And the winner is...
Conduct your own cookie or cupcake decorating contest.
Here’s a creative, easy and yummy activity that everyone will be talking about. All you need to do is gather some goodies (icing, food coloring, sprinkles and jelly beans), buy or make cookie dough or cupcakes, and invite some “chefs” to share in the fun. Chef hats are always fun props and this cookie recipe
and this cupcake recipe
will ensure your masterpieces are as tasty as they look.
Set a date
Make it an eagerly awaited rainy-day activity for the kids, an annual family affair (possibly during Easter) or a night of baking fun with your girlfriends.
Here comes the judge
Then decide who will do the all-important judging. Will it be you, a friend or family member? Tech-savvy participants may also want to gather votes by posting the finished products on Facebook or have an out-of-town relative judge via Skype
Ready, set, frost!
Did you know Ziploc® Brand Sandwich Bags
make perfect piping bags? Just place icing or frosting in a Ziploc® Brand bag, squeeze out the air, seal and cut a tiny hole in the corner. This will give each participant control over the frosting and make everyone feel like a real chef! Check YouTube
to see how it’s done.
Create the categories
While the cooks are busy in the kitchen, determine your categories. Will there be first, second and third-place winners, or do you want everyone to be recognized? If it’s the latter, be creative with the awards. Possible winners could include neatest chef, best overall design, most colorful, most creative and best tasting.
The envelope please . . .
When everyone is finished, get the crew to clean up and prepare the treats for judging. Announce the winners and allow everyone to devour their creations. If there are leftovers, use the extra Ziploc bags to create goodie bags for guests as they leave.
Cook ahead for a night off
Make and freeze meals ahead of time and treat yourself to a night off.
Stockpiling a few meals in your freezer isn’t just a good idea for busy days; it's also an opportunity to take an occasional night off from kitchen duty. "Saucy dishes like stews
and braises are best for freezer meals," says Chef Mark Tafoya of ReMARKable Palate Personal Chef Service
When choosing a container to freeze in, "anything that can get a really good seal" will work, says Tafoya. Try Ziploc® Brand Twist 'n Loc® Containers
. They come in two sizes to fit the amount of food you're freezing. Just make sure the food is completely cool before covering and freezing. Food safety experts recommend you don't leave food out on the counter longer than two hours.
When you're ready, simply defrost and reheat the meal in the microwave after removing the lid. With dinner on the table in a matter of minutes, you're free to take the evening for yourself–like going to that yoga class you've been wanting to check out.
Tips for perfect turkey gravy
Follow these quick-fix guidelines—and the rest is gravy.
Gravy requires just four ingredients: pan drippings, poultry stock, flour and seasoning. So why is it so tricky to get right? Fortunately, for every common gravy problem, there’s an easy solution.
Lumps? You can usually avoid them by stirring flour with stock or water before adding to the drippings. If not, you can try using a stick blender or hand mixer to break up the lumps, or pour gravy through a strainer and break them up with a wooden spoon.
Too thick? Whisk in more stock. Too thin? Add one tablespoon of flour or cornstarch into a little stock and whisk, continuing until you achieve the desired thickness.
Too salty or fatty? Simply add more stock and re-adjust the thickness (see above). If you have time, you can chill, skim off the fat and then reheat.
After the big meal, refrigerate leftover gravy in Ziploc® Brand Twist 'n Loc® Containers
—to use later on delicious turkey sandwiches!
More to Mash
Tired of roasting, grilling and steaming?
“Mashing is just another form that reveals the vegetables,” says Marlena Spieler, author of Yummy Potatoes: 65 Downright Delicious Recipes
. “It’s the same vegetable but delivers the flavor differently.”
Spieler uses basil in a summery variation on mashed potatoes. Using a blender or food processor, puree basil with cream or milk, and pour over hot mashed potatoes. Once stirred, the mixture becomes brilliantly green and fragrant.
Shred zucchini and sauté with butter until it becomes creamy and soft. Spieler also steams zucchini in big chunks and mashes it with a clove of garlic and a few spoonfuls of olive oil, pesto (try our watercress pesto
) and cheese added at the last minute.
Most vegetables—carrots, fava beans, eggplant, turnips—can be cooked simply—mashed and seasoned with cumin, salt and pepper. Or steam twice the amount using Ziploc® Brand Zip’n Steam® Microwave Cooking Bags
and save half to mash for another night.
Serve with meats, lettuce leaves, pita or, as Spieler suggests, a spoon.
shop your farmer’s market like a pro
Shopping a farmer’s market can be a fun, productive event for the entire family, but it pays to have a plan of attack. So we turned to chef David Dworshak, of Chicago’s Carnivale
to help us create a collection of 8 insider tips. Below is a compilation of his ideas and our own research to create the ultimate farmer's market shopping strategy.
Give the market a once-over.
Don’t buy the first bunch of asparagus you see, Dworshak warns. Walk the entire market first before plunking down any cash.
Be a bag lady.
Bring a cloth bag to hold all your goodies and use Ziploc® Brand Fresh Produce Bags
to separate fruits and veggies. Then there’s no need to unpack because the bags can go straight inside the fridge.
Fill your wallet with more than enough money because most markets don’t take credit.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
Ask farmers about their farms and produce as well as for their favorite recipes or cooking tips.
Buy more than you need, but don’t go overboard.
Dworshak recommends freezing in-season produce or making jams, purees or preserves to enjoy year-round, but be realistic about the time involved. We suggest using Ziploc® Brand Containers with the Smart Snap® Seal
are great to store purees and preserves because they can go from freezer or fridge to microwave and dishwasher.
Ask before you sample.
That fruit looks good enough to taste but make sure to ask before you sample.
Come early or late.
The early bird catches the worm in terms of the best produce, Dworshak notes. Or, arrive late for the best deals.
Make friends with the farmers.
Build a rapport with farmers and they may save you the best produce (even if you arrive late).
10 foods that pack a punch
Try sampling all 10 for a month—you might be surprised how much you'll enjoy them.
"The power of certain foods can make a significant difference in your risk of developing a host of diseases," writes nutrition & health lifestyle specialist Steven G. Pratt, M.D., in his book SuperFoods Rx
. Here are 10 of our favorites from his list and just a few of the many reasons you should add them to your regular rotation.
Delicious, versatile and one of the most nutrient-dense fruits.
Try mixing some in your salads for added protein and fiber.
A freezer-friendly snack with super-sized antioxidant power.
With its potent antioxidant properties, it's okay to treat yourself—in moderation.
A thousand-year-old remedy and natural sweetener. Opt for darker colored varieties, which offer a higher mineral content.
Live active cultures in some yogurt can help improve gastrointestinal health to help you properly digest the nutrients in your foods.
Mix pumpkin puree into your oatmeal for an added boost to an already nutrient-packed breakfast.
Calorie for calorie, this leafy green offers more nutrients than any other food.
A great snacking alternative—full of fiber, healthy fatty acids and minerals.
A quick and easy dinner option, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Fun and easy frosting
Decorating your holiday treats—with a Ziploc®
Getting ready to frost your holiday treats? Chef Jennifer Iserloh
suggests cutting some corners—off some Ziploc® Brand Storage Bags
, that is.
“In my family,” she says, “everyone likes different flavors, so I make one general cream-cheese base, divide it among several bags, and then add in individual flavorings like chocolate (unsweetened cocoa powder), amaretto (almond extract) and orange (from the zest).”
The secret, she says, is the size of the hole: very small for dots, a little bigger for squiggles and a tad larger for petals. For a more professional look, place your pastry tip inside a corner of the bag and push through to make the hole.
Besides icing cookies, cakes and cupcakes, Jennifer loves to use Ziploc® Brand Storage Bags
to fill cream puffs. Just warm the puff up, poke a hole in it with a paring knife and squeeze in something scrumptious, like our very own Lavender Whip
Plan a potluck barbecue
Entertaining is a breeze when everyone pitches in.
When hosting a summer party, member Janice W. of New Whiteland, IN, buys burgers and hot dogs in bulk and asks guests to bring side dishes and beverages.
"It's a fun get-together and no one has to spend a lot of money or time," says Janice.
Similarly, friends in one Atlanta neighborhood get together monthly for bring-your-own grill parties. Guests bring a dish to share, plus beverages and meat for grilling.
To host your own potluck barbecue, buy grilling favorites at a warehouse grocery store or at your local market when they have a sale. To avoid duplication, talk to your guests about what they're bringing–and consider giving assignments for specific courses.
Then, before guests arrive, clean the grill
and set out OFF!® FamilyCare Insect Repellent I Smooth & Dry
. Unlike ordinary repellents, this has a unique powder dry formula that dries on contact, leaving your skin feeling smooth and dry.
Make Your Own Lemonade Bar
The next time your kids clamor for a lemonade stand or you want to throw a party for both children and adults, consider this interesting, affordable option—an interactive lemonade bar! We checked in with author and expert party planner Debi Lilly, owner of A Perfect Event
in Chicago, who relayed how it’s done:
A refreshing trio
Serve three different lemonades. Choose between your traditional lemonade (using frozen concentrate is just fine), a fruit-infused lemonade (made with raspberry or pomegranate juice, puree or fruit to taste), a sparkling lemonade (using sparkling water instead of tap water) or frozen lemonade. Here's a refreshing recipe for frozen strawberry lemonade
to get you started.
For a delicious, sophisticated twist, place fresh herbs such as rosemary or mint on the side and offer bowls full of strawberries, raspberries or blackberries that guests can pop in their glass or muddle at the bottom. As a time saver, store your berries in Ziploc® VersaGlass™ Containers
before the party, then pop open the lid to serve at party time.
A conversation starter
Not only is creating a lemonade bar easy on the hostess (it’s self-serve for both adults and children), but it’s a great icebreaker for guests, providing them an opportunity to chat, relax and get to know one another. Lilly recommends stationing the bar near the party entrance to provide an easy gathering point. And if you’re looking to serve cocktails, consider including a bottle of vodka for adults to mix. Just keep it out of kids’ reach.
Get the party started!
For extra impact, pre-pour some glasses with lemonade, adding fruit and a sprig of mint. Then guests will understand how to use the lemonade bar, and you’ve created a beautiful and enticing tabletop at the same time.
“It’s a gorgeous, jaw-dropping focal point as guests arrive—making a dramatic first impression,” said Lilly, whose DIY entertaining book, also called A Perfect Event, contains more details and recipes.
Eggs: a little snack with big benefits
Keep hard-cooked eggs on hand for a satisfying, nutrition rich nosh.
Inexpensive, tasty, conveniently packaged, and chock full of protein, nutrients and vitamins—who could ask for anything more in a snack?
To get your hard-cooked (or hard-boiled) eggs right every time, put them in an uncovered saucepan, add enough cold water to cover them by about an inch and bring water to a boil over high heat. Once the water reaches its boiling point, immediately remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Run under cold water, crack, peel and eat immediately—or refrigerate for up to a week.
Enjoy them as an on-the-go snack by putting a peeled egg in a Ziploc® Brand Snack Bag
a sprinkling of salt and pepper or dried herbs. They're also great crumbled over salad, chopped for a sandwich filling
or made into deviled eggs
So when you have them on hand, you're not only lining up a healthy go-to snack for the week, you're also ready to host last-minute company or throw together quick lunches.
The Buzz on Honey
Some new ideas for a classic sweetener.
"I try to use honey in place of sugar; it adds body, is complex, and it isn't as sweet as adding sugar to a dish," says Chef Ryan Scott
Of course, honey is the perfect accompaniment to simple fruit dishes
and peanut butter sandwiches, but why stop there? Try mixing a glaze of equal parts honey and soy sauce to brush on meat. Combine honey with butter to spread on toast. For dessert, serve toasted nuts and honey alongside cheese or spooned over yogurt.
Scott suggests fresh ricotta, or any spreadable cheese for that matter, on raisin bread, and topped with honey and sliced fruit. He also recommends using bee honeycomb (look for it at your local farmer's market). In thin slivers, he notes, it makes a tasty garnish for chilled cucumber soup and many cheeses.
Honey is sticky, so keep Windex® Multi-Surface Antibacterial
on hand. It cuts through messes and leaves a clean shine behind.
Iron skillet revival
An inexpensive and durable choice for your kitchen.
The trusty cast-iron skillet—probably a staple in your grandma’s kitchen—is
reclaiming its place on the stovetop. A good one has a slick surface so you don’t need to add oil (or the added fat and calories from oil) to get a nonstick surface. Just make sure it’s properly “seasoned” before you use it for the first time—a simple process of applying a vegetable-oil coating to a clean, dry skillet and baking it for an hour or so in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F. (Handle with care; skillet will be hot.) Some companies even give you a jump-start by offering preseasoned cookware.
Cooking in cast iron can actually increase the iron content in your food. For example, eggs scrambled in a cast-iron skillet can have up to three times as much iron as raw eggs.
Plus it’s the champ when it comes to conducting and holding heat evenly at any temperature, making cast-iron skillets a chef’s favorite.
“I can get the iron skillet extremely hot and have a no-stick surface,” said Paul Wooten, executive chef of Atlanta’s Southern fusion restaurant, Sweet Lowdown. “It’s perfect when I need a good, clean sear on a fish fillet or chicken breast.”
And for a surprisingly low price, this cookware is a must-have because it can last for generations. Just ask your grandma.
Mom’s tricks for treats
The kids are gloating over their candy stash. Now what do you do with the candy?
"We try not to let Griffin have any sugar,” says Katherine, a Connecticut mom, of her two-year-old. “It just makes him wild.” So she and other savvy parents are opting to minimize sugar consumption and going for new, healthier Halloween rituals—and you can, too.
After the kids return from trick-or-treating, set aside some favorite treats (to be doled out one per day), and donate the rest to an after-school or community center, children’s shelter or senior home, where they will be shared—and appreciated—by large numbers of people. In trade for the candy, offer a day at a favorite nearby theme park, a special dinner out or a movie, even a contribution toward a family trip or special purchase (a bike, tickets to a football game).
More good ideas: store some candy in the pantry in a glass jar or Ziploc® Brand Storage Bag
to use later as toppings on ice cream sundaes or to mix in the batter when baking cookies. Or save lollipops to decorate holiday and birthday gifts (insert one or two in the ribbon bow).
Tweet your dinner
Look to your online friends for new mealtime recipes and ideas.
A growing number of home cooks are posting their dinner plans right from their kitchens, inspiring online friends with their culinary hits, tips and recipes.
Lynn Z. of Atlanta, GA, started posting her weekly dinner menus on her blog as a way to get organized for her weekly grocery trip, and soon a group of friends and followers followed suit. "Now we'll pass along recipes that sound good, and we'll also share those disaster recipes so nobody makes that mistake again," says Lynn.
To team up with your own circle of online friends, try starting a free blog, Facebook Group or Twitter account—it’s easy! Then send the web address to your friends and start sharing. Getting a glimpse of what's on other people's dinner tables might help you find some new family favorites. And maybe you’ll even be tempted to tweet midmeal if dinner's a success (if texting's allowed at the table, of course!).
Improve your knife skills
You'll save time and money in the kitchen if you learn to properly use your cutlery.
The key to developing good knife skills, says Peter Hertzmann, author of Knife Skills Illustrated: A User's Manual
, lies in learning how to hold the knife, how to hold the food and how to move the knife.
"Hold the knife by pinching the blade between your thumb and forefinger, close to the handle, with the rest of your fingers loosely gripping the handle," says Hertzmann. "Then hold the food so that your finger makes contact with the side of the blade, and cut with a smooth, back and forth motion with the knife." See this technique in action
With practice, you'll find you can work faster in the kitchen. And soon, instead of buying more expensive precut vegetables or chicken, you can save money by doing the chopping and cutting yourself.
To further brush up on your knife skills, check for classes at your local kitchen store or culinary school.
Make your water even cooler
Why settle for ordinary taste or artificial flavors when you can simply make your water extraordinary?
Make your day a little more refreshing by sprucing up something as simple as your water. For a taste that’s surprisingly unexpected, add a few fresh mint or basil leaves (tear leaves in half to release their flavor), or take a tip from day spas and add sliced cucumber.
Orange and grapefruit slices are a little different. Adding a few drops of natural-flavor extracts—peppermint, vanilla or raspberry—is another option.
Looking for something a little different? A celery stalk, melon chunk, vanilla bean or sliver of fresh ginger can also give your H2O a kick. You can even keep your flavor cool by dropping a raspberry or squeezing some lime into each compartment of an ice cube tray before freezing the water.
To make sure your flavors are accessible and fresh refrigerate herb sprigs or fruit slices in Ziploc® Brand Sandwich Bags
, ready to drop into your glass or pitcher whenever you’re thirsty.
Plant a row for the hungry
Share your garden bounty with those in need.
If family and neighbors have politely declined yet another bushel of your zucchini overflow, share it with a local food agency instead. Your prized vegetables will be welcomed gladly, and you'll feel good about helping someone in need. Plant a Row for the Hungry
, a public-service campaign of the Garden Writers Association, encourages gardeners to donate their extra produce to food pantries, soup kitchens and other agencies that help the hungry. The organization has tracked more than 14 million pounds of herbs and vegetables donated since 1995.
"More often than not, gardeners have more vegetables than they can use," says Carol Ledbetter, program administrator for Plant a Row. "The more individual gardeners donate, the better it is for people in their community. Hunger statistics in any given community are often greater than anyone envisions."
To learn more about how you can help, contact Plant a Row for the Hungry
Take a closer look in the produce aisle
New produce offerings in your market mean new ways to boost nutrition and flavor in your meals.
Here are a few good ones to try. Or talk to your store’s produce manager for more ideas.
Broccoli Rabe. This leafy green with broccoli-like florets is rich in vitamins A, C and K, as well as potassium, calcium and iron. Sauté with garlic and olive oil and eat alone or add to pasta.
Bok Choy. A Chinese cabbage variety that's sweet, crunchy and high in vitamins A and C, beta carotene and calcium. Great steamed, stir-fried or added to soups.
Pomegranate. Sweet, delicious and chock full of vitamins and antioxidants. Cut into quarters, scoop out the juicy seed clusters and enjoy alone or sprinkle over salads or ice cream.
Tomatillo. The tart tomatillo, an excellent source of vitamin C, looks like a small green tomato. Raw or grilled, it’s perfect for salsas.
Jicama. This sweet, crispy tuber is great for dieters because it's low in calories and a good source of potassium, fiber and vitamin C. Cut raw sticks for dipping (as you would a carrot), or cut into smaller strips for salads and stir-fries.
Waste not with a leftover ingredients list
Plan ahead to put leftover perishables to use.
When a recipe calls for only a few tablespoons of buttermilk or half a bunch of basil, the rest often ends up in the trash. It's an expensive, wasteful cycle, but it can be easily prevented with a little planning.
To start planning ahead, think back to those leftover ingredients that spoiled before you could use them; then add them to your leftover ingredients list.
Scour your cookbooks and bookmarked recipes for dishes that will use these remainders. Note these recipes under each ingredient on your list; the next time you have it left over, you'll know how to put it to good use. As you try new dishes and discover new leftovers, you can continue to add to the list.
Store leftovers in Ziploc® Brand Storage Bags with the Smart Zip™ Seal
to keep them fresh until you're ready to use them.
Post the list inside your pantry, and the next time life leaves you with extra buttermilk, you'll be ready to make delicious salad dressing
Keep a culinary journal
If meal planning finds you sifting through a heap of torn-out magazine pages and recipes you’ve jotted down, it’s time to start a culinary journal.
Like a cookbook made just for you, a culinary journal can be a handy place to collect new and favorite recipes, as well as a diary to keep track of meals you’ve enjoyed over the years.
To make yours, choose a pretty notebook and fill it with delicious-sounding recipes culled from magazines or downloaded from the web
. Use tape or glue to secure the recipes, making sure to leave space for notes about the finished dish. Organize your recipes chronologically or by course, whichever works best for you.
Chances are your culinary journal will become a treasured family keepsake. So to hand it down spatter-free to the next generation, smooth a piece of Saran™ Premium Wrap
over each recipe page while you prepare the dish.
Preserving mom's recipes
Spend an afternoon capturing Mom’s tricks and tips, and you’ll have treasured recipes and memories to last a lifetime - and to pass on from generation to generation.
Favorite family recipes are filled with delicious flavors that say home as nothing else does. But re-creating those dishes isn’t always easy. Maybe it’s a unique technique, a subtle variation from the printed recipe or simply Mom’s loving touch.
Beth Stanton of Atlanta often tried to re-create her mother’s spinach and cheese lasagna recipe. “I’d follow it to the letter,’’ she said, “but it never turned out quite right.” Then, on a holiday visit home, Beth spent a special afternoon watching her mother make the dish from start to finish. “I learned so much,” she said.
There’s no substitute for that quality time with Mom. But you can easily preserve her special techniques with digital video or a few notes and photos for your culinary journal. Your afternoon together might even inspire you to start a recipe blog!
Variety: the spice of life
There’s always room in your family recipe file for some new twists and surprises.
Giving your grocery list a makeover benefits more than just your taste buds; experts tell us that a varied diet is essential for better health.
“You need enough variety from different food groups to get the nutrients to keep you healthy and to help reduce the risk of health problems later on,” says Roberta L. Duyff, MS, RD, author of the American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide
: 2nd Edition. Oftentimes people don’t consume enough whole grains, calcium-rich dairy foods, fruits and vegetables Duyff explains.
Even family members who turn their noses up at unfamiliar foods will become more adventurous if you get them involved on shopping trips. Encourage each of them to pick out an unfamiliar fruit, vegetable, cheese or whole grain to try at the dinner table. For different preparation ideas, look for recipes online
or consult your store’s produce manager—or even other customers—for ideas.
You never know: you might even discover a new way to perk up that boring old meatloaf!
Host an ice cream social
When everyone enjoys a favorite summer treat together, the conversation is sure to flow.
When Sally Sampson's daughter started preschool, she invited classmates' families over for an ice cream social. "It was such a fun event," recalls Sampson, author of Recipe of the Week: Ice Cream: 52 Easy Recipes for Year-Round Frozen Treats.
"Comparing favorite flavors was a great conversation starter and helped everyone get to know each other."
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? And preparation is a breeze. First, cover your table to protect it from spills and drips. Then set out a selection of bowls, spoons, ice cream flavors and toppings. Keep cleanup simple by placing your toppings in small or extra small Ziploc® Brand Containers with the Smart Snap™ Seal
To help make scooping smooth and easy, fill a large Ziploc® Brand Twist ’n Loc® Container
with warm water for dipping the serving scoops between uses.
And, of course, don't forget the whipped cream!
Get creative with summer fruits
Some ideas for enjoying the bounty without getting bored.
Keeping your taste buds delighted can be as simple as adding unexpected flavors like fresh basil or mint to a fruit salad. A sprinkle of salt enhances watermelon’s sweetness. And balsamic vinegar and black pepper, though you may not believe it until you try it, are fantastic on strawberries.
Try making the Mexican beverage agua fresco by pureeing seedless watermelon with a squeeze of lime in the blender. And think beyond dessert: sprinkle berries on a green salad, or brush peach or plum halves or pineapple slices with canola oil and grill alongside chicken or pork.
Finally, if you've eaten your fill but need to preserve your surplus
, freeze hulled, washed strawberries or blueberries in a single layer on a sheet pan until solid; then transfer frozen berries to a Ziploc® Brand Freezer Bag with the Smart Zip™ Seal
. Freezing berries individually on a pan before bagging makes it easier to grab a handful for your next delicious smoothie
Your surprisingly versatile grill
Where there’s a grill, there are some creative ways to make dinnertime easy, quick and delicious!
We’ve all grilled burgers, chicken and the occasional veggie.
But grilling’s great for other foods, too. In fact, it’s possible to cook entire meals on the grill, thereby keeping you out of the kitchen.
Try grilling corn in its husk (remove inner silks first) for 20 minutes; then cool, peel, brush with butter and sprinkle with chili powder for a nice kick. Or brush thickly sliced yams with olive oil and grill for 10 minutes on each side, glazing with maple syrup toward the end. Teriyaki chicken pairs beautifully with grilled pineapple slices, and grilled romaine wedges make a tasty wilted salad dressed with herbed vinaigrette
. Grilling also puts a rustic spin on your homemade pizza and garlic bread.
Best of all—pop leftovers into Ziploc® Brand Containers with the Smart Snap® Seal
and your cleanup is done.
Be creative, and you’ll find almost everything tastes better grilled.
Power your garden with leftovers
A great way to recycle leftovers while building a well-nourished garden.
Coffee grounds, vegetable trimmings and overripe fruit may seem an unlikely combination, but any mixture of organic material such as these makes a perfect compost recipe for feeding your garden. It can take up to three months to produce a garden’s worth of compost, but it’s worth the patience.
“You can compost anything that used to be alive,” says Carey Pulverman, compost project manager of the NYC Compost Project at The Lower East Side Ecology Center
. Even items like cardboard and wood ashes are fair game, though she cautions against using oil-based items.
Purchase an inexpensive compost bin or easily build a simple one to control odors and keep out pests. Start with leaves or newspapers and then add your food scraps.
Roasting Your Roots
Bring out the earthy flavor of autumn's root vegetables.
Root vegetables are one of fall's best bargains, and they're deliciously versatile, especially when roasted. Stock up on carrots, potatoes, onions and garlic—not to mention parsnips, beets and turnips—for flavorful side dishes and tasty additions to salads, pastas and risottos.
To roast root vegetables, peel and cut into uniformly sized chunks (one-inch cubes are ideal) and spread out on a foil- or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir to make sure vegetables are evenly seasoned.
Roast at 400 degrees F stirring every 15 minutes. Vegetables are done when they're lightly browned on the outside and tender inside when pierced with a fork (after about 35 to 45 minutes, depending on size). Make a large batch on the weekend and store in Ziploc® Brand Containers with the Smart Snap™ Seal
; then you can enjoy the rich flavor of seasonal produce
in different dishes throughout the week.
Delicious Snacks from the Freezer
Create simple, fun refreshments for hot summer days.
“Freezing is pretty deep,” says Krystina Castella, author of Pops! Icy Treats for Everyone. “There's a lot to know.”
Luckily, Castella shares her many clever popsicle-making tips such as letting bubbly drinks flatten slightly before freezing to prevent container leaks, and also using wooden sticks for the best grip.
“Everything expands in the freezer,” says Castella. “Leave a bit of space at the top—the denser the ingredient, the less it will expand.”
Before freezing liquids, give them flair by adding chunks of fruit or milk, yogurt or ice cream. Or simply blend your favorite smoothie
with a little sugar and freeze into popsicles.
seem like too much work, freeze juice in ice-cube trays and pack them in Ziploc® Brand Freezer Bags with the Smart Zip™ Seal
. Serve cubes in sparkling water, or blitz in a blender to make granita
But when it comes to fruit, simplicity is often your best bet. Try freezing slices of bananas, grapes, peaches or berries. Enjoy them alone, in a frozen fruit salad or in an ice cream sundae.
Reset the Table for Slimmer Meals
Rethinking how you set your table can help you eat less.
"Each of the innocuous-looking items on the table—dishes, glasses and the variety of foods—can increase how much we eat,” writes Brian Wansink, PhD, in Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
. In one experiment, Wansink discovered people would eat up to 31 percent more ice cream if they served it in a larger bowl.
Thankfully, the impact of what Wansink calls the "tablescape" works the other way, too. Replace larger plates and serving dishes with smaller ones, and you’ll almost automatically eat less. Use a tall, slender glass to help you drink less juice or soda than you would using a short, wide glass. And pay attention to how food is packaged before it even hits your table, because Wansink also says jumbo-size food containers can tempt you to cook and eat more than a healthy portion.
So consider changing your tableware and divvying up big packages of food into smaller portions in small or extra-small Ziploc® Brand Containers with the Smart Snap™ Seal
.* You just may be surprised at the effects these simple changes can create.
*The Ziploc® product and usage recommendations in the article above are a suggestion from Right@Home®
and do not constitute a product endorsement or recommendation by Brian Wansink, PhD, or the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab
For Healthier Meals, Get Steamy
Steam cooking is an ancient technique, now made even easier.
All you need is a microwave, Ziploc® Brand Zip'n Steam® Microwave Cooking Bags
and some great recipes
. Steam-cooking food allows you to reduce or eliminate butter or oil, without losing flavor. And by cutting back on these, you’ll cut back on fat and calories, too—just in time for swimsuit season!
If you’re using a Ziploc® Brand Zip'n Steam® Microwave Cooking Bags
, add dried herbs and powdered seasonings like garlic powder to the bag before microwaving. Shake the bag gently to evenly distribute the seasonings. Be sure to try out more unusual flavor combinations like fish fillets dusted with curry powder or chicken with paprika. Both have the potential to become new favorites.
Fresh herbs and liquid flavorings such as lemon juice are best added after cooking. Other great flavorings that liven up steamed vegetables include orange zest, minced shallots or chopped olives. Fast food has never been this healthy or tasted this good.
Making vinaigrette from scratch is surprisingly simple, once you know the basic formula.
There's no need to buy salad dressing when all the ingredients for a vinaigrette are in your pantry. And when you make it yourself, you can adjust the recipe according to taste, or create something new.
Basic vinaigrette is three parts oil and one part vinegar. That's it! Olive oil and white vinegar are classic, but it’s fun and easy to experiment with variations. Try using grapeseed or nut oil, with flavored, balsamic or champagne vinegar. Or, for a flavorful twist, add a teaspoon of mustard, minced garlic and fresh herbs, lemon juice, salt and pepper, chopped shallots or capers.
Then simply shake the oil, vinegar and added flavorings to create a flavorful mixture–a Ziploc® Brand Twist ’n Loc® Container
with a lid that twists on is ideal for this. Pour over your salad, toss and enjoy. Refrigerate leftovers in the same container. But when you make vinaigrette yourself, your family will taste the difference—and leftovers just aren’t likely.
Mashed Potato Bar
An entertaining idea that’s simple to prepare, and appeals to guests of all ages.
Now popular even at weddings and large events, mashed potato bars let guests create spuds to their liking.
"No matter what time of year, this will be a dish that all guests can relate to," says Executive Chef Joseph Farruggia, Morrell Caterers. Plus, it’s a cinch to do at home gatherings!
Farruggia recommends using whipped Idaho potatoes. You can pipe potatoes (place them in closed Ziploc® Brand Storage Bags
and cut one corner off to pipe) into martini glasses for individual servings, or spoon them into a slow cooker so guests can serve themselves.
The potatoes are best made the day of the party, but toppings can be made ahead and stored in Ziploc® Brand Containers with the Smart Snap™ Seal
Using simple tried and true toppers, like bacon, cheese and sour cream, alongside adventurous mix-ins, such as wasabi or smoked salmon, will set a fun, festive tone. Plus, it allows guests to personalize their spuds, or even create their own masterpieces.
Vacuum Sealing for Great Cookies
Here’s how to make your cookies sublime–no special training required.
“The key to a great cookie is taking the time to vacuum seal the dough after preparing it,” says David Leite, three-time James Beard Award-winning publisher and writer of LeitesCulinaria.com.
“Vacuum sealing allows for excellent hydration within the cookie. The liquids inside the dough—like the egg and the vanilla extract—fully hydrate the flour, yielding a better texture. It permeates the whole cookie so it’ll come out perfectly crispy with a more complex flavor.”
Leite recommends storing vacuum-sealed dough (six golf-ball-size balls in each vacuum bag, spaced out and irregularly shaped) in the refrigerator for one to two days at 35 - 40 F. An ideal option is the Ziploc® Brand Vacuum Freezer System
, an inexpensive vacuum bag and easy-to-use battery-free pump that removes air to prolong the dough's freshness.
Then bake—or store the dough in the freezer, where it will stay fresh for up to six months.
Keep It Cool with a Slow Cooker
Low and slow cooking works great in the summer, too.
Slow cookers are often viewed as go-to tools for comforting wintertime meals
. But a slow cooker’s benefits—low heat, minimal fuss and cleanup—are also ideal for summer cooking. Plus the kitchen stays cooler.
Slow cookers are great for making intimate family dinners or crowd-pleasing barbecue favorites like pulled pork or baked beans. They also let you get the most out of summer produce, says cookbook author and recipe developer Lori Longbotham. “When tomatoes are at their peak, you can make enough pasta sauce to last for months,” she explains. Then freeze it in Ziploc® Brand Freezer Bags
to use later.
But the best part is you don’t have to turn on the oven. “That’s the last thing you want to do in the heat,” Longbotham says. And to keep extra cool, “you don’t even need to set up a slow cooker in your kitchen. You can set it up on your deck.” For safety's sake, and as many towns and cities require, plug any appliances you use outdoors into an outdoor outlet protected by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI).
Cupcakes: The Perfect Party Food
If you have something to celebrate, but a big cake isn’t your style, try making a batch of cupcakes instead.
Cupcakes are “easy, fun and you still get a ‘Wow’ factor,” says Karen Tack, co-author of the new book, Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make
Tack’s book shows how, with a little imagination, you can turn simple but delicious cupcakes into mini masterpieces—using just frosting and candy. A rolled and folded green fruit chew can be made into a sweet peapod topper. Add realistic leaves and petals with frosting piped through a Ziploc® Brand Storage Bag
and—voila!—you’ve got a perfect treat for the gardener in your family.
Cupcakes are simple and fun and don’t demand the effort of a big cake. The best part? If you make a mistake, you can just eat it! When decorated like one of Tack’s creations, your cupcakes are sure to be the talk of any party.
Picturing Perfect Portions
Have super-size restaurant meals distorted your idea of proper portions?
“Often, the meat on our plate is too big, and we’re not getting enough fruits and vegetables,” says Joan Salge Blake, author of Nutrition & You
(Benjamin Cummings) and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Get on track by matching up appropriate portion sizes with household items. For example:
Deck of cards = 3 oz. meat
Table tennis ball = 2 tablespoons peanut butter
Four dice = 1 oz. cheese
Or simply look at your hand. “A woman’s palm is the size of a three-ounce serving of meat,” says Blake. A woman’s fist is the size of a cup of pasta or vegetables, and the circle inside an “OK” sign is a tablespoon of oil or salad dressing.
Portion size counts when it comes to snacks, too. Nosh thoughtfully by filling Ziploc® Brand Snack Bags
with sensible-size servings of fruit, crackers or other munchies. This way, your snacks are fresh, portable and available so you can eat healthy wherever you are.