It’s that time of year again….. The time of year when we begin to feel the effects of cabin fever, the effects of all our holiday indulgences and the fear that in a few months it’s swimsuit season once again! As all the experts will tell you, exercise and a healthy diet is the key to successful long term weight loss. Not only does a healthy diet and exercise aid you in weight loss, it also eases the symptoms of joint related pain and is a natural mood booster -- Essential when you live in an area where sun is brief and fleeting in the winter months!
Leaves are turning bright red, yellow and orange. The smell of fresh cider and hot cinnamon donuts lingers in the air. Swimsuits and suntan lotion are traded for hayrides, wool blankets and cold metal bleachers at football games. It's fall in Michigan! The apples are abundant and it is the perfect time of year to make caramel apples.
The caramel apple has an uncertain history. Some say that a Kraft caramel salesman is credited with the first commercially publicized caramel apple. In the 1950's a man by the name of Dan Walker convinced Kraft to print and publicize a caramel apple recipe on the back of their wrapped caramel packages. It was an instant success. Families were able to make simple caramel apples with just three ingredients. An apple, a wooden stick and packaged caramels from Kraft. While this is a very heartwarming story, many historians would disagree, stating that there are recipes for caramel dating back to the 1700's and even earlier.
It's canning season;that time of the year when you wonder why in the world you planted that many tomato, jalapeño and squash plants?! After a long and often dreary winter, the anticipation of planting and tending to a large garden full of vibrant fruits and vegetables is extremely enticing to all garden savvy Midwesterners. In our giddiness for warm weather and green growth, we often forget that at the end of a very brief (sadly) warm and sunny summer, we are left with more vegetables than one family of four could ever eat! What do we do? We can! Canning preserves that sun-kissed real vegetable taste that many of us crave in the long winter months. A bright jar of fresh fruits and vegetables that gives us the hope that spring will come once again and endurance to brave the long cold winters.
There is nothing more beautiful or fragrant than a strawberry picked fresh from the field. Warmed by the summer sun, the bright red and juicy berry begs to be eaten. The berries that make it home are the perfect addition to any dessert, but why stop at dessert? Freshly picked strawberries are the perfect combination of sweet and tart. The perfect complement to a fresh spinach, briny feta and crunchy pecans. My mouth waters just thinking about it.
I come from a long line of proud military men and women. The fourth of July is the perfect time to celebrate our country's independence and the men and women who fight to continue to keep our freedom.
Growing up in Michigan was very family centric, especially when the holidays came around. Fourth of July was certainly no exception. The day usually began with a city parade, floats and candy, along with the red, white and blue decorated bicycles passing by as we sat on the curb waiting to scramble into the street to gather the treats. We sat until the last float passed us by, and proudly gathered up all of our sweets and headed to a family picnic at the lake. Hamburgers, hotdogs and potato salad were always the typical picnic fare. It was the one time of year my grandmother would bring out the two liters of soda. Weeks later she would try to convince one of her unsuspecting family members to lug home the exact same bottle of soda, only now they were incredibly flat from sitting half-opened on the picnic table.
I recently walked into the grocery store and was immediately greeted by the sweet aroma of strawberries. The sweet smell instantly transported me back to Southern California. The strawberry fields in Carlsbad were in full production this time of year. The kids and I loved to gather up our beach gear, put the top down on the jeep and head to the coast for a day of sun, sand and strawberry picking. Many of the sweet berries never quite made it home, but those that did usually ended up in a simple fruit salad or even homemade jam to savor during the winter months.
It's been over a month since we began our journey to a healthier and happier family. Overall the progress has been good. My husband participated in the 36th Annual Fifth Third River Bank Run a couple of weekends ago! I have been working out and walk/running with our adorable border collie on a fairly consistent basis, though I have been finding it hard to make the "time" lately. Occasionally our son, and more frequently our daughter, has been joining me, which has made it more pleasant and much easier to get out there and do it (those of you who have teenagers know that any one-on-one time is precious and rare).
Granola can be a pretty boring breakfast option. It often is dry and practically void of flavor. In addition to that, most store-bought versions are loaded with fat, sugar and preservatives (you thought you were being healthy, didn’t you!?). However, Homemade granola is easy to create in your own kitchen. In addition to ease of preparation, it is easily portioned and can keep for up to a month in a tightly closed container. The addition of dried exotic fruits, sweet coconut and maybe the occasional dark chocolate chip adds flavor and texture to a basic, tasteless granola. Adding Tahitian vanilla beans amps up the flavor even more; the sweet, fruity and floral notes of the beans mix with the dried fruits and coconut to create an exciting granola you will jump out of bed for. Plus, it looks beautiful in the bowl!
I know what you are thinking…….. Ugh, not another smoothie recipe! This smoothie recipe is not your typical smoothie. It’s special just like the person I make it for. My daughter is a vegetarian, and she has been for the majority of her life. Throughout her life it has been a struggle to prepare nutritious and protein-packed meals for her (especially when she only wanted to eat cheese. Cheese smoothies are definitely not palatable!)
Super Bowl Sunday brings many families together; it is the quintessential American holiday. Nachos sit happily with pizza and potato skins on the buffet table, vegetable platters are politely accepted and then placed discretely at the back of the kitchen counter. While the other snack foods are delicious, chicken wings always seem to be the star at any Super Bowl party. Sweet and spicy, sticky and delicious barbecue wings made with Tonga vanilla beans will become a staple in your house all year long. Our Tonga vanilla beans add a rich and smoky flavor to homemade barbecue sauce, your family and friends will beg you for more!