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Food Recipes and Entertaining 2014-09-01T02:27:56 2014-06-18T00:00:002014-08-13T09:21:03<![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. Bagged cereals (often found on the bottom shelf of the cereal aisle) cost less than most leading boxed brands and are available in comparable varieties. What’s more, a recent MOM Brands national taste test found that consumers preferred the taste of four Malt-O-Meal bagged cereals over pricier Post Cereals boxed brands. Visit www.maltomeal.com to learn about available varieties.

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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2014-05-20T00:00:002014-06-17T15:30:40<![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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2014-05-14T00:00:002014-07-30T11:22:57<![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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2014-06-11T00:00:002014-06-17T15:38:53<![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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2014-05-09T00:00:002014-08-08T10:42:35<![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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2014-06-24T00:00:002014-08-12T08:12:40<![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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2014-05-12T00:00:002014-07-24T16:39:05<![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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2014-07-17T00:00:00<![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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2014-05-12T00:00:00<![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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2014-08-04T00:00:002014-08-06T08:11:53<![CDATA[How to make the start of the school year healthy and happy]]>(BPT) - The lazy days of summer are nearly over. Back-to-school season means back to a busy life with a seemingly never-ending schedule of classes, sporting events and extracurricular activities. Making healthy choices can take a back seat to convenience when on the run. While pre-packaged foods are tempting for those hectic days of fall, nutritious homemade snacks and meals can be just as easy and quick. They are also much better for you and your children.

Eat smart to think smart

From balanced breakfasts to freshly packed lunches and nourishing after-school snacks, a healthful diet makes a huge impact on a child’s mental and physical health.

Studies show that eating well is critical for strong brain development, as well as improved concentration and performance. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, good nutrition helps students perform better academically, have more overall self-confidence, cope with stress and emotions, and avoid feelings of anxiety and depression.

A high-powered blender like the Vitamix 5200 makes it easy to consume the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables to keep children, and parents, on top of their game, whether in the classroom or in the boardroom.

Pack a better bagged lunch

Potato chips, leftover pizza and soggy sandwiches make regular appearances in a lunch box. Transform your children’s packed lunches into wholesome, filling meals that still include many kid-tested favorites.

Slice up an apple or celery to pair with homemade almond butter, or try a whole wheat pita with fruit preserves and freshly made peanut butter. Loaded with fiber and protein, vitamins and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, peanut butter is a kitchen staple.

Many people are unaware that you can make your own delicious and preservative-free nut butters at home. With a versatile and durable blender like the Vitamix 5200, you can easily whip up this favorite snack with one simple ingredient: roasted peanuts. Making your own nut butters also allows for creativity, like adding seeds and fruit, or changing the consistency and upping the health benefits by adding flaxseed oil, so every member of the family has their favorite variation.

If your kids love chips, consider a dehydrator to easily make fruit and veggie crisps. Dehydrators use a heating element and fan to cause moisture evaporation from foods like sweet potatoes, pear slices and kale. You can eat them plain or customize them by adding spices like cinnamon. These good-for-you chips pack the crunch kids love, making them a great side in a bagged lunch or a tasty snack for any time of the day.

Fuel up after class

Are your kids always reaching for a cookie after school? Quench their pre-dinner appetite with an energy-boosting Going Green Smoothie, made by blending water, grapes, pineapple chunks, banana, spinach and ice in a Vitamix. Or, skip the recipe and allow your little scholars to mix and match their favorite whole foods to toss in the blender. Keep in mind that frozen bananas are great for flavor and a creaminess that mimics an indulgent milkshake.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal. Instead of empty calories found in many pre-packaged snacks, a smoothie packs a huge nutritional punch for kids and can provide many of the recommended fruit and vegetable servings in just one delicious drink. Whether they have soccer practice or homework - or both - a green smoothie will give them the energy they need until dinner.

Easy, good-for-you peanut butter

Ingredients:
3 cups (420 g) unsalted roasted peanuts

Directions:

Pour nuts into the Vitamix container and secure lid.
Select Variable 1.
Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High, using the tamper to push the ingredients into the blades.
In one minute, you will hear a high-pitched chugging sound. Once the butter begins to flow freely through the blades, the motor sound will change from a high pitch to a low laboring sound. Stop machine.

Store in an airtight container. Peanut butter can also be frozen for longer storage.

Going Green Smoothie

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (120 mm) water
1 cup (160 g) green grapes
1/2 cup (80 g) pineapple chunks
1/2 ripe banana peeled
2 cups (60 g) fresh spinach packed
1/2 cup (120 mm) ice cubes

Directions:

Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.
Select Variable 1.
Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.
Blend for 45 seconds or until desired consistency is reached. Serve immediately.

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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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2014-07-15T00:00:002014-08-28T15:30:41<![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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2014-06-16T00:00:00<![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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2014-07-15T00:00:002014-07-16T08:32:46<![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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2014-05-13T00:00:00<![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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2014-08-04T00:00:00<![CDATA[Gimme some more! A dozen fun facts about s'mores]]>(BPT) - With back to school just around the corner, now’s the time to make the most of the final days of summer. Gather your family and friends around the fire and enjoy a delicious treat. One of the quintessential flavors of summer, s’mores have been enhancing bonfires and bringing families together for decades. In fact, the first official recipe for s’mores was published in the 1927 Girl Scout Handbook, which launched the treat into pop culture and made a big impression on families across the United States.

Celebrate the classic Hershey’s S’mores by enjoying a bonfire and sharing memories of how this gooey treat has been enjoyed by your family over time. Test everyone with s’mores trivia and see who knows the most about this favorite campfire tradition:

1. In which state or region are s’mores consumed the most?
Answer: Grand Rapids, Michigan

2. When is National S’mores Day?
Answer: National S’mores Day is August 10th each year. Celebrate this year by gathering your family for bonding time around a fire and roast up some classic s’mores. It doesn’t matter if you spark up your fire in a traditional pit, chiminea, fire bowl or a portable fire table, a small flame is all you need to create tasty s’mores treats and inspire family conversation.

3. Where does the name s’mores come from?
Answer: S'mores folklore suggests that s'mores were named right by the campfire. After eating one, young kids chanted "Gimme some more!" which blended together to sound like s’more.

4. When did Milton Hershey first introduce the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar?
Answer: 1900

5. What is each breakable section of a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar called?
Answer: A pip.

6. How many pips are used to make a traditional s’mores?
Answer: Six pips, which is half of a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar.

7. How many Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars are made each year?
Answer: The Hershey Company makes more than 373 million milk chocolate bars annually. Because each bar can make two s’mores, there’s enough to make 746 million gooey s’mores treats every year.

8. Where does the name graham cracker come from?
Answer: The graham cracker was invented by and named after Reverend Sylvester Graham. He was adamant about eating a diet rich in whole wheat.

9. How many pounds of marshmallows do Americans buy each year?
Answer: Americans buy 90 million pounds of marshmallows every year. Half are toasted over a fire during summer months.

10. How many s’mores are consumed each day of summer?
Answer: An average of 2.1 million (based on six-packs of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars).

11. How many pounds of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars are consumed in s’mores on an average summer day?
Answer: 100,000 pounds (based on six-packs of Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars).

12. What preparation method creates the perfect s’mores?
Answer: The classic s’mores recipe made around a fire. For more inspiration, ideas and s’mores recipe variations, visit www.celebratewithhershey.com

Classic Hershey’s S’mores:

Ingredients (yields four s’mores):
4 marshmallows
4 graham crackers, broken into halves
2 (1.55 ounce each) Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, broken into halves

Directions:
Place 1/2 of Hershey’s  Milk Chocolate Bar on graham cracker half. Carefully toast marshmallow over grill or campfire until crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Place roasted marshmallow over chocolate and top with second graham cracker half; gently press together. Enjoy!

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2014-06-04T00:00:002014-08-12T08:19:29<![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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2014-08-06T00:00:00<![CDATA[Getting the most out of farmers markets and seasonal produce]]>(BPT) - Warm weather months bring an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, and for those who enjoy buying local, farmers markets are popular destinations. Produce choices available at farmers markets are now reaching their peak. So how can you make the most of this seasonal bounty?

Chef Daniel Reyes, culinary faculty member at The Art Institute of California - Inland Empire, a campus of Argosy University, believes that it’s important to know the difference between buzz words common at markets. “If you have questions about how farmers do something, they are more than happy to talk to you and educate you about sustainable and organic farming,” he says.

Reyes explains that while some produce may look unfamiliar, a good market salesperson will provide tips on how to use the items. Farmers markets are not just great places to buy, they’re also great places to learn new culinary techniques and food pairings.

Another tip? Shop early - that’s when chefs at are the markets. “Chefs are usually there early in the morning. See what they are buying,” says Reyes. And remember to bring bags to carry your items home - cooler bags are especially helpful when you’re buying delicate goods such as locally made cheeses, eggs or meats.

A sense of community

Farmers markets allow people to gather in a common place to meet neighbors and make friends who share a passion for locally grown food. The markets build a sense of community, according to Reyes, that contributes to a stronger local economy and smaller environmental footprint.

“Get to know your purveyors. See where they come from,” Reyes advocates.

This sentiment is shared by Chef Elizabeth Thompson, culinary arts faculty member at The Art Institute of California - Inland Empire. Thompson recommends asking farmers what’s best to buy right now.

“They grow whatever they sell, which makes them experts. Ask to put be put on their email list. They may send out information about what is in season and what to do with it,” she adds.

Thompson makes it a point to try something new each time she visits a farmers market. “Sample everything! That is how the farmers sell their products, and you will know what you like.”

CSA – Community Supported Agriculture

In addition to visiting the farmers market, many people are choosing to become CSA shareholders, paying in advance for weekly boxes of produce.

CSAs create a direct relationship between farmer and consumer, according to Thompson. CSAs allow busy people to pick up their share boxes at a convenient location, and teach them how to use what’s inside.

For those interested in supporting local farmers, CSAs provide a critical influx of cash to farmers during the off season, helping them to better prepare for the planting season ahead.

Whether shopping weekly at the farmers market or picking up a CSA box of fresh produce, buying local allows consumers to taste fruit and vegetables at their peak flavor. From striped heirloom tomatoes to strawberries picked fresh just hours before, farm fresh foods provide a burst of flavor and a connection to the community that cannot be found within a large supermarket.

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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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2014-05-27T00:00:002014-07-30T10:51:19<![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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2014-06-13T00:00:002014-06-16T09:58:22<![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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2014-05-30T00:00:00<![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[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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2014-08-28T00:00:00<![CDATA[Dress up your dinner party this season: table makeover tips to entertain in colorful style]]>(BPT) - You know how to pick out the perfect pair of shoes, what dress to wear and how to accessorize. When it comes to hosting a party, you want everything to be stylish, from the table you set to the food you serve. Here are some tips for “dressing up” your table using style and color.

Get inspired: When starting out, look for an inspiration piece. Select a unique table cloth, or find interesting napkins with bright colors and bold patterns. If you’d wear it as a skirt, chances are it will look great on the table.  

Bold bakeware is a must: Make your food, and table, look good with the right bakeware. Try the new vibrant CW by CorningWare. The line of fashionable and functional bakeware comes in a variety of colors, including Pool Blue, Curry Yellow, Sprout Green, Vermillion Red and Twilight Purple, so you can bring it from the oven straight to your table, no serving dishes needed. When the party is over, the versatile bakeware can go in the fridge or freezer with the leftovers. 

Centerpieces to talk about: When it comes to creating a centerpiece, think outside the box. Make a table runner with small wooden crates from a flea market. Turn mason jars into candleholders or add wildflowers for a rustic look. The idea is to be unusual and creative while finding a centerpiece that demonstrates your unique decorating style.

Setting the table: Approach setting your table like putting together an outfit. Match your colorful CW by CorningWare with your patterned table linens and centerpiece, but keep your plates classic and sophisticated. Try Boutique by Corelle dinnerware; the all-white color and embossed design is chic and simple, and makes the rest of the colors pop.  

The meat and potatoes: Decor is important, but so is the menu. Wow your guests with this delicious recipe of roasted Kabocha squash with pomegranate yogurt from celebrity Chef Seamus Mullen.

Kabocha Squash

(Serves 4 or 16 tasting portions)

Ingredients:

1/2 grated garlic

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 bunch chopped sage

Handful of thyme

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 medium Kabocha squash skin on, seeded and cut into 4 wedges

Salt

Pepper

1/2  tablespoon Ras el Hanout spice

Orange zest

1 cup whole milk

1/2 clove of grated garlic

1/4 cup of Arbequina olive oil

Zest and juice from one lemon

1/2 tablespoon ground pink peppercorn

Seeds of 1 fresh pomegranate 

2 tablespoons fresh mint, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine grated garlic, olive oil, sage and thyme into a food processor and process until smooth. Whisk in maple syrup. Spread half the Kabocha squash in a 1.5 quart CW by CorningWare Medium Baker. Using a pastry brush, thoroughly brush all the squash with the olive oil/maple syrup mixture. Season with salt, pepper, Ras el Hanout and orange zest and roast, covered with foil, for 35 minutes or until the flesh and skin are tender.

Meanwhile combine the milk, Arbequina olive oil, lemon zest and juice, peppercorn, pomegranate seeds, mint and salt and pepper to taste in a 20-ounce CW by CorningWare Small Baker.

Remove the squash from oven and cut each piece into bite-size pieces. Place them in a clean, cool dish. Top each piece of squash with a dollop of the yogurt and serve immediately.

For more recipe ideas and tips on how to entertain effortlessly and fashionably, visit www.worldkitchen.com.

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2014-08-27T00:00:00<![CDATA[5 secrets to keeping your sanity this school year]]>(BPT) - The summer months are over and the school year is in full swing. As a parent, this means you’ve traded those lazy summer days for school sports and activities, colder temperatures and the morning rush to the bus stop. If you feel like your home’s organization is hanging on by a thread, take heart; there are some simple things you can do to return order and make the rest of your school year run smoothly. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

* Take the hectic out of those hectic mornings. Let’s be honest, the mornings are pure chaos. There’s breakfast to prepare, school supplies to collect and outfits to pick out. It’s a whirlwind. However, you can return some sanity to your mornings by accomplishing some simple tasks the night before. Before they go to bed, have your children pick out their school outfit for the following day and pack their backpacks – this will reduce the risk of forgetting something.

* Make snacking simple. Snacking is a mainstay for families on the run. Whether it’s an addition to a lunchbox, an option for an after school snack or something to eat at halftime, your kids’ snacks need to be simple. Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps Minis are the perfect choice for kids on the move. Pair them with nuts, dried fruit and chocolate for a delicious snack mix, or serve them individually when you’re on the go. Available in Original and Cheddar flavors, and at just 110 calories per serving, Pretzel Crisps Minis are a better option for your children than greasy potato chips.

* Create a homework station. As a parent, nothing is more frustrating than learning your child received a failing grade simply because they lost their assignment. Keep your home organized and your child’s assignments accounted for by creating a designated homework area in your home. A space in your office, a desk in the kitchen or a spot at the dining room table works great. You can even add a calendar to help your students keep track of the due dates for larger projects.

* Adjust the bathroom routine. Of all the routines that create morning chaos, the battle for the bathroom is king. Simply put, this space is a one-at-a-time area, and if you have more kids than bathrooms, tension will arise. You can circumvent this by putting some of your children – or even yourself – on the evening shift when it comes to showers. Small children or children who require less mirror time in the morning are the logical choice, but you may want to set up a rotating schedule to keep the peace.

* Have a plan. If you have multiple kids in multiple activities, it can be impossible to keep track of who needs to be where and when, so don’t try. When your child joins a new activity, ask to see the schedule and instantly add the appropriate dates and times to your calendar. Don’t rely on your kids to remember when they need to be somewhere; they won’t remember until they are already 15 minutes late. You simply don’t need the headache.

The school year is a far cry from those relaxing days of summer, but you don’t have to let the crazy control your life. Institute these simple changes to maintain some order, and you’ll reach the following summer with a smile on your face and your sanity intact.

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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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2014-04-22T00:00:002014-07-15T11:23:27<![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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2014-04-09T00:00:002014-07-15T10:50:31<![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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2014-05-16T00:00:00<![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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2014-05-30T00:00:002014-06-10T14:15:28<![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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2014-08-12T00:00:002014-08-13T16:01:04<![CDATA[Smart, stress-free ideas for a memorable Labor Day party]]>(BPT) - Labor Day signals the end of summer and the start of exciting new fall activities, but what does the holiday really celebrate? The answer: the 155.6 million people age 16 and older in the American workforce. Gathering with family and friends is a must, but that doesn't mean you should spend your day off worrying about party details. With these tips and tricks, you’ll be a master party-planner and everyone will have a great time - you won’t even have to turn on the stove!

Fantastic food – no oven required

The heart of any Labor Day gathering is the food. Celebrate the flavors of summer by including fresh fare found at your local farmers market. Cut up veggies and make a crudites plate – cucumbers, carrots and peppers are great this time of year. Kick up your crudites by skipping the big platter and instead using small mason jars or individual plastic cups. Then add a dollop of dip to the button of the cup and add veggies for one person. The presentation is beautiful and now guests can simply grab a cup and go for a healthy, mobile snack.

The main dish should be something that satisfies all ages, and barbecue is the most popular dish for Labor Day cookouts and parties. Savvy hosts and hostesses know great barbecue doesn’t have to involve slaving away for hours over the grill. Cut time and impress with Farm Rich Smokehouse BBQ, available in chicken, beef and pork varieties. Just a few minutes in the microwave and you’ll have heavenly barbecue perfect for loose-meat sandwiches and other recipes. From Farm Rich Dry Rub Smoked Pork to savory Pulled Beef Brisket, there’s something for everyone

Finally, save time and invite guests to bring their favorite summer dish to share. Potluck-style gatherings ensure a variety of foods are available to please every palate, plus guests will happily bring their summertime favorites for one last hurrah before the season is over. Evites are a simple way to invite guests and inform them the party is potluck style. Check out sites like celebrations.com for special Labor Day themes that are free or low-cost.

Divine decor – simple is best

Don’t labor over decoration ideas for your gathering. Instead, stick with simple ideas that add a splash of style. For example, dress up plain balloons by gluing small colorful pom poms on the outside for perfect polka dot style. Any color theme will do, but you can’t go wrong with red, white and blue for Labor Day. When the party’s done pass the balloons out as favors to all the young guests.

Adding a touch of color and comfort to your party is simple. Start with fresh, locally grown flowers in the same mason jars you’re using for the crudites and place them on tables throughout the party. Finish by taking colorful accent pillows from couches and chairs inside to your outdoor spaces; this will make patio furniture cozy and chic.

If the party goes past dusk, build a fire outside and add soft throws guests can use to stave off the evening chill. A string of white garden lights and luminaries made from tea lights, sand and small paper bags add a lovely glow that can also safely guide guests down paths, up stairs and to the driveway. Luminaries can even be a great activity for kids during the day - simply set up a table where they can decorate the bags and construct the luminaries with sand so they’re ready when the sun goes down.

Awesome activities – stick to classics

Labor Day activities should focus on simple pleasures. After all, once school and autumn sports start, everyone will be hustling from one activity to the next. Cards, kites, bubbles, hula-hoops and chalk are big crowd pleasers.

Encourage fun photo ops by coloring life-size props on the driveway or sidewalk. For example, a bunch of balloons, a rainbow, a palm tree, animals, fireworks, etc. – the sky’s the limit. Then have kids lie down next to the drawings and take a picture. A photo of your nephew holding the chalk balloons or your daughter hugging the drawing of a giraffe is a fun and memorable way to mark the occasion.  

Want an activity that will bring together both young and old? Anyone can play kickball and all you need is a ball and a few bases for some friendly competition. Hide-and-seek can also be hilariously fun when kids partner with adults and hide in pairs together throughout the yard or park.

For the evening hours, plan a fun bonfire and set out s’mores ingredients so guests can make a sweet, gooey treat. If you don’t have a bonfire pit, a chiminea or fire table will work, too. You can even use a grill to roast marshmallows! Just make sure adults supervise the little ones so everyone has a great time without injury. This is the perfect way to say goodbye to summertime and welcome in the fall season.

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2014-08-29T00:00:00<![CDATA[Fun twists for festive fall recipes]]>(BPT) - When fall arrives and the temperature cools, it’s a great time for families to get together and spend more time enjoying delicious home-cooked foods. This season, look for fun ways to put a twist on your favorite recipes, or try new recipes to bring some seasonal flavors into your home.

For inspiration, check out these tips from Chef Alex Guarnaschelli.  As part of her partnership with Fisher Nuts, Chef Alex Guarnaschelli is sharing her expert tips and recipes with a twist.

* Make nuts part of your seasonal recipes by toasting them in a little warm olive oil over medium heat.  When the nuts are toasted and coated in the oil, stir in any fresh herbs (for example, rosemary or sage) and allow the herbs to gently crisp up and meld with the nuts. Serve as is with a pinch of salt.

* Slow cooking a piece of meat? Add a few nuts to some of the cooking liquid, blend it smooth and pour it back into the rest of the cooking liquid to naturally enrich the flavor and thicken your sauce.

* Need a new vinaigrette? Roast a handful of nuts, walnuts for example, and blend them with 3 parts olive oil and 1 part lemon juice.

* Healthy greens are a great companion to nuts. Try making a salad of chopped arugula with walnuts or dandelion greens and pecans. Radicchio is delicious with almonds and apples. Using nuts can easily expand your salad horizon.

If you’re looking for a great seasonal salad recipe, this Walnut-Bleu Cheese Date Vinaigrette salad has its own unique twist using Fisher Walnut Halves and Pieces. It was created by Lori McLain of Denton, Texas, who was selected by Chef Alex Guarnaschelli and a panel of judges as the winner of the 2013 “My Fresh Twist” recipe contest.

Walnut-Bleu Date Vinaigrette Salad

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients - Sesame date vinaigrette:
6 pitted dates
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon coarse Dijon mustard
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

Ingredients - Salad topping:
6 dates, finely chopped
2/3 cup chopped Fisher Walnut Halves and Pieces
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Ingredients - Salad:
6 cups mixed salad greens with radicchio and romaine
1 cup halved yellow cherub tomatoes
1/2 cup crisp Asian pear, peeled and finely chopped
4 ounces chopped bleu cheese

Directions:

Vinaigrette: Place dates, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, honey, mustard, salt and pepper in the bowl of a small food processor and puree until smooth. Chill while preparing the salad.

Topping: Combine dates, walnuts, honey, brown sugar and salt in a medium skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until nuts are toasted and mixture is sticky. Transfer to a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and spread out to cool.

Salad: Divide salad greens among 4 small plates. Top with tomatoes and pears. Divide bleu cheese crumbled over the top of each salad. Top each with cooled topping mixture. Drizzle salads with sesame date vinaigrette.

My Fresh Twist recipe contest

If you have an original recipe featuring pecans, walnuts or almonds, submit it to the “My Fresh Twist” recipe contest between Sept. 9 and Oct. 21, 2014, for a chance to win a prize trip for two to New York City to meet Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. Recipes will be judged on originality, integration of nuts, taste and visual appeal. Each submission will be featured on www.myfreshtwist.com where Fisher Fans and their friends and families will be able to vote to select the top 15 finalists between Oct. 22 and Nov. 14. Guarnaschelli and a panel of judges will choose the grand prize winner from the top 15 finalists.

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2014-08-05T00:00:00<![CDATA[Spice up your menu with these unique recipes]]>(BPT) - What fun is life without a little adventure? An amazing trip is more appealing than a staycation, a new workout routine beats running the same old mile, and the hot new comedy club is more interesting than watching TV reruns.

The same is true in the kitchen. New recipes are more exciting than the old standbys, especially if those new recipes encourage you to think about food differently. Who says Ramen can’t be fancy? Who says desserts can’t be spicy and who says a condiment can’t be an ingredient?

If you’re ready to give your cooking a fresh zap, give these three recipes a try.

Sizzling CHA! Ramen with shrimp

Enjoy a huge bowl of Ramen noodles loaded with shrimp, bell peppers and Ramen broth - flavored with CHA! by Texas Pete - for an out-of-this-world spicy Ramen experience.

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

* Olive oil: 1 Tbsp.

* Shrimp: large, peeled, deveined: 24

* Red bell pepper: cored, seeded, julienned: 1

* Ramen noodles: 2 packages

* CHA! by Texas Pete: 3 Tbsp.

* Water: 2 cups

Preparation:

Place a medium-sized saucepot on the stove and turn to high heat. Once heated, add the olive oil, shrimp and red pepper. Cook for 2 minutes or until the shrimp are half-way cooked, then add the Ramen seasoning to the pan. Cook for 1 minute more then add the 2 cups of water along with the Ramen noodles and put a tight fitting lid on the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the noodles are tender and the shrimp are fully cooked. Remove from heat and add the CHA! Serve the shrimp and noodles in a large bowl with all of the spicy CHA! broth.

CHA! BBQ glazed grilled salmon

This grilled salmon fillet is lacquered in a simple and delicious glaze made with nothing more than CHA! and barbecue sauce.

Yield: 2 cups of glaze

Portion: Use as marinade for 5 salmon fillets

Ingredients

* CHA!: 1 cup

* Barbecue sauce: 1 cup

* Salmon: fillets for grilling: 5 6-oz. fillets

* Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Combine the CHA! with the barbecue sauce and mix well. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Pre-heat the grill to high heat. Season the salmon fillets with salt and pepper and place skin side down on a lightly oiled grill. Glaze the salmon during the cooking process with the spicy CHA! barbeque glaze. Cook salmon on both sides to desired temperature. Carefully remove from the grill and serve immediately.

Texas Pete Red Velvet Cones

Yield: 48 cake cones

Ingredients: Cake batter

* All-purpose flower: 5 cups

* Granulated sugar: 3 cups

* Baking soda: 1 Tbsp.

* Salt, fine: 2 tsp.

* Cocoa powder: 2 tsp.

* Vegetable oil: 3 cups

* Buttermilk: 2 cups

* 4 large eggs

* Red food coloring: 3 Tbsp.

* Texas Pete Original Hot Sauce: 2 Tbsp.

* Vanilla extract: 2 tsp

* Small, flat-bottomed ice cream cones: 48

Ingredients: Cream cheese icing

* Cream cheese (softened, whipped): 36 ounces

* Unsalted butter (softened, whipped): 1 stick

* Powdered sugar: 2 cups

* Vanilla extract: 1/2 tsp.

* Texas Pete Hotter Hot Sauce: 2 tsp.

* Piping bag with small decorative tip

* Shaker, powdered sugar, for garnish

Procedure

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. In another large bowl whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, Texas Pete Hot Sauce and vanilla.

3. Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.

4. Carefully spoon the batter into the ice cream cones, filling them 2/3 of the way up to give them room to rise in the oven. Arrange the cones on a parchment-lined sheet tray standing up and place them into the oven to bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until they have fully risen. They are ready when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

5. Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool completely.

6. While the cakes are in the oven, prepare the spicy cream cheese frosting.

7. Place the softened cream cheese and the softened butter in a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk together until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth again. Add the vanilla extract and the Texas Pete Hotter Hot Sauce and whisk one more minute. You may add more powdered sugar or Texas Pete Hotter Hot Sauce until the icing is flavored to your liking.

8. Place the spicy cream cheese frosting into a piping bag with a small decorative tip.

9. Using the tip of the piping bag, carefully puncture a small hole into the center of the top of the red velvet cake and pipe approximately 2-3 tablespoons of the spicy cream cheese into the center of the cake, allowing some of the cream cheese to come out of the top for decoration. Continue until all the red velvet cake cones are filled. Use any extra cream cheese icing to frost the tops of the cones.

10. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

For more unique summer recipes, visit www.texaspete.com/recipes/.

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2014-05-20T00:00:002014-08-06T14:26:21<![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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2014-08-28T00:00:00<![CDATA[Tips to get the recommended amount of fruit in your daily diet]]>(BPT) - No one questions that fruit is an essential part of the diet. But did you know that more than 70 percent of Americans do not eat the recommended amount of fruit? One hundred percent juice is a convenient way to help you get the important fruit nutrients you need.

Juice doesn’t just taste good, it also fulfills an essential part of the daily diet. Nutritionist and registered dietitian, Diane Welland of the Juice Products Association provides information on what’s so good about juice.

How does juice fit into a healthy diet?

Because the majority of Americans aren’t eating the recommended daily amount of whole fruit, they’re missing out on many important nutrients. Fruit juice is an easy way to make sure you’re getting key nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, riboflavin and niacin. Some 100 percent juices are also fortified with vitamin D and calcium.  

How much fruit juice should a person drink each day?

Recommended serving sizes vary with a person’s age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 4 to 6 ounces of 100 percent fruit juice for children ages 1 to 6 and 8 to 12 ounces for those ages 7 to 18.  As an alternative to whole fruit, the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans consider one-half cup of 100 percent fruit juice to be equal to one half cup of whole fruit. 

Does fruit juice contain sugar?

There is no added sugar in 100 percent fruit juice – it contains only the natural sugars found in whole fruit. 

Does drinking juice contribute to weight gain?

Fruit juice is definitely part of a healthy eating plan. New scientific studies show that juice drinkers have better quality diets than those who do not drink juice. Other studies indicate that children and adolescents can drink juice in appropriate amounts without gaining weight. 

“I recommend that parents follow the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics, when it comes to serving sizes,” Welland says.

Welland suggests adding fruit and fruit juice into your diet in subtle ways like incorporating juice into traditional recipes. Fruit juice can add new flavors to any recipe from snacks like ice pops to savory dinners. This Orange Cranberry Oatmeal Recipe showcases how easy it can be to incorporate juice into family favorites.

Orange Cranberry Oatmeal

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups orange juice

1 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups oatmeal (quick or old-fashioned, uncooked) 

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1 cup low-fat or fat-free vanilla yogurt (optional)

Additional dried cranberries (optional)

Directions:

In medium saucepan, bring orange juice, water, salt and cinnamon to a gentle boil. Stir in oats and cranberries. Return to a boil; reduce heat to medium. Cook 1 minute for quick oats, 5 minutes for old fashioned oats or until most of liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Let stand until desired consistency. Spoon oatmeal into four cereal bowls. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon walnuts and, if desired, 1/4 cup yogurt and additional cranberries. 

Need it in a pinch? Microwave directions:
In 3-quart microwaveable bowl, combine all ingredients except yogurt and nuts. Microwave on high 4 to 6 minutes for quick oats and 7 to 9 minutes for old fashioned oats or until most of liquid is absorbed. Let stand until desired consistency. Top each serving with walnuts and, if desired, yogurt and additional cranberries.

For more information on the health benefits of 100 percent juice or to find family friendly recipes made with juice, visit www.JuiceCentral.org.

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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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2014-08-21T00:00:00<![CDATA[5 foods for better moods, and 5 more that only bring you down]]>(BPT) - Did you know the food you eat can literally make you feel happy or sad? Nutrition is one of the main components of mental health, so it’s important to stock your plate with good food while cutting some of those less beneficial alternatives.

“Food can definitely alter your mood,” says Dr. Shoshana Bennett, clinical psychologist, mental health expert, and radio host. “Sometimes the effect is immediate, other times there’s a delay of an hour or so. Over time, the wrong foods can create a continuous foul mood or negative state of mind. Many people still aren't making the connection between their emotional well-being and what they ate for dinner - or the last 200 dinners.” 

Bennett explains that certain foods can negatively affect the neurotransmitters in our brains; these chemicals control sleep, appetite, mood and more. Bad foods can also cause inflammation, which may lead to other physical and mental disorders. She recommends eating these five types of food to feel happy, healthy and balanced:

1. Complex carbohydrates
Foods like beans, potatoes and whole grains are necessary for staying upbeat, as the complex carbohydrates they contain help the brain make serotonin, a mood-changing chemical. Without enough complex carbohydrates, a person can become angry and depressed. 

“The amino acid tryptophan is important for the formation of serotonin,” says Bennett. “Complex carbohydrates help tryptophan cross the blood/brain barrier, thereby increasing the amount of tryptophan in the brain.”

 2. Cold-water fish
Salmon, mackerel and sardines are high in the omega-3s that help boost mood. Several studies show that a deficit in omega-3 fatty acids is linked to anxiety and depression. Most people in the U.S. don't eat enough fresh, cold-water fish, so supplements are required. 

“It's important to use omega-3 supplements of pure quality,” says Bennett. “This means knowing where the fish comes from and how the supplements are manufactured. Nordic Naturals exceeds the highest standards of quality and produces the only omega-3 supplements I put in my body.” 

3.  Selenium
“Research shows people with low levels of the mineral selenium have poorer moods, including the tendency toward depression,” Bennett says.

Foods rich in selenium include shellfish, tuna, nuts, seeds, fish, pork, chicken and pasta. Bennett cautions that too much of this mineral is not healthy either, and recommends checking with a health care practitioner for guidance before taking selenium as a supplement.

4. Folic acid
A diet too low in folic acids can deplete serotonin. Research suggests that depression can be relieved by taking folate supplements or eating more food containing folate, such as spinach, lentils, garbanzo and other beans, romaine lettuce and broccoli.

“Folate is water-soluble, so your body does not store it,” says Bennett. “You need to eat foods regularly that contain it.”

5.  Vitamin D
Vitamin D-rich foods like eggs, milk, cheese and fatty fish (like tuna) help to activate serotonin. Furthermore, research shows a strong connection between low levels of vitamin D and symptoms of depression.

“It hasn’t yet been demonstrated clearly whether low vitamin D levels cause the depression or are a result of depression,” says Bennett. “Either way, consider a blood test to check your vitamin D levels.”

Knowing what foods to skip is just as important as knowing which foods to eat, so Bennett recommends cutting down on these “bad-mood foods”:

1. Sugar
Eating sugar provides a rush of energy, but soon afterward, blood glucose levels drop and lead to low mood and short-temperedness.

2. Sweeteners
Aspartame and other sweeteners can cause depression and insomnia since they block the production of serotonin. If you want a sweetener but are trying to avoid sugar, use stevia or xylitol instead.

3.  Processed carbs
Snack foods, white bread, most cereals and pasta contain processed carbs that negatively affect blood sugar levels the same way as sugar. 

4. Hydrogenated oils
Trans fats are physically and mentally dangerous because they can contribute to depression and other illnesses. 

5. Sodium
High sodium can negatively affect the neurological system and contribute to depression and fatigue.

“You don't have to make major changes all at once,” says Bennett. “It's often more beneficial if one small, realistic alteration is made at a time. Once you experience the payoff - not just read or hear about them - then it becomes fun!”

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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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2014-08-11T00:00:00<![CDATA[Grown up snack substitutions to satisfy your inner child's taste buds]]>(BPT) - When you were a child you could eat anything you wanted without worrying about the result. The calories never stuck around.

Now, not so much.

And so you’re following the steps. You’re eating right, you’re exercising and you’ve given up the snacks. But wait a minute, who said you had to give up snacks? You can still enjoy your snacks, including many of the familiar tastes you grew up with.

“We all have flavors that we crave,” says food and entertaining expert Evette Rios, host of CBS’ Recipe Rehab. “But you don’t have to give up your favorite treats just to eat right. Plenty of healthy alternatives can satisfy that same craving without the excess calories.”

If you’re ready to eat smarter while enjoying the flavors you’ve always loved, incorporate these healthy substitutes into your diet and you’ll feel like a kid again – just one with a later curfew and driving privileges.

* Ditch the doughnut. You’ve heard the logic that says you’re better off eating the doughnut than eating nothing because it jumpstarts your metabolism. But you know what’s even better than eating the doughnut? Eating just about anything besides the doughnut. If you need your morning carbs, replace that doughnut with an English muffin for a similar texture. Cover it in jelly so you don’t lose out on the sweet taste and then slowly work your way down to the low-sugar jam for an even healthier snack.

* Delectable drinks to satisfy your sweet tooth. As a kid you loved candy. You grew up eating Sweet Tarts and Red Hots. And if you still love these nostalgic flavors as an adult, you can enjoy them by making some simple replacements. Good Earth Tea fusions satisfy your candy cravings with a healthy, natural twist. Love Red Hots? Try Good Earth’s Sweet & Spicy. Sweet Tart fan? You’ll love Sweetly Twisted. “I love candy,” says Jamie Krell, lifestyle expert. “And Good Earth Teas allow me to enjoy the tastes I’ve always loved without the excess sugar and calories.” Check out all the fusions, from bold and sweet to tart and juicy, by visiting the Good Earth Tea Facebook page.

* Sayonara, snack cakes. Snack cakes come in many shapes and sizes, but they’re all essentially the same: cake exterior, cream filling interior and they don’t spoil. But you still enjoy them. So how do you avoid them? The next time you’re in the mood for a snack cake, make a smart replacement and try some low-fat angel food cake instead. Top it with healthy strawberries and low-fat whipped cream and you really can have your cake and eat it, too.

* Chuck the chips. Sweets are one thing but salt is another slippery slope. If you crave salty snacks, you probably find chips difficult to pass up. So don’t abandon your crunch crush, just make sure you’re enjoying a healthy substitute. Replace those fatty chips with toasted pita chips and savory hummus and you’ll satisfy your craving without feeling remorse afterward.

* Choose the garden over grease. You can’t find your favorite greasy appetizers in the vending machine, but they make for dangerous happy hours. The next time you feel tempted, opt for vegetables instead. Veggies are more than just garnish in many of today’s restaurants because of smart snackers like you, so take advantage of them. Crunch a carrot or savor a celery stick dipped in low fat ranch dressing and you'll be thankful you did once happy hour is over.

* So long sugary drinks. You may think it’s impossible to get through your day without your favorite sugary-sweet lemonade or other soft drink, but your body might be happier if you did. When you feel the desire for a sugary beverage, quench it with Good Earth Tea instead. Good Earth Tea’s Citrus Kiss, for example, is a naturally sweet, great alternative to lemonade. Bizzie Gold, celebrity trainer and founder of Buti Yoga, concurs: “Giving water a flavor boost with bold teas is a great way to ensure you drink plenty of it throughout the day. Healthier, flavorful beverages like Good Earth Tea let you reap the benefits of water with each sip.”

Your metabolism may have changed since you’ve gotten older, but your taste buds are just as strong as ever. Fortunately, you don’t have to ignore one to satisfy the other. By incorporating a few smart substitutions into your snacking routine, you’ll enjoy the flavors you crave without the calories. To learn more about Good Earth Teas, visit www.goodearth.com.

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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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2014-07-30T00:00:00<![CDATA[Healthy lunch and snack ideas for back to school]]>(BPT) - If schools and parents received report cards on the lunches they’re serving kids, most wouldn’t receive a passing score. Many lunches, whether served at school or brought from home, are made with bleached flour, artificial sweeteners, food coloring, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial preservatives, hormones and trans fats. Studies have shown that these ingredients are linked to weight gain, defects in insulin and lipid metabolism, hyperactivity, increased risk of tumors, cancer, digestive issues, asthma, premature heart attacks, diabetes, and overexposure and resistance to antibiotics. Some of these ingredients are even banned in other countries.

As a parent, what can you do to keep your child healthy? Life Time – The Healthy Way of Life Company, suggests checking in with your child’s school to learn where foods are sourced, the nutritional values and ingredients in order to make informed decisions.

“The more highly processed foods are, the more likely they are to contain the seven unsavory ingredients. Meaning they are foods it’s best to find alternatives for,” says Laura Burbank, a registered dietitian with the Life Time Foundation.

“We encourage parents to speak with school nutrition directors and cafeteria managers about reducing the amount of highly processed and artificial items served in their lunch rooms, in favor of wholesome, real foods, and we’re able to help parents throughout that process,” Burbank says.

Until changes are made, Burbank advises actively engaging kids - starting when they’re young - in packing lunch at home. “Getting kids involved in packing their lunches makes them more likely to eat and enjoy them,” says Burbank. “They feel helpful and they’re learning along the way.” She says it’s important to include a protein, whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables and healthy fats with every meal, and provides some ideas below.

Lunch box option one:

* Lunch: turkey or ham sandwich with avocado and spinach on whole grain bread. Look for meat that is free of hormones, antibiotics, nitrates, artificial preservatives and other additives.

* Snack: orange slices and string cheese.

Lunch box option two:

* Lunch: grilled chicken breast, avocado and roasted bell pepper or shredded carrots in a whole grain pita with a Greek yogurt based dressing or pesto.

* Snack: apple slices and almond butter. If your child’s school has a strict nut-free lunchroom guideline, include Greek yogurt with vanilla and/or honey.

Lunch box option three:

* Lunch: a wholesome PB&J made with almond butter and 100 percent fruit preserves on whole grain bread.

* Snack: hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers with Greek yogurt based vegetable dipping sauce, or pita chips and peppers with hummus.

Healthier lunch room choices

Burbank notes that sometimes making lunch at home isn’t a viable option. If that’s the case, she suggests parents discuss healthy lunch room options with their kids, as studies have shown that in addition to nutritional benefits, healthier diets also associate with higher academic performance. Things to consider include:

* Choose a salad when available to include more vegetables in the meal.

* Choose white milk over chocolate milk to cut down on sugar intake.

* Choose 1 percent milk over skim or non-fat milk, the higher fat content is more satiating.

* Choose whole grain pasta over bread which may contain bleached flour and preservatives.

* Choose red pasta sauce (vegetable-based) over cream sauce (high in fat).

* Choose fresh fruit over canned fruit which may contain artificial colors, preservatives and sweeteners.

Parents should also be encouraged to talk to the nutrition directors and cafeteria managers about reducing the amount of highly processed and artificial items in the school meals. The Life Time Foundation is a great resource for more information on this.

The Life Time Foundation partners with schools to help them remove highly processed and artificial ingredients from school meals by providing resources and assisting with menu development. For more information on how your school can get involved, visit www.ltffoundation.org.

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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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2014-08-07T00:00:00<![CDATA[Planned or spontaneous, pull off your next party with ease]]>(BPT) - Football parties, back-to-school cook outs, Halloween celebrations and cooler temperatures – there’s so many reasons to plan a fun fall gathering at your house, or spontaneously invite your friends over for the afternoon. No matter if they’re planned or spur-of-the-moment, you can host a fall gathering without doing a lot of work.

Instead of trying to organize a sit-down dinner, opt for the relaxed approach with delicious appetizers and food samples scattered strategically in areas around the house, designed to encourage your guests to mingle and share stories. Here are some tips to pull off this unbelievably simple style of entertaining:

* Intimate gatherings – In your home, where will guests naturally congregate? In many homes it’s the kitchen, but for some, it might be the living area or dining room. Start with this room first. Look for ways to arrange the furniture so food can be easily accessed without creating a crowded area. Some ways to do this include grouping chairs and small tables into corners, which will encourage guests to sit down and comfortably enjoy the food in small groups.

* Entice with food – The food you serve can be just as much a part of the social gathering as the people you invite. For example, cheese fondue will encourage your guests to come back and try multiple combinations of vegetables, meats or bread to dip and taste. And to make the food prep even easier, Emmi Original Fondue from Switzerland has all the elements of traditional fondue and is ready to heat and serve right out of the package. Your guests will love the blended tastes of signature Swiss cheese, wine, kirsch brandy, and spices from Switzerland when melted in your fondue pot, as they give chopped veggies and dipped bread a completely new taste experience. Fondue is the perfect way to warm up on a cool day with friends huddled around the pot.

At another table, place fun dessert bars cut into small pieces so your guests will feel comfortable coming back to sample several. And at a third table, offer everyone a smorgasbord of finger foods– again in small servings – that entice visitors to make return trips for more. To keep your party planning simple, make the dessert bars ahead of time and choose finger foods that don’t need a lot of prepping like nuts, fruit and cured meats.

* Sharing stories or dancing? – If you’re having an afternoon party, there’s a good chance your guests will be interested in food and conversation. So plan to keep the music volume low so no one will have to shout over it to be heard. Remember, too, that the more people you have talking at your party in small groups, the louder the conversation volume will be.

But if you’re holding an evening party and anticipate guests will want to dance, you might want to turn the music up. Create a playlist or two of music that is appropriate for your event, allowing you to switch the tempo and volume at a strategic moment with the push of a button.

With these simple tips, you can easily host a spontaneous or planned gathering without a lot of stress. It’s a great way to celebrate the fall season with your closest friends and family.

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2014-05-22T00:00:002014-08-01T10:45:01<![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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2014-08-12T00:00:00<![CDATA[Modern parents look to mobile devices for hassle-free meals]]>(BPT) - Between managing careers, navigating the rigors of parenthood, handling the daily to-do list, and finding time to stay in touch with friends, it’s no wonder modern moms and dads are always on the lookout for simple solutions to make life a little less hectic. Luckily, the age of mobile technology brings ultra-convenient apps and Bluetooth-connected devices for everything from shopping to banking and, of course, cooking.

Today, more people than ever before are diving into their smartphones and tablets fingertips-first to remove a bit of stress from their day-to-day routines, according to recent study from Flurry Analytics. Findings indicate that, in 2013, the use of apps for productive purposes such as managing finances and other family needs increased 149 percent compared to 2012. Only messaging programs and social networking apps saw a more significant jump.

Cooking is the focus of many apps that help people increase productivity. Any parent who has rushed home from work and raced against the clock to put dinner on the table will appreciate the unique ways in which mobile devices have made preparing nutritious meals for their loved ones a bit more simple.

Mobile technology makes magic in the kitchen

Planning and cooking family meals presents an ideal opportunity to pick up a smartphone or tablet and remove some stress from what can be a complicated part of each day. New for 2014, iDevices’ smart cooking thermometers - the iDevices Kitchen Thermometer and Kitchen Thermometer mini- are two of the most innovative examples of cooking accessories in the ever-expanding mobile market.

Sure to become a staple in any cook’s kitchen toolkit, iDevices Kitchen Thermometers pair with the iDevices Connected app to allow users to monitor the temperature of food from up to 150 feet away through the use of Bluetooth wireless technology, removing the need to hover near the oven or grill to ensure poultry, meat and seafood always turns out tender and tasting great.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of these high-tech cooking accessories is that they take the guesswork out the important food safety practice of cooking foods to the recommended temperature, a simple step that not only ensures a safe meal, but also makes it easy to put delicious, never-dry poultry on the table time and time again.

Smart cooking thermometers make poultry perfection easy for busy cooks

When it comes to preparing poultry, many cooks may rely on the color or texture of their meat to determine if it’s cooked thoroughly enough to serve. Some may even choose to overcook poultry to ensure it’s completely done, a decision that can result in a dry, disappointing meal. However, iDevices Kitchen Thermometers make it simple to determine when poultry is fully cooked to the proper temperature.

Recently, iDevices took the convenience of its smart thermometers to a new level by partnering with Jennie-O, a brand on a mission to show the world how easy it is to eat well with the great taste of turkey, to make it easier than ever for busy cooks to prepare delicious turkey meals.

By selecting the “Turkey” preset in the free iDevices Connected app, users can overcome any worries they have about under- or over-cooking poultry simply by monitoring their iDevices Kitchen Thermometer via any iOS or Android compatible mobile device from wherever they may be in the home or yard. Once turkey is fully cooked to a safe 165 F, the app sends an alert letting the user know their poultry is ready to serve. The iDevices Connected app even comes complete with a variety of simple, yet creative JENNIE-O turkey recipes, giving busy parents a collection of great ideas sure to please even the pickiest eater.

With a world of groundbreaking smart mobile apps and accessories now available, the sky is the limit for busy parents with a penchant for trying exciting new lifestyle tools. Visit the iTunes app store or Google Play store to download the iDevices Connected app and explore all the great new cooking resources out there. The iDevices Kitchen Thermometers are available for purchase online at iDevicesInc.com.

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2014-08-15T00:00:002014-08-20T14:14:59<![CDATA[Back-to-school snacking done right]]>(BPT) - As the school year begins, some parents may find that the most chaotic time of the day is around 3 p.m. when class is dismissed and the juggling act of homework, soccer practice and piano lessons begins. With so much going on, it’s important to keep kids energized and focused by providing them with healthy snacks packed with key nutrients such as vitamins E, D, B12 and omega-3s.

“The key to making the most of snack time is having an arsenal of healthy foods in your house, which you can mix and match to create a variety of nutritious snacks,” says Registered Dietitian Tammy Lakatos Shames. “For instance, I always stock my refrigerator with Eggland’s Best eggs because they are a versatile ingredient and contain more nutrients than ordinary eggs, such as three times the amount of vitamin B12. Many picky eaters fall short of this important nutrient since it is only found in animal products.”  

Tammy recommends the following tips for snacking success during the school year:

* Wholesome baked goods: If your kids have a sweet tooth, try serving them a baked good that includes wholesome veggies. Muffins are a portable snack that can be nutritionally enhanced with healthy, unexpected ingredients like carrots and zucchini. Carrots are a good source of vitamin C and zucchini is a good source of vitamin A, both will help build your child’s immune system.

* Protein power: Protein can prevent peaks and valleys in your child’s energy levels and is a great way to curb your child’s hunger. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend children consume 13-34 grams of protein per day, depending on their age. Some great sources of lean protein include nuts, low sodium deli meats and eggs. Spread almond butter on apple slices to give your child an extra source of protein before soccer practice.

* Portion control: Today, kids are trending toward three snacks a day so it’s important to keep snacks between 50 and 100 calories each. Egg Salad Stuffed Tomato Cradles are a great snack to serve before dinner and will help keep your kids focused during homework. Tammy recommends using fortified eggs like Eggland’s Best because one large EB egg is just 60 calories. Plus, EB eggs contain double the omega-3s, which is a nutrient that has been linked to fighting everything from ADHD to asthma in kids.

You can find more snack options like this Egg Salad Stuffed Tomato Cradles at www.egglandsbest.com or www.pinterest.com/egglandsbest.

Egg Salad Stuffed Tomato Cradles

Ingredients:

4 Eggland’s Best eggs, hard-cooked

1 1/2 tablespoon avocado

2 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt, ideally organic

2 teaspoons dijonnaise

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Salt to taste, optional

4 tomatoes on the vine

Directions:

Place avocado in a medium bowl with yogurt, dijonnaise and lemon juice and mash together with a fork. Mash until creamy throughout. Chop eggs and stir them gently in the yogurt mixture. Season with salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Set aside in refrigerator. Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato. Leaving a 1/2-inch shell, scoop out the pulp. (Reserve the pulp for adding to salads, topping sandwiches or adding to omelets.)

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2014-07-29T00:00:00<![CDATA[Smart parent tricks for cutting chaos, streamlining school days]]>(BPT) - School is gearing up and a plethora of activities are starting. From soccer season and dance classes to music lessons and more – fall is a time full of excitement yet major adjustment for families.

“By adopting good habits as soon as school starts, you’ll set the stage for a less-stressful school year, plus teach your children valuable organizational skills,” says Susan Heim, parenting author and editor/co-author of the popular “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series.

Keep these tips in mind to streamline busy autumn days so the entire family can stay organized and productive while getting back into a daily routine.

Meet teachers to ease tension
One of the biggest fears students have at the start of the school year is if they’ll get along with their new teacher. The student-teacher relationship can really set a positive tone for the entire year, so consider taking a proactive approach and set up a time for you and your child to meet teachers prior to the first day of school. Phone calls and emails are another way to break the ice if an in-person meeting isn’t possible. This simple step can help calm nerves and make the first day of school less stressful.

Snack smart for sustained energy
Select protein-rich snacks that help fight the afternoon slump by providing energy for kids until dinner time. After all, proteins are part of every cell, tissue and organ in the body, states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, providing essential amino acids critical to a healthy diet. Protein- and calcium-rich Mozzarella Sticks from Farm Rich, which came out on top in a taste test by “Consumer Reports” (Dec. 2012), are a tasty, wholesome option for after-school snacking. Farm Rich Mozzarella Bites are another great choice – made with the same quality 100-percent real mozzarella cheese, these bites are surrounded by a soft pizza crust. These warm, nutritious snacks are guaranteed to get gobbled up quickly.

Pack backpacks in the evening
Streamline the morning and eliminate last-minute searches for homework by packing backpacks before kids go to bed. Have kids set backpacks by the door so they can simply grab and go in the morning. Keep in mind, a child’s backpack should have wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back so it is comfortable and safe for the child to carry. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics, and pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The organization states backpacks should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.

Hit the hay before 9 p.m.
Sleep is a critical part of a child’s health and wellness and can affect his or her focus and concentration while at school and beyond. Sixty percent of children under the age of 18 complained of being tired during the day, according to their parents, and 15 percent said they fell asleep at school during the year, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll. Research shows that children who go to bed after 9 p.m. take longer to fall asleep, wake more often at night and get less overall sleep, states the NSF. Be sure to adjust bedtimes so your child gets adequate sleep to feel happy and healthy each day.

Stay organized with a central hub
A sea of schedules, paperwork and permission slips inundates families at the start of the school year. Staying organized doesn’t have to be difficult. Track activities on a family calendar that everyone can check each day. For older kids with phones, tech-savvy families may take the digital route and sync everyone’s calendars together. To cut paperwork chaos, use color-coded folders or different colored plastic bins for organizing paperwork by child. Designate a color for each child or assign colors for varying activities, like band, scouts or PTA. Keep in a central location so everything is available within an arm’s reach. Don’t forget to ask kids for new forms every day to eliminate the likelihood of paperwork getting lost.

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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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2014-06-24T00:00:00<![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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2014-06-17T00:00:002014-08-07T08:27:14<![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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2014-08-08T00:00:00<![CDATA[Why salt is essential to human life]]>(BPT) - Did you know salt is an important ingredient for your good health? No electrolyte is more essential to human survival than salt because the sodium you get from salt is what allows nerves to send and receive electrical impulses, helping your muscles stay strong, your brain functioning and your cells working well. Sodium is easily absorbed and is required for the absorption of other nutrients in the small intestine and for the digestion of body-building protein.

What you may not know is sodium chloride is a nutrient that the body cannot produce, and therefore it must be eaten.

Because the body needs sodium, it has developed several mechanisms to conserve and retain it when not enough has been ingested. The body will essentially tell your kidneys to stop releasing sodium to make sure it retains a sufficient amount to carry out all the functions that require sodium.

The other component of salt, chloride is also essential to survival and good health. It preserves acid-base balance in the body, it aids potassium absorption, it improves the ability of the blood to move harmful carbon dioxide from tissues out to the lungs and, most importantly, it supplies the crucial stomach acids required to break down and digest all the foods we eat.

Because salt is so essential to life and good health, the human body is hard-wired with a built-in salt appetite. “The good news is that around 95 percent of the global population already consumes within the range we’ve found to generate the least instances of mortality and cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Niels Graudal of the University of Copenhagen. This healthy range was found to be between 2,645 mg/day and 4,945 mg/day according to reach recently published in the American Journal of Hypertension.

Americans and most Europeans consume about 3,500 mg/day of sodium, right in the middle of the healthy range. These levels of salt consumption, even with the amount of processed foods we eat, are far less than they were a century ago, because refrigeration has taken over the important role of food preservation from the traditional method of salt preservation. The higher levels of salt consumption also correspond to the countries with the greatest life expectancies.

Because the level of salt consumption is so stable, it is an ideal medium to use for fortifying other essential nutrients such as iodine. Iodized salt first produced in the U.S. in 1924 is now used by 75 percent of the world’s population to protect against mental retardation due to Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD). Many countries also fortify salt with fluoride against dental cavities in situations where fluoridating drinking water is inappropriate. And a growing number of countries fortify salt with iron to prevent anemia.

Salt is also vital to hydration. After exercise, it is critical to replace both water and salt lost through perspiration during exercise. That’s why all athletes make sure they are consuming sufficient salt during and after a workout. Expectant mothers and seniors, in particular, need to guard against under-consumption of salt and higher-salt diets have been used successfully to combat chronic fatigue syndrome. Asthma sufferers, particularly in Eastern Europe, are often treated by having the person spend time in salt mines. This is because the unique microclimate, containing ultrafine salt particles helps clear the lungs.

In conclusion, table salt, a nutrient so essential to life not only adds flavor to foods, but it is a life saver as well.

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2014-05-14T00:00:002014-08-06T14:23:47<![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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2014-07-23T00:00:00<![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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2014-05-20T00:00:00<![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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2014-04-02T00:00:002014-07-15T11:46:44<![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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2014-07-29T00:00:00<![CDATA[Back-to-school nutrition primer: Give kids a healthy head start on academic success]]>(BPT) - Parents arm their kids with a plethora of school supplies, new attire and the latest technology to prepare them for a successful school year. But one of the most important components of academic success is often overlooked: nutrition.

“Having adequate nutrition provides children with the energy they need to learn, and increases their ability to stay on task, to concentrate, focus and solve problems,” says speech pathologist Lauren Zimet, an expert on oral motor/feeding and picky eating, and founder of The Healthy Foundations Program. “When nutrition is inadequate, there’s an increase in moodiness and irritability and a decrease in perseverance and patience.”

Zimet notes recent studies have shown that brain development in young children is negatively impacted by inadequate nutrition. This affects learning in school as well as overall function throughout the child’s lifetime. She reports that many of her clients find that incorporating a few powerful fruits, vegetables and supplements into a child’s diet improves brain growth and fosters success at school.

1. Avocados for comprehension
Avocados are rich in a fatty acid known as oleic acid, which builds myelin, an important part of the white matter of the brain. Myelin helps information travel through the brain and can assist kids’ comprehension of complex topics in school.

2. Berries for memory
Berries are full of antioxidants that are great for boosting brain power. Berries are sometimes referred to as “super fruits” because most of them contain fisetin and flavenoids, which are great for improving memory. Blueberries are particularly great snacks for supporting brain health. 

3. Omega-3 for focus and energy
The brain is made up of 60-70 percent good fat. Healthy fats, such as omega-3s, support the brain in the area of focus, attention and memory, and they provide long-term energy too. The body needs these fats to build healthy brain cells and hormones, as well as to absorb certain vitamins (A, D, E, K). Experts agree that the safest, most reliable source of omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) is a high-quality fish oil supplement. Nordic Naturals offers several options in flavors that are appealing to children.  

Have a selective eater? Picky eaters may not be getting the nutrients essential for optimal brain health and academic success. Zimet suggests several techniques to help parents get nutrients into their kids’ meals:

Camouflage: Hide healthy new foods in small quantities within foods kids already love. For example, it’s not hard to slip some butternut squash, pumpkin, or sweet potato puree into the orange color of mac-n-cheese.

Bridge new foods: Take a food that your child already likes and create something healthy, bridging off the color, texture, taste, or look. For a child who loves french fries, try creating healthier versions like organic baked potato fries, sweet potato fries, or zucchini or squash fries.

Lead by example: Parents who want children to eat healthier must make nutrition a priority in their own life as well. Eat and snack on fresh foods and take a Nordic Naturals omega-3 supplement daily. When a parent models healthy eating in front of a child, it normalizes it for the child. Keep in mind that coercing, bribing or forcing the child to eat new foods can also result in power struggles and be counterproductive. It also gives the child the message that healthy eating is difficult. Patience and normalizing is key.

Get creative with smoothies: Smoothies are fun, healthy snacks that are like treats to kids. It’s easy to make tasty, nutritious smoothies. Frozen ripe bananas make a great smoothie base – then mix in a little unsweetened almond milk, rice milk, or water. Add some of your favorite fruits. Strawberries make the smoothie red, raspberries make the smoothie deep pink or brighter red, and blueberries turn the concoction purple! Sneak in some avocado, which has no discernable taste when ripe, and the creamy texture is ideal for smoothies.

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2014-06-27T00:00:002014-08-26T14:30:41<![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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