Category Archives: Food

Reading

Beat the Heat, Save Your Wallet

Sometimes, it’s just too hot to be outside. When you and your children want to spend some quality time together but don’t want to brave the heat or spend money on indoor activities like going to a movie theater for the latest blockbuster, it’s time to get creative!

guacMake a taco bar with the whole family! Get out of the sun for a little while with this delicious, creative recipe from Food Network Magazine. Everyone can play “chef,” with each person in charge of his or her own part of the taco bar, from the guacamole station to the hot sauce station. An extra perk of this family friendly recipe? With a multi-compartment lunch box, you can even take your taco bar with you for work or school lunches for a tasty lunch that is much cheaper than dining out!

 

 

To make 2-4 servings, you will need:

  • 4 thin slices roast beef (about 3 ounces)
  • 4 (6-inch) soft flour tortillas
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
  • 1/4 cup store-bought fresh guacamole
  • 1/4 cup store-bought fresh salsa
  • Mini bottle hot sauce
  • 2-4 multi-compartment lunch boxes
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream or plain yogurt (optional)
  • “chefs” to help out

Directions

  1. Fold 1 slice roast beef inside each of 2 soft tortillas, and put in the biggest compartment of the lunch box
  2. Sprinkle cheese onto the roast beef and tortilla
  3. Pack other compartments with guacamole, salsa, sour cream and other favorite toppings each.
  4. Seal and send off to school or bring to work!

Everyone has the chance to contribute to the meal, and you get to spend a little extra time with the family!

On lazy summer days, sometimes we just don’t feel like being active, and even cooking a meal together seems too ambitious. Even energetic children need some downtime! Take the opportunity to read to your kids. You can even act out scenes from the stories to get them involved! Scholastic’s Parent & Child magazine has a few recommendations for places to start.

  1. Charlotte’s Web
  2. Tuck Everlasting
  3. A Wrinkle in Time
  4. Anne of Green Gables
  5. Where the Wild Things Are

Reading together will stimulate your children’s imaginations and will build memories that will last a lifetime! Support local literacy and save money by renting these books from your local library. Need more reading ideas for children? Magazines like Highlights can turn a lazy afternoon into a time of learning and discovery for children!

smores

Indoor camping is another budget-friendly way to get the whole family involved. All you need are a few household materials before you and your kids are ready for a camping adventure! 

  1. Rope
  2. Sheets
  3. Flashlights
  4. Chocolate
  5. Marshmallows
  6. Graham crackers
  7. Toothpicks
  8. Small candles
  9. Lighter
  10. Additional snacks (optional)

Choose a “campsite” – a room with enough space for the project – and tie the rope to furniture. Drape the sheets over the furniture to create your tent. Once you are ready for the camping to begin, get the small candle, chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers for mini s’mores! Turn out the lights and use the flashlight to make the camping experience more realistic.

Even when the temperatures a tipping the 90s, you and your family can find fun, inexpensive ways to enjoy the summer. Let us know which of these ideas is your favorite!

 

Family 4th of July

Let Freedom Ring With These 4th Of July Favorites

[two_fifth]cherry blueberry pie recipe[/two_fifth]

Are you ready for the most patriotic day of the year? Whether you have a fully planned 4th of July event or still have more on your holiday to-do list than you would like to admit, add a little more red, white, and blue to your weekend with these American themed cooking and decorating ideas!

What is more American than apple pie? Red, white, and blue-themed cherry and blueberry pie! Try a twist on an American classic for an easy, delicious Independence Day dessert. Whether you are cooking for a potluck or a small event with family and friends, this mouth-watering recipe from Food Network Magazine is sure to please everyone. Preparation time is only 20 minutes, and Food Network Magazine gives this treat an “easy” level rating.

 

What You Need:

Pies:

  • 1 package double pie crust mix
  • 1 (20-ounce) can cherry pie filling
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Blueberry Sauce:

  • 1 pint fresh blueberries, reserve 1/4 cup for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 cups vanilla ice cream

What You Do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Prepare pie crust according to package directions. Divide into 6 equal portions, roll into balls and refrigerate covered for at least 1 hour. On a lightly floured surface, roll each into a circle about 1/4-inch thick.

For Pies:

  1. Place each of the rolled out circles onto the baking sheet. Divide cherry pie filling into the center of each of the 6 pie crusts and sprinkle each with the pumpkin pie spice. Fold the edges of the pie dough over the cherry pie filling, making sure to leave the center of the pie exposed. Place a few of the reserved blueberries on top of each pie. Brush the sides of the pies with milk and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Place pies in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

For Blueberry Topping:

  1. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, stir together blueberries, sugar, and two tablespoons water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. To serve, place 1 warm pie on 6 plates, top each pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a generous drizzle of the blueberry sauce.

 

[one_third]Fireworks Display[/one_third]

 

Sometimes a delicious dessert alone is not enough. Go the extra mile with tasteful red, white, and blue DIY decorations! BrightNest’s DIY patriotic firework placemats are a simple, quick way to add a nice touch to your 4th of July event.

 

 

What You Need:

  • White, beige, or light-colored fabric placemats
  • Red and blue fabric paints
  • A kitchen scrub brush
  • A paper plate
  • Water for rinsing the kitchen scrub.

What You Do:

  1. Pour a quarter-sized amount of red fabric paint onto a paper plate; repeat for blue paint.
  2. Dip the scrub brush bristles one of the colors of paint and firmly press the bristles into the fabric to start making your design.
  3. To create the appearance of fireworks, alternate and overlap paint colors. Make sure to rinse the kitchen scrub in water between alternations to avoid overly blending your colors.
  4. Let the placemats dry in a safe place and – voila! You have your own patriotic placemats.

Tip: Want to add a little more flair to your fireworks? Use a second, smaller kitchen scrub to create smaller fireworks!

As you prepare for an all-American celebration full of potlucks, get-togethers, fireworks shows, and more, these quick Independence Day extras will add a little more bang to your weekend. Have a fun and safe 4th of July, and remember those who sacrificed for our freedom.

If you want more easy DIY decoration ideas, check out http://bit.ly/1o7EWSd. Have any other 4th of July cooking or decorating ideas? Feel free to share them below in the comments section.

 

“Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.”

– George Washington in his Farewell Address

garden

National Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Month

Did you know that June is National Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Month?

According to the National Gardening Association, one in three Americans households now grow their own food. In the past five years, the number of Americans with some type of garden increased by 17%. The largest increase came from those in the 18-to-34 year old bracket. Reasons given for gardening included: the produce tasted better and cost less than at the supermarket, it was healthier and of better quality, and it enabled individuals to spend time outdoors and feel productive. Many parents also noted that they enjoyed teaching their children how to garden.

The top 10 garden-grown vegetables in the United States are:

1.) Tomatoes

2.) Sweet peppers

3.) Cucumbers

4.) Hot peppers

5.) Onions

6.) Beans

7.) Carrots

8.) Summer squash

9.) Lettuce

10.) Peas

Farmers’ markets are a popular alternative for individuals who don’t have the time or space to garden. They have increased in popularity throughout the last five years: in 2009, there were around 5,000 registered farmers’ markets in the United States; today, there are over 8,000.

Despite the growing popularity of gardening and shopping at farmers’ markets, however, Americans are still not eating the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables. ABCNews.com found that only 11% of Americans consume the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables.

If you’re looking for ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your meals, follow these tips from Cooking Light:

1.) Eat More Fruits for Breakfast

* Stir berries (fresh or frozen), dried fruit, or banana slices into yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal.

* Eat a fruit salad or drink fruit juice.

* Cut up a banana and eat it with peanut butter toast.

* Make a fruit smoothie. There are thousands of great smoothie recipes. You can whip them up in a matter of minutes. They’re a healthy and delicious breakfast alternative! You can find lots of great smoothie recipes in Taste of Home magazine.

2.) Add More Vegetables to Each Dish

* Add extra vegetables to a pizza, casserole, or sandwich. If you’re making Eggplant Parmesan, double the amount of eggplant. If you’re making Chicken Pot Pie, double the amount of vegetables in the dish.

* Add extra vegetables to your sandwich. Switch up traditional sandwich toppings such as lettuce and tomatoes with unique alternatives like cucumbers, zucchini, or apples.

3.) Sneak Fruits/Vegetables into Meals

* Add mushrooms, eggplant, onions, peppers, and squash to your spaghetti sauce recipe. Add grated vegetables to your meatloaf or soup. For more recipes ideas, check out Taste of Home!

* Make carrot cake, pumpkin bread, corn muffins, blueberry coffee cake, and other healthier options.

4.) Make Meatless Meals

* Make meatless meals one day a week. You can make meatless salads, omelets, pizzas, soups, wraps, sandwiches, and other recipes. Make Eggplant Parmesan, Broccoli Cheddar Soup, and other hearty, healthy recipes. If you need ideas, peruse Vegetarian Times for inspiration!

5.) Try a New Fruit or Vegetable Each Week

* Try a new seasonal fruit or vegetable each week. Check out your local farmers’ market for ideas. Let your kids pick out a new fruit or vegetable that they want to try.

6.) Choose Healthy Snacks

* Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter at home or at work.

* Eat dried fruit or pre-cut fruits and veggies for an afternoon snack.

* Drink fruit juice instead of soda. Half a cup of 100% fruit juice is equivalent to an entire serving.

7.) Make Fruity Desserts

* Dip bananas in antioxidant-rich dark chocolate and freeze them for a delicious dessert option.

* Top ice cream or frozen yogurt with fresh fruit.

 

 

1280px-Chocolate_Chip_Cookies_-_kimberlykv

National Chocolate Chip Day

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In 1937, Ruth Graves Wakefield of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts was making chocolate cookies for her guests when she realized she was out of baker’s chocolate. She substituted a chopped Nestle chocolate bar, thinking that the chocolate would melt. Although that didn’t happen, the cookies became an instant hit with her friends and guests. The cookies became a overnight local sensation, and the recipe was published in a Boston newspaper. As the popularity of the cookies increased, sales of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate bars also increased. Nestle reached an agreement with Ruth Wakefield: they would print the Toll House Cookie recipe on their packages, and Wakefield would be given a lifetime supply of Nestle chocolate. The chocolate chip cookie soon became the most popular kind of cookie in America. Today, Nestle’s Toll House chocolate chips are named for the inn where Ruth Graves Wakefield invented the famous cookies.

May 15 is National Chocolate Chip Day, so why not celebrate this sweet occasion with one of the following recipes? Chocolate chips are a versatile and delicious addition to cakes, cookies, cheesecakes, puddings, pies, and more. Here are a few recipes you won’t want to miss:

Double Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Start your day off with a delicious twist: chocolate pancakes packed with miniature chocolate chips. You can whip up a batch of these chocolatey pancakes in less than 20 minutes. They’re great served with whipped cream or maple syrup and butter.

Source: Taste of Home

Serves: 3

Ingredients:

2 cups baking/biscuit mix

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup chocolate milk

1 egg

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

Maple syrup and butter, optional

Instructions:

1.) In a large bowl, combine the biscuit mix and baking powder. Combine the egg, milk and sour cream; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips.

2.) Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a greased hot griddle. Turn when bubbles form on top; cook until second side is golden brown. Serve with maple syrup and butter if desired.

 

Honey Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Looking for a new twist on an old favorite? Try these cookies! Made with honey instead of brown sugar, the cookies are a chewy, rich alternative to traditional chocolate chip cookies.

Source: Saveur

Serves: 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1½ cups white sugar

3 tbsp. honey

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips, or chopped bittersweet chocolate

Instructions:

1.) Heat oven to to 375º F. In a small mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, honey, eggs, and vanilla; gradually add the dry ingredients until a dough forms. Stir in the chocolate.

2.) Drop 1-tablespoon portions of dough onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper; bake for 8-9 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets after 5 minutes.

 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownies

Looking for a rich, chocolatey brownie that won’t mess up your diet? These brownies have just 125 calories and 5 grams of fat per serving, so you won’t have to feel bad about enjoying one (or two)!

Source: Cooking Light

Serves: 16

Ingredients:

Cooking spray

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 egg white

 

Instructions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350°.

2.) Coat bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray (do not coat sides of pan).

3.) Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, chocolate chips, soda, and salt in a bowl.

4.) Combine sugars and remaining ingredients in a bowl; stir until well-blended. Add flour mixture, stirring just until blended. Spread batter in bottom of prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Cool on a wire rack.

iStock_000016739223Small

Cinco de Mayo Recipes

Are you planning a festive Cinco de Mayo party for your family and friends? If so, here are a few tried-and-true recipe ideas they’re sure to love!

1.) Guacamole

guacamole-pico-de-gallo_300No Cinco de Mayo party would be complete without guacamole and chips! Serve heaping bowls of salsa alongside this guacamole recipe from Real Simple:

  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
  1. In a large bowl, combine the onion, jalapeño, cilantro, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using the back of a fork, mash the vegetables until they begin to release their juices.
  2. Add the avocados and lime juice and stir to combine. Refrigerate until serving. Serve with tortilla chips.

2.) Pork Tacos

Soft Taco - Photographed on Hasselblad H3D2-39mb Camera This slow cooker recipe couldn’t be easier to prepare, but the flavorful meat will make your guests think you fussed. You can easily prepare the meat a day or two in advance and refrigerate it until your party. Create a buffet with meat, tortillas, and toppings so that guests can choose what they want on their tacos.

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 pounds pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 16 6-inch corn tortillas
  • sour cream, salsa, sliced radishes, cilantro leaves, and lime wedges, for serving
  1. Heat the oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the pork with the oregano, cumin, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Add the pork to the Dutch oven and cook, turning, until brown on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes; transfer to a plate.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, and cayenne to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring, until the onion is softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Return the pork to the Dutch oven and add the broth. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the pork is very tender and shreds easily, 1½ to 1¾ hours.
  3. Transfer the pork to a medium bowl and, using 2 forks, shred the meat; return it to the Dutch oven and stir into the cooking liquid. (Alternatively, the pork can be made in a slow cooker: Combine the pork, oregano, cumin, ¾ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, onion, garlic, and cayenne in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add ½ cup broth and cook until very tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.)
  4. Twenty minutes before serving, heat oven to 350° F. Wrap the tortillas in foil and bake until warm, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve the pork with the tortillas, sour cream, salsa, radishes, cilantro, and lime wedges.

3.) Margaritas

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If you’re looking for authentic margarita recipes, peruse a copy of Saveur magazine. For a  traditional recipe, try this lime margarita from Real Simple. You can create fun variations by  adding strawberries to the recipe or serving frozen margaritas.

  •  3/4 cup tequila
  •  1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from 4-6 limes)
  •  1/2 cup Triple Sec or Cointreau
  •  1 lime, sliced
  •  kosher salt (optional)
  1.    In a medium pitcher, combine the tequila, lime juice, Triple Sec, and 1/2 cup water.
  2. If desired, rub the rims of 4 glasses with a lime slice and dip in salt to coat. Serve the margaritas in the prepared glasses over ice and garnish with the lime slices.

 

 

4.) Dessert

SONY DSCIf you’re feeling adventurous, try making the Pinata Cake featured in the May 2014 edition of Food Network. For something easier, you can make this sopapilla recipe from Taste of Home. The light, airy fried pastries are perfect served with confectioners sugar or honey, but they’re also delicious on their own.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • Oil for deep fat frying
  • Honey and confectioners’ sugar, optional
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Gradually add water, tossing with a fork until a loose ball forms (dough will be crumbly).
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 3 minutes or until smooth. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll out into a 12-in. x 10-in. rectangle. Cut into 12 squares with a knife or cut into 12 circles using a round biscuit cutter.
  3. In a deep-fat fryer, heat 2 in. of oil to 375°. Fry sopaipillas for 1-2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels; keep warm. Serve with honey and/or dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired.
strawberries

Spring Recipes

The arrival of spring means that seasonal fruits and vegetables like asparagus, strawberries, and rhubarb are finally in season. We’re scoured some of our favorite cooking magazines to find the perfect spring meal. Begin by serving the chicken and asparagus dish alongside a flavorful strawberry spinach salad. Finish with a sweet yet tart rhubarb crumble for a satisfying finish to the meal. Your family will love this colorful, delicious meal so much they won’t even realize how healthy it is!

Asparagus:

Roasted Chicken with Asparagus:

roasted-chicken-asparagus_300For a delicious meal-in-one, try this simple yet flavorful dish. With only six ingredients, it can be prepared in mere minutes. You can substitute other spring vegetables, such as new potatoes or mushrooms, in place of the asparagus. This is the perfect dish to serve when you want a meal that highlights the new vegetables you got from your garden or farmer’s market.

Source: Real Simple

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 bone-in chicken thighs

Salt and pepper

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, plus more for garnish

Instructions:

1.) Heat oven to 400° F. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. In batches, cook the chicken, skin-side down, until browned and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

2.) To the skillet, add the asparagus, tomatoes, and thyme. Top with the chicken and roast until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve sprinkled with thyme.

 

Strawberries:

Your family will love this vibrant, colorful strawberry spinach salad. If you want to make a meal out of it, add some chopped cooked chicken. The salad is also delicious when served with pecans instead of walnuts.

Spinach-Strawberry-Salad-1Spinach Strawberry Salad

Source: Taste of Home

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients:

1 package (10 ounces) fresh spinach, torn

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1/3 cup canola oil

3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Feta cheese, optional

 

Instructions:

1.) In a large bowl, combine the asparagus, spinach, strawberries and walnuts. In a small bowl, whisk the canola oil, vinegar, sugar and salt. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Rhubarb:

rhubarb-crumble-ck-665505-lHoney-Rhubarb Crumble

Source: Cooking Light

Serves: 6

Rhubarb is the perfect change of pace from more traditional fruits. Many people pair the tart fruit with raspberries or strawberries for a tangy yet sweet dessert. This rhubarb crisp is a unique, delicious alternative to a more traditional apple or cherry crisp. Because it’s made with low-fat ingredients, it’s something that the entire family can enjoy.

Ingredients:

5-1/2 cups sliced rhubarb

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon grated lime rind

Vegetable cooking spray

1/3 cup regular oats

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 firmly packed brown sugar

  • 3 tablespoons chilled stick margarine, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 cups vanilla nonfat frozen yogurt, optional

Instructions:

1.) Combine the first 3 ingredients in a bowl, and toss well. Spoon into an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray.

2.) Place oats, flour, and sugar in food processor, and pulse 2 to 3 times. Add chilled margarine, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal; sprinkle over rhubarb mixture. Bake at 375° for 40 minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Serve with frozen yogurt if desired.