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Food Recipes and Entertaining 2014-06-05T03:38:03 2014-05-20T00:00:00<![CDATA[8 reasons why olives are the pantry's best kept secret]]>Share This Share This 

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

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

1. Cali Brunch Cocktail

 

 

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

2. Mexican Tapenade

 

 

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

3. Freda’s Martini

 

 

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

4. Risotto Balls

 

 

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

5. Back Porch Beer Cocktail

 

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

6. Sunshine Infusion Cocktail

 

 

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

7. Cream Cheese Ice Cream and California Ripe Olive Brittle

 

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

8. Bowl O’ Olives



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hashbrown Nests with Eggs

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

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

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2014-03-21T00:00:00<![CDATA[Sodium truths: Americans are eating the right amount of salt]]>(BPT) - Contrary to popular belief, the average American eats just the right amount of salt. In fact every single population throughout the world, regardless of location, state of development, culture and cuisine, all ingest a similar amount of salt when compared to the U.S. average. It doesn’t matter if people get their salt from packaged or restaurants foods or add it in themselves, the amount stays fairly constant.

Salt, a combination of sodium and chloride, is a nutrient that is essential to life and good health. In fact, aside from water, salt is the most common food ingredient we consume - and that’s no accident. Without salt, the blood in our circulatory system would simply stop flowing and we would quickly die. The sodium portion of salt allows our nerves to transmit their electrical impulses throughout our body and aids in the absorption of nutrients. Salt’s chloride portion is also instrumental in maintaining proper blood pressure.

Like all other essential nutrients, our bodies naturally regulate the proper amount we need to stay healthy. If you eat too much salt, the body simply eliminates it along with all other waste materials. Likewise, any activity resulting in excessive loss of these nutrients, such as exercise, has to be counterbalanced by an increased consumption of salt to make up for this additional loss.

If you don’t get enough salt the body reacts by going into overdrive in order to hold on to the salt it needs. The hormonal system (called the Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System or RAAS) switches on to counter the effects of insufficient salt consumption. In the short run this is just a normal process of the body adjusting, but if low salt levels persist then the consequences for our overall health can be very severe.

According to recent findings from the Institute Of Medicine, consuming less than half the current average can cause harm. Consuming insufficient amounts of salt can lead to the development of Insulin resistance in as little as one week. A persistent low salt diet can lead to diabetes, cardiovascular failure, dehydration, unsteadiness, loss of cognition and death.

The body has an innate ability to know its ideal level of salt consumption by signaling our salt appetite; it is called the "wisdom of the body". Of course, there may be some individuals who are salt sensitive and who should reduce their salt consumption, but this should be done under a doctor’s supervision in order to make sure that all their health outcomes are improved, not simply blood pressure.

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2014-05-14T00:00:002014-05-27T16:47:01<![CDATA[Spring into fresh produce faster with early season gardening tricks]]>(BPT) - Warm weather begs green thumbs across the country to break out their gardening gloves and till the soil for the season’s plantings. Whether this is your first year tending a home garden or it’s something you’ve been doing for decades, gardening offers many rewards, including time spent outdoors, the ability to feel closer to Mother Nature, and of course, the fresh fare plucked just steps from your kitchen.

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

Step 1: Research appropriate early plantings

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

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

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

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

Step 2: Prepare garden spaces for accelerated growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2014-03-03T00:00:00<![CDATA[Is it really possible for kids to like whole grains?]]>(BPT) - We know. Whole grains are good for us, offering fiber, vitamins and other nutrients. But can they really be tasty enough for our kids to enjoy? And how do we add them to more of our meals?

The answers may be as close as your nearest elementary, middle or high school. Schools across the country are introducing whole grain breads, pastas, rice, pizzas and tortillas. Starting July 1, 2014, all of the grain-based offerings in the lunch line will be at least 51 percent whole grain.

Anthony Geraci, director of Nutrition Services at Shelby County Schools near Memphis, Tenn., oversees one of the country’s largest school districts, serving more than 155,000 students in 270 schools. In 2012, he proactively anticipated the USDA’s new school meal requirements and changed all of the district’s grain offerings to whole grains. Now, breads and muffins are baked fresh from scratch. Simultaneously, Geraci established a mandate of customer service, focusing full attention on serving the district’s daily student customers.

One of the most successful ways Geraci and his team have introduced new, healthy items is the “no thank you bites.” “Trying something new can be a bit unsettling to kids,” says Geraci. “We decided to ask our youngest customers to choose whether or not to try a new, healthy item by offering it to them in a small sample cup. If they choose not to try it, they simply say ‘no thank you,’ and move on. But if they do try the item, they receive a star sticker and are invited to a monthly ‘constellation party for the stars.’ We’ve found this to be a fun way to test new items as well as get feedback on our new offerings.”

Schools are offering kid-friendly favorites like pizza and stir fry with brown rice that fit into their whole grain-rich menus. For example, the new Big Daddy’s(R) Primo Four Cheese Pizza has a 51 percent whole grain crust and a slice is only 360 calories. It’s a great solution for familiar taste and nutrient-rich offerings.

You can easily carry whole grain “goodness” into your own kitchen too.

Consider whole grains your blank canvas, says Susan Moores, a Twin Cities-based dietitian. “They’re a great starting point for creating delicious meals that are incredibly beneficial to your and your kids’ health.”

According to Moores, whole grains are the type of carbohydrates your body wants.

“Whole-grain carbohydrates are an excellent source of energy for the brain,” she says. That’s important for kids at school. Plus, studies show whole grains contain their own, unique set of phytonutrients, which can rival the phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables. Phytonutrients are substances found in plant foods that research strongly suggest promote good health … think resveratrol in grapes and lycopene in tomatoes.

To add whole grains to your home menus, Moores suggests teamwork. “Kids are naturally curious about food, they’re interested in being in the kitchen and in learning how to cook. Leverage that and the fun when everyone is trying a food for the first time.”

To amp up the flavor of grains, cook them in broth or juice, and make a pilaf with chopped onions, adding chopped vegetables, corn or even dried fruit. Finish with seasoning. Whole grains work as a side dish, in a casserole, in soups or as part of a refreshing spring salad.

It might take time to make the change, but stay the course. “The rule of thumb: it can take 10 to 12 introductions to a new food before a child chooses to give it a go,” Moores says. “Whole grains taste best with the company they keep. Partner them with favorite foods and ingredients to make them a sure win on two fronts: taste and health.”

With the help of schools who are leading the way in introducing kid-friendly whole grain options, we’ll all be enjoying the benefits that come with eating whole grain foods.

Try this whole grain recipe from The Culinary Institute of America:

Brown Rice Pilaf recipe from The Culinary Institute of America

Yield: 10 portions

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups long-grain converted brown rice                
1 tablespoon vegetable oil                        
1 small onion, minced        
3 cups liquid – vegetable stock, chicken stock or water
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat the oil in heavy-gauge medium pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add the rice and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until aromatic and heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock, bay leaf and thyme sprig to the rice and bring to a simmer, stirring to prevent the rice from clumping together or sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cover the pot and cook in a 350 F. oven until the rice is tender and has absorbed all the liquid, about 30 minutes. Remove the rice from the oven, and allow it to rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover, and use a fork to fluff the rice, remove the bay leaf and thyme sprig, and set aside in a warm spot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve on a warm plate.

Variations:
* Several different dried fruits, nuts and herbs can be added to grains, such as dried cherries, dried apricots, slivered almonds, chopped pistachios, fresh basil, etc.
* 2 ounces of chopped, toasted walnuts can also be gently folded in with ½ ounce each of chopped parsley, chives and thyme.

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2014-02-12T00:00:00<![CDATA[Looking for the perfect wedding gift? How to spice up the happy couple's newlywed bliss]]>(BPT) - If you struggle finding just the right wedding present for friends and family who are getting married, you’re not alone. You want a gift that is personal, unique and, above all else, something they will actually use. Many newlyweds need to build their kitchen supplies, plus with the foodie trend still going strong, you can’t go wrong with food- and cooking-themed gifts.

Instead of gifting a blender or new pots and pans, think outside the gift box and create a basket of premium spices. A good set of spices makes an immediate difference in any kitchen – high quality cinnamon, paprika or even salt and pepper, for example, bring an impressive new level of flavor to any meal. It’s also fun for newlyweds to explore spices together. They can create new combinations for both old and new dishes to learn which flavors they, as a new couple, deem to be their favorites.

When selecting spices for gifting, look for natural and organic spices. You want your gift to communicate your best wishes for the happy couple’s health while giving them a true taste of why high standards matter. Here are some top spices the experts at Frontier Natural Products recommend:

Step 1: Start with staples
To properly build a spice rack, you must have a good selection of commonly used staples. Great staple spices include basil, bay leaves, cayenne, chives, cinnamon, cumin, garlic powder, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, turmeric and, of course, salt and black pepper.

Step 2: Add spice blends
Ready-to-use spice blends are quick and convenient ways to add flavor to foods, and they’re perfect for cooks learning their way in the kitchen. Popular spice blends include all-purpose seasoning, chili powder, curry powder, Italian seasoning, Mexican seasoning and pumpkin pie spice.

Step 3: Include adventurous spices
Add a surprise element to your spice gift basket with a few adventurous options. This is a good way to personalize your gift as well. For example, add a spice that is reminiscent of their honeymoon location, such as Frontier’s new Seafood Seasonings, hand-harvested French salt Fleur de Sel, or Grains of Paradise Seed, a tiny seed that tastes like a combination of a mild black pepper, ginger, cardamom and coriander.

Step 4: Don’t forget trendy spices
Help the happy couple go to the head of culinary class by including top trending spices in your wedding gift. Smoked spices are all the rage right now, so be sure to include some delicious smoked sea salt. Another trendy spice is Vietnamese Cinnamon, prized by gourmet chefs, many whom believe it to be the best cinnamon in the world.

Step 5: Finish with extracts and flavorings
To round out your wedding gift, consider including some premium extracts and flavorings to really help prepare the newlyweds’ kitchen. One great example is non-GMO Vanilla Extract from Frontier. Its rich, universally popular taste will enhance treats from cookies to custards. Plus, non-GMO means it isn’t made with genetically modified vanilla beans, a positive for many people.

When it comes to wedding gifts, make sure yours stands out from the bunch. A customized collection of spices is sure to be used time and time again by the happy couple, and they’ll think of your thoughtful gift every time they cook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cherry Almond Brunch Tart

Ingredients:

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

4 cups sliced almonds

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

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1 teaspoon almond extract

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

1 container (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2014-05-20T00:00:002014-06-03T11:03:02<![CDATA[Prepping for a party: make-ahead appetizers make summer entertaining easy]]>(BPT) - Don’t let the first “ding-dong” of the doorbell catch you up to your elbows in dirty dishes and half-finished appetizers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try these easy make-ahead recipes courtesy of Shulse:

Spicy Ahi Tartare             

Yield: 10 servings

Ingredients:

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

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

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

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

1 shallot, finely minced (substitute 2 green onions)

1 orange, washed, dried, zested, juiced

1 lime, juiced

1 teaspoon dry oregano (or 2 teaspoons fresh)

2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)

1 teaspoon sugar

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

Directions:

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

Lettuce Cups     

Yield: 15 bites

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/2 yellow onion, small dice

1 tablespoon garlic, smashed, peeled, minced

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

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

1 pound ground pork

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/2 cup water chestnuts, small dice

2 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoon Hoisin sauce

1-2 tablespoons Chinese hot mustard

1/2 cup peanuts, crushed or chopped

15 Iceberg lettuce cups, cut into 3-inch squares

Directions:

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

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2014-02-05T00:00:002014-05-13T08:20:53<![CDATA[Enjoy the taste of eating right with healthy, tasty snacks]]>(BPT) - While health is a main concern for many Americans, the majority are still choosing food based on taste rather than nutrition.

This March, however, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) is hoping to change perceptions and shed light on the fact that healthy food can taste good by promoting the theme: Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right during National Nutrition Month.

There are plenty of nutritious foods that are also tasty. With a little knowledge on what foods to buy and the proper preparation techniques, both taste and nutrition can be combined for optimum health.

“I tell my clients all the time that making one change can create a powerful and healthy momentum,” says Registered Dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner and spokesperson for Sunsweet Growers Inc. “One of the easiest and most enjoyable first steps is to upgrade their snacks. For many people, healthy snacks can be a great weight management technique. The right snacks keep energy levels up and help manage hunger between meals.”

Blatner recommends combining lean protein and fiber in almost every snack, since the powerful nutrient combination will help with optimum fullness and satisfaction. Her top five healthy, tasty snack ideas are:

* Create your own trail mix: Customize your own mix of dried fruit and unsalted nuts. Sunsweet’s Plum Amaz!ns are diced dried plums, which are lower in sugar and calories than most other dried fruits and have a low glycemic index of only 29. Prunes are also a nutrition powerhouse - recent studies suggest that prunes may help improve bone health. Combine them with unsalted nuts like pistachios for a snack that will keep you energized for hours.

* Lightened-up afternoon bread: Take time to indulge in a healthy way by pureeing prunes in a food processor and use it to replace half of the amount of butter needed in your favorite bread or muffin recipe. See below for a lightened up version of chocolate banana bread, which has three grams of fiber, yet only 180 calories per serving.

* Make your own energy bar: Store-bought bars are often loaded with sugar and ingredients that are hard to pronounce. Visit dawnjacksonblatner.com for an easy recipe called Super Seed Bars, which can be prepared and ready to eat in less than 30 minutes.

* Experiment with yogurt parfaits: Greek yogurt contains more protein than regular yogurt, which helps keep you fuller longer after eating. To keep sugar in check, enjoy plain Greek yogurt and add your own sweetness with healthy fresh or dried fruits. Sprinkle on granola for some added crunch.

* Mix-and-match smoothie: Experiment with different combinations of fresh and frozen fruit, yogurt, milk, juice and even vegetables. Add a handful of spinach to your smoothie for a boost of iron and vitamin A – the other smoothie components will disguise the taste. Sunsweet’s Amaz!ng Prune Light has only 100 calories per serving and is a good source of fiber for a boost to your digestive health.

Chocolate banana bread

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Sunsweet pitted prunes
2 tablespoon water
1 cup (about 2) bananas, mashed
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup plus
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Plum Amaz!ns
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a one-pound loaf pan. In a small bowl, combine prunes and water. Microwave for 45 seconds and let set for 10 minutes. Puree prunes with water in a blender. In a bowl, beat together the prune puree, bananas, sugar, eggs and oil with an electric mixer until incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to the prune mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the Plum Amaz!ns and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn the loaf out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

For more healthy living tips, visit Sunsweet’s Live Amazing Hub, beginning March 11, 2014.

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2014-02-05T00:00:00<![CDATA[Brewing up fresh ideas in the kitchen: How to incorporate craft beer into your cooking]]>(BPT) - For those that are experienced in the kitchen, wine may be a familiar ingredient to cook with, but many people don’t even consider using craft beer in their recipes. While it may not be commonplace quite yet, more and more people are learning that craft beer can add a flavorful dimension to a variety of dishes.

Whether you’re an accomplished cook and a craft beer connoisseur, or just starting to build your culinary and beer knowledge, a few simple tips will help anyone create a meal that is sure to impress.

Look for high-quality craft beers for cooking, like Samuel Adams Boston Lager. Samuel Adams is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year; through the years they’ve remained at the forefront of America’s ever-growing craft beer community because of their attention to quality and focus on innovation. Just as you carefully select the ingredients for your dish, you should be sure the ingredients in your beer are the highest quality. If you like to drink a certain beer, chances are it will be delicious to cook with.

Spice it up

Craft beers are a unique culinary tool that can bring out hidden flavors, balance complex ingredients, and pair well with bold or delicate flavors equally. The ingredients used in craft beer provide an inherent spice package that creates an added depth of flavor without overpowering the taste of other ingredients. This built-in spice packet also makes cooking simpler, infusing dishes with exciting flavors that might be difficult to achieve otherwise.

Experiment

Don’t be afraid to try incorporating beer into a variety of dishes. Samuel Adams brewer Jennifer Glanville advocates for experimentation. “I encourage everyone to incorporate craft beer into their cooking. If you have a favorite dish and a favorite brew – find a way to put them together. There are so many options when cooking with craft beer,” she stated.

Craft beer for every course

Because of the variety of craft beers on the market today, there is a beer that fits in any recipe. Various beer types can fit in marinades for meats, sauces, and even desserts. Glanville recommends making a marinade with Boston Lager for steaks and burgers. The malt flavor in the beer emphasizes the caramelized flavors of the meat, and the beer’s citrus and spicy notes from the hops intensify the flavor of the dish.

To show just how tasty a dish made with craft beer can be, Samuel Adams worked with Chef David Burke to create a beer-infused cupcake that is worthy of any celebration – especially the brewery’s 30th anniversary. Burke says of the partnership, "Samuel Adams continues to experiment with ingredients and brewing techniques, just as I experiment in my cooking, so it's been exciting to see how we've been able to push culinary boundaries through our unique partnership."

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Boston Lager and learn how simple cooking with craft beer can be, whip up a batch of Boston Lager cupcakes and toast to your new culinary know-how.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager Cupcakes Recipe (makes two dozen cupcakes):

Recipe by Chef David Burke


Ingredients for Boston Lager Cupcakes:

1/2 cup butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup Samuel Adams Boston Lager

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for Boston Lager Buttercream Frosting:

3 cups confectioners' sugar

1 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon whipping cream

2 tablespoons Samuel Adams Boston Lager

Directions for Boston Lager Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine flour, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl. Beat together butter, sugar and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Add in eggs and mix until thoroughly combined. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients until well combined. Pour in water and beer and finish by adding salt. Stir until mixture is smooth and there are no lumps.

Line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Pour approximately 3 to 4 oz into each cupcake. Bake in oven at 325 degrees for approximately 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Directions for Boston Lager Buttercream Frosting:

In a standing mixer, whisk together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla extract, Boston Lager and whipping cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed.

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2014-05-22T00:00:002014-05-29T10:37:13<![CDATA[Hot or cold, Americans crave coffee]]>(BPT) - Americans love coffee. In fact, according to the National Coffee Association, 61 percent of American adults drink coffee every day. Hot, cold, black, macchiato, latte – Americans consume 400 million cups of java daily, making the U.S. the leading consumer of coffee in the world.

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

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

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

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

To celebrate the beauty of artisanal coffee, Genuine Thermos Brand is kicking off the Thermos Brand Overnight Coffee Challenge on May 22, National Fill Your Thermos Brand Bottle Day. The national day is an annual event to honor the legacy, vast popularity and revolutionary on-the-go technology of the Thermos brand vacuum insulated bottle.

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

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

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

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

* Identifying the difference between wood-fired and gas grills

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

* Perfectly grilled seafood

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

* Finding the right pairings

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

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

Grilled Salmon topped with Mango Salsa

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

Mango Salsa

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picnic perfect

Ingredients:

4 ounces La Marca Prosecco

1 ounce bourbon

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

1/3 cup sliced strawberries

1 whole strawberry for garnish

Directions:

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

Makes one cocktail.

Homemade sweet and sour

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/2cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

Directions:

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

Makes 2 cups.

Simple summer

Ingredients:

4 ounces La Marca Prosecco

1 ounce coconut rum

1/2 ounce triple sec

Fresh coconut garnish

Directions:

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

Makes one cocktail.

Blue breeze

Ingredients:

4 ounces La Marca Prosecco

1 ounce gin

1/4 ounce elderflower liquer

Squeeze of a lemon wedge

Fresh blueberries for garnish

Directions:

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

Makes one cocktail.

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2014-03-19T00:00:00<![CDATA[Gluten free 101: What you need to know]]>(BPT) - You’ve probably been hearing a lot about gluten. Maybe a friend has gone gluten-free or a family member has been diagnosed with celiac disease or been advised to avoid gluten. So, what exactly is gluten? Is it something you should give up too?

Gluten is a protein that is most commonly found in wheat, barley and rye. It comes in several forms, like flour, and exists in many foods including pizza, pasta, breads and baked goods. For those who have sensitivity to gluten, it can be hard to avoid. The Center for Celiac Research estimates that 18 million people (or 6 percent of the population) may suffer from gluten intolerance. The severity of a person’s gluten sensitivity is measured by the Sensitive Enteropathy scale, and can range from slight allergic reactions to more serious conditions, like Celiac disease, that require a person to eliminate gluten all together.

How do you know if you should avoid gluten? If you don’t have gluten sensitivity, it isn’t necessary to remove gluten from your diet. Keep in mind a gluten-free diet is not a weight-loss diet. But if you experience symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, digestive issues or Keratosis Pilaris (better known as “chicken skin” on the back of your arms) after eating certain foods, you may have sensitivity to gluten and could potentially benefit from reducing or removing it from your diet. However, you should first consult a doctor or registered dietician before making any changes to your diet.

However you eat – gluten free or not – a healthy diet starts by considering quantity, quality, nutritional balance (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and variety, with the goal of making sure your body gets all the essential vitamins and minerals it needs. For those who are avoiding gluten, the good news is that with the rise in people avoiding gluten, availability of gluten-free products has also increased, making it easier to avoid gluten.  However, many food companies are adding ingredients or adjusting the formulation to make the gluten-free food offerings taste more appealing and losing important nutrients along the way, so it is important to look at the types of gluten-free foods you are eating.

"If you are reducing or removing gluten from your diet, you should consider that the quality of the gluten-free ingredients in the foods you choose to eat plays as much of a role in your results as what you choose not to eat (like gluten),” says Ashley Koff, R.D., who is a spokesperson for Nature's Path. “For optimal health, I recommend eating foods that are organic, which are produced without toxic chemicals and genetically modified ingredients (or GMOs), and to avoid ingredients that are ‘chemistry lab projects’, such as artificial colors and sweeteners.”

What can you do to avoid gluten in your diet?

 * Learn to read labels. Common forms of gluten, such as wheat, barley and rye, are easy to spot but avoiding these products can be challenging since wheat is often labeled by other names. Avoid anything with bulgar, durum flour, farina, graham flour, kamut, semolina and spelt. Do your research so you know exactly what to avoid when reading labels or a menu. If you have questions, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is a credible resource and can help guide you through the process of going gluten free.

* Beware of hidden gluten. Gluten is in many products that you might not expect like condiments, sauces and drinks. For example, raw meat is gluten free, however, processed meats – hot dogs, sausages and deli meats – often add flour (which contains gluten) as filler or to change the texture of the product.

* Eat organic. By choosing gluten-free foods that are also organic, you can avoid consuming pesticides and chemicals. This is important for everyone but especially those with an auto-immune disorder like Celiac disease. Companies like Nature’s Path offer organic, Non-GMO Project Verified and certified gluten free easy breakfast and snack options like cereals and granola bars.

* Get creative. Giving up your favorite foods can be a frustrating, but with a little time and creativity, you won’t even notice a difference – except in the way you feel. Don’t be afraid to try different combinations and new recipes.

It’s OK to have questions about gluten-free diets and making the right food choices for you and your family. The first step is speaking to a registered dietician or doctor if you think you or a family member has a gluten intolerance. There are many products to choose from, but do your research and choose products like Nature’s Path, that are organic and Non-GMO.

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

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

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

* Fruits and vegetables: The fresh facts

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

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

* Supplements: The key to filling in nutritional gaps

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

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

* Picky eater? No problem with tasty tips and tricks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2014-04-14T00:00:002014-05-27T16:58:20<![CDATA[Greener grilling: Good for you and for Mother Nature, too]]>(BPT) - You already know grilling is a healthful, flavorful and fun way to cook while enjoying the great outdoors. But did you know it can also be a “green” activity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paprika, Garlic and Thyme Barbecue Rub

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

Prep time: 10 minutes

Yield: 1/2 cup

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

Whole fruit ice cream

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

Non-dairy “ice cream”

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

Satisfying dessert (or snack)

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

Avocado-based mousse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lunch in the park

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

Outdoor exercise

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

Quality time for two

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

A backyard party

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

Spend time with yourself

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

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

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2014-06-04T00:00:00<![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 only approximately 20,000 professional chefs in the United States, according to the American Culinary Federation. In addition there are also millions of aspiring, in-home chefs who want to improve their skills.

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

Blend up creativity

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

Smart and savvy storage

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

Hands-free innovation

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

The heat is on - get cooking

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

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

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

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

Before firing up the grill

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

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

On the grill

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

Layer the flavor

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

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

Slow and steady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2014-02-26T00:00:00<![CDATA[School lunches are gold mines for recycling, reusing and replenishing]]>(BPT) - From an early age, children can roll up their sleeves and get involved in helping reduce the amount of trash they produce by participating in recycling programs. Across the country, children will celebrate Earth Day April 22 with science fairs and environmental educational seminars about the importance of recycling. When children start recycling early in life, they’re more likely to continue that behavior as they get older – and pass the practice on to their own kids.

Recycling is a growing program in households, cities and schools across the country. In fact, Americans recycled 82 million tons of materials in 2009 – the most recent year for reported data, and that number keeps increasing, according to Keep America Beautiful.

School programs are a great way to not only promote recycling in younger generations, but also to create a fundraiser for the schools. This year, as Earth Day approaches April 22, schools can organize aluminum can drives and participate in cash-for-schools programs based on recycling lunch packaging. One such program is The Recycle...Reuse...Replenish Earth Day Campaign which encourages school children to recycle their Entenmann’s Little Bites Pouches with TerraCycle, resulting in cash back to the school.

In addition, here are some more recycling, reusing and replenishing tips, perfect for school children to promote every lunch day at the school.

Recycle:

* Know your numbers – Teach your children to look for numbers and recycling symbols on plastic containers to know which containers can be reused through a recycling program.

* Sign up for cash back programs – Sign up your school for the TerraCycle program – if it’s not already registered – and have your children recycle their Little Bites pouches each lunch hour. Visit www.terracycle.com/en-US/brigades.html to find a listing of other lunch items TerraCycle collects.

Reuse:

* Keep the container – Send your children to school with their daily sandwich packaged in a reusable container they can bring home and use again the next day. Let them decorate the container to make it a personal item to show off at lunch.

* Craft material supplies – Before throwing anything away, teach your children to think about how the material might be reused in a crafting project. TerraCycle provides several do-it-yourself project ideas at www.terracycle.com/en-US/do-it-yourself-projects.html.

Replenish:

* Have leftovers? – Set up a compost pile at home, and give your children a lesson in biodegradable foods. Ask them to bring leftovers that are biodegradable home in their sandwich container to add to the compost pile.

* Grow new lunch materials – Give your children a small garden to plant and tend that contains their favorite vegetables. Show them how beneficial their lunch compost is for growing those plants they can eat at future lunches.

Entenmann’s will be giving away weekly prizes, including Little Bites coupons home improvement gift cards for starting an Earth Day garden, and a $5,000 cash grand prize through a sweepstakes link at www.facebook.com/Entenmanns. Register your school now for a chance to win the prize and build a beautiful Earth Day garden.

Help teach your children the importance of the three R’s: recycle, reuse and replenish. The earlier they start, the more likely they’ll be to participate the rest of their lives.

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2014-02-26T00:00:002014-04-03T15:15:39<![CDATA[Commercial refrigeration: Sizzling insight on the coolest part of your food service business]]>(BPT) - There are a number of ingredients that go into creating a successful food service business, but arguably one of the most important is the refrigeration system. Not all refrigerators and coolers are created equal, and what works for one business may not be best for the next.

Here are some of the most popular cooler options and a few types of businesses that use them most often:

Walk-in cooler
When you have a large amount of food that needs to be stored at safe temperatures, consider a walk-in cooler. It is wise to analyze your needs before jumping into a walk-in purchase, particularly when it comes to sizing your cooler or freezer. It is important to determine how many items brought into stock will be stored in the walk-in, any anticipated future growth, and current available space in your restaurant to narrow your options. When purchasing a walk-in, it is important to get the right equipment for the right operation. Call the experts at ACityDiscount.com at 404-752-6715 for additional insight and advice.

What types of businesses use walk-in coolers? Large restaurants typically keep walk-ins in the back of the house to store food before it is prepared and moved to the line. Convenience stores often require a walk-in cooler as well for the purposes of drink and food storage, though many convenience stores opt for walk-in merchandising coolers with glass doors. Keep in mind, walk-in coolers come in one or two-cube configurations, and are available as single temperature units as well as in refrigeration/freezer combo units. Walk-in coolers can be placed indoors or out, depending on your location and available space.

Reach-in coolers
If your food service business calls for refrigeration but doesn’t require a larger sized walk-in cooler, a reach-in unit is ideal. These units, available in single temperature or dual temperature cooler/freezer combos, are great space savers for back-of-the-house operations. Mid-size restaurants and cafes typically use reach-in coolers, while larger businesses use them in combination with a walk-in unit and transfer food from each as necessary.

When shopping for solid door reach-in coolers, you must first consider the available space. Measure to ensure the desired unit will fit in your kitchen as well as through the entranceway. Reach-ins feature either top or bottom-mounted refrigeration; bottom-mounted units have a lower condenser, which means it’s away from heat and grease and is easier to repair, while top-mounted units typically have more storage space. Since the condenser exhaust in a top-mounted reach-in stays above the air it is cooling, they are also more energy efficient.

Refrigerated prep tables
Every restaurant needs an efficient line kitchen, and one piece of restaurant equipment that is indispensable in allowing chefs do their job efficiently is a refrigerated prep table. Used both as a food prep surface and a way to refrigerate uncooked foods, these prep tables give business owners a piece of refrigeration on the line intended to multitask.

The sandwich/salad prep cooler is the most common style of refrigerated prep tables. This type of unit features an under-counter reach-in with refrigeration and hotel pans. Typically there is a cutting board and work area on top. If your restaurant specializes in pizza, you might consider a pizza prep table with modified refrigeration for toppings and a larger countertop for cutting ingredients and assembling pizzas.

Display coolers
For bars, grocery stores and convenience stores, display coolers are a necessity. These units showcase products in a way that can boost sales, while still keeping these products at proper temperatures. Glass door merchandising coolers and freezers are being utilized in a number of business types – for example, with the recent spike in craft beer interest, these coolers display a bar’s bottled varieties and can help attract higher sales.

Open display cooler options keep food and drink cool, but do not have a door feature. These units make it easy for customers to reach in and grab items before purchase. These are most common at grocery stores, convenience stores, and coffee shops and are perfect for holding sandwiches, drinks, produce and more.

No matter what refrigeration or freezer unit you decide is best for your business, be mindful of food safety. For safety purposes, the experts at ACityDiscount.com recommend that all refrigerators be kept below 40 F, and freezer units kept at zero or below to keep foods out of danger zones.

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2014-02-11T00:00:00<![CDATA[Food forecast: U.S. embraces European traditions to create authentic cuisine stateside]]>(BPT) - Not long ago, adding international flair to your foods simply meant incorporating a dash of spice or trying a new cooking method. Today, Americans expect more out of their food, and the newest culinary trends are inspired by European traditions in order to create delicious, unique cuisine closer to home.

As more people seek the high quality and craftsmanship they’ve come to expect in European products, U.S. restaurants and food makers are creating American originals based on international customs, and the results are surpassing expectations. Keep an eye out for these top food trends:

1. Icelandic skyr
You can’t go to a grocery store today and not see shelves stocked with Greek yogurt made domestically, the perfect example of how Americans have adopted an international food and made it their own. While it’s dominated the yogurt market for the last couple of years, another yogurt-type food is making a splash in the U.S.: Icelandic skyr. Traditionally used as a way to preserve fresh milk, skyr is made from skimmed milk with the cream removed. The straining process gives it a creamy texture. It’s also low in fat and sugar, plus skyr is higher in protein than its Greek counterpart. Look for U.S.-made skyr at your local grocer – some foodies deem it to be the next Greek yogurt, so if your supermarket doesn’t yet have it, it likely will by the end of the year.

2. Artisan cheeses
Europe is well-known for having some of the best cheeses in the world. But you no longer have to travel overseas to find expert cheese-makers who create these decadent delights. For example, cheesemaking traditions in the Alpine region of Switzerland have been used for centuries to craft quality cheeses, but today the same techniques are followed in the creation of Roth Grand Cru Alpine style cheese created in Wisconsin. Made with fresh milk in large imported copper vats and aged a minimum of four months, the resulting cheese is mild, nutty and smooth, earning numerous awards.

It’s easy to jazz up your favorite dishes with international flavor by swapping out your standard go-to cheeses with this versatile variety. Try adding Roth Grand Grand Cru to potatoes gratin, Panini sandwiches or as the base for your next fondue. To create an artisan cheese plate, pair it with fresh apples and pears, almonds and figs for a fantastic blend of flavors guaranteed to delight the taste buds.

3. Neapolitan pizza
Forget thick crusts and loads of toppings, Americans today are looking for more out of their pizza pies. The rise in the popularity of Neapolitan pizzas is evident in restaurants across the country, giving Americans a unique taste of this traditional Italian dish.

What makes a pizza Neapolitan style? Originating from Naples, Italy, a Neapolitan pizza features a thinner crust that is baked quickly at high temperatures, typically in a wood or stone oven. The toppings are minimal with the sauce often being the dominating feature. The classic pizza Napoletana margharita – created in1889 as a tribute to the queen of Italy – simply includes tomatoes, mozzarella and crust made from wheat flour.

4. Fine chocolates
Chocolate lovers agree that your common milk chocolate candy bar found on convenience store shelves doesn’t hold a flame to fine European chocolates. But thanks to a growing interest in dark chocolate and high-end desserts, American chocolatiers are giving their international counterparts a run for their money.

Creating premium chocolate is considered an art form where expert chocolatiers use only the finest cocoa to create indulgent treats. Whether it’s a dark chocolate bar of 85 percent cocoa, a smooth and creamy truffle or a decadent chocolate covered caramel, the passion for fine chocolate is alive and well in the U.S. The confections can be found at specialty stores and even the candy aisle at your local grocer.

If you have a taste for international flavors, you don’t have to look beyond our borders to find the finest foods. From rich cheeses to fine chocolate treats, European traditions are thriving in the U.S. as food experts adopt these methods and make them their own.

Grand Cru Grilled Potatoes

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 pounds baby gold or red potatoes, thick sliced

2 small Vidalia onions, chopped

3 green onions, chopped

1 teaspoon chives, diced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

6 slices bacon, fully cooked, chopped

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

5 ounces Grand Cru Original, shredded and divided

1 sprig rosemary, stem removed

Directions:

Preheat grill to medium. Cut butter into small pieces and place in bottom of 8-by-8-inch disposable foil pan. Layer potatoes, Vidalia onions, green onions, chives and garlic in pan. Top potatoes with bacon, then cover with half of Grand Cru Original. Season with black pepper and rosemary; cover pan with aluminum foil. Place potatoes onto grill and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove foil, top with remaining Grand Cru and continue to grill until cheese is fully melted and browned. (To prepare in the oven: preheat oven to 400 F and bake for at least 1 1/4 hours.)

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

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

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

Banh Mi-Style Flatbread with California Grapes

1 (14-ounce) package prepared pizza dough

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon lemongrass paste

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

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup shredded carrots

Pinch of sugar

1 tablespoon rice vinegar (unseasoned)

2 cups halved green seedless California grapes

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1 jalapeno pepper, very thinly sliced

(Remove seeds for less heat)

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

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

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

Serves 4.

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

Grilled Salmon Tacos with Grape Pico de Gallo

1 cup red seedless California grapes, chopped

1 cup green seedless California grapes, chopped

1/4 cup finely chopped white onion

1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced

Small pinch salt

1 pound salmon fillets

As needed olive oil

To taste pepper

12 small corn tortillas

2 limes, cut into wedges

Prepare a grill for cooking over medium heat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tasty tips for easy Italian meals with lean ground turkey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baked Turkey Rigatoni

Makes: 8 servings

Prep time: Less than 30 minutes

Total time: Less than 1 hour

Ingredients

1 (16-ounce) package rigatoni pasta

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

1 cup diced onion

2 (26-ounce) jars spaghetti sauce

6 slices Provolone cheese

1 cup fat-free sour cream

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2014-03-21T00:00:002014-04-03T15:14:18<![CDATA[Prepping your meals for more nutrients]]>(BPT) - Want to obtain the most nutrition out of your meals? Incorporate fresh ingredients and pay attention to how they are prepped. A variety of cooking techniques can make certain foods are more flavorful while maintaining high nutritional levels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veggie Frittata Bites

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

Yields 10 muffin size servings

Ingredients

6 Eggland’s Best eggs

1/2 cup skim or 1 percent milk

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

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

1/2 cup zucchini

1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup mushrooms

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 tablespoons chopped red onion

Pinch of salt (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Applewood Honey Chicken Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Makes 4 sandwiches, serves 4

Ingredients:

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

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

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

2 tomatoes, thinly sliced

1/2 stick butter, melted

Spicy mustard for dipping (optional)

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

North African Salad

Ingredients:

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

2 to 3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

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

3 cups chicken stock

2 lemons, juiced

1 lemon, zested

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves

1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley

1/3 cup dried chopped dates

1/4 cup slivered almonds or pistachios, toasted

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Reduce stress

* Exercise more

* Eat smaller portions at meals

* Stop smoking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2014-04-11T00:00:002014-04-30T16:35:29<![CDATA[Got a great wedding theme? Tips for carrying it throughout your big day]]>(BPT) - What does the concept of a wedding theme mean to you? Do you think it’s just about the colors you choose for your bouquet and bridesmaid gowns? Or do you think of it as something grander – your personalized stamp that should shine through every aspect of your big day?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2014-03-27T00:00:002014-05-23T14:53:31<![CDATA[Baffled by birthdays? Simple ways to make your child's day bigger than Christmas]]>(BPT) - It’s more important than Christmas to your daughter and your son looks forward to his even more than summer vacation. A birthday is a big day for any child, and especially for kids 3 to 6. Yet busy parents can find it challenging to come up with creative ways to make a child’s birthday truly special.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2014-04-01T00:00:002014-04-21T13:55:07<![CDATA[Tips and tricks for healthy and tasty food substitutions from culinary experts]]>(BPT) - Spring is a time of new beginnings. For some of us, that means shedding a few pounds along with our heavy winter clothes. Simple and healthy food substitutions can help. Some substitutions are easy, for example, substituting brown rice or quinoa for white rice or adding barley in with brown rice to add another type of whole grain. Other substitutions are completely unexpected. To be inspired and jazz up any meal time, take cues from culinary experts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veggie Burger

Makes four to six burgers

Umami Glaze:

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

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

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons molasses

2 tablespoons honey

Patties:

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

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

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/2 medium onion, smoked then minced

4 cloves garlic, smoked then minced

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

1/4 cup oat bran plus more as needed

1 tablespoon pureed chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

6 prunes, minced

1 teaspoon salt (kosher)

1 teaspoon ancho chile powder

1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon ground toasted cumin

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

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

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

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

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

Mix well to combine.

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

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

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

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2014-02-12T00:00:00<![CDATA[Hosting a bridal, baby or graduation party? Clever food shortcuts big on taste, low on stress]]>(BPT) - It’s that time of year - bridal showers, baby showers and graduation parties are likely dotting your calendar. If you’re the lucky host of one of these milestone events, you might feel excitement paired with a bit of trepidation as you start the party-planning process. The good news is, there are some simple ways to be the “hostess with the mostest” and limit stress at the same time.

1. Make a plan
Sit down and brainstorm your ideas. Record them on paper or electronically. Once you have a list of themes, decor, food and activities, you can start narrowing your options down to what really aligns with the guest of honor’s tastes and preferences. Remember, you want the party to reflect you since you’re the host, but make sure it speaks to the person whom the party is being hosted for.

2. Accept help
Planning a party can be time-consuming and costly. If the mother of the bride or best friend of the mother-to-be offers to help, don’t turn her away. The best way to ensure you get the help you need and no one oversteps boundaries is to assign specific tasks. For example, assign someone to make a dessert, plan an activity or stop at the store to pick up colored napkins and cutlery.

3. Determine a menu
The warmer months beg for fresh party fare, so be sure to highlight healthy foods and everyday favorites in your menu. Salads, fresh veggies and fruit are light and versatile. Furthermore, you can highlight the best of your region’s seasonal produce by visiting your local co-op or farmers market to select items that were locally grown and made.

4. Think dips
With your menu focused on lighter, fresh fare, you need to add extras to complement those items, and nothing works better than a classic variety of dips. Luckily, you don’t have to rely on fatty sour cream-based dips anymore. Consider serving Simply Organic Greek Yogurt Dip Mixes, which are easy to make and taste great. Plus, by replacing sour cream with Greek yogurt there’s zero fat and more protein, meaning guests will feel healthful and satisfied. Other popular dip options include fruit dip and guacamole. Visit www.simplyorganic.com for more ideas.

5. Decide on drinks
Make sure you provide a variety of drink options for guests, especially if you’re hosting your event outdoors. Always stock water, but be sure to add other beverages to your menu also. For example, lemonade and sweet tea is perfect for afternoon parties. A popular trend is to select a specialized drink to serve – for example, you might serve pink rose tea for the gal expecting a baby girl or create a tropical concoction for your friend who will be honeymooning in Hawaii. For recent graduates, you can’t go wrong with fruit punch in the school’s color.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more recipes visit www.calolive.org.

Gluten-Free Olive, Shallot and Rosemary Focaccia

Ingredients:

2 cups lukewarm water

2 teaspoons sugar

2 packets instant dry yeast

4 eggs

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

3 cups brown rice flour, divided

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

1 tablespoon xanthan gum

2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon cornmeal

Olive Topping:

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped

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

2 medium shallots, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons Maldon salt

Directions:

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

Gluten-Free Muffaletta Sandwich

Ingredients:

Gluten-Free Olive, Shallot and Rosemary Focaccia  

1 cup Wine Country Olive Tapenade

8 slices provolone cheese

8 ounces thinly sliced smoked ham

4 ounces sliced Genova salame

4 ounces sliced Sopressa Veneta

Directions:

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

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2014-02-18T00:00:002014-06-03T11:36:07<![CDATA[Wine and food: Making a perfect match]]>(BPT) - If you’ve ever stood before an aisle of wine completely baffled by what to serve at your next dinner party, you aren’t alone. Whether red or white, dry or sweet, the options can be overwhelming.

Two wine experts from The Art Institutes system of schools have teamed up to help you navigate the wine aisle like a pro.

“It’s no longer necessary for wine to be just for special occasions,” says Chef T. Stella Bernard, certified wine professional and an instructor for The Art Institute of Tucson. For her, the first step is demystifying wine, and she says there is something for everyone’s taste. She encourages experimentation, which will help evolve your palate, but cautions against being dissuaded or oversold by the package. “Don’t be turned off if it comes in a box or has a screw top. Don’t worry if it doesn’t have a cork.”

According to Chef Bernard and Chef Bradley Owen, a certified sommelier and instructor at The Art Institute of California – Orange County, a campus of Argosy University, you need to match the acidity, flavors and body of the wine to the dish with which it will be served. “The old adage of white wine with fish and red wine with meat is true and false,” he says. This will be true 80-90 percent of the time, but depending on how the dish is prepared, there are always ways to break this rule. He adds that chicken and pork are crossover proteins, which could work with whites or reds depending on preparation.

Acidity is very important, and Owen explains that you want to match the acidity of the wine with the acidity of the dish. Fish prepared in a traditional way works well with white wine, but when prepared with something like mushrooms or with red wine influences, you can move to a lighter red. Filet mignon, typically served with a red wine, can be paired with a white when served with a salad with high-acidic vinaigrette.

When matching flavors, Bernard recommends reading the back of the bottle. She says the same words that describe the wine should describe the food. For example, wines containing cherry flavors would go with something juicy such as a barbecue, since cherries are sweet and juicy. Strawberries are softer and would go with a more subtle dish, while black currants are more intense and would pair well with foods like venison, sausage or pepper steak. A simple way to remember this is the brighter the fruit on the label the lighter the food that goes with that wine, and the heavier or darker the fruits on the label the heavier the food.

The body of the wine is the weight of the wine or the way it feels in your mouth. Owen says this body should also match the body of the food. Grapes have different body and richness based on the growing climate and decisions made by the wine makers. When looking to pair wine with meat, Owen recommends asking what you are pairing it with and what cut of meat is it. He says a rib eye with lots of fat, richness and flavor will need a wine with a rich body, such as cabernet sauvignon. A filet, which is less flavorful, could pair with a less full-bodied wine, such as a pinot noir.

With red wines, tannins are a consideration when looking at food pairings. Tannins come from the grape skins and provide the natural astringency found in red wines. Bernard says heavy tannin wines go well with heavy proteins such as red meats.

Regionality can also help you find the perfect complement, by pairing wine from the same area as the dish you are eating. For instance, if you are eating a French dish, consider a French wine. “Don’t be intimidated about going into the wine shop,” Bernard says. She encourages you to start with what you like, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from the people in your local wine store. “The wine you like is the best wine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mirassou Sunset Sliders

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

Makes 8 servings

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

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

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

Pairing Suggestion: Pairs with Mirassou Sunset Red.

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2014-04-13T00:00:002014-04-14T10:13:09<![CDATA[Try tasty simple swaps to lighten up your menu]]>(BPT) - When it comes to diet and health, small changes can lead to big rewards. Replacing less healthy ingredients in your favorite recipes with ingredients that are lower in calories and packed with nutrients (and flavor) make it easy for you to stay on track. The trick is to identify ingredients that make for easy trades, like milk, yogurt and cheese.

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

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

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

Low-fat plain or Greek yogurt:

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

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

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

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

Low-fat or fat free milk:

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

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

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

Cheese and cottage cheese:

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

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

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

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2014-03-10T00:00:002014-04-21T11:04:15<![CDATA[Spring into the season: Great dishes and flavors to celebrate spring's arrival]]>(BPT) - When spring finally arrives, we gladly shed heavy coats and snow boots. Meals, too, lighten up with warmer weather, as we leave behind hearty soups and heavier meals in favor of more sprightly and seasonal fare. Spring celebrations – from Easter brunches to graduation dinners – are great opportunities to revisit old favorites and try something new.

This spring, why not celebrate the season with a blend of familiar and new? Here are some favorite flavors and foods of spring, along with some ideas for giving them new appeal:

* With bright colors and strong, sweet flavor, citrus adds zing to spring. Lemon is ideal for incorporating into spring dishes, from enhancing veggies like early spring squash, to delightful desserts like Lemon Pull-Aparts. Lemon also plays well with a variety of fish dishes – perfect for anyone observing fish Fridays during Lent.

* Baked dinner rolls are a springtime favorite for every meal of the day. What Easter brunch would be complete without them? Dinner rolls take on fun seasonal flare when you use ready-made options like Rhodes Bake-N-Serv dinner rolls to create edible works of art like bunny shapes, egg baskets and rabbit-shaped veggie dip bowls. Simply thaw the raw rolls, and shape them while still cold to make a variety of delicious, creative shapes – without the work of mixing and kneading your own dough. Try these two fun recipes to dress up any springtime table:

Bunny Buns

Ingredients:

1 package Rhodes Dinner Rolls (thawed but still cold)

Directions:

Cut a small piece of one roll for a tail. Roll remaining piece into a 16-inch rope with pointed ends. Twist top of rope together. Place on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Pull pointed ends apart for ears. Roll small cut-off piece into a ball for the tail. Using your finger, make an indentation at the spot for the tail. Moisten the tail with water and place in the indentation. Repeat to make as many bunnies as desired. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap and allow rolls to rise for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the wrap and bake at 350 F for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy with butter.

Veggie Rabbit Dip Bowl

Serves 12. Prep time: 15 minutes (excluding thaw time). Bake time: 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

2 loaves Rhodes Bread Dough, thawed but still cold

2 sliced almonds

2 large raisins

1 egg, beaten

Directions:

Cut one loaf of bread dough into 1/4 and 3/4 portions. Shape 3/4 portion into egg shape for body and place on a large sprayed baking sheet. Shape 1/4 portion into pear shape and place above body for head. Clip side whiskers with scissors. Cut second loaf in half. Cut one half in half again for ears and roll into two 16-inch ropes. Fold together and place on top of head.

With remaining half of loaf, divide dough in half. Take one half and cut into two pieces. Shape into two large thumper feet and place under bunny. Clip toes. Divide last piece of dough into 1/3 and 2/3 portions. Divide 2/3 portion into two hands and place on side of body and clip fingers. Divide remaining 1/3 dough into two large balls and one small ball. Place two large balls on face for cheeks and one small ball for nose.

Place two raisins on face for eyes and two almonds for teeth. Brush everything with beaten egg, even the teeth. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap. Let rise 15 to 30 minutes. Remove wrap and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until browned. Let cool. Hollow out tummy and fill with your favorite dip.

You can find more great dinner roll recipes at www.rhodesbread.com.

* Spring brings the arrival of one of the most delectable edible buds – artichokes. Add them to pasta salads or green salads for flavorful pizzazz. In addition to being delicious and timely for spring, artichokes are packed with antioxidants and fiber, and are believed to deliver a host of health benefits, including improved digestion and lower cholesterol.

* Peas are the quintessential green veggie of spring. Low in calories and high in vitamin A, peas are a go-anywhere ingredient. Raw peas add color and snap to spring salads. A handful tossed into warm pasta dishes add a layer of flavor and enhance nutritional value. Cream them as a base for a cold soup or a sauce to enhance fish.

* Nutritionists advise Americans to eat a colorful range of fruits and vegetables, and for sheer bright color and great flavor it’s hard to beat strawberries. They also deliver a wealth of health benefits since they’re packed with key nutrients like potassium, magnesium and vitamin K – all important for overall good health. Eat them sliced and sprinkled with an alternative sweetener for a simple, low-calorie treat, or try something new and original like strawberry bruschetta.

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2014-04-22T00:00:002014-06-02T11:41:31<![CDATA[No sweat: Secrets to staying cool in the kitchen and eating well this summer]]>(BPT) - Summer is on the way and for the next several months, heavy clothes and winter boots will be on hiatus. So too will ovens in kitchens across the country as home cooks avoid running an appliance notorious for raising the temperature. But if you hate to give up the dishes your family loves until the weather cools again – don’t sweat it. From no-make recipes to alternative cooking tactics, you can find plenty of ways to beat kitchen heat this summer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frozen Pineapple Cream Cheese Torte

Ingredients:

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

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/3 cup melted butter

4 Safest Choice pasteurized eggs, separated

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cups sugar,

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

1 cup chopped fresh or crushed pineapple, drained well

1 1/4 cups whipping cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

For glaze:

1/4 cup sugar

4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup pineapple juice

2 tablespoons dark rum (or to taste)

Directions:

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

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

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

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

For glaze:

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

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

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home Garden Tomato Caprese

Time: 25 minutes

Yields: 4 servings

 

Dressing ingredients:

Balsamic Reduction

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar           

 

Salad ingredients:

4 large tomatoes, sliced

1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

1/2 bunch of fresh grown basil

2 cups baby arugula

Juice from half a lemon

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic reduction (see below)

1 dash sea salt

1 dash fresh ground pepper

Directions:

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

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

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2014-03-28T00:00:00<![CDATA[Easy do-it-yourself Easter: Fun Easter projects for the whole family]]>(BPT) - The Easter bunny is right around the corner, which means chocolate eggs, chick marshmallows and stuffed bunnies will soon be popping up around the home. Celebrate with a build-your-own Easter basket with the kids for some quality time for the entire family. DIY doesn’t mean it needs to be complicated or difficult. Here are a few great ideas with some easy shortcuts to make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.

The basket

It all starts with the basket. The egg hunt and basket fillings wouldn’t be complete without an Easter basket decked out in bright spring colors. It’s not easy to spend hours making your own Easter basket, but you can still make it your own with custom Easter baskets from Personal Creations. Pick out the size, color pattern and design, and add your kids’ names to make it a personalized basket that can be from the Easter Bunny himself. Best of all, it comes with a fluffy plush bunny and Easter sweets to make it a complete package for the entire family to enjoy.

The eggs

Colored eggs are an essential part of any Easter celebration. This year, add a fun and simple twist to the usual DIY egg coloring with a tissue paper egg dye. Simply wet the eggs, wrap it in brightly colored tissue paper, and spray the eggs with water to ensure all of the paper has been wetted. Once the egg is dry, kids will be able to easily remove the tissue paper. Beneath, they’ll find a perfectly dyed egg that carries the appearance of stained glass.

The sweets

No Easter celebration is complete without treats to sweeten the basket. Marshmallow chicks and chocolate eggs are a classic, but adding a gourmet twist to the list of everyday sweets can make receiving this Easter basket an unforgettable experience for even the adults in the family. For an easy twist on the classic, ask kids to shred leftover bits of wrapping paper left around the house to make homemade Easter grass, and add it to a simple Easter treat pail. Then, fill the pail with Easter-themed cake pops from Shari’s Berries for a festive gourmet treat everyone can enjoy.

The fluff

Bunnies get all the attention during Easter, but little chicks can be an adorable alternative to add to the basket. For this simple craft, ask children to draw and color a picture of a chick. Make sure the chick is facing forward and not from a profile viewpoint. They do not need to draw the wings; those come later. When the little artists are finished, cut the chicks out. Next, help children trace their own hands and cut these traces out. Glue the traced hands to the chick with the thumbs up, and just like that, the chick has wings with a familiar look.

The grownup basket

Grownups deserve some Easter fun too. Forego the basket filled with candy and design a fresh and colorful take on the Easter basket. Start with a classic wicker basket with liner and add some fresh spring flowers to brighten up the look. Fresh flowers are a beautiful way to brighten anyone’s day, and fresh, vibrant flowers from ProFlowers make it easy to order and arrange flowers quickly and easily. Bright spring daffodils arranged in a pretty spread or 30 multi-colored tulips hanging loosely out of the basket is a great way to celebrate Easter in an upscale way.

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2014-03-04T00:00:00<![CDATA[Spring into health with these tasty snack recipes]]>(BPT) - Healthy food that also tastes good is always in vogue and now it’s getting a spring makeover.

The theme of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) National Nutrition Month (R) this March is “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.” As spring approaches and fitness routines move outdoors, AND reminds you that healthy snacks can fuel a workout, get you through the day and taste delicious.

“It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with snacks,” notes Becci Twombley, director of sports nutrition at the University of Southern California and ambassador for the American Pistachio Growers. “Spring is a time for renewal – cleaning out closets, setting new goals and making a fresh commitment to health and nutrition. Just as it’s important to switch up your exercise routine every few weeks, you want to experiment with different snack combinations and have fun with your food. You’ll be more likely to stick with a healthy routine if you keep it interesting.”

Twombley’s “snacks from scratch” involves some creativity. Try one of her snacking experiments below if you need a snack makeover this spring.

1. Pick one protein-based ingredient and think about different ways to eat it as a snack. Twombley often recommends pistachios as a performance snack for exercise because, calorie-for-calorie, pistachios pack more protein than most common snacks. Additionally, a serving size of pistachios is 49 nuts (more than any other tree nut), which provides 6 grams of filling protein and 3 grams of fiber for only 160 calories.

Research at the University of Toronto and Pennsylvania State University suggests that eating about 1.5-2 ounces of pistachios (about 20 percent of calories) per day helps curb the rise in blood glucose after a meal and lowers blood pressure, blood triglycerides and LDL-cholesterol, all of which, in turn, lower the risk for metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Researchers at Loma Linda University found that high tree nut consumption was associated with a lower occurrence of obesity and metabolic syndrome, increasing a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke.

As a snack ingredient, pistachios can be baked into homemade energy bars, sprinkled on yogurt or combined with dried fruit in a make-your-own trail mix.

2. Work backwards. Think about your favorite snacks, and then experiment with different ways to add new proteins to that snack. For instance, Twombley loves the portability of sport bars, but not the lengthy ingredient list that can accompany some store-bought brands. Instead, Twombley encourages her athletes to make their own sport bars. The Pistachio Sport Bars recipe below combines the protein power of pistachios with energizing carbohydrates and allows you to control the ingredients in your own kitchen.

3. Get creative with the ultimate snack duo: protein and fiber. Rather than buying a traditional trail mix, make your own mix of pistachios and your favorite dried fruit. Mix pistachios with air popped popcorn for a satisfying and filling post-workout snack. Or make your own easy and portable American Pistachio Fruit Chews, which combine a mixture of fresh and dried fruit and pistachios.

Pistachio Sport Bars

Serving: 24 pieces

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups pistachios

1 cup dried banana chips

1 1/2 cups cornflakes

1/3 cup dried pears

1/3 cup dried apricots

1/3 cup honey

1/3 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup crisp oat flakes

Directions:

Chop the pistachios coarsely and banana chips finely. Partly crush the cornflakes. Cut the pears and apricots into small cubes.

Heat the honey and sugar over a double boiler until the honey and sugar are well combined. Mix in the pistachios, banana chips, cornflakes, pears, apricots and oat flakes. Spread the mixture in a square dish lined with baking paper (9 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches), approximately 1/2 inch deep, and press well into dish. The bars can also be formed individually and then be put on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Bake the mix in a pre-heated oven at 350 F for about 10-15 minutes. Cut into bars of approximately 1 1/2 x 2 inches and leave to cool on a tray.

For more information about the health benefits of pistachios and recipes developed by renowned chefs, visit www.AmericanPistachios.org.

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2014-04-02T00:00:002014-06-02T16:41:37<![CDATA[Fascinating facts about everyone's favorite sweet treat: Caramel]]>(BPT) - There are many confections available to satisfy a sweet tooth, but one that melts the hearts of many is rich, creamy caramel. Both young and old adore this treat that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with other ingredients to create an extra-delicious delight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caramel and Chocolate Cracker Treats

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

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

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

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

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

 

Caramel Blondie Bars

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many shades of green

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

Think protein for power

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

Top smart, toss smart

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

The road to good health is paved with veggies

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

Herbalicious

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

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

Confetti fruit and veggie lettuce wraps with Litehouse Pomegranate Blueberry Vinaigrette

Serves: 4

Finished in: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup seeded and diced cucumber

1/2 cup grated carrots

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/2 cup diced strawberries

1/2 cup diced pineapple

1/2 cup diced papaya

1/2 cup diced mango

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

1 tablespoon cilantro

2 tablespoon jalapeno

2 heads washed and dried baby romaine lettuce leaves

2 ounces feta cheese crumbles

1 ounce snow pea shoots

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

Serve with additional pomegranate blueberry vinaigrette for dipping.

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

 

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

 

* Start with: Grilled Shrimp with Walnuts and Scallions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Preheat oven to 350 F.

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

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

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

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

 

* Finish with: No Bake Orange Cheesecake with Toasted Almonds

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 12 servings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthful hors d'oeuvres

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

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

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

Salads and soups with a twist

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

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

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

Garden-fresh grilling

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

4 cups (268 g) chopped kale

1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1/4 cup (60 g) roasted red pepper

2 garlic cloves, roasted, peeled

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons (14 g) toasted pepitas

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

1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

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

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

3. Select Variable 7.

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

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2014-03-21T00:00:002014-05-08T10:58:16<![CDATA[Big family, big love: Easy entertaining tips for large groups]]>(BPT) - The sun is shining, leaves are green and balmy temperatures have arrived – spring and summer months are the ideal time to entertain at home. Between holidays, graduation parties and warm weather festivities, there’s always a reason to gather for a great meal and some fun. With a few organization tricks and cooking tips, even the largest families can come together to enjoy quality time with one another while sharing in food and fun.

No one knows more about hosting large family gatherings than Kay Robertson, the matriarch of the popular Robertson family. As the weather warms, she’ll be whipping up some of her favorite foods and inviting friends and family, young and old to her table. After all, hosting meals for so many people is a regular activity for this passionate cook.

“I love it when my family is gathered under one roof,” says Miss Kay, who recently endorsed home builder Clayton Homes to help hard-working Americans realize their dream of homeownership. “What we say around here is food will fill the belly, but love will fill the home.”

If you’re planning to host an upcoming party, consider some of these tried-and-true entertaining strategies to ensure everyone has a wonderful time:

1. Serve food buffet or family-style
When it comes to hosting a party with a lot of people, skip the formalities and opt for serving food buffet or family-style. If you have an island or breakfast bar in your kitchen, this is the ideal place to set out a buffet and let people line up to dish for themselves and fill up their plates. Another option is to serve food family-style, which means having everyone sit down at a big table and serve food on large platters. Then everyone is free to pass the food and serve themselves.

2. Feel good about smart kitchen upgrades
Forget formal dining rooms, today the kitchen is the heart of the home. To be the best cook you can be, you need a few important tools to get the job done right – especially when cooking for large gatherings. Miss Kay recommends every kitchen include a large sink, gooseneck faucets and plenty of great lighting.

Upgrades like these are part of Miss Kay’s Designer Kitchen, a customizable option available for new Commander Series homes built by Clayton Homes. The kitchen design includes a gooseneck faucet with retractable sprayer, a farmhouse sink and a sizeable island (option not available in all models) – all perfect when hosting large family gatherings.

3. Maximize space for relaxing and socializing
Even the coziest of homes can accommodate big groups with a little thoughtful planning. Before the crowds arrive, consolidate clutter to open up areas for easy socializing. Think about how the space will be used and consider grouping furniture together to encourage comfort and conversation. If you’re short on seating, add a folding chair or two for adults. Since the weather is warm, open the windows to let the fresh breeze in and encourage kids to play outside in the yard while the meal is being prepared.

4. Customize your menu
Menu planning is easy when you blend family favorites with other dishes that feature a few exciting twists. If everyone adores your cornbread recipe, make sure to make it for your party, but then feel free to get creative in other areas of your menu. For example, try offering a new type of sweet tea or explore unique savory and spicy Louisiana recipes, like Low Country Deviled Eggs.

Remember, when cooking for a crowd, plan ahead and make some items ahead of time to reduce stress and save space in the kitchen. Chop veggies, bake breads and mix dips the day before – and remember, family is always there to help if you need a last-minute item or two.

Low Country Deviled Eggs

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:

12 eggs

1/3 cup slaw salad dressing (or a little less)

1 tablespoon onion, minced

1 tablespoon Creole mustard

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

dash hot sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon fresh dill (finely chopped)

1 cup shrimp, boiled, peeled and deveined

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish (optional)

Paprika and parsley, for garnish


Directions:

Place eggs in large sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat, and let eggs sit in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from water and allow to cool. Crack eggs and peel. Cut in half and remove yolks.

In a small mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, slaw dressing and remaining ingredients except paprika and parsley. Mix well, until smooth. Spoon egg yolk and yogurt mixture into the egg white halves. Refrigerate if not serving immediately.

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2014-05-30T00:00:00<![CDATA[Simple twists to make summer cooking even more sensational]]>(BPT) - From juicy produce to savory grilled meats, summer is the best time for tantalizing taste buds with delicious foods. This year, why not enhance traditional favorites with a few unique twists? These simple updates to classic summer dishes will have everyone raving.

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

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

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

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

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

Cottage Blue Dip & Dressing

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

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

Fig Creme Brulee

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

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

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2014-02-14T00:00:002014-02-25T07:53:25<![CDATA[Get your glitz on: How to add pizzazz to your Oscar party this year]]>(BPT) - Awards season will soon come to a crescendo with the airing of the Oscars March 2. Celebrities are gearing up to hit the red carpet and crossing their fingers that they come home with an award.

In keeping with traditions of years past, people across the nation will gather with family and friends to see who’s with who, who’s wearing what on the red carpet and to see the stars collect their trophies. You and your guests can feel like part of the experience too. Bring the elegance and excitement of the Academy Awards into your home this year by kicking your party up a notch with just a few small tweaks.

These party prep and hosting tips from national best-selling author Ross Mathews, host of E!’s hit talk show “Hello Ross”, will help you take your party from simple to sophisticated in just four steps. Not only will you impress your friends with your pop culture knowledge, but you’ll create a star-studded night they’ll never forget.

*Catch up on the nominees. If you haven’t seen American Hustle or you have yet to experience the wonder that is Lupita Nyong’o on screen, get your friends together and watch the most-nominated movies in advance of the awards show. It will greatly increase your enjoyment when it comes time for the statues to be handed out, as you’ll actually know what’s going on and who to root for.

*Do your homework. Doing an Oscar ballot pool at your Oscars party? Prepare ahead of time by searching on sites like Bing.com to help predict the winners using past awards shows, news and buzz as a guide.

*Get your glitz on. If there’s any time of the year to go glitz and glam, Oscars night is it. Take your party to the next level with a black and gold glitter theme – start with formal invitations and encourage your guests to dress the part in their best red carpet wear. With so many do-it-yourself sites and easy crafts, there’s no excuse to skip creating some awesome decorations for the bash – get out your glue gun and glitter.

*Dine like the stars. Go beyond just the chips and dips and add some pizzazz to your party. The Bing Food & Drink app on Windows 8.1 has a library of fantastic recipes for appetizers, entrees, desserts, custom cocktails and more. Get inspired with dishes like smoked trout blinis with crème fraiche and dill. Your guests will feel like stars themselves with the right menu and libations.

Whether you’re one or 1,000 miles away from Hollywood, you can still create your very own red carpet experience in your own home. Follow these tips from Mathews and visit Bing.com/awards for all your Oscars needs and you’ll be well on your way to creating a night to remember for you and your friends.

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