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Food Recipes and Entertaining 2014-07-28T15:27:59 2014-06-11T00:00:002014-06-17T15:38:53<![CDATA[Mint lightens and brightens summer dishes]]>(BPT) - The Kentucky Derby, held the first Saturday in May, may be responsible for making mint the king of summertime drinks. Along with big hats, the Derby is famous for its mint juleps, kicking off the warm weather season.

This year, mint is making its mark in the culinary scene in some new and unexpected ways. From pesto to rice salads, mint adds a summery tone to dishes that’s unmatched by other herbs, according to Chef Odette Smith Ransome, Chef Instructor of culinary arts at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Mint is used by chefs to add an additional level of flavor to dishes and drinks, according to Linda Marcinko, culinary academic director at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of St. Louis.

“I think mint is great in summer because it brightens up so many dishes. It’s so good to use in sweet items as well as savory dishes,” she says. Marcinko enjoys utilizing mint in Thai beef and noodle salad and iced tea.

Having mint on hand is easy, too, because it’s a perennial herb that will come up each year in the garden.  According to Marcinko, “it is so easy to grow and so versatile.”

The unique flavor of mint may also be used to replace calorie-heavy ingredients in traditional dishes, according to Claire Menck, chef director of culinary arts at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Wisconsin.

Marcinko lightens up pesto by replacing the traditional basil with mint and eliminating the cheese. Try her mint pesto, mint syrup, and rice salad to give your summer meals an extra minty kick.

Mint pesto – great with pasta or lamb chops

2 large bunches mint, trimmed of stems (just use the leaves)

1 bunch cilantro (can use some of the stems if they are not too thick)

6 cloves garlic, peeled

3/4 cup walnuts

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup vegetable broth

Salt and pepper

Crushed red chilies, optional

Procedure:

1. Combine the mint leaves, cilantro, garlic and walnuts in place in the bowl of a food processor.

2. Pulse the mixture until it is roughly chopped.

3. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil and vegetable stock. Process until smooth.

4. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and the Chile flakes.

 

Summer rice salad

4 cups cooked basmati rice

1 cup trimmed sugar snap peas, blanched

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 small red bell pepper, diced

1 small jalapeno pepper, finely minced

1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

1/2 cup chopped mint leaves

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

1. Cut the blanched sugar snap peas in half, lengthwise.

2. Put the rice, peas, onions, red bell pepper, jalapeno, pine nuts, and mint leaves in a bowl. Toss together well.

3. Pour on the olive oil and stir to coat all ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill for about two hours before serving. Serves eight.

 

Mint simple syrup – perfect with lemonade or mojitos

2 cups sugar

6 cups water

1 large bunch mint, roughly chopped

Procedure:

1. Combine the sugar and water in a medium-sized sauce pan. Stir to moisten the sugar. Add in the mint leaves.

2. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the syrup sit until it is cool. Strain the syrup to remove the mint.

3. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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2014-05-13T00:00:00<![CDATA[Kid-friendly foods that are also healthy appearing in restaurants across the country]]>(BPT) - With summer finally here, many will take the opportunity to spend more quality time with family, and dining out in restaurants is a perfect way to spend that time together.

In an effort to meet the growing demand among consumers for more healthful menu options, a number of restaurants - in hometowns across America and at various vacation destinations - are offering more nutritious and great-tasting menu options for kids.

Restaurateurs are committed to ensuring the meals they offer for children are healthful, flavorful and innovative. The participants of the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge initiative offer tangible proof of this. Sponsored by founding partners McCormick For Chefs and Healthy Dining, the challenge gives operators the opportunity to showcase the creative, healthful and flavorful dishes they plan to feature on their menus. During the competition, which uses an “industry tested, kid approved” approach, a panel of food and nutrition professionals select the finalists and a team of elementary school students choose the eventual winners.

The Kids LiveWell Recipe Challenge provides chefs and foodservice professionals with a forum to develop nutritious recipes that promote fun dining experiences. National chains, foodservice companies, independent restaurants and noncommercial organizations, have displayed their culinary creativity and competed in the contest, inspiring young patrons to be excited about eating healthful foods.

The winning recipes have embodied nutritious and imaginative ideas, such as a sandwich that uses multigrain and pumpernickel bread shaped to look like a piano, a dish that turns a kid favorite - spaghetti and meatballs - into a pizza, and a quesadilla and soft taco that incorporate whole wheat, lean proteins and vegetables into meals that are tasty and exciting.

All of the challenge’s recipes are required to meet nutrition criteria set forth by the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell initiative, which is based on the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines. The program’s goal is to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy, while limiting unhealthful fats, sugar and sodium.

The Kids LiveWell initiative today includes 145 restaurant brands in more than 42,000 locations, and all of them are committed to providing more healthful meals for children. Nutritious meals can be found at all types of restaurants, from independent to chain to casual dining to quick-service, fast casual and fine dining. They’re even available in museums and theme parks.

For busy families that are constantly on the go, Kids LiveWell has made it even easier to find healthful menu items when they dine out in restaurants. Many of these nutritious menu options can be found on HealthyDiningFinder.com or by downloading the free Kids LiveWell smartphone app, available in the Android Market and iTunes app store.

Restaurateurs and chefs can make the healthful choice the easy choice. Parents and their children will keep coming back for more.

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2014-06-13T00:00:002014-06-16T09:58:22<![CDATA[Escape a cooking rut with bold flavors the whole family will enjoy]]>(BPT) - Between busy schedules and family member’s picky eating habits, it’s easy to fall into a cooking rut where you’re preparing the same five recipes every week. Break out of this cycle with a few easy tips that will have you exploring new flavors in no time.

“A well-stocked pantry is the foundation to creating vibrant meals for your family,” says Chef Charlie Baggs, chief executive chef of Charlie Baggs Culinary Innovations. “Having a few staple ingredients like chicken broth, cooking wine, olive oil and soy sauce on hand will make it easier to embrace new and different recipes.”

Follow these simple tips to begin creating unique meals the whole family can enjoy.

* Create a recipe queue. Sites like Allrecipes and Pinterest make it easier than ever to search, categorize and save recipes. Building a recipe collection as you go will make it easier at the beginning of each week to decide what you want to make.

* Use recipes to build your shopping list. Sure you will still need to get staples like milk and eggs, but make sure most of the items on your shopping list are ingredients needed for the recipes you want to make. Putting just a little extra time into planning meals at the beginning of the week will prevent you from reaching for tried and true favorites when you get to the store.

* Stock up on versatile ingredients. Cooking wine is a simple yet versatile ingredient that transforms even the most basic dish into something amazing. Stir into sauces to enhance the color and flavor, add to a saute with vegetables, simmer in a slow cooker or use it as a marinade for a deliciously savory flavor. Sherry cooking wine improves stir-fry sauces, while Marsala cooking wine swirled in creamy soups or gravy adds a subtle nutty flavor. Holland House has a wide variety of cooking wines available at most grocery retailers.

* Put one new item in your grocery cart each week. The produce section is a great place to find seasonal fruits and vegetables that you might never have tried before. Make an effort to step out of your food comfort zone and try one new thing each week.

Looking for a meal that will wow the family tonight? This recipe for Smokey Bacon Mac and Cheese is indulgent yet adaptable for the whole family. The creamy, cheesy gratin is balanced by sherry cooking wine and utilizes all your favorite pantry items.

Smokey Bacon Mac and Cheese

Prep Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

1 pound bacon, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
3/8 cup reserved bacon fat
2 cups large onion, diced
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
5 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine     
3 quarts milk
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3 cups, divided shredded Swiss cheese
1 - 1 pound box Cavatappi pasta

Directions

In a large pot bring salted water to a boil to cook the pasta. Cook the pasta until just tender, cool pasta under cold water and reserve.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a medium sized skillet over medium high heat and caramelize the onions with the oil until very brown and soft. Reserve.

Dice the bacon and cook in a large pot until crispy, remove bacon from pot and add butter to the hot bacon fat in the pot. Turn the heat down to medium and once the butter is melted, add the flour and mix until the mixture begins to brown, 3-5 minutes.

Add the Cajun seasoning, Holland House Sherry Cooking Wine, garlic and mustard to the pot and stir until combined. With a whisk slowly add the milk to the pot until it is fully incorporated. Turn heat to medium low and continue to stir until the milk mixture becomes thick like an Alfredo sauce, making sure not to scorch the bottom of the pan.

Add the cheddar cheese and 2 cups of the Swiss cheese while whisking until fully incorporated and then finish with the caramelized onions, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt, and pepper for seasoning. Puree sauce with stick blender or transfer to blender and blend until smooth.

Turn on broiler to high. Add the sauce to the pasta and mix and place in a casserole dish and top with remaining Swiss cheese and broil until golden brown. Top with crispy bacon bits.

For additional recipes and tips on how to use cooking wine, visit www.HollandHouseFlavors.com.

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2014-04-28T00:00:002014-06-02T16:46:06<![CDATA[See a unique view of the next generation's family farm]]>(BPT) - Most Americans have never stepped foot on a farm or ranch, or even talked to the people who grow and raise the food they eat. Many people have mixed perceptions about what it means to be a farmer and rancher today. They might not even stop to think about the process of how their prepared meal has traveled from the farm to their table.

Those closely engrained and tied to farming today understand that there is a history, art, and even science behind growing and raising safe, healthy food - whether it is organically or conventionally raised crops or livestock. They also know - and are pleased to see - that a younger generation of farmers is returning to the fields to continue generations of farming traditions and knowledge, while also bringing new techniques and fresh perspectives to improve efficiencies and reduce the environmental impact of farming as a whole.

Today’s young farmers and ranchers are returning to the fields because they see it as a great career opportunity with national and global relevance and impact. They see farming as an enterprise they can invest in, nurture and build. These farmers may be first, second or sixth generation farmers - but what remains the same is that a majority - 98 percent - of American farms remain family-operated.

Farmland, a new documentary film by Academy, Grammy and Emmy-winning director James Moll, will premiere in theaters across the U.S. on May 1. The documentary takes an intimate look at the lives of American farmers and ranchers in their ‘20s, all of whom are now responsible for running their farming businesses.

Through the film, viewers will step inside the world of farming and take a first-hand look into the lives of these young farmers and ranchers. Viewers will learn about the high-risk, high reward job of a farmer or rancher, and their passion for a way of life that has been passed down from generation to generation, yet continues to evolve. It’s an opportunity to get a glimpse inside the everyday tasks, challenges and opportunities that today’s farmers and ranchers face - whether they be male or female, conventional or organic, and first generation or fifth generation.

In order to meet the dual needs of feeding a global population while improving techniques to ensure utmost sustainability on the farm, it’s critical that the migration of young, educated farmers continues both in the near and long-term future. It’s also important for the general public to continue to understand and inquire about how their food is grown and raised, and trust that skilled farmers and ranchers are growing and raising food with their families and your family in mind.

Visit www.FarmlandFilm.com to locate a theatre near you where Farmland will be screening, as well as additional information about the film and to watch the trailer.

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2014-06-17T00:00:002014-06-18T07:51:07<![CDATA[Combining virtual and real-world toys into hours of fun playtime]]>(BPT) - Do your children have imaginary friends or pretend the characters from their favorite TV show or video game are real and in the room? Many children creatively stage playful interactions with fictional and imaginary characters during their developmental years, but now those imaginary characters don’t have to be quite so imaginary.

You can buy your kids toys of their favorite characters from many TV shows and movies. But now your children can use those toys both in the game and the real world through video games. The Skylanders Trap Team video game, which was showcased at the E3 video game convention in Los Angeles, captures children’s interest and imaginations as they choose their favorite heroes to protect Skylands from villains. The Skylanders franchise first introduced the Toys to Life category in 2011 with Skylanders Spyro’s Adventure, and they continue to drive its amazing innovation by providing children a way to play with toys both virtually and in the real world. What makes Skylanders Trap Team so special though is that it advances the idea of bringing toys to life by reversing that innovation and actually bring life to toys by letting kids capture villains, pull them out of the game into a physical toy trap, and then play as that villain. This level of imagination can easily extend beyond a simple game session. Consider the following:

* Organize a playdate for several children to bring their favorite heroes to protect and defend Skylands or some new territory in your backyard. Give them the crafting materials they need to create shelters and set up a good defense. They’ll be occupied for hours building and playing with their heroes.

* Team up with your children to play the games they love. For instance, in Skylanders, find your favorite hero and team up with your child’s favorite character and embark on a mission to trap the villains and turn them into good characters in the battle to protect Skylands.

* Skylanders Trap Team officially hits store shelves this October, so schedule a Skylanders marathon featuring all four Skylanders games. Invite friends and family over for the marathon, and rotate play schedules so everyone can participate in the mission. Ask everyone to bring their collection of heroes as well so kids can play with them both virtually and as standalone toys. To make it a great afternoon of fun, have plenty of refreshments and snack foods handy to keep energy levels going strong.

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2014-06-27T00:00:00<![CDATA[Celebrate patio season with elegant and affordable outdoor updates]]>(BPT) - Patio season is upon us, which means hosting family and friends for warm-weather gatherings and barbecues. Don’t fret; outdoor events don’t have to break the bank. With just a bit of creative vision and DIY savvy, you’ll have an al fresco affair to remember in no time at all.

Sensational seating

Is your furniture looking a bit battered and worse for wear from too much exposure to the elements? Not to worry – spray paint with a built-in primer, such as Krylon Colormaster, can revive your wicker or wood seating for many summer seasons to come. It’s simple to create sensational seating; just be sure the surface is clean, dull and dry and then spray in one of the 100 colors and finishes that ColorMaster offers. The unique formulation offers quick and easy results – and dries in 10 minutes or less, so you will have more time to stage the rest of your patio arrangement.

Elegant ambiance

Once your seating is set, create eye-catching centerpieces to welcome your guests. No need to head to the store, as items around your home such as forgotten knick knacks or candlesticks holders can easily be spray painted in vibrant colors to complement your newly revitalized furniture. Finish up your tablescape for upcoming dinner parties with colorful place mats and cloth napkins to personalize place settings. Your guests will be in awe of your custom designs.

Let there be light

Set the mood at your soiree with interesting accent lighting. Tiki torches are an easy and inexpensive solution to provide excellent perimeter lighting. For a fun DIY project, purchase standard metal lanterns in various sizes at a local craft or hardware store – or even yard sales – and spray paint the exterior in various complementary colors. Finish by adding citronella candles to allow your creation to work double duty to keep pesky mosquitos at bay, ensuring your invited guests don’t bolt because of uninvited ones.

Time to party

Don’t settle for lackluster libations – take time to create a festive offering of refreshing seasonal concoctions. In addition to traditional margaritas and daiquiris, sweeten water with fresh fruits for an invigorating beverage that is perfect for the patio. And for the last detail – make sure you have music to get your guests grooving. Plug in a favorite playlist or use an app such as Pandora to keep everyone guessing what will come on next and enjoy a warm summer night.

You don’t have to spend much to create an elegant and impressive gathering. By paying attention to small, inexpensive details, you can easily transform a bland backyard, patio or deck into a stylish spot for entertaining that won’t leave you penniless at the end of the evening.

For more information on Krylon products or spray paint projects, visit krylon.com.

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2014-07-17T00:00:00<![CDATA[Calling all junior chefs: Expert tips make cooking an enjoyable family affair]]>(BPT) - There’s a place in the home that is full of endless fun and family bonding potential: the kitchen. When kids learn to cook – from meal prep to cleanup – they gain valuable skills and make lifelong memories. Fortunately, inspiring kids in the kitchen is simple with a few expert tips.

“Children have a natural interest in food and creativity, so families who cook regularly come across educational moments in the kitchen while spending time together,” says Sandra Lee, multi Emmy award-winning television personality and Food Network host. Lee offers these tips for empowering junior chefs and encouraging family fun time in the kitchen:

Make it a family affair. Before going to the grocery store, brainstorm appetizing recipes with the family so everyone can take part in the planning process. This is a great way to get creative while teaching kids about various ingredients and meal preparation. Plus, when kids have a say in the weekly dinner menu, they are more likely to try new foods!

Strive for easy access. Keep kids motivated by stocking their favorite ingredients in easy-to-access areas around the kitchen. Parents agree that keeping greens and healthy snacks in easily accessible areas of the refrigerator is an important part of teaching your child healthy eating habits. Refrigerators, like LG's door-in-door models, are perfect for keeping frequently used cooking ingredients and healthy snacks within easy reach so kids can retrieve them on their own. Plus its new CustomChill drawer has the flexibility to serve as either extra refrigerator or soft freezer space, depending on the food items stored.

Mix it up: Don’t let meal preparation be a daunting task. Get the kids involved in helping to prepare various ingredients. This is the perfect opportunity to catch up and spend quality time with your children as you fix up delicious treats. Assign chopping and blending steps to older children and save simpler tasks like hand mixing for younger kids.

Taste test, anyone? During the cooking process, taste the food and talk with your kids about any necessary adjustments. This will encourage them to engage their palate and analyze the flavors they taste. It is also a great way to educate children on different flavors and the health benefits of cooking and you’ll learn a lot about their individual preferences.

Go ahead, mess around: The kitchen should be a space where kids can be creative and have fun while learning the culinary ropes. Embrace the chaos that will likely ensue, including messy clothes. A good way to prevent a major mess is to have aprons on hand. Add a fun twist to kitchen time by having kids decorate and personalize plain white aprons so every time you cook in the kitchen together, they can wear their own special apron.

For thought starters on what to create with your kids in the kitchen, consider these ”junior chef”-friendly recipes courtesy of Sandra Lee, which are guaranteed to be as much fun to make as they are to eat:

Fruit Pizza Recipe:

Ingredients:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup powdered sugar

8 wedge-shaped shortbreads

3 tablespoons peach jam or preserves

Fresh fruit (diced strawberries, diced kiwi, raspberries, diced mandarin oranges, small blueberries, etc.)

Honey

Directions:

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the cream cheese, vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Spread about 1 tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture on each shortbread.

2. Spread a generous teaspoon of peach jam on top of the cream cheese on each shortbread.

3. Arrange fruit in rows on top of shortbreads to look like a rainbow. Drizzle lightly with honey. Serve immediately.

Mix and Match Ice-Cream Sandwich:

Ingredients:

Root Beer Float Ice Cream

1 (18.25-ounce) box white cake mix

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons root beer extract

3 cups vanilla ice cream, softened

1 cup toffee bits

Garnish: toffee bits

Sugar-Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

1 (16.5-ounce) package refrigerated sugar cookie dough

51/2 cups vanilla ice cream, softened

1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

1 tablespoon sparkling sugar

Directions:

Root Beer Float Ice Cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, oil, eggs, and extract. Form dough into 12 to 14 (2-inch) balls. Using hands, flatten balls on a baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, or until edges begin to brown. Remove from pan, and cool completely on wire rack.

3. In a large bowl, combine ice cream and toffee bits. Spoon ice cream evenly on flat side of half of cookies. Top with flat side of remaining half of cookies. Wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap, and freeze until ice cream is firm. Unwrap sandwiches, and roll edges in toffee bits, if desired. Serve immediately.

Sugar-Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into 32 balls (about 11/2 teaspoons dough for each ball). Place balls 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned around edges. Let cool on pans for 1 minute. Remove to wire racks; cool completely (about 30 minutes).

2. Scoop 1/3 cup ice cream onto the bottoms of 16 cookies. Top each with a cookie; gently press until ice cream almost reaches edges of cookies. Smooth edges of sandwiches with a knife, if necessary. Freeze until firm.

3. On a plate, combine sprinkles and sugar; roll edges of sandwiches in sprinkles mixture. Freeze sandwiches for 10 minutes longer before serving.

Sample a few of these sweet ideas:

* Coconut ice cream or sorbet between two waffle cookies. Roll sides in chopped or shredded coconut macaroons. 
* Lemon sorbet between lemon cookies. Roll sides in finely chopped yellow gumdrops.

* Mint chip ice cream between chocolate waffle or wafer cookies rolled. Roll in chopped pistachios.

* Strawberry ice cream between Pepperidge Farm(R) macadamia nut cookies. Roll sides in chopped strawberries.

* Butter pecan ice cream between peanut butter cookies. Roll sides in chopped pecans.

* For a nut-free option crush Oreo’s or chop fruit to roll on the outside of the sandwich.

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2014-05-06T00:00:002014-06-03T07:43:29<![CDATA[Find out the tricks to make your next BBQ amazing]]>(BPT) - With the temperatures inching up, BBQ enthusiasts are looking to turn up the heat. You can jumpstart the BBQ season by perfecting your skills and experimenting on the grill.

Charlie Torgerson, Famous Dave’s Restaurant Executive Chef and Pitmaster, has compiled 20 years of BBQ expertise to provide backyard pitmasters with BBQ tips for the summer. “Anyone can become an expert on the grill with the right knowledge, equipment and willingness to experiment,” says Torgerson.

Before firing up the grill

A successful BBQ begins before you heat up the grill.  When selecting your meat, make sure to examine its color. Beefs should be bright red, and pork should be a deep pink. To assess the true color, take your meats into a natural light and out from under fluorescents.

To ensure an even cook time, make sure the meat is at room temperature before placing it on the grill. Do not speed up the defrosting time by submerging in water as it can purge natural juices and flavor.

On the grill

Move the meat around to different heat zones versus the traditional method of letting the meat cook on one side and flipping to cook the other side. This technique will help build a better crust on the meat to enhance natural flavors.

Layer the flavor

Build flavor on the grill by using a variety of techniques. Marinade, season, smoke, char and caramelize your sauce to build a complex and robust flavor profile. Dress up a cheaper cut of meat with intense layers of flavor but let quality cuts of meat shine with simple seasonings.

One way to add that layer of flavor is to create your own sauce brush by securing a bundle of herbs to a wooden spoon with a piece of butcher’s twine to baste on sauce.

Slow and steady

Let your meat rest for at least five minutes and up to 30 before serving. Resist the urge to cut into the meat right off the grill and you will be rewarded with a juicier cut of meat.

As grilling enthusiasts will tell you, the best tool you can have is a notebook and pen. Keep track of your sauces and seasonings, how you heat, the cuts of meat you use, how long it rests and use what works well to build upon in future grilling excursions.

Enjoy the summer season at your backyard BBQ by mastering your grill and experimenting with new techniques or leave it to the expert pitmasters at Famous Dave’s for an award-winning meal. For more tips, visit www.famousdaves.com

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2014-04-13T00:00:002014-07-15T11:27:49<![CDATA[Try tasty simple swaps to lighten up your menu]]>(BPT) - When it comes to diet and health, small changes can lead to big rewards. Replacing less healthy ingredients in your favorite recipes with ingredients that are lower in calories and packed with nutrients (and flavor) make it easy for you to stay on track. The trick is to identify ingredients that make for easy trades, like milk, yogurt and cheese.

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends eating three servings of milk and milk products - like yogurt and cheese - each day, because these foods contain three of the four nutrients that are often deficient in Americans’ diets: calcium, vitamin D and potassium.

A one-cup serving of milk is an excellent source of high-quality protein, and it’s no secret that milk can help to build healthy bones. In addition, according to research available on the HealthyEating.org website from Dairy Council of California, the nutrients found in milk, yogurt and cheese can boost immunity, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes, reduce the risk of some cancers, and help with weight maintenance.

“It’s easy to enjoy eating right, because healthy foods from all five food groups taste great too,” says Ashley Rosales, registered dietitian nutritionist with Dairy Council of California. “Maximize flavors and reduce calories while getting more of the dairy foods that are essential to a healthy diet with simple ingredient swaps recommended by the California Milk Advisory Board below.”

Low-fat plain or Greek yogurt:

* Swap California low-fat plain yogurt for oil when baking. You’ll not only cut calories but your muffins will be noticeably more tender.

* Substitute low-fat plain or Greek-style yogurt for mayonnaise in chicken and tuna salad. Many people prefer the creamy tang yogurt adds.

* Decrease the cream in a blended soups and stir in low-fat Greek-style yogurt instead.

* Lighten up dessert by mixing chocolate-hazelnut spread with plain yogurt to cut the sugar and calories in a dip for fruit. Try the Magic Dairy Dressing found at realcaliforniamilk.com/recipes/magic-dairy-dressing for another healthy fruit dip.

Low-fat or fat free milk:

* Use low-fat or fat free milk instead of cream to make pudding, polenta and bechamel sauce.

* Try low-fat or fat free milk as the base for sweet or savory bread pudding.

* Lighten up your morning routine with a berry packed smoothie blended with low-fat or fat free milk. You’ll be adding protein and vitamins. The Simple Strawberry Smoothie recipe found at realcaliforniamilk.com/recipes/simple-strawberry-smoothie is a delicious and healthy start to the day.

Cheese and cottage cheese:

* Infuse flavor into favorite dishes with strong cheeses, such as California Blue or Dry Jack cheeses. A little bit goes a long way, which means you get all the flavor of cheese without adding too many extra calories.

* Add low-fat cottage cheese to pancakes for a protein punch.

For more recipe ideas, visit realcaliforniamilk.com/recipes. For more information on dairy nutrition, visit HealthyEating.org.

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2014-05-16T00:00:00<![CDATA[Elegant summer entertaining with fresh, seasonal cocktails]]>(BPT) - Summer is synonymous with entertaining and for good reason. Warm summer days and long summer evenings make the perfect backdrop for gatherings with friends and family to enjoy delicious food and drinks. As Memorial Day, Independence Day and long summer weekends come and go, keep in mind some simple tips to make your summer soirees extra special and elegant.

First, instead of typically busy patterned linens and party decor, use simple color schemes to convey summer holiday themes with sophistication. Decorate your table with monochromatic fresh flowers in red, white or blue, accented with crisp white linens and bowls of fresh red strawberries and blueberries. The berries serve double-duty as refreshing snacks and beautiful table decor that pull through the summer color palette.

You can also string white lights in backyard trees and foliage. As the sun sets, simple white lights will add an element of twinkling elegance and ambiance to outdoor gatherings.

Finally, serve craft cocktails made with La Marca Prosecco, an affordably luxurious crisp and refreshing Italian sparkling wine. Combine La Marca Prosecco with in-season fruit and a selection of spirits to add a special touch of elegance to any summer gathering. Here are a few unique and delicious sparkling cocktail recipes that are sure to please your guests.

For more sparkling cocktail recipes and to find La Marca Prosecco at a retailer near you, visit www.LaMarcaProsecco.com.

Picnic perfect

Ingredients:

4 ounces La Marca Prosecco

1 ounce bourbon

3/4 ounce homemade sweet and sour (recipe follows)

1/3 cup sliced strawberries

1 whole strawberry for garnish

Directions:

Muddle sliced strawberries with bourbon and strain liquid into serving glass. Combine with sweet and sour and top with 4 ounces La Marca Prosecco. Garnish with whole strawberry and serve.

Makes one cocktail.

Homemade sweet and sour

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

Directions:

Simply combine all ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved. Store in refrigerator.

Makes 2 cups.

Simple summer

Ingredients:

4 ounces La Marca Prosecco

1 ounce coconut rum

1/2 ounce triple sec

Fresh coconut garnish

Directions:

Crack open a fresh coconut, remove a portion of the flesh and cut out a star-shaped garnish. Add the coconut rum and triple sec to serving glass, followed by 4 ounces of La Marca Prosecco. Garnish with the coconut star and serve.

Makes one cocktail.

Blue breeze

Ingredients:

4 ounces La Marca Prosecco

1 ounce gin

1/4 ounce elderflower liquer

Squeeze of a lemon wedge

Fresh blueberries for garnish

Directions:

Combine the gin, elderflower liqeur and lemon juice in a serving glass. Top with La Marca Prosecco, garnish with fresh blueberries and serve.

Makes one cocktail.

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2014-05-20T00:00:00<![CDATA[Try these ideas for light and simple cookout fare]]>(BPT) - Whether enjoying a summer holiday, celebrating a recent graduation or simply relaxing with friends and family on a lazy Saturday afternoon, this is the perfect time of year to enjoy nutritious eating wherever you are. If you’re planning a backyard barbecue, fresh produce makes delicious and healthy choices a breeze no matter if you’re the host or a guest.

Healthful hors d'oeuvres

Try a variation on the classic veggie tray and utilize vegetables such as versatile sweet potatoes or bright eggplant slices. If you’re in charge of the dip, aim for the hottest leafy green at the market - kale. Guests will rave about the combination of veggie chips paired with a kale pesto. You can make any number of simple, crowd-pleasing dips with a high-performance blender like a Vitamix Professional Series 300.

For smaller gatherings, you may want to put more time into the presentation. Show off your culinary prowess with an exotic tapas plate that includes several varieties of fresh olives, roasted peppers and a centerpiece such as Thai spring rolls with dipping sauce.

When entertaining a crowd, try placing smaller portions of appetizers in different places to encourage mingling and conversation. By setting up unofficial “stations,” a bottleneck at the snack table can be avoided.

Salads and soups with a twist

Salad is a quick and easy side to serve at a get-together when the mercury rises. The beauty of salads is they are truly blank canvases with a multitude of tasty combinations. There is little-to-no cooking involved, plus salads are the ideal way to enjoy produce from your very own garden or your local farmers market.

Begin with a foundation of in-season greens, like spinach or Swiss chard or a lettuce variety such as romaine or watercress. From there, look to fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds to pepper your dish with nutritional goodness. To top it off, brighten the flavors with a drizzle of oil and a squeeze or two from a fresh lemon, or impress guests with your own sherry shallot vinaigrette.

Another great addition to a meal, and one that includes lots of vegetables that guests will appreciate, is a chilled soup. Especially good for those hot and humid days, heat is not required when whipping up these types of concoctions - only a high-performance blender and a bit of chopping. Try an interesting, seasonal combination like watermelon gazpacho or a refreshing, cold cucumber-dill soup.

Garden-fresh grilling

The grill is widely recognized as the star of the show at any summer picnic. Stepping away from the kitchen and cooking outside seems to make everything taste better. It may be standard to serve hamburgers and hot dogs, but nearly all vegetables and fruits can be grilled - even dark, leafy greens. Use clean, oiled racks to keep food from sticking and aim to fill at least half with fresh produce.

Grilling veggie kebabs filled with bell peppers and onions or fresh ears of corn will bring out their natural flavors. Take it a step further and try incorporating marinades and dry rubs, which are not only for meats. Sauces like an apricot ancho barbecue glaze can be made ahead of time in your Vitamix, providing a signature touch for any backyard barbecue. And, don’t forget to grill some pineapple for dessert.

Whether entertaining four family members or 40 friends, a fun evening of games, music and activities will pair well with healthier cookout fare - all ingredients for the perfect summer evening spent outdoors.

Kale Pesto
Yield: 1 1/4 cup (300 ml)

Ingredients:

4 cups (268 g) chopped kale

1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup (60 g) roasted red pepper

2 garlic cloves, roasted, peeled

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons (14 g) toasted pepitas

1/2 cup (20 g) fresh spinach, loosely packed

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

1. In a large pot of salted, boiling water, blanch kale for 4 minutes. Shock in a bowl filled with ice and water; strain. Once water has drained away, press out as much water as possible, leaving 1/2 cup of blanched kale.

2. Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.

3. Select Variable 7.

4. Use the on/off switch to quickly pulse 15-20 times, using the tamper to press the ingredients into the blades.

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2014-05-20T00:00:00<![CDATA[8 reasons why olives are the pantry's best kept secret]]>Share This Share This 

(BPT) - California Ripe Olives are not only a pantry staple – but a delicious way to add texture and flavor in a variety of places. From cocktails to appetizers and even dessert, this versatile ingredient is one you’ll want to make sure is always in stock on your shelf and on the grocery list.

A California housewife invented the recipe for curing ripe olives in the 1800s and that recipe is still being used today. In fact, two family-owned canneries process the olives grown on more than a thousand California multigenerational family farms – producing 95 percent of ripe olives in the U.S. Check out eight surprising and delicious uses for olives.

1. Cali Brunch Cocktail

 

 

The Cali Brunch Cocktail is a perfect brunch beverage. Vodka, hearty tomato juice, and delicious garnishes like olives make this twist on a Bloody Mary a weekend staple.

2. Mexican Tapenade

 

 

Not your standard tapenade, this spiced up version is a tasty swap for salsa! Enjoy with tortilla chips or to add a kick to your favorite dish.

3. Freda’s Martini

 

 

Inspired by Freda Ehmann, the 19th century California housewife behind the unique California Ripe Olive process, Freda’s Martini packs a secret ingredient to get its bold flavor … brine!

4. Risotto Balls

 

 

How do you make risotto balls even more flavorful? By adding chopped black ripe olives, of course! Olives add flavor and texture, making these little numbers a surefire hit at your next dinner party.

5. Back Porch Beer Cocktail

 

On-trend with what’s hot in cocktails, this warm-weather sipper features a fusion of flavors by combining beer, tequila, olive brine and pico de gallo.

6. Sunshine Infusion Cocktail

 

 

Bursting with flavor, this refreshing craft cocktail features dill and olive-infused gin, garnished with a cucumber-wrapped olive stuffed with goat cheese.

7. Cream Cheese Ice Cream and California Ripe Olive Brittle

 

A unique combination of sweet and savory, the sweetness of the cream cheese ice cream paired with olive brittle makes this dessert one that is sure to please and keep everyone at the table talking.

8. Bowl O’ Olives



They are great on their own! So few foods are party-ready straight out of the can, but California Ripe Olives deliver consistent flavor each and every time – proving that they are delicious dressed up or down.

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2014-04-16T00:00:00<![CDATA[5 tips for fighting grime: The squeaky-clean truth about the dish pit and commercial dishwashers]]>(BPT) - Numerous pieces of equipment are required for busy restaurant kitchens to run smoothly, and one of the hardest-working machines in any kitchen is the commercial dishwasher. Critical to both restaurant flow and sanitation, this piece of restaurant equipment can make or break the dinner rush. Is your restaurant’s dishwasher up to the daily challenge of washing away grime?

Designing a commercial dishwashing area – also known as a dish pit – requires adequate forethought. Not only do you want a quality commercial dishwashing machine, you also need to set up the space strategically so it not only works properly, but also facilitates proper kitchen work flow. The food-industry experts at ACityDiscount.com recommend you consider a few key things before buying a commercial dishwasher.

1. Size and type
Depending on your needs and available space, there are a variety of commercial dishwashers on the market that will be a perfect fit for your operation. Under-counter dishwashers are similar in size to the dishwasher in your home, but clean exponentially faster. Vertical commercial dishwashers are typically placed in between stainless steel dish tables and are available in one-door, corner, and pass-through units. Another option is a conveyor dishwasher. These turn on when a dish rack enters the unit and then move it through a conveyor system; these are best for larger establishments. Finally, high-volume bars and big restaurants might consider a glass-washer, which is intended to wash glassware crystal clear. Learn more and explore the collection of commercial dishwashers available at www.ACityDiscount.com.

2. Speed
Clearly a dining hall will have larger dishwashing needs than a small cafe. In addition to size, knowing the speed of different units is important when researching the right commercial dishwasher for your establishment. Each unit is rated in racks-per-hour. This will give you a good idea how many dishes can be washed during peak periods. For example, a commercial under-counter unit will wash a load in anywhere from 1.5 to 3 minutes, but a vertical dishwasher will typically wash a load in around 60 seconds.

3. High-temp vs. low-temp
When shopping for a commercial dishwasher, at some point you’ll need to decide between high-temperature or low-temperature units. Low-temperature machines tend to be less money up front and to operate, but they require more chemicals and can leave some highly soiled dishes in need of rewashing. High-temperature machines are more costly, but they also tend to clean faster and sanitize better. They require fewer chemicals, but also require a booster heater that uses extra energy to quickly heat water nearly 170 degrees. Not sure which is better for your restaurant? All the experts at ACityDiscount have experience in the food service industry, so they can provide key insights into which products are best for your unique needs. Call 404-752-6715 for more information.

4. Warranty
Any time you’re investing in restaurant equipment, it’s wise to know the warranty on the unit. Every brand offers a different warranty, but typically parts and labor are covered for one year. Make sure to ask about warranty and maintenance requirements before making a purchase.

5. Placement
Restaurant kitchens are busy places, and the placement of the dish pit and where you install the dishwasher can dramatically impact productivity. Start by analyzing the flow of the kitchen and how dirty dishes come in and go out. This will help you create a streamlined dish area. Make sure that plumbing is set up for a pre-rinse dish sink, which is a necessary for pre-rinsing dishes before they go into the machine. Additionally, make sure there is a place to store smaller items used regularly in the dish pit, such as mops, squeegees and chemicals. Planning ahead will help you create a highly functional dish pit. For more information on setting up a commercial dish area or purchasing a commercial dishwasher, visit www.ACityDiscount.com.

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2014-05-09T00:00:00<![CDATA[Glamping - in the backyard]]>(BPT) - It’s time to put those booties away ladies – it’s officially sandal season. With longer days and warmer weather, you and your girlfriends can share laughs and stories under clear blue skies and beautiful starry nights.

Glamping – glamorous camping – has been named one of the five hottest trends in girls’ getaways by the Travel Channel and is the perfect warm weather get-together to bond with girlfriends. If hectic work schedules make coordinating a getaway with girlfriends too hard, you can still enjoy the warm days and nights by recreating the glamping experience in your own backyard. Here are a few tips to create a posh outdoor experience:

* Keep the ambiance cozy. Turn your outdoor lounge space into cloud 9 by overflowing the space with the plushest pillows, blankets and throws. Nothing rivals a good laugh with the girls while snuggling in the softest blankets. For extra “twinkle,” add candles or a portable fire pit. For added ambiance, have your girlfriends send you one or two songs to be compiled into the perfect playlist - you can even turn it into a game by guessing who recommended which song.

* Host a paint party. Your nails will be getting a lot more face time in the warmer months, so make sure they have a fresh spring coat. Pinterest is a great place to look for new color trends and nail art inspiration to try.

* Indulge in treats. A girls’ night always calls for decadent treats. The SKINNY COW brand makes indulgent frozen snacks and candy treats that are insanely delicious yet ridiculously sensible. Dress up the traditional s’mores campfire dessert by swapping in SKINNY COW Candy Dreamy Clusters for an added bonus of crisps and caramel. For those hotter nights, keep cool by enjoying decadent SKINNY COW frozen treats, like their new Chocolate Mousse Ganache Cones.

* Create the perfect picture backdrop. Camping naturally provides a perfect background for pictures - so when you are glamping in your backyard, create a fun glamping-themed backdrop to take pictures against. You can even get creative and make props for guests to use in their photos and create a hashtag to track all the glamp-tastic photos that are uploaded from the night.

If you and your girlfriends are looking to actually get away this summer, the SKINNY COW brand is giving you the chance to have your own glamping experience with the “Girls Gone Glamping” promotion. Nine grand-prize winners will win a getaway to the premier glamping destination, The Resort at Paws Up in Montana, and experience glamping - in style (butler provided). Each winner can even bring two of their BFFs. To learn more about the “Girls Gone Glamping” promotion and how you and your BFFs can qualify for this amazing experience, visit glamping.skinnycow.com.

No purchase necessary to enter. Open to residents of the 50 US & DC, 18 or older. Promotion ends August 4, 2014. Visit glamping.skinnycow.com for official rules. Void where prohibited.

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2014-05-27T00:00:00<![CDATA[Expert tips for a delicious grilling season]]>(BPT) - There are four distinct seasons in the United States: the holiday season, road construction season, hunting season, and what some argue is the best season of all, grilling season. What was once a special event for summer holidays has turned into a regular activity for millions of Americans. Yes - it’s time to coax those smoky succulent flavors from your favorite meats and relax with friends and family.

Peak grilling season starts with Memorial Day and goes through the football season, according to a survey from the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA) The Fourth of July tops the list of favorite grilling holidays at 77 percent, with Memorial Day and Labor Day close behind (around 60 percent). Father’s Day is also a big day for grilling.

Why is grilling so popular? Food flavors are uniquely enhanced when grilled. It’s become even more popular since Food Network stars like Bobby Flay have elevated grilling to new heights, providing great options for getting the most flavor out of every kind of meat. There are many grilling guides and grilling apps to help you maximize flavors and get the most out of your meats at www.kansascitysteaks.com.

Grilling is also easy. You need food and fire, plus a few essential utensils. You don’t necessarily need fancy equipment to get great grilling flavors. Just let the flames do the work. Grilling can also be healthier because it reduces the amount of saturated fat you consume. Throw in spices, marinades and rubs to enhance flavors.

Of course, it’s always important to use great cuts of meat for the best results. HPBA says that burgers, steaks and hot dogs are still at the top (at more than 80 percent each), but chicken is fourth among the most popular foods for the grill.

Premium steaks, burgers and hot dogs are some of the best-selling items during peak grilling season at the Kansas City Steak Company. From wet-aged filet mignon to USDA prime ribeyes and Kansas City strip steaks cut from premium, hand-trimmed, perfectly marbled beef are perfect for grilling. Whether you’re preparing for a big family gathering, like Father’s Day, or a quick and easy evening meal, it’s always a good idea to have a few go-to items in the freezer.

Other popular items to have on hand for any grilling occasion are steak burgers and all beef hot dogs. More flavorful than traditional hamburgers and hot dogs, they’re favorites every year – learn more at www.kansascitysteaks.com. So, as grilling season goes into high gear this summer, get ready to grill with flair. Fire up the grill, invite a few friends over and let your grilling style shine.

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2014-04-01T00:00:002014-06-17T14:25:03<![CDATA[Tips and tricks for healthy and tasty food substitutions from culinary experts]]>(BPT) - Simple and healthy food substitutions can help anyone embrace the fresh flavors of summer. Some substitutions are easy, for example, substituting brown rice or quinoa for white rice or adding barley in with brown rice to add another type of whole grain. Other substitutions are completely unexpected. To be inspired and jazz up any meal time, take cues from culinary experts.

Chef Andrew Lyman, culinary director, The Art Institute of Austin, suggests, “It is not uncommon to use brown sugar, for white sugar, but I often challenge my students to use other ingredients as a sweetener - for example, using a teaspoon of vanilla can often produce similar results as a cup of sugar and it saves over 400 calories. Another option is using prunes for butter, especially in brownies or other dark baked goods - 3/4 cup of prunes with 1/4 cup of boiling water , puree to combine and you have a great option.”

Chef instructor Peachy Seiden from The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Cincinnati-Ohio says, “Using pureed fruit warmed on the stovetop with a bit of honey is a great substitute for classic maple syrup - decreasing the sugar content and providing an extra dose of antioxidants and vitamins and minerals.”

Elliott Hilton, culinary director for The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Michigan, adds, “Using non-fat Greek yogurt when the recipe calls for mayonnaise or sour cream works really well since it’s a lot less fat and a good way to add additional protein.”

Here are a few more substitutions you can make in your recipes:

* Unsweetened applesauce for sugar (can be in a 1:1 ratio, but reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup).

* Mashed bananas for fats. The creamy, thickening power of very ripe mashed bananas is the ideal consistency in place of one cup of butter or oil.

* Spaghetti squash for pasta is a natural substitute. Simply roast and pull apart with a fork and voila.

* Using coconut oil instead of butter adds additional health benefiting nutrients and the flavor is superb.

* Reducing the calorie count of meals is helpful, but small adjustments make a big impact. “Something simple that I recommend is to make broths, soups and stews in advance and chill them. Before reheating, lift the hardened fat that formed on the surface. In a pinch, you can also float a few ice cubes to help harden the fat so it can be lifted and removed,” says Hilton.

* “Using brewed tea (green, white, oolong, black) as a ‘liquid ingredient’ to our sauce or stews add another flavor dimension, not to mention the added protective antioxidants” says Seiden.

* Meat consumption overall is an area that can be reduced tremendously both for the sake of health and calories. “We make a mean veggie burger here at the student-run restaurant - one that would make any meat lover a veggie burger convert,” says Lyman, who shares this recipe:

Veggie Burger

Makes four to six burgers

Umami Glaze:

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 tablespoons Thai golden mountain sauce (available at Asian markets, optional)

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons molasses

2 tablespoons honey

Patties:

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, drained and roughly chopped

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/2 medium onion, smoked then minced

4 cloves garlic, smoked then minced

1/2 cup grated cooked beets (use a box grater to grate one roasted beet)

1/4 cup oat bran plus more as needed

1 tablespoon pureed chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

6 prunes, minced

1 teaspoon salt (kosher)

1 teaspoon ancho chile powder

1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon ground toasted cumin

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, Thai golden mountain sauce if using, the hoisin sauce, molasses and honey.

Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil and when hot, add the minced onion. Cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to caramelize and brown. Add garlic and continue cooking until the onions are golden brown.  

In a large bowl combine the cooked rice and roughly chopped beans.

Add 1/2 cup of the Umami Glaze and the remaining ingredients including the sautéed onion and garlic.

Mix well to combine.

Evaluate how well the mixture holds into patties. If too dry, add some of the Umami Glaze. If too wet, add a little more oat bran.

Shape the veggie mixture into four to six patties, depending on size. Place the patties on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

To cook, brush the patties with a little vegetable oil and cook on a flat top griddle or nonstick pan over medium heat about five minutes per side to set the burger up.

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2014-04-23T00:00:002014-06-17T14:43:20<![CDATA[Eight ways to get the most out of your trip to the farmers market]]>(BPT) - This time of year is about warm weather, vacations and relaxing afternoons. It also heralds the return of farmers markets. A trip to the market is a great opportunity to indulge in fresh healthy produce and to expand your horizons by trying new items or preparing them in different ways.

Here are eight tips to make the most of your visit to the local farmers market:

* Note the hours and dates of your local market on your calendar. Set reminders on your smartphone that will alert you when favorite items such as tomatoes, peas, beans and strawberries come into season.

* Prepare your refrigerator and kitchen for the season’s harvest. Clean out your fridge’s produce drawer, and stock up on items that complement fresh produce, such as salad dressings and seasonings that can be used to turn basic veggies into delicious meals. Make sure to choose organic options, such as Simply Organic’s Greek Yogurt Dips (great for broccoli and cauliflower florets).

* While farmers market vendors will almost certainly have plastic bags on hand, take your own reusable bags or baskets to carry your purchase – they’re better for Mother Nature. If you’ll be buying perishable items, consider packing a cooler as well. Remember to place heavier items (like melons) on the bottom of the bag and lighter ones (such as berries) on top.

* You’ll find the freshest produce and best selection early in the day. Setting your alarm to wake you a bit early could ensure you get the pick of the day’s produce.

* Leave the $20 and $50 bills at home. Smaller bills will provide you with greater buying flexibility, and vendors will appreciate the change.

* Scope out the entire market before you begin making purchases. Certain popular items, such as tomatoes, cantaloupe, melons, peas and potatoes will be available from multiple vendors. Strolling through the market first will allow you to compare prices and taste samples to ensure you’re picking the best and most delicious buys for your family.

* Unpack bags as soon as you’re home and store each item appropriately. Create a menu plan for the week that incorporates everything you’ve purchased to help ensure nothing goes to waste. Don’t forget to incorporate snacks into your meal plan.

* Every week, try something new. By all means, enjoy your familiar favorites, but also add in new items like kohlrabi, chard or broccolini. Not sure how to prepare something new? Seasonings are a great way to add flavor without fat. Spice-filled marinades or rubs are a perfect complement to produce. Throw your veggies on the grill to bring out the freshness. On its website, www.simplyorganic.com, Simply Organic offers numerous flavorful fresh produce recipes.

Here’s a tasty recipe to try on your grill today:

Adobo Grilled Asparagus

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 8 to 10 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6

 

Ingredients:

Use organic ingredients where possible.

 

2 ounces slivered almonds

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons Simply Organic adobo seasoning

1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic paprika

 

Directions:

  1. In a dry 8-inch skillet, toast the almonds, stirring often, until fragrant and lightly golden, about five to eight minutes. Remove and pour the almonds into a small bowl and set off to the side.
  2. In a shallow dish, toss the asparagus with the olive oil, adobo seasoning and paprika.
  3. Preheat your grill. Real wood charcoal tastes best, but gas works fine. Avoid briquettes; they make food taste like lighter fluid. Aim for medium-high heat – if your grill lid has a thermometer built into the lid, it should read about 375 degrees.
  4. Once hot, lay the asparagus perpendicular to your grill grates and cook for eight to 10 minutes, turning once until fork tender yet still firm.
  5. Serve on a platter topped with toasted almond slivers.
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2014-05-30T00:00:00<![CDATA[Simple twists to make summer cooking even more sensational]]>(BPT) - From juicy produce to savory grilled meats, summer is the best time for tantalizing taste buds with delicious foods. This year, why not enhance traditional favorites with a few unique twists? These simple updates to classic summer dishes will have everyone raving.

Grown-up cheeseburgers
If you love to grill, give your cheeseburgers an upgrade. Skip bland processed cheese slices and choose a more flavorful cheese like gorgonzola, which boasts a savory, earthy taste that complements grilled beef perfectly. Look for Salemville Amish Gorgonzola at your local grocer – an award-winning cheese made in small batches by a Wisconsin Amish community. Milk comes from local farmers whose herds are hand-milked twice each day to create a rich cheese free of preservatives and other chemicals.

Daring desserts
When it comes to creating delicious desserts for summertime gatherings, there’s no shortage of options. If you truly want to wow your guests, though, it’s time to think outside the cake box. For example, instead of store-bought popsicles, make your own healthier versions from fresh fruit and juice. Enhance your famous cheesecake recipe with gorgonzola, or use blue cheese in flan for a surprisingly tasty twist. Take your favorite cookie one step further by making cookie pops – simply insert lollipop sticks into cookies, dip them in melted chocolate and add festive sprinkles as desired.

Sweet-savory grilled fruit
The season’s bounty of fruit is made even better when it’s grilled for a few minutes to bring out the extra-sweet flavors. For example, cut pears or peaches in half and grill until they’re warm. Another great way to add grilled fruit to your meal is with fruit kabobs – try pineapple, bananas, oranges, plums, apricots and more, grilling them for several minutes on skewers. Serve with a small wedge of Salemville Reserve - an extra-aged Amish blue cheese - for a unique treat that perfectly blends sweet and savory flavors.

Deluxe vegetable plates
Whether you grow your own or frequent the local farmers market, fresh vegetables are prevalent throughout the country during the summer months. That’s why vegetable plates are ideal for picnics and barbecues – simply cut up your favorite vegetables for a colorful display. Upgrade this summer favorite by adding a dip no one can resist. Skip store-bought varieties and make your own by mixing cottage cheese and crumbled blue cheese. Vegetables are guaranteed to be devoured.

Do you have your own favorite way to enhance summer dishes with blue cheese? Enter the How Do You Blue recipe contest by visiting www.salemville.com, and use hashtag: #HowDoYouBlue. Here are a few recipes that will inspire at your next summer gathering:

Cottage Blue Dip & Dressing

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups cream-style small curd cottage cheese
1/3 cup Salemville Amish Blue cheese, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoon cream
Paprika for coloring

Directions: Beat cottage cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve chilled with vegetables or crackers. Note: For a thinner dip or salad dressing, add more cream.

Fig Creme Brulee

Ingredients:
1 large black mission fig
1 teaspoon blue cheese
1/2 teaspoon raw sugar

Directions:
Cut fig in half. Using melon ball scoop or round spoon, remove seeds. Fill with blue cheese. Sprinkle with sugar. Caramelize sugar with torch until it has turned golden brown. Cook's note: If you do not have a torch, put in the oven under the broiler until golden brown.

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2014-06-24T00:00:00<![CDATA[3 myths about microwave foods]]>(BPT) - Everyone has their favorite foods they save for a special treat, or to make an already enjoyable occasion even better. But with a constant flow of information about food and health trends, it’s often difficult to know which are the best choice for you and your family. Is what you’re hearing even true?

Myth 1: Microwave popcorn is toxic

Reality: Microwave popcorn is safe and contains no added diacetyl or trans fats. Most major microwave popcorn brands removed these ingredients years ago.  Dr. Tara Gidus recommends choosing Orville Redenbacher’s and/or Act II brand microwave popcorn, as both have 0 grams of trans fats per serving and do not contain diacetyl. “Also,” notes Dr. Gidus, “These popcorns provide a whole grain, gluten-free snack - so you can feel good about snacking away.”

Myth 2: Microwaves are harmful and kill nutrients in food

Reality: Microwaves are a convenient tool for cooking and heating foods and can even preserve nutrients. In fact, microwaving vegetables can preserve up to 80 percent of their vitamins and nutrients, which is comparable to boiling them. Also, fruits and vegetables are flash frozen at their peak of ripeness, so there is virtually no nutritional difference between fresh and frozen. Additionally, frozen meals are made with fresh ingredients like fruits and vegetables and are a great option to get the recommended amounts of daily nutrients.

Myth 3: Food should be eaten raw to get the enzymes you need

Reality: Cooked foods can be just as healthy as raw. While the nutrient contents of certain foods, like broccoli, can be affected by exposure to heat, heating can be beneficial for other foods. For example, the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes can be absorbed by the body much more readily in cooked tomatoes rather than raw tomatoes.

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2014-06-04T00:00:002014-06-17T15:35:21<![CDATA[Top time-saving kitchen appliances to help unleash your inner chef]]>(BPT) - Do you dream of being the next contestant on a reality cooking show? Think your culinary skills could take on Chef Gordon Ramsay? You’re not alone. There are millions of aspiring, in-home chefs who want to improve their skills.

Whether you are a self-proclaimed expert or new to the kitchen, the following four ideas will be sure to help unleash your inner chef, while saving time preparing your favorite meals.

Blend up creativity

Did you know that investing in the right blender can actually help you do the work of more than 10 different kitchen appliances? Take your culinary skills from ordinary to extraordinary with a Vitamix Professional Series 500. It can do everything from making ice cream to grinding grains, kneading dough, making whole-food juice and even hot soup. This model features three pre-programmed settings - Smoothies, Frozen Desserts and Hot Soups - to help home chefs make gourmet meals like the pros. Available at specialty and online retailers and vitamix.com, the Professional Series 500 comes with a full seven-year warranty and recipe book with more than 350 chef-tested recipes ensuring success, regardless of your current culinary skill level.

Smart and savvy storage

Like most professional chefs, you’ll be preparing foods that are not canned or frozen, so having the latest in storage innovation is a must. Many homeowners are now integrating a commercial refrigerator into their kitchens to help food maintain its freshness longer. Extra-large-capacity refrigerators are available that can actually store up to 34 bags of groceries, eliminating the hassle of running to the store for odds and ends during the week. Other chef-inspired features on newer models include metal cooling to help seal in flavor and maintain a constant temperature. LED lights and interactive displays also make it easy to view the current settings and update your shopping list electronically.

Hands-free innovation

As the workhorse of the kitchen, we have dozens of daily interactions at the sink. So why not give your kitchen a functionality facelift and upgrade your faucet into the digital age? Motion-activated faucets, like those with Moen’s easy-to-use MotionSense technology, are growing in popularity. MotionSense offers the ultimate in hands-free convenience - perfect for when your hands are full preparing dinner. With a simple wave of your hand, filling a large pot or pan or turning the faucet on and off has never been so easy. Even cleaning dirty dishes can be more efficient and - believe it or not - enjoyable.

The heat is on - get cooking

When preparing a meal for guests or family members, time is of the essence and the heat is on to cook amazing food. No pressure, right? With the latest innovations in induction cooktops, you can stress less and enjoy your cooking experience. Newer models turn up the heat in the kitchen, allowing users to boil water in only 90 seconds. In addition to the professional temperature control, a warming feature is available to keep your food at the right setting as you make the finishing touches to your meal before serving.

With the help of these key kitchen appliances, you’ll expand your culinary creativity and skills in no time.

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2014-04-23T00:00:002014-05-09T10:00:07<![CDATA[Great-looking, flavorful veggies are also good for your eyes]]>(BPT) - After a long, cold winter, it’s time to celebrate the start of summer with outdoor picnics, activities with friends and family, and by enjoying fresh, seasonal foods. As you put together your menu for your upcoming summer celebrations, you may not realize just how many foods in some of your favorite recipes contain ingredients that benefit the health and wellness of your eyes. In fact, many of these fruits and vegetables can even be found in your own home garden.

Robert Irvine, Food Network celebrity chef and Transitions adaptive lenses wearer, understands just how critical it is to include eye healthy foods as part of your diet. The right foods can help you maintain healthy, enhanced vision and see your best no matter if you’re in the kitchen or outside on your patio.

“Whether I’m cooking on the set or at home with my family, I always try to prepare dishes using the freshest and most colorful ingredients in season,” Irvine says. “And because the ability to see clearly and comfortably is so important to my life, both professionally and personally, I also make sure to include eye healthy ingredients - so everyone can see their best to enjoy the sights of the season.”

Nearly 90 percent of consumers agree that the visual presentation of their food is important, according to a recent survey by Transitions Optical. And because some of the most colorful, vibrant foods such as tomatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots and berries contain eye healthy nutrients such as carotenoids, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C and E, summer is the perfect time to start incorporating these seasonal fruits and vegetables into your favorite meals.

“Diet, fitness and overall health are the foundation of my lifestyle,” says Irvine. “For me, that also means getting regular eye exams and wearing proper eyewear so that my eyes are comfortable and my vision is enhanced.”

Fifty percent of vision problems are preventable through early detection and follow-up care - which is why it’s never too early or too late to start taking care of your eyes.

Chef Irvine invites you to try his eye healthy tomato caprese recipe. To learn more about how vision impacts Chef Irvine’s life and which Transitions adaptive lenses are right for you, visit www.transitions.com.

Home Garden Tomato Caprese

Time: 25 minutes

Yields: 4 servings

 

Dressing ingredients:

Balsamic Reduction

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar           

 

Salad ingredients:

4 large tomatoes, sliced

1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

1/2 bunch of fresh grown basil

2 cups baby arugula

Juice from half a lemon

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic reduction (see below)

1 dash sea salt

1 dash fresh ground pepper

Directions:

For the balsamic reduction, reduce 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar in a small pot on low heat until vinegar is reduced by two-thirds. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.

On a large platter, place the sliced tomatoes, sliced fresh mozzarella and basil sprigs. Toss the arugula with the lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil in a mixing bowl. Arrange the salad in the center of the platter. Drizzle the tomatoes and mozzarella with the rest of the olive oil and balsamic reduction. Garnish with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

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2014-04-24T00:00:00<![CDATA[Heartburn-busting tips to keep summer feasting fun]]>(BPT) - Warm weather is on the way, which means family gatherings, vacations and lots of party foods. From sweet barbecue and frozen treats, to spicy and rich foods, spring and summer are full of risks for people prone to frequent heartburn. This year, try to beat the burn with some quick tips to help manage the problem.

“While frequent heartburn is a common problem, myths continue about what causes it and how to treat it,” says gastroenterologist Dr. Jorge E. Rodriguez. Dr. Jorge recently teamed up with Prilosec OTC to educate American Hispanics, who may be especially prone to frequent heartburn symptoms that can be exacerbated by traditional foods like onions and tomatoes.   

“A lot of people want to be proactive when they have frequent heartburn by avoiding trigger foods and using trusted medications when they have symptoms. Prilosec OTC blocks the acid before it starts so they can enjoy their summer food and fun.   

Did you know over 68 million Americans experience heartburn two or more days a week? Heartburn occurs when your stomach acid enters into the lower part of your esophagus, causing a burning sensation. Heartburn that occurs two or more days per week is considered frequent heartburn, and many sufferers turn to over-the-counter medication to relieve their symptoms.

Despite its prevalence, many myths persist around heartburn. Dr. Jorge offers the truth behind some of these myths:

Myth 1 – Frequent Heartburn and GERD (Gastroesophageal acid reflux) are the same thing.

Truth – While symptoms may be similar, GERD is a more serious, chronic condition, and can only be diagnosed by a doctor. Severe heartburn symptoms that occur for extended periods, recur often over time (more than 3 times per year) or are not relieved by available over the counter medications should be evaluated by a physician. 

Myth 2 – The only way to stop heartburn is to give up the foods you love.

Truth – It’s true that some dietary and lifestyle changes may help reduce the frequency of your heartburn.  In addition, using Prilosec OTC can effectively treat frequent heartburn so you can eat the foods you enjoy. One pill each morning before breakfast blocks the acid that causes frequent heartburn for 24 hours, so that you don’t get heartburn in the first place. (It's possible while taking Prilosec OTC. Use as directed for 14 days to treat frequent heartburn. Do not take more than 14 days or more often than every 4 months unless directed by a doctor. Not for immediate relief.)

“I often recommend a proactive approach for my patients who suffer from frequent heartburn, which includes avoiding their heartburn triggers and using an over the counter treatment like Prilosec OTC to treat their FHB symptoms.” Dr. Jorge says. “Having a treatment plan to manage heartburn is always a better solution for patients.”

In addition to medication, the following lifestyle steps may also help prevent frequent heartburn:

* Reduce stress

* Exercise more

* Eat smaller portions at meals

* Stop smoking

To request a free sample and to learn about ways you can treat your frequent heartburn, visit PrilosecOTC.com for English and PrilosecOTCes.com for Spanish.

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2014-04-09T00:00:002014-07-15T10:50:31<![CDATA[Easy tips and menu for outdoor entertaining]]>(BPT) - Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, bridal shower, graduation or simply inviting friends over to revel in the good weather, the change in seasons offers a great excuse to enjoy a meal outdoors and spend time with family and friends. Here are a few tips to help you simplify, so you can make the most of your good weather soiree.

* Keep it simple. Plan a streamlined, make-ahead menu: a salad of fresh greens or in-season fruit; grilled burgers, like Mirassou Winery’s recipe for Sunset Sliders; and dessert, such as fresh fruit with a scoop of ice cream.

* Make the most of the season. Source your ingredients locally – the food will be fresher, and you’ll have an instant conversation starter. Your fruit might be from the orchard down the street, your greens from a local farm and your beef from a regional ranch.

* Cater to all tastes by offering a white wine like chardonnay, a red wine like Mirassou’s Sunset Red, as well as non-alcoholic beverages, such as lemonade or iced tea.

* Take your decorating cues from nature by featuring whatever is blooming in your backyard. Snip flowers, herbs or short leafy branches and place in mason jars or small vases, alongside tea lights.

* Relax. The best get-togethers are when you are relaxed and visiting with your guests, rather than harried and trying to get food on the table.

David Mirassou, wine expert and sixth generation of America’s oldest winemaking family, believes the key to hosting a truly enjoyable gathering takes equal parts planning and relaxing.

“I’ve been to events where the hosts are so busy creating the perfect meal that they don’t get to fully enjoy their guests,” says Mirassou. “The most memorable times are when everyone is relaxed, enjoying a glass of wine, good food, a beautiful sunset and each other.”

By simplifying, your get-together will be stress-free, delicious and enjoyable – after all, a relaxed host makes for happy guests.

For more recipes, visit www.mirassou.com/recipes.

Mirassou Sunset Sliders

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 6 to 8 minutes

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:
1 pound lean ground beef (preferably grass fed)
1/2 cup finely chopped baby bella mushrooms
1/4 cup minced shallots or red onion
1/4 cup Mirassou Sunset Red
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup shredded aged Gouda cheese
Freshly ground pepper to taste
8 brioche, ciabatta or other small slider rolls
8 thin Roma tomato slices
4 strips cooked cherry wood or apple wood smoked bacon, broken into quarters
Baby arugula leaves

Using your hands, mix beef, mushrooms, shallots, wine, rosemary, Dijon and salt in a medium bowl. Shape into 8 very flat patties. Grill, broil or pan fry for 3 minutes. Turn and top with cheese; cook for 2 minutes more. Serve on lightly toasted rolls with tomato, bacon and arugula.

Recipe tip: Dress arugula with a bit of olive oil and balsamic for extra flavor.

Pairing Suggestion: Pairs with Mirassou Sunset Red.

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2014-06-24T00:00:00<![CDATA[Why kids and nutritionists reject new school lunches]]>(BPT) - Good nutrition for school children is a priority that everyone can support but not everyone can agree on the best way to achieve it. Recent changes by the U.S. Department of Agriculture require schools drastically alter their programs in ways that are hard to meet. Children in particular are rejecting the new meals in droves, defeating the very intent of the program.

The School Nutrition Association (SNA), which represents over 50,000 school nutritionists and cafeteria professionals, has called on Congress to relax these new standards specifically in regards to the amount of whole grains offered, sodium reduction targets they consider unachievable and not science-based and mandatory fruit and vegetable servings which invariably end up in the trash.

The salt reduction efforts in particular are causing serious concerns. Dark green vegetables are among the most nutritious foods. However, they all contain very bitter phytochemicals. Broccoli is a perfect example. Adding salt to these vegetables makes them taste much better. Mandating servings of vegetables for children while simultaneously requiring drastic reductions in salt use virtually guarantees that they will not be eaten and valuable nutrients will be missed.

A research paper from the University of Pennsylvania examined the response of tasters to varying amounts of salt in a range of foods that were naturally bitter, including vegetables and other foods deemed to be healthy. Reducing the salt intake made these foods less appealing, and as a result adversely affected the tasters' nutrient intake.

In another double-blind taste panel study conducted at Ohio State University, cooked broccoli was fed to individuals from three different age groups: children, adults and senior citizens. The broccoli florets were prepared with different levels of salt and the results made it clear that, even though participants were unaware as to which sample was which, salt significantly increased broccoli's palatability. Both children and seniors liked broccoli better with more salt on it. For both children and adults, the broccoli's bitterness decreased as the level of salt increased.

Salt itself is also an essential nutrient children need. They also need the iodine which producers started adding to table salt almost 100 years ago. In fact, the World Health Organization points to iodized salt as key to eliminating iodine deficiency disorders, one of the most common and preventable world-wide causes of brain damage. The WHO calls iodized salt a "spectacularly simple, universally effective, wildly attractive and incredibly cheap 'weapon' against childhood mental retardation."

The SNA has good cause to ask for more scientific research on sodium reduction and health given a recent Institute for Medicine report which concluded that there was insufficient research to support sodium reduction efforts and that evidence actually suggested that low salt diets were harmful. A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension further found that Americans on average already currently consume sodium within the optimally healthy range and sodium reduction efforts will cause harm.

According to SNA President Leah Schmidt, “The professionals working in school cafeterias are the front line experts, charged with the responsibility of feeding 30 million students each day - all with different tastes, appetites and preferences. We’re just looking for some flexibility from those in Washington to ensure our kids are getting the nourishment they need to be successful.”

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2014-05-20T00:00:002014-06-17T15:30:40<![CDATA[Prepping for a party: make-ahead appetizers make summer entertaining easy]]>(BPT) - Don’t let the first “ding-dong” of the doorbell catch you up to your elbows in dirty dishes and half-finished appetizers.

For your next party, prepare your appetizers ahead of time with these simple tips and recipes:

“Let’s not reinvent the wheel. Take items you already know how to make and turn them cool and trendy with some add-ons,” says Chef Richard Worthen, culinary instructor at The Art Institute of Seattle. You can dress up egg, tuna or chicken salad with a variety of flavors and spices. He recommends chopped cilantro instead of chopped parsley, adding chipotle to egg salad or adding almonds, walnuts or pistachio nuts for some crunch.

For a gluten-free appetizer, try lettuce cups. “You could do a quick chop of a variety of three-to-four items and put it in a lettuce cup,” says Chef Brian Shulse of The Art Institute of California – San Francisco, a campus of Argosy University. “It can also go traditional Asian – ground pork with some spices that can just be popped in the microwave to heat before serving.”

“You could do a flat bread with seasonal vegetables on it,” Shulse says. “Make the bread in advance, roll it out, put olive oil on it, add seasonal vegetables, and bake.” Worthen recommends tomato toast, which is made by taking cut tomatoes and rubbing the juice and pulp into french bread slices. This can serve as a base for any type of spread.

Shulse says people tend to go to proteins, such as shrimp cocktail and cubes of steak, and not to the veggie tray. He says you can make all kinds of skewers with different meats, then add fresh chopped herbs and citrus to Greek yogurt for a quick and easy sauce. Another great make-ahead protein is tuna tartar, which can be made with a high-quality ahi tuna steak and served with store-bought kettle chips.

Phyllo-wrapped asparagus, made with store-bought phyllo dough, is another easy recipe, along with water chestnuts wrapped in bacon. Simply wrap one third of a slice of bacon around each water chestnut, roll in brown sugar and bake at 425 degrees until brown and crisp.

Try these easy make-ahead recipes courtesy of Shulse:

Spicy Ahi Tartare             

Yield: 10 servings

Ingredients:

2 pounds Yellow fin/Ahi tuna, diced in 1/8-inch pieces

1/2 cup cucumber, washed, dried, diced in 1/8-inch pieces(optional- peel)

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed, peel removed and minced

1-2 serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded, minced fine

1 shallot, finely minced (substitute 2 green onions)

1 orange, washed, dried, zested, juiced

1 lime, juiced

1 teaspoon dry oregano (or 2 teaspoons fresh)

2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)

1 teaspoon sugar

1 bag thick potato chips (like Kettle chips) or crackers

Directions:

Gently mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. This will hold for two to four hours (or up to overnight). To serve, gently mix and place in a serving bowl with a spoon, with the chips on the side.

Lettuce Cups     

Yield: 15 bites

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/2 yellow onion, small dice

1 tablespoon garlic, smashed, peeled, minced

1 tablespoon ginger, peeled, grated fine (or use micro plane)

1/2 bunch green onions, minced, white and green kept separately

1 pound ground pork

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 cup water chestnuts, small dice

2 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoon Hoisin sauce

1-2 tablespoons Chinese hot mustard

1/2 cup peanuts, crushed or chopped

15 Iceberg lettuce cups, cut into 3-inch squares

Directions:

Over medium-low heat, preheat a medium size saute pan for 30 seconds. Add the sesame oil and swirl the pan until it is fully coated with oil. Add the onion, garlic, white part of the green onion and ginger. Sweat for several minutes until the mixture begins to look translucent. Turn up the heat to high and add the ground pork. Cook on high, stirring until the meat turns pale brown. Turn the heat back down to medium-low and add the salt, diced water chestnuts, soy sauce and Hoisin sauce. Cook until moisture evaporates. Turn the pan off and add the Chinese hot mustard to taste. After this has cooled down, cover and refrigerate. Can be made up to four days in advance. Reheat gently in a microwave or saute pan until just warmed through. Place in a serving bowl, top with peanuts, and serve with lettuce cups.

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2014-06-05T00:00:00<![CDATA[What happens when camping and glamour collide?]]>(BPT) - You love the great outdoors, you really do but you were somehow gifted with that sweet blood mosquitoes crave. Not only that but your body simply doesn’t do well sleeping on the ground and, let’s be honest, it takes no small amount of lighter fluid and matches for you to warm your hands over an open fire.

Travel inspiration website DreamPlanGo suggests you go “glamping” instead. Short for glamorous camping, glamping gives travelers the best of both indoor and outdoor worlds. As in, explore the majesty of Yellowstone, but return to a down bed and gourmet meal at the end of the day. Sound alright? Keep reading.

Choosing your glampsite - Unlike traditional camping where pitching a tent and maybe inflating an air mattress are your only accommodation options, glamping offers you much more to choose from. Does a treetop abode with running water and goose-down comforters speak to you? What about a yurt or villa? Regardless of your budget, country preference or sleeping needs, you’re bound to find a glampsite that speaks to you.

No need to pack - You’ll still need to bring clothes, of course, and hiking gear, but no need to do the heavy lifting. Leave the cookware, lanterns, sleeping bags and clumsy tent at home.

What you’ll be doing - The beauty of glamping is that you can still enjoy the rush of fly fishing and reinvigorating hikes, you just won’t have to worry about meals or getting a poor night’s sleep. Depending on where you glamp, you may even have access to more activities and excursions than you would camping. Many hosts are extremely knowledgeable and will go to great lengths to ensure you have memorable experiences to write home about.

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2014-05-23T00:00:002014-05-27T07:57:09<![CDATA[Add a burst of flavor to summer meals with grapes]]>(BPT) - With warm summer weather comes the desire to lighten family meals and impress guests with thoughtful fare for backyard entertaining. Call on the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables for inspiration. For instance, simply adding a handful of grapes immediately adds taste, color, freshness and a healthy enhancement to any dish. All three colors of grapes - green, red and black - are easy to use, extremely versatile, and conveniently available.

California grapes provide a juicy, refreshing texture that complements many popular and often strongly spiced flavor profiles, including Asian and Latin offerings.  With just 90 calories per 3/4-cup serving, grapes add a crisp, no-guilt lift to summer meals. You can also feel good about adding them into many other dishes because they are a source of antioxidants and other polyphenols, which may contribute to heart health.

Try these grape-enhanced summer recipes guaranteed to impress at your next summer gathering:

Banh Mi-Style Flatbread with California Grapes

1 (14-ounce) package prepared pizza dough

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon lemongrass paste

12 ounces chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup shredded carrots

Pinch of sugar

1 tablespoon rice vinegar (unseasoned)

2 cups halved green seedless California grapes

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1 jalapeno pepper, very thinly sliced

(Remove seeds for less heat)

Roll the pizza dough into a 10-by-14-inch oval on a lightly floured board. Transfer it to a baking sheet. Bake at 450 F for 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet, and stir in the garlic and lemongrass paste; cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken and soy sauce; stir-fry over medium-high heat until the chicken is cooked through. Place the carrots in a small bowl and stir in a pinch of sugar and the vinegar.

Spread the chicken mixture over the baked dough then sprinkle it with the carrots, grapes, cilantro, and jalapeno slices. Cut the flatbread into 8 square pieces.

Serves 4.

Nutritional information per serving (2 slices):Calories 418; Protein 22 g; Carbohydrate 55 g; Fat 12 g (Sat. Fat 2g); 27 percent Calories from Fat; Cholesterol 44 mg; Sodium 357 mg; Potassium 508 mg; Fiber 2 g.

Grilled Salmon Tacos with Grape Pico de Gallo

1 cup red seedless California grapes, chopped

1 cup green seedless California grapes, chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped white onion

1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

Small pinch salt

1 pound salmon fillets

As needed olive oil

To taste pepper

12 small corn tortillas

2 limes, cut into wedges

Prepare a grill for cooking over medium heat.

Put the grapes, onion, and jalapeno in a medium bowl. Season with salt and toss lightly. Cover and chill while you prepare the salmon.

Brush the salmon lightly with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until it’s cooked to your liking. Remove the salmon and keep it warm. Heat the tortillas briefly on the grill in batches until warmed.

To serve, coarsely chop the salmon and divide it between the tortillas. Top each taco with a heaping tablespoon of grape pico de gallo and serve with lime wedges. Serves 4. Serving suggestion: Black beans or grilled veggies would both be great side dishes.

Nutritional information per serving (3 tacos per serving): Calories 347; Protein 27 g; Carbohydrate 46 g; Fat 7 g (Sat. Fat 1g); 18 percent Calories from Fat; Cholesterol 59 mg; Sodium 298 mg; Potassium 611 mg; Fiber 5 g.

Grapes from California are available May through January. For more information and recipe ideas go to grapesfromcalifornia.com or facebook.com/grapesfromcalifornia.

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2014-03-21T00:00:002014-07-15T13:13:21<![CDATA[Prepping your meals for more nutrients]]>(BPT) - Want to obtain the most nutrition out of your meals? Incorporate fresh ingredients and pay attention to how they are prepped. A variety of cooking techniques can make certain foods are more flavorful while maintaining high nutritional levels.

“To boost the flavor and nutritional value in our meals, we are constantly on the lookout for the freshest foods. Our go-to ingredients are wholesome foods like fresh vegetables and lean proteins like Eggland’s Best eggs, which are packed with more vitamins to help us feel great,” says Registered Dietitians Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames of The Nutrition Twins. “We also prepare our meals in ways that capture the most nutrients from our fresh ingredients.”

Here are a few simple tips from Lyssie Lakatos and Tammy Lakatos Shames on ways to maximize the nutritional benefits for certain foods:

* Keep the golden nugget: Yellow is the new black when it comes to the egg. The majority of vitamins and nutrients of an egg are found in the yolk. Keep in mind that some eggs contain more nutrients than others such as Eggland’s Best eggs, which provide four times more vitamin D, double the omega-3s and 10 times the vitamin E when compared to ordinary eggs. When it comes to taste, there’s nothing like the flavor of freshness. In fact, a recent study from The Journal of Applied Poultry Research confirmed that the hen feed and processing production of Eggland’s Best eggs make them the leader in egg freshness.

* Goodbye to boiling, hello to steaming: Boiling your vegetables is a surefire way to lose nutrients. The water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and folate will leach into the water instead of going into your body. If eating raw vegetables isn’t for you, try steaming them to retain nutrients. By steaming, you’ll also get tender, crispy and flavorful veggies.

* Keep the peel: The skin of fruits and vegetables like apples, potatoes and cucumbers is packed with nutrients and fiber. By peeling the skins of these fruits and vegetables, you are also peeling away valuable nutrients. Some foods, such as potatoes, provide even more fiber in their skin than in the whole item. And, when it comes to flavor, the crispy skins are often the best part.

You can find fresh and nutritious recipe ideas, including these Veggie Frittata Bites, at www.egglandsbest.com or www.pinterest.com/egglandsbest.

Veggie Frittata Bites

Recipe from the “The Nutrition Twins' Veggie Cure: Expert Advice and Tantalizing Recipes for Health, Energy, and Beauty”

Yields 10 muffin size servings

Ingredients

6 Eggland’s Best eggs

1/2 cup skim or 1 percent milk

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 cup (4 ounces) low-fat or fat-free shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup zucchini

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup mushrooms

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

Pinch of salt (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F

Beat eggs, milk, pepper and salt (if using) in medium bowl until blended. Add cheese, zucchini, tomato, mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion: mix well.

Using a 1/4 – cup measuring cup, scoop and pour evenly into 10 lightly sprayed muffin cups. Bake until just set, 25 minutes. Cool on rack 5 minutes. Remove from cups by loosening sides with a knife, and serve warm.

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2014-04-17T00:00:002014-07-23T09:29:48<![CDATA[Guilt-free desserts to please the whole family]]>(BPT) - Dinner is over and your family is craving something sweet to end the meal. There are plenty of delicious options to satisfy even the biggest sweet tooth while keeping your family’s balanced diet in check. Best of all, these desserts can be made right in your own kitchen. By preparing your own creations, you can please even the pickiest of eaters and give your kids some extra nutrients with hidden servings of fruits or vegetables. The whole family will applaud your efforts.

Whole fruit ice cream

If you love frozen treats, try a healthier, homemade ice cream using whole fruit. Create a quick raspberry ice cream by combining 1 cup milk, 3/4 cup sugar or your favorite sweetener, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1 pound frozen raspberries in a Vitamix 5200. Turn on the blender and slowly increase the speed from one to 10, using the tamper to push the mixture down. In less than a minute, you’ll have a creamy, soft-serve style ice cream. You can make a variety of flavors by substituting blueberries, peaches, pineapple, strawberries or other frozen fruit for the raspberries.

Non-dairy “ice cream”

Whip up a batch of green apple ice cream for a non-dairy, vegan alternative to traditional ice cream. Your kids will love the green hue of this after-dinner delight. Plus, they’ll get an extra helping of spinach, which is loaded with vitamins - especially A, C and K - on top of antioxidants and minerals like potassium and iron. Simply add 6 ounces of thawed apple juice concentrate, a peeled banana, 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach and 4 cups ice into your Vitamix. Blend on high for about 40 seconds and you’ll have a healthy dessert for your family to enjoy. The kids will never know this non-dairy delight is also nutritious.

Satisfying dessert (or snack)

For an easy option that will keep you full well into the evening hours, create a fruit and yogurt parfait. Fill a tall glass with alternating layers of Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and granola. Popular for its thick, creamy texture and rich taste, Greek yogurt is typically lower in sugar and higher in calcium and protein than regular yogurt. Mix in a touch of honey for extra sweetness. Your family will love the varied flavors and textures. Plus, you can choose any combination you like - from the classic vanilla yogurt with fresh berries, to strawberry yogurt with peaches. A parfait is also a smart breakfast option, providing the calories and energy needed to keep your kids moving throughout the morning.

Avocado-based mousse

Everyone knows that avocado makes a great guacamole, but did you know it can also be used in desserts such as mousse, pudding, sorbet and ice cream? It may sound strange, but the fruit’s rich, creamy texture lends itself well to many sweet treats. For the chocolate lover in your family, try a smooth chocolate avocado mousse. This raw food recipe uses avocadoes, almond milk, dates and coconut butter for the base, along with cocoa or carob powder for the chocolate flavor. It’s best to prepare the mousse ahead of time or while dinner cooks, because it needs to chill for at least an hour before serving. Top with fresh berries or a bit of shaved chocolate for those with an extra-strong sweet tooth.

Making dessert at home puts you in control of the ingredients. It’s also a great way to increase the level of vitamins, minerals and healthy nutrients in your family’s diet. Fruit is naturally sweet, so it’s a great place to start. To enhance flavor even more, experiment with other natural sweeteners, such as agave nectar, honey or stevia in place of granulated sugar.

Whether dessert is a nightly ritual in your household or an occasional treat, use these ideas to satisfy your family’s cravings.

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2014-04-17T00:00:00<![CDATA[Is your child eating kid-friendly foods that support overall health and wellness?]]>(BPT) - It’s 3 in the morning and your child is awake complaining of aches and pains. You take his temperature, give him some water, and sit with him to encourage rest. Parents commonly experience long nights like these, and it can be tormenting when you can’t make your ill child feel better. What’s a loving parent to do?

While every child gets sick now and then, the key to limiting illness and keeping kids as healthy as possible is taking a proactive approach. Dr. Heather Manley, a naturopathic doctor who focuses on preventative health for families and is author of the “Human Body Detectives” series of children’s books, recommends that parents first look at their kids’ diets in order to boost overall health and wellness.

“The digestive system is the gateway to optimally fueling the body plus the first line of immune defense,” says Manley. “If the digestive system is not working well, germs can get into the body and foods will not be broken down and absorbed into the body’s cells. If nutrients are not absorbed, the body does not get the energy it needs to be healthy - physically and mentally.”

* Fruits and vegetables: The fresh facts

"Encouraging kids to try an array of fruits and vegetables is really the key,” says Manley. She notes that some kids may have a preference for veggies over fruit, or vice-versa. Try including a mix in their diets. Vegetables typically have more fiber and less sugar, and should be incorporated at every meal. Fruit can serve as a great hydrating snack, especially during the summer months as they help to prevent dehydration or heat exhaustion. Manley suggests munching on blueberries, watermelon, plums, and cherries.

What are some smart ways to add more vegetables to your child’s diet? “Broccoli and carrots are the usual kid favorites, but adding local and seasonal vegetables is a clever way to entice a variety of produce into your child’s diet,” says Manley. She suggests starting a garden or visiting a weekly farmers market so children can be more hands on about choosing their vegetables. She says that asparagus, green beans, snap peas, tomatoes, beets, lettuce varieties, cucumbers, zucchini, and peppers are all vitamin-packed vegetables that are great for preventing illness and boosting health.

* Supplements: The key to filling in nutritional gaps

It’s no secret that kids don’t always eat what they should. Manley suggests that everyone take three daily supplements: a good multivitamin, probiotics, and omega-3 fish oil.

“With children and teens, the omega-3s found in fish and fish oil are essential for neural (brain) development, skin health, balanced glucose levels, a healthy immune response, a healthy heart, and long-term overall health,” stresses Manley. “Nordic Naturals has always been the number-one choice for omega-3 fish oil products. Their standards and quality testing top the competition, ensuring safe and effective products. They now carry a probiotic which supports the digestive and immune systems with the added bonus of not needing refrigeration - perfect for summer travel.” Visit www.nordicnaturals.com to learn more.

* Picky eater? No problem with tasty tips and tricks

Not all children are going to pick up a fresh beet and munch away immediately. To encourage healthy eating of a variety of foods, Manley offers these expert tips for parents of picky eaters:

No labeling. Even if you feel your child is a difficult eater, labeling him or her as one will not remedy the situation, nor will it make your child feel good if they overhear you say it.

Be a role model: Always put the same foods that you eat on your child’s plate too. If this is done consistently, over time your child will eventually adapt.

"Green Eggs and Ham": This Dr. Seuss classic is a handy book to read regularly. It’s a playful approach that encourages kids to try new foods - even just one bite.

Proactive kids: The more kids are involved in grocery shopping, gardening, chopping, and serving food, the more likely they will want to try the foods.

Food history: Kids love a good story and trivia. Ask your kids what country broccoli came from, or how yogurt is made.

Be patient: Changes do not happen overnight, but patient persistence will ultimately lead to healthier eating and fewer arguments.

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2014-06-16T00:00:00<![CDATA[Food safety tips for the summer cookout]]>(BPT) - Summer’s here - it’s time to slip on a pair of flip-flops and don your favorite grilling apron with that one-of-a-kind catchy slogan. 

You know the one. Maybe it’s “King of the Grill,” “Come and Get It” or “Grill Sergeant.” It’s well- worn, and resembles a road map outlined in barbecue stains.

You’re not alone. According to a study by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association (HPBA), 80 percent of U.S. households own a grill or smoker. The study found that 60 percent of grillers report using their grills year-round.

Cooking outdoors may provide a sense of relaxation and calm, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) reminds those cooking outdoors to focus on the necessary steps to ensure food safety.  

It’s important to remember no one can earn the title of grill master without these four steps: clean, separate, cook and chill. 

Introducing some possible new slogans for that apron:

Keepin’ it real … clean

Before preparing and handling food, it’s important to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. (Lacking a timer, try singing “Happy Birthday” twice while slowly cleaning your hands). Also, make certain all surfaces that come in contact with raw and cooked food are clean before you start, and are washed frequently throughout your cookout.

Raw vs. cooked: go to their separate corners

Be aware of cross-contamination. Keep the raw meat and poultry away from cooked foods. Use separate plates, cutting boards and utensils in preparing veggies and meat and poultry. Juices from raw meats can contain harmful bacteria that could spread to raw veggies and already cooked foods.

You can’t judge a burger by its looks: cook with a food thermometer

Rather than a sign of weakness, a food thermometer is the best way to ensure your grilled foods are safe to consume. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill can be tricky. They may look done on the outside, but it is critical that they have reached a safe minimum internal temperature to kill any harmful bacteria.

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Salmonella is estimated to cause about 1.2 million illnesses in the United States every year, resulting in approximately 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths. The food-borne illness can be avoided by cooking foods to a safe internal temperature.

 Place a food thermometer in the thickest part of the meat or poultry, and follow these guidelines:

* Pork, lamb, veal and whole cuts of beef: Cook to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a three-minute break before carving or consuming.

* Hamburgers and other ground beef: Cook to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

* Poultry: Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
 
* Fish: Cook to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

 * Hot dogs: Grill to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or until steaming hot.

 When removing the cooked items from the grill, be certain to place them on a clean platter, not on the dish that held the raw foods. 

Keep the food dressed to chill    

As the weather warms, it’s important to keep food at a safe temperature at an outdoor picnic or cookout. Perishable food should never sit out for more than two hours, as bacteria grow rapidly between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s a scorcher outside and the temperature is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the timeline should be reduced to one hour. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers promptly, and discard any food that has been out too long.

Keep the hot foods hot by letting them remain on the grill. Chill the cold foods with ice packs or ice sources in a cooler.

“Ask Karen,” the virtual food safety representative, is available 24/7 at AskKaren.gov. Weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is available by calling 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or via live chat at AskKaren.gov.

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2014-07-23T00:00:00<![CDATA[Make your big day as unique as you are]]>(BPT) - Weddings are steeped in tradition – no matter whom you are or where you live. But what if you’re not interested in wearing the same dress your mother did, getting married in the same location your sister did or wearing something blue?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Plenty of brides search for ways to make their special day as unique as they are. Here are five ways to put your own special spin on this classic tradition.

* A guest book you’ll use. Signing the guest book is a common tradition at most weddings; you’ve probably signed a few in your lifetime. After the wedding is over, however, this priceless keepsake often disappears into a box never to be seen again. Break from tradition by creating a guest book you’ll actually use. Take a trip to the book store with your partner and browse the coffee table books. Once you find one that interests both of you, claim it as your guest book. Your wedding guests can sign their names in the margins and afterwards you’ll be left with a permanent, functional guest book to display for visitors and friends.

* Dance under the stars. Looking to create a one-of-a-kind wedding? Don’t rent the same ballroom as all of your friends. Host your reception outdoors. You can rent a dance floor from a local rental facility and trained technicians will arrive to set it up easily. You’ll dance on a traditional wood floor while looking up at the stars – what could be more original than that? Don’t forget to rent a tent so that weather doesn’t dampen the mood. You can find more unique flooring ideas at RentalHQ.com, where you can locate your local rental store.

* Treasure the memories. Get your guests involved in the event by placing blank cards and pens at each seat location. Ask your guests to write about their favorite memory of you and/or your spouse. Collect all of these cards and turn them into a scrapbook for a treasured keepsake.

* Prepare a menu that is uniquely you. Chocolate fountains were once unique and elegant, but now they’re commonplace. Don’t despair, though, because there are plenty of unique edible snack options you can include in your special day. If you’re getting married in the blistering heat, rent a snow cone machine to offer your guests some sweet relief. If you and your spouse are big movie buffs or your wedding has a Hollywood theme, rent a popcorn machine to complete the look. And for the bride who’s still a kid at heart, nothing captures that better than renting an authentic cotton candy machine.

* Find the color that suits you. Maybe wearing something blue doesn’t suit you, but perhaps you’re not too wild about black and white either. At many venues, though, these colors are the only choices you have when it comes to tablecloths and napkins. Remember, you don’t have to settle; you can provide your own materials simply by renting them. This opens up a color palette of limitless options. If you are planning a fall wedding, look for napkins that reflect the colors of the leaves. Did you meet in college? Choose linens in your school’s colors. Whatever shade speaks to you, you can find it and give your wedding a look no one will expect.

Keep the tradition, but be uniquely you with options limited only by your own imagination. To learn more about what you can rent and how renting can help you create the wedding you’ve always wanted, visit RentalHQ.com.

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2014-04-22T00:00:002014-07-15T11:23:27<![CDATA[Tips to avoid the kitchen heat during the hot summer months]]>(BPT) - During the heat of summer, no one wants to spend time in the kitchen when the stove or oven is in use. But if you hate to give up the dishes your family loves until the weather cools again – don’t sweat it. From no-make recipes to alternative cooking tactics, you can find plenty of ways to beat kitchen heat this summer.

“Families can still enjoy favorite foods and stay cool in the kitchen,” says Chef Giuliano Hazan. “It’s just a matter of finding the combination of recipes, ingredients and cooking processes that allow you to prepare delicious food without heating up your kitchen.”

Hazan offers some stay-cool kitchen ideas for great summer dining:

* No one wants to heat up the oven – and the kitchen – by baking when summer arrives. Fortunately, “no-bake” dishes allow families to savor their favorite treats without the heat and hassle. No-Bake recipes require little or no cooking to produce a range of tasty desserts. When preparing a no-bake dish that calls for eggs, it’s important to be aware of salmonella risks. Using pasteurized eggs such as Safest Choice Eggs, can eliminate salmonella risks, making it easy to prepare perfect no-bake recipes.  

* Grilling is a favorite summer pastime, loved for the flavor it imparts, the convenience of cooking without heating the kitchen and the opportunity to enjoy being outdoors. It’s not just a great way to prepare meat, poultry or fish; grilling can be a great way to enjoy favorite foods that normally require an oven.

* One of the appealing aspects of baking or roasting in an oven is the ability to trap flavors within foods. You don’t have to add heat to the kitchen, however, to add flavor to foods. Marinades and seasonings are great for adding flavor to cold foods such as raw fruits and veggies or even cheese.

* Turn to that winter-time favorite via your slow cooker. A slow cooker allows you to prepare a range of dishes, from pot roast to peach cobbler, without raising the temperature in the kitchen. The microwave can also be a good alternative to the stovetop.

* Perfect your salad prowess. Salads are healthy, no-cook options that can make great low-calorie meals for the whole family. The plentiful harvest of seasonal fruits and vegetables available during spring and summer makes this time of year perfect for experimenting with new types of salads.

* It’s OK to cheat now and then with pre-cooked options, such as using premium canned tuna or a batch of hard boiled eggs kept in the refrigerator to add to salads. Because they’re already cooked, these items can cut out preparation time (and temperatures) while serving as ingredients in your favorite recipes.

Try this great no-bake recipe from Safest Choice Eggs and recommended by Chef Hazan. Visit www.safeeggs.com for more recipe ideas.

Frozen Pineapple Cream Cheese Torte

Ingredients:

1 1/4 (about 5 ounces) cups ground gingersnaps

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/3 cup melted butter

4 Safest Choice pasteurized eggs, separated

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cups sugar,

12 ounces (1 1/2 8 ounce packages) cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup chopped fresh or crushed pineapple, drained well

1 1/4 cups whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

For glaze:

1/4 cup sugar

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup pineapple juice

2 tablespoons dark rum (or to taste)

Directions:

In a medium bowl, combine gingersnaps and panko. Add melted butter and stir until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press into bottom of 8 or 9-inch springform pan.

In a medium bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/4 cup of the sugar and beat again until stiff peaks form.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar until smooth. Add egg yolks and beat well. Mix in pineapple and vanilla.

In another medium bowl, beat cream until whipped. Fold egg whites into cream cheese mixture, then fold in whipped cream. Pour filling over crust and freeze until set, about five hours or overnight.

For glaze:

Combine sugar and cornstarch in small saucepan. Add pineapple juice and stir until cornstarch is dissolved. Add rum and cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Cool.

To serve, let the torte sit at room temperature for five to 10 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the cake to loosen and remove pan sides. Top cheesecake with glaze.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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2014-05-14T00:00:002014-07-14T14:50:33<![CDATA[Refreshing salads for warm days]]>(BPT) - Nothing says “summer is here” like a fresh salad bursting with garden-fresh vegetables, herbs and flavors. So how do you toss some zing into your salad to get your family and friends craving more? Follow these five simple steps to create eye-popping, mouth-watering and crowd-pleasing bowls of healthy and delicious salads.

Many shades of green

Darker veggies create a healthier the salad, so skip the iceberg and try some new greens with your next salad. Use spinach to provide nearly twice the recommended daily value of vitamin K, half the recommended value of vitamin A, as well as calcium and iron. A cup of romaine is a tasty alternative, with a huge dose of vitamin A and a variety of other nutrients. Arugula also offers a blend of nutrients and phytochemicals.

Think protein for power

Want a great way to add lean and cost-effective protein into your bowl? Or to sneak some delicious protein into a salad that will have your kids asking for seconds? Try tossing in a cup of boneless chicken. Get an extra boost by adding nuts, seeds or beans - a cup of black beans provides 15 grams of protein to a salad and you’ll gain soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol, keeps blood sugar balanced and fills you up. Add some omega-3s to your bowl too, with salmon, sliced avocadoes or hemp seeds.

Top smart, toss smart

Cranberries, blue cheese, diced avocadoes, croutons, slivered almonds and olives can turn the ordinary salad into an extraordinary creation. Don’t forget that salad dressings add flavor and pizazz - try new Litehouse OPA Greek Yogurt dressing for lower calories, more protein and great taste. Spring salads burst with juicy goodness when you add fruit to the bowl. Slice fresh pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, papaya, mango or apples for a juicy upgrade to any salad.

The road to good health is paved with veggies

Adding vegetables does more than pack amazing color into your salad bowl; you are also packing your family with stellar nutrients. Flavorful vegetables are good sources of insoluble fiber that keeps your digestive tract healthy. For crunchier salads shred or thinly slice cabbage, carrots, broccoli or cauliflower.

Herbalicious

With all the wonderful veggies and fruits, don’t forget to bring out the flavor of your creation with herbs. For a delicious way to add herbs to your salad without having to buy fresh herbs that will go bad before you can use them up, try Instantly Fresh Herbs from Litehouse that spring to life when rehydrated for a fresh-from-the-garden taste without the waste.

Ready to jump into salad season? Try this recipe that bursts with color and taste:

Confetti fruit and veggie lettuce wraps with Litehouse Pomegranate Blueberry Vinaigrette

Serves: 4

Finished in: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup seeded and diced cucumber

1/2 cup grated carrots

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup diced strawberries

1/2 cup diced pineapple

1/2 cup diced papaya

1/2 cup diced mango

1 15-ounces can dried black beans – drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon cilantro

2 tablespoon jalapeno

2 heads washed and dried baby romaine lettuce leaves

2 ounces feta cheese crumbles

1 ounce snow pea shoots

4 ounce Litehouse Food’s Pomegranate Blueberry Vinaigrette (extra for dipping)

Directions:

In large bowl, toss together cucumber, carrots, red onion, strawberries, pineapple, papaya, mango, black beans, cilantro, jalapeno and spring onions.

Stir in pomegranate blueberry vinaigrette and allow mixture to sit for five minutes so herbs rehydrate.

Add a spoonful of fruit and vegetable mixture to the center of lettuce leaf. Repeat for remaining leaves and mixture.

Sprinkle feta cheese on top of mixture and garnish with snow pea shoots.

Serve with additional pomegranate blueberry vinaigrette for dipping.

This fruit and veggie mixture also makes a great topping on pork, chicken and mild fish.

 

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2014-05-12T00:00:00<![CDATA[The benefits of enjoying the healthy Mediterranean diet]]>(BPT) - With warmer weather, more people turn to fun outdoor activities, especially after a long cold winter. Diet and exercise are the key ingredients of a healthy lifestyle, and fresh salads and other summertime delicacies abound.

One particularly healthful diet trend is the Mediterranean diet, so named after the tastes and habits of the people living around the Mediterranean Sea. People in Europe – especially those in Spain, Italy and Greece – generally are healthier than Americans. One often-cited reason is their diet which, it turns out, is very high in salt.

Olives, for example, can only be consumed if they're soaked in salty brine for weeks. Feta cheese is cured and stored in salt brine. Capers, anchovies, codfish and roe are all Mediterranean staples routinely packed in salt. The breads, pastries and sauces of the Mediterranean are all high in salt. Greek taramosalata is made from salted codfish roe, while tzatziki is made from salted, fresh cucumbers that are drained and added to yogurt; North African baba ghanoush is made of roasted eggplant, blended with tahini, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and lots of salt. This doesn’t even include all the famous salt-cured meats such as jamon serrano, prosciutto, salami and various sausages.

Olive oil is the anchor of the Mediterranean diet. No other natural oil has as much monounsaturated fat. When drizzled on salads and vegetables or grilled fish, it adds a pleasing aroma and texture. But olive oil by itself is somewhat bland and is always accompanied by liberal amounts of salt. Virgin olive oil, so cherished for making salads, is slightly bitter because of all the unique antioxidants it contains, so salt is especially important for improving its taste.

Yet, the people of the Mediterranean, who enjoy all these foods, have the world's best cardiovascular health. The diet is so healthy that the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) used it as a model in its famous DASH Study (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which confirmed that the Mediterranean/DASH diet was healthier than the typical American diet and effectively reduced blood pressure.

Americans who believe they need to follow a low-salt diet may hesitate to explore the Mediterranean diet, or may try to reduce the amount of salt inherent in it. Before turning your back on the Mediterranean diet and all its proven health benefits, discuss the option with your doctor. The Mediterranean diet has proven its worth for centuries.

To help you get started with a healthy Mediterranean meal, try the following recipe:

North African Salad

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1/4 cup

2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

1 pound box Israeli couscous (or any tiny pasta such as ziti)

3 cups chicken stock

2 lemons, juiced

1 lemon, zested

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

1/3 cup dried chopped dates

1/4 cup slivered almonds or pistachios, toasted

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for one minute. Add the couscous and toast until lightly browned, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Carefully add the stock, and the juice of 1 lemon and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the couscous is tender, but still firm or al dente, stirring occasionally, about 7 to 9 minutes. Drain the couscous.

In a large bowl, toss the cooked couscous with the remaining olive oil, remaining lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper and let cool. Once the couscous is room temperature, add the fresh herbs, dried dates and almonds/pistachios. Toss well and serve.

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2014-04-11T00:00:002014-06-17T14:33:47<![CDATA[Got a great wedding theme? Tips for carrying it throughout your big day]]>(BPT) - What does the concept of a wedding theme mean to you? Do you think it’s just about the colors you choose for your bouquet and bridesmaid gowns? Or do you think of it as something grander – your personalized stamp that should shine through every aspect of your big day?

“Even the most romantic, unique theme can fail to live up to its potential if you only incorporate it into one or two aspects of your wedding,” says Robin Brockelsby, founder of Creative Coverings, one of the largest nationwide linen rental and sales companies. “Truly successful themes grace everything your guests do, see and touch throughout your wedding and reception.”

As you’re planning your wedding, keep these theme-building tips in mind:

* Choose a theme and colors that you love enough to invest some creativity in. While each season, certain colors emerge as “hot” choices for weddings, avoid picking a color or theme just because it’s trendy. Instead, focus on ideas that truly speak to your personality.

* Picking a wedding color doesn’t mean you have to be limited to just one shade. For example, Brocklesby points out, purple is a trending color for weddings this year, and you can incorporate variances of it throughout your wedding. “Lighter shades like lavender and lilac are more feminine and sensitive, creating a mood of romance,” she says. “They’re a great choice for bridesmaids’ gowns.” Add interest to the color theme by using darker shades like plum or deep purples for table linens and even lighting elements. “Using these darker shades can create an impression of magic, fantasy or extravagance,” Brocklesby says.

* If you do choose a trending color, consider renting accessories such as linens, chair covers and decorations. Rental stores keep track of what’s trendy, too, and are more likely to have items in the season’s hottest colors. Often, it’s easier to rent what you need than to hunt through multiple stores trying to purchase items. Visit www.rentalhq.com to find a rental store that carries everything you need to create a themed wedding.

* When choosing a theme, be sure to consider if it really works with that gown you fell in love with and simply must have. For example, a vintage theme cries out for a vintage gown and a dress that is too contemporary will clash with the theme. Tuxedoes for groomsmen and stiletto heels for bridesmaids aren’t likely to work well with a beach theme.

* Set the stage for your wedding with themed invitations. Online resources make it easy to find and customize wedding invitations to fit virtually any theme, from rustic to floral, country to contemporary. Themed invitations are also a great way to clue guests in to what they can expect on your special day.

* Choose linens, tableware and furniture that complement your theme. If the venue you’ve booked doesn’t have items that are just right, look into renting them. Renting wedding items provide brides access to a wider range of items that can fulfill virtually any theme, giving you greater flexibility and choice. Plus, renting can save you money.

* Use creative favors to underscore your theme. For example, luggage tags in the shape of flip flops make adorable wedding favors. Or, for your outdoor wedding with a picnic theme, miniature picnic baskets filled with gourmet chocolates will remind guests of your theme long after the reception ends.

* Remember to make music match your theme. Classical music will complement a sophisticated, elegant wedding as you walk down the aisle, but you might want to leave the hip-hop for the reception. For a holiday wedding, traditional holiday music creates a timely and festive atmosphere that celebrates the season and your nuptials at the same time.

* Food and how you present it can also play into your theme. Want a circus-themed wedding? Rent a popcorn maker or cotton-candy machine and serve to guests in wax paper bags during the reception. Going for a more elegant, traditional theme? Silver chafing dishes are classic musts. Find a rental store that specializes in renting catering items at www.rentalhq.com.

Whatever theme you choose, all elements of your wedding should harmoniously work together to proclaim your theme. A great theme can turn any wedding into a memorable experience that guests will talk about for years to come.

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2014-05-30T00:00:002014-06-10T14:15:28<![CDATA[5 easy tips for throwing the ultimate summer party]]>(BPT) - There’s nothing quite like a summer party where beautiful weather, great food and good friends come together to create memories that last. If you’re looking forward to throwing a summer party but you’re not sure how to get started, the following tips will have you outside enjoying a warm breeze with your friends in no time.

* Formulate the guest list. What’s a party without guests, right? Start by determining how many people you can comfortably host and create your guest list with this realistic number in mind. Friends, family and co-workers can all attend, but make sure to invite people you know will be respectful of your home and your neighborhood as their actions reflect on you. You might consider adding your neighbors as well as they may feel slighted if they aren’t invited to the big party taking place next door.

* Pick a theme. Theme parties make planning and decorating so much easier, and they provide guests an immediate sense of what kind of party it is, how to dress, etc. If you own a pool, invite everyone to a day at the beach. Or, pick a theme around your favorite television show. Whatever you decide, carry your theme through to the decorations, the attire and the invitations themselves.

* Dress your party to impress. The right decorations are a matter of taste and your skill level. If you’re the creative type, you may enjoy building your own decorations from scratch. Or, you might prefer to simply purchase your decorations from a local party supply store. No matter what you choose, select decorations that complement the theme of your party. Remember to make sure areas like the food table and sitting areas are appropriately decorated.

* A flavor for every taste. Warm weather gatherings shouldn’t involve a lot of time in the kitchen working over a hot stove. Instead, consider offering a selection of easy, ready-to-eat snacks in a variety of flavors. TGI Fridays Snacks are a perfect choice because they parallel popular menu appetizer items that people are instantly familiar with. Choose from the popular Cheddar Bacon Potato Skins Snack Chips or the new Bacon Ranch Potato Skins Snack Chips. With 11 different flavors to choose from, your guests can roam the party to try them all.

* Keep them entertained. The right entertainment options can keep your party going longer. If you have a pool, make it the main attraction and don’t forget the floats! Outdoor yard games like darts, lawn bowling or bean bag toss are popular and you can encourage participation by turning them into a competition. Smaller groups may appreciate a deck of cards and no one can say no to bingo if there’s a prize on the line. Good music is a must so be sure to load your iPod with a fun, upbeat playlist your guest will enjoy.

Planning the perfect party is easier than you may think. With a little preparation and the right food, decorations and entertainment, you can give your guests a memorable event they’ll be talking about all summer long.

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2014-04-01T00:00:002014-04-03T11:09:59<![CDATA[Put a little 'spring' in your seasonal recipes]]>(BPT) - Have guests been “springing” up in your home? Then treat your friends and family to these fun and simply delicious seasonal recipes from Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli and Fisher Nuts.  It’s the perfect light fare for all of your springtime get-togethers.

 

* Start with: Grilled Shrimp with Walnuts and Scallions

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 4 minutes
Yield: 8 servings

Walnut and scallion mixture:
1 cup finely chopped Fisher walnut halves and pieces, lightly toasted
The zest and juice from 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 scallions cut into thin rounds, green and white parts both

Shrimp:
2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Walnut and scallion mixture: Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl, set aside.

Shrimp: Preheat the grill and make sure it is hot before cooking the shrimp. Thread the shrimp on two skewers, and season with salt and pepper. Coat with vegetable oil and place on the hottest part of the grill. Cook for 2-3 minutes and then turn over. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, or until shrimp are opaque and have cooked through. Remove the shrimp from the skewers and transfer them to the bowl containing the walnut and scallion mixture. Arrange shrimp on a platter. Serve immediately.

Note: For easier cooking use two skewers when cooking shrimp, thread one through the area by the head of the shrimp, the other by the tail. This will keep the shrimp flat and will prevent them from spinning or falling through the grates during cooking.

No time to grill? This recipe works just as well sauteed. Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the shrimp for 3-4 minutes or until cooked through. Season with pepper.

 

* Serve with: Spiced Almond, Grape and Mixed Green Salad

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

Almonds:
3/4 cup Fisher sliced almonds, toasted
1 teaspoon paprika
Pinch of kosher salt

Dressing:
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons grainy mustard
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt

Salad:
3 cups mixed greens, washed
6 red radishes, tops trimmed down to 1/2 inch, thoroughly washed and dried
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, stemmed, leaves washed and dried
3/4 cup seedless red (or green) grapes, stemmed, washed and dried

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Almonds: Combine the almonds and paprika and a pinch of salt. Toss to blend. Transfer to a baking sheet and toast until browned, 5-8 minutes. Set aside.

Dressing: Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl, set aside.

Salad: Place the radishes on a flat surface and, using a small, sharp knife, slice them into 1/4 inch rounds (with the bit of the tops still attached).

Toss the mixed greens, radishes, parsley and grapes to the bowl and toss to blend. Top with the almonds. Serve immediately.

 

* Finish with: No Bake Orange Cheesecake with Toasted Almonds

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 12 servings

Crust:
7 ounces butter cookies to make 1 1/2 cups crumbs, about 32 round, thin flower shaped cookies
1 cup Fisher Sliced Almonds, toasted, divided
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter

Filling:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
1 envelope (.25 ounces) unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup store-bought orange juice
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 seedless navel orange

Crust: Lightly spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring form pan with non-stick cooking spray. Finely chop 1/2 cup of the almonds, set aside. Put the cookies into a sealable plastic bag and crush them into fine crumbs by rolling over them with a rolling pin. Transfer the crumbs to a large bowl and mix in the chopped nuts, cinnamon and butter. Press the crumbs in an even layer into the bottom of the pan. Top the crust with 1/4 cup sliced almonds so that some are in the crust and some sitting on top of it. Refrigerate.

Filling: Sprinkle the gelatin over the orange juice in a small saucepan, let stand 1 minute. Heat over low heat until gelatin is melted, set aside. Grate 1 teaspoon zest from the orange and set aside. Beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth 3-5 minutes in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat in condensed milk; scrape down the bowl after addition. When mixture is smooth, stir in melted gelatin and grated orange rind. Spoon the filling over the crust, tapping the sides of the pan to even the filling out. Refrigerate 2 hours or until set.

Peel the rind from the rest of the orange, place it on a cutting board and slice it into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Top the cake with the orange rounds and remaining 1/4 cup sliced almonds.

For more great recipes from Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, visit Fishernuts.com.

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2014-05-22T00:00:002014-07-25T14:49:02<![CDATA[Hot or cold, Americans crave coffee]]>(BPT) - Americans love coffee. In fact, according to the National Coffee Association, 61 percent of American adults drink coffee every day. Hot, cold, black, macchiato, latte – Americans consume 400 million cups of java daily, making the U.S. the leading consumer of coffee in the world.

Not only is the coffee trend not slowing down, the artisanal coffee movement is growing. The U.S. coffee house and donut shop industry has grown 15 percent between 2007 and 2011 as other segments in the restaurant industry have struggled, according to Huffington Post and a Mintel study.

With consumption on the rise, premium baristas and local roasters are distinguishing themselves from mainstream shops by offering handcrafted, specialty drinks.

However, alongside the rise of coffee is the rise of disposable, to-go coffee cups. Americans throw away 25 billion foam coffee cups each year and those cups will be sitting in a landfill even 500 years from now, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Investing in a reusable bottle, like Genuine Thermos Brand’s Commuter Bottle allows you to take your coffee with you while keeping it hot for hours. The vacuum insulated bottle will keep coffee hot for eight hours and iced coffee cold for 12 hours, making it great for a road trip or a day at the office. Many retailers will even fill your bottle with their custom-made coffee or latte. 

So, grab your reusable beverage bottle and head out to experience the specialty drinks local roasters have to offer.

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2014-03-12T00:00:002014-05-09T14:04:01<![CDATA[Feed body and soul by giving your next Italian meal a nutritious twist]]>(BPT) - It is said that Italian food nourishes the body and soul by celebrating fresh ingredients prepared with love. Using care when selecting ingredients for your next Italian meal can be the difference between heavier fare and something family members can feel good about, especially at a time when many are striving to eat more nutritious foods. With some simple adjustments, such as switching to lean ground turkey in recipes that call for ground beef, it’s easy to eat well without sacrificing taste.

Through its Make The Switch campaign, Jennie-O Turkey Store challenges people across America to make more nutritious decisions by replacing ground beef with JENNIE-O Lean Ground Turkey or Lean Italian Seasoned Ground Turkey in their favorite recipes. A delicious and versatile protein, ground turkey is an easy substitute in recipes that typically call for ground beef.

Lean ground turkey lends itself to a wide range of meals, from mouth-watering pasta dishes to spicy meatball dinners. Here are some simple tips for giving your recipes a satisfying and nutritious twist using lean ground turkey.

Tasty tips for easy Italian meals with lean ground turkey

Baked turkey rigatoni: If you’re looking for a quick and tasty weeknight meal that is sure to please your family, try baked turkey rigatoni.Fill your house with the tantalizing aroma of baked rigatoni pasta made with prepared spaghetti sauce, provolone and mozzarella cheeses, browned lean ground turkey and fat free sour cream. Delizioso.

Mini turkey meatballs: Instead of making meatballs out of sausage, substitute lean ground turkey and combine with your favorite seasonings. Shape into 1-1/4 inch balls and bake until well done, add to spaghetti sauce and serve atop steaming pasta. Or make a hearty and satisfying Italian Meatball Sub: split a submarine roll and top with four piping hot turkey meatballs, spaghetti sauce and shredded Parmesan cheese.

Savory turkey Tuscan bean and tomato soup: Food is love when it comes to family, and there’s nothing that delivers comfort more than a bowl of delicious homemade soup. Give your next batch of soup a Tuscan twist using Lean Italian Seasoned Ground Turkey. Cook turkey as specified on the package, add canned Great Northern beans, a can of diced tomatoes and reduced sodium chicken broth for a spicy, steamy treat that you’ll feel good about feeding your family.

Turkey tips: Always remember to cook turkey to 165 F. as measured by a meat thermometer. Cooking turkey to the right temperature not only ensures a safe meal, but it also achieves the most delicious taste and the perfect, never-dry tenderness that your family will love.

Share the love and feel the love. Do you have a favorite recipe idea that includes nutritious ingredients like lean ground turkey? Share your love of tasty lean ground turkey with #jennieo or by submitting recipes to http://www.facebook.com/jennieoturkey.

Make your next Italian meal a masterpiece by making these simple more nutritious choices. And remember, Italian dishes are best enjoyed when surrounded by family and friends. For more delicious recipes made with lean ground turkey, ideas, tips and food safety information, visit jennieo.com.

Baked Turkey Rigatoni

Makes: 8 servings

Prep time: Less than 30 minutes

Total time: Less than 1 hour

Ingredients

1 (16-ounce) package rigatoni pasta

1 (20-ounce) package JENNIE-O Lean Ground Turkey

1 cup diced onion

2 (26-ounce) jars spaghetti sauce

6 slices Provolone cheese

1 cup fat-free sour cream

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat oven to 350 F. Bring large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook 12 minutes or until al dente; drain. Return to same pan. In large skillet, cook turkey as specified on the package. Always cook to well-done, 165 F. as measured by a meat thermometer. Add onion and sauce; simmer 15 minutes or until sauce is thickened and onion is soft. Mist a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Add turkey mixture to pasta. Stir to combine. Layer half of turkey mixture in dish. Top with Provolone cheese. Spread with sour cream. Top with remaining turkey mixture. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Bake 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and browned. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

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2014-04-14T00:00:002014-06-17T14:36:39<![CDATA[Greener grilling: Good for you and for Mother Nature, too]]>(BPT) - You already know grilling is a healthful, flavorful and fun way to cook while enjoying the great outdoors. But did you know it can also be a “green” activity?

By choosing earth-friendly fuel options, better ingredients and sustainably sourced seasonings, you can satisfy your family’s taste buds and Mother Nature with these greener grilling tips:

* Grilling with charcoal briquettes imparts a wonderful flavor to foods, but many cooks resort to a squirt (or several) of lighter fluid to get the coals burning faster. Forego the lighter fluid and invest in a charcoal chimney – a metal cylinder that makes it easy to get charcoal started. Briquettes go on the grate atop the chimney and newspaper goes at the bottom. When you light the paper, the chimney effect of the tube lights the charcoal from the bottom quickly and easily.

* Many people use disposable dinnerware for outdoor dining. While it may be convenient to not have to wash those dishes, reusable dinnerware and table linens are better for the environment and cheaper in the long term. Plus, cloth napkins and real plates impart a special charm to dining al fresco.

*  This summer, why not try meat and poultry from free-range or grass-fed animals, rather than factory farmed? Better yet, select meat from a local farmer, buy organic or go vegan or vegetarian. Firm tofu, Portobello mushrooms and even polenta are healthy and trendy alternatives to meat. Such options reduce the environmental impact of your meal, and they often taste much better!

* Seasonings are a great way to add flavor without fat to your grilled meats and vegetables. When you choose sustainably sourced spices and herbs from purveyors like Frontier Natural Co-op, you’re not only getting outstanding flavor, but you can be assured the seasonings have been produced using practices that are better for the environment, too.

* When purchasing produce, look for local options. Locally grown veggies and fruits travel a shorter distance to make it to your grill, meaning less fossil fuel is consumed overall. 

* You can conserve resources without skimping on flavor if you make marinades using whole spices that you’ve pan roasted and freshly cracked before blending. Flavored and artisan black pepper corns, salts and sugars are trendy right now. You can also incorporate artisan vinegars, fine drinking wines and unusual beers into your marinades to create unique and pleasing flavors.

* Do you love adding smoke to your grilling? Rather than buying pre-soaked planks or pre-processed briquettes, try smoking by soaking whole herbs, spices and tea leaves in water then throwing them on the hot coals to create unusually flavored smoke blends that go far beyond basic mesquite and hickory.

To get you started, try this blackening spice recipe from Frontier Natural Co-op:

Paprika, Garlic and Thyme Barbecue Rub

Rubs are key to a flavorful barbecue. Season your meat one hour before cooking for grilled items, and a day ahead for smoked meats. This recipe works especially well for ribs, but it’s good on almost anything you’d want to barbecue or grill, such as chicken, turkey, steaks, burgers, firm fish or shrimp. For fish dishes, consider adding a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1/2 cup

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Frontier paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons Frontier sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons Frontier ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Frontier garlic powder
1 teaspoon Frontier thyme
1 teaspoon Frontier cayenne (or to taste, may be omitted)

Directions:

Mix together all ingredients. Rub into chosen cut of meat. For best results, allow to marinate one hour to overnight before grilling.

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2014-05-12T00:00:002014-07-24T16:39:05<![CDATA[Entertaining at home? These easy tips will ensure your place is guest-ready in no time]]>(BPT) - No matter the occasion, parties are good opportunities to relax with friends and family, step outside the normal routine and just have a great time. Hosting a party at home requires some extra prep work, but the reward is often worth the labor. Before you throw your next gathering, try these simple tips to get your house prepped for company.

* Pick up and plan ahead. When sprucing up the space where you’ll be entertaining, make an effort to stow items away. Bring your shoes, bags and other items to private rooms like your bedroom to make room for your guests’ belongings and put away fragile items to avoid unwanted accidents. Also, use this time to take inventory of your space. Do you have enough chairs for people to sit? Are you going to play music or have the TV on in the background? Answering these questions as you clean your home will help set up your party space for success.

* Deep clean the public areas. Guests won’t likely visit your bedroom, but thoroughly cleaning high-traffic areas, especially the entry way, bathroom, kitchen and living room is a must. Remember, the cleanliness of your home reflects on you, even to your closest friends or family; make sure you make a good impression.

* Don’t forget your pet’s bathroom. Seventy-seven percent of Americans claim they can tell someone has a cat just by the smell of their home, according to a new survey by Wakefield Research. Replace your existing litter with Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal Cat Litter and enjoy a seven-day odor-free home guaranteed. Clump & Seal features unique technology that forms a tight seal around odor and destroys it with powerful odor eliminators and Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. Let you home be the center of attention, not the smell of your cat’s litter box.

* Decorate your home with your own special theme. Add candles to set the mood for an evening cocktail party, set appropriate mementos on the mantel to commemorate the day or select a dessert option with colors to match the holiday, team or event you’re celebrating. This is your party, so be sure to add your special touch.

* Set up serving stations. People can get wild about food when attending a party so setting up established serving areas is your best chance to maintain order. Select an appropriate countertop or table to be home to the drinks and hors d’ oeuvres. This will keep people out of the kitchen and prevent confusion.

Preparation is key to entertaining at home with ease and in no time, guests will leave wanting to come back for more. To learn more about how Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal Cat Litter can have your guests thinking party, not pet, visit www.clumpandseal.com.

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2014-04-29T00:00:00<![CDATA[Gluten-free recipes guaranteed to please a crowd]]>(BPT) - Sandwiches, pizza and fresh crusty bread ... what do they have in common? Besides being among our favorite foods, they are often made with wheat and contain gluten. However, with a scan of American grocery store shelves or restaurant menus, it’s easy to see that “gluten-free” is a popular trend these days, with more and more people looking to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diets.

As the number of individuals seeking a gluten-free diet increases, so does the demand for flavorful gluten-free recipes, especially for baked goods that are traditionally packed with gluten.

Baking flavor-packed gluten-free recipes is a breeze with the addition of naturally gluten-free ingredients like California Ripe Olives - a delicious and versatile ingredient that adds flavor and texture to any gluten-free dish. And here’s a fun fact - did you know that 95 percent of black ripe olives are grown in California by more than 1,000 family farmers?

Here are a few tasty recipes for fresh California Ripe Olive-studded Focaccia bread and a zesty Muffaletta sandwich that are gluten-free. These simple and mouth-watering recipes are sure to please gluten lovers and gluten-free eaters alike.  

California Ripe Olives are a tasty gluten-free addition to any meal that will never go out of style.

For more recipes visit www.calolive.org.

Gluten-Free Olive, Shallot and Rosemary Focaccia

Ingredients:

2 cups lukewarm water

2 teaspoons sugar

2 packets instant dry yeast

4 eggs

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for pan

3 cups brown rice flour, divided

1/2 cup each: white rice flour, sorghum flour and tapioca starch/flour

1 tablespoon xanthan gum

2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon cornmeal

Olive Topping:

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped

1 (6 ounce) can California Ripe Olives, well drained

2 medium shallots, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons Maldon salt

Directions:

Place water, sugar and yeast in a large mixer bowl; let stand for five minutes or until yeast begins to foam. Beat in eggs and olive oil. Add flours, xanthan gum and salt and beat well with a dough hook for five minutes, scraping down the sides occasionally. Mixture should be a very thick batter. Lightly oil two medium baking sheets and sprinkle with cornmeal. Spread batter about 1-inch thick into pans and top with garlic, rosemary, olives, shallots, cheese and Maldon salt, in that order, pressing lightly into the dough. Let stand in a warm spot for 30 minutes or until dough has doubled in size. Preheat oven to 400 F. Bake focaccia for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown, tenting with foil during the last five or 10 minutes if topping browns too quickly.

Gluten-Free Muffaletta Sandwich

Ingredients:

Gluten-Free Olive, Shallot and Rosemary Focaccia  

1 cup Wine Country Olive Tapenade

8 slices provolone cheese

8 ounces thinly sliced smoked ham

4 ounces sliced Genova salame

4 ounces sliced Sopressa Veneta

Directions:

Place bread on a board and carefully cut in half horizontally. Spread tapenade over the bottom half and top with cheese, ham, salame and sopressa. Cover with focaccia top and press down gently. Cut in wedges. Makes eight servings.

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2014-05-13T00:00:002014-05-14T11:02:32<![CDATA[Fresh ideas for summer alfresco entertaining]]>(BPT) - Warm days are calling, as summer traditionally kicks off the outdoor entertaining season. But this year, tradition takes a new direction. More hosts are breaking the boundaries of indoor versus outdoor entertaining. Gone are the paper plates and plastic cups. Instead, people are daring to take their dinnerware outside.

“Whether it’s brunch on the patio or dinner on the deck, we’re seeing outdoor dining evolving from impromptu cookouts to more thoughtful, planned gatherings,” says visual merchandiser John Griffith. “Rather than going out for an evening on the town, people are entertaining at home and they’re enhancing that experience by using their dinnerware outdoors, whether it’s a cozy, casual get together or an elegant, formal alfresco meal.”

Griffith and his teammate Julie Robbins develop seasonal design ideas for Replacements, Ltd., known as the world’s largest retailer of old and new china, crystal and silver.

“I think many people are a little leery of using what they consider their ‘good dinnerware’ outside, but there are so many ways to dress it up or down depending on the evening,” says Griffith. “For example, you can blend a casual, colorful pattern, like Fiesta, with a formal white or complementing floral pattern for a festive flair. You can also mix in pieces and mediums that are both attractive and durable; many manufacturers including Pfaltzgraff and Homer Laughlin are offering melamine plates and trays, while Corning has a wide selection of acrylic tumblers.”

Griffith says alternative metal serveware is fantastic for outdoor entertaining because once these pieces are heated or chilled, the alloy retains its temperature to help keep food warm or cool. He says Lenox, Arthur Court and Wilton Armetale offer fun yet functional shapes and pieces.

“Summer is all about color; you can easily give your table a refreshed, seasonal look by mixing in seasonal hues,” says Robbins. “Bright, bold colors are really hot right now, including oranges and yellows, like freesia. Freesia is one of my favorite colors this year and can be used all summer long. On the other end of the color spectrum, earth tones are always popular and work for outdoor entertaining because those shades are very natural.”

You can easily incorporate sizzling summer shades by using flowers or fresh seasonal vegetables as centerpieces. Robbins suggests using paper napkins on your table for a casual feel, while you can just as easily add cloth linens to dress up the same place setting for a more formal feel. She adds you can also use beach towels to create festive table runners.

Taking your dinnerware outside not only creates new looks, but also, new uses.

“I love pieces that can be used for more than one thing,” adds Robbins. “I use soup bowls all year long, whether that’s for a cold soup during warmer months or a fresh summer salad. You can find so many uses for chop plates, such as a charger or large dinner plate or even as a serving platter.”

Dinnerware manufacturers are crossing over toward the indoor/outdoor pieces. Griffith says many companies are offering coordinating casuals that easily blend across numerous patterns and colors, including Sophie Conran by Portmerion, Royal Doulton’s Maze and Mode patterns and Jasper Conran by Wedgwood.

You can find more seasonal decorating ideas on Replacements’ Facebook page and YouTube Channel.

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2014-07-15T00:00:00<![CDATA[Veggies galore? Make the most of your garden goodies]]>(BPT) - You’ve spent the summer tending and nurturing vegetables that have flourished, and now you have such an abundance of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and leafy greens, your home is starting to resemble the produce section of a grocery store.

Some people think harvest season is when the work stops for growing fresh fruits and vegetables in the backyard. If you want to be able to enjoy your hard work all year long and incorporate your vegetables into meals throughout the winter, though, there’s still some work to be done.

Here are some ways to preserve and share the bounty you’ve grown in your backyard:

* Host a canning party – Canning is making a comeback, even for urban families who grow their vegetables in container gardens. If you have tomatoes, peppers, berries, beans, carrots and even peas, canning and freezing are two ways to preserve these items for use throughout the winter months. Both options preserve the nutrients of the fruits and vegetables, and most canning and freezing processes don’t require any additional ingredients to be added to the product. If you’re looking for a way to add more variety to your pantry, chop tomatoes, peppers and onions into a salsa mixture to be canned.

If you have friends in the same situation with an abundance of food, host a canning party. Ask everyone to bring extra pots, hot pads, stirring utensils, knives and cutting boards so you have enough equipment to keep all hands busy.

* Pickle your veggies – All pickling recipes are different, and it’s fun to experiment with different seasonings and techniques. To get started, try this basic pickling spice recipe from Frontier Co-op. It features a balance of flavor that blends several different responsibly sourced seasonings:

Balanced Basic Pickle Seasoning

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon granulated onion

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon turmeric root powder

For other recipes for preserving your vegetables and incorporating them into delicious dishes all year long, visit www.frontiercoop.com.

* Gift your garden goodies – Ask your coworkers, neighbors and friends if anyone would be interested in some of your fresh produce. Or, better yet, can some of the produce in smaller batches to hand out as gifts. Everyone loves a batch of raspberry jam or a jar of homemade salsa in their holiday stocking or as a thank-you gift. To make the gift look nice, decorate the jar with ribbons or wrap it in a pretty gift bag.

* Make fun drinks - If you grow herbs in your yard, you can either freeze or dry the leaves to preserve their flavors for future use. Or try making herbal soda, which is usually a mixture of lemons, herbs, soda water and simple syrup stirred together for a refreshing summery drink on ice. Invite guests over for a relaxing afternoon on the patio and impress them with your simple, tasty drinks. Your family will also love them for a way to cool down after having fun in the sun.

* Share your harvest – Families that are food insecure appreciate the fresh produce found at harvest season. Contact your local food pantry to ask how you can share your harvest with others. They may require specific kinds of produce, or need vegetables to be harvested in a specific way.

You can use your vegetables and fruits in meals all year long, and these tips also provide you with great ideas for sharing what you’ve grown with friends and family. As you reap the benefits of summer’s growing season and the care you provided your garden, consider these ways of making the most of your crop.

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2014-05-21T00:00:00<![CDATA[Secrets to the perfect backyard grilled menu]]>(BPT) - The grill is a big part of summer fare, whether you’re enjoying a delicious dinner in a restaurant or barbecuing in your backyard. If you want to increase your expertise in perfecting flaky-tender fish or mouth-watering steaks at home, here are some industry secrets that will have your family asking for your special dish every night of the week.

“Every restaurant chef has secret tips to ensure the ingredients and flavors used in grilling will result in a spectacular meal,” says Chef Mark Adair of Bonefish Grill. “This is especially true when it comes to grilling seafood. People are often afraid of grilling fish, but it turns into a light and healthy entree that combines beautifully with so many pairings.”

Try these grilling tips from Bonefish Grill to create mouth-watering smells that will waft through the neighborhood and have neighbors knocking on the door for a dinner invitation. And, if you are in need of a night off, Bonefish Grill invites you to stop by for wood-grilled fish and other specialties, innovative cocktails, a polished casual atmosphere and topnotch service. You won’t want to miss a taste of the Big Bang Shrimp, which is often imitated but never duplicated. Visit facebook.com/BonefishGrill or follow on Twitter @bonefishgrill to learn more.

* Identifying the difference between wood-fired and gas grills

Gas grills fire up quickly and evenly, making them a great choice if you have a busy schedule. Wood-fired grills add interesting wood flavors to foods, especially fish. This can enhance the flavor of your meal. It might take you a bit of time to understand your grill and to fully master use of its hot and cold spots.

* Perfectly grilled seafood

Seafood is delicate and it doesn’t take long to overcook. Keep a food thermometer handy and pull your fish off the grill when it reaches 130 to 135 degrees. Then let it rest for three to four minutes before serving.

* Finding the right pairings

When it comes to wine and seafood, many variables can impact a pairing recommendation. If you are having friends over for dinner, keep in mind the personal tastes of everyone at the table, as well as the seasonings you’re using on the fish. Other factors that could change the type of wine include the type of fish being served, any sauces being used to enhance the flavor of the fish and even the cooking method you use. At Bonefish Grill, servers receive extensive wine training so they can make the best pairing recommendations for your table.

Put these grilling secrets to the test. Try sharing the following salmon and mango salsa recipe with friends and family:

Grilled Salmon topped with Mango Salsa

Ingredients:

Salt and pepper to taste
2-4 8-ounce salmon fillets
Mango salsa (recipe below) as desired

Directions:

Lightly season the salmon fillets and grill to medium. Top each fillet with desired amount of mango salsa. Serve and enjoy.

Mango Salsa

Ingredients:

1/2 cup red onions diced (1/4 inch x 1/4 inch)                                    
1 cup ripe mango - diced (1/4 inch x 1/4 inch)                    
1/4 cup red bell peppers - diced (1/8 inch x 1/8 inch)
2 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce

Directions:

Peel and dice red onion, mango and peppers. Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and toss to coat evenly. Spoon ingredients into aluminum foil and gather the foil at the top to create a pouch. Place foil on the grill while grilling the fillets. Carefully remove foil from the grill with a pair of tongs, as it will be hot. Carefully open the foil with a sharp knife; take care, as hot steam will escape then foil pouch when opened. Use while warm by spooning dollops over salmon fillets.

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2014-04-15T00:00:002014-06-02T16:55:29<![CDATA[Have a delicious baking recipe? Share it with the world]]>(BPT) - Think your family’s favorite breakfast recipe is a winner? Enter it now in the 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off(R) Contest for the chance to win $1 million and other prizes.

In 2013, Antoinette Leal of Ridgefield, Conn., won third prize at the contest for her Cherry Almond Brunch Tart recipe. Antoinette’s winning recipe paired two popular flavors, almond and cherry, and used Eagle Brand(R) Sweetened(R) Condensed Milk to create an extra creamy texture.

Cherry Almond Brunch Tart

Ingredients:

1 Pillsbury(R) refrigerated pie crust, softened as directed on box

4 cups sliced almonds

1 can (14 oz.) Eagle Brand(R) Sweetened Condensed Milk

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 jar (12 oz.) Smucker's(R) Orchard's Finest(R) Michigan Red Tart Cherry Preserves

1 container (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese

Step 1: Heat oven to 400 F. Unroll pie crust; place in ungreased 10-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press crust firmly against bottom and side of pan; trim excess crust. Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until crust is light golden brown.

Step 2: Meanwhile, reserve 1/4 cup of the almonds. Place remaining almonds in food processor. Cover; process until coarsely ground. In large bowl, beat sweetened condensed milk, butter, almond extract and 1/4 teaspoon salt on medium speed until creamy. Stir in ground nuts until well blended.

Step 3: Spread 3/4 cup of the preserves over bottom of partially baked crust. Carefully spread almond mixture over preserves, covering bottom of crust completely.

Step 4: Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until center is set and edges are golden brown. Remove to cooling rack; cool 15 minutes. Remove side of pan; cool 30 minutes.

Step 5: In small bowl, mix mascarpone cheese and remaining 1/4 cup preserves until well blended. Top individual servings of tart with mascarpone mixture and reserved 1/4 cup almonds. Serve warm or cool.

While breakfast is widely considered the most important meal of the day, it doesn’t have to be the most difficult to make. You can find hundreds of simple rise-and-shine breakfast and brunch ideas, many which use seven or fewer ingredients and require 30 minutes or less of active prep time, online at www.BakeOff.com.

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2014-07-15T00:00:002014-07-16T08:32:46<![CDATA[Wholesome snacks for back to school]]>(BPT) - The school year is here and with it, all of those hectic schedules. You may think the chaos of another school year means you’re too busy to provide your children with nourishing after-school snacks, but that doesn’t have to happen. There are many easy recipes available that will allow you to provide wholesome and delicious snacks to your kids, and there are easy ways to be sure they enjoy them. Here are a few ideas.

Ask them to help

Your children will be more excited about eating a healthy after-school snack if they have a hand in its creation. Creating a garden vegetable tray is an easy way to let kids customize their snack to their own taste preferences. Smaller kids can organize the grape tomatoes while you cut the peppers, and when you’re finished, you can all enjoy the snack together. This large recipe is perfect if your kids are bringing friends over. You could also create the tray on a Monday and then enjoy it all week long.

Garden vegetable tray

Ingredients

1 package Simply Organic Southwest Ranch Greek Yogurt Dip Mix

1 16-ounce package Stonyfield Plain Organic Nonfat Greek Yogurt

1 small zucchini, sliced

1 small yellow squash, sliced

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 medium jicama, peeled and sliced into sticks

1 orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1 bunch of radishes

1 bunch green onions - about 10 - trimmed

1 head romaine lettuce, large leaves only for the base of the vegetable platter

1 red bell pepper

Instructions

Mix Simply Organic Southwest Ranch Greek Dip Mix with the 16-ounce package of Stonyfield Plain Organic Nonfat Greek Yogurt. Chill for 30 minutes.

Line a large tray or shallow dish with a decorative napkin and Romaine lettuce leaves.

Seed the red bell pepper by slicing off the top of the pepper, then pull out the membrane and seeds. Discard membrane and seeds, but keep the top for decoration.

Fill the hollow bell pepper with chilled Simply Organic Southwest Ranch Greek Dip and place in the center of the tray or dish.

Arrange corn, zucchini, yellow squash, grape tomatoes, jicama sticks, orange and green bell pepper, radishes and green onions around the red bell pepper dip cup.

Place toothpicks or skewers on nearby serving platter.

Hide healthy foods in delicious flavors

Sometimes the right presentation is all you need for your children to enjoy healthy snacks. This recipe for a banana, pineapple and orange smoothie hides nutritious fruit in a savory offering that feels more like a dessert. Just make sure your kids don’t drink it too fast to ward off brain freeze.

Banana, pineapple and orange smoothie

Ingredients

1 medium sized frozen banana (peel removed before frozen)

1 cup frozen pineapple

6 ounces Greek Yogurt

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic Orange Flavor

1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic Vanilla Flavoring

Fresh orange slices and shredded coconut, for garnish

Directions

In a blender, blend all ingredients until smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape the sides down as needed throughout blending.

Serve immediately.

Snack on the run

After a long day of sitting at their desks at school, your kids may not be interested in sitting at the table for snack time. If you’re kids are on the go, this quick, savory recipe will give them a nutritious snack they can enjoy anywhere so you don’t have to turn to chips or candy.

Roasted chickpeas

Ingredients

2 cans (16 oz. each) chickpeas, drained, rinsed and dried

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 packet Simply Organic’s Crazy Awesome Veggies seasoning blends

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place chickpeas in bowl.

Toss with olive oil and seasoning blend until evenly coated.

Spread in a layer on rimmed baking sheet.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until crisp.

Creating delicious, wholesome snacks for your kids is easier than you think. All you need is the right recipe. For more easy recipe ideas to make back to school as healthy and nutritious as possible, visit www.simplyorganic.com.

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2014-07-08T00:00:00<![CDATA[Bring variety to foods served at your picnics and cookouts]]>(BPT) - The warmer months are the perfect time to enjoy meals outdoors, so head out to the backyard or the local park for a sunlit lunch or a breezy, laid-back dinner. Your family probably has some favorite picnic menu items they frequently request, but if you’re looking to inject some new life into those traditional foods, try the following:

* Add sparkle to your salad – Gelatin salads are quick and easy to prepare a day or two in advance of your picnic. If you’re interested in giving your gelatin salad a bit of pizzazz, consider using ginger ale or soda water instead of plain water. Or, if your party is for adults only, Champagne or a sparkling wine will give the salad a fun new flavor twist.

* Spice up the grill – Grilled meat is always a top choice for picnics, and it’s an area where you can explore many different flavors to accompany the meat. Take advantage of the growing season by adding chopped sauces like fruit salsa or pico de gallo to your cooked meats. The fresh flavors of fruits and vegetables from your garden or found at a local farmers market will quickly transform steak, chicken, pork and fish into a new meal. Make the sauce ahead of time so the flavors can meld. Once the meat is cooked, remove from grill and place on plate. Spoon the sauce on top and serve.

* Give side dishes a new style – Potato salad is a staple side dish for a classic picnic get-together. This summer, consider trying something new with your traditional recipe. Hashbrowns are a great way to give your salad new texture and taste without straying too far from the traditional German-style potato salad recipe. And to make your picnic menu even easier, Hungry Jack Original Hashbrown Potatoes cook quickly and allow you to skip the whole potato peeling and cutting process. The following Hashbrown Potato Salad recipe will delight all who attend your next outdoor gathering.

Hashbrown Potato Salad

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients: 

1 carton (4.2 oz.) Hungry Jack Original Hashbrowns

3-4 strips diced bacon

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Baby spinach or greens for serving

Directions:

Add hot water to hashbrown potatoes per package instructions. Let stand for 12 minutes. Drain well. Heat a 9 or 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add bacon and onion; cook while stirring frequently until bacon is done and fat is rendered, which should take 10-15 minutes. Stir in potatoes. Cover pan and cook potatoes on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring once. Potatoes do not need to brown. Remove pan from heat. In a separate small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar. Add mayonnaise mixture to potatoes, along with bell pepper, celery and parsley, and mix well. Serve warm or room temperature on a bed of greens.

Variation: For a lighter version, use light mayonnaise or substitute 2 tablespoons olive oil for mayonnaise.

* Dessert with a surprise – Frozen fruit pops are a popular picnic dessert option and nothing is better than the homemade version. This summer, consider giving your homemade frozen treats a bit of flavor variation. Instead of using juice to make frozen fruit pops, consider blending yogurt, fresh fruit and some honey together before freezing into delicious chilled treats. Your friends and family will love the surprising new flavors. If you need to transport your frozen treats, place them in a cooler or cardboard box with a small amount of dry ice, which is available at most grocery stores. Once at your picnic location, remove the dry ice from the container to allow the fruit pops to temper; be sure to follow all guidelines for handling dry ice.

Have fun with your backyard dining and picnics this summer and be sure to explore all the new textures and tastes you can easily create. You’ll probably find yourself planning more meals out-of-doors just so you can try all the new menu items. Visit hungryjackpotatoes.com/recipes for other recipe ideas.

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2014-06-18T00:00:00<![CDATA[Budget-friendly tricks for serving meals your family will love]]>(BPT) - Mealtimes – they can be both the blessing and curse of family life. At their best, meals bring families together to share time with loved ones. But, in today’s recovering economy, the pressures of putting food on the table, without busting budgets can make mealtime a source of stress.

Families are hard-pressed to meet all their economic needs; in fact about one-third of all American households are living hand-to-mouth – spending every last dime of each paycheck, according to a Brookings Institution study.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says a family of four can expect to spend between $595 and $1,184 a month on food. And, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that overall food prices rose 1.9 percent from April 2013 to April 2014, there is little relief in sight.

With some planning and thrifty shopping habits, however, you can provide flavorful meals every taste bud in the family will love, all while staying within budget. Here are some tips for delivering great taste and great value at mealtime.

Planning makes perfect. Like many of life’s endeavors, organization and planning ahead are key. Designate one night to plan your family’s meals for the coming week and then create a corresponding grocery list. This proactive approach allows you to be thoughtful, selective and mindful of your budget – for example, take advantage of lower prices on in-season produce by planning meals that use those ingredients. Taking time once a week to make a list will eliminate the daily stress of deciding what can be thrown together for each meal, not to mention saving money – and time – otherwise needlessly spent on repeated, aimless trips to the grocery store.

Breakfast made easy. Mornings can be a hectic time in any household but the first meal of the day can be easy, delicious and affordable with a traditional staple: ready-to-eat cereal. Big-brand cereals can be pricey, but you don’t have to pay for a name in order to serve something the whole family will love. Ounce-for-ounce, Malt-O-Meal bagged cereals cost less than leading boxed brands; and, a recent national taste test conducted by MOM Brands revealed that consumers preferred the taste of four Malt-O-Meal cereals over more expensive brands. Visit www.maltomeal.com to find the flavor variety that your family loves.

Coupons, coupons, coupons. From Sunday newspapers to your social networks, coupons are everywhere. Turn those clips or clicks into money in your wallet. Find coupons that match the items on your carefully planned grocery list, and watch as your grocery bill shrinks and your savings grows.

Leftover love. Make sure the money you spend on food is not thrown away – literally. Rather than getting frustrated and looking past those containers of leftover food in your fridge, embrace them and get creative. If stored properly, they are additional meals waiting to happen. Or, if you know a particularly busy week lies ahead, plan to make a larger portion of a particular entree and use leftovers as additional lunches or dinners. For tips on how to properly store leftovers, visit the USDA at www.fsis.usda.gov.

Freeze your assets. A good way to reduce costs and hassle is to make a large dish and freeze portions of it for meals later in the week. You can also use your freezer to stock up on frozen fruit and vegetables, which are predominantly cheaper than fresh produce, are typically frozen at the height of nutritional value and often come in smaller or single-serve packages that can help eliminate food waste.

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2014-05-14T00:00:002014-07-23T09:37:44<![CDATA[3 expert tips for starting a successful vegetable garden]]>(BPT) - Warm weather begs green thumbs across the country to break out their gardening gloves and till the soil for the season’s plantings. Whether this is your first year tending a home garden or it’s something you’ve been doing for decades, gardening offers many rewards, including time spent outdoors, the ability to feel closer to Mother Nature, and of course, the fresh fare plucked just steps from your kitchen.

Anyone can have a successful home garden no matter where they live by following a few steps from professional gardeners. Consider these three important tips for starting your garden right so you can enjoy fresh produce faster, thanks to the experts at Outdoor Essentials – makers of garden beds, compost bins and other gardening necessities.

Step 1: Research appropriate early plantings

Springtime is ideal garden time thanks to milder weather, and a good place to start is by researching proper plants for your region’s early season. If you have questions, consult your local nursery or call your local extension office for specialized advice.

In general, good early plantings include brassicas, a family of plants that includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbages. Additional cool-season crops to consider include radishes, beets, peas, potatoes and carrots. These plants will thrive early in the season and produce yields quickly.

In addition to quick-producing plants, the early season is the best time to plant other varieties that take a long time to mature. Onions, for example, require a lengthy growing season and should be planted early so that in late summer, gardeners can enjoy the maximum yield possible.

Want produce quicker? Consider purchasing starter plants, also called plant starts, rather than relying on packets of seeds. These are the small plants that have already germinated and have a basic root system. These are easy to transfer to your own garden and, with proper tending, will grow quickly and produce fruit faster.

Step 2: Prepare garden spaces for accelerated growth

After months of not being used, your garden’s soil is likely compact and will require some tilling to loosen the dirt and encourage plant growth. You can do this with a garden rake; for large gardens, some people prefer to rent a power tiller.

People who live in smaller homes, a townhouse or condo might prefer to use raised garden beds. Stylish and functional, raised garden planters from Outdoor Essentials eliminate the need to bend over to tend garden, a benefit that has made them vastly popular. Raised garden beds can be used virtually anywhere outdoors, including on a deck or patio, and they can be moved, too, if necessary.

Whether you create a garden plot in your yard or add a few raised-garden planters to your patio, make sure the dirt is nutrient-rich and ready for your plants. Typically it’s wise to mix black dirt in with your soil to ensure that plants grow strong. If you’ve had trouble growing in the past, consider getting your soil tested to verify pH levels.

Step 3: Tend daily and enjoy the fruits of your labor

For best results, tend your garden on a daily basis. Check for soil moisture and water as necessary. Make sure to pluck weeds and watch for pest infestations. If done daily, it should only take a few minutes to verify the health of your garden, plus it’s fun to watch plants grow and flower.

As fruit and vegetables mature, it’s time to enjoy the season’s first harvest. The healthy fresh fare tastes even better knowing you grew it yourself, plus it cuts down on grocery bills. If you find you have too much of one type of produce at once, share with neighbors, coworkers and friends – everyone loves fresh garden delights.

Keep in mind that as plants grow, you need to make sure they don’t overcrowd each other. This can limit growth and yield production. If your garden starts to look overgrown, you may need to pluck out a few plants to open up space and encourage proper growth and healthy root systems.

Spring to it! The mild, moist weather and longer days of the early gardening season make the conditions ideal for plant growth. With a few simple steps and a watchful eye, you’ll be enjoying fresh produce at almost every meal. For more garden inspiration, visit www.outdooressentialproducts.com.

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2014-03-27T00:00:002014-07-23T09:26:11<![CDATA[Baffled by birthdays? Simple ways to make your child's day bigger than Christmas]]>(BPT) - It’s more important than Christmas to your daughter and your son looks forward to his even more than summer vacation. A birthday is a big day for any child, and especially for kids 3 to 6. Yet busy parents can find it challenging to come up with creative ways to make a child’s birthday truly special.

The challenge, however, is that with more two-income families, increase in single parent households, and busier work and school schedules, finding the time and the creativity to make kids’ birthdays extra special is difficult.

“There are many fun and easy ways to make your child feel extra special on their birthday. It is amazing how these little touches can make such big and lasting impressions,” says Tish Dahlby, the author of Pinklejinx, a new children’s book that tells the story of Joy, the birthday fairy. Here are some simple ideas to help your child feel special.

* Start the celebration early. While the child is sleeping, sneak into the bedroom and decorate with balloons and streamers. Cover the floor or stuff the closet with balloons. Form a trail of confetti that leads from the bedroom to the breakfast table.

* Provide surprise birthday wishes throughout the house. Hide birthday wishes in unexpected places. Using soap, craft a birthday greeting on the bathroom mirror, the kitchen window or the rear window of the car.

* Involve the whole family. If there are siblings or other relatives in the house, have them wait on the birthday child. Even the family pet could wear a special birthday hat.

* Create a festive environment fit for royalty. Consider dining at the fancy table in a room reserved just for special occasions. There you can pull out all the stops to make your child feel like a real prince or princess. The Pinklejinx birthday keepsake kit provides everything you need, including the storybook you and your child can read the night before to create a new family tradition of welcoming Joy, the birthday fairy.

* Celebrate loud and clear. If possible, find a way to celebrate the exact moment of the child’s birth with lots of hoopla - perhaps blow some horns or bang the pots.

* Break the routine. This is a day unlike any other, so don’t follow the same routine. Get creative with the food you serve, its color and how you serve it. Instead of making the child wait to open presents, start the day by opening at least one very special present.

* Communicate what’s special about your child. This is the time for letting your feelings show. Take turns going around the table and let everyone in the family give one reason why the birthday child is special.

* Lunchbox surprise. Pack school lunches as normal but take a few extra minutes to wrap the birthday child’s sandwich in gift wrap. Imagine your child’s smile as he or she unwraps the most special sandwich at the lunch table.

* Start a new tradition. Make this birthday so special that your little ones will already be counting down the days until the next birthday. Consider doing the same thing every year. Start by reading the Pinklejinx birthday story the night before the celebration and prepare for the coming of the birthday fairy. Or take a photo in the same location doing the same thing each birthday to see how much has changed in just one year. For more ideas on how to make birthdays extra special, visit www.pinklejinx.com.

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2014-06-24T00:00:002014-06-26T14:57:49<![CDATA[Grilling enhances the flavors of summer]]>(BPT) - This summer, take advantage of grilling fresh seasonal produce as well as meats, chicken and fish and trying some new marinades.

To make the most of your grilling, Chef Larry Matson, academic director of culinary at The Art Institute of Dallas, a campus of South University, recommends:

* Grill rib roast, strip loin, or whole turkey over indirect heat - the cooler area of a grill, after searing over high heat. To create indirect heat on a gas grill, set one burner to high heat and another to low/medium. If using charcoal, start the coals on one side of the grill. When they are glowing red, move some pieces to the other side.

* Burgers, steaks, chicken or fish steaks can also be grilled over higher heat to seal them and then moved to the cooler area to finish cooking. Use a thermometer to check that they’re done.

* Allow meat to rest after grilling. This allows the juices to redistribute. Steaks should rest five to 10 minutes. Whole chicken, turkey, or rib roast should rest 20 to 30 minutes.

* Use marinades with fresh herbs or garlic to add flavor. Lemon, lime or tomato juice can help tenderize meats and perk up flavors. A small amount of olive or other oil helps the marinade to adhere. Marinate in a resealable bag in the refrigerator, massaging the contents once or twice.

* Use hickory, mesquite, and apple wood chips to add aroma. Soak chips before grilling to avoid flames.

Add brown sugar or honey glazes toward the end of cooking time to avoid burning.

Now that you have the techniques down, try these recipes from Chef Jeffrey Floyd, academic director of culinary at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta.

Grilled Chicken Patty Melt

Makes four servings.

Ingredients:

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded 1/2-inch thick

1 tablespoon each chopped fresh oregano, rosemary, thyme

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 pound asparagus spears, cut in half lengthwise

1 zucchini, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1 yellow squash, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices

4 green onions, cut in half lengthwise

8 slices whole grain bread

4 slices cheese

1/4 cup mayonnaise

Directions:

* Place chicken in shallow dish. Mix herbs, seasonings, garlic and oil until blended; pour over chicken to coat. Refrigerate 30 minutes.

* Heat grill to medium. Remove chicken, discard marinade. Grill chicken five minutes; turn. Add vegetables; grill five minutes or until chicken is done (165 F) and vegetables are crisp-tender.

* Fill bread slices with chicken, vegetables, and cheese. Spread outsides of sandwiches with mayonnaise.

* Grill three to five minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Grilled Peaches and Berries

Makes four servings.

Ingredients:

4 medium ripe peaches, halved and pitted

1 cup fresh blueberries

2 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:

* Place two peach halves, cut side up, on two pieces heavy-duty foil.

* Add blueberries, sugar, and lemon juice, and a dot of butter.

* Fold foil loosely around peaches.

* Grill, covered, over medium to low heat for 18 to 20 minutes.

* Serve warm or room temperature. Add whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.

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2014-04-02T00:00:002014-07-15T11:46:44<![CDATA[Fascinating facts about everyone's favorite sweet treat: Caramel]]>(BPT) - There are many confections available to satisfy a sweet tooth, but one that melts the hearts of many is rich, creamy caramel. Both young and old adore this treat that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with other ingredients to create an extra-delicious delight.

Caramel is a candy staple in the United States and abroad, but few people know the interesting history and fascinating facts that make this treat so unique. Check out five caramel facts that will make you love this sweet treat even more:

1. People have enjoyed caramels for hundreds of years.
The first types of caramels were hard candies that date back to the 17th century. In America, the settlers cooked sugar and water together to make these sweet treats. Caramels were a candy staple for many years because the ingredients were affordable, they were easy to make at home and they had a long shelf life.

2. The word “caramel” is derived from “caramelo.”
The word caramel was first recorded in the English language in 1725. Its roots are from the French and Spanish word “caramelo.”

3. Before chocolate, Milton Hershey produced caramels.
In 1886, Milton Hershey began his first successful confectionery business. The Lancaster Caramel Company shipped caramels across the U.S. and to Europe, causing the candy's popularity to skyrocket. The Lancaster Caramel Company established Hershey’s reputation in the confectionery industry and provided the foundation for the launch of The Hershey Company, which first produced sweet chocolate as a coating for the caramels before creating the iconic Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar.  Fast forward over a century, and the original recipe is reimagined with new Lancaster Caramel Soft Cremes. These new caramels are carefully crafted to ensure a rich, creamy, melt-in-your mouth sensation. Available in caramel, caramel and vanilla, and raspberry and vanilla flavors, these new confections offer a modern twist on a classic and timeless treat.

4. Caramel’s main ingredients are surprisingly simple.
Today, caramel has two main ingredients: milk and sugar. When heated together to a high temperature, the milk helps make the caramel soft and creamy.

5. National Caramel Day is celebrated on April 5.
Caramel is such a beloved treat in the U.S. that each year on April 5th people celebrate National Caramel Day. Enjoy this sweet day or indulge your sweet tooth any day of the year with a variety of decadent recipes found on www.lancastercandy.com, including these two:

Caramel and Chocolate Cracker Treats

Ingredients:
Lancaster Caramel Soft Cremes
Round, buttery crackers
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Chips

Directions:
Each cracker treat will require 2 crackers, 1-1/2 caramel candies and about 8 milk chocolate chips.

1. Heat oven to 200 F. Remove wrappers from caramel candies. Cut each caramel into two equal pieces; set aside.

2. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. For each cracker treat desired, place two crackers with bottom facing up on prepared cookie sheet. Place 3 caramel halves on one cracker and about 8 milk chocolate chips or 3 chocolates on the second cracker.

3. Heat in oven 5 minutes. Gently pick up cracker with chocolate pieces and press chocolate onto caramel topped cracker. Allow crackers to cool until chocolate is set.

 

Caramel Blondie Bars

Ingredients:
25 Lancaster Caramel Soft Cremes
1 tablespoon plus 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease 8- or 9-inch square baking pan. Remove wrappers from caramel candies. Cut each caramel into halves. Toss caramel pieces with 1 tablespoon flour so the pieces don't stick together.

2. Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together remaining 1-1/4 cups flour, baking soda and salt; add to butter mixture, beating until well blended.

3. Spread one half of batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle caramel pieces and nuts over batter. Drop remaining batter by the teaspoon over mixture. Gently spread batter to cover as much of the caramel pieces and nuts as possible.

4. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 16 to 20 bars.

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2014-04-15T00:00:002014-06-06T14:00:32<![CDATA[Five ways to celebrate the return of the sun]]>(BPT) - With warm weather in sight, it’s time to celebrate the return of sun, travel and outdoor parties. Whether taking a break from the workday to enjoy the park or hosting an event for friends, there are many ways to bask in the warmth.

Lunch in the park

The cold of winter has kept you and your coworkers eating lunch indoors or at your desk. Now that the days of craving warm weather are over, it’s time to bring your lunch outdoors and soak up the sun. Invite your coworkers to gather at a picnic table at a nearby park or bring a blanket to a grassy area to enjoy a potluck-style meal. Offer a snack of your favorite Athenos Hummus paired with the authentic Greek brand’s baked pita chips in addition to fresh, crunchy vegetables for dipping. Push “work talk” aside and take a moment to appreciate the clear sky while chatting about vacation plans.

Outdoor exercise

Get ready for the return of swingy dresses, casual T-shirts and brightly-colored shorts by stepping up your exercise routine. After a boring winter on the treadmill, now is the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with the joy of exercising outside. Go for a run in the park to appreciate the newly uncovered green grass and flowers or get together with friends for yoga in the park. No matter what activity you choose, you’ll feel great being outside and knowing that you are making healthy choices.

Quality time for two

Mouthwatering fresh produce is a sure sign of the season. Spend a memorable day with a significant other or your best friend perusing your local farmers market stalls for seasonal fruits and vegetables. Invite your special someone to help you whip up a delicious lunch or dinner featuring chicken accompanied by a succulent strawberry salad or side dish presenting the fresh produce you found at the market. Don’t forget to celebrate your relationship with a toast of Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet before enjoying your flavorful dish with a side of laughter.

A backyard party

Nothing quite says warm weather like firing up the grill! Invite friends and family to enjoy a beautiful day in your backyard while munching on your favorite seasonal dishes. To keep things interesting, surprise your guests’ taste buds with an unexpected delicious appetizer, like a refreshing grilled Mediterranean-styled flatbread featuring fresh diced tomatoes, red onions, Kalamata olives and Athenos Feta Cheese.

Spend time with yourself

If you’re someone who enjoys time by yourself every once in a while, take advantage of outdoor relaxation. Head to the beach with your chair, umbrella and SPF 30 to enjoy a book you’ve been dying to read or enjoy the afternoon in your own backyard while sipping on freshly squeezed lemonade. Spending time alone is one of the best ways to take a break from parties and get-togethers to appreciate the joy of spending time outdoors.

Because the increase in temperature is usually accompanied with lighter fare for your taste buds, there’s no better time to be reacquainted with white wine, an easy go-to for pairing with the dishes of the season. Look for a wine that is vibrant and refreshing, such as Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc. With tasting notes of Meyer lemon and key lime, this wine complements many foods without overpowering delicate dishes like grilled seasonal vegetables.

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2014-07-01T00:00:00<![CDATA[Meatless options for the grill]]>(BPT) - Cheeseburgers, chicken thighs and hot dogs are common fare at summer barbeques, but what about guests who are looking to reduce their meat intake? In addition to traditional meat dishes, there are many ways to prepare meals on the grill that everyone can enjoy, including vegetarians.

“Eating more meatless meals is one way to complement a healthier lifestyle,” say Registered Dietitians Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos. “By swapping out fatty meats for fresh, nutrient-rich foods, you can help nourish your body with vitamins and fiber, while consuming less saturated fat. We love grilling vegetables and fruits during the summer, as well as healthful proteins like Eggland’s Best eggs, which contain 25 percent less saturated fat and stay fresher longer when compared to ordinary eggs.”

For consumers following the trend of vegetarianism, Registered Dietitians Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos, also known as The Nutrition Twins, recommend they take a closer look at their diets to ensure they are consuming foods rich in the essential nutrients commonly found in meat. Often, vegetarians are not eating enough foods rich in protein, vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.  According to the Diabetic Exchange List designed by the American Diabetes Association and the American Dietetic Association, one large Eggland’s Best egg can be substituted for one medium-fat meat.

Here are a few tips from Tammy and Lyssie on alternatives to grilling meat:

Grilled fruit

Skipping the burger at the barbeque doesn’t give you free reign over the chips and dip. The USDA recommends most men and women to have one and a half to two cups of fruit a day, so why not seize the opportunity to treat your guests to a grilled fruit kabob? Experiment with different fruits on the grill such as pineapples, peaches and strawberries, which are refreshing and a good source of fiber.

Portion control

Many meatless options are low in saturated fat. However, some vegetarian-friendly foods, such as cheese, nuts and grains, can be high in calories. Make sure to pay attention to the portion sizes you eat and pick foods that will fill you up. If you need a visual, remember that one serving of dairy is equivalent to four pieces of cheese the size of playing dice.

Meatless protein

Get creative when it comes to grilling protein. For a meatless meal low in calories and high in nutrients, Tammy and Lyssie recommend cracking an Eggland’s Best egg into a vegetable, like an eggplant, and placing it on the grill. One large Eggland’s Best egg contains just 60 calories (ordinary eggs contain 70 calories) and fulfills more than 10 percent of your recommended protein intake. Eggland’s Best eggs also contain double the omega 3s and three times more vitamin B12 when compared to ordinary eggs, which are important nutrients many vegetarians are lacking.

Find recipes, including this Grilled Sunnyside-up Egg-plant, at www.egglandsbest.com or www.pinterest.com/egglandsbest.

Grilled Sunnyside-up Egg-plant

Ingredients:

2 medium eggplants (slightly less than a pound, each)

4 Eggland’s Best eggs

1/2 tablespoon olive oil (or six seconds of oil spray)

1 large jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

1 large shallot, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon crushed caraway seeds

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3 teaspoons paprika

3 1/2 cups tomatoes, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1/4 cup low-fat feta

2-1/2 tablespoons part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions:

1. Preheat grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Place aluminum foil on the grill. Spray with an even coat of oil spray.

3. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. With a spoon, dig out the insides of the eggplant, leaving about half an inch of flesh on the skin.

4. Roughly chop the eggplant flesh you removed from shells.

5. In a large bowl, combine eggplant flesh, oil, tomatoes, shallot, garlic, spices, tomato paste, honey, feta, red wine vinegar and salt. Add the mixture back into the eggplant shells.

6. Place stuffed eggplants on foil and close grill top. Let cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until the eggplant shell has begun to soften and edges become golden.

7. Remove from grill and create an indentation in the filling of each eggplant half. (Be sure to make it large enough that the egg will not slide out). Crack one egg into each indentation. Use a spatula to spread the egg whites out a bit.

8. Sprinkle with cheese.

9. Place back on the grill and close the cover. Let cook until the egg is cooked to your liking, usually at least 10 minutes.

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2014-04-29T00:00:00<![CDATA[Barbecue season gets underway with National Barbecue Month]]>(BPT) - May 1 kicks off National Barbecue Month and the beginning of the season for families to gather and enjoy more memorable meals together outside.

Across the nation, from the Carolinas to the California coast, barbecue has never been bigger. Barbecue products and flavors line grocery store shelves, and shipments of grills and smokers reached 14 million last year, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association.

As you begin planning your summer get-togethers, whether it’s a casual afternoon barbecue or a more elaborate evening feast, here are some fun and easy ways families can enjoy their time together without a lot of stress – or mess.

Keep the kids occupied – If you’re using a smoker or grill for your gathering, or if you have lots of activity happening in the kitchen around a hot stove, let the kids help out and teach them fire safety as they prepare and cook food. Also, before your gathering, head to your local discount store and purchase some simple yard games to keep them entertained. Bean bag tosses, sidewalk art, Hula Hoops, Frisbees, Wiffle Ball and sticker tag are all fun activities the kids will love – and adults can play too!

Stock up early – Salads, drinks, appetizers, desserts and of course barbecue ... be sure to have plenty of food planned for everyone. In a hurry? Make your barbecues even easier with prepared meats. Farm Rich Smokehouse BBQ has five new products that take just minutes to prepare. Each Smokehouse item, such as Pulled Pork BBQ or Dry Rub Smoked Chicken, has been hickory-smoked for hours, contains no artificial ingredients and includes high-quality meat cuts. They’re perfect for a quick summer lunch or big gathering - and your guests will think you grilled for hours.

Make cleanup a breeze – Barbecue has a reputation for being a bit messy, so be sure to have plenty of napkins handy. To help cut down on traffic in the house, set up buckets of water in the yard with soap for a quick cleanup. Use sturdy paper plates and plastic utensils and cups so guests can toss them in trash or recycling bins you’ve stationed around the yard.

Beau Coffron, who writes about family and food at LunchBoxDad (and is a member of the Life of Dad national blogger network) says that planning healthy, tasty meals for active families in the summer months doesn’t need to take a lot of time. “Making salads and cutting up fruit and vegetables a day or two ahead of time can help reduce meal planning stress. We also sometimes use a pre-prepared main item, which gives us the time to sit down together, enjoy a meal and then head out for the rest of our activities,” Coffron says.

For an easy recipe, try these deluxe grilled cheese sandwiches with barbecue chicken.

Applewood Honey Chicken Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Makes 4 sandwiches, serves 4

Ingredients:

1 (20 ounce) package Farm Rich Smokehouse Applewood Honey Chicken BBQ

8 (1/4 to 1/2-inch) slices of a whole grain bread loaf

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 tomatoes, thinly sliced

1/2 stick butter, melted

Spicy mustard for dipping (optional)

Directions:

Prepare BBQ according to package directions. Brush a large non-stick skillet with butter and place over medium-low heat. Working with two sandwiches at a time, brush one side of two pieces of bread with butter. Spread 1 ounce of cream cheese on the other side of each piece of bread. Place the two pieces of bread (butter side down) in the pan. Top each with BBQ, cheese, tomato slices and more cheese. Butter two more slices of bread and place them over each sandwich (butter side up). Use a spatula to smash the sandwiches just a bit. Flip the sandwiches over after about 2-4 minutes or until the bottom pieces of bread are dark brown. Cook until the other side of the bread is dark brown. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and repeat process with the remaining slices of bread and ingredients to make two more sandwiches. Serve with spicy mustard for dipping.

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2014-04-14T00:00:00<![CDATA[The new time to have fun and bond with your family: breakfast]]>(BPT) - Families are always looking for new ways to celebrate and spend time together. Why not start your weekend off on the right foot with a little family time in the kitchen over a delicious hot breakfast?

Cooking in the kitchen is a great activity for families, including children of all ages. Consider the following ways you can get your children up and out of their nests each morning for fun family time together over a delicious breakfast:

* Little children – The youngest members of the family are excellent ingredient mixers and are really good at decorating the table. Give them a craft project to create a table placemat for each plate, or teach them how to fold the napkins in a pretty way.

* Older children – If you have kids in elementary school, ask them to put their math skills to use in measuring ingredients for the meal. They can also pour the milk or juice drinks and put the finished breakfast meal on a plate in a decorative way for serving at the table.

* Teenagers – Ask your teenagers to be responsible for cooking the food. Anything dealing with the stove or oven is their responsibility, and they should also keep an eye out for younger siblings getting too close.

* Parents – You are the overseers of the entire kitchen project. You get to determine the final menu, and make certain that all the breakfast foods will be prepared for serving at the same time so everyone can sit down and enjoy the meal together.

Once the food is ready and plated, have everyone sit down at the table together to enjoy the creation. Soon it will become a tradition that you celebrate your weekend breakfasts together as a family, creating fun memories for everyone.

As you begin your family breakfasts together, try the following fun recipe your kids will love. Hungry Jack Hashbrowns are used to create nests, with some eggs and cheese in the middle for a creative spring-themed breakfast dish. Hungry Jack Hashbrowns are ready to use, fully seasoned and cook perfectly crispy every time. They are made of 100 percent Idaho potatoes and do not require refrigeration. This recipe also can be used for a brunch if you are having company over.

Hashbrown Nests with Eggs

Ingredients:
1 carton (4.2 ounces) Hungry Jack Original Hashbrown Potatoes
3 tablespoons cooking oil
6 slices American cheese, each slice cut into four quarters
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons bacon bits
1 tablespoon butter
Cooking spray
Salt

Directions:
Heat oven to 425 F. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with no-stick cooking spray. Fill hashbrowns carton to fill line with hot water. Let stand 12 minutes. Drain very well. Transfer potatoes to a mixing bowl and mix in the oil. Scoop potatoes into each muffin cup, forming a nest. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Beat eggs in a mixing bowl. Heat a large non-stick skillet. Melt the butter in the pan, and gently cook eggs over low heat, stirring constantly and breaking up any large curds. Cook eggs for 5 minutes, or until creamy and soft enough to easily scoop with a spoon. Season to taste with salt. Place two small cheese squares in the potato-lined muffin cup and top with about a tablespoon of the scrambled eggs. Sprinkle each muffin cup with bacon bits. Bake for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Gently run a butter knife around the edge of each muffin cup, to loosen. Allow nests to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and serve.

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