Archive for July, 2014

Dark chocolate: the new dessert

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Here are a few ways you can savor dark chocolate:

* Workday treat: Take a break from emails and meetings to enjoy a tasty treat and check in on social media. A bite of dark chocolate and a chai latte are a surefire pick-me-up for a busy workday.

* Relaxing ritual: Enjoy a quiet night alone soaking in a warm bath with a good book, or unwind on the couch by catching up with the DVR after a long week. “Me time” calls for comfort food like tomato soup with grilled cheese. Savor a HERSHEY’S BLISS Dark Chocolate to cap off the experience.

* Family dinner and game night: Kimberly Williams-Paisley, star of the TV show Nashville and mother of two, suggests sharing dark chocolate at your next family gathering.

“Pass around a few pieces of dark chocolate for dessert after a home-style dish like chicken and vegetable soup or turkey chili,” says Williams-Paisley. “You can also sweeten family game night by using HERSHEY’S KISSES SPECIAL DARK Chocolates as pieces for board games.”

* Wine tasting party: Host a wine tasting party and entertain friends in a casual setting. Select a few different varieties of wine and accompany with various cheeses, fruits and dark chocolates to bring out different notes in each one. Try pairing figs, manchego cheese and crostinis with a cabernet then finish the tasting with a few pieces of SCHARFFEN BERGER Semisweet Dark Chocolate.

* Girls’ brunch in: Catch up with your girlfriends over brunch for a chance to chat about everything from a good book to the funny things your children said. Invite over your closest friends and serve savory mini frittatas with roasted vegetables and blood orange bellinis. A nugget of dark chocolate with almonds is a delicious way to end the meal.

Dark chocolate is incredibly versatile – there is something delicious for everyone. If you are new to experimenting with dark chocolate, you can do a tasting to select one that fits your taste preference or mood. The cacao percentage can help serve as a guide. A higher percentage cacao typically leads to a more robust chocolate flavor.

For more information on dark chocolate and pairing tips, visit

The jet-set style gives women a fresh look this summer

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

With just a little style know-how, women can easily achieve this fresh and sun-kissed look.

“Women will love the jet-set style this season, because the clean and classic lines evoke a little bit of the Kennedy era, while also allowing women to individualize their style to show off more of their personality,” says Janette Ewen, style expert for Pandora, an international jeweler with retail locations across North America.

Imagine yourself as one of the golden era Hollywood beauties like Elizabeth Taylor or Brigitte Bardot as you develop your own jet-set style with these tips from Ewen:

* Colors – The iconic jet-set look blends basic black and white with bright colors and bold Pucci-inspired prints. Maxi dresses with light-weight flowing fabrics present you with a very relaxed wardrobe with an elegant flare. The top color choices for maxi dresses are emerald green, turquoise, blue and fuchsia.

* Lines – Clean and classic are perfect to accomplish a jet-set look. A striped boat-neck top paired with crisp pants and a pop of bold color from a neck scarf is perfect for a walk on the beach or a visit to the country club. Consider incorporating colorful leather or fabric cord bracelets from Pandora to add variety to your look.

* Jewelry – The more the better! Layer it on, and be sure to accentuate your glowing skin with gold and silver. Need some inspiration? The Pandora jewelry collection includes stackable rings, interchangeable earrings and bracelets in sterling silver, 14k gold, leather and colored fabrics. Embrace your individuality with romantic and feminine pieces that capture your unique style.

* Skin and hair – A sun-kissed look is important for pulling off a jet-set style. Give your hair some glow with a spray-in lightener, and add some color to your skin with a moisturizer that has a self tanner and an SPF of at least 30. When styling your hair, avoid anything that is overdone or slick. Instead opt for loose, beachy waves or a soft side plait.

* Makeup – Lighter is better to keep your face looking fresh, especially while out in the heat this summer. Try a few coats of waterproof mascara and a soft red lip gloss, and hold off on using any foundations or powders until winter returns.

* Top it off – A light hat like the classic fedora will help keep your hair in place, and a pair of chic tortoiseshell sunglasses will finalize your jet-set look. “The darker the better,” adds Ewen. “Because you never know when the paparazzi might be around the corner.”

Whether traveling to exotic locales or enjoying the warmer months closer to home, the classic jet-set look will keep your style fresh all summer long.

Surprising ways hot tubs heat up relationships

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

(BPT) – On average, working adults spend less than an hour per day socializing and relaxing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s American Time Use Survey. Yet a host of research – and common sense – tells us that spending time together in a social, relaxing way is essential to building and maintaining healthy relationships.

Recreating that spark or special connection with your spouse or significant other, free from the distractions of everyday life, isn’t as difficult as you may think. The answer can actually be found in your own backyard when you add a hot tub to your outdoor living space.

The therapeutic benefits of hot tubs are well documented – 79 percent of owners say they value the therapeutic health benefits their hot tubs present, according to a survey by the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals (APSP) – but many owners point to another significant benefit: the ability to spend more time with their partners.

Seventy-seven percent of owners say their hot tub is one of the few things that can truly take them away from the day-to-day stresses of life and allow them to reconnect with their partner.

Here are three surprising ways hot tubs can add some spice to your relationship:

* No distractions

The relaxed atmosphere of a hot tub promotes meaningful interaction, owners reveal. Hot tub owners typically say they use their hot tubs as a way to connect, and 82 percent say they are extremely satisfied with the level of relaxation it provides. Relaxing together outdoors, enjoying nature and each other’s company without the distraction of ever-present digital devices, is a great way for couples to rediscover the things that drew them together in the first place.

* Stress soothing

Life can be pretty stressful. Countless studies tell us that too much stress is harmful on a number of levels – physically, mentally and socially. Common stressors such as money are leading causes of strife in marriages and even lead to divorce. The warm water and effervescence of hot tubs relieve stress and soothe sore muscles, allowing couples to refocus on what’s most important in their lives: each other.

* The vacation effect

Something about vacation spells romance for couples; more than one getaway has led to a new addition to the family nine months later. While taking a trip more than once or twice a year isn’t always practical – the average American family spends about $1,180 per person on vacation travel according to an American Express survey – a hot tub can create the vacation effect in your own backyard, and allow you to experience that special feeling of romance every day.

Spicing up your relationship begins with the right tub, and finding the right hot tub starts with a professional you can trust. APSP Certified Professionals adhere to the highest standards of service, performance and ethical conduct. Visit the APSP website to find a professional near you.

Courtesy of BPT

Healthy summer skin: tips for every age

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Current estimates show that one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. Fortunately, it only requires simple steps alongside a protective mindset to prevent skin damage at every stage of life. To maintain a healthy exterior this season, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Stanferd L. Kusch provides the following tips for strong, glowing skin at any age:

If you’re in your 20s

Though you may not be worrying about wrinkles yet, your skin may start to show warning signs of damage. Now is the time to focus on prevention.

* Stay hydrated: Drinking water helps delay the appearance of wrinkles.

* Quit smoking: Smoking strips your skin of elastin and collagen, leaving you at the risk of severely premature facial wrinkling.

* Eat smart: Foods that are high in vitamin C and antioxidants help prevent wrinkles by reflecting UV radiation from the sun.

If you’re in your 30s

This decade is the first time many see distinct signs of aging and skin damage, and it becomes necessary to build a more aggressive damage control and prevention regimen.

*Assess the damage: Take advantage of free health screenings at your local pharmacies or retailers.

* Maintain reduced stress levels. Ask your pharmacist or clinician about the effects of cortisol and stress on your skin and weight.

* Get acquainted with retinoids: Retinoid creams contain compounds found in vitamin A and are used to treat wrinkles, sun damage and acne. Retinoid creams are available in both prescription and over-the-counter treatments.

* Make sunscreen a habit: Use (and reapply) sunscreen throughout the day whenever you go outside.

If you’re in your 40s

Years of sun exposure can leave your skin with noticeable lines, blotchiness or dryness.

* Limit exposure: Decreasing sun exposure is the best way to prevent skin cancer.

* Moisturize regularly: While moisturizers won’t slow down the aging process, they can help soothe increasingly raw or irritated skin and can help strengthen collagen.

* Add a little pep: Skin creams with peptides (small chains of protein molecules) can stimulate collagen and plump sagging skin.

If you’re 50-plus

For people age 50 and older, it’s critical to be aware of changes in your skin that may reflect the status of its health.

* Self check: Monitor changes in your skin and look out for persistent pink, scaly patches and red or black pearly spots or bumps – these can sometimes be indicators of skin cancer.

* See a dermatologist: By age 50, everyone should have a total body skin check to screen for skin cancer.

* Continue good habits: Sunscreen is still an absolute must for this age range, and moisturizers and hydration are even more important than ever.

No matter what your age, everyone feels most confident when their skin is its healthiest. Visit your doctor or take advantage of free counsel from pharmacists and local health screenings. For example, Sam’s Club hosts health screenings every month which are free and available to the public. For a full schedule of Sam’s Club screenings through October, visit This season, take action to prevent and minimize skin damage, so your skin is nourished, protected and healthy for many summers to come.

Home harmonizing: Making outdoor entertaining areas as useful as indoors

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

(BPT) – The trend toward outdoor living spaces shows no signs of slowing, and the newest step in the trend is blurring the lines between outdoor and indoor spaces. Outdoor spaces are truly becoming an extension of indoors, mimicking the most useful and appealing elements of indoor spaces. The trend is rewriting how Americans construct, outfit and enjoy that backyard staple, the deck.

“The dividing line between indoor and outdoor living spaces is fading, and homeowners are looking for ways to make their outside environment as useful and comfortable as the inside of their homes,” says Chris Camfferman, senior product manager with Universal Forest Products, makers of Latitudes decking materials and accessories. “The trend is driving an evolution in deck styles and materials, with new designs emphasizing livability as much as durability.”

If you want to bring your outdoor and indoor spaces into alignment this summer, look to these areas of your outdoor living space:

* Outdoor kitchen – Food is a big part of entertaining, whether you’re hosting a big summer soiree to christen your new deck or an intimate pool-side dinner. Outdoor food prep and cooking require a touch more finessing than indoor cooking. Whether you use a portable grill or a built-in cooktop, gas or charcoal, it’s important that your decking can stand up to the rigors of cooking. Choose decking material that’s scratch- and stain-resistant, like Latitudes’ Captiva and Capricorn lines. Both composite lines are capped with the most durable polymer technology available, making them virtually impervious to stains from food spills, as well as highly resistant to damage from cooking implements. Log on to to learn more.

* Entertainment areas – Long gone are the days when outdoor entertainment areas consisted of a table and deck chairs, period. Homeowners now want to enjoy the same types of amenities outdoors as they have indoors. For some, that includes a hot tub, and composite decking can provide a sturdy, barefoot-friendly and water-resistant platform for hot tub entertaining. Today, you can also use wireless technology outdoors. Wireless-equipped devices such as TVs and iPod stations make it easy to enjoy electronic entertainment – such as watching the big game or a romantic comedy – while savoring the fresh air and sunshine. Even easier -hang a bed sheet and use a movie projector to watch your favorite kid’s film or action flick, turning your deck into an outdoor movie theater.

* Furnishings – If your idea of outdoor seating is a few plastic Adirondack-style chairs and a plastic table, it’s time to look indoors for inspiration. The styles and materials you enjoy indoors are making their way into outdoor furniture design. Plush cushions in designer hues evoke the same comfort and style as fine upholstered furniture indoors. Demand is growing for built-ins that can fulfill seating and workspace needs. Composite decking material makes built-in benches both durable and beautiful. Homeowners are using furnishings and accessories to turn the decks into statements of their personal style.

* Decorator touches – Many of the decorator tricks that designers use to spice up the interior of homes are moving outdoors, too. Deck stains and exterior paints now come in vibrant colors – not just dirt-hiding browns. Composite decking is also popping with color, with hues that mimic some of the richest, most enticing tones found in natural woods. Lighting is another design element that’s no longer relegated to the realm of “utilitarian” in outdoor environments. Whether you opt for decorative sconces on exterior walls of your home, twinkling LED lights on a deck railing, or Tiffany-inspired solar-powered postcaps, lighting is an opportunity to make a design statement in your outdoor living space.

“For many Americans, outdoor living spaces have become every bit as important as indoors,” Camfferman says. “With advances in decking technology and outdoor decor, every homeowner can create an outdoor environment that’s as appealing and harmonious as the inside of their homes.”

Entertaining ideas for going Greek (yogurt)

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

(BPT) – Twice the protein, half the carbs, 20 percent of your daily calcium requirement and probiotic cultures that help keep digestive tracts happy – what’s not to love about Greek yogurt? For some who resist making the switch from regular to Greek yogurt, it boils down to taste. Some people find the strong flavor of this nutritional powerhouse to be a bit … well, too strong!

“Even if you’re not a fan of Greek yogurt’s distinctive flavor for snacking or breakfast purposes, you can still tap the health benefits of this popular dairy product,” says Laurie McNamara, author of the blog Simply Scratch. “You can incorporate Greek yogurt into a variety of recipes by using it to replace less healthful options like sour cream and mayo, or less nutritionally powerful ones like regular yogurt.”

The approaching holidays are a perfect opportunity to begin incorporating Greek yogurt into your family’s diets – and your entertaining menus. It’s possible to reap the health benefits of this super food in every course of your holiday meals.


What holiday buffet – or other occasion, for that matter – would be complete without a veggie tray and dip? Store-bought dips are often loaded with preservatives, sugar, salt and/or fatty ingredients. Making your own is a great way to reduce fat and calories, amp up nutritional value and ensure fresh, organic flavor.

McNamara has partnered with Simply Organic, purveyors of quality organic seasonings, to create ideas for serving Simply Organic Greek Yogurt Dip Mixes. Dips made with Greek yogurt add zest to vegetable platters, and can be a healthier complement to more decadent treats like chips and pretzels.

The dip seasonings can also pair with Greek yogurt in other appetizers, too. “If a recipe calls for regular yogurt or sour cream, you can substitute Greek yogurt,” McNamara says.

Try this recipe for a flavorful dish that can work on an hors d’oeuvres table or as an appetizer on a buffet.

Spinach and bacon-stuffed mushrooms


1 package-(16 ounces) baby portabella mushrooms (about 20 baby bellas)
 1 1/4 cups plain nonfat Greek yogurt-
 4 tablespoons-turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled (about four slices)
 4 tablespoons-finely shredded 2 percent milk Colby Jack cheese
 1 package-Simply Organic Zesty Spinach Dip Mix
 1 1/2 teaspoons-fine bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a large glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Remove stems and scrape out gills of mushrooms with a spoon, being careful not to puncture caps of mushrooms.

In a large bowl, combine yogurt, bacon, cheese and dip mix until evenly mixed. Stuff mushroom caps with yogurt mixture, and sprinkle with bread crumbs.

Place mushroom caps in baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes, until the filling is hot and bubbly.

Entrees and sides

Think of all the dishes that call for sour cream, milk, heavy cream or regular plain yogurt. From mashed potatoes and chicken salad to soups and marinades for meats, Greek yogurt can replace those less healthful ingredients, allowing you to reap its health benefits while making the flavor subtle (or even undetectable) and enjoyable. And you don’t need to confine yourself to Greek recipes; Greek yogurt works regardless of a dish’s ethnic origins.

Here’s a recipe from Simply Organic in which Greek yogurt cuts the fat in a traditional Hungarian classic:

Smoky chicken paprikash


2 -8-ounce chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
 2 tablespoons-ground flax seed
 1 tablespoon-all-purpose flour
 1/4 teaspoon-smoked salt
 1/8 teaspoon-cayenne
 1/4 teaspoon-finely ground black pepper
 1 tablespoon-smoked paprika, divided
 1/2 teaspoon-garlic granules
 1/2 -white onion, chopped
 1/2 -red bell pepper, chopped
 1/2 -yellow bell pepper, chopped
 1/2 cup-sliced mushrooms
 1 -tomato, chopped
 1/2 cup-chicken broth (made with chicken flavored broth powder)
 3/4 cup-non-fat plain Greek yogurt
 1/2 teaspoon-lemon juice
 1/4 teaspoon-cornstarch


Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray an 11-by-7-inch baking dish with non-stick spray.

Combine ground flax seed, flour, salt, cayenne, black pepper, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and garlic granules in a small bowl.

Dredge chicken pieces in dry mixture and place in non-stick pan. Surround chicken breasts with onion, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, mushrooms and tomato. Pour chicken broth over chicken and vegetables, then evenly sprinkle vegetables and chicken with remaining smoked paprika.

Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until done. Chicken’s internal temperature should be at least 165 degrees when done.

Combine Greek yogurt and lemon juice in a saucepan. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and 1/2 cup liquid mixture from baking dish. Stir into yogurt and lemon juice and cook, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about five minutes. Pour yogurt sauce over chicken and vegetables.


Cakes, bread puddings, pies – even cookies – practically any holiday dessert can work with Greek yogurt as an ingredient. Vegetarians and vegans have been replacing eggs with regular yogurt for years, and Greek yogurt is an even healthier substitution. Generally, if your recipe calls for a cup of creme fraiche, sour cream, mayonnaise or cream cheese, you can substitute a cup of Greek yogurt. It’s also a great-tasting, creamy and healthier alternative for homemade frozen yogurt.

Includes recipes.

Courtesy of BPT