Archive for May, 2015

Creating super summer snacks with grapes is a breeze

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Early summer marks the beginning of the California grape season. These bite-size treats are the perfect snack – crisp, sweet and only 90 calories per 3/4 cup serving. Grapes are also very juicy, making them a welcome source of hydration as outdoor activities and temperatures increase.

Always ripe and ready-to-eat, convenient (no peeling, no seeds), and packable for a picnic or day camp, grapes are really today’s super snack.  And there’s more good news: grapes of all colors are a delicious source of antioxidants and other polyphenols, and research suggests that grapes support heart health and may help defend against a variety of age-related and other diseases.  
Selecting grapes is a breeze, since all grapes are fully ripe when they arrive at the supermarket.  Simply look for plump grapes with pliable green stems. Once home, keep your grapes unwashed and refrigerated in a plastic bag until ready to use, then rinse with cold water and serve.

While fresh grapes are most often enjoyed as a snack, more and more people have discovered the versatility of grapes as an ingredient. Why? Fresh grapes from California add color, crunch and a light touch of sweetness to snacks and meals. Toss them into yogurt, or nearly any kind of salad: fruit, green, grain, chicken or tuna. Create grape and cheese skewers for an easy appetizer. For a cool summer treat, freeze your grapes: just rinse them, pat them dry, and place them in the freezer for two hours. The result is like sweet bursts of sorbet.

Here are a couple more tasty snacks for kids and adults. These wholesome and easy-breezy treats show off grapes’ natural pairing potential with all things dairy.

Grape, Honey and Yogurt Pops

Makes eight standard size frozen treats.
1 pound red or black seedless California grapes, rinsed and stemmed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 container (16 ounces) vanilla or honey Greek yogurt or a combination


Puree the grapes in a food processor or blender (you’ll have about 2 cups). Transfer to a medium-size pot and bring to a boil. Boil the grapes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the sugar and honey and let cool to room temperature.

Fold in the yogurt just until nicely swirled, then spoon into frozen treat molds. Cover with foil, insert sticks and freeze for 4 to 6 hours or until set.
Nutritional analysis per serving: calories 127; protein 4.2 g; carbohydrate 27 g; fat 1 g;  7 percent calories from fat; cholesterol 2 mg; sodium 16 mg; fiber .5 g.

Grape Snack Bites 

Makes eight snack bites.
2 full graham crackers (to yield 8 small rectangles)
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lowfat cream cheese
8 seedless California grapes, sliced


Break each graham cracker into its four small rectangles. Spread 1 teaspoon cream cheese on each cracker and top with sliced grapes. Serve immediately.
Nutritional analysis per snack: calories 28; protein .7 g; carbohydrate 4 g; fat 1 g; 35 percent calories from fat; cholesterol 3 mg; sodium 40 mg; fiber .1 g.

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Five surprising summer habits that pack on the pounds

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

Swimsuit ready? Not for long. Gaining the weight you lost preparing for summer is so easy, you’re likely to do it without trying. If you don’t stop the eating patterns that unintentionally cause weight gain, you’ll never be successful losing body fat.

Tom Nikkola, director of nutrition and weight management at Life Time Fitness, “The Healthy Way of Life Company,” says people unintentionally sabotage their diet even as they’re cutting calories. 

Here are five ways you may be packing on the pounds without even realizing it:

1. Load up on sugar
You don’t have to indulge in sweets or spoon extra sugar over your food to eat too much. If you eat a lot of processed foods, you’re probably already eating too much sugar. Nikkola says you can even find added sugar in processed meats. “White flour, bread, waffles, many cereals, chips, granola and crackers are easily converted to sugar as well,” he adds.

2. Skimp on protein and fat
“Protein and fat are macronutrients that are essential to our health,” Nikkola says. “By avoiding these foods, you’ll be more likely to have an insatiable appetite.” On the flip side, he notes people who include protein and fat in every meal are less likely to overeat and may reduce cravings for carbohydrate-rich or sugary foods.

3. Eat more breakfast cereal
“A bowl of cereal is a great way to start the day if your goal is accumulating additional body fat,” Nikkola says. Such a breakfast can leave you hungry just a few hours later, and reaching for high-carbohydrate snack foods. Before noon you’ll likely be feeling the effects of low blood sugar, like trouble focusing, a reduction in energy and increase in irritability (which only makes you want to eat more). 

4. Fill up on fruit and fruit juice
Fruit and fruit juice are not synonymous in a healthy diet. “Juice is much more concentrated in sugar, especially fructose, and does not include fiber, which may help reduce your appetite,” Nikkola explains. “Loading up on juice is a great way to increase calorie intake, much like drinking soda would be.” Even too much whole fruit can lead to too much sugar in your diet. The best way to balance out your fruit and vegetable intake is to eat three to four servings of non-starchy vegetables for each serving of fruit.

5. Reward yourself after every workout
“It doesn’t take much to offset what you burn in each workout,” Nikkola says. “With a muffin, some chips, or a bowl of pasta you’ll replace all the glycogen you burned in your training session and eat enough extra carbohydrates to add to your fat stores.” Instead, refuel with whole food and include protein for better recovery.
Of course you don’t really want to gain weight this summer. Life Time Fitness has an in-house nutritionist on staff at most of its 105 clubs to work with members on their personal nutrition goals. 

“When you become aware of the many causes of weight gain, you’ll understand why the approach we take at Life Time Weight Loss is more complicated, and more personalized, than most other weight management systems,” Nikkola says. If you’d like to see a longer list of how to get fatter this summer, check out Nikkola’s article 14 Ways to Get Fatter at

Become a produce professional: healthy eats from farm to family

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Local. That’s the buzzword when it comes to healthy eats these days. From the farm to the city, locally grown goods are keeping menus fresh and food lovers satisfied. This trend is on the rise in hot-spot restaurants around the nation and now it’s never been easier to make fresh, culinary magic happen in your own home. Here’s the trick to getting it done: learn the facts and become a produce professional.

The most obvious benefit of shopping local is taking garden-fresh, flavor-packed goods home for your family to nosh on. You’ll get the highest nutritional value foods by buying in season, says chef Lynn Krause, culinary academic director of The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of St. Louis. If that’s not enough to get your juices flowing, consider this: Purchasing crops from various community farmers boosts local economies and enhances sustainability practices by keeping food import/export needs down, according to chef Linda Trakselis, culinary instructor at The International Culinary School at The Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago. Buying produce cultivated within a 150-mile radius of your location may also increase the likelihood of ingesting products with fewer pesticides and protective coatings typically added during the shipping process.

When it comes to buying regional fruits and vegetables, chef Clare Menck, academic director of Culinary Arts at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Wisconsin, recommends cruising farmers markets. It’s best to arrive early and do a lap for price checks, product quality and available options. From there, let your menu be guided by seasonal items and begin picking your produce. Menck also suggests you develop a relationship with the farmers – ask for their pick of the week, recipe tips and preparation suggestions.

Purchasing medium sized, darker colored fruits and veggies is your best bet for flavor and nutrients, says Trakselis of hand-picking products at the week-end pop-up shops.

Farmers markets are also a great spot to pounce on the freshest proteins. I always head for the specials; seek out the fresh catch of the day, fresh cut steaks and chicken specials to feature in meals, says Krause. Local poultry and shellfish is often inexpensive when compared to goods imported from other regions.

Another convenient way to secure the season’s freshest crops is to order produce boxes from community supported agriculture (CSA) programs. Boxes offer a variety of the season’s crops straight from the farm on a weekly, bi-monthly or monthly basis. The problem may be that you’re getting something in the box you’re unfamiliar with, but that’s not such a bad deal. You learn how to incorporate new vegetables into your meals and can ask for the farmer’s cooking tips, says Trakselis.

Your bounty will vary by season as crops are harvested for the market. Summertime finds include berries, melons, peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, green beans, asparagus and dark, leafy greens. As the season shifts to fall, you’ll score root veggies, Swiss chard, kale and the last crop of sweet corn and melons. Winter brings citrus and hearty vegetables like beets, turnips, winter squashes, Brussels sprouts and leafy greens to your market. Stock up on more bitter veggies during this time as the hard winter frost releases sugars in the produce and sweetens up your goods. Finally, springtime means peas, lettuce and the first berry buds.

Proper storage will ensure the longevity of your loot. Don’t ever put your tomatoes in the fridge – it breaks down the fibrous membrane and you’ll notice a steep decline in taste and texture, says Menck. Natural sugars turn to starch in the fridge and it also stops the ripening process. She also recommends keeping onions, potatoes, garlic and even carrots in plastic containers in cool locations, like on a shelf in the garage, especially in the wintertime.

Look no further than your local farm for the freshest and most nutritious meals. Knowing your way around the market will benefit your week’s food haul, your health and your wallet.

Summer is here: Celebrate with your family

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Culinary artist, Clare Crespo, knows how important- quality family time can be, which is why she is inspiring all families – including her own – to get creative in the kitchen. Crespo lives by the mantra that food preparation and presentation is half the fun, and can be a spur-of-the-moment, group event. Take ice cream, for instance:

“A scoop of Breyers ice cream is a deliciously blank canvas – one that has the potential to bring out the dessert artist in all of us,” says Crespo. “Amid fits of giggles and messy moments, a simple bowl of ice cream can unleash imaginative and memorable quality time together, even if only for a few minutes.”

Whether you’re inside the kitchen or out, Crespo urges families to take every opportunity to celebrate life’s delicious moments this summer:-

*Take it outside: Don’t take the lazy days of summer too literally. Take advantage of the weather and enjoy the outdoors. With so many built-in activities, it’s a great way to connect with your family.-

*Continue the fun indoors: Keep the kiddos entertained – even after sundown. Gather the family around the dessert table, grab a scoop of ice cream, and dig in. Capture these “delicious moments of family togetherness” and share them on for a chance to win prizes like a tablet and a year’s supply of Breyers.-

* Keep it simple: Pressed for time or funds? Make everyday tasks more fun by getting the family involved. Let the kids choose what to make for dinner, or allow them to help pack lunches together.

For more summertime fun, cool off in the kitchen this summer by creating one of Crespo’s delicious frozen treats.

Homemade Unfried Ice Cream Donuts

1 cup toasted cinnamon cereal, crushed

1 tablespoon I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! spread, melted

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup heavy cream

Pinch ground cayenne pepper

2 cups Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream

1 cup sliced strawberries and/or raspberries


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss cereal and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! spread on sheet. Bake 6 minutes or until toasted. Let cool completely.
 Combine chocolate, cream and cayenne in small microwave-safe bowl. Cook at HIGH in microwave 1 minute. Let stand 1 minute. Stir and continue cooking in additional 15 second increments until it can be stirred smooth.

Shape Breyers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream into 4 1/2-cup balls, then freeze 1 hour or until firm. Evenly coat ice cream with cereal, press to flatten slightly, and then shape a hole in the center to make a donut shape. Freeze until ready to serve.

Arrange ice cream on serving plates. Drizzle with chocolate sauce, and then sprinkle with berries. Garnish, if desired, with whipped cream.

Mint Chocolate Chimps

2 chocolate sandwich cookies or chocolate wafer cookies

Red decorating icing

Black decorating icing

1/2 cup Breyers BLASTS! Girl Scout Cookies(R) Thin Mints(R)

2 small round candies

Cut 1 cookie in half; set aside


Using red decorating icing, draw a mouth on the lower half of other cookie. Using black decorating icing, draw 2 nostrils on top half of same cookie.

Place Breyers BLASTS!(R) Girl Scout Cookies(R) Thin Mints(R) scoop on plate. Place reserved cookie halves on top sides of ice cream to make ears.

Place whole cookie on lower half of ice cream to make face. Place round candies above cookie and add 2 dots black decorating icing to make eyes.

Serve immediately or freeze until ready to eat.

Two-in-one tools for busy moms on the go

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

(BPT) – Any mom will tell you there are never enough hours in the day to “do it all.” Research indicates working moms spend 10 hours more a week multitasking than working dads – making useful, efficient tools Mom’s secret weapon for getting more done.

“I multitask from the moment the sun comes up,” says Brittany Bailey, busy mother, wife, DIY renovator and the blogger behind “Shaving mere minutes off my day-to-day routine lets me cross more tasks off my to-do list and spend more time with my family.”

Whether yours is a family of three or 13, try these multi-functional tools to keep up around the house:

Family room

Whether you’re playing educational games with the kids, catching up on emails during nap time or creating a new chill-out music mix, multitasking moms can tackle all of this with a tablet or smartphone – without taking up a lot of floor space in the family room. Refreshing your device with new apps just for the kids can help keep things calm for the long family road trip or the short wait at the dentist’s office, too.


Any mom knows keeping the kitchen tidy is a formidable task, with snacks, baking ingredients and trinkets that don’t make it into the junk drawer. Consider recycling heavy-duty glass jars for extra storage without adding clutter to your countertop. Empty glass jars look chic on display, but also are hard at work when filled with sugar, cookies or even knick-knacks like keys or change. Because you can see into the jars, you’ll always know what’s inside.


Dad wants a powerful showerhead but Mom wants a hand shower to spray down messy tots, so who wins? Parents can end the debate with the Delta In2ition shower with H2Okinetic technology. This two-in-one shower system simultaneously offers the comfort of water streaming from a showerhead and a hand shower and uses an internal system to control the droplet size of the water to create the feeling of more water than a standard shower. The embedded hand shower offers the flexibility to accomplish other tasks such as bathing children, washing pets and cleaning the shower. When not in use, it easily slips back into place on the showerhead.

Utilizing two-in-one tools around the house can help busy moms stay ahead of the curve and reserve time for what really matters: quality time with family. If she’s lucky, maybe she can even carve out some of that precious time just for her.

Impromptu party planning: How to create great gatherings in 30 minutes or less

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

(BPT) – Parents have never been more crunched for time. Balancing work demands with parental duties is complex – 56 percent of working moms and 50 percent of working dads say they find it very or somewhat difficult to balance these responsibilities, according to a recent report about modern parenthood from the Pew Research Center. But just because you’re time strapped doesn’t mean you need to stress when it comes time to host after-school activities or weekend gatherings with friends and family. With a few key strategies, even impromptu parties are a snap to pull together.

Did your teen just call to tell you he’s having the baseball team over for an Xbox live tournament tonight? Has a pop-up neighborhood party suddenly happened at your house? Did you forget about the Girl Scout meeting after school today? Whatever the reason, embrace spontaneous gatherings and go from zero to party in 30 minutes or less with these ideas:

Astounding activities

Great parties make everyone feel included, no matter how young or old. For spur-of-the-moment parties, gather your favorite board games and a few decks of cards to spread around on various tables. For outdoor gatherings, nothing beats classic lawn games like Frisbee, bocce, ladder ball or horseshoes. Groups are sure to gather to indulge in the fun, and lively conversation will inevitably follow.

To appeal to younger kids, create a makeshift theater stage with a blanket or shower curtain, and pile up costumes, hats and props. Even wallflowers are sure to bloom during this fun activity that inspires make-believe.

For teenagers, video games are ideal – just make sure your system, game options and high-speed Internet are ready for intensive group play and there are plenty of snacks on hand. Add some comfy pillows and throws so everyone can spread out and enjoy the friendly competition. Ask friends and neighbors to bring over their games too for even more variety.

Fantastic food

Time-crunched parents don’t have to worry about fancy food when parties suddenly pop up; guests don’t expect an elaborate meal. Take a no-nonsense approach by serving flavors everyone will love. Frozen appetizers you can pop in the oven and serve beside fresh seasonal items are ideal.

Bite-size foods are best for easy snacking. Bake some Farm Rich Mozzarella Sticks, which are made with 100 percent real mozzarella and lightly seasoned. Kids and adults alike will devour these snacks with a crispy coating and warm cheesy center. Add some zesty Farm Rich Jalapeno Peppers and everyone’s taste buds will be dancing. These snacks, available at Walmart and other grocery stores, pair well with fresh seasonal fare, so set out fresh grapes or strawberries, juicy sliced melon or chopped veggies with dip – whatever you have on hand or can get quickly at the local market – and you’ll have a spread that will disappear almost instantly.

Set the scene

There’s no need to deep clean, but spending a few minutes to tidy up creates a welcoming environment for guests. Focus your efforts on areas where people will gather – like the kitchen, patio or living room. Don’t forget to stock toiletries in the bathrooms, too.

If you have time, decorate for your last-minute shindig with simple yet clever decor. Hosting a video game gathering? Make a banner such as “Nelson’s Awesome Arcade” and hang above the TV. Have memorable photos of your guests? Run a ribbon and attach photos side-by-side with clothespins so everyone can enjoy the fun imagery. Want to add a summer vibe to your party? Skip the florist and cut some fresh buds from your backyard. If you’re stuck, a quick visit to Pinterest is sure to inspire.

When really strapped for time, skip decor and focus on the music – play songs everyone will enjoy and that reflect the theme of the party. Upbeat songs that embrace the warm weather always set the right mood. From the Beach Boys to the most current chart-toppers, some toe-tapping tunes will help guests get in the party groove.

With these tips and tricks, you’ll throw a party or get together that’ll make everybody happy. You’ll stress less and no one will know you put the whole thing together in minutes.