.
  • Prizes to all participants!

Minnesota Youth Ski League cross country ski equipment for children will be provided by the Central Minnesota Youth Ski Club, if needed. There is a limited amount of skis to use so come early (any time after 11:00 a.m.) to get a pair and practice a bit.

We are hoping to get twice as many kids as last year, so share the word, bring out your children and give cross country skiing try!

Nicholas Snavely

Central Minnesota Youth Ski Club Coordinator – like us on Facebook!

Central  Minnesota Youth Ski Club (website) (Email)

763-232-4921 (Cell phone)

Nordic Ski Club of Central Minnesota Board Member

Nordic Ski Club of Central Minnesota (Facebook)

Nordic Ski Club of Central Minnesota (website)

Nicholas Snavely Central Minnesota Youth Ski Club Coordinator (2)This is a guest post by Nicholas Snavely.

Nicholas is the Central Minnesota Youth Ski Club Coordinator, Nordic Ski Club of Central Minnesota Board Member and an outdoor enthusiast. He volunteers in both these roles and assists with the coordination of the Sons of Norway Barnelopet held each year at Riverside Park near where he lives in southeast Saint Cloud. A native-Minnesotan, Nicholas and his wife, Sharalyn, enjoy spending time outdoors with their two girls ages 8 and 12, two boys ages 6 and 10, and teenage foreign exchange students they have hosted through the Youth For Understanding program. They enjoy cross country skiing, biking, camping, canoeing, disc golfing, hunting, fishing, wild ricing and growing their own produce in local community gardens.

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