12/08/2017

Ultimate Hot Chocolate Bar

Hot chocolate deserves its proper pageantry, which means avoid adding boiling water to the contents of a foil-lined package. When made with real cocoa and embellished with an assortment of toppings, this warm winter mainstay will become your drink of choice no matter what the season. Delight your guests with the ultimate hot chocolate bar for an easy, warm winter event.

Hot chocolate is the main event of this seasonal gathering.

 

Guests will enjoy making their own beverage while sampling new ways to create a winter drink staple.

Cocoa powder and shaved coconut, naturally decadent.

What you’ll need for a hot chocolate bar:

Use elegant small plates for the embellishments: real cocoa, sugar, coconut, candy, whipped cream.

Organic candy cane stirrers adorned with seasonal candies.

Recipe for one cup:

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

Scoop powder and sugar in cup and add hot water. Garnish with coconut, crushed chocolate, whipped cream or cinnamon and a candy cane stirrer.

 

Bring in colorful accents that give the setting a festive jolt.

Resources:

Hammersmith Gold Teacup: http://www.mikasa.com/tea-cups-and-saucers/hammersmith-gold/tea-cup/5117476.html#q=gold%20cup&start=0&hitcount=4

Hot Chocolate: http://www.woodhousechocolate.com/dark-hot-chocolate

Cocoa Powder: https://www.valrhona-chocolate.com

Organic Candy Canes: http://wholesomesweet.com/product/organic-candy-canes/

Organic Delish Fish:  http://wholesomesweet.com/product/organic-delishfish/

Chocolates: https://www.ashers.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=christmas&x=0&y=0

A Little Princess: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/316849/a-little-princess-by-frances-hodgson-burnett/9780147513991

Nest Holiday Candle: https://www.nestfragrances.com/shop-by-collection/seasonal-collections/holiday

Ziggy Dessert Spoons: https://www.frenchbull.com/products/ziggy-dessert-spoon-set-of-6

 

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11/18/2017

Simplify the Thanksgiving Celebration

There is something intimidating by the carcass of a turkey with its epic preparation. The sides are another challenge and, god help them, some of your guests may expect marshmallows in their sweet potatoes or gravy made from the gizzards. Keep the bah humbug in the next holiday and focus on what makes the event an annual highlight, simplify Thanksgiving in a relaxed manner with some preparation and less rules.

Using everyday tableware meant one less task from not having to excavate the good china, which is spruced with accents for a more personalized, laid back gathering.

How to Simplify Thanksgiving:
  1. Eschew the customary rigmarole of polishing silver and organizing the wedding china by using what you have. Add personalized details like gilded placemats and decorative food as props.
  2. Consider scale in your tablescape. Cake plates elevate the style of desserts, a pedestal bowl of apples and teacups of dried fruit and candies are both decorative and offer the guests varied options to entice the senses.
  3. Flowers are always a table setting must but rather than choose expected fall arrangements with lots of sunflowers and coffee berries, try something more elegant but seasonal-friendly with orange dipped roses. Three day blooms add to the romance.
  4. Paper napkins are acceptable when they hallmark the season and look less papery when complimented by other notes on the table.
  5. Candlelight does not only have to be illuminated from a candelabra, a simple votive also achieves a comforting look

 

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11/03/2017

Ultimate Guide to a Casual Tea

When you invite someone over for a drink they typically expect, time of day permitting, coffee or something alcoholic. When I invite someone over, time of day not permitting, the drink will be tea. It may not be a martini or trendy elixir I am unaware of but tea is the balm. It is the ultimate drink from its healthful properties, antioxidant rich, and calming taste.

Serve tea, guests will feel relaxed and restored.

Tea comes with customs in every variety–religious, business–and heroines from an Austen novel to the dowager of Downton would break from unworthy suitor woes, prop up the lap dog, to drink a cup of tea. Serve tea and guests will feel pampered and restored without the impending hangover.

A tea gathering in real time.

How to create a casual tea:

If I am having a few guests I will have two pots in motion as well as a sampling of blends so friends have a selection. To show your devotion to the tea ritual without significant effort serve loose leaves. It’s simple and the taste has a hint of freshness over the bagged kind. Loose varieties are available in most tea aisles, typically in attractive tins that have a second life as a change holder.

The fresh quality of loose tea.

Tea wares:

Loose tea can be served with a strainer, filled in bags, infuser or an all in one tea pot, my preference being a glass model for its visual impact and comes with all the excitement of a second grade science experiment. It is similar to a coffeemaker in that you equate a tea spoon to a cup, scoop into the infuser, and add the measured water. Another tea accessory I am partial to is the electric kettle for its ability to produce steaming water quickly with little fuss.

The nibbles:

While tea parties are most commonly associated with crustless finger sandwiches that make white bread acceptable, I prefer real food like edamame, fruit or nuts. Always have something sweet, which relates to the British elevenses–a custom introduced to me by Paddington Bear where the Brits will have an 11:00 a.m. tea with something savory.

Choice of tea bags for the no-fuss approach.

Tablescape:

Compliment your tea and edibles with attractive dishware, teacups and napkins. Flowers and candles always add to your vignette. Add something personal, like a  handmade item.

Necessities: infuser tea pot and kettle.

Resources:

Glass teapot: Enjoying Tea

Electric kettle: Hamilton Beach

Loose tea: Talbott Tea

Printed bowls: Sighouse

Pierre Frey Le Jardin de Mysore napkins: Caspari

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10/27/2017

Ultimate Guide to Healthy Cereals

We know the super foods, typically some form of nut or bright leafy green, but when it comes to an overall efficient meal I’ll fill my bowl with healthy cereal. What is considered a reliable breakfast food helped me through weekend mornings feeding myself when the parents slept in, overcoming bad food in college, and eating on the run in those hectic single city girl days. Now, with motherhood, it’s the go-to option when hunger calls despite the time crunch called family life. Though cereal need not be the loud packaging variety with enough sugar to disintegrate a tooth, it’s a matter of understanding ingredients that may be included on those super food lists such as oats and almonds. Here is our guide to the ultimate healthy cereals with guidance from our trusted nutrition expert Eliza Savage, RD at Middleberg Nutrition in Manhattan.

A healthy breakfast with the added bonus that kids can prepare themselves.

Is Cereal a Healthy Breakfast Option?

Yes, absolutely, you just have to make an educated choice and enforce portion control. What you pair the cereal with is important, especially as many cereals are relatively low in protein. If you can’t have grass-fed, organic milk or plain greek yogurt with your cereal, then I would suggest boosting protein and fat with chia or flax seeds and/or nuts. Fresh fruit can provide added sweetness and additional fiber.

Review the nutritional panel for cereals low in sugar, high in fiber and no artificial coloring.

How to Choose Healthy Cereal Options?

◦ Look for first ingredient to be listed as 100% whole grain, unless you have a specific dietary restriction, like gluten-free.

◦ Low in sugar (under 10g per serving).

◦ Good source of fiber (at least 3g per serving).

◦ Free of artificial colors or dyes (these have been shown to cause hyperactivity in children, and have no nutritional benefit for anyone!)

◦ Look for protein. Many cereals do not have a ton of protein, so you can increase protein with milk or an organic, grass-fed yogurt. See above for other ideas.

◦ Check portion size (should be 1/2 cup or 1 cup). You’ll notice that granola or high-sugar, high-calorie cereal generally has a portion size of 1/3 or 1/4 cup.

Healthful + Nutritious Toppings:

Almonds/nuts, chia seeds, cinnamon, dried fruit/fruit, flax, honey, yogurt.

Healthy toppings that add to the taste and make it a more well rounded meal.

Is gluten a no no?

Gluten is only off limits if someone has an allergy or intolerance. If not, 100% whole grain is a nutritionally sound choice. Unfortunately, gluten-free cereals do tend to have more additives and generally have lower protein and fiber as a result of the rice or wheat-alternatives used.

Do you have to stick to organic offerings or are there mainstream versions that are beneficial?

Choosing organic is best, but not always the “best” nutrition-wise.

 

Best overall cereal?

This is so individual, based on the person and their restrictions. Though I would suggest the following healthy cereal options:

General: Cheerios, Trader Joes O’s, Barbara’s High Fiber Medley, All-Bran, Kashi GoLean, Cascadian Farms Purely O’s, Total, Wheaties, Heart to Heart, Grape Nuts.

Gluten-Free: Jessica’s granola, CheeriosBarbara’s Puffins, Rice Chex, Arrowhead Mills Buckwheat Flakes, Nature’s Path Mesa Sunrise, Purely Elizabeth Hot Cereal, Bob’s gluten free rolled oats.

Resources:

Colored bowls: http://www.boboandboo.com.au/

 

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09/28/2017

Simple Apple Spice Gluten Free Muffins Recipe

There is a return to Eden experience when you visit an apple orchard. On a recent Indian summer weekend we did just that, driving north to a farm, paying $20 for two empty bags, and Luc got in his trick or treating practice by stuffing the bags until the handles began to tear. You are in organic bliss with so many apples to munch on, and they definitely taste better when eaten directly from the tree. We sampled the varieties like some kind of fruit experts, pegged the apples at one another, got lost in the maze of orchards. At home we discovered that we had too many apples with not enough neighbors to gift them too. A good reason to test out recipes.

From tree to table.

We decided on healthy apple spice muffins, a simple recipe that inserts avocado oil over butter, honey and rice syrup versus excessive sugar, and whole wheat gluten free flour instead of white.

Apple Spice Gluten Free Muffins

Yield:

6 jumbo muffins

Time:

Prep: 15 minutes

Bake: 20 -25 minutes

Ingredients:

2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar in the raw

1/2 cup Lindberg rice syrup

1/4 cup honey

2 tablespoons almond milk

1/2 cup avocado oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups diced apples

2 cups all-purpose King Arthur gluten free whole wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon,

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 6 muffin pan.

Beat eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl; add apples.

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon in a separate bowl; add to mixture. Stir batter until completely mixed. Pour batter into muffin tin.

Drizzle each muffin with honey, sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. If toothpick is wet, cover tin and watch for another 5 to 10 minutes as stove temperatures vary. Let cool.

Snacking delight.

Resources:

Table cloth: Linen Me

Bowls: Tuvalu Home

Tea towel: Pomegranate Home

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09/06/2017

How to Grill Lobster and Shellfish

The most difficult thing about grilling shellfish is to not play with the lobsters before you cook them. The technique is as simple as throwing them onto the grill. Our recommendation: buy lobster tails instead of the live crustaceans.

A grilled shellfish dinner packs in a lot of flavor with minimum effort.

Ingredients for 2-3:

4 lobster tails

10 clams

10 mussels

1/2 pound new potatoes

2 ears of corn

Fresh seasonal vegetables

Seasoning such as paprika, dried mustard and pepper

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Quartered lemon to serve

Directions:

  1. Soak the fish for 3-4 hours.
  2. Season with lemon, a  sprinkling of olive oil and your favorite seasoning or make your own with paprika, dry mustard, ginger, salt and pepper.
  3. Warm up grill to 350 degrees.
  4. Drizzle corn and fresh picked vegetables with olive oil, add seasoning and wrap in foil.
  5. Cook all food for five to ten minutes. Once the shells of the mussels and clams open they are ready.
  6. Serve with lemon.

What looks like an involved table setting could not be easier.

Resources:

Plates: Homer Laughlin

Grill: Weber

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06/17/2017

Entertain like a Parisian

After days of taking in mansard roofs and sculptures with missing arms, a repose from the bustle of Paris happened within a sort of private museum. The home of my cousin is a mix of personalized art collections mixed with family life, an apt representation of a people who can pull off skinny suits and dresses with avant garden cuts like no other. This innate style translates to home and entertaining.

A lavish table spread relates to the grandeur of the dining room.

The Setting:

We marvel at the French’s ability to execute simple sophistication–personified in this setting via bundles of flowers set in stubby silver urns, three tiered candelabras, a layering of heavy tablecloths and mix of tableware.

The table is a centerpiece within a dining room that displays collections in every possible nook. Museum-worthy drawings, paintings and important collections take you to a time where guests dressed in wigs and shoe buckles (one of my cousins collections). The walls are painted in regal mint green trimmed with gilded moldings. Above a Juliet balcony leads to a private room. Even the omission of industrial, air conditioned blasts confirm our presence in a Parisian space.

The Meal:

Forget dietary constraints of finicky guests or meals delivered in aluminum trays, there was a selection of foods that encouraged sampling. The variety of small plats relates to the early June season with prosciutto, trays of cheese, cold ham, breads, tapenade and large bowls of cherries, apricots and potato chips–a favorite with the younger guests. A tray of gazpacho and pureed pea served in orange juice glasses was well received. Champagne was the main drink of the evening.

Such an intimate setting united guests and gave insight into the customs of gracious hosts. Gathering over food and drink is always a good idea.

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06/02/2017

Ultimate Boy’s Birthday Party

A styled celebration with games is not exclusive to brides-to-be or expecting moms who have to wear silly hats made from the gift wrapping. You can tastefully host a group of elementary schoolers without depending on a Xbox truck.

Such was the agenda with my son’s seventh birthday. In fact, the main source of entertainment was chests of sporting goods dragged from the shed. Then something miraculous and innovative happened. Luc and his guests created their own games! Yes, that old-fashioned concept where children use their imagination to entertain. While moderation was needed for a few moments where the play became a tad aggressive in homage to Lord of the Flies, overall it was fun and they got their after school ya yas out. What may be most surprising is that they chose to play over breaking for the inviting spread of food, which included sweet options. Playtime trumped eating. My son actually became slightly annoyed when I intruded on their activity to see if he and his guests would like to have the cake.

Assemble a group of boys, add some sporting goods, and healthy play happens. Batteries not needed.

The scheme of the party centers around the season. Luc’s birthday fortunately falls on June 1. Its subtle launch into summer has always revolved around an outdoor/at home party. While organization and cleanup can be a challenge, I mix festive dishware in our color palette with paper plates, napkins, cake topper and straws that share the look.

 

A mix of paper goods with my own pieces, which are both attractive and cuts on cleanup time.

A colorful cake topper can compensate for an imperfect homemade cake.

We have created an annual tradition where Luc picks the kind of cake he wants for us to bake. This year he chose lemon with vanilla frosting and coconut. However, as a working mother, I always have a bakery back up as insurance for a possible cooking catastrophe. I had been scouting the fondant cookies at my local market since Memorial Day and became overly enthusiastic when, on the morning of the party, they had cookies made as hotdogs, lemonade and watermelon. It was meant to be. Every year we serve Luc’s favorites of seasonal watermelon and lemonade drunk from small milk jars.

To accommodate the young guests, and offer something that’s not pulled from a cardboard box, we had hotdogs, corn, fruit and a cold Greek pasta salad simply made with penne, cut tomatoes, onion, cucumber and an Italian vinaigrette.

As the table is being set, the colors of seasonal foods stand out.

Greek pasta made with vegetables, feta cheese and diced herbs from the garden.

Overall the young guests enjoyed themselves and were reacquainted to classic celebrating.

Blowing the candles brings out the best in a birthday boy.

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05/20/2017

Ultimate “Healthy” Ice Cream Social

Ice cream. Forget yoga chants or preaching motivational snippets in the mirror, just say ice cream and you’re instantly grounded, squeezing back into your little kid self where life’s punches could be soothed from one lick of the frosty sweet pleasure. Eating ice cream has the ability to lighten a mood. Experiencing marital discord? Go out for ice cream. The kids are not getting along? Ice cream. Inter-office conflicts? You get it.

Creative flavors abound with natural ingredients you can read from Halo Top.

Though the fine print killjoy of an ice cream obsession includes weight gain, high blood pressure and other health offenders. There is a solution. Taste your way through all natural, low sugar varieties, which is a great option if you are a pint eater like myself.

Phin & Phebes offers innovative flavors with natural ingredients that don’t scrimp on taste.

 

Ice Cream + real ingredients = happy

Ellen McCormick, Phin and Phebes head of business development, enjoys a good bowl of artisnal ice cream in such flavors as Vanilla Cinnamon and Toasted Green Tea churned with real ingredients. Says McCormick, “I generally prefer to eat things made with simple ingredients, and a lot of the so-called ‘healthy’ ice cream out there is loaded with a lot of ingredients I can’t even pronounce. I’d rather eat something that has more calories but is made with simple ingredients than something that’s low calorie and made with ingredients that make me wonder just how healthy it actually is.”

Take this sensual exercise further by hosting an ice cream tasters party where guests can sample their way through assorted flavors and espouse informed notes on their findings. To create your event, simply serve ice cream by the pint, whipped cream, and enough toppings to rival your local ice cream parlor. Pull in those soda fountain details to seal the theme.

Toppings:

Berries
Candy
Chia seeds
Cinnamon
Crushed peppermint
Coffee
Cereal
Chocolate sauce
Coconut
Cookie crumbs
Dried fruit
Flavored seltzer
Fruit
Fudge
Granola
Graham crackers
Gummy bears
Jam
Honey
Marshmallows
Nuts
Nut butter
Pie crumbs
Pretzels
Sprinkles

Resources:

Halo Top ice cream: https://www.halotop.com
Phin and Phebes ice cream: http://phinandphebes.com
Ice cream bowls: https://www.duralexusa.com/tableware/Gigogne-Ice-Cream-Cups-cat28.html
Viva dessert spoons: https://www.frenchbull.com/collections/colorful-scoop-dessert-spoons/products/viva-dessert-spoon-set-of-6
Wooden paddle spoon: https://hardwood-stix.com/popsicle-sticks-craft-sticks/ice-cream-sticks-and-spoons/3.6-wood-taster-spoon
Paper napkins: www.caspari.com
Red cloth tea towel: www.Robertarollerrabbit.com
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04/28/2017

Ultimate Guide to Healthy Kid Snacks

The morning whirl of organizing meals on-the-go can become more of a battle than preparation. You are competing with other activities like inspecting socks or packing a lunch free of snacks so salty they could brine a turkey. Discover ways to alter the snacking slump by considering healthy, packable options that don’t scrimp on nutrition. Call upon those good for you snack sized brands–packaged items with happy fonts, colors and illustrated logos made to look like cartoon characters. They become your support system in the morning jam. Another handy tip that works: prep the night before.

Portrait of a healthy, fuss-free snack bag.

Says Eliza Whetzel, RD, of Middleberg Nutrition, “Always follow nut-free or any guidelines for your child’s school or camp.” Then plan a day of balanced meals where every food is derived from a natural source. Says Savage, “Read the ingredient list! if you can’t read it, don’t eat it! try to keep to foods that are as unprocessed as possible.”

The beauty of fruit, an one ingredient food.

Whetzel offers these suggestions for a healthful, tasty day:

Pair a carb with protein or a healthy fat to promote satiety: protein and fat take longer to digest than carbohydrates, and will help to modulate blood sugar levels. This means no sugar high and then subsequent drop.

Snack sized hummus and crackers pairs carbs with protein.

Portion and frequency control—especially with children. I see kids who are grazing all day long, don’t eat their meals, and the parents can’t figure out what is happening. Create a specific snack time or times (maybe 10am and 3pm) and stick to it.

Healthy snacking is an early life lesson. Fruit will always be a go-to healthy option. Create designated meal times in order to avoid snacking.

Sensible Snack Options:

Apple sauce/fruit smashersCheese/string cheeseCereal/granolaCrackersDried fruit. Energy bars/granola bitesFreeze dried fruit. Fruit. Graham crackers. Guacamole. Hardboiled egg. Hummus. Lean, low-sodium deli meats like turkey and chicken. Low-calorie cookiesLow-fat milkNut butters. Olives. Popcorn. Rice cakes. Pretzels. Veggies and healthy dips like hummus and salsa. Yogurt.

Resources:

Almond butter packs: http://shop.justins.com/Chocolate-Hazelnut-Butter/p/JNB-000490&c=JustinsNutButters

Peanut butter packets: https://www.nuttzo.com

Apple Crisps fruits: https://www.horizon.com/products

Cactus water: http://truenopal.com/

Cookies: https://www.dickandjanebakingco.com

Dried fruit: www.madeinnature.com

Hummus: bluemooseofboulder.com

Granola bites: www.mysuperfoodscompany.com

Granola minis: www.madegoodfoods.com

String cheese: https://www.horizon.com/products

Organic low fat milk: https://www.horizon.com/products

Special K cereal: https://www.kelloggs.com/en_US/brands/special-k-consumer-brand.html#filter-gsaCategory=Crackers&num=12

Rice rusks: www.mummums.com

Rice cakes: https://www.lundberg.com

Yogurt: http://yoyummykids.com/

Glass containers: http://www.shopworldkitchen.com/simply-store-14-pc-set-w–multi-colored-lids/1081886.html#start=27

Lunch bag: http://dabbawallabags.com

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