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Food Recipes and Entertaining 2014-12-19T06:52:20 2014-11-16T00:00:00<![CDATA[Sweeteners 101: Your guide to baking with sweeteners this holiday season]]>

(BPT) - With so many sweeteners on the market today, it’s hard to know what to buy. This holiday season is a great time to learn about sweeteners and get creative in kitchen. Understand the various natural sweeteners and what their benefits are, as well as the recipes where they work best to make your holiday dishes pop.

* Turbinado sugar. Popularized by the brand, Sugar In The Raw, this large golden crystal sugar has a distinct crunchy texture and molasses taste. Add it to your warm beverages such as coffee, tea, cappuccino or latte. Use in glazes, sauces and rubs for meat and poultry. It works wonderfully as a finishing sugar on muffins, cookies and other baked treats to give it that holiday shine.

* Stevia. This plant-based, zero-calorie sweetener hit the shelves in the U.S. in 2008. Works great in cold and warm beverages or in cooking and baking recipes. Stevia In The Raw has a Bakers Bag that measures like sugar, making it easy to reduce calories without tricky conversions. For recipes that require baking, in order to brown and rise, replace half of the total amount of sugar with stevia. For recipes that do not require baking, you can replace all added sugar with stevia.

* Raw honey. Raw honey is packed with natural enzymes, phytonutrients and minerals. It’s not recommended for baking, because it kills the enzymes and removes the nutritional benefits. Raw honey can be used in frostings and dressings. Store-shelf honey can be heated and used in place of sugar, in recipes like pumpkin bread and granola bars.

* Agave. This liquid sweetener is harvested from the core of the Mexican Blue Agave plant. It’s a delicious way to top pancakes, waffles, oatmeal or yogurt and works well to sweeten hot and cold drinks. It is also a good substitute for sugar in many baking recipes for its ability to brown and make baked goods moist. Consider Agave In The Raw, which is 100 percent organic, vegan and gluten free. Agave is also low-glycemic.

* Molasses. Molasses provides an unmistakable flavor to traditional holiday recipes like molasses cookies, shoofly pie, gingerbread and gingersnap cookies. Molasses can add intense flavor to cookies, quick breads, muffins, or any baked good with aromatic spices like allspice or cloves.

* Monk fruit. This sweetener is fairly new to the U.S. market but has been used for centuries in Asia. It is a zero-calorie, sugar substitute with a delicious taste that can be used in any recipe that calls for sugar, and is ideal for people looking to cut added sugars without sacrificing taste. Like stevia, Monk Fruit In The Raw is also available in packets and a Bakers Bag with equal measurement to sugar. People will never know your sugar cookies have half the calories.

* Sugar. The tried and true holiday baking staple, Sugar In The Raw Organic White, is a 100 percent USDA organic certified, non-GMO verified, Eco-Social certified unbleached cane sugar. A more wholesome alternative to refined white sugar, it’s a great choice for your traditional holiday baked goods – and the environment.

Looking to make the perfect sugar cookie with fewer calories? Give this recipe a try.

Sugar Cookie


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted sweet butter, softened
2/3 cup Sugar In The Raw Organic White
1 large egg plus 1 yolk at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup Monk Fruit In The Raw Bakers Bag
1/3 cup Sugar In The Raw, for decoration


In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer on medium-high to beat the butter until fluffy, two minutes. Add the white sugar and beat until the mixture for three minutes. Add the egg, then the yolk and vanilla, beating well between additions. Add the Monk Fruit and beat until just combined. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the dry ingredients, until the mixture is clumpy. Stop blending and use a flexible spatula to complete mixing the dough. Turn the dough out onto a counter and divide it in half. Shape each half into a log 6-inches long and 2-inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least two hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the sugar in a small bowl. With a sharp, thin knife, cut each log into quarter-inch slices. If the logs have flattened on one side, use your fingers to gently shape the slices into rounds. One at a time, lightly press one side of the cookies into the Sugar In The Raw, then place it sugar-side up on the prepared cookie sheet, leaving 1 1/2-inches between cookies.

Bake on the center rack for 11-13 minutes, until the cookies are firm when pressed in the center and evenly pale gold in color. Let the cookies rest for 1 minute on the baking sheet. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely. Keep tightly covered in a tin, for up to one week.

2014-11-04T00:00:00<![CDATA[Give holiday dishes a flavorful twist with gourmet cheese]]>

(BPT) - Winter holidays conjure up cravings for our favorite comfort foods - from the aroma of fresh-baked apple pie to the taste of tender roast turkey. This year, give holiday recipes a delectable new twist by incorporating the flavors of imported gourmet cheeses.

“Creatively crafted cheeses add flavor and pizazz to traditional holiday dishes,” says Chef Michael Symon, co-host of “The Chew,” author of numerous best-selling cookbooks and owner of several restaurants. “Whether you love the bold taste of Danish Blue Cheese crumbles, or prefer rich and buttery Aged Havarti, gourmet cheeses give an extra kick to cold-weather favorites.”

Blue Cheese Stuffed Turkey Breast

It’s easy to transform the time-honored turkey into a feast of flavors, according to Symon.

“For a tasty twist on the holiday bird, butterfly-cut a boneless turkey breast and fill it with a mixture of Castello(R) crumbled Danish Blue Cheese, seasoned with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and minced shallots. Roll it up in jellyroll fashion, tie with twine and drizzle with olive oil. It’s simple to prepare and will be a festive hit.”

The key to this recipe’s tastiness is Castello Danish Blue Cheese. Its sharp and slightly salty flavor, referred to as the blue “bite,” adds epicurean excitement to turkey, along with a dash of self-indulgence. To bring out the cheese’s flavor, serve with accompaniments such as pears, olives, cranberries or rye bread.

Apple Pie with Havarti Crust

Apples and cheese have long been friends, so why not marry the two flavors in an amazing pie recipe? Simply add shredded Aged Havarti to the crust. Pulse traditional crust ingredients in a food processor until small crumbs form, then pulse in the shredded cheese. According to Symon, “Castello(R) Aged Havarti’s rich, creamy texture and crunchy flecks of salt crystals are the perfect partner for an apple pie crust.”  

For the filling, Granny Smith apples complement the Aged Havarti flavor and blend beautifully with traditional ingredients like granulated and dark brown sugar, cinnamon and fresh nutmeg. Real butter and heavy cream add even more richness to the recipe.

The result, according to Symon, is a decidedly decadent apple pie with Aged Harvarti’s buttery flavor: “This pie is the ultimate holiday comfort food - no matter how you slice it,” Symon says.

Symon’s recipes for Blue Cheese Stuffed Turkey Breast and Apple Pie with Havarti Crust are at

2014-12-01T00:00:00<![CDATA[What parents feed baby can have long-term impact]]>

(BPT) - Experts agree that the food babies eat helps set the stage for growth and development, but did you know that it also impacts long-term eating habits and taste development?

Children who consumed fruits and vegetables infrequently and drank sweet drinks during late infancy showed those same habits at age six, according to new data published in the journal Pediatrics. Infants who consumed sweetened beverages more than three times a week at 10-12 months were twice as likely to be obese at age six.

These findings validate the 2008 Nestle Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study (FITS), which also found eating habits are set in early infancy and mimic unhealthy eating habits seen in older children and adults. FITS is the largest, most comprehensive dietary intake survey of over 3,300 parents and caregivers of young children. The FITS findings showed preschoolers are getting nearly one-third (400 calories) of their total daily calories from fats and added sugars, and common childhood foods such as whole milk, cheese and hot dogs are contributing to excessive saturated fat and sodium in young children’s diets.

Nutrition expert Dr. Kathleen Reidy, who heads Nutrition, Meals and Drinks at Nestle Nutrition, says, “What you feed your baby now affects them not just today, but tomorrow and beyond. The first years of a child’s life are a critical period of development, and instilling good eating habits during this time can help put a child on the path to a healthy future.”

For parents and caregivers, Dr. Reidy has some tips to help instill healthy eating habits for young children:

Meal time is game time

* Replace foods high in saturated fat with lean meats, low-fat dairy products and foods high in healthier fats such as avocado, fish and those made with olive, safflower and canola oils.

* Offer a variety of healthy foods, and try to set a good example by eating them yourself. If a child sees mom, dad or siblings eating a nutritious food, she may be more willing to try it.

* Milk is key in children’s diets and a top contributor of many important nutrients. Children over the age of two should be offered lower fat options such as one percent and skim instead of whole milk to limit saturated fat intake.

Don’t forget the fruits and veggies

* Pick foods low in salt/sodium, such as fruits and vegetables instead of those high in sodium like hot dogs, chicken nuggets and dishes that contain cheese.

* Offer a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for snacks and meals; for mixed dishes, choose items with a serving of vegetables.

* If your baby or toddler resists a new fruit or vegetable, don’t fret and try again. It can take up to 10 tries before a child accepts a new food.

A healthy snack attack

* Plan ahead for healthy snacks to take on-the-go. Pack fruit and vegetable pouches for older toddlers.

* Speak with family and other caregivers about limiting sweets and choosing healthy snacks when they are caring for your child.

For additional tips on providing babies and toddlers with the best nutrition and a foundation for healthy eating habits, visit to learn more.

2014-09-15T00:00:00<![CDATA[Favorite fall flavors and activities guaranteed to enhance your autumn]]>

(BPT) - The air is crisp, kids are back in school and leaves are beginning to change color – fall has arrived! With it comes many possibilities for making amazing memories. From favorite fall flavors to awesome autumn activities, everyone has something to look forward to as the season changes. So what types of things are high on Americans’ to-do lists this year?

Americans embrace everything autumn – from baking to pumpkin carving

Americans are embracing the autumn spirit with fun family activities. In a recent Hershey survey, 59 percent of Americans said they plan to bake fall treats and 45 percent plan to carve pumpkins. Other popular activities planned for fall include crafting, going on hayrides and apple picking.

Planning a day at an orchard and then going home to bake with the fresh picked ingredients is an ideal way to spend time with the family. When deciding which flavor trends should inspire your baking, consider this: the survey found pumpkin spice is the top flavor Americans associate with the fall season. From coffee to cake, pumpkin spice is a sure winner. Other favorite falls flavors include candy corn and caramel apple.

Fall flavored treats like HERSHEY’S KISSES Pumpkin Spice Flavored Candies, new TWIZZLERS Caramel Apple Filled Twists and new HERSHEY’S Candy Corn Snack Size Bars – white creme bars dotted with sweet candy bits – bring these flavor trends to candy form. Be sure to bring them to your fall events, whether you’re relaxing at a backyard bonfire or exploring the local orchard.

Fall always seems to fly by, so to get the most out of this fleeting season, consider making a fall wish list. Have everyone in the family include ideas for what they would like to do before winter arrives. Such ideas could include family crafts, pumpkin picking at a local farm, a romantic couple’s walk by the river, a hike and scavenger hunt, or baking new fall-themed recipes. Then each weekend, select one or two activities to enjoy together.

Do you plan to bake this fall like 59 percent of Americans? Consider adding these recipes to your fall rotation for autumn-inspired, delicious treats.

HERSHEY’S KISSES Pumpkin Spice Cookies


36 HERSHEY’S KISSES Pumpkin Spice Flavored Candies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup finely chopped pecans

Powdered sugar

Additional granulated sugar


1. Remove wrappers from candies. Place in freezer several hours or overnight.

2. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Add flour and pecans; beat on low speed of mixer until well blended. Cover; refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or until dough is firm enough to handle.

3. Heat oven to 350 F. Roll dough into 36 balls (about 1 tablespoon dough for each ball). Roll in granulated sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set but not browned. Cool 4 minutes; press frozen candy into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack; cool completely. Makes 36 cookies.

Hidden pumpkin spice cookies alternative:
Make cookie dough as above. Using about 1 tablespoon dough for each cookie, shape dough around one candy piece (candy does not need to be frozen for this variation); roll in hand to make ball. (Be sure to cover each candy piece completely.) Roll in granulated sugar. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cookies are set. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. While still slightly warm, roll in powdered sugar. Cool completely. Roll again in powdered sugar just before serving.



Royal Icing or Decorator's Frosting (recipe follows)

6 HERSHEY’S KISSES Milk Chocolates

6 HERSHEY’S KISSES Pumpkin Spice Flavored Candies

12 Mini vanilla wafer cookies

12 REESE’S Peanut Butter Chips or HERSHEY’S Butterscotch Chips


1. Prepare Royal Icing and place in pastry bag with small tip. Remove wrappers from candies.

2. Place mini vanilla wafer cookies on tray or plate with flat side of cookie towards the top. Squeeze small amount of icing onto bottom of HERSHEY’S KISSES candy piece. Immediately press candy bottom onto vanilla wafer cookie. Allow icing to set. 12 candy acorns.

3. Place small dab of icing on bottom of peanut butter chip or butterscotch chip; immediately attach to top of cookie to finish acorn.

Royal Icing:

Stir together 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons warm water and 3/4 teaspoon pasteurized dried egg whites (meringue powder). Beat until spreadable. Add additional water, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, to get desired consistency. Tint with food color, if desired. Cover icing with damp paper towel to keep icing from drying out. About 1/4 cup icing.

2014-09-11T00:00:00<![CDATA[Fall in love with a trip to the Lone Star State]]>

(BPT) - With the summer season winding down, the onset of fall foliage with the cooler temperatures, and a variety of events and festivals, fall presents one of the best times of year to visit the Lone Star State. Fall in Texas means plenty of fairs, outdoor music events, cheering crowds, wine harvests and more.

1. Fall in Texas is synonymous with football season. From legendary NFL teams like the Dallas Cowboys (whose AT&T Stadium boasts the world’s largest High-Definition Video Display) and the Houston Texans, to Division I NCAA football with the Texas Longhorns and Texas Tech Red Raiders, you’re sure to find a suitable tailgate to root for your favorite team. A tailgate in the Lone Star State wouldn’t be complete without iconic Texas eats such as barbecue, chili and queso.

2. Mark your calendars for Sept. 26, the start of the iconic State Fair of Texas at Dallas’ Fair Park, a 24-day showcase of entertainment, exhibits and competition, as well as some of the best (and most bizarre) fried foods you can find. Other notable fall fairs and festivals include Wurstfest, a 10 day celebration of German food and culture in New Braunfels and the Texas Pecan Festival in Grove, which is the official state festival of Texas’ state nut.

3. Texas’ Parks and Wildlife Department runs a fall foliage report from October through November detailing the change in colors throughout the season. The best-known state park for fall foliage is Lost Maples State Natural Area in the Hill Country near Vanderpool. State parks in the Pineywoods and Post Oak Belt including Daingerfield, Martin Creek, Lake Bob Sandlin and Martin Dies Jr. often have vibrant displays of reds, oranges and golds in maples, various oaks, sweetgums and elms. In the Panhandle, the cottonwoods change to a radiant yellow to golden color in the Palo Duro Canyon as well as in Caprock Canyon State Park. Caddo Lake State Park is also worth mentioning, as in late fall trees turn a rust color, contrasting nicely with the Spanish moss and swamp setting.

4. While Texas may not immediately come to mind when planning a fall wine country getaway, the Lone Star State is home to more than 220 wineries and is the fifth largest wine producing state in the U.S. A key wine destination is the Hill Country, which is home to some of the state’s best wineries and an ideal location for viewing the changing colors of autumn. Fredericksburg is home to some of the oldest wineries in the U.S and grows more than half of the world’s grape species. Located just a short drive west of Austin, the quaint town includes key wineries such as Fall Creek Vineyards and Becker Vineyards, one of the oldest wineries in Texas.

5. In the fall, visitors flock to Galveston Island to enjoy the beaches and various attractions such as the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, Moody Gardens, The Historic Strand District and Pier 21. At Padre Island National Seashore, which is famed as one of the United States' last natural seashores and is known as the world's longest barrier island at 130 miles in length, visitors enjoy Bird Island Basin for windsurfing. It also offers terrific opportunities for kayaking, birding and fishing, with equipment rentals and windsurfing and kayaking lessons available for the more adventurous. This year (October 10-12,) Rockport will celebrate 40 years of SeaFair, a celebration of seafood featuring a gumbo cook-off, cooking demonstrations, contests, a parade, water activities, live music and more.

6. On any given Texas night you can find something for every type of music lover. In Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, thousands of visitors flock to Austin City Limits Music Festival to watch more than 130 acts from all over the world to play rock, indie, country, folk, electronic and more on eight stages. Looking to perfect your two-step? Gruene Hall, Texas’ oldest dance hall is a destination to see up-and-coming artists as well as some of the biggest country stars. Fort Worth is home to the world’s largest honky tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas, which offers nightly entertainment, bull riding and dance lessons for a true Western experience.

Whatever your idea of a perfect fall vacation may be, you are sure to find it in Texas. Visit to begin planning your fall getaway.

2014-08-27T00:00:002014-09-17T12:58:53<![CDATA[5 sanity-saving secrets to balance school and fun this holiday season]]>

(BPT) - Sure, you were on your game when school first started, getting everyone out the door on time and packing perfect lunches every day. But the kids have been back in school for a while now. The approaching holiday season can make it even more challenging to keep kids on track and school at the top of everyone’s list of priorities.

Fortunately, some simple steps can help you restore 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, outfits to pick out and holiday gift lists to plan. 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 children 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 – plus, they’ll get an inspirational boost watching the days count down to winter break!

* 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 holiday season is a far cry from those first organized days of the school year, but you don’t have to let the crazy control your life. Institute these simple changes to maintain some order, and you’ll come through the holidays with a smile on your face and your sanity intact.

2014-12-05T00:00:00<![CDATA[How to enjoy your holiday without the stress]]>

(BPT) - It’s ironic that a time traditionally associated with good cheer and merriment can turn into a virtual nervous breakdown for so many people. High expectations paint the holidays as a time of fun and joy, and when people don’t feel this way they then feel even worse because they somehow aren’t living up to an idyllic portrait of the season.

This is where physical and mental health play an important role in helping people better manage holiday stress. Experts in the areas of family psychology and health have come up with some sensible tips they hope will provide some comfort and joy to the faithless, weary and frazzled this holiday season.

Avoid family burnout

The classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” portrays idealized images of family harmony during the holidays: everybody gathered around a piano and roaring fireplace, singing carols, merrily laughing and drinking eggnog - with every family member present. In the past, the holiday season was a way for families to take a break from their difficult work life and come together in celebration. But sometimes these gatherings aren’t so ideal.

“When a family comes together for the holidays, some members simply don’t get along with each other for a variety of reasons,” says Dr. Jim Wasner, dean of the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, Schaumburg. “To avoid ruining a family gathering, try thinking of holiday visits more like a special ritual, such as a wedding or birthday party. It’s fine to be on your best behavior and not deal with hurts or grudges because of the special event.”

If you are not on the best terms with a relative and feel like you need to talk to him or her about it, Dr. Wasner recommends you do it one-on-one before the holiday visit, either on the phone, by mail or during a shorter visit. If that is not possible, there is nothing wrong with setting limits on the time that you spend with that relative.

Protecting against health concerns

Santa Claus isn’t the only one who has to worry about a big belly during the holidays so be sure to consider your physical health as a way to help manage your holiday stress. Betsy Kawecki, nursing faculty member at South University, West Palm Beach, believes that major health complaints that surface during holidays, such as gaining weight, are a result of extremes in behavior. Overeating leads to indigestion as a result of increased proportions of food and indulging in foods with a high degree of fat, explains Kawecki. She suggests that attitude plays a significant part on dieting expectations and actions. If you view the holiday season as the last hurrah, you will be more likely to overindulge and gain weight.

Kawecki says that during the holidays, it’s important to maintain health-promoting behaviors, but you should also be flexible. Exercise by speed-shopping in the malls instead your usual walk around the block. Maintain a normal healthy diet and eat your five fruits and vegetables a day, especially on party days. Be a healthy host or hostess by cooking low-fat, presenting food in various locations to promote mingling and not just eating, and making portions small.

Overall pacing oneself is essential, says Kawecki. The holiday season involves more than one day. With holiday shopping, decorating, parties, feasts and traveling, people should worry most about trying to keep balance in their lives and maintaining healthy habits.

2014-10-28T00:00:00<![CDATA[Help prevent and manage diabetes with an active and healthy lifestyle]]>

(BPT) - There’s nothing better than sitting before a steaming plate of delicious-smelling food and taking that first, delectable bite. Now imagine joining your family every night and sharing that delicious meal you prepared yourself.

Home-cooked meals are important to your family and their health, especially if you have a family member with diabetes. That’s because when you prepare your own foods, you can control the cost and the nutrients you eat while also ensuring the meal is delicious and satisfying for everyone in the family.

November is American Diabetes Month, and the American Diabetes Association is promoting America Gets Cooking(SM) to Stop Diabetes(R), which is presented by Sun Life Financial.

The initiative is designed to engage and inspire people to live a healthier, more active lifestyle in order to help prevent type 2 diabetes and manage all types of diabetes. The website,, has daily and weekly tips for everyone in your family to keep their momentum going through the month and longer. Here are some tips you can follow this holiday season and beyond to incorporate healthy eating and physical activity into your family’s lifestyle.

* Investigate healthy new recipes – It’s fun to try new foods, and when you cook them yourself, you know exactly how healthy they are. You might even find something to serve for the holiday meal over Thanksgiving or Christmas. In November, each Wednesday you can vote on recipes that you’d like to see served for a holiday meal. The winners will be unveiled at the end of the month. You can also check out healthy new recipes at Recipes for Healthy Living.

* Get moving after dinner – When dinner is finished, take time to go for a walk together as a family. Maintaining an active lifestyle is important for preventing type 2 diabetes and managing all types of diabetes. If your schedule is too full for a walk every night after dinner, consider replacing it with something equally actionable like vacuuming the house or mowing the lawn.

* Explore new aisles at the grocery store – When you do your weekly shopping at the grocery store, there are aisles that cater to healthier eating better than others. First, think about sticking to the exterior of the store, where you will find the produce, dairy and meat sections. Second, visit the spice aisle, which provides you with the mouthwatering ingredients your family will love. Finally, take a shopping list with you and stick to it. With a prepared list that captures the ingredients you’ll need all week, it will make your shopping trip much easier.

* Read the labels – Labels on food products at the grocery store tell you so much more than just calories. And for people with diabetes, this information is extremely important for managing their disease. For example, the carbohydrates can help an insulin-dependent person better calculate his dosage. And many people with diabetes also carefully monitor their sodium intake – another item found on the label.

* Calculate your savings – Eating at home can save you so much, and not just money. As you begin preparing more of your own meals, add up your savings in groceries versus restaurant costs, as well as calorie and carbohydrate reductions.

While recognizing American Diabetes Month, keep these tips in mind to help your family better prevent and manage the disease. Visit to find more daily tips and facts from the American Diabetes Association.

2014-11-20T00:00:00<![CDATA[Be a super shopper: where to splurge and save at the grocery store]]>

(BPT) - Every time you walk into a grocery store you are hit with a barrage of options: fresh, frozen, canned, store brand, name brand, organic. Even with your shopping list in hand, the choices can be overwhelming. Knowing when you should splurge and where you can save can make all the difference in your grocery store shopping.


“The one thing that you really want to not scrimp on is your meat,” says chef Odette Smith-Ransome of The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Up to 15 percent of the contents of cheaper and frozen meats can actually be water or stock. When it comes to chicken, Smith-Ransome adds that the higher priced chicken is probably a younger chicken. “When they harvest the younger chickens, they’re more tender with a better flavor to them.”

With regard to seafood, chef Nathan Lane of The International Culinary School at The Art Institutes International - Kansas City says that you can tell the difference between wild caught and farm raised seafood, and believes the wild caught is worth the extra money.

Smith-Ransome says that if you are able to get your meat from a farmers market or farm where you can see that the animals are being raised correctly, it is worth the extra money.


Lane encourages you to try farmers markets for produce. Not only are you supporting local farmers, but you are also getting things that are fresh and in season, and he finds it to be comparable to a grocery store or a bit cheaper on most items. The items that may cost a bit more are definitely worth it. Lane says organics are not always worth the extra money, but, “it’s important to treat your body with respect and know that what you’re putting into it is coming from reputable sources.”

Smith-Ransome recommends spending your money on fresh vegetables, by going someplace where you can actually see the fruit and vegetables. When you buy fruit in a big bag, it may be cheaper, but when you get it home you may find items that have bad spots on them. When picking out individual pieces, you will really take care to get good items.


“I don’t find much difference between brands of milk and cream,” says Lane. It’s worth the extra money to buy cheese that is really cheese. Smith-Ransome explains that you don’t want the product to say “cheese food” or “cheese product” – indicators that these are processed products with added ingredients to look like cheese. Lane adds that it is worth the money to buy the real imported cheese. For instance skip the “Spanish-Style Manchego” cheese and opt for the real Manchego cheese from Spain. The same goes for Parmesan cheese: the real imported cheese will taste much better than the stuff in a can.

Be careful when purchasing butter or margarine, because the less expensive brands are usually less expensive because they are adding water to the product, says Smith-Ransome. Read the labels and keep on the look-out for water in the list of ingredients and also the word spread. The addition of water can throw off tried and true recipes.

Lane says it’s worth it to splurge for a better ice cream. Cheap ice creams can have air blended in so you want to look for a heavier product than another in the same sized container.

Canned goods

“A lot of times you can find some happy discoveries when you look at canned goods,” says Smith-Ransome. Brand names aren’t always going to be the best for your purpose. She recommends trying out several brands to find one you like. The sweetness, amount of salt and taste from one brand to another can be very different. It all comes down to personal preference. Once you decide on a brand of canned good you like, Lane suggests buying fruits and vegetables that are canned whole. These items will be more versatile.

2014-10-29T00:00:00<![CDATA[Timely, budget-friendly solutions for getting your house ready for the holidays]]>

(BPT) - The fun chaos of the holidays is right around the corner. Family gatherings to plan, delicious meals to prepare, gifts to find and purchase, and a house to decorate ... the list goes on!

With entertaining season approaching at warp speed, it’s time to get your home spruced up and looking like new. Your time is precious around the holiday season, so to help make the most of your days – and budget – try these easy solutions to prepare for the holidays while keeping your sanity.

* A fresh coat of paint is a quick and easy way to give your home a new look at an affordable price. Consider starting with the rooms most frequently used, but don’t forget the guest bedrooms and bathrooms. To make the most of your effort, use a paint that has the durability and color-lasting qualities you need. Valspar Reserve, available at Lowe’s, resists stains and fading and allows you to easily wipe away marks without taking off paint, even if your guests accidentally scuff walls with their suitcases.

* A simple way to decorate for the holidays year after year is with an artificial tree. Lowe’s offers four trees pre-lit with color-changing LED lights, meaning you can change the look – and color – of the tree with just a push of the pedal making your decorating process much easier. For a formal dinner event, glowing white light sets a perfect ambiance. Switch to the multi-color option to delight the kids.

* Use holiday decorations in unexpected ways to add festive cheer in every room of your home with minimal effort. Try hanging ornaments to decorate live plants, light fixtures, doorway overhangs, stairwells, mirrors and even the mantel. For this project, don’t use expensive or family heirloom ornaments – just purchase coordinating ones that work with the color pattern you already have in the room.

* Guests in the house mean more foot traffic and chance for a mess, but you don’t have to worry about those inevitable spills or stains. STAINMASTER carpets available at Lowe’s are 30 percent more resistant to stains than other brands, and with new carpets on the floor, you’ll have a fresh new look in your home that won’t cause you stress when everyone arrives for the holiday parties.

* Potted evergreen plants decorated with lights bring plenty of festive feelings into a room. The best news is that when spring arrives, you can plant them outside in your backyard, or donate them to a community project that needs evergreen trees. Using live plants infuses the room with light and good, clean oxygen, and it’s the subtle touches your guests will appreciate and remember.

With these timely tips, you – and your home – will be ready for a holiday season of celebrations.

2014-09-24T00:00:00<![CDATA[Do-it-yourself tricks and treats for Halloween party hosts]]>

(BPT) - Decorating for an All Hallows' Eve monster bash can be frightful ... for hosts. From the invitations and decor to the entertainment and favors, it can be quite an undertaking. But there’s no need to fret. You can haunt your Halloween party with easy do-it-yourself decor and crafts.

“Hosting any party can be stressful, but guests expect over-the-top ghoulish decorations for Halloween bashes,” says decorating and entertaining expert Stacy Nelson of Trash Lassies. “Simply shop your own home for items that, with a little creativity, can easily be repurposed and transformed into devilishly good Halloween decorations.”

Nelson recommends these fast and fun ways to sprinkle a little black magic over your home decor and get the Halloween party started.

Outdoor decor to die for:

* Light the way to the party by crafting your own luminaries to line the walkway to the party entrance. Paint witch hats and jack-o-lanterns in black on the outside of mason jars, and place a tea light in each jar to illuminate the path to the party.

* Tear old burlap bags to look like cobwebs and hang them across the front porch. Add a few bats cut from black construction paper as finishing touches.

* Hang last year’s holiday lights to outdoor windows in the shape of spider webs using Command Outdoor Light Clips, and dangle creepy crawling spiders and menacing bats from temporary clear window hooks.

Gorgeous not gory indoors:

* Up-style inexpensive party banners by embellishing them with decorative tape and scrapbook paper. Hang them from Command Party Banner Anchors in the foyer to welcome guests as they arrive. The adhesive anchors won’t leave your walls spooked when it’s time to remove the decorations, and you can use them again to decorate for your next shindig with clear refill strips.

* Create paper medallions to hang in entryways throughout the space. Make accordion folds to long, rectangular pieces of paper, and then staple the two ends of the paper together to create a pleated circle. Add a piece of ribbon, and hang them above doorways. They’ll move and sway above guests as they enter and exit rooms.

Ghoulish games:

* Create a homemade “pin the hat on the witch” party game. Paint a poster board with glow in the dark paint and cut out a witch, broom and several witch hats from black construction paper. Glue the witch and broom to the poster board, and hang the board on the wall. When it’s time to play, just turn the lights off and enjoy endless fun watching guests try to tape the hats to the witch.

* Skip the goopy mess of carving pumpkins this year. Instead, let guests customize pumpkins of all shapes and sizes using colored and patterned tapes and other unconventional embellishments like lace and sequins. They make great takeaways.

Tricked-out treats:

* Turn a pumpkin into candy bowl (no magic required). Simply cut off the top of a pumpkin and scrape out the pulp and seeds. Once clean, insert a plastic bowl into the pumpkin and fill it with candy, spider rings and other goodies.

* Rather than spending money on bags to give to guests at the end of the bash, fill vinyl gloves with the favors. Long, thin candies fit best in the fingers of the gloves. Then just seal the glove with ribbon and “hand” out to guests as they leave.

For more party decorating and entertaining tips, visit

2014-09-19T00:00:00<![CDATA[Take a trip around the world without leaving the kitchen]]>

(BPT) - Exploring different cultures has become increasingly mainstream in today’s culinary world. Fusion cuisine has claimed its stake on restaurant menus and can make an appearance in home kitchens for less effort than you might imagine. By utilizing popular and emerging ethnic flavors, home chefs can experiment with dishes to bring an international flare to their food.

Get educated on ethnic eats

If you think the international food aisle at your local grocery store seems to be growing, you’re not imagining things. Between 2012 and 2017, sales of ethnic foods in grocery stores will increase more than 20 percent, predicts market research firm The Mintel Group.

South American cuisine is particularly hot - in flavor and popularity - with its spicy combination of native and European influences in indigenous foods like corn, peanuts, avocados and all types of potatoes and peppers.

Peruvian cuisine, which blends ancient traditions with aspects of European, African and Asian cultures, offers incredible diversity and is high on the radar of culinary professionals. In a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association, 57 percent of professional chef respondents named Peruvian food as a top ethnic cuisine for 2014. While ceviche - marinated raw fish and a staple dish in Peru - is just gaining momentum in the U.S., quinoa is another Peruvian favorite that may already be in your pantry.

Experimentation into less-familiar ethnic cuisine, from Korean to Scandinavian, is partially why pickled and fermented foods are getting more attention, according to research firm Technomic. Fermented foods pack a flavor punch and health benefits, as they can aid in digestion and nutrient absorption.

Spice things up in the kitchen

Intimidated by unfamiliar foods? Experimenting with different ingredients can take practice to find the best combination for your taste. Start with an ethnic side dish or garnish to introduce new flavors, then work your way up to a multi-course meal.

Looking to jazz up the bland chicken or pork that is a regular in your family’s meal rotation? Create a fusion dish that incorporates a delicious, Asian-inspired condiment like blackberry five spice sauce, which can quickly and easily be whipped up in a high-powered blender like a Vitamix.

Add a taste of Scandinavia to your cuisine with spices like allspice, black pepper and nutmeg. These flavors come together with garlic, onion, white bread and ground beef to create perfect Swedish meatballs. Fresh dill is also extremely popular in Nordic countries. Incorporate this fresh herb into a creamy sauce for fish or a tangy vinaigrette for salad and vegetables.

A great way to introduce fermented foods is through kefir, a lactose-free milk naturally fermented from kefir grains that originate from the Caucasus Mountains in Eastern Europe. Try it in your morning smoothie. You can also join top chefs in fermenting your own vegetables at home. Utilize them for grilled sandwiches or as a tasty side. Kimchi, a fermented Korean cabbage dish, is gaining popularity as a spicy garnish for burgers and tacos.

Tools to further elevate cuisine

You can take your growing international expertise to the next level by investing in the right culinary tools.

A Vitamix machine is great for blending flavors for a sauce, emulsifying ingredients for a salad dressing, and grinding spices for a rub. The versatile Professional Series 750 can also make appetizers and entire meals, from a traditional Middle Eastern hummus to curried carrot soup.

If you’re experimenting with maki sushi, consider investing in a rolling mat and sushi grade knives. Some cooking stores even sell a sushi kit for beginners.

For Chinese and Thai specialties like stir-fry dishes and steamed dumplings, a stovetop or electric wok is a must-have.

Other ethnic recipes can be created utilizing cookware that is already standard in your kitchen. While you may never invest in a traditional tandoor oven for Indian food, you can still create a delicious flatbread with a baking stone in your oven. A slow cooker can be an asset when making curries, dal and other sauce-based dishes.

If you can’t afford to hop on a plane to an exotic locale, cooking brings culture straight to your kitchen. Do your homework, don’t be afraid of adventure, and pick up the right tools along the way. You’ll be exploring the world in no time.

Blackberry Five Spice Sauce
Delicious served with grilled pork tenderloin, chicken, duck, or grilled tofu.


1/4 and 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar

4 1/2 cups fresh (or frozen, thawed) blackberries

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice Powder (available at your local grocery store)

8 whole black peppercorns

1/4 and 1/8 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup olive oil


1. Place the vinegar, blackberries, cinnamon, Five Spice Powder, peppercorns and sugar into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.

2. Select Hot Soups program.

3. Switch machine to Start and allow machine to complete programmed cycle. Use tamper if needed.

4. Select Variable 2 and remove lid plug.

5, Switch machine to Start and slowly drizzle oil through the lid plug opening until incorporated.

6. Replace lid plug and slowly increase speed to Variable 10.

7. Blend for an additional 20 seconds.

2014-11-11T00:00:00<![CDATA[Keep your home comfortable for the holidays]]>

(BPT) - Holidays make for hectic homes. With family and friends coming in and out, overnight guests staying for days at a time and holiday celebrations going on, it’s hard enough to keep up with it all, much less keep your home comfortable and welcoming for all who spend time there. Here are some tips for keeping everyone in your home as comfortable as possible over the holidays - including you.

Set the tone at the front door

Your home’s first impression starts at the front door. Once people get past your home’s exterior holiday decorations, make sure the interior also extends an inviting atmosphere. Appeal to their senses by creating sights, sounds and aromas that evoke comfort, such as soft, cozy lighting, a crackling fire in the fireplace and the smell of simmering cider on the stove.

Create a comfortable guest room

Keep your guest room at an optimal sleeping temperature so guests remain well rested. About 65 degrees makes for the best sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If your guest room is in a retrofitted area that’s difficult to heat or cool, consider a system with more reliable control. American Standard’s ductless mini-split systems are ideal for room additions or areas where ductwork is impractical or too expensive to install. The compact wall- or ceiling-mounted units come in single and multi-room configurations that connect to one outdoor unit, for flexible, efficient comfort.

Keep the cupboards well-stocked

With weeks of household activities, everyone needs energy to keep going. Keep a variety of grab-and-go snacks on hand that require no preparation: a big bowl of oranges and bananas; refrigerated snacks like individual sized yogurt or cheese sticks; and protein-packed options like granola or jerky. Keep bagels, peanut butter, jam and cream cheese on hand. Set up a help-yourself coffee station offering a holiday coffee blend, flavored creamers and mugs; keep the coffee maker prefilled and ready to brew.  

Bask in a beautiful bathroom

Make your bathroom a haven from the hectic holiday for everyone in the house. Set out hand soaps, lotions and shampoos with pleasant seasonal scents, like apple orchard, spiced pumpkin, cranberry or ever-popular evergreen. Fill a basket with fun bathtub toys for visiting little ones. Replace worn out towels with fluffy new ones. Add a holiday-themed nightlight in the hallway so people can safely make their way to the bathroom during the night.    

Avoid heating problems over the holiday

Before the holiday rush begins, take time to seal any leaks from windows and doors to keep warm air in and cold air out. Now is also a good time to make sure your home’s entire heating system is in tip-top shape and operating as efficiently as possible, preventing heating problem surprises over the holiday. A qualified American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning dealer can inspect your system and recommend any adjustments to make sure your home stays comfortable throughout the holidays and beyond. Find a dealer near you at

2014-09-04T00:00:00<![CDATA[Often-overlooked back-to-school danger: Tips to pack safer lunches]]>

(BPT) - You’ve survived the back-to-school season, and transitioned from lazy summer days to the familiar routine of early rising and the roar of school buses in the neighborhood. But before you usher your children out the door tomorrow, you should know a few things about that lunch you may have packed bleary-eyed in the wee hours of the morning.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that every year one in six Americans will become ill from a foodborne illness. As you commit your child’s bus and class schedule to memory, don’t forget the four simple steps to keep your family safe from food poisoning at home: clean, separate, cook and chill.

“We always ask our kids to wash their hands before every meal and the same applies to the parent when preparing any meal,” says Maria Malagon, Food Safety Education Director with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). “Wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. The same holds true for cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops. Wash thoroughly with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item, and before you make the transition to next item. Harmful bacteria can spread onto cutting boards, utensils and countertops.”

“Kitchen dish cloths, sponges and kitchen towels are potential sources of bacteria,” says Tina Hanes,  a technical information specialist with USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline. “Wash dishcloths and dish towels often in the hot cycle of your washing machine and replace sponges frequently.”

Here are some other important food safety tips to remember:  

* Prepackaged foods are sometimes packed for lunch, but be aware these combos often contain perishable items such as luncheon meats, cheese and cut fruit. Always keep them refrigerated.

* Don’t go overboard when putting lunch together; pack only the amount of perishable food that can be consumed. This eliminates the problem of proper storage and the safety of leftovers. After lunch, don’t keep any leftover food, used food packaging and paper bags. Packaging materials should never be re-used because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

* Keep cold lunches chilled with frozen gel packs or combine a frozen gel pack with a frozen juice box or frozen bottle of water. Position them on top and bottom of the perishable food items to keep them cold. Certain foods are safe without a cold source such as whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard and pickles.

* Hot foods are a different story. An insulated container will keep foods like soup, chili and stew hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let it stand for a few minutes, empty and then put in the piping hot food. Keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot - 140 degrees F or above.

“Ask Karen,” the USDA’s virtual food safety representative, is available around the clock at Weekdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline is available by calling 888-MPHotline (888-674-6854) or via live chat at

For more information on back-to-school food safety, view a free “Back to the Basics” webinar series held by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. The sessions introduce the basics of food safety and explain how pathogens, such as Salmonella, can affect young children who are at a high risk of contracting foodborne illness.

2014-11-13T00:00:00<![CDATA[Last-minute entertaining tricks for unexpected guests]]>

(BPT) - The holiday season is a time for joy, giving and, at times, unexpected guests. For even the most unanticipated of visitors, it is wise to always be ready to share the season’s cheer with a nice hot cup of coffee, freshly-baked cookies and a welcoming home.

This year, follow these simple tips for making last-minute holiday entertaining quick, easy and stress-free:

Serve freshly-baked cookies: Keep a variety of frozen cookie dough on hand. When guests arrive, simply pull out and bake as many cookies as you need.

Light seasonal candles: Candles scented with seasonal fragrances such as gingerbread or winter greenery are an inexpensive way to make your home smell good and feel warm and inviting even without advance notice.

Stock a variety of beverages: A single-serve brewing system is one of the most helpful items to purchase for entertaining. When choosing a model, make sure to take into account convenience, compatibility and, most importantly, taste. Consider purchasing a single-serve brewing system, such as the Opus from iCoffee, available at Bed, Bath & Beyond. You don’t have to worry what brand or flavor of single serve cup you choose because the iCoffee can accept every k-style cup on the market. “I’ve tried all types of single serve coffee makers,” said Dan Kamys, Senior Editor at June Media, Inc. “If you’re looking for a darned good cup of coffee, this is the one I’d pick.”

Take 5 minutes to de-clutter: Cleaning the house for company can be an exhausting undertaking. Instead of cleaning the house from top-to-bottom before guests arrive, spend just 5 minutes each day picking up common areas so that your home is clean and organized whenever guests arrive.

Say “thank you”: At the beginning of the season, buy a selection of seasonal holiday note cards. After guests visit, mail them a short note thanking them for their friendship and for stopping by. The personal gesture will speak volumes to them.

From a hot beverage to a personalized note, hosting unexpected guests this holiday season can be fun, easy and relaxed with just a bit of preparation.

2014-10-03T00:00:00<![CDATA[Kids choose at one of country's largest restaurants: the school cafeteria]]>

(BPT) - Math, science, English and history – every day, children learn these important lessons in school. But every day at lunch, they walk into their school cafeterias to learn another important lesson: how to make independent nutrition choices. It’s like going to a restaurant without the grown-ups, and with K-12 schools serving up to 31 million students every day, it’s one of the largest restaurants in the country.

This guided independence in the lunch line provides an important sense of empowerment for students as well as a chance to develop healthy eating habits for home.

“The many different foods we provide in our lunchrooms allow students an opportunity to put together a meal that they choose – and because of our work to develop menus, whatever combination of foods they select will provide them the nutrition they need,” says Paula Pohlkamp, nutrition services supervisor from the North St. Paul school district, Minnesota. “We’re helping them build good decision-making skills while giving them the energy they need for the rest of their busy days. It’s a win-win situation.”

School nutrition teams in schools across the country have worked diligently to meet the 2014 requirements for the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, with weekly menus reflecting significantly reduced sodium levels, increased amounts of whole grains and fruits and vegetables, and needed proteins and nutrients. The regulations are rigorous and require careful planning. Sodium levels for elementary school lunches have no more than 1,230 mg of sodium while high school meals have 1,420 mg or less.

“Our menus are created months in advance by a menu committee,” explains Pohlkamp. The committee samples new products, attends food shows, conducts taste tests with the students and then works to assure total nutritional content for each day’s menus. Pohlkamp’s district has also utilized marketing classes to conduct focus groups with all grade levels to obtain valuable feedback. The process closely tracks the type of research that goes into menu development for restaurants.

To meet the ever-evolving and sophisticated palates of even their youngest customers, schools want to offer a broad range of flavor profiles – some reflecting regional preferences and many reflecting restaurant trends – all with reduced sodium and increased whole grains.

For example, the new 4.5-by-8-inch Big Daddy’s(R) Pesto Chicken and Thai-Style Chicken Artisan Flatbreads for school from Schwan’s Food Service, Inc. are thin, crispy flatbreads that look and taste like restaurant fare. The Pesto Chicken flatbread is topped with a pesto sauce, chicken and a blend of Italian-style cheeses. The Thai-Style Chicken is topped with a flavorful Thai sauce, mozzarella, chicken, carrots, soy nuts, scallions and cilantro. Each flatbread has a whole grain rich crust, 22 grams of protein, 30 percent of the recommended daily amount of calcium, only 340 calories and less than 470 mg of sodium.

Other favorite lunchroom items reflect the trend of customizable offerings, such as salad bars, fresh subs and build-your-own burritos. But in all cases, students enjoy finding favorite, familiar and on-trend foods in the lunch line.

“Lunch is a pretty pivotal meal for kids,” says Susan Moores, a registered dietitian who works with schools in the Twin Cities. “It sets the table for energy levels throughout the afternoon and it influences how they’ll learn and perform during the balance of the day.”

Lunchrooms that offer a variety of healthful, delicious foods make it easy for kids to stretch their independence and worry-free for parents to let them do just that. School cafeterias have a great opportunity to be not only a restaurant, but also a classroom of sorts, adds Moores. “Any time we can help kids learn how to make healthful food choices, it’s a good thing,” she says.

2014-11-10T00:00:00<![CDATA[Meal-planning hacks to help you dine fast and healthy]]>

(BPT) - A fast pace and busy schedule may make you think that frequenting restaurants and fast food spots is faster than cooking at home. But it is possible to reduce the time you spend in the kitchen – and the money you spend from your wallet. Planning meals ahead of time, making one large grocery trip each week and taking a few hours on the weekend to prep your food for the upcoming week can help ensure that you have dinner on the table quickly, no matter how busy your weeknights get.

To make meal-planning easy, keep these time-saving hacks in mind:

Keep low cost, highly versatile ingredients on hand

Beans: Not only are they a great source of protein, but you can use them in a variety of dishes, including salads, soups and chili.

Grains: Easy to buy in bulk for extra savings, grains such as quinoa, brown rice or barley store easily in an air-fresh container and can serve as a foundation to any meal.

Frozen steam-in bag veggies: You’ll need a side for that roast chicken. Frozen vegetables offer the same nutritional value as fresh ones with the convenience of microwave cooking in less than five minutes. What’s more, you can use them to make a variety of meals from pasta dishes to casseroles. Consider new Alexia Parmesan Peas, French Herb green beans or Italian Herb Corn with Sun-Dried Sweet Tomatoes.

Diced tomatoes: The vine-ripened taste of diced tomatoes, like Hunt’s, can easily combine with frozen veggies and beans for a soup. Saute them with onions, or quickly puree them for a homemade pasta sauce.

Flavor your entrees faster

Some say fresh herbs make everything better. But when herbs aren’t in season or you feel too time pressed to go beyond the dried spice bottles, consider these time-saving seasoning tips to elevate your entree. Peel garlic cloves faster by quickly crushing them with your hands and tossing the cloves into a big bowl. Flip another bowl upside down to cover the garlic-filled bowl. Shake the two bowls together vigorously for 10 seconds. The garlic should emerge perfectly peeled.

Want to extend fresh herbs beyond the season? Add herbs such as cilantro or basil to ice cube trays and fill with olive oil before freezing. Simply pop out individual cubes when sauteing vegetables, cooking pasta or roasting meats.

Repurpose leftovers

Don’t stress yourself out making a new meal when you still have some left from the last one. You can also get creative and combine leftovers to prepare new meals. Try throwing yesterday’s chicken into your favorite whole-wheat pasta. Or, use leftover potatoes, like Alexia Smart Classics Tri-cut Potatoes, for a breakfast mix-up that will surprise your family. All you’ll need are a few staples from the refrigerator like ham, onion and green pepper and voila.

Map out your meal

Look for ways to cook once and have enough food for the rest of the week. Making dishes in bulk and freezing them or cooking up a big batch of protein to incorporate into several different meals are all ways you can make a day in the kitchen stretch into meals for the week.


2014-10-01T00:00:00<![CDATA[How to be host or hostess with the most(est) with these delicious seasonal recipes]]>

(BPT) - This time of year is all about the people you love — when you invite old friends or beloved family members into your home to celebrate and make lasting memories.

A good host always has coffee in the home, but if you really want to wow your guests this season, offer Coffee-mate’s delicious seasonal creamers and these delicious recipes as well.

French Toast Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups

It’s French toast, it’s a cookie. It’s just plain delectable.


* 5 large eggs

* 1 cup fat-free milk

* 3/4 cup Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Flavor Coffee-mate Liquid Coffee Creamer

* 1/4 cup granulated sugar

* 12 ounces whole wheat bread, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 6 cups)

* 2 tablespoons Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels

* 2 tablespoons toasted walnuts, chopped

* 1/2 cup fresh raspberries or other berries

* Maple syrup (optional)


Whisk together eggs, milk, Coffee-mate and sugar in large bowl. Add bread pieces; stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or even overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line each cup with a piece of parchment paper.

Spoon bread mixture evenly into each prepared cup; sprinkle with morsels and nuts.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until set and tops are golden. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes before serving. Top cups with raspberries and syrup, if desired.

Individual Swirled Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Pamper guests this season with these mini and personal delights (no cake cutting required). An elegant fusion of two fall favorites, pumpkin pie and gingerbread, makes these mini cheesecakes irresistible.


* 12 foil cupcake liners

* Nonstick cooking spray

* 2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature

* 1/2 cup granulated sugar

* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

* 1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* Pinch of salt

* 2 large eggs

* 1/2 cup Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin

* 2 tablespoons Pumpkin Spice Flavor Nestle Coffee-mate Liquid Coffee Creamer


Preheat oven to 300 F. Line 12-cup muffin tin with foil liners; coat liners with nonstick cooking spray.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, cinnamon, flour, vanilla extract and salt in large mixer bowl until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well again after each addition. Transfer half-cup batter to a medium bowl. Add pumpkin and Coffee-mate; stir until blended.

Divide white cream cheese batter evenly among prepared cups; top evenly with pumpkin batter. Swirl batters with butter knife.

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes or until just set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.

Note: Cheesecakes will hold for 3 to 4 days tightly covered in refrigerator. You can freeze them in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Peppermint Mocha Cheesecake

Peppermint Mocha Cheesecake is a perfect choice for seasonal entertaining, and it is a simple recipe that will be sure to dazzle guests.


* 2 cups ground chocolate-mint sandwich cookies (such as Oreos Mint N' Cream)

* 3 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature

* 1 cup Peppermint Mocha Flavor Nestle Coffee-mate Powdered Coffee Creamer

* 3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

* 3 large eggs

* 1 container (16 oz.) sour cream, at room temperature

* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease bottom and side of nine-inch springform pan.

Press cookie crumbs onto bottom of prepared pan. Place in freezer for five minutes.

Beat cream cheese, Coffee-mate and 1/4 cup sugar in large mixer bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour filling into crust.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until edges are set but center still moves slightly.

Combine sour cream, remaining sugar and vanilla extract in medium bowl; mix well. Spread over surface of warm cheesecake. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove side of springform pan.

To find more great seasonal recipes and see how Nestle Coffee-mate seasonal flavors can add a rich flavor to your holiday gathering, visit

2014-11-12T00:00:00<![CDATA[The only secret you need to know for successful holiday meal planning]]>

(BPT) - You don’t need the juggling skills of a big-top performer in order to host a successful holiday gathering. Careful planning, time management and an eye for adding quick and easy ‘homemade’ touches will make your gathering one for the memory books, while still having plenty of time to enjoy the company of your guests. Don’t let poor planning leave you cooped up in a hot kitchen while everyone else revels in the joys of the season.

“The secret to holiday meal time-management is simple: Know where to spend and know where to save, without sacrificing the homemade taste” says Victoria Hudgins, an entertaining expert. “Reducing time spent on certain aspects of the meal can allow you to invest more in other areas. For example, instead of spending hours making a homemade dessert, consider a high-quality store-bought pie and some whipped topping to put your own special touches on at home and achieve the homemade look and taste.”

Victoria offers these tips on how to balance meal prep time:

Save on an already “homemade” dessert: The last course of the meal is your final chance to wow guests, but many of the most impressive holiday desserts are also the most time-consuming to prepare. You can serve an outstanding dessert with virtually no prep time and without losing the truly homemade taste, thanks to frozen brands like Marie Callender’s. Along with the homemade scent and flavor, Marie’s starts your ‘homemade’ pie for you, allowing time to add your own special touches such as sugar cookie cutouts placed on the pie before baking. For additional homemade elements, be sure to choose varieties that have those special touches you would add if you were doing the baking – like hand-picked apples and hand-placed chocolate curls.

What to do with the time you save: Invest in making a main course that will leave guests impressed and full. The extra hour you save on dessert prep could be just enough time to add flare to the turkey, holiday ham or even some knock-out steaks.

Save on appetizers: Appetizers set the tone for the meal, so they need to be appealing. On the other hand, you don’t want guests to fill up on them and have no room left for the main course. Keeping appetizers light and simple saves room in guests’ tummies and saves you time, too. Serve simple two-ingredient appetizers or even store-bought options to minimize prep time.

What to do with the time you save: Put the time-savings toward more sophisticated side dishes. Along with traditional family favorites like stuffing and mashed potatoes, try something new that might require a bit more prep and longer cooking time, such as a winter squash souffle.

Save on topping off your holidays dishes: No one wants to serve dull dishes, and you don’t have to spend a lot of time to add pizzazz. Simple touches, like adding Reddi-wip, can transform a variety of dishes. For example, basic eggnog gets a pop of mint flavor and festive color with Reddi-Wip peppermint chocolate egg nog. A whoosh of topping sprinkled with crushed peppermint candies creates a joyful touch on this jazzed-up holiday favorite. Best of all, adding this real cream goodness is just 15 calories.

What to do with the time you save: Add more pizzazz to holiday decorating. Create a stunning centerpiece for the table featuring holiday items like fresh pine branches, scented pine cones, pillar candles in holiday colors and even Christmas balls. Incorporate festive touches in table settings, such as napkin holders made from a single artificial poinsettia blossom and holiday ribbon, chair covers in holiday patterns, and place card holders made from pine cones.

Save on invitations. Instead of the time and money you would invest in choosing, preparing and mailing paper invitations, use e-invitations instead. It’s easy to find free online services that allow you to create and send digital invitations, and many even track responses and maintain an up-to-date guest list.

What to do with the time you save: Perfect your holiday playlist. Holiday music playing in the background can underscore the mood of your holiday event. With the time you’ve saved on invitations, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to peruse online playlists and find the perfect mix of holiday songs – traditional, instrumental, country or contemporary – to accompany the festivities.

“Getting ready for holiday guests doesn’t have to be stressful and time-consuming,” Hudgins says. “Substitutions like frozen desserts, additions such as whipped topping, and some smart time management can help you make the most of your prep time, so that you have more precious moments with those you love.”

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


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 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.

2014-11-24T00:00:00<![CDATA[Simple tips to help pancreatic cancer patients eat well]]>

(BPT) - What should you make for dinner? Most people ask that question at least once a week. For people with pancreatic cancer, however, daily meal-planning comes with particular challenges, such as ensuring they get enough nutrition and managing issues from their cancer or treatment. If you have pancreatic cancer or care for someone who does, you probably know that it’s not always easy to obtain the nutrients needed.

Strategies to promote better digestion and less nausea including consuming small, frequent meals; separating the consumption of beverages and food; and eating slowly. Those symptoms and others, such as loss of appetite and abdominal pain/cramping, are commonly faced by many people with pancreatic cancer as a result of their cancer or treatment and can interfere with getting much needed nutrients.

Additional tips include keeping a food diary to help identify foods that may be triggering pain, discomfort or indigestion, and keeping your mouth clean and healthy with frequent brushing and a simple homemade mouth rinse consisting of 4 cups of water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon baking soda, to be prepared daily.

“Cooking. Comfort. Care. Nourishment for the Pancreatic Cancer Fight” is an educational program that highlights the unique nutritional issues faced by people living with pancreatic cancer and provides strategies, like those above, to help them. The program, sponsored by Celgene and developed in conjunction with culinary expert Chef Michael Ferraro, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, and Meals to Heal, offers tips for managing nutritional challenges, recipes specially developed for people with pancreatic cancer, and how-to videos.

“I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this program because there’s no reason that people with pancreatic cancer shouldn’t have tasty, nutritious food that is easy to prepare,” says Chef Ferraro, who witnessed firsthand the nutritional challenges resulting from pancreatic cancer after his mother was diagnosed.

Ferraro worked with registered oncology dietitian Jessica Iannotta at Meals to Heal to create Turkey Sweet Potato Hash, a nutrient-dense dish that is a good source of protein and B vitamins, that can help boost energy – especially important because of the fatigue that patients can experience. In addition, the cooked apple and sweet potato provide fiber that is easily tolerated and full of antioxidants like beta-carotene and quercetin.

Simple meals like shakes and smoothies are often helpful ways for people with pancreatic cancer to get the nutrients they need. A Peaches and Cream Smoothie combines the potassium and fiber benefits of peaches and bananas along with soluble fiber from rolled oats, which can help alleviate loose bowel movements and promote regularity. Protein powder can be added for additional nutritional value, if approved by a patient’s healthcare team.

Visit and to view the recipes and additional tips. There are also videos of Chef Ferraro and Jessica Iannotta demonstrating how to prepare these and other dishes as well as offering ideas on ways to adjust the recipes.

The Cooking. Comfort. Care. Nourishment for the Pancreatic Cancer Fight program was created by Celgene Corporation in collaboration with the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Meals to Heal and Chef Michael Ferraro. The recipes and tips featured were developed by registered dietitians who are board-certified specialists in oncology nutrition, along with Chef Ferraro. The content is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Talk to your healthcare team for nutritional advice or specific questions you have about managing your condition or that of a loved one.

2014-10-27T00:00:00<![CDATA[Inspiration for a simple and delicious Thanksgiving]]>

(BPT) - Thanksgiving is all about abundance. It’s a time when Americans pull out the stops to celebrate everything they have to be thankful for with a big, delicious meal that will leave everyone at the table saying “Wow!”

This year, with an incredible variety of convenient resources available, ideas and inspiration are also in abundance to help you create an unforgettable feast, whether you’re hosting your very first Thanksgiving or your 50th.

“I love preparing for the Thanksgiving feast as much as I love actually eating it. I’m all about finding recipes I trust and figuring out ways to get as much done as possible before my family arrives, so it’s effortless and simple to throw the finishing touches together,” says Molly Yeh, whose photography and popular musings on easy cooking ideas and adventures from the farm have been featured in Food & Wine, Fresh Style and Saveur. “Like me, most people turn to blogs or Pinterest and informational websites for their Thanksgiving inspiration. These days, there’s no need to spend your holiday tied up on a help hotline. You don’t have to look far to find easy, creative ways to make this the best Thanksgiving yet.”

Starting with the meal’s iconic centerpiece - a delicious Thanksgiving turkey - these tips, ideas and resources make hosting so easy that even first-time cooks will feel like five-star chefs.

Simplify with no-fuss ingredients  

Semi-homemade ingredients can add to the ease of meal preparation and free you up to spend more time with family and friends. Jazz up pre-made mashed potatoes from your grocer’s refrigerated section by adding a teaspoon of chopped fresh rosemary and stirring in creamy Country Crock butter. Add a few custom touches to pre-washed bagged salad mix such as blue cheese crumbles, sliced red onion and bite-sized pears and serve with balsamic vinaigrette dressing for a no-fuss dish with big flavors.

Modern sophistication

If contemporary cuisine is your style, switch out traditional meal elements with more modern versions. Instead of baked sweet potatoes, make a rustic vegetable tart using chopped sweet potatoes, onions and other farm-fresh veggies wrapped in a delicious crust of frozen pre-made puff pastry.

Easy regional cuisine

Regional American cuisines are among the top four “Hot Trends” this year, according to the National Restaurant Association. Give Thanksgiving an easy Tex-Mex twist by making a Southwestern turkey rub using chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper. If seasoning rubs are new to you, an easy how-to video is just a click away. Round out your dinner theme with cornbread dressing made with diced green chilies and spicy pepperoni.  

Gluten-free Thanksgiving goodness

About one in four Americans feels that a gluten-free menu is good for everyone, according to The NPD Group. Everyone at your table, even those with special diets, can enjoy holiday flavors with a delicious gluten-free menu featuring roasted turkey, honey-and-bacon Brussels sprouts, quinoa stuffing with sweet potatoes and honey cranberry sauce.  

A simple solution for tender, perfectly cooked turkey

The turkey is the star of your Thanksgiving show, so go for a simple, convenient solution like JENNIE-O OVEN READY Turkey - a turkey that goes directly from your freezer to oven with no thawing, less mess and a perfect result every time. With OVEN READY Turkey, hosts can be confident they’ll impress their guests with a tender, perfectly seasoned turkey, allowing them to focus on other elements of the meal, from creative side dishes to tantalizing desserts, or simply enjoy hosting company.

Dazzle them with desserts

Create a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach with simple desserts presented in elegant new ways. Make apple carrot cake cupcakes or individual mini pumpkin cheesecakes and serve them on a beautiful glass pedestal platter. Even a store-bought dessert can make mouths water if it’s placed on a gorgeous serving plate.

Add some sparkle

Make your meal - and your guests - truly sparkle by serving delicious cranberry sparkler drinks. Combine two cups cranberry juice cocktail and two cups orange juice with a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine and let the celebration begin.

Go online to get started

For more inspiration, visit the new “Holiday Table” section on - a one-stop destination for entertaining ideas to make any home cook’s efforts shine without adding extra hours in the kitchen, including inspirational menus and recipes, plus tips, how-to videos and more.

2014-12-05T00:00:00<![CDATA[Millions of Americans would give up Facebook for Christmas sweets [Infographic]]]>

(BPT) - The holidays are full of decadent sweets and gourmet desserts, and Americans wouldn’t have it any other way. This infographic explores that love of sweets and what most people would part with (or protect) to ensure they get the sweets they crave this season.


2014-09-30T00:00:00<![CDATA[Grape idea! One simple ingredient boosts nutrition and reinvents meals]]>

(BPT) - As the days start to get shorter – and the evenings busier – families are always on the lookout for quick and easy go-to meals that will please even the pickiest eaters. A few tricks and time-saving recipes instantly reinvent family favorites and will receive rave reviews at the dinner table.

With the California grape season still going strong, make the burst of red, green or black grapes your juicy secret for happy fall meals. Honey-Balsamic Chicken with California grapes is sure to earn an A-plus from your crowd. Boneless, skinless chicken breast is a school-year standby, and chances are the other ingredients – honey, spices and balsamic vinegar – are already stocked in your pantry. Add halved red and green grapes, and that’s all it takes to turn ho-hum chicken into a new and comforting family favorite.

Another option: skip the take-out pizza and take the family on a flavor trip with trendy Italian Sausage Flatbread and California grapes. The combination of sausage and grapes is an Italian culinary tradition and pairs deliciously with sprinkles of chard and feta cheese. By using whole-grain flatbread and turkey sausage in this recipe, you can sneak in better nutrition without your family even noticing.

Why not turn it into a family affair by enlisting the kids’ help in assembling the ingredients on the flatbread? Making dinner together is fun, and research shows that kids who help with meal prep tend to have healthier diets.

Here’s a nifty trick to easily halve grapes in these and other recipes: Place a handful of grapes on a dinner plate (the plate should have a raised bottom, not be completely flat). Gently place another dinner plate (bottom side down) on top of the grapes.  Using a serrated knife, slice between the plates and voila! You have perfectly halved grapes. 

Try these great recipes and watch them bring smiles of satisfaction to your family. For more grape ideas, go to,, or

Honey-Balsamic Chicken with California Grapes


2 tablespoons olive oil

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

To taste freshly ground black pepper

3 shallots, roughly chopped

2 cups  red seedless California grapes, halved

1 cup green seedless California grapes, halved

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary


Preheat the oven to 400 F. Heat the oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add it to the skillet with the shallots. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring and turning the chicken occasionally, until it and the shallots are nicely browned.

Add the grapes, vinegar, honey, and garlic and bring them to a boil; cook and stir for five minutes more. Place the skillet in the oven and roast for 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle the top with rosemary. Serves four.

Nutritional analysis per serving (without sides): Calories 261; Protein 28 g; Carbohydrate 19 g; Fat 8 g (Sat. Fat 1g); 28 percent Calories from Fat; Cholesterol 68 mg; Sodium 314 mg; Potassium 486 mg; Fiber 1 g.

Serving suggestion: Serve over a brown rice blend or polenta with lightly steamed chard or kale.

Italian Sausage Flatbread with California Grapes


2 hot Italian turkey sausage links, casing removed

1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 whole grain flatbreads 

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped Swiss chard

1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles

1 cup red and green seedless California grapes, sliced


Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Cook the sausage over medium-low heat in a nonstick skillet until cooked through. Stir in the Italian seasonings and red pepper flakes.

Gently brush each flatbread with the oil. Layer the flatbread with the sausage, chard, feta and grapes. Bake for 15 minutes. Slice each flatbread into eight even pieces. Serves four.

Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 273; Protein 13 g; Carbohydrate 14 g; Fat 20 g (Sat. Fat 8g); 63 percent Calories from Fat; Cholesterol 47 mg; Sodium 699 mg; Potassium 175 mg; Fiber 4 g.

2014-10-02T00:00:00<![CDATA[Up your game: tips for tailgating]]>
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(BPT) - Fall brings cooler temperatures, changing leaves, and most importantly (many will argue) football! Nothing beats rooting for your team with good friends and good game grub. Whether you’ll be cheering from the couch or chanting in the stadium, you can easily up your game when it comes to awesome tailgate fare. Make these dishes ahead of time, so you can just pack them in the cooler or set them out on the table on game day and not miss a minute of the action.

Skinny dip

A good dip is an essential part of the game day menu, but this year you can lighten it up and amp up the flavor for a dip all your guests will be diving into. Opadipity By Litehouse is made from Greek yogurt so it has a thick, creamy consistency with fewer calories and more protein. It comes in mouth-watering and crowd-pleasing flavors like Chipotle Ranch, Cucumber Dill and Spinach Parmesan. Cut up carrots, celery and peppers to dunk and arrange around the dip on plates in your favorite team’s colors. You can also cut pita bread into quarters, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for fresh, crunchy pita chips that are perfect for dipping.

Mix it up

Everyone loves munching on snack mix, but rather than just throwing the ingredients in a bowl and calling it a day, make sure yours scores major points. Combine your favorite nuts, pretzels, popcorn and cereal with seasonings like hot sauce, garlic, onion powder or taco mix and bake it in the oven for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes for a flavorful, toasty treat. After it cools, add in chocolate candies in your team colors and watch people huddle around the bowl.

Hands free

When watching the game, having one hand free to high five, fist pump and - in tough situations - cover your eyes is a must. Make it easy for the fans with kabobs that don’t even require a plate. Get creative with ingredients on wooden skewers ; combine chunks of turkey and cheese with lettuce, tomato and pickles or slices of salami and roast beef with cheese and olives to make tasty, easy-to-eat fare. Have delicious dressings handy as dipping sauces  -  OPA By Litehouse Greek Yogurt Salad Dressings in Ranch or Feta Dill are the perfect accompaniment.

Sweet victory

Don’t forget dessert to sweeten victory or defeat! Make or buy cupcakes and create pennants from paper cut into triangles attached to toothpicks. Write team and players’ names and cheer-worthy football sayings to up the team spirit. Extra points for cupcakes in team colors. You can also make cookies or cake pops. Mold them into a football shape using a knife and your hands and use white icing to pipe on laces.  

It’s easy to kick the season off right with delicious game day food. For more ideas, go to

2014-10-09T00:00:00<![CDATA[Enjoy healthier comfort foods while keeping the comfort]]>

(BPT) - Comfort foods remind us of home, warmth and family; they are often the creamy, rich and heavy everyday foods we had as children. Things like macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, and fried chicken may be soothing to the soul, but not to the waistline.

“I happen to like my comfort foods just the way they are,” jokes chef instructor Terra Ciotta of The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Charlotte, a campus of South University. “But around the holidays, many are making more mindful and healthier choices.”

If you’re trying to reduce the holiday bulge, follow chef Ciotta’s equation of substitution equals reduction. For mashed potatoes, Ciotta purees steamed cauliflower, makes half the portion of her freshly mashed potatoes and folds the cauliflower puree into the mashed potatoes. For hearty spaghetti with meatballs, Ciotta reduces the ground beef portion and adds finely chopped sauteed mushrooms.

“If you really want to make your recipes healthier, try to make simple modifications that won’t change the end product too drastically,” says chef Leslie Eckert of The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, a campus of South University. “Otherwise, you won’t achieve the comfort in comfort food.”

Here are tips and simple guidelines chefs Eckert and Ciotta recommend.

* Choose whole grains over refined: brown rice, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta instead of white rice, white bread or standard pasta. Whole grains digest more slowly, providing longer-lasting energy.

* Use small amounts of olive oil instead of butter on grains or vegetables and to saute. A non-aerosol spray bottle can help use oil sparingly.

* Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products: skim or 1 percent milk, low-fat or fat-free yogurts, sour cream and cheeses – and reduce the amount.

* Choose Canadian bacon or lean ham over bacon, wild-caught, fresh or water-packed tuna or salmon over oil-packed tuna or salmon, chicken and turkey sausage over pork sausage and lean ground turkey and beef over high-fat options.

* Use herbs, flavored powders (like garlic powder), citrus (like lemon juice) and heat (like red pepper or hot sauces) over extra salt.

* Instead of frying, bake, roast or grill using a rub or marinade.

* Use fresh or frozen vegetables over canned. Remember that frozen vegetables are harvested at peak season and usually flash-frozen, making them superior in flavor and nutrients to off-season fresh ones.

* Remember – using low-fat or fat-free dairy products, olive oil, whole grains or lean meats doesn’t mean unlimited portions.

According to chef Eckert, high-fat, high-sugar foods - such as comfort foods - illicit “feel good” hormones quicker than a plate of raw vegetables. To make your holidays healthier, you can always add vegetables to a hearty dish. Chef Ciotta cites one of her favorites as creamy risotto with broccoli. You’re still getting the hearty dish, but at the very least, you’re adding something healthy with fiber.

Many experts say that you don't have to give up your comforting favorites in order avoid weight gain. It just takes planning and portion control, and substitution of course.

For more information about The Art Institutes, visit

2014-09-02T00:00:00<![CDATA[5 dietary habits of healthy kids]]>

(BPT) - With so much information available about kids’ nutrition – what to eat, how to supplement and more – it’s hard to get a firm grasp on what it takes to raise a healthy child. In the U.S., a significant portion of children are not getting enough essential vitamins and nutrients, including vitamins D, E and A, and omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA according to the 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

“It’s quite difficult to get all the essential vitamins and nutrients solely from diet – especially if you have picky eaters in your house,” says Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author of The Essential Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. “There are tips and tricks parents can follow to establish healthy eating habits for their kids, but it’s also important for parents to consider adding multivitamins to their child’s routine to fill in the gaps.”

Somer focuses on five important tips parents should follow to ensure their kids are getting adequate amounts of the essential vitamins and nutrients they need. These nutrition tips can build the foundation for healthy habits long after kids leave the nest:

1. Look to MyPlate to fill your plateMyPlate is an updated guide to nutrition from the USDA and First Lady Michelle Obama - think of it as the new Food Guide Pyramid. Check out the tips for a well-rounded diet focused on fruits, veggies and whole grains.

2. Decorate your plate – Create a colorful plate of salads with spinach, strawberries and blueberries or other fruits and veggies for meal and snack times. Kids need at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. More is even better.

3. Sport a milk mustache – Children need two-to-three glasses of calcium-rich milk or yogurt each day. Give them milk fortified with DHA – an omega-3 fatty acid shown to benefit brain development, eye health and even sleep – and you’ll add a punch of nutrition to each glass.

4. Eat your ABCs – Listing essential vitamins is a lot like reciting the alphabet. According to recent research, though, kids are not getting enough of vitamins D, E or A as well as the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Dark leafy greens, oily fish like salmon, sweet potatoes, peanut butter, milk and carrots are good examples of foods that can deliver these nutrients.

5. Fill the gaps – For both kids and adults, it’s difficult to achieve optimal nutrition through diet alone. It’s especially difficult for picky eaters. Therefore, an age-appropriate, well-formulated multivitamin and mineral supplement provides extra insurance that your little one is getting all the nutrients he or she needs. And, if your child is not eating multiple servings of fatty fish (like salmon) per week, consider a quality fish oil supplement for omega-3s DHA and EPA.

For more information on kids’ nutrition, and healthy tips for the whole family, visit

2014-11-03T00:00:00<![CDATA[The key to an easy, stress-free and great Thanksgiving: a to-go feast]]>

(BPT) - More than half of all Americans will feast on takeout this Thanksgiving, according to the National Restaurant Association. It’s easy to guess why. All the things we love about takeout – such as convenience and time-savings – are doubly valuable during the busy holiday season.

Holiday takeout can be a time-saving, fuss-free and low-labor way to have a great meal without spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Less time preparing a meal and cleaning up afterward means more time to spend with loved ones so you can do the things you enjoy during the holidays. Still, holiday takeout requires some planning to get it right.

“Thanksgiving is a busy day for restaurants, too, so it pays to put some thought into your holiday to-go plans,” says Bill Kintzler, chef for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. “In fact, Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for our restaurants. We expect we’ll serve about 1.4 million meals over the nine day Thanksgiving holiday season.”

Kintzler offers some advice to ensure your holiday takeout is a success:

* Place your order on time. Call at the last minute and the restaurant may no longer have availability – and you may find yourself preparing your own holiday meal. Cracker Barrel advises customers to order at least 24 hours before the holiday.

* Calculate how much food you’ll need for the number of guests you anticipate – and don’t forget to allow extra for leftovers. Generally, you should allow a pound of turkey per adult guest, a few ounces of side dishes per guest, and at least one slice of pie (about a 3-inch wedge) per guest. Ask the restaurant how many guests their takeout meal should serve, and request information on portion sizes.

* Get a clear list of what’s included in your order, and find out if substitutions are allowed. For example, if your family loves turkey but doesn’t eat as much stuffing, will the restaurant allow you to order additional meat and gravy and cut back on other trimmings? Will the order include entree, sides and bread? Cracker Barrel’s Thanksgiving To-Go meal includes turkey breast, cornbread dressing, gravy, sugar-cured ham, cranberry relish, and a choice of sides and biscuits, corn muffins or a sourdough loaf.

* Confirm your order a day or two before the holiday – especially if you’ve placed it well in advance. Some restaurants may offer email or text-message confirmations, but you should also be able to call and quickly confirm the order with the restaurant.

* Order from established restaurants and/or caterers that have a track record of providing good food and service. Getting your takeout meal from a restaurant where you’ve already dined and had a good experience can help you be more confident that you’ll get a great meal.

* Ask the restaurant for detailed reheating instructions and follow them to ensure the best results.

* Don’t forget that you can always personalize your takeout meal by adding one or two side dishes of your own, as well as appetizers or a traditional family dessert.

“The holidays are supposed to be about spending time with loved ones,” Kintzler says. “Having someone else prepare your Thanksgiving meal can help you spend more time with family and friends and less time in the kitchen!”

To learn more about Cracker Barrel’s Thanksgiving menus – both in the restaurant and To-Go – visit


So you’re going to order takeout this Thanksgiving. Have you thought of what you’ll do with the time you’ll be saving? Here are a few fun ideas:

* Instead of shopping for all the food and ingredients you would need to prepare your own meal, use that hour to treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure.

* No more staying up late the night before to get the bird ready for the oven tomorrow – so snuggle up with a good book instead.

* Takeout makes cleanup a breeze, so use that saved time to clean up on bargains at all those Thanksgiving Day sales.

* Cooking a holiday meal usually means more than one last-minute grocery store run to get something you forgot or ran out of. Since takeout requires just one trip to the restaurant and home, why not use the time and gas you saved to take a drive and enjoy the fall colors?

2014-11-05T00:00:00<![CDATA[Have food allergies? Top tips for dining out and cooking at home]]>

(BPT) - An estimated 15 million people in the United States, including one in 13 children, suffer from food allergies, according to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). A wide range of reactions to food allergens can provide a unique set of challenges when dining out and even cooking at home. How can someone with food allergies still enjoy foods safely at home and while away?

Culinary professionals from The Art Institutes system of schools provide tips for navigating menus and recipes.

Dining out

“One of the most important things for people with food allergies is to be vocal about those food allergies,” says chef Jennifer Brooks-Stadler of The Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago. She says to make your allergies known, not only because of substitutions but also to ensure your meal hasn’t been prepared using cookware and utensils that have come in contact with the food you are allergic to.

“Ten or more yeas ago, the restaurant industry wasn’t very receptive to food allergies, intolerances and menu item substitutions. Today, this is not the case,” says chef Andrew Dole of The Art Institute of Colorado. “The consumer is in the driver’s seat when it comes to ordering meal alterations.”

To make dining experiences easier, Dole recommends looking up the menu or calling ahead to ask questions. Diners should also keep in mind that if they make special requests, they should allow for extra cooking time.

Dole also advises having a few go-to restaurants where you can get a meal without a hassle. “This doesn’t mean that trying out new restaurants is out of the question, but at peak meal times or on busy nights of the week, it doesn’t hurt to go with what one knows,” he says.

In the kitchen

Brooks-Stadler says there are three ways to work around a food allergy: reduce, replace or eliminate. “The home cook needs to know what they like and be willing to experiment a little,” she says. “There will be some fails.”

Eggs and nuts are two common food allergens but there are ways to work around them when cooking at home. “The egg is a very versatile ingredient that provides structure, binding and leavening,” says Dole. “Substituting for one or two eggs requires knowing what role the egg is playing in the recipe.” For more than two eggs, Dole recommends looking for a new recipe that doesn’t incorporate eggs.

Brooks-Stadler says you can substitute fruit and vegetable purees such as applesauce, pumpkin or squash for breads and baking. These purees can also be used when making homemade pasta.

For eggs being used as a binder, Dole suggests using a mashed banana, Xantham gum or another thick mashed or pureed fruit substitute. Applesauce works well to contribute moisture, and if the egg is the leavening element in a recipe, a small amount of baking powder can be used.

“A lot of people have different levels of allergies to nuts. Maybe you can’t have almonds, but you can have peanuts,” says Brooks-Stadler. She recommends substituting seeds and seed butters for nuts and nut butters.

Dole adds that seeds are crunchy with a good fat content, making them a great nut substitute in salads, baking and for garnishes. To replace the healthy fats found in nuts, olives, olive oils, canola oils and avocados will do the trick.

“I’d tell anyone with a food allergy or intolerance to ask for what you want. Be up front, and don’t hide it. It isn’t worth the consequences,” says Dole. Brooks-Stadler agrees, “The best thing I would recommend to people is to be aware and hyper-vigilant. Listen to your body.”

For more information about The Art Institutes, visit  

2014-10-14T00:00:00<![CDATA[How to protect your pet from the obesity epidemic]]>

(BPT) - The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more than one-third, or 78.6 million, of U.S. adults are obese. While the issue is well-recognized among the public, many don’t realize there is a second obesity epidemic occurring simultaneously - a pet obesity epidemic, which is even more severe.

Research from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention shows an estimated 52.6 percent of dogs and 57.6 percent of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. These numbers are at an all-time high, according to the Banfield Report, which says that 37 percent more dogs and 90 percent more cats are obese today than just five years ago.

So how do you know if your pet is overweight or obese? contributor Patrick Mahoney, VMD, points to the following signs to look out for:

* Excess fat covering the ribs – A thick layer of fat inhibits easy feeling of the ribs.

* Lack of a waistline – When looking down on your pet from above, there is a lack of visible narrowing just behind the last rib.

* Pendulous abdominal fat – Fatty tissue dangles from the underside of your pet’s abdomen, which may even swing while your pet is walking or running.

Just like with people, obesity can lead to other health complications in pets. Veterinarian and pet health expert Dr. Jennifer Coates notes that overweight pets are at an increased risk for multiple health conditions, including ligament ruptures, intervertebral disk disease, osteoarthritis, congestive heart failure, dermatological disorders, infections, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, as well as complications during surgery and some types of cancer.

“The complications that can arise from obesity in pets are just as detrimental to their health as for people who are obese,” says Dr. Ellen Lowery, associate director of U.S. Veterinary and Professional Affairs at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, which manufactures Hill's Prescription Diet Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution. The specialized line of products work together to ensure safe and healthy weight loss and easy weight maintenance, and is available alongside other pet food options from Hill’s. “Pet parents should consult with their veterinary healthcare team to first determine whether their pet is in its ideal weight range, and if not, what the best weight management strategy should be to support a longer, healthier and happier life.”

One tool that vets can use to conduct a pet weight assessment is the Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol, which was developed by Hill’s and the University of Tennessee for veterinary professionals to more accurately determine an estimated ideal body weight for overweight pets. It is also used to calculate the best range of caloric intake for a weight-loss program. The calculator allows the veterinary healthcare team to create a feeding and monitoring plan that is simple for pet owners to follow. Additional tools, such as PetMD’s Healthy Weight Calculator, can help pet parents learn about proper weight management and key questions to ask their veterinarian.

Pet parents should commit to a daily exercise schedule that provides consistent activities for their pets. For dogs, workouts could include a brisk walk outdoors or a game of fetch. As much as cats enjoy their snooze time they can still get in some exercise through toys and games.

It’s important to also pay attention to the feeding guidelines on pet food packaging, which are intended to instruct on the proper feeding portions for pets in certain weight ranges. This, of course, is a general recommendation and should be modified to reflect your pet’s daily activity level as well as any extra calories he is getting from treats, which should be no more than 10 percent of the pet’s total calories for the day. Your veterinarian can help determine how many calories your pet should be given daily and how many calories they can receive in treats.

Therapeutic pet foods, typically available through your vet, are also an option for healthy weight loss and management. The Hill's Prescription Diet Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution for instance, works with each pet's unique metabolism to deliver the right amount of essential nutrients your pet needs while keeping them full and satisfied between meals. In real-world testing with pet owners and their pets at home, 88 percent of pets lost weight over two months.

Pet parents should think of their pets’ health in the same way they view their own and incorporate nutritious food and physical activity into their daily routine for healthy weight management.

2014-10-27T00:00:00<![CDATA[Clever holiday entertaining shortcuts big on taste, low on stress]]>

(BPT) - It’s the season for entertaining. Between the holidays, family gatherings and just needing an excuse to socialize during the long winter months, you’ll probably be organizing several fun parties and gatherings at your home.

If you’re dreading the season because it feels like entertaining is so much work, the following tips will help you make this holiday season and beyond a breeze.

* Make lists – If you’re a mobile device user, get a list started for everything you need. Any time you think of something, be sure to add it to the list immediately, or send yourself a reminder email so you can add it at a later time. These lists will help you keep everything organized and remind you of what you have left to achieve so you aren’t scrambling to make an appetizer or clean the bathroom at the last minute.

* Take short cuts – Of course you want to show off your cooking skills, but that doesn’t mean you need to slave for hours in the kitchen preparing foods. Intricately decorated sugar cookies are as beautiful as they are delicious, but sometimes simple shortcuts – like making bars rather than cookies – can make an event much less stressful. Here’s a quick recipe from Simply Organic.

Sugar Cookie Bars

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoon Simply Organic vanilla extract

1/3 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic almond extract
Sliced almonds

Sugar Cookie Bars directions:

Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking pan. Line with parchment paper so the paper overhangs the edges. In a large bowl, stir the flour with the baking powder and salt; set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture until fully incorporated. Press mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Chill for 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until set in the center and edges are lightly golden. Cool completely before frosting.

Frosting directions:

Using an electric mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar, milk and almond extract on low speed until smooth. Spread over cooled cookie bars. Sprinkle with almonds. Cut into 32 pieces.

* Ask for help – Just because you’re hosting the party doesn’t mean you need to do all the work. When issuing invitations, specify what kind of a party it is. A potluck is great for family gatherings and parties. Just provide a list of items people should bring on the invite. Once the party is underway, ask a friend to be in charge of keeping drinks filled, and have another friend monitor the music station, so you can enjoy the party as well.

* Keep it simple – Often the simplest food options are the healthiest – something your guests might appreciate during this season of indulgence. For example, a fresh fruit or veggie tray is extremely simple to put together, because you won’t have to spend time in front of the stove or mix ingredients to bake in the oven. Continue to keep it simple, but add trendy touch by trading out the ranch dressing for a Greek yogurt dip or homemade hummus made with Simply Organic seasoning packets for additional flavor for your fresh fruit and veggie spread.

No matter the type of party you are hosting this season, a few trendy touches and clever food shortcuts will wow guests and keep them raving long after it has ended. Above all else, have fun and enjoy these special moments with loves ones because the memories will last a lifetime.

2014-12-02T00:00:00<![CDATA[5 nutrition myths you won't believe are false]]>

(BPT) - Sensationalized nutrition headlines are everywhere, leaving consumers confused and overwhelmed at supermarkets, restaurants and even in their own kitchens. Referred to as “sound-bite science,” much of the media reporting simplifies, sensationalizes and tailors headlines to get clicks or tune-ins. As a result, consumers may miss critical information about the studies themselves. With almost 50 percent of consumers trusting media statements on health benefits in food, as states, it is increasingly important for health professionals to assist consumers in reaching fact-based conclusions about new science.

Here are five nutrition myths you might have read or heard about that deserve a second look:

1. “Natural” is healthier: Just because a product is claiming to be “natural,” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthier. There is no universal definition for the term, making it even more important for consumers to view the nutrition facts panel and ingredient list for information, rather than relying on product claims.

2. High fructose corn syrup is worse than sugar: In recent years, high fructose corn syrup has been singled out in some of the media as a unique cause of obesity and other health problems even though there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support such allegations. In fact, high fructose corn syrup is nutritionally equivalent to sugar, and has the same number of calories.

3. Saturated fat is OK: Saturated fat has made something of a comeback due to new research that found no evidence of saturated fat’s association with heart disease. What didn’t make the headlines was the importance of looking for healthier alternatives when replacing saturated fats. Scientific evidence has found that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats reduces total and LDL cholesterol. Bottom line: When you go to replace saturated and trans fats, look for foods high in unsaturated fats, such as olive oil, nuts and avocados.

4. Sugar intake is rising: Consumption of added sugars has actually decreased over the last 14 years at the same time that obesity rates have been increasing. Moreover, from 1970 to 2010, daily caloric intake increased by 459 calories, yet added sugar only accounted for 4 percent (20 calories) of that rise. There is no credible scientific evidence that any one single food or ingredient, including sugars and sweeteners, is uniquely responsible for obesity. The focus should be on how all foods fit into a healthy diet rather than singling out particular ingredients.

5. Eating at night contributes to weight gain: Scientific research shows that calories are calories. Timing of caloric intake is less important than total daily calories. Balance your food groups; enjoy your favorite foods, but practice moderation when eating foods that are higher in calories. And remember to exercise.

How can you tell if a story in the media is accurate or not? Here are some tips:

* Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). RDN’s possess an extensive educational background in science and are a great resource for debunking nutrition myths.

* Find the actual research study itself and review the full article, instead of a journalist’s summary. Visit the scientific journal’s website or to find the full research article.

* Ask yourself if the reporter is promoting food fears by making sweeping claims about a specific ingredient. If the answer is yes, it’s likely the reporter is failing to provide key information from the study.

The constant stream of information from innumerable media sources makes it difficult to separate fact from fiction. These tips will help you to cut through the clutter and become a more informed consumer.

This content is sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association. For more information on sweeteners, visit

2014-10-13T00:00:00<![CDATA[Is fresher always better? 4 ways to know your produce]]>

(BPT) - These days, when it comes to produce, the catch words are "local" and "seasonal." Local and seasonal, like fresh and organic, can mean a lot of different things, according to Jim Gallivan, department chair of Culinary Arts at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Atlanta and author of several cookbooks, including "The Adventure Cookbook" and "The New Spa Cuisine."

Gallivan offers definitions for the terms:

* Local. Local can be defined as having been grown less than a day's drive from where it's purchased. In general, local is preferable, Gallivan says. It lasts longer because it hasn’t spent days traveling across the country or the world to get to you, and less travel means less pollution and fewer wasted resources.

* Seasonal. If you've ever picked your own strawberries, you know there's nothing like that fresh-picked taste. Today, you can get almost any kind of produce at just about any time of the year. Asparagus in December? It's shipped in from Peru, where it's in season. Apples in July? They're pulled from cold storage just for you. But if it's not in season, it's not local, and that means it won't have the great flavor you find in local fresh-picked produce. 

* Fresh. We tend to think we should always choose fresh. And if it's local and seasonal, fresh is usually better. But sometimes canned or frozen is a better choice, especially when you're cooking the vegetables or fruit, as opposed to serving them uncooked. For instance, canned tomatoes - especially in the winter when they aren’t in season - are probably best. Gallivan says to remember that canned and frozen produce is typically picked and processed at its peak. That means it's going to taste much better than out-of-season fresh produce that has been traveling for days or stuck in cold storage for months.

* Organic. Google the word "organic" and you'll find hundreds of websites with as many variations of meaning. By definition, organic produce has been raised without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, using sustainable agricultural practices. "Natural" is not the same as "organic." Neither is "additive free" or "no preservatives." Moreover, there are different levels of United States Department of Agriculture Organic Certification ( That means when you shop for organic produce, you need to be aware and read the fine print.

One other important influence on the flavor of modern produce, which is grown on huge farms and packaged in giant processing plants, is the trend toward hybrid varieties bred for looks, shelf life and resilience during shipping. Flavor is not generally a top priority. Gallivan says there are exceptions, and some large agribusinesses do produce flavorful, organic foods. 

The bottom line for buying produce: Educate yourself. Know what is in season, what is grown locally and where it can be purchased, and how to determine if something really is organic. To learn more about The Art Institutes schools, visit

Persimmon Sorbet
Courtesy of Jim Gallivan
Yield: 8 servings

4 Fuyu Persimmons

1. Let persimmons ripen at room temperature until very soft, with their skins almost bursting.
2. With a sharp, serrated knife, cut in half on the vertical axis and wrap each half tightly in plastic wrap.
3. Freeze until solid.
4. About five minutes before serving, remove from freezer and unwrap.

Note: There are two varieties of persimmons - the Hachiya and the Fuyu - and both are seasonal between late fall and early winter. Both are the same earthy orange color. The Hachiya is acorn-shaped with a pointy bottom, and it tends to be hard and astringent, which makes it best for cooking. The Fuyu is shaped like a squat tomato, and upon ripening it becomes very sweet.

Cream of Spinach Soup
Courtesy of Jim Gallivan
Yield: 16 servings

2 ounces butter, unsalted
2 ounces olive oil
1 leek, cleaned, trimmed, thinly sliced
2 cups fresh spinach packed, or one 10-ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3 medium potatoes, peeled, quartered
2 cups half and half 
1 teaspoon sour cream per serving
Salt and ground white pepper, to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg

1. Heat the butter and oil together.
2. Add leek and saute until soft.
3. Add spinach and stir.
4. Add potatoes and stock, bringing to a boil.
5. When potatoes are soft, puree all and return to simmer.
6. Add half and half and stir.
7. Season to taste with salt and pepper, garnish with sour cream and freshly grated nutmeg.

May be served hot or chilled.

2014-09-02T00:00:002014-09-23T09:12:47<![CDATA[Dinnerware bursts with color for fall entertaining]]>

(BPT) - The autumn leaves bursting into vibrant reds, lively oranges, and brilliant yellows  signal a new season for home entertaining. If you need a little inspiration, look no further than your favorite outdoor spot to update your table setting with the hottest colors for fall 2014.

“Contemporary versions of classic colors are trending in the interior design realm this fall,” says John Griffith, visual merchandiser for dinnerware retailer Replacements, Ltd. “Rich deep Pantone colors including Sangria, Aurora Red, Cognac and Misted Yellow reflect the abundance of color you see outdoors. The new Fiesta color, Poppy, is perfect for autumn. Metallic finishes are also wildly popular, such as gold and copper.”

Customers frequently ask Griffith and designer Julie Robbins for creative guidance to refresh their family heirloom pattern table settings. Pattern blending is a specialty of Robbins.

“Vintage dinnerware continues to be one of the trendiest design elements in the tabletop industry and those patterns are some of our best sellers,” says Robbins. “Why buy a reproduction when the real thing is readily available? Search your mother or grandmother’s china cabinet to find some of the great retro patterns. Add your own point of view when you mix and match contemporary designs to create a modern look. It’s really simple to add an accent plate, or a stand-out charger in this season’s colors to update your table for fall entertaining.”

Figural pieces, such as leaf shaped plates and serving pieces are very popular this fall. Many manufacturers are offering colorful accent pieces with favorites including turkey, fall leaves and pumpkin motifs.

“You can use pumpkins as a strong design element through Thanksgiving,” Griffith suggests. “Pumpkins made of glass, ceramic and lightweight resin are big sellers in the store as we head into the season. Mix with the real thing to easily create a great centerpiece.”

As the season changes, so does the way you’re entertaining. Gatherings may be more casual as friends and family get together around the television for the big game or by the fire pit on the patio.

“Appetizer size plates and individual dip bowls are great for finger foods and condiments, says Robbins. “These smaller pieces are both popular and affordable. Plus it’s fun to mix shapes, colors or motifs. Mix and match your favorite team colors for the big game or choose individual Thanksgiving themed plates for celebrations tied to turkey day.”

Still looking for more fall tabletop ideals? Help is just a click away. This team is now using Facebook to share decorating tips and solutions.

“We love partnering with our customers to solve their design dilemmas,” says Robbins. “We’re thrilled when people reach out to us and ask questions on Replacements’ Facebook page. Our team is having a lot of fun connecting with our customers and we encourage people to visit our page, ask questions, like us and share us with their friends; we get so many great design challenges this way.”

Once the team receives a question, they create multiple mix and match options, photograph these table settings then post the images online for the public to see and share.

2014-09-04T00:00:00<![CDATA[Boost kids' nutrition with tips on creating a balanced plate]]>

(BPT) - It’s no secret a wholesome diet helps keep kids healthy while giving them the energy and nutrients they need to concentrate and excel at school. Healthful meals and physical activity are essential for child growth and development, and parents hold the key to proper nutrition for the entire family.

Fortunately, eating right doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money or time in the kitchen. By relying on nutritious and convenient canned and frozen foods, in addition to fresh, any parent or caregiver can create quick, delicious, nutritious meals the whole family will love.

The best place to start when planning a healthy meal is to consider ingredients and portion sizes. MyPlate, the food graphic that replaced the food pyramid, is an easy guide. The graphic emphasizes building a plate with variety and appropriate portions of fruit, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy.

Focus on fruits and vegetables: According to MyPlate, kids should be eating a variety of fruit and vegetables, with slightly more emphasis on colorful veggies. Fortunately, there are many ways to enjoy these nutrient-packed foods. All forms of fruits and vegetables, whether they are canned, fresh, frozen, dried or 100-percent juice, count toward the recommended daily intake. Stock up on canned fruit and vegetables to save on prep time and keep nutritious foods at your fingertips year-round.

Vary your protein choices: It’s easy to default to chicken and beef when it comes to getting protein into meals. But variety is the spice of life, and a diet rich in different protein sources helps children expand their palate. Animal sources of protein include meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. Plant sources of protein include beans, peas, soy products, nuts and seeds. Experiment with main dishes made with canned beans, seafood or chicken, nutritious protein options that can be part of dinner on any busy school night. How much is enough? Most people ages 9 and older should eat 5 to 7 ounces of protein each day, recommends the USDA. One ounce of protein is equal to: 1 ounce lean meat, poultry or seafood; one egg; 1/4 cup cooked beans or peas; 1/2 ounce nuts or seeds; or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter.

Add whole grains: Bread, pasta, breakfast cereals and tortillas are just a few examples of grain products people eat often. Any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal or barley counts. Strive to make whole-grain foods at least half of your family’s daily intake of grain by choosing whole-wheat bread and pasta or getting creative with unique sources like brown rice, barley or even canned hominy to add to soups and casseroles.

Don’t forget the dairy: As an alternative to plain milk, try offering other dairy options like yogurt and cheese. Start the school day right with an energizing breakfast of whole grain cereal topped with low fat yogurt and canned fruit like peaches or Mandarin oranges; this will keep even the pickiest eaters satisfied until their lunchtime.

Listen to health experts: A recent survey of health professionals found that the vast majority of dietitians (95 percent) regularly rely on canned ingredients at home and agree canned foods are a great way to meet dietary goals. In fact, 9 out of 10 dietitians say they regularly recommend canned food to others. And while moms and dads are turning to canned ingredients because they are convenient, often less expensive than fresh and available year-round, the survey also found they still have a number of concerning misperceptions about canned food compared to dietitians. Check out an infographic at to learn more about what these nutrition experts already know. 

Keep taste top-of-mind: If kids don't like the taste of a food, they won't eat it. Be creative and prevent mealtime battles by adding vegetables to spaghetti or mixing them with their favorite casseroles and soups. Or try engaging kids in meal preparation or building their own plate with easy-to-make recipes like these Family Fiesta Tacos from

Family Fiesta Tacos from


For the taco meat filling:

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 pound extra-lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 can (4 ounces) diced, mild green chilies
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, no salt added, drained
1/2 cup drained canned corn
1/2 cup drained and rinsed canned red kidney beans
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Salt, to taste (optional)

For serving:

Spray oil
8 (8-inch) whole-wheat flour tortillas, warm according to package directions
1/2 cup fancy, shredded monterey jack cheese
1 cup finely shredded lettuce
1 cup diced avocados (optional)


1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
2. Add onion and saute until lightly browned, stirring often, about 4 minutes. 
3. Add beef and cook until lightly browned, about 4 minutes.
4. Add chilies, tomatoes, corn, beans, chili powder, cumin and pepper and stir until heated through, about 3 minutes.
5. Season to taste with salt, if needed. 
6. Transfer to a serving bowl and keep warm.
7. To serve the original Family Fiesta Soft Tacos, plate up warm tortillas, dish up the cheese, lettuce, and avocado (if desired).
8. Serve with taco meat filling.
9. Assemble and enjoy.

2014-10-21T00:00:00<![CDATA[Tempting and healthy holiday treats ]]>

(BPT) - The holiday season is a fun and festive time. It’s also a time when many people take a timeout from their daily routine to enjoy those tempting treats at family gatherings and office parties. This holiday season, end the year on a high and healthy note with the help of registered dietitian, Lyssie Lakatos.

“If you know desserts at holiday parties are a downfall for you, bring a dessert that uses nutrient-packed ingredients,” says Lakatos. “Show guests that nutritious can be tasty and don’t be afraid to test out unconventional ingredients like sweet potatoes, beans or zucchini.”

Here are a few tips from Lyssie on how to eat, drink and be healthful during the holidays:

* Pre-game with mini meals: One rule of thumb is never show up to a party famished. Have a protein packed snack like a light soup or Eggland’s Best Hard-Cooked and Peeled eggs before arriving to prevent hunger pangs. Eggland’s Best eggs are a good source of protein and also contain more than double the omega-3s of ordinary eggs. Evidence has also shown that those who eat soup prior to a main course are less likely to overeat during the rest of the meal.

* Cheers to your health: Alcohol can lower your inhibition and increase your hunger at the dinner table. Pay attention to your portion sizes and know your limit. When it comes to wine, remember that one serving is only five ounces. Those being served by someone with a heavy hand can oftentimes end up drinking up to eight ounces or more per pour. If you want to make your drink last twice as long, add sparkling water and ice to your glass and use the “every other” tactic - alternating alcoholic beverages with calorie-free drinks.

* Think outside the cake mix box: If you’re in the mood to bake a pie, cake or brownies, try swapping out flour for ingredients like sweet potatoes or black beans, which are good sources of magnesium to help lower stress and are rich in fiber to help flush those holiday indulgences for a flatter-appearing tummy. Also, instead of baking with ordinary eggs, use a nutritionally superior egg like Eggland’s Best which have 10 times more vitamin E and 25 percent less saturated fat.

You can find great recipes, including this Eggland’s Best Sweet Potato Pie, at or

Sweet Potato Pie

Serves 10


* 2 Eggland’s Best eggs (use Eggland’s Best because they have four times more vitamin D, which is an important vitamin to have during the dark, winter months)

* 3 small sweet potatoes, roughly 3 ounces each

* 2 tablespoon butter, soft

* 1 tablespoon brown sugar

* 1/2 cup skim milk

* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

* Oil in a spray bottle or non-stick cooking spray

* 1 9-inch unbaked pie crust

* Nonfat whipping cream (optional)


Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Using a fork, stab each sweet potato several times in separate spots. Place in the microwave for about 6 minutes (depending on your microwave) or until very soft and a knife can easily go through them. Once fully cooked, allow potatoes to cool for roughly 5-7 minutes or until they are not too hot to handle. Using a potato peeler or knife, remove the skin from the potato and cut the potatoes into chunks. Place potato chunks into a medium bowl and add Eggland’s Best eggs, butter, brown sugar, milk, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon. Using a fork or whisk, mix the ingredients together completely. Prepare pie crust according to directions on package. Spray the bottom and sides of the pie pan with non-stick cooking spray or oil and place pie crust in pan. Using a fork, prick bottom of the crust in 3 separate places to prevent bubbles from forming. Pour the sweet potato batter on piecrust evenly. Place in oven for about 20 minutes. Remove pie from oven and stick toothpick or knife in center. If it comes out clean, remove the pie from the oven and allow it to cool. If batter still appears on toothpick or knife, place back in the oven for 5 minutes at a time until toothpick or knife comes out clean. After the pie has cooled, slice it into 10 pieces. If you desire, add whipping cream. Enjoy!

2014-09-03T00:00:00<![CDATA[The equation for stronger performance in school begins with a better breakfast]]>

(BPT) - Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for students embarking on a learning adventure. But all too often, kids head out the door with sugary pastries, cereals and bars – or worse yet, nothing in their stomachs at all. Children who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom and on the playground, with better concentration, problem-solving skills and eye-hand coordination, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

But not all breakfast foods are created equal. Starting the school day off right begins with a healthy and well-balanced breakfast, complete with three important nutritional components. Learn the right equation for a filling and balanced breakfast with these tips to keep kids at their best and brightest all year long.

1. Choose complex carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are important to give kids an initial burst of energy in the morning. This helps them feel awake and alert in order to tackle school projects and assignments during the first part of the day. However, parents should be giving kids the right carbohydrates. Instead of sugary cereals or breakfast bars – which can lead to a mid-morning sugar crash, signaling to the brain that it needs more fuel, thus making concentration more difficult – give kids complex carbohydrates like whole-grain cereals or bread with a side of fruit.

2. Pump up the protein: Protein provides kids with the right fuel for the entire day. Not only does it keep energy levels up, but it also contributes to higher attention spans, greater concentration levels and improved memory, which all lead to better school performance. Opt for breakfasts containing dairy products, meats and cheeses, like El Monterey breakfast burritos. Made with real ingredients like scrambled eggs, pork sausage, cheddar cheese and fresh-baked flour tortillas, El Monterey breakfast burritos can be an excellent source of protein to charge kids’ brains and bodies for the day ahead.

3. Fill it with fiber: Fiber is the final factor for a better breakfast. Fiber keeps kids feeling full for longer, alleviating hunger pains during the school day. It also discourages overeating and cravings for snacks, which can be high in fat and sugar, and low in nutritional value. Less snacking ultimately leads to better weight control. Some fiber-rich options include whole-grain breads, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables.

Performance in the classroom begins with a healthy start at home. With so many healthy and convenient breakfast options to choose from, the hectic morning routine doesn’t have to compromise a good start to the school day. And with these three essential components for a well-balanced breakfast, kids will have everything they need to start the day (and the school year) at their very best.

2014-11-11T00:00:00<![CDATA[The importance of maintaining family traditions through the holidays]]>

(BPT) - Holiday celebrations are a time for family, food, and fun. Part of what makes each holiday a special occasion are the family traditions that are celebrated and passed down each year.

Research shows traditions are important to families because they build strong relationships between generations. Because these customs are so cherished, children often remember these special experiences from the holiday season more than the toys or gifts they receive. Additionally, traditions can teach children about important values like family and community.

Here are a few reasons why traditions matter and how they create lasting memories:

* Traditions bring people together - There’s nothing like preparing a holiday recipe that’s been handed down from one generation to the next. It’s a wonderful time to reminisce about how the recipe brings back fond memories of holidays past while at the same time creating new memories as you prepare and enjoy the dish with the help of family and friends.

“Traditions are an important part of celebrating the holidays,” says Marnely Rodriguez-Murray, of the food blog Cooking with Books. “Many of them revolve around special-occasion food – and those familiar tastes and smells have the ability to bring families of all shapes and sizes together.”

* Traditions can evolve over time - As families change, so do traditions. Embrace these changes by creating new traditions or refining old ones. You can help make the holidays more special and memorable by giving others a chance to make suggestions for starting new and improving existing traditions.

“Millions of family traditions include sharing Hickory Farms gifts filled with signature sausages and cheeses before a holiday meal, when entertaining or while unwrapping gifts,” said Rodriguez-Murray. “This year, start a new one by secretly dropping a piece of their new Signature Chocolate Collection into someone’s hot cocoa when they aren’t looking. They’ll be both surprised and delighted.”

Available at and at Hickory Farms Holiday Market locations nationwide, these products can become a new family holiday tradition.

* Traditions are just plain fun - Traditions produce long-lasting memories for everyone, like the annual family Thanksgiving football game or everyone opening their matching pajamas on Christmas Eve, because they have the ability to make people laugh and smile. What’s more, these joyful traditions give family members something additional to look forward to each and every year. The repetition of these moments over time builds anticipation as each holiday season returns, enhancing the excitement, joy and fun for all.

Make this holiday season special by creating and preserving family traditions that will last a lifetime.

2014-10-08T00:00:00<![CDATA[Simple twists to enhance classic Thanksgiving fare]]>

(BPT) - Family and friends make Thanksgiving special, but it’s the food that’s always the center of attention. From juicy turkey and creamy potatoes to zesty cranberries and buttery rolls, nobody leaves the table hungry. This year, delight guests by making the classic foods they love but with a few simple twists that will leave taste buds dancing.

When guests arrive, give them something to nibble on as they visit and watch the parade or game. A cheese platter that features three to five new varieties will get everyone talking. Select a range of flavors to tempt every palate, such as pairing soft brie with a crumbly blue and Black Creek premium extra-aged cheddar cheese, made by Certified Master Cheesemakers.

The cheese shouldn’t stand alone, so be sure to complement it with fresh fruits. Instead of simply placing bite-size pieces on a plate, create fruit cornucopias using sugar ice cream cones. Simply spoon fruit into the cones and arrange the mini cornucopias on a platter for a beautiful seasonal presentation that’s easy to grab and enjoy for party guests young and old.

Apple cider is a holiday must-have to quench Thanksgiving thirst. This year, add some interest to your beverage offerings with a themed drink that expands on the sweet cider flavors. For example, an autumn sangria is the perfect seasonal offering that’s as cheerful as it is refreshing. Start with sparkling wine and add in a splash of cider with freshly sliced pears and apples. Finish with a few cranberries and sprinkle some nutmeg on top. For young guests or those who prefer non-alcoholic drinks, simply swap out wine for alcohol-free sparkling juice.

Cranberries are a Thanksgiving staple, but most people take a small spoonful and move on. If you want to add new flavor to cranberries so guests will be asking for seconds, different spices and additions could mean lip-smacking results. Sweet citrus fruits like oranges taste heavenly when cooked down with cranberries. A splash of port can bring new depths to the classic dish, too. Allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and even chili powder can add surprising flavor. If you want to add texture, crushed walnuts add crunch and complexity to the sauce.

Thanksgiving menus often include several potato dishes. The secret to enhancing potato dishes is adding cheese for an indulgent result. For example, the complex flavors of crumbled gorgonzola folded into sweet potatoes make a rich dish that guests will love. With a cheesemaking history that dates back to 1923, you can’t go wrong with Stella Gorgonzola. Upgrade standard mashed all-purpose white potatoes (russet, Idaho, etc.) by sprinkling in freshly grated parmesan or cheddar for extra kick.

No matter how full you are after your Thanksgiving dinner, there’s always room for dessert. Instead of or in addition to pumpkin pie, try pumpkin cupcakes or pumpkin cheesecake. Add new flavor to apple pie or apple crisp by mixing shredded cheddar cheese into the apple mixture prior to baking. Guests will ooh-and-ahh over how the sharp cheddar flavor enhances the sweet apple filling.

Need inspiration? Try these two delicious recipes perfect for enhancing any Thanksgiving table. For more unique recipes, visit

Cheddar Apple Crisp
Makes 8 servings.

4 cups apples (crisp and tart such as Braeburn), peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 plus 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed, divided
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1 cup Black Creek cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine apples, lemon juice and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Arrange in buttered 8 or 9-inch square pan. Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter until mixture is crumbly; gently mix in cheese. Sprinkle evenly over apple mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, garnish with shredded cheese.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cranberry Gorgonzola Gremolata
Makes 6 servings.

6 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 lemon, zested
1 clove garlic, minced finely
3 tablespoons minced pecans
3 tablespoons finely chopped dried cranberries
1 scallion, minced
2 ounces Stella gorgonzola, crumbled (If you prefer a milder flavor, use 2 ounces crumbled blue cheese instead of gorgonzola)


Preheat oven to 450 F. Place sweet potatoes on cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Flip over and return to oven to bake until tender - about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

When cool enough to do so safely, peel sweet potatoes. Place in a medium skillet over low heat with butter, salt and maple syrup for 5 minutes, basting the potatoes with the butter mixture occasionally. Lightly smash the potatoes until there is an even consistency. Hold over low heat.

To make the gremolata: In a small bowl, toss together parsley, lemon zest, garlic, pecans, cranberries and scallion. Gently fold in the cheese.

Move sweet potatoes to a serving dish and sprinkle with the gremolata. Serve hot.

2014-09-29T00:00:00<![CDATA[Think outside the pie tin: 3 surprising ways to savor pumpkin this fall]]>

(BPT) - Few flavors say “fall” more clearly and tastily than pumpkin. The squash that’s synonymous with autumn is also packed with vitamins, fiber and protein, making it a perfect ingredient for a variety of dishes – not just for everyone’s favorite holiday pie. Canned or fresh, pumpkin works in savory and sweet dishes alike.

Americans have been feasting on pumpkins since colonial days, when Native Americans first shared the secrets of this nourishing, easy-to-grow, prolific squash. In fact, along with corn, pumpkin is one of the oldest cultivated crops in the Americas. While early Americans didn’t use pumpkins to celebrate Halloween, they did use virtually every part of the squash, from seeds and flowers to the vine and flesh. Today, whether you opt for fresh pumpkin or canned, there are even more ways to enjoy this classic fall food.

Here are three fresh ideas to help you think outside the pie tin this fall, so you can work pumpkin into your meals before the season is over.

Better breakfast

Pie to pudding, pumpkin often gets relegated to dessert dishes. But it’s a great way to add seasonal flavor – and a punch of nutrition – to the first meal of the day. Of course, you can always bake up a batch of pumpkin muffins, but why not try giving some other popular breakfast foods the pumpkin treatment?

Protein bars, granola and scones all benefit from the addition of pumpkin. Incorporating the squash into breakfast can be as simple as adding a few tablespoons of pumpkin puree, some pumpkin pie spice and chopped pecans to your morning oatmeal.

If a smoothie gets you going in the morning, it’s easy to make a pumpkin smoothie that will deliver flavor, fun and even fiber!

For a quick and healthy pumpkin smoothie, combine with a banana, scoop of yogurt, a spoonful of nut butter, about one-third cup of skim milk, some ice, and cinnamon and honey to taste. For a boost of high-quality protein, throw a raw pasteurized egg in there, too. Try this Pumpkin Smoothie recipe from Davidson's Safest Choice:


1 banana

1 Safest Choice Egg (because they’re pasteurized in a warm water bath, they’re safe for all no-bake and no-cook recipes)

1/2 cup low fat yogurt

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1/3 cup skim milk

1/2 cup ice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon honey


Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Exciting treats

Of course, if you want a seasonal treat, it’s hard to beat pumpkin. Coffee houses know this, and every year pumpkin pops up on menus across the country. You don’t have to shell out $4 per cup for a pumpkin spice latte. Just make your own latte at home and add a couple tablespoons of pumpkin puree and a dash of pumpkin pie spice.

Pumpkin can also be a spirited treat, making its appearance in classic cocktails such as a Pumpkin Martini. For an eggnog guests won’t soon forget, try this recipe from Safest Choice Eggs:

Shaken Eggnog Cocktail Recipe


1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoon milk

1 1/2 ounces brandy, bourbon or dark rum

1 1/2 tablespoon simple syrup or agave nectar

1 Safest Choice pasteurized egg, beaten

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

ice to taste

pumpkin pie spice (optional garnish) to taste


Place cream, milk, brandy, simple syrup, egg, vanilla and ice in cocktail shaker. Shake well until blended. Pour into two glasses rimmed with pumpkin pie spice, if desired. Dust with additional pumpkin pie spice.

Making it your main squash

If you think squash as a main course begins with spaghetti squash and ends with zucchini casserole, think again. Pumpkin is a great main course ingredient. Whether you’re whipping up a hearty batch of pumpkin chili to warm your family on chilly fall days, or adding it for color and flavor to a shrimp curry, pumpkin works as a main course – either as an ingredient or the star of the show.

You can use pumpkin to replace the ricotta in lasagna, creating a nutritious, flavorful and vegan variation on this popular dish. Or, you can stuff a roast pumpkin with your favorite seasonal fillings to serve up a meal that is as eye-catching as it is delicious.

With some creative recipes and the right ingredients, it’s easy to find a place for pumpkin on your fall table. For more pumpkin and other no-bake recipes, visit

2014-11-05T00:00:00<![CDATA[Expert tips to curb food cravings during times of stress]]>

(BPT) - Do you reach for comfort foods or junk food when you’re stressed? You know you shouldn't, but you probably feel you need something to help you during that intense period. With a few tips from culinary experts, you can cut the cravings and find healthy ways to manage nutrition during stressful times.

"In moments of stress, people tend to reach for foods they know, sometimes even favorite foods from childhood. It is certainly not a time when we choose to experiment," says Chef Odette Smith-Ransome, chef instructor at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

If traveling, you may often search for a familiar restaurant or fast food place. It's easier to reach for food that you know because it provides a level of comfort to balance out the uncomfortable moments of stress, Smith-Ransome says.

Chef Christine Neugebauer of The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Philadelphia, advises that when traveling, pack your own beverages. By doing this, you can choose water, green tea and non-sugary juices. She also warns against hotels’ continental breakfasts. Be careful what you choose, because a small meal like yogurt or an orange may be all you need. Choosing a smaller plate will also prevent you from filling up on extra calories.

It all comes down to food choices where stress and food are concerned. When stressed, you are more likely to make a quick, bad choice. “Make sure when you shop you buy healthier foods. So when you need something, that is what you are going to eat,” says Neugebauer.

"The vicious cycle of guilt regarding our eating habits steps in and worsens the current stress situation," Smith-Ransome says. "Add guilt to the situation, and the stress levels increase - compounding the problem."

Smith-Ransome warns that when stressed, one should stay away from caffeine and sugar. It's easy to grab an energy drink or a candy bar because they're accessible and in every convenience and drug store in America. Once the rush is gone from sugary, caffeine-packed foods, you're facing a crash unless you continue to eat and drink to keep your body in the high. Continuing to eat and drink these products will compound the situation even more because you then become sleep-deprived, which raises the levels of anxiety and slows you down.

The best way to attack bad eating choices during a moment of stress is to maintain your body and mind at equilibrium. Before an important interview, presentation or exam, try eating whole foods and complete meals, and forget about the bag of cookies. While these satiate the appetite at the moment, it certainly won't keep your blood-sugar levels stable, making it difficult to cope with your initial problem: high stress.

Neugebauer recommends packing a snack or eating a healthy meal that will last, and small meals throughout the day keep you from getting hungry.

It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to communicate with your mind that you are full. Neugebauer emphasizes the importance of drinking water when gauging your hunger level. She says, “sometimes you think you’re hungry and you’re not. If you drink some water, then you may not be hungry anymore.” By making informed, careful food choices during times of stress, you can help ensure what you eat doesn't add extra calories, fat and poor nutrition to your worries.

For more information about The Art Institutes, visit  

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)


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



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


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

2014-09-04T00:00:00<![CDATA[Swapping ingredients and habits for healthier living]]>

(BPT) - When it comes to cooking, you’re always on the lookout for new recipes, easy shortcuts and ways to make familiar recipes healthier without sacrificing the great taste. If you are a health-minded cook, here are some tips to get you started:

1. Add colors to your foods – Colorful fruits and vegetables quickly decorate a traditional recipe and make food appear much more appetizing. Look for deep greens in spinach, vibrant reds in tomatoes and a rainbow of colors in peppers to add to your casseroles, lasagnas or meat dishes.

2. Swap out the plate size – It may surprise you to learn serving meals on smaller plates encourages people to eat less food. So downsize your dinner plates, and you might find your family eating the proper portions. You’ll also ensure they clean their plates!

3. Change your take-out menus to meal plans – If you have a stack of take-out menus in your home, replace them with recipes and a daily meal planner. Having a planner will help you arrange a weekly grocery shopping list and save you time and money by limiting the number of nights you eat out.

4. Flip the after-dinner routine – Instead of settling down into the couch after dinner, jump start your digestion and take a family walk around the neighborhood together. For healthy bodies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people work their way up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activities per week, which can include a brisk walk (at a 15-minute mile pace).

5. Vary the ingredients – If you already have family-favorite recipes, look them over to see if there are ways to swap healthier ingredients in place of others. For example, corn oil can help lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol more than extra virgin olive oil, according to a recent study sponsored in part by ACH Food Companies, Inc. which sells Mazola(C) Corn Oil. The research found plant sterols, which are naturally present in corn oil, have heart healthy benefits such as preventing the absorption of cholesterol in the body. Corn oil contains more cholesterol-blocking plant sterols than other cooking oils, making it a healthier swap for your favorite recipes.

If you’re looking for a new delicious recipe that uses corn oil, check out this Kick’N Chicken recipe:

Kick'N Chicken with Mango Salsa


4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (one pound total)
2 tablespoons Weber Kick'N Chicken Seasoning
1/4 cup Mazola(C) Corn Oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

Mango Pepper Salsa
2 cups diced fresh mango, 1/4-inch dice
1 cup diced red bell pepper, 1/4-inch dice
3 tablespoons minced red onion
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons minced, fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat grill to medium heat, or between 350 to 450 F.

Trim excess fat from chicken, rinse and pat dry using paper towels. If necessary, pound chicken to an even 1/2-inch thickness using a mallet, rolling pin or cast iron skillet (this will ensure the chicken cooks evenly). Place chicken into a 1-gallon size resealable plastic bag. Add seasoning, oil and lemon juice to the bag. Seal bag and turn to thoroughly coat chicken.

Grill chicken over direct high heat for 6 to 8 minutes. Turn chicken and continue to cook for 6 to 8 minutes until cooked through. Transfer cooked chicken to a serving plate.

Combine salsa ingredients in a bowl; stir and season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made up to 8 hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve.)

Top grilled chicken with mango salsa and serve immediately.

Recipe tip: Try slicing the chicken onto warm, low-fat tortillas, top with mango salsa and crumbled queso fresco cheese for delicious spicy chicken wraps.

2014-11-25T00:00:00<![CDATA[Holiday tech tips]]>

(BPT) - Have you ever found yourself wondering if it was appropriate to check your work email during a holiday party? Do you feel guilty about entertaining your kids with technology during the busy holiday season?

In a recent survey commissioned by Microsoft, Americans shared their anxieties and concerns about holiday technology. Luckily for you, you’re not the only one sending your thank you notes via text and even better, most people think it’s completely acceptable.

Still wondering about holiday tech etiquette? Here are some tips to help guide you this season.

1. Don’t fret, you aren’t the only one checking your phone at the holiday table! If you find yourself sneaking a peek at your phone during the family holiday dinner – you’re not alone. Forty-one percent of Americans admit to checking their phone secretly under the holiday table, according to the survey. But phone checkers beware, while a majority of Americans feel it’s completely appropriate to check social media during holiday gatherings, only 34 percent approve of people looking at work email. If the dings of incoming emails are too enticing, use a digital personal assistant like Cortana to set quiet hours on your phone so incoming calls go straight to voicemail and all notifications are silenced.

2. Go ahead, take a holiday selfie! You’ll be in good company. According to the survey, 75 percent of American parents are likely to post to social media during a holiday gathering, so whether it’s a video of your aunt’s unique approach to mashing potatoes or pictures of the annual neighborhood Thanksgiving football game, share away!

3. Don’t stress about keeping the kids entertained. When traveling for the holidays, 72 percent of parents use technology to entertain their kids. And don’t feel guilty about letting them watch or play what they want. Only 7 percent of parents restrict kids to educational shows, movies and games compared to 40 percent who aren’t worried as much about the content, as long as it keeps kids busy in the car or on the plane.

4. Happy holidays, world! If you’re in the mood to spread holiday cheer to everyone on your contact list, pen and paper aren’t your only option. Although according to the survey, 43 percent of people still send cards via traditional mail, more than half of Americans are OK with sending mass holiday well wishes via text message. So it’s OK to forget the stamps and hit send instead to share the joy this year.

5. Use tech to make thank you’s more personal. If you’re not into writing thank-you notes the old-fashioned way, consider sending a quick video message using Skype or Qik instead. That way the gift giver can see and hear how much you appreciate the gift. You can also share a story or two about everything the family has been doing this holiday season.

You have enough to think about during the holidays. Don’t let technology etiquette add extra stress. So, go ahead and post a holiday selfie. You won’t be the only one.

2014-11-25T00:00:00<![CDATA[Easily impress with delicious, seasonally inspired flavors this holiday]]>

(BPT) - The holidays are here and that means it’s the season for parties, events and get-togethers. Put your best dish forward with seasonally inspired recipes guaranteed to tempt your guests’ taste buds.

Packed with flavors that embody the hearty and warm tastes of the season, Butternut Squash Tart with Fried Sage, Prosciutto and Pecorino Cheese is easy to make and easy for guests to enjoy. Perfectly versatile, this tart is easily served as a small bite or served as a light entree.

Complete the dish with Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Chardonnay for the perfect pairing. The Chardonnay’s flavors of green apple, orange zest and buttery toast complement the golden puff pastry, sweet butternut squash and the salty prosciutto, making for an elegant pairing that is sure to please.

Crafted in California’s most renowned cool-climate region for Chardonnay, the Russian River Valley, and grown using earth-friendly practices, Frei Brother’s Reserve Chardonnay is an excellent choice to have on hand for this season’s holiday gatherings. To learn more about Frei Brothers Reserve, wine pairings, and more visit

Butternut Squash Tart with Fried Sage, Prosciutto and Pecorino Cheese

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Serves 4 to 6


3 slices prosciutto, thinly sliced

1 butternut squash (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)

1 sheet puff pastry

1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, beaten

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

10 sage leaves

Shaved pecorino cheese


Preheat oven to 425 F and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place prosciutto onto baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes until crispy. Set aside until needed. Reduce oven temperature to 375 F.

Microwave the whole butternut squash for 3 minutes. This will not only make the squash easier to peel and slice but aids in pre-cooking. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the squash. With a knife, slice the neck of the squash into 1/8-inch thick rounds. You will need 18 slices.

Roll the thawed but cold puff pastry into a 12-inch square and transfer to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Using a pastry brush, brush the puff pastry with the egg wash. Arrange butternut squash slices in an overlapping pattern on top of the pastry leaving a 1-inch border on all sides; season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Bake for 40 minutes until puff pastry is golden.

While the tart is baking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Working with five leaves at a time, place the sage leaves in the hot oil and fry for 20 seconds until leaves are bright green and crisp but do not turn brown. Place on a paper towel to drain.

Once the tart is finished, top with crumbled prosciutto slices, shaved pecorino cheese, and fried sage. Drizzle lightly with additional olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Slice and serve with Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Chardonnay.

Editor's Note: California Table Wine, Copyright ©2014, Frei Bros. Winery, Healdsburg, CA. All rights reserved.

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


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)


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

2014-10-30T00:00:00<![CDATA[FDA's message to moms: Eat more seafood]]>

(BPT) - Your mother probably told you “fish is brain food.” Turns out she was right.

The nutrients in seafood are vital to the brain development of young children, especially during pregnancy. Seafood is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for visual and cognitive development and help prevent coronary heart disease. And scientific studies show that pregnant women who eat three-to-four servings of seafood per week provide the greatest benefit to the IQ of their unborn children. That makes fish an expectant or nursing mom’s superfood, and a healthy choice for the whole family.

Unfortunately, most people, especially pregnant or nursing women, haven’t gotten the message. Global health experts agree Americans are eating very low amounts of seafood – less than half a serving per week and low levels of consumption by children may be harming their brain development as well as preventing them from gaining the important health benefits of seafood.

According to the FDA’s 2014 report on the net effects of consuming fish, 95 percent of children in America are not reaching their full IQ potential because their moms did not consume enough fish during pregnancy. Ironically, one reason for this alarming trend is the set of guidelines the FDA released in 2004 to encourage women to eat more seafood. While the FDA recommended about three servings a week, it also cautioned against eating four rarely consumed species of fish because of the higher levels of mercury they may contain. The advice was intended to highlight the benefits of seafood and increase consumption by all Americans while mentioning the potential mercury risk for vulnerable groups. Unfortunately, the FDA advisory ended up scaring Americans, especially pregnant women, away from one of the healthiest sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids available.

Scientific studies over the past decade conclude that the real risk to pregnant and nursing women and their babies is eating too little seafood, causing them to miss out on the important benefits of fish. And while some consumers are turning to omega-3 supplements instead, these supplements are more expensive and not as rich in nutrients as seafood itself.

Because of all this, the FDA is revising its guidelines to reflect current science and accomplish what the 2004 guidelines were supposed to do, which is increase seafood consumption amongst all Americans – especially pregnant women.

So how much seafood should you eat?

According to the FDA, consumers, including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, should eat a minimum of two-to-three seafood meals a week. And eating a variety of seafood, from fresh fish to canned tuna, salmon and sardines, helps you enjoy its benefits of being low in calories, a healthy source of protein and a predominant dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids. For soon-to-be-moms, this recommended diet will help children’s brains grow and work properly, maximizing their IQ potential and receiving all the nutritional benefits of omega-3s. For people of all ages, eating seafood helps prevent heart disease, maintain brain health and is an important source of protein.

Consumers today can feel confident about their fish choices and boost their consumption to make up for a decade of missing out on the important nutrients and benefits of seafood. It’s time to do what mom told you, and put that brain food back into your family’s meal plans. You can start today with this easy, convenient and tasty tuna recipe.

Tuna Wrap
Servings: 1-2

1 pouch (5 ounces) albacore tuna in water, drained and chunked
1 round (10 inch) spinach tortilla or your favorite flavor tortilla
3 slices tomato
1 thin slice of red onion
4 slices peeled zucchini (lengthwise slices using a vegetable peeler)
4 slices peeled cucumber (lengthwise slices using a vegetable peeler)
1 tablespoon artichoke spread or your favorite spread
1/2 cup mixed salad greens

Place the tortilla on a plate and layer albacore tuna in the center. Add sliced tomatoes, red onions, zucchini and cucumber. Spoon on the artichoke spread and finish with mixed greens. To roll, fold in both sides and roll away from you to form a burrito. Cut in half and serve.

Special diet considerations:
Low-calorie, low-sugar, kid-friendly, good source of protein and omega-3s.

2014-09-10T00:00:00<![CDATA[Improve your entire day with these easy breakfast ideas]]>

(BPT) - Want to keep the weight off? It starts at the breakfast table. Seventy-eight percent of those who successfully maintain their weight loss eat breakfast each day, according to the National Weight Control Registry

Why does breakfast seem to make the difference?

Anika Christ, registered dietitian and senior program manager of Life Time Weight Loss at Life Time – The Healthy Way of Life Company, says eating breakfast - especially a high-protein breakfast - will leave you with sustained energy throughout the morning. Rather than feeling famished mid-morning, many people find when they make the right breakfast choices, they can easily last until lunch time before they need to eat again.

During the morning rush, you may be tempted to skip breakfast for extra minutes of sleep or simply getting yourself and your family ready for the day ahead. But as many experts maintain, breakfast may be the most important meal of the day and certainly it’s the one that could give you that extra morning energy kick you’ve been looking for.

Christ says that Life Time’s nutrition philosophy builds off of a nutritious breakfast, and suggests that a healthy breakfast can be easy, even on the go, with a little bit of prep.

“What we want to avoid is sugary, highly processed breakfasts, like cereal, that start our bodies on a glucose roller coaster,” says Christ. She adds that a well-rounded breakfast will include a quality protein, carbohydrates, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables and healthy fats. Here are her top three fast and filling breakfast recipes:

Breakfast smoothie

Breakfast smoothies make for a quick morning meal for the whole family. They’re a go-to favorite, and can be made to taste preference with nut butter, fruits and/or veggies. Just blend the single-serve ingredients with ice, or batch it for a family.

* 8 ounces of milk or a milk alternative

* 1 tablespoon of natural nut butter (peanut, almond or cashew)

* 1 cup of fruit and/or veggies

* 1 scoop of whey protein

Energy bars

Energy bars can be great options if prepped on the weekends. Make a batch for the week, and it’s easy to grab and go.

* 2 1/2 cups of raw oats

* 3 scoops of whey protein powder, vanilla

* 2 1/2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed

* 1/4 cup organic honey

* 4 ounces unsweetened applesauce

* 1 teaspoon baking soda

* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* 2 ounces chopped almonds

* 1/4 cup dried fruit, chopped

Mix the oats, protein powder, flaxseed, honey, applesauce, baking soda and vanilla extract in a bowl. Mix in the remaining ingredients. Press the mixture into a pre-sprayed cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely and cut into 12 bars. 

Egg scramble

Still looking to cook in the morning? Eggs are loaded with protein and can be a great, quick-cook option. Use thawed, frozen vegetable mixes to save more time.

* 1-2 cage-free eggs

* 1 cup of precut vegetables

* 1 ounce of natural cheese, mozzarella

* 1 cup of fruit

* 1 teaspoon organic butter (for cooking)

Scramble vegetables, eggs and cheese over a medium-high heat until fully cooked. Serve with fruit on the side. 

A good breakfast reduces your desire to reach for sweets or snacks mid-morning and sets you up for success for the rest of the day. Try it for a week and you’ll realize investing those extra couple of minutes in the morning will pay dividends later.

2014-10-10T00:00:00<![CDATA[5 affordable entertaining ideas guaranteed to impress at holiday parties]]>

(BPT) - The holidays are coming up quickly, and that means there’s plenty of reason to celebrate. Whether you’re throwing a party for the first time or you’re continuing a long-running annual tradition, hosting a festive celebration with friends and family is a lot of work and always worth it. This year, take your party to the next level to truly impress your guests – without breaking the bank.

Consider these five entertaining secrets that expert party planners use to throw unforgettable holiday parties for less:

Set the stage and get everyone in a festive mood with a great theme. A bit of brainstorming is all you need to figure out the best theme for your celebration. From an outdoor autumn harvest to a New Year’s masquerade, the sky’s the limit. For a fun twist on holiday celebrations, consider having a favorite movie be the theme for the party. Include the theme on the invitations you send so guests know the details!

Whether you’re serving appetizers or planning a full-out feast, food is a party essential. Enhance your food service by renting everything you need for an impressive presentation. Silver food chafers, flatware, serving trays and more are available from your local ARA rental store. The expert staff can make recommendations based on your menu and help you select the perfect items for food and drink. You might even consider renting a few fun extras, such as a chocolate or champagne fountain to really impress guests and make your party stand out.

No great holiday party is complete without entertainment. Let music set the mood by creating a custom playlist. Then amplify those tunes by renting a professional sound system and dance floor to watch guests move and grove. For movie-themed parties, consider renting a projector so guests can view the flick in style! Finally, casino or carnival games are sure way to get everyone involved in the festivities and provide fun for all ages.

You may already have some decor to use at your holiday-themed party, but to really impress this year, consider fresh ideas for stunning and unexpected decorations. If you prefer the DIY route, visit sites like Pinterest for ideas on how to create beautiful decor. If you’re short on time or simply aren’t crafty, you can rent table linens, runners and centerpieces. Visit to learn more about affordable holiday decor rental options. When deciding on decor, don’t forget about the importance of lighting. Not only do the right lights create the ideal ambience, they also provide an element of safety and brighten up dark spaces so guests have more room to mingle.

The extra touches – big and small – are what truly spice up a party and give it that professionally planned feel. Small additions like coat racks eliminate the pile of coats and purses, keeping rooms neat and tidy. Extra chairs ensure guests are comfortable whether they are visiting, eating or drinking. For a truly festive celebration, rent a bar and set up a drink station with all the barware needed to really impress guests. If you’re having a big party, don’t pack into your house – rent a tent and heaters if necessary and let the good times roll!

Come up with a few fresh ideas and rent some unique items that guests won’t expect, and you’ll set a new standard for hosting parties among your friends and family.

2014-11-13T00:00:00<![CDATA[How to make sure cleaning up isn't your only holiday activity]]>

(BPT) - The holidays are upon us. It’s time for friends and family to gather, houseguests to move in, and marathon cooking and baking sessions to begin. Before any of these activities can start, and certainly once all of them are finished, there’s plenty of cleaning up to do.

No one likes to clean, but it’s an eventuality of the season. So how do you spend more of your holiday celebrating and less of it cleaning up before and after each get-together? It’s easier than you may think with these tips.

* Simplify your cooking cleanup. Casseroles and slow cooker recipes are as synonymous with the season as a turkey. Spray your pans and slow cooker with PAM Cooking Spray before adding the ingredients to prevent your food from sticking to the sides. This handy tip can also be applied to your a saucepans and stock pots, ensuring your famous gravy, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce come out clean.

* Clean the spaces where people will be. Your houseguests or visitors won’t occupy your entire house while they’re staying with you; so clean the areas where they will spend the most time. This means picking up the living room, organizing guest bedrooms and ensuring the bathroom they will use is clean and ready to go. You can save time by simply shutting the doors to rooms they won’t need and save those cleaning projects for another day.

* Make baking a breeze. Whether it’s pies, loafs, cookies or cakes, dessert is one of the best parts of a holiday meal. Applying PAM Baking Spray to your dishes, sheets and tins will prevent your baked goods from sticking and ensure a more beautiful final product (no deformed desserts, here!). PAM Cooking Spray leaves 99 percent (see editor note below) less residue than leading brands of margarine or bargain-brand sprays, ensuring a much easier cleanup so you can get on with your holiday preparations and celebrations.

* Make it a family affair. Who says you have to do all the cleaning by yourself? You can clean your home more quickly and effectively if you enlist everyone to help. Smaller children can handle taking out the trash or picking up their toys and clothes; older children can vacuum or dust. In the kitchen, ask the kids to help bake by spraying the cookie cutters with PAM Baking before cutting. You’ll then have better shaped dough that doesn’t stick and will be easier to clean up. Make it a family affair and you’ll be finished in no time.

* Take care of that Christmas tree. Nothing defines the season like a fully decorated, aromatic Christmas tree. Minimize needle cleanup by placing a tree-disposal bag under the base when you set up the tree. When it’s time to take it down, simply encompass the tree with the bag and haul it outside.

The holidays are an exciting, memorable time, so employ the tips above to spend more time making memories instead of cleaning up after them. For more ways to simplify your holidays, visit PAM Cooking Spray on Facebook.

Editor's note: Versus a leading brand of margarine, leading bargain brand of canola-oil cooking spray, and vegetable-oil cooking spray, after baked at 400 F for 30 minutes, cooled, and washed in one regular dishwasher cycle.

2014-10-20T00:00:00<![CDATA[A cut above the rest: How to make the perfect holiday cookie]]>

(BPT) - Many of our fondest childhood memories consist of spending time with friends and family, baking delicious holiday cookies and eyeing the beautifully wrapped presents under the tree.

Embrace nostalgia and create the perfect holiday cookie that tastes delicious and is easy to decorate. Instead of displaying a gingerbread house, cut sugar cookies using some snowman, tree and star cookie cutters to set up a festive and tasty holiday scene. Scatter some coconut shavings or crinkled strips of paper for snow and place holiday candies behind the cookies, so they stand up all night long.

When making holiday cookies, remember to:

* Cream the butter and vanilla together. Doing this beforehand will encapsulate the vanilla and prevent flavor loss.

* Chill the dough in the fridge before shaping it. This will make for a softer, moister cookie that is less likely to spread when baking.

* Remove cookies from the oven a few minutes early, as they will continue to cook on the sheet.

* Let the cookies cool completely before you begin to ice them.

Try this recipe to make three dozen perfect holiday cookies, using Nielsen-Massey vanilla and peppermint extracts to provide a completely unique flavor your entire family will enjoy.


Classic Holiday Sugar Cookies                                                                                          


3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup superfine sugar (purchase at store or process granulated sugar for about 20 seconds in a food processor)

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

3 1/4 teaspoons Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Peppermint Extract

2 eggs

1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (for dusting work surface)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for dusting work surface)



Position oven rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350 F. Line two large, heavy light-colored baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt until blended; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add butter, sugar, cream, vanilla and peppermint extracts; beat with a handheld mixer on medium speed until fluffy, which should take about two minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce speed to medium-low; add eggs one at a time and beat after each addition. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dry ingredients one half at a time.

Divide dough into two even pieces, then press each piece into a disk shape. Wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. Dough should be cool and firm but easy to work with.  

In a small bowl, whisk confectioners’ sugar and flour until blended; set aside. Working with one piece of dough at a time, place on a clean, dusted surface. Roll dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes and transfer with a thin offset metal spatula to prepared cookie sheets. For even baking, do not overcrowd cookies. Gather remaining dough, cover with plastic and chill. Continue with second chilled dough.

For best results, bake one sheet pan at a time until done, which should take about 10 minutes; remove and place cookies on wire racks to cool. Decorate and store in an airtight container.


Peppermint Glaze and Peppermint Piping Icing

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon meringue powder

2 tablespoons water

1/2 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Peppermint Extract (may substitute with Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract)

Variety gel food colors


In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and meringue powder. Add water and peppermint extract, stir until smooth. Glaze cookies in desired colors and set aside to dry before piping. For the piping icing, remake the glaze recipe and add additional confectioners’ sugar, one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Divide icing into small bowls; add desired gel colors. Select pastry tips, prepare pastry bags and creatively pipe icing onto glazed cookies.

2014-10-01T00:00:00<![CDATA[8 Halloween hacks for throwing ghoulishly memorable parties]]>

(BPT) - The costumes, the candy, the creative pumpkin carvings – Halloween has been steadily increasing in popularity, with the spooky holiday spend being second only to Christmas. The National Retail Federation says the number of people buying sweet treats for Halloween actually beats out Easter.

This year, make your party a spooktacular delight without spending much time or effort, thanks to a few smart entertaining tricks. Whether you’re planning a small crew of trick-or-treaters or having a full-out gala of ghouls for a neighborhood costume party, these easy tips and tricks will help you create a memorable event in no time.

Gourd-eously chill drinks
Skip the ugly coolers and keep drinks cool and accessible with pumpkin ice buckets. Simply select a large, round pumpkin, remove the guts, and add ice. This festive cooler is perfect for chilling juice boxes, soda cans and even wine bottles for the grownups.

Impressive fall sweets
Go beyond the typical bag of candy and add festive, gourmet sweets to your Halloween spread, without slaving over the stove. Shari’s Berries offers goodies like Handmade Halloween Brownie Pops in fun shapes like a cat and a witch’s hat. The fudgy brownie pops are hand-decorated and individually wrapped, making them an easy and eye-catching addition to any Halloween party.

Other fall flavors to enchant taste buds include Hand-Dipped Caramel Apples, Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Twists and Halloween Strawberries. Once these sweets are delivered fresh directly to your door, simply place on a platter and they’re ready to serve with style.

Witches hat ring toss
Want a simple game to keep kids occupied before and after trick-or-treating? Here’s an easy and affordable game that will keep them laughing for hours. Set up a Halloween-themed ring toss game by using witches hats on the ground instead of pins, and give them orange rings to toss over the hats.

Trick-or-treat safety
Keeping kids safe while trick-or-treating is a major concern for any parent celebrating Halloween with the family. One fun way to keep kids safe and well lit is to order glowing bags that can light the way on Halloween night. Personal CreationsHalloween LED Treat Bag is available in four spooky designs that illuminate with sparkling LED lights at the push of a button – the perfect example of keeping kids safe while having fun. Plus, they can be personalized with any name so there’s no confusion on which light-up bag is whose.

Ghostly pathway illumination
Greet guests and trick-or-treaters alike with ghost pathway lighting that can be made quickly from things you already have around your house. Collect empty milk jugs, clean them and draw spooky ghost faces with black marker on one side. Skip candles and use battery-powered tea lights for spooky fun outdoor decor that beautifully lights the night.

Spellbinding interior decor
Add some fresh color to your interior design with blooms of flowers in Halloween-inspired hues. The Autumn Collection from ProFlowers is guaranteed to add unique style to your Halloween party. Floral arrangements are a perfect centerpiece on a table or as accent decor on the buffet where food will be served.

Potluck candy dish
Depending on how busy your neighborhood gets on Halloween, you may hand out a lot of candy to trick-or-treaters. Eliminate another to-do from your list by asking guests to bring a bag of candy for the treat dish and take turns handing it out. You’ll save another trip to the store and will get a nice variety of candy for all the little witches and wizards coming to your door.

With a few easy steps, your Halloween party can be transformed into a ghoulish get-together that everyone will enjoy.

2014-11-14T00:00:00<![CDATA[Fail-safe tricks for creating the perfect cheese platter]]>

(BPT) - Your social calendar is packed to the brim with dinner parties, family activities and holiday festivities with loved ones. Whether you are hosting or attending as a guest, providing something delectable will always be a welcome addition to the celebration. Loved around the world, a scrumptious cheese platter is guaranteed to tempt everyone’s palate and be the perfect conversation starter.

Creating a delicious and interesting cheese platter is easier than you think if you make use of a few tips and tricks trusted by expert chefs. These four ideas will ensure your platter not only embodies the perfect array of cheeses but also showcases your personal taste and style.

The right varieties and correct amounts
Confused about how many varieties of cheese to buy? And how much is needed for your size gathering? The goal is to give people a nice selection of cheeses to sample without overwhelming them; three to five cheeses typically will do the trick. A simple way to ensure a nice spread is to make selections based on the type of milk used to create the cheeses. For example, cow, sheep and goat’s milk all create very different kinds of cheeses, and knowing about these differences can help you make better choices when shopping. Prepare 4-6 ounces per person if cheese is the main food, and serve more or less depending on the time of day, whether other foods are served and the type of celebration. When in doubt, reference this handy online cheese calculator at

Add an aged-cheddar flight
Do you love cheddar? You’re not alone, as it’s one of the most universally enjoyed cheese varieties. That’s why a flight of different cheddar cheeses is sure to capture your guests’ attention while satisfying their hunger pangs. Try selecting three different cheddars for people to taste – odd numbers always present well on a plate. Black Creek’s premium cheddar cheeses made in Wisconsin are aged for nine months, two years or even three years, and they feature a rich, sharp flavor. Pre-cut the cheese into cubes and place the pieces on the platter, or you can allow guests to cut their own. Educate guests by adorning each cheese with a candle featuring the number of years that the cheese is aged.

Create a worldly theme
Want a crowd-pleasing theme for your cheese plate? Create a “Tour of Europe” platter that will delight taste buds while letting guests try different cheese styles. Start with mild flavors, including French cheeses like brie and camembert that offer a soft texture. Next, guests can visit Italy when they sample Stella Italian-style cheeses like full-flavored parmesan or rich, semi-sweet asiago. Finish with flavorful cheeses from Holland and Denmark, like extra-aged Gouda or nutty Edam. Add flags to your cheese offerings denoting each one’s nationality for the perfect finishing touch.

Accompaniments, preparation and presentation
The sky is the limit when it comes to serving vessels. Go traditional with a wood cutting board or get creative by using marble tile or colorful vintage glass platters. Arrange cheeses artfully on the platter about an hour before guests arrive, as room-temperature cheese maximizes each variety’s flavor. Finally, remember no plate is complete without a selection of garnishes like crackers, bread, fresh or dried fruit, nuts, olives and meats. Then sit back and watch as guests munch away and strike up conversation.

2014-09-15T00:00:00<![CDATA[Bring your family together with a fun, yet simple football-watching party]]>

(BPT) - Football season has arrived, and it’s time to get started planning those football-watching parties so you can root the home team toward victory and post-season success. Game day is a great day to spend time with family and friends, so if you’re thinking about hosting a party , keep in mind there are ways to keep it simple and inexpensive so you can kick back and relax come kickoff time.

“A good football party has something for everyone – from the youngest child to grandparents who have cheered the team on for years,” says blogger Courtney Whitmore, from “Try these tips to quickly plan, shop and set up your party so you can spend time with your friends and family on game day. For me, it all starts at my local Family Dollar where I can get the name brands I love at a great value.”

* Establish the atmosphere – Game day is an exciting time for everyone, so keep the atmosphere fun and festive. Stock up on your party supplies from stores like Family Dollar for a quick, one-stop shop, including the perfect party foods like hot dogs with all the toppings or a nacho chip bar. Setting up foods “DIY” style allows everyone to create their own favorites. Have an assortment of chips like Lays, Doritos or Tostitos handy so your guests can snack the entire time the game is playing.

* Tidy up the viewing area – Football games can get exciting, so keep your Bounty handy throughout the viewing area for your guests to grab in case of spills or just to wipe their messy fingers and faces.  And clean up can happen in “real time,” not after the party ends.

* Have extra supplies handy – In addition to paper towels, think about what else you might need on hand like extra Duracell batteries for the remote and Charmin for the bathroom. You do not want to run out of either when everyone is over to watch the game!

* Give kids a special space – Set up blankets, pillows, pom-poms in the team colors and other football paraphernalia as a kid’s cheer section right in front of the TV. They’ll love the front-and-center seating arrangement while the adults will appreciate lounging on couches and chairs.

* Keep the enthusiasm going all game long – Don’t let the energy sag come halftime. Pass around sweet little treats and hand out football-themed word puzzles to keep the kids occupied. Everyone will be fully charged and ready to continue cheering for the second half.

* Make cleanup simple – Since your guests will be enjoying the food and the game for several hours, the dirty dishes can pile up. Invite your family into the kitchen for the game recap and with a little Dawn dish liquid your kitchen will be cleaned up faster than the players can get out of the locker room.

With these tips, you’ll be ready to give your friends and family the perfect party atmosphere to cheer your team on to victory! And, by knowing where to shop, you won’t have to break the bank to create a fun game day party.

2014-09-02T00:00:00<![CDATA[Perfecting the holiday dinner party]]>

(BPT) - Some might call the dinner party a lost art, but gathering family and friends around the table to eat great food, drink fantastic wine and enjoy each other’s company is the perfect way to celebrate the holidays. Creating an elegant, effortless evening to remember is easier than one might think.

Perfecting the dinner party is about putting people at ease and creating an environment that encourages conversation and laughter – the two most important elements of a successful dinner party. So, instead of trying to impress guests with fancy culinary skills or decorating prowess, focus on five simple tips:

1. Light can be the life of the party

From glowing centerpieces to sparkling votive candles, elegant party lighting is always a bright idea. Candles set the mood and create ambiance – and allow your guests to truly shine.

2. Let the wine flow

The right wine can perfect the moment and no dinner party would be complete without it. Greet guests with a bright and beautiful sparkling rose and keep it flowing during the cocktail hour. During dinner, offer one red and one white wine. Santa Margherita Chianti and Pinot Grigio are two delicious options with wide appeal.

3. Of course dessert is a food group!

Dessert is the perfect way to end an amazing meal. Leave your guests floating on air with angel food cake topped with a Prosecco-infused frosting. 

4. Don’t let guests leave empty-handed

Giving guests a little something to take home when they leave extends the good vibes. Say goodnight in a unique way by sending guests home with a bottle of wine or votive candle to re-create the magic in their own home.

5. Remember to breathe

If you’re having fun, your guests will too. Take a deep breath and, while you’re at it, give your red wine a little air, too. Aerators open up the aromas and flavors, making every sip better.

2014-09-02T00:00:00<![CDATA[How to get your kids to eat the food you've prepared]]>

(BPT) - Do you have a standoff with your children each night at the dinner table? Are you encouraging them to eat the foods you’ve prepared while they’re suspiciously eyeing it, refusing to eat a bite? Many children go through picky eating stages, and parents typically need to be a bit creative to get them to consume a well-balanced diet.

If you have been losing the dinnertime standoff with your children, consider some of these tips so you can discover new ways to get your kids to eat the foods you want them to eat.

* Mommy’s (and Daddy’s) little helpers – When children prepare foods, they’re more likely to want to taste the food. Ask your kids to help you with making sandwiches, mixing and measuring ingredients or any other tasks they’re able to handle depending on their age. As they participate in the making of dinner, they can see, smell and taste all the ingredients being used, making it easier for them to understand that the final product contains a lot of delicious tastes – and that it’s not something they need to be wary of. To take this tip one step further, ask your children to choose one ingredient in the grocery store they want to try for dinner that week. To mix things up, pick a different department of the store each week – rotating from fresh produce to canned foods, and from meats to frozen foods. Or to make it a challenge, ask them to pick a food item that’s orange one week, and red the next. It’s a great way for all family members to try new foods.

* Mix it all up – Another trick is to blend ingredients your children find suspicious into foods they love. If you can’t get your child to eat carrots, for example, blend them in a food processor and throw them into your spaghetti sauce for a delicious boost. If eating spinach is a struggle in your family, try this Cheesy Hashbrown Taco Dinner recipe they’ll love. It combines delicious hashbrown potatoes with cheddar cheese and an array of colorful vegetables in a recipe that is fun and easy to prepare. The Hungry Jack Cheesy Hashbrown Potatoes and Mashed Potatoes require no refrigeration and can be stored in your pantry.

Cheesy Hashbrown Taco Dinner

Prep time: 12 min.

Cook time: 15 min.

Makes: 6-8 servings


1 carton (4.2 oz.) Hungry Jack Cheesy Hashbrown Potatoes

1 pound lean ground beef or turkey

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 package (1.25 oz.) taco seasoning mix (Or substitute 4 teaspoons chili powder, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt)

1 package (16 oz.) frozen chopped spinach

1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (15 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Tortilla chips or warmed tortillas, optional


1. Add hot water (minimum 120 F) to level of fill line on hashbrowns carton. Close carton. Let stand 12 minutes.

2. Brown ground beef or turkey and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain fat. Stir in seasoning mix.

3. Add spinach and stir until thawed.

4. Drain any excess liquid from hashbrowns carton. Stir hashbrowns, tomatoes, black beans, corn and spinach into beef. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

5. Sprinkle cheese over top; cover and cook on low heat until cheese is melted, 3-5 minutes. Serve as is with tortilla chips or wrap in a tortilla.

* Change the shape or texture – Some children will only eat fresh veggies if they’re cut into sticks. Others want the wedges, and yet others medallions. If you are artistic, get large cookie cutters in animal shapes and cut a sandwich into the shape of their favorite animal. That might be all it takes to entice your children to dig into the meal you’ve made. You’ll also discover children will have preferences regarding how the food is cooked. For example, some children love canned veggies, while others will only eat fresh vegetables with salad dressing or a certain type of dip. Don’t always serve mashed potatoes, but vary the offering using hashbrowns as a side dish for dinner. As they get older, your kids will observe other kids eating foods in different ways and may want to experiment, so be prepared if they suddenly change their minds about what foods they will and will not eat.

Patience is the key thing for parents with picky eaters. Be patient and understand that as your children grow, their preferences will change. Try these tips to encourage your children to expand their palate so you can eliminate the dinner table standoff each night. For additional recipe ideas, visit

2014-10-08T00:00:00<![CDATA[This holiday season, give your family the world - without breaking the bank]]>

(BPT) - Everyone has special holiday traditions, from heirloom decorations to secret recipes passed down from generation to generation. Whether your holiday celebration means an intimate family gathering or an elaborate house-filled party, why not add something new to your festive mix? Many authentic holiday traditions are just a grocery-store-trip away – and you may discover a new family favorite from a faraway land.

Adding some international flair to your holidays can be easy, enjoyable and educational – an opportunity to feed minds young and old during the school break. The whole family can get in on the experience: young children can learn holiday phrases from the countries whose foods you are featuring – and teach other guests. Older children can head to the library to get international holiday music, adding another dimension to the new experience. Those preparing the goodies should also be prepared to share some history about what they are serving.

Money-saving expert Cindy Livesey, founder of, uses smart shopping strategies to add festive flair to her family’s celebrations. Here are her tips on bringing the world to your holiday table without breaking the bank.

1. Start simple – with cookies! Why not try Christmas cookies from the country that started the tradition of the Christmas tree? Gingerbread lovers will adore Pfeffernusse – these German spice cookies are so popular in Germany, they have their own holiday on Dec. 23. Rather than purchasing all the fine ingredients, pick up a pack these small, round cookies from Bahlsen, Germany’s leading cookie brand. And since they’re gone after the holidays, “Grab any Bahlsen holiday cookies you see remaining in the cookie aisle right after New Year’s Eve,” suggests Livesey. “They may just be on sale ... and you won’t have to wait a year to enjoy them again.”

2. Start saving before the holidays. It pays to be prepared for the indulgent holiday season. Keep an eye on sales and specials leading up to your celebration and stock up on international ingredients. In anticipation of her family’s traditional Italian Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes, Livesey buys seafood when it’s on sale. “I scored frozen stuffed clams a few months ago for free – so that part of my holiday shopping is already done!”  she says. Combining seasonal coupons with sales can help stretch holiday budgets.

3. Drink up some new flavors. Make your international menu more interesting by trying a new spice or type of produce. To capture some festive Mexican flair, add a little cayenne pepper to hot chocolate – you probably have both of those in your pantry right now. A nice fruit punch (with or without rum) adds unexpected tropical fun, channeling a Caribbean Christmas. “Keep frozen mango and other fruits in your freezer so you can add them to punch even when they’re not in season,” advises Livesey.

4. Assign each family member a part of the menu. The cost burden of a big family dinner can easily be lifted by sharing the cooking responsibilities. Choose an international region and assign different dishes to different family members – and decoration-making to young ones. When it’s time to eat, the meal will be complete because the family is together – and there will be plenty to talk about as each person proudly explains his or her contribution. “Some of the best gifts really are free, and sharing something new as a family is one of those gifts,” says Livesey.

It’s easy to experience the holidays from around the world without emptying your wallet. Spice up the traditional and try something new with an international affair. You might discover a completely new tradition that will have your family celebrating together for years to come.

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!”

2014-12-18T00:00:00<![CDATA[The real reason we entertain]]>

(BPT) - The holidays are here and parties are in full swing. At this time of year, there can be a lot of pressure to throw memorable parties that will keep people talking into the new year. Many people forget that the real cheer in holiday entertaining is spending time with family and friends.

In fact, 70 percent of people find the best part of entertaining – and the real reason they want to entertain – is spending quality time with loved ones, according to a nationwide Omnibus survey conducted in November of 2014.

So if you’re planning an event this year, prevent getting your tinsel in a tangle by keeping these simple tips in mind.

* DIY is A-OK. Want to get everyone in the spirit but your holiday decorations are from the land of misfit toys? Use everyday items you find in your home for a quick, easy and inexpensive way to decorate your table. Fill a vase with fruits, ornaments or pinecones to liven up your centerpiece. Put the finishing touch on your table by using old wine corks as inexpensive place card holders.

* Simple food is good food. Spend less time in the kitchen and more time with guests. According to the survey, more than half of consumers consider a tortilla chips and dip platter a party must-have. Garden of Eatin'(R) Blues corn tortilla chips are made with just three non-GMO ingredients including organic blue corn. They can be paired with a simple seasonal dip made from fresh ingredients. It’s a fast, easy and delicious way to make a great dish for any holiday party. Plus, the cleanup is a breeze. Visit the Garden of Eatin'(R) Facebook page for more tips and share how you’re keeping the holidays simple.

* Less stress, more fun. The festive parties don’t always need to be the most extravagant. Over half of survey respondents say that casual, laid-back parties are the best when entertaining. You don’t have to make your list and check it twice to spread good cheer. Instead of holding a gift exchange, try engaging your guests in a photo and story exchange by asking them to share their favorite memory from the past year. Bonus points if you can share a time when someone else in the room made your day.

This holiday season, spend some time with loved ones, and don’t stress the mess. Instead, keep party planning simple with easy dishes and decorations.

2014-09-22T00:00:00<![CDATA[Dare to pair: food and wine pairings for game day]]>

(BPT) - When it comes to game day food, are you bored by brats and beer? If you’re looking to step up your game and serve daring game day fare, why not try something new with a creative food and wine pairing?

“When I have the guys over for a game, I try to use my love of great flavors and the skills I have in the kitchen to create something beyond the typical tailgate fare,” says popular TV personality Adam Richman. “And instead of the typical beer or soda, I'll pair it with a glass of high-quality versatile red wine like Alamos Malbec.”

Richman recommends his Malbec Burger for game day grub because it’s more unique than a typical burger, but can still please any crowd. To up the daring factor, Richman recommends adding a splash of wine to the recipe to enhance the flavor. “People think of Malbec with beef in fine dining, but what about in a burger? By putting the Malbec right into the ground beef it makes the flavors of both the burger and the wine really sing.”

Being willing to experiment with food and wine pairings often leads to success, Richman says. Play with recipe ideas and then invite friends over to test them out, he suggests. To get you started, Richman created five “Daring Pairing” recipes designed to pair with the high-quality Argentine wines from Alamos.

“Malbec is one of my favorite varietals and is a great wine to experiment with,” Richman says. “Alamos Malbec is truly versatile enough to complement just about any food from fun snacking to fine dining.”

The versatility comes from the growing conditions in Argentina’s Andes Mountains, which result in Malbec grapes with bold layers of flavor and excellent natural acidity for a wine that you really can dare to pair with just about any meal.

Get started on the mild side by trying Richman’s recipe for Malbec Burgers with Creole Mustard Tomato Jam for your next game day crowd. To view all five Daring Pairing recipes visit

Malbec Burgers with Creole Mustard Tomato Jam

Burger ingredients:

1/2 pound ground lamb

1/2 pound ground pork

1/2 pound ground beef (85 percent lean)

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup roasted tomatoes, finely chopped (approximately three to four plum tomatoes roasted with a drizzle of olive oil until soft)

1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1/4 cup roasted garlic, finely chopped (approximately a head of garlic roasted with a drizzle of olive oil until soft, then squeezed out of skin)

3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped

3 tablespoons roasted red peppers, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fire-roasted poblano chilies (packed in olive oil), finely chopped

1 egg

1/2 cup Alamos Malbec

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

1 1/4 teaspoons red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

5 Kaiser rolls for entree size burgers or 10 small potato rolls for sliders, split, toasted and lightly buttered

Olive oil

Watercress and sliced tomato for topping burgers


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large bowl, mix all burger ingredients, except rolls and olive oil, using your hands until evenly incorporated. Make into five large (entree size) or 10 small (slider size) patties and set aside.

Over high heat, heat an oven safe pan until drops of water skitter across its surface. Pour in enough olive oil to coat bottom of pan by 1/4 inch. Heat oil for 30 seconds. Place patties in pan, working in batches if necessary. Cook patties until browned on bottom and then flip and brown the other side. Remove burgers to baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Repeat until all burgers are browned.

Place burgers in preheated oven for roughly 5 to 7 minutes for medium doneness. Place on grilled buns and top with watercress, sliced plum tomato and Creole Mustard Tomato Jam. Serve hot.

Creole Mustard Tomato Jam


1/3 cup Alamos Red Blend

1/3 cup crushed grape tomatoes

2 1/2 tablespoons blackberry or raspberry jam (with seeds)

1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/3 cup stone ground or Creole mustard


Cook down all ingredients except mustard in a small saucepan, stirring constantly until thick and relatively uniform in consistency. Mash all bits of tomato into sauce.  Remove from heat and place in a nonreactive bowl to cool. When just above room temperature, stir in mustard.

Argentinean Table Wine ©2014 Alamos USA, Hayward, CA. All rights reserved.

2014-10-10T00:00:00<![CDATA[New ideas to bring your Halloween decor back from the dead]]>

(BPT) - Halloween has its fair share of iconic symbols: ghosts, witches, mummies and pumpkins, just to name a few. But if your home decor is becoming just as iconic, it may be time to change it up and take your decorating in a new direction.

There are many directions you can go with a decoration theme. Certainly, the colors of black and orange can be integrated into the decor with the use of pumpkins or candles; these items still scream Halloween and can be displayed elegantly.

Gary LaVasser, academic director in Set & Exhibit Design at The Art Institute of California – Hollywood, a campus of Argosy University, says that while everyone thinks of orange and black, consider the combination of dark red and black. At Halloween, any time black is used it represents scariness. Similarly, the dark red can be symbolic of blood. “For a more sophisticated look, combine dark red arrangements of roses, cover them in black hat veiling so you see the roses through the veil and tie them together with black satin ribbon,” he suggests. “If you want to go a little further, place the arrangement on an inexpensive black placemat and drip dark red nail polish from a few rose petals onto the placemat. It will look like the roses are bleeding.”

LaVasser also has these tips for alternative but sophisticated Halloween decor:

* Use vintage Halloween toys from the 1930s, 40s or 50s as part of the design. If they are worn they’ll have more character. Combine them with garlands of silk fall leaves available at most craft stores, tree branches or wheat and place on mantels or dining tables.

* Paint objects black that normally are not this color. For example, jack-o-lanterns are orange so spray them black for a twist on a familiar item. Also consider painting real flowers black. To make objects more interesting, select different black textures such as matte, glitter, satin, gloss or metallic paints.

* The colors of fall are rich earth tones and these colors are also tied to Halloween. Add a little “punch” by using a deep purple color - it can be an interesting contrast to oranges and gold tones. Also consider using metallic gold, copper and pewter colors. You can paint leaves or pumpkins with these shades as well. 

LaVasser adds that one can look for inspiration among different cultures and learn how they celebrate certain holidays or Halloween. A Latino tradition is Day of the Dead, which is observed on November 1st and 2nd. It celebrates family and friends who have passed and the decor includes folk art, candles, colorful flowers and bright ribbons, as well as skeletons,” says LaVasser. “This theme offers great options for Halloween.”

For more information about The Art Institutes, visit

2014-12-03T00:00:00<![CDATA[4 small diet changes that can make a big difference]]>

(BPT) - The new year is a great time to start fresh. Many people commit to exercise more, stress less or make healthier food choices. Incorporating small, sustainable changes, versus dramatic, large-scale lifestyle shifts, can make it much easier to stick to your resolutions. This year, instead of overhauling your entire diet, resolve to improve your health with simple tweaks to your everyday meal and snacking routine.

Eat the rainbow

Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is an effortless way to boost your intake of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Try to eat one produce item from each color in the rainbow every day. For example, have blueberries in your breakfast oatmeal, a red apple for a snack, a spinach and radicchio salad with yellow peppers for lunch and sweet potatoes as part of dinner. You could also pack red bell peppers and carrots with creamy garlic hummus or a banana for a convenient pick-me-up between meals.

Adopt a smoothie regimen

Another easy way to consume more fruits and vegetables - as well as other healthy ingredients like nut and soy milk, yogurt, chia or flax seeds - is to start your day with a nutrient-packed smoothie. Smoothies can be a convenient, on-the-go, energy-boosting breakfast for adults and kids alike. Create personalized flavor combinations for every member of the family with the new Vitamix S30, which features a portable blend-and-go container that becomes an instant travel cup. If you have a sweet tooth, try a red cherry smoothie, bursting with the flavors of cherry, strawberry and grapes. Or, blend in antioxidant-rich kale or other dark leafy greens for an extra serving of vegetables.

Choose healthy fats

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting most of the fat in your diet from unsaturated fats, which can be found in foods such as fish, nuts, seeds and certain types of oils. Monounsaturated fats, from sunflower oil, canola oil and avocado, and polyunsaturated fats, like soybean oil, walnuts and flax seed, are sometimes called “good fats” because they are heart-healthy and can help lower cholesterol. Add these healthy fats into your meals: use avocado to cool spicy entrees; top salads with walnuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds for an extra crunch; and cook with canola or olive oil. Fats are essential for your body to function properly, so choose ones that taste great and provide energy and nutrients.

Make smart substitutions

Another simple way to change your diet is to sub in healthier options. There are many ways to adapt recipes that will increase their nutritional content without sacrificing taste. Replace the typical carbohydrates with vegetables: try crispy, baked zucchini sticks in place of french fries or spaghetti squash instead of traditional pasta. Secretly swap ingredients for more wholesome alternatives in your favorite recipes: substitute Greek yogurt in place of full-fat sour cream in dips and sauces or make a cauliflower-based pizza crust, instead of a flour one, for a more nutritious version of a favorite comfort food. With the right preparation and seasonings, your family will never notice the difference.

When it comes to incorporating changes into your lifestyle, it’s important to start slowly and make realistic choices. Don’t be discouraged if you have minor setbacks. With just a few modifications to your daily meals, you can achieve better health in the new year.

Red Cherry Smoothie


1/2 cup (60 g) low-fat cherry yogurt

1 cup (76 g) fresh strawberries, quartered

2/3 cup (50 g) red grapes

1 cup (70 g) fresh cherries, pitted

1/2 cup (60 ml) cherry juice


Place all ingredients into the Vitamix S30 40-ounce container in the order listed and secure lid. Turn the dial to 1 and slowly increase speed to 10. Blend for 35 seconds or until desired consistency is reached.


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