Oh, Cupcake!

Posted by Stephanie |


There are few things more delicious than rich, buttery, mouthwatering cupcakes. They’re so delectable they’re nearly sinful; after all, the calories alone are enough to throw you off your workout regime for a week or so, and the velvety, buttercream icing is so tasty that it’s hard to resist licking your fingers almost to the bone. For now, we must choose to focus on the latter – so put away your sneakers and get ready for some finger licking good cupcakes.

This particular recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes comes from Magnolia Bakery in New York City, and yes, they’re as good as they look. The recipe for the icing does make quite a bit, so don’t be afraid to be generous… whoever eats your cupcakes will be more than grateful.


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Inspired By: Green Eggs and Ham

Posted by Courtney |


A few weeks ago, my stepdaughter, who had always been in love with books, told me she didn't like books anymore. Anyone even half awake would realize this is just peer pressure, because a child doesn't go from being an avid bookworm to hating all books overnight, but it crushed my book-loving soul anyway and I had to find a way to prove to her that she really did still like books. So, we took her to the library, much to her dismay. Just as I suspected, the moment we entered the door she'd found a book and was so deeply immersed into it that she didn't even hear us when we told her it was time to go. That time, it was easy, but it got me thinking about the inevitability of it happening again, with her or with my son. I'm a pretty laid back Mom, but giving up a love of books is not an option in my house. So, I've thought about how to make sure the kids keep loving the printed word and the best way, I think, is to act them out! And what better way to start this, than with Dr. Seuss' timeless classic, Green Eggs and Ham? Saturday is green eggs and ham day at our house, and here are some fantastic recipes:

- Two green eggs and ham recipes at Seussville.com
- For Mommies and Daddies with pesto and prosciutto: Green Eggs and Parma Ham
- Mouthwatering spinach and ham and parmesan stuffed eggs: Green Eggs and Ham

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Chocolate Bar for Change

Posted by Stephanie |


Well, just in case you were wondering (and I know you were) how change in this world is going to come, I'll tell you right now. It's not how you think: good politicians, fixing the economy, or finding a solution to greenhouse gasses. Nope. It's through chocolate! Yummy milk chocolate to be precise.

Check out the Barack Obama Chocolate Bar for Change. I don't know how it'll change the world, but... it is a chocolate bar, so my hopes are high! On the website provided, you can get three bars for $7.50 US, which is actually a great price, as I paid almost $4.00 US for just one. So, if you want to make a difference, maybe you should go ahead and grab a few bars! While you're in the mood for world changing chocolate, take it an extra step further and try the Climate Change Chocolate.

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The Perfect Poached Pear

Posted by Stephanie |


I love pears, they're gentle yet flavourful, smooth yet gritty, and juicy yet not overpowering. Pears truly are a fruit that is close to perfection.

Poached pears are an ideal dessert for entertaining. They're easy to make, easy on the eyes, and are always impressive. Check out this recipe from Martha Stewart for Poached Pears.

Need the perfect pairing for your poached pears (a bit of a tongue twister, no?)? Serve the same wine as you use in the recipe, it'll ensure that there will be no conflict in flavours.

Have you ever poached pears? What's your favourite use for pears?

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Nice Tomatoes!

Posted by Stephanie |


There are few things I love more than a good tomato. I’m not talking about those under ripe tomatoes that taste oddly like watermelon rind, piled high at the supermarket. I’m talking about perfect, vine ripened, so sumptuous you can hardly stand it tomatoes. The tomatoes that you can just bite into, like an apple, or the smaller varieties you can just pop into your mouth whole.

So what's so great about this juicy little fruit? Where do I start ... tomatoes are very high in a variety of vitamins, are wonderful to cook with, and they’re in season – which means you can go to the farmer’s market and find a wide assortment of fresh, ripe tomatoes. A few tasty choices: Black Zebra tomatoes (they’re a great conversation piece!), Costoluto Genovese tomatoes (my favourite), and Paul Robeson tomatoes (they have an amazing, sweet, luxurious flavour).

So what do you do with tomatoes once you’ve got them? Here are three simple, yet delicious suggestions:

1) Serve a variety of tomatoes on a platter with a few different cheeses, some prosciutto, and an aperitif wine.

2) Make mini Caprese skewers for a crowd. Allow 2 servings for each guest, so if you’re serving ten, you’ll need 20 cherry tomatoes, 20 fresh basil leaves, 20 bocconcini, and 20 toothpicks (or cocktail picks). Thread the tomato first, followed by the basil and the bocconcini. If you want to, drizzle the skewers with a balsamic vinegar reduction.

3) Mini roasted tomato tarts are easy and scrumptious. Roll out some puffed pastry dough until it’s about half an inch thick. Cut into 3 inch squares, brush with beaten egg, top with tomato slices, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, or until puffed up and golden.

What’s your favourite variety of tomatoes? If you’re in the mood for even more foodie goodness, check out Wanderfood Wednesday on Wanderlust and Lipstick!

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5 Tips for the Perfect Cuppa Coffee

Posted by Stephanie |


There's nothing like a good cuppa joe in the morning, whether it's from your favourite coffee shop or right from your very own kitchen. But you've got to admit: the latter is a bit more convenient (and a bit more economical!).

Here are five tips for making the perfect pot of coffee:

Detail view of two coffee cups sitting on a kitchen counter
1. Know your beans: Do you know the difference between a light roast and a dark roast? Most people assume that a dark roast is stronger, and a light roast is, well, lighter. But that's not the case. The type or roast actually just refers to the colour of the bean. Light roasts are higher in caffiene and have a stronger flavour because more of the natural oils remain in the bean. Dark roasts are a bit sweeter in taste and have a smoother flavour.

2. Keep it fresh: Buy your beans whole, store them in a cool, dark place (not in the fridge!) in a sealed container. Freezing beans can be a good option, but if you do, divide the beans up into weekly portions so you don’t end up exposing frozen beans to warm air and then refreezing them.

3. Grind them at home: Coffee will taste its best when the beans are freshly ground. Grind just enough immediately before brewing.

4. Keep it clean: Always wash your coffee machine between brews. Any leftover coffee residue or grounds will leave a dull, rancid flavour, which will then transfer to your fresh brew.

5. Cool it: Use cold, fresh water in your coffee machine. Stagnant, distilled, or soft water will not do.
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I'll Take a Glass of Hibiscus, Please

Posted by Stephanie |


Do you ever add anything to your wine or champagne? Strawberries are a classic addition, but what about preserved flowers?

Not too long ago, I tried a glass of champagne with a Wild Hibiscus Flower in it. Not only did it make the champagne a beautiful colour (you know how I feel about good-looking food and drink – I am oh, so shallow), with soft tendrils of pink flowing from the petals, but it gave the champagne a sweet, delicate, almost berry-like flavour.

A couple of days later, I read an article in the Food Network Magazine about flower-infused beer. I can’t seem to get my hands on any, but I think it may provide an interesting twist. I am a big fan of raspberry-infused beer, and have tried blueberry, spice, and coffee laced brews – but flower-leavened beer is something I’ve yet to experience.

Have you ever added anything to your wine or champagne? Do you prefer to keep it simple, or spice it up? Would you be willing to add flowers to your drink, or would you rather keep them in a vase?

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Salsa-Topped Salmon

Posted by Stephanie |


After all that fresh salsa talk the other day, I had no choice but to whip some up myself. The idea of tomatoes, garlic, onions, and jalapenos mixing up and creating sensational, spicy salsa - and then me eating it - was just too exciting to pass up.

So, lo and behold, I made that salsa. Pico de gallo to be precise. And then I used it to top some salmon and baked it. It was delicious.

What do you do with fresh salsa, aside from eating it with tortilla chips? Have you ever cooked with it?

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Spice it up with Fresh Salsa

Posted by Stephanie |


Salsa: It's delicious, spicy, and the most used condiment in America. It goes with anything and everything, and is easy to make.

What's your favourite use for salsa? Try mixing it in with scrambled eggs, putting it on pizza before cooking it, or throwing a little bit into a green salad (as dressing) with tomatoes. It also is a great addition as a topping on grilled chicken breasts or salmon steaks.

Bowl of salsa

Now for the good stuff... one of the most beautiful things about making your own salsa is that there are no rules; you can simply cater the recipe to your palate preferences. Here are a few different salsa recipes - there's bound to be one that will make your mouth water.

Pico De Gallo
This version is my favourite. It has ingredients that I usually have in the fridge, and offers a nice bite.

5 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 red onion, diced
2 jalapenos, diced
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
Juice of one large lime
Coarse salt, to taste
1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced (optional)
Mix all ingredients, refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Guacamole I've raved about this delicious dip before, and I'll do it again. And, no, I'm not crazy - guacamole is originally an Aztec version of salsa. Need a recipe? Check out my version of guac.

Sweet and Spicy Mango Avocado Salsa
This is a neat variation of salsa - it's just a bit sweet, a bit spicy, and very flavourful. It too makes a great topping for chicken or fish with its tropical twist.

1 avocado, diced
Juice of one large lime
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 red onion, diced
2 jalapenos, diced (seed if you want a less spicy salsa)
Coarse salt, to taste
1 handful fresh cilantro, minced
Mix all ingredients, refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Do you have a favourite salsa recipe?
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Five Fabulous Wines for a Warm Day

Posted by Stephanie |


What better way to celebrate a warm Spring day this weekend than with a glass of fresh, fabulous wine? I'm talking well-balanced, easy to drink, awe-inspiring wines, that are great to drink on their own or with some hors d'oeuvres.

Female Friends Enjoying Themselves

Here are five delicious, affordable options, sure to please your palate:

1. Penley Estate Over the Moon Rosé (Australia): Penley Estate is known for making a well-balanced wine, and with that in mind, they've succeeded with this Rosé. It's clean, crisp, and has a hint of strawberry. Serve cool, on its own or with light canapés (great with salmon, cream cheese, and crab). Priced at approximately $19CAD.

2. Cono Sur Bicycle Viognier (Chile): This wine is delightful - fresh, fruity, and slightly sweet. It has a hint of citrus and tropical fruits, and is very easy to drink (though, is any wine hard to drink?). The beauty of this wine is the fact that you can drink it on its own, or with almost any dish, as it is very versatile. Priced at approximately $12.

3. Marques De Gelida Reserva, Macabeo Xarel-Lo Parellada Chardonnay (Spain): Spain is an underrated wine producer; it's a country with an amazing selection of quality wine, and this bubbly is no exception. It, like the Chilean white above, goes with almost any dish, or on its own, and contains subtle notes of spice and orchard fruits. Priced at approximately $22.

4. Château Des Charmes Late Harvest Riesling (Canada): This dessert wine is the perfect drink to sip on a hot summer day. It's got hints of stone fruits and honey, and has a light sweetness that isn't overbearing. Drink it on its own or with a sampling of fruit and cheese. Priced at approximately $20.

5. Oyster Bay Chardonnay (New Zealand): This wine has floral, citrus, tropical, and honeysuckle notes - a beautiful combination that evokes a freshness that is perfect for the sunny days ahead. It's flavour is so pure that it will pair well with a variety of dishes (fruit, cheese, fish, chicken), or is lovely to drink on its own. Priced at approximately $19.

Do you have a favourite warm weather wine? Not a wine lover? What's your favourite Spring-inspired drink?
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Nice Baguettes!

Posted by Stephanie |


When I think about the village that I used to live in in Southwestern France, I think of the Beauty and the Beast. Not because there was a beast who lived in the chateau on the edge of town (I'm sure whoever lived there was lovely), but because of the village itself. Every morning reminded me of the opening song of the movie, "There goes the baker with his tray like always, the same old bread in rolls to sell..." Everyone just ran around, going about their business, shouting "Bonjour!" to one another and carrying huge baskets of baguettes. It was so stereotypically French, and that's what I adored. Now, in honour of those baguettes, here's a recipe for Classic French Baguettes.

Close-up on baguettes, baker in background

Classic French Baguettes

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp yeast
2 cups warm water

Using a whisk, mix the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Pour the warm water in a large bowl, sprinkle with yeast, and stir to combine. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then add 2 cups of the flour salt mixture. Using a dough hook on an electric mixer, or your hands, mix well until it forms a dough. Cover with a dishcloth, and place in a warm spot for about 3 hours (until tripled in size).

Using a dough hook or your hands, mix in the rest of the flour and salt mixture. Either continue mixing with dough hook or take out of the bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a plastic bag, and place in a warm spot for an hour, or until doubled in size.

Punch down dough, knead briefly. Cut into three portions, form each part into a baguette. Using a very sharp knife, make diagonal scores along the top of each baguette. Place on a baking sheet, let sit for 30 minutes. Place an oven-proof dish of water in the bottom of a cold oven. Place pan with baguettes in the oven, and turn on to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Have you ever gone somewhere that was just like you thought it would be, like me with my French village and its beautiful pâtisserie?

Craving some more foodie reads? Check out Wanderfood Wednesday on Wanderlust and Lipstick!

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Weeknight meals can be tough: you may not have time to go shopping on your way home, or you may have a million things to do in the evening. That doesn't mean you have to sacrifice taste or nutrition. Not to say that this recipe is chock full of nutrients, but it offers a little more than most quick meals. A little added bonus: it also uses ingredients that you'll probably have on hand.

Quick & Spicy Tomato Pasta
Serves 4

1 can diced tomatoes (796ml)
1 handful fresh basil, torn
1/2 tsp crushed chili flakes
3 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 tsp olive oil
Red wine, splash
Salt, to taste
1/2 package Catelli Smart Spaghettini (about 220g)
Parmesan cheese, grated

1) Cook pasta according to package directions, drain.
2) In a medium pot, mix tomatoes, basil, chili flakes, garlic, olive oil, and wine. Cook over medium-high heat, about 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
3) Combine pasta and sauce, serve. Sprinkle parmesan on top.

A wine tip: use the same name in the sauce as you are serving with dinner. It ensures the meal will be well balanced with the wine and there will be no conflicting flavours. A great option is Concejo Bodegas - 2007 Carreduenas; it's very well balanced, oak aged for 6 months, and goes great with spicy dishes.

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Celebrate Mom, Outside!

Posted by Stephanie |


Have you ever noticed that even the simplest foods taste a little bit extra delicious if you happen to be eating them outside? Hot dogs, for example. Who even knows that's in them? They're a questionable "food" at their best, yet when roasted over a fire (or even just grilled on a BBQ!), they taste like heaven. Like they could be sold alongside truffles and foie gras somewhere in the South of France.

Food Items Next to Picnic Basket

So this weekend, while you're taking some time to celebrate your mom, your grandmother, or whoever it is that you may be celebrating, why not make her something delicious and eat outside. If a hot dog can taste that good, just imagine what an afternoon tea with Mini White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes and Smoked Salmon and Caper Cream Cheese Sandwiches will do?

If you're serving light dishes like the ones listed above, grab a sparkling wine as an accompaniment. Give this Trapiche Extra Brut Rose a shot. It's light, fresh, well balanced, and goes well on its own - so if you're not planning a meal, you'd be fine to just sit with a glass of wine and something simple like a bowl of strawberries.

What do you plan on doing for your mom this weekend? Any special meals or desserts in mind? Let me know!

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Must Follow: @kitchenmonki

Posted by Courtney |


Kitchen Monki is a cool way to answer Stephanie's question from a couple of days ago: How do you organize your recipes? The site is not just a recipe organization tool, but also a place to share your recipes with your friends as well as generate grocery lists from your recipes. It compares it's organization to iTunes, except for recipes, and compares its news feed to Facebook, so you can keep up on what your friends are cooking and eating. You can also expand your friend network by introducing yourself to friends of friends.

The Twitter stream for this awesome site is filled with great recipes and links to must-read articles about all things food. And for some reason, it leaves you craving bananas. Go follow @kitchenmonki

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CookThing: How to Cook Anything

Posted by Courtney |


CookThing is like a recipe search engine with a few enhancements. First, you enter a general dish you might like to make, then you enter the ingredients you have on hand and it will spit out a list of recipes that you can make with those ingredients. This is such a lifesaver when you've drawn a blank in the kitchen. You know those days when you stand there, staring aimlessly into the refrigerator and you have no idea what to make for dinner and you sure as heck don't want to go grocery shopping? Most ingredient lists return a ton of recipes, some you'd never expect to find.

Bookmark this tool. Trust me. Go check it out: CookThing and be sure to follow them on Twitter: @CookThing

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Celebrate Cinco de Mayo!

Posted by Stephanie |


Today is Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May), and it's a day that celebrates the Mexican Army's victory over the French at the battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862. In Mexico, it's one of their largest national holidays; in much of the rest of the world, it's an excuse to eat, drink, and party. So today, celebrate Cinco de Mayo with some of Mexico's tastiest food. In a hurry? This Arroz Rojo (Red Rice) and Shrimp Scampi is a quick and tasty option. Not in the mood for rice? Check out this recipe for Enchiladas.

Arroz Rojo and Shrimp Scampi
Serves 4

2 cups quick cooking brown rice
1/2 white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 tbsp oil
2 cups diced tomatoes (with juice)
1/4 cup white wine (something fresh, such as Pinot Grigio)
1 jalapeno, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste

In small pan, cook onion and garlic in oil over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add rice, cook until rice is golden, about 5 minutes. In a shallow, large pot, heat tomatoes and juice until boiling. Add rice mixture, white wine, jalapeno, and salt and pepper - cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. While shrimp is cooking, cook rice over low-medium heat, uncovered.

1 lb peeled and de-veined large shrimp, tails on
2 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
2 tbsp oil (I prefer grape seed)
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, toss shrimp with garlic and oil. Place in a preheated oven set on broil, on the top rack. Cook for about 10 minutes, until pink and opaque, and remove from oven. Toss with lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Once shrimp is done, chop 1 handful fresh parsley. Toss 1/2 with the rice, and the other 1/2 with the shrimp. Serve immediately.

Not sure what to drink on this lovely holiday? Mexican beer of course! Sol and Corona are good choices, but depending on where you live, there may be plenty of other ones to choose from. If you're up to it, why not make a margarita?

Lime Margarita
Serves 1

Lime wedge
1 1/2 ounces lime juice
2 1/2 ounces white tequila
1 ounce Cointreau

Rim glass with salt. Mix lime juice, tequila, and Cointreau, shake (or stir - depends on how Bond-esque you're feeling) with ice. Pour into glass (with ice), garnish with lime wedge.

Wand some more foodie favourites? Check out Wanderfood Wednesday on Wanderlust and Lipstick! ¡salud!

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Delicious and Organized

Posted by Stephanie |


How do you organize your recipes? Sure, we all have cookbooks and view recipes online; but we all also clip them out of magazines, scribble them on scrap paper, and snip them off of product packaging.

Some of you may use recipe boxes, or even just folders or envelopes, but there are always cool new products coming out to make our lives just a little easier and tidier – and boy, do I have a couple cool products for you!

man cooking in the kitchen
The Recipe Nest, by Recipe Relish, is a neat little box with a clip on the outside (so you can have easy access to your recipe while you’re using it), and an organizing storage area on the inside. It comes with 12 labels, six dividers, and two bookmarks, making it really easy for you to find your favourite recipes. Have too many recipes, or yearn to be meticulously organized? You can buy extra sets of dividers as well as recipe sleeves (to keep your recipes free from sticky splashes)! The Recipe Nest typically goes for $35 to $40 (CAD), with additional tabs and dividers costing between $6 and $13.

I currently use the Umbra Portochef Recipe Album, and find that it does the trick, although some additional organizing tools (such as marked tabs, divided sleeves for small recipe cards) would be helpful. It’s a bit more subtle looking than the Recipe Nest, however, and is sleek enough to keep on the kitchen counter. This album sells for about $30.

How do you keep your recipes organized? Is it important to you to keep them in order, or do you prefer organized chaos?

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My son is not even two yet and one of the most important things to me in being a good Mom is to promote healthy eating. Now, we all know why feeding your kids entirely processed foods is bad, but I also believe it's harmful to restrict a child's diet to foods that only have extremely high nutritional value. Why? Because one day, that baby of yours, is going to grow up, make his or her own decisions, and taste a cheeseburger. And it's going to be the most glorious thing he or she ever tasted. And that, my friends, could lead to trouble.

I believe it is best to expose my son to everything, but keep the processed foods to a minimum. But, as I'm sure all you Mommies and Daddies know, it's not always easy to get your kids to eat the non-processed foods.

Here's the one, inescapable truth that always helps me make the right decisions when feeding my baby: no child, no matter how determined to have his or her way, is going to starve themselves. None. Eventually, after they've staged a long enough hunger strike because you didn't get them chicken nuggets, their growly bellies will get the better of them and they'll come and gobble whatever it is you're offering.

BUT, there are some ways to raise the likelihood of them enjoying healthy, whole foods. Getting your children involved in the preparation will make them feel a pride in accomplishment and encourage them to want to eat what they made with their very own hands. And you can start early, too, check out my son just the other day:

 Here are 6 ways to include your son or daughter in the meal making:

1. Pizza : I've talked about this one before. Make your own dough, preferably whole wheat, and then slice some veggies in every color of the rainbow. Encourage them to draw a picture using the veggies on the pie, and praise the most colorful ones. You'll be surprised what your kids consume after they've done this. We're talking mushrooms, green, yellow, orange, red peppers, red onions, spinach, arugula, tomatoes. Choose some more nutritious cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano, Ricotta, and cottage cheese. And always lots of homemade pizza sauce!

2. Sandwiches: Set up a sandwich bar like you would see at Subway and let the kids build their own sandwiches. Stay away from the processed meats and cheeses and focus on leftover grilled chicken from last night's dinner or perhaps some tuna. Choose a huge assortment of veggies, like cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts, lettuce, peppers, onions, avocado, etc. Make it a contest to see who can build the highest sandwich and still be able to take a bite. Winner doesn't have to help clean up!

3. Pasta: get yourself a pasta machine. One of those hand cranked ones for $15 at your local kitchen supply store. Make pasta dough, which is, next to toast, about the easiest thing you can make. Here's some tips. Then get your kids to crank out some pasta. I find the most successful are ravioli, because once the little arms get tired from turning the pasta maker handle, you can get them stuffing their own raviolis. This is the absolute best way to sneak a ton of spinach into your kids' diet. They won't turn their nose up at something they made.

4. Kebabs: Fire up the grill and get your kids skewering their own kebabs. Set out bowls of only nutritional, colorful stuff, and again, praise the most colorful. Maybe even encourage your kids to order their skewers like the colors of the rainbow, or your favorite sports team colors. Offer them several different homemade sauces to baste with and let them choose.

5. Salad Wraps: Get some good strong romaine lettuce, and give each of your kids a leaf big enough to fill and fold closed. Set out dishes of all kinds of raw veggies and let them fill the lettuce, add dressing, fold up and watch them eat them like they're tacos. Stay away from tortillas, unless you made it yourself.

6. Sorbet sundaes! Make your own sorbet, either with an ice cream maker or just freeze fruit juice and scrape it up. Here's a recipe. Make as many different flavors as you can, preferably with different colors, then let your kids put together their own sundae. Offer fresh fruit as toppings.

One last tip I can give you as well, is to ask your kids to taste what you're making while you make it, as though you need their opinion. "Do you think this needs more salt?" , "I'm not sure if this is tomato-y enough, what do you think?". This way, you get them tasting things under the guise that you need their opinion, and not just because you want them to taste it. If they say it needs more salt, add some (or pretend if it has enough already), then agree with them "yeah, you're right, that's way better! Taste now!" and they'll inevitably agree with you because they don't want to be wrong. Then, they've already admitted that they like it before you've even put the dish in front of them. Plus, they've had a hand in making it, and there will not likely be any refusals to eat at the dinner table.

Good luck, and remember, no matter how hard it gets, aside from giving them love, a healthy respect for food is probably the most valuable thing you can give them. And who knows, maybe one day they'll be cooking salmon 5 ways against Bobby Flay in Kitchen Stadium.

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Inspired By: Alice in Wonderland

Posted by Courtney |


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is one of my favorite books and whether I'm reading it, watching the classic Disney take on it, or waiting to see Johnny Depp play the Mad Hatter, it always leaves me with a taste for tea.

What a lot of you may not know about me is that I am a tea snob. I'm also a bit of a coffee snob as well, but we'll save that for another time. Tea is an amazing drink, it is full of cancer-preventing antioxidants, it has detoxifying qualities, it can help in the fight against obesity and costs, next to water, less to drink than anything else on Earth. Tea is also perhaps the most misunderstood beverage in the world. Here are a few extremely common tea misconceptions:

1. Tea is a drink made from steeping the leaves of a tea plant. Therefore, chamomile is not tea. Peppermint is not tea. Rooibos is not tea. Tea comes from the tea plant or Camellia Sinensis . What “herbal teas” really are, are dried herbs steeped in hot water, which is known as an infusion or tisane.

2. Orange Pekoe is not a flavour of tea. Ever notice when you buy some, it never tastes like oranges? Why? Because it’s a cut of the leaf or a grade of tea (which is based on the size of the leaf). It generally refers to your basic, every day, medium quality black tea. This tea can be just plain black tea or it can be flavoured in many different ways, with or without orange.

3. Earl Grey is also not a type of tea. What it refers to is the fact that the tea leaves have been infused with oil of bergamot. It can be green tea or black tea, high quality or low, so long as it has the citrusy fragrance and flavor of bergamot.

4. Tea bags generally contain the swept up dust leftover from the high quality loose leaf tea the tea companies sell at a higher price. They most likely include a high concentration of what-have-you fallen off the boots of tea workers. YUM!

5. Even the highest quality teas are not expensive. At $250 per pound for white tea, you have to take into consideration the fact that it takes a lot of white tea to make up a pound. When you break it down to cost per cup, tea is cheaper than coffee, bottled water and soda. The only thing cheaper than tea is tap water.

There are 4 different kinds of tea:

1. Black tea: this is usually grown in India and parts of China and includes Darjeeling, Assam, Ceylon and others. This tea is called black because the longer oxidization process actually turns the leaves black.

2. Green Tea: It is the same leaf, from the same plant as black tea, just oxidized for less time so the leaves remain green. These include Gamaicha, Gunpowder, Sencha, Hyson and more. They are slightly more nutritious to drink than black teas, and contain a naturally lower level of caffeine and slightly higher in tannins, which can cause a bitterness. This is why high quality green teas are steeped cooler than boiling, so it releases less tannins.

3. White Tea - legend has it, white tea was reserved for only Chinese royalty back in the day, and was picked at dawn by virgins in white gloves. White tea is minimally oxidized, and remains a silvery white color. It is an extraordinary delicate taste and is probably the absolute best beverage you could put in your system It has the highest concentration of antioxidants and detoxification qualities. For those of you with a delicate pallet, this could challenge it. It's a beautiful, delicate, cure-all that is an absolute joy to both brew and drink.

4. Oolong - Oolong is kind of halfway between black tea and green tea. It is mostly grown in Taiwan and parts of China at high elevations. It has a nutty flavor and a golden brew, and is my favorite tea, especially with a little bit of jasmine flavor infused into it.

So there you have it. Tea inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

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Guess What?

Posted by Stephanie |


We've got another mystery on our hands, can you guess what it is? Here are your clues: it's edible, could be painful to handle, has yellow or red flesh, may be as large as your head, and its taste is sometimes described like that of a "gym sock."

Have you guessed it yet? It's a durian, and if you've ever tried it, you either adore it or are repulsed by it. They're native to some parts of Southeast Asia, but have been making an appearance throughout the world for quite some time now with their creamy flesh and a taste that is truly indescribable.

So, what the heck do you do with this indescribable fruit? You can eat it raw (the flesh, of course, but be sure to dispose of the husk!), or cook it in a variety of Southeast Asian dishes and desserts. Check out the following recipes: Durian Ice Cream, Durian Cream Puffs, and Burmese Durian Cake.

They're a seasonal fruit, so keep your eye out for them beginning next month. Just watch where you eat it - the smell of them carries quite far, and may not be appreciated. In some areas of Southeast Asia, there are actually several places where durian are not permitted.

Have you ever tried durian? If so, did you enjoy it? If you haven't tried it, would you?

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It's no "Cheers"

Posted by Stephanie |


So much for wanting to go to a place "where everybody knows your name." Instead, head to Las Vegas and try out Dick's Last Resort, located in the Excalibur hotel, where everybody treats you like garbage. Don't worry, it's their job!

The line is long to get in, and you might be surprised why. It's not the food people wait for, it's the staff. They make fun of you, physically and emotionally abuse you, and make a fool out of you in front of all the other restaurant-goers. But, like I said, it's their job.

If you're lucky, they'll make you a paper hat and write something horrible about you on it for all the world to see.

So what does one eat while being abused by said staff? The menu is quite small, but there's bound to be something for everyone. I tried to be relatively healthy (while maintaining my composure) with a Taco Salad. It was delicious!

So, now that you know about this Last Resort, would you be interested in going to a restaurant with okay food, while being tirelessly made fun of?

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