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Food Recipes and Entertaining 2014-10-25T07:38:48 2014-08-07T00:00:002014-09-23T08:51:44<![CDATA[Planned or spontaneous, pull off your next party with ease]]>

(BPT) - Cookie exchanges, gift sharing, reuniting with friends and family – there’s so many reason to plan a holiday gathering at your house, or spontaneously invite your friends over for the afternoon. No matter if they’re planned or spur-of-the-moment, you can host a holiday gathering without doing a lot of work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014-05-27T00:00:002014-09-24T17:03:08<![CDATA[Expert tips for a delicious grilling season]]>

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

2014-08-27T00:00:002014-09-17T12:58:53<![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.

2014-05-30T00:00:002014-09-26T11:48:09<![CDATA[Simple twists to make summer cooking even more sensational]]>

(BPT) - From juicy produce to savory grilled meats, summer is the best time for tantalizing taste buds with delicious foods. This year, why not enhance traditional favorites with a few unique twists? These simple updates to classic summer dishes will have everyone raving.

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

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

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

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

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

Cottage Blue Dip & Dressing

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

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

Fig Creme Brulee

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

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

2014-07-30T00:00:00<![CDATA[Healthy lunch and snack ideas for back to school]]>

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

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

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

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

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

Lunch box option one:

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

* Snack: orange slices and string cheese.

Lunch box option two:

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

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

Lunch box option three:

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

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

Healthier lunch room choices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014-05-13T00:00:002014-09-24T16:09:08<![CDATA[Fresh ideas for summer alfresco entertaining]]>

(BPT) - Warm days are calling, as summer traditionally kicks off the outdoor entertaining season. But this year, tradition takes a new direction. More hosts are breaking the boundaries of indoor versus outdoor entertaining. Gone are the paper plates and plastic cups. Instead, people are daring to take their dinnerware outside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014-06-04T00:00:002014-09-26T13:11:19<![CDATA[Top time-saving kitchen appliances to help unleash your inner chef]]>

(BPT) - Do you dream of being the next contestant on a reality cooking show? Think your culinary skills could take on Chef Gordon Ramsay? You’re not alone. There are millions of aspiring, in-home chefs who want to improve their skills.

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

Blend up creativity

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

Smart and savvy storage

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

Hands-free innovation

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

The heat is on - get cooking

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

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

2014-08-15T00:00:002014-08-20T14:14:59<![CDATA[Back-to-school snacking done right]]>

(BPT) - As the school year begins, some parents may find that the most chaotic time of the day is around 3 p.m. when class is dismissed and the juggling act of homework, soccer practice and piano lessons begins. With so much going on, it’s important to keep kids energized and focused by providing them with healthy snacks packed with key nutrients such as vitamins E, D, B12 and omega-3s.

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

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

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

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

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

You can find more snack options like this Egg Salad Stuffed Tomato Cradles at or

Egg Salad Stuffed Tomato Cradles


4 Eggland’s Best eggs, hard-cooked

1 1/2 tablespoon avocado

2 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt, ideally organic

2 teaspoons dijonnaise

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Salt to taste, optional

4 tomatoes on the vine


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

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

2014-09-02T00:00:002014-09-23T09:12:47<![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.

2014-07-29T00:00:002014-09-17T11:03:39<![CDATA[Smart parent tricks for cutting chaos, streamlining school days]]>

(BPT) - School is gearing up and a plethora of activities are starting. From soccer season and dance classes to music lessons and more – fall is a time full of excitement yet major adjustment for families.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014-09-04T00:00:00<![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.

2014-05-16T00:00:002014-09-24T16:19:36<![CDATA[Elegant summer entertaining with fresh, seasonal cocktails]]>

(BPT) - Summer is synonymous with entertaining and for good reason. Warm summer days and long summer evenings make the perfect backdrop for gatherings with friends and family to enjoy delicious food and drinks. As Memorial Day, Independence Day and long summer weekends come and go, keep in mind some simple tips to make your summer soirees extra special and elegant.

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

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

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

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

Picnic perfect


4 ounces La Marca Prosecco

1 ounce bourbon

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

1/3 cup sliced strawberries

1 whole strawberry for garnish


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

Makes one cocktail.

Homemade sweet and sour


1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup fresh lime juice


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

Makes 2 cups.

Simple summer


4 ounces La Marca Prosecco

1 ounce coconut rum

1/2 ounce triple sec

Fresh coconut garnish


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

Makes one cocktail.

Blue breeze


4 ounces La Marca Prosecco

1 ounce gin

1/4 ounce elderflower liquer

Squeeze of a lemon wedge

Fresh blueberries for garnish


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

Makes one cocktail.

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.

2014-05-14T00:00:002014-09-24T16:12:59<![CDATA[3 expert tips for starting a successful vegetable garden]]>

(BPT) - Warm weather begs green thumbs across the country to break out their gardening gloves and till the soil for the season’s plantings. Whether this is your first year tending a home garden or it’s something you’ve been doing for decades, gardening offers many rewards, including time spent outdoors, the ability to feel closer to Mother Nature, and of course, the fresh fare plucked just steps from your kitchen.

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

Step 1: Research appropriate early plantings

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

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

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

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

Step 2: Prepare garden spaces for accelerated growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014-08-04T00:00:00<![CDATA[Gimme some more! A dozen fun facts about s'mores]]>

(BPT) - With back to school just around the corner, now’s the time to make the most of the final days of summer. Gather your family and friends around the fire and enjoy a delicious treat. One of the quintessential flavors of summer, s’mores have been enhancing bonfires and bringing families together for decades. In fact, the first official recipe for s’mores was published in the 1927 Girl Scout Handbook, which launched the treat into pop culture and made a big impression on families across the United States.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classic Hershey’s S’mores:

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

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

2014-07-15T00:00:002014-09-25T11:55:31<![CDATA[Wholesome snacks for back to school]]>

(BPT) - The school year is here and with it, all of those hectic schedules. You may think the chaos of another school year means you’re too busy to provide your children with nourishing after-school snacks, but that doesn’t have to happen. There are many easy recipes available that will allow you to provide wholesome and delicious snacks to your kids, and there are easy ways to be sure they enjoy them. Here are a few ideas.

Ask them to help

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

Garden vegetable tray


1 package Simply Organic Southwest Ranch Greek Yogurt Dip Mix

1 16-ounce package Stonyfield Plain Organic Nonfat Greek Yogurt

1 small zucchini, sliced

1 small yellow squash, sliced

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 medium jicama, peeled and sliced into sticks

1 orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1 bunch of radishes

1 bunch green onions - about 10 - trimmed

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

1 red bell pepper


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

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

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

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

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

Place toothpicks or skewers on nearby serving platter.

Hide healthy foods in delicious flavors

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

Banana, pineapple and orange smoothie


1 medium sized frozen banana (peel removed before frozen)

1 cup frozen pineapple

6 ounces Greek Yogurt

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic Orange Flavor

1/2 teaspoon Simply Organic Vanilla Flavoring

Fresh orange slices and shredded coconut, for garnish


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

Serve immediately.

Snack on the run

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

Roasted chickpeas


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

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 packet Simply Organic’s Crazy Awesome Veggies seasoning blends


Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place chickpeas in bowl.

Toss with olive oil and seasoning blend until evenly coated.

Spread in a layer on rimmed baking sheet.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until crisp.

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

2014-05-14T00:00:002014-09-24T16:16:35<![CDATA[Refreshing salads for warm days]]>

(BPT) - Nothing says “summer is here” like a fresh salad bursting with garden-fresh vegetables, herbs and flavors. So how do you toss some zing into your salad to get your family and friends craving more? Follow these five simple steps to create eye-popping, mouth-watering and crowd-pleasing bowls of healthy and delicious salads.

Many shades of green

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

Think protein for power

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

Top smart, toss smart

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

The road to good health is paved with veggies

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


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

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

Confetti fruit and veggie lettuce wraps with Litehouse Pomegranate Blueberry Vinaigrette

Serves: 4

Finished in: 20 minutes


1/2 cup seeded and diced cucumber

1/2 cup grated carrots

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup diced strawberries

1/2 cup diced pineapple

1/2 cup diced papaya

1/2 cup diced mango

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

1 tablespoon cilantro

2 tablespoon jalapeno

2 heads washed and dried baby romaine lettuce leaves

2 ounces feta cheese crumbles

1 ounce snow pea shoots

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


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

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

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

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

Serve with additional pomegranate blueberry vinaigrette for dipping.

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


2014-07-01T00:00:00<![CDATA[Meatless options for the grill]]>

(BPT) - Cheeseburgers, chicken thighs and hot dogs are common fare at summer barbeques, but what about guests who are looking to reduce their meat intake? In addition to traditional meat dishes, there are many ways to prepare meals on the grill that everyone can enjoy, including vegetarians.

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

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

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

Grilled fruit

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

Portion control

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

Meatless protein

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

Find recipes, including this Grilled Sunnyside-up Egg-plant, at or

Grilled Sunnyside-up Egg-plant


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

4 Eggland’s Best eggs

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

1 large jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped

1 large shallot, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed and minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon crushed caraway seeds

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3 teaspoons paprika

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

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1/4 cup low-fat feta

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


1. Preheat grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Sprinkle with cheese.

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

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.

2014-08-12T00:00:002014-08-13T16:01:04<![CDATA[Smart, stress-free ideas for a memorable Labor Day party]]>

(BPT) - Labor Day signals the end of summer and the start of exciting new fall activities, but what does the holiday really celebrate? The answer: the 155.6 million people age 16 and older in the American workforce. Gathering with family and friends is a must, but that doesn't mean you should spend your day off worrying about party details. With these tips and tricks, you’ll be a master party-planner and everyone will have a great time - you won’t even have to turn on the stove!

Fantastic food – no oven required

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

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

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

Divine decor – simple is best

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

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

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

Awesome activities – stick to classics

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

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

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

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

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!

2014-07-17T00:00:00<![CDATA[Calling all junior chefs: Expert tips make cooking an enjoyable family affair]]>

(BPT) - There’s a place in the home that is full of endless fun and family bonding potential: the kitchen. When kids learn to cook – from meal prep to cleanup – they gain valuable skills and make lifelong memories. Fortunately, inspiring kids in the kitchen is simple with a few expert tips.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fruit Pizza Recipe:


1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup powdered sugar

8 wedge-shaped shortbreads

3 tablespoons peach jam or preserves

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



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

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

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

Mix and Match Ice-Cream Sandwich:


Root Beer Float Ice Cream

1 (18.25-ounce) box white cake mix

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons root beer extract

3 cups vanilla ice cream, softened

1 cup toffee bits

Garnish: toffee bits

Sugar-Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

1 (16.5-ounce) package refrigerated sugar cookie dough

51/2 cups vanilla ice cream, softened

1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

1 tablespoon sparkling sugar


Root Beer Float Ice Cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

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

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

Sugar-Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

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

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

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

Sample a few of these sweet ideas:

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

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

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

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

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

2014-06-11T00:00:002014-06-17T15:38:53<![CDATA[Mint lightens and brightens summer dishes]]>

(BPT) - The Kentucky Derby, held the first Saturday in May, may be responsible for making mint the king of summertime drinks. Along with big hats, the Derby is famous for its mint juleps, kicking off the warm weather season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mint pesto – great with pasta or lamb chops

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

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

6 cloves garlic, peeled

3/4 cup walnuts

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup vegetable broth

Salt and pepper

Crushed red chilies, optional


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

2. Pulse the mixture until it is roughly chopped.

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

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


Summer rice salad

4 cups cooked basmati rice

1 cup trimmed sugar snap peas, blanched

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 small red bell pepper, diced

1 small jalapeno pepper, finely minced

1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

1/2 cup chopped mint leaves

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


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

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

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


Mint simple syrup – perfect with lemonade or mojitos

2 cups sugar

6 cups water

1 large bunch mint, roughly chopped


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

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

3. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

2014-05-20T00:00:002014-09-24T16:42:05<![CDATA[8 reasons why olives are the pantry's best kept secret]]>
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(BPT) - California Ripe Olives are not only a pantry staple – but a delicious way to add texture and flavor in a variety of places. From cocktails to appetizers and even dessert, this versatile ingredient is one you’ll want to make sure is always in stock on your shelf and on the grocery list.

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

1. Cali Brunch Cocktail



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

2. Mexican Tapenade



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

3. Freda’s Martini



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

4. Risotto Balls



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

5. Back Porch Beer Cocktail


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

6. Sunshine Infusion Cocktail



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

7. Cream Cheese Ice Cream and California Ripe Olive Brittle


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

8. Bowl O’ Olives

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

2014-07-08T00:00:00<![CDATA[Bring variety to foods served at your picnics and cookouts]]>

(BPT) - The warmer months are the perfect time to enjoy meals outdoors, so head out to the backyard or the local park for a sunlit lunch or a breezy, laid-back dinner. Your family probably has some favorite picnic menu items they frequently request, but if you’re looking to inject some new life into those traditional foods, try the following:

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

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

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

Hashbrown Potato Salad

Yield: 6 servings


1 carton (4.2 oz.) Hungry Jack Original Hashbrowns

3-4 strips diced bacon

1/3 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Baby spinach or greens for serving


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

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

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

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

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.

2014-09-30T00:00:00<![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.

2014-08-05T00:00:00<![CDATA[Spice up your menu with these unique recipes]]>

(BPT) - What fun is life without a little adventure? An amazing trip is more appealing than a staycation, a new workout routine beats running the same old mile, and the hot new comedy club is more interesting than watching TV reruns.

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

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

Sizzling CHA! Ramen with shrimp

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

Yield: 2 servings


* Olive oil: 1 Tbsp.

* Shrimp: large, peeled, deveined: 24

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

* Ramen noodles: 2 packages

* CHA! by Texas Pete: 3 Tbsp.

* Water: 2 cups


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

CHA! BBQ glazed grilled salmon

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

Yield: 2 cups of glaze

Portion: Use as marinade for 5 salmon fillets


* CHA!: 1 cup

* Barbecue sauce: 1 cup

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

* Salt and pepper to taste


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

Texas Pete Red Velvet Cones

Yield: 48 cake cones

Ingredients: Cake batter

* All-purpose flower: 5 cups

* Granulated sugar: 3 cups

* Baking soda: 1 Tbsp.

* Salt, fine: 2 tsp.

* Cocoa powder: 2 tsp.

* Vegetable oil: 3 cups

* Buttermilk: 2 cups

* 4 large eggs

* Red food coloring: 3 Tbsp.

* Texas Pete Original Hot Sauce: 2 Tbsp.

* Vanilla extract: 2 tsp

* Small, flat-bottomed ice cream cones: 48

Ingredients: Cream cheese icing

* Cream cheese (softened, whipped): 36 ounces

* Unsalted butter (softened, whipped): 1 stick

* Powdered sugar: 2 cups

* Vanilla extract: 1/2 tsp.

* Texas Pete Hotter Hot Sauce: 2 tsp.

* Piping bag with small decorative tip

* Shaker, powdered sugar, for garnish


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

For more unique summer recipes, visit

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

2014-09-10T00:00:00<![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.

2014-05-23T00:00:002014-09-24T17:01:04<![CDATA[Add a burst of flavor to summer meals with grapes]]>

(BPT) - With warm summer weather comes the desire to lighten family meals and impress guests with thoughtful fare for backyard entertaining. Call on the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables for inspiration. For instance, simply adding a handful of grapes immediately adds taste, color, freshness and a healthy enhancement to any dish. All three colors of grapes - green, red and black - are easy to use, extremely versatile, and conveniently available.

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

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

Banh Mi-Style Flatbread with California Grapes

1 (14-ounce) package prepared pizza dough

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon lemongrass paste

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

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup shredded carrots

Pinch of sugar

1 tablespoon rice vinegar (unseasoned)

2 cups halved green seedless California grapes

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1 jalapeno pepper, very thinly sliced

(Remove seeds for less heat)

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

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

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

Serves 4.

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

Grilled Salmon Tacos with Grape Pico de Gallo

1 cup red seedless California grapes, chopped

1 cup green seedless California grapes, chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped white onion

1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

Small pinch salt

1 pound salmon fillets

As needed olive oil

To taste pepper

12 small corn tortillas

2 limes, cut into wedges

Prepare a grill for cooking over medium heat.

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

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

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

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

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

2014-05-12T00:00:002014-09-24T16:01:55<![CDATA[The benefits of enjoying the healthy Mediterranean diet]]>

(BPT) - With warmer weather, more people turn to fun outdoor activities, especially after a long cold winter. Diet and exercise are the key ingredients of a healthy lifestyle, and fresh salads and other summertime delicacies abound.

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

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

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

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

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

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

North African Salad


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

2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

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

3 cups chicken stock

2 lemons, juiced

1 lemon, zested

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

1/3 cup dried chopped dates

1/4 cup slivered almonds or pistachios, toasted


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

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

2014-08-12T00:00:002014-09-16T15:00:18<![CDATA[Modern parents look to mobile devices for hassle-free meals]]>

(BPT) - Between managing careers, navigating the rigors of parenthood, handling the daily to-do list, and finding time to stay in touch with friends, it’s no wonder modern moms and dads are always on the lookout for simple solutions to make life a little less hectic. Luckily, the age of mobile technology brings ultra-convenient apps and Bluetooth-connected devices for everything from shopping to banking and, of course, cooking.

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

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

Mobile technology makes magic in the kitchen

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

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

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

Smart cooking thermometers make poultry perfection easy for busy cooks

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

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

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

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

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.

2014-10-09T00:00:00<![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

2014-08-08T00:00:00<![CDATA[Why salt is essential to human life]]>

(BPT) - Did you know salt is an important ingredient for your good health? No electrolyte is more essential to human survival than salt because the sodium you get from salt is what allows nerves to send and receive electrical impulses, helping your muscles stay strong, your brain functioning and your cells working well. Sodium is easily absorbed and is required for the absorption of other nutrients in the small intestine and for the digestion of body-building protein.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014-09-11T00:00:00<![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.

2014-09-22T00:00:00<![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.

2014-05-06T00:00:002014-09-24T15:40:11<![CDATA[Find out the tricks to make your next BBQ amazing]]>

(BPT) - With the temperatures inching up, BBQ enthusiasts are looking to turn up the heat. You can jumpstart the BBQ season by perfecting your skills and experimenting on the grill.

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

Before firing up the grill

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

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

On the grill

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

Layer the flavor

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

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

Slow and steady

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

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

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

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.

2014-07-29T00:00:00<![CDATA[Back-to-school nutrition primer: Give kids a healthy head start on academic success]]>

(BPT) - Parents arm their kids with a plethora of school supplies, new attire and the latest technology to prepare them for a successful school year. But one of the most important components of academic success is often overlooked: nutrition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014-08-21T00:00:00<![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!”

2014-06-13T00:00:002014-09-17T09:45:45<![CDATA[Escape a cooking rut with bold flavors the whole family will enjoy]]>

(BPT) - Between busy schedules and family member’s picky eating habits, it’s easy to fall into a cooking rut where you’re preparing the same five recipes every week. Break out of this cycle with a few easy tips that will have you exploring new flavors in no time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smokey Bacon Mac and Cheese

Prep Time: 1 hour


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

For additional recipes and tips on how to use cooking wine, visit

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.

2014-08-28T00:00:00<![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

2014-08-29T00:00:00<![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.

2014-10-13T00:00:00<![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.

2014-06-27T00:00:002014-08-26T14:30:41<![CDATA[Celebrate patio season with elegant and affordable outdoor updates]]>

(BPT) - Patio season is upon us, which means hosting family and friends for warm-weather gatherings and barbecues. Don’t fret; outdoor events don’t have to break the bank. With just a bit of creative vision and DIY savvy, you’ll have an al fresco affair to remember in no time at all.

Sensational seating

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

Elegant ambiance

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

Let there be light

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

Time to party

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

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

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

2014-05-12T00:00:002014-07-24T16:39:05<![CDATA[Entertaining at home? These easy tips will ensure your place is guest-ready in no time]]>

(BPT) - No matter the occasion, parties are good opportunities to relax with friends and family, step outside the normal routine and just have a great time. Hosting a party at home requires some extra prep work, but the reward is often worth the labor. Before you throw your next gathering, try these simple tips to get your house prepped for company.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014-07-23T00:00:00<![CDATA[Make your big day as unique as you are]]>

(BPT) - Weddings are steeped in tradition – no matter whom you are or where you live. But what if you’re not interested in wearing the same dress your mother did, getting married in the same location your sister did or wearing something blue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

2014-10-01T00:00:00<![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.

2014-09-04T00:00:00<![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.

2014-05-13T00:00:002014-09-24T16:02:35<![CDATA[Kid-friendly foods that are also healthy appearing in restaurants across the country]]>

(BPT) - With summer finally here, many will take the opportunity to spend more quality time with family, and dining out in restaurants is a perfect way to spend that time together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014-05-30T00:00:002014-09-26T11:45:10<![CDATA[5 easy tips for throwing the ultimate summer party]]>

(BPT) - There’s nothing quite like a summer party where beautiful weather, great food and good friends come together to create memories that last. If you’re looking forward to throwing a summer party but you’re not sure how to get started, the following tips will have you outside enjoying a warm breeze with your friends in no time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

2014-07-15T00:00:002014-08-28T15:30:41<![CDATA[Veggies galore? Make the most of your garden goodies]]>

(BPT) - You’ve spent the summer tending and nurturing vegetables that have flourished, and now you have such an abundance of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and leafy greens, your home is starting to resemble the produce section of a grocery store.

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

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

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

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

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

Balanced Basic Pickle Seasoning


1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon granulated onion

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon turmeric root powder

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

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

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

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

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

2014-05-20T00:00:002014-09-24T16:44:32<![CDATA[Try these ideas for light and simple cookout fare]]>

(BPT) - Whether enjoying a summer holiday, celebrating a recent graduation or simply relaxing with friends and family on a lazy Saturday afternoon, this is the perfect time of year to enjoy nutritious eating wherever you are. If you’re planning a backyard barbecue, fresh produce makes delicious and healthy choices a breeze no matter if you’re the host or a guest.

Healthful hors d'oeuvres

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

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

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

Salads and soups with a twist

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

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

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

Garden-fresh grilling

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

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

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

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


4 cups (268 g) chopped kale

1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup (60 g) roasted red pepper

2 garlic cloves, roasted, peeled

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons (14 g) toasted pepitas

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

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper


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

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

3. Select Variable 7.

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

2014-08-11T00:00:002014-09-02T10:56:17<![CDATA[Grown up snack substitutions to satisfy your inner child's taste buds]]>

(BPT) - When you were a child you could eat anything you wanted without worrying about the result. The calories never stuck around.

Now, not so much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

2014-08-06T00:00:002014-09-22T17:01:19<![CDATA[Getting the most out of farmers markets and seasonal produce]]>

(BPT) - Warm weather months bring an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, and for those who enjoy buying local, farmers markets are popular destinations. Produce choices available at farmers markets are now reaching their peak. So how can you make the most of this seasonal bounty?

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

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

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

A sense of community

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

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

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

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

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

CSA – Community Supported Agriculture

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

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

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

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

2014-05-20T00:00:002014-09-24T16:38:46<![CDATA[Prepping for a party: make-ahead appetizers make summer entertaining easy]]>

(BPT) - Don’t let the first “ding-dong” of the doorbell catch you up to your elbows in dirty dishes and half-finished appetizers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try these easy make-ahead recipes courtesy of Shulse:

Spicy Ahi Tartare             

Yield: 10 servings


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

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

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

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

1 shallot, finely minced (substitute 2 green onions)

1 orange, washed, dried, zested, juiced

1 lime, juiced

1 teaspoon dry oregano (or 2 teaspoons fresh)

2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)

1 teaspoon sugar

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


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

Lettuce Cups     

Yield: 15 bites


2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/2 yellow onion, small dice

1 tablespoon garlic, smashed, peeled, minced

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

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

1 pound ground pork

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 cup water chestnuts, small dice

2 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoon Hoisin sauce

1-2 tablespoons Chinese hot mustard

1/2 cup peanuts, crushed or chopped

15 Iceberg lettuce cups, cut into 3-inch squares


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

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.

2014-08-04T00:00:002014-09-25T11:35:13<![CDATA[How to make the start of the school year healthy and happy]]>

(BPT) - The lazy days of summer are nearly over. Back-to-school season means back to a busy life with a seemingly never-ending schedule of classes, sporting events and extracurricular activities. Making healthy choices can take a back seat to convenience when on the run. While pre-packaged foods are tempting for those hectic days of fall, nutritious homemade snacks and meals can be just as easy and quick. They are also much better for you and your children.

Eat smart to think smart

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

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

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

Pack a better bagged lunch

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

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

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

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

Fuel up after class

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

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

Easy, good-for-you peanut butter

3 cups (420 g) unsalted roasted peanuts


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

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

Going Green Smoothie

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


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

2014-06-05T00:00:002014-09-26T13:12:21<![CDATA[What happens when camping and glamour collide?]]>

(BPT) - You love the great outdoors, you really do but you were somehow gifted with that sweet blood mosquitoes crave. Not only that but your body simply doesn’t do well sleeping on the ground and, let’s be honest, it takes no small amount of lighter fluid and matches for you to warm your hands over an open fire.

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

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

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

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

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

2014-09-29T00:00:00<![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

2014-10-03T00:00:00<![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.


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