(Family Features) For holiday parties of any size, tasty appetizers and starters are menu must-haves. While the main course roasts and before dessert is served, guests may flock to the table for snacks and small plates to keep cravings at bay.
When pre-dinner hunger strikes at your holiday gathering, be the center of attention with quick, delicious and simple appetizers that deliver exactly what your guests crave. One way to be the star of your holiday soiree is with Litehouse’s rich and flavorful Simply Artisan Reserve blue cheese and gorgonzola center cuts. Whether the foundation of a delicious cheese plate or crumbled in a recipe – such as one of these eight apps – it’s a win-win solution.
Find more holiday solutions and appetizer recipes at litehousefoods.com.
(Family Features) When it comes to entertaining, it’s not always about three-course meals or hours upon hours of preparation. Sometimes, the best hosts look toward simple snacks and small plates to please guests with an array of palates.
Herbs, onions, artichokes and olives create a medley of flavors atop this savory flatbread that makes it easy to give guests a fresh bite without spending too much time in the kitchen. Or you can enjoy a berry and beet chutney as a topping for crostini that is spread with goat or cream cheese, or topped with a thin slice of Gouda or a runny slice of Brie. It’s also a welcome addition to an open-face sandwich.
The secret is using convenient ingredients like Aunt Nellie’s Harvard Beets and Holland-Style Onions that contribute great flavors to recipes and also help streamline preparation as guests settle in for an evening of fun and relaxation.
Explore more ideas to make your entertaining skills shine at AuntNellies.com.
Herbed Mediterranean Flatbread
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10-12 minutes
- 1 jar (16 ounces) Aunt Nellie's Holland-Style Onions
- 1 jar (7 1/2 ounces) quartered, marinated artichoke hearts
- 1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped or sliced Kalamata olives
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- coarsely ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crushed
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 whole-grain round or square flatbreads (about 6-7 inches diameter)
- fresh basil (optional)
- Heat oven to 400° F. Drain onions. Pat dry. Discard liquid. Drain artichokes well. Discard liquid.
- Press onions with spatula to crush lightly. Pat dry again. Place in large bowl. Coarsely chop artichokes. Add to bowl with onions. Stir in bell pepper, parsley, olives, red pepper flakes, black pepper and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese; set aside.
- In small bowl, stir together olive oil, thyme and garlic. Brush over one side of flatbreads. Place on baking sheet; bake 2 minutes. Remove from oven.
- Top each flatbread with onion mixture. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Return to oven. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until heated through and flatbread is crisp.
- Cut each flatbread in half. Sprinkle with fresh basil, if desired.
Beet and Berry Chutney
Prep time: 20 minutes
- 1/2 cup orange marmalade
- 1 jar (15 1/2 ounces) Aunt Nellie’s Harvard Beets, not drained
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups berries (fresh or frozen unsweetened cranberries, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries, cut in half or quartered, if large)
- In medium saucepan over medium heat, stir marmalade until melted. Stir in beets and red pepper. Cook 3-5 minutes until liquid is reduced by about half, stirring frequently. Add ginger, if desired.
- If using only cranberries, add to pan with beet mixture and cook until they just begin to pop. If also using other berries, add to beet-cranberry mixture; stir and heat through. If using only blueberries, raspberries or strawberries, add to beet mixture after reducing liquid. Stir and heat through.
- Remove pan from heat; cool to room temperature before serving.
Note: Chutney can also be served chilled. Store, covered, in a refrigerator up to 1 week.
Source: Aunt Nellie’s
Discover recipes chock-full of heart-healthy pecans
(Family Features) Sometimes making small changes can have a positive impact on your health – including heart health – like drinking more water, taking the stairs instead of the escalator and adding nutritious ingredients to your snacks and meals.
Incorporating nutritious ingredients is an easy way to step up your mealtime – for example, American Pecans can super-fy nearly any recipe by adding flavor and nutrition.
It’s always a good time to include heart-healthy ingredients on your shopping list. Certified by the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check*, American Pecans and their unique mix of unsaturated fats, plant sterols, fiber and flavonoids add up to help promote a healthy heart. In fact, according to the Food and Drug Administration, research suggests but does not prove that eating 1 1/2 ounces of most nuts, such as pecans, each day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce your risk of heart disease. One serving of pecans (28 grams) contains 18 grams unsaturated fat and only 2 grams saturated fat.
Boosting the heart-smart punch of your favorite recipes can be easy with pecans. Whether topping a salad, sprinkling into bread batter or using them as the foundation of a portable snack, there are few things America’s native nut can’t do.
Start the day right with a bowl of Banana Pecan Cherry Oatmeal – a comforting and hearty combination that can keep you full for hours. For a wholesome, on-the-go option perfect for school snacks, desk drawers or an afternoon pick-me-up, try Cherry Pecan Energy Bites. Dried cherries, dates and crunchy pecans combine for an all-natural burst of heart-smart nutrition to help you power through the day.
Discover more ways to create heart-healthy meals with pecans at AmericanPecan.com.
Banana Pecan Cherry Oatmeal
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup pecan milk
- 1 banana, sliced
- 1/4 cup pecan halves
- 1/4 cup dried tart cherries
- 1/4 cup honey
- In large, microwave-safe bowl, combine oats and water. Microwave on high 3-4 minutes, or until oats are cooked through. Watch carefully to avoid boiling over.
- Remove from microwave, stir and divide between two bowls. Pour 1/4 cup pecan milk over each bowl.
- Divide sliced banana, pecan halves and dried tart cherries between each bowl and drizzle with 2 tablespoons honey. Serve immediately.
Cherry Pecan Energy Bites
Makes: 10-12 energy bites
- 1 cup toasted pecan halves or pieces
- 1 cup dried cherries
- 4 medjool dates, pitted
- 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1 tablespoon cacao powder, plus additional, for coating (optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- In bowl of food processor, combine toasted pecans, dried cherries, dates, oats, cacao powder and vanilla extract.
- Pulse until ingredients begin to bind and form loose, dough-like ball.
- Roll into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in additional cacao powder, if desired, and transfer to airtight container. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to seven days.
Note: To make gluten-free, substitute 1/4 cup of certified gluten-free old-fashioned oats.
*Heart-Check certification does not apply to recipes.
Source: American Pecan Council
(Family Features) With school back in full swing, the days will be full, packed with classes, homework and after-school sports, music and other extracurricular activities. To make the most of all these endeavors, it’s important to eat well to sustain the critical energy and focus required throughout the day.
Smart fueling includes keeping nourishing snacks such as heart-healthy grapes on-hand – whether at home, in the car or coming off the field. Fresh California grapes – simple, convenient and nutritious – can make for a delicious snack on their own.
Available in three appealing colors – red, green and black – crisp, juicy grapes can add a tasty touch when hunger calls for an afternoon energy boost. Grapes also pair well with crackers, cheese and nuts for other snack combos.
Yet another way to enjoy fresh grapes is to blend them with other fruits and vegetables to create smoothie bowls, a nutritious option to help ensure that a variety of healthy ingredients are part of a balanced day.
Smoothie bowls work well as a snack or even a quick breakfast, and also provide a way for parents to introduce their kids to new, healthier bites.
This Grape Smoothie Bowl is fresh, flavorful and full of sweet grape taste for a quick fix that can leave bodies fueled and ready to take on the rest of the day.
Find more information and snack ideas at GrapesfromCalifornia.com.
Grape Smoothie Bowl
Prep time: 10 minutes
- 1/2 avocado
- 2 medium bananas, sliced and frozen
- 1 cup packed baby spinach
- 2 cups green California grapes, divided
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 piece fresh ginger (1-inch length), peeled and sliced (optional)
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted coconut chips
- In blender, combine avocado, bananas, spinach, 1 cup grapes, almond milk, ginger and salt; blend until smooth. Pour into two bowls. Halve remaining grapes and place on top of smoothie bowls along with chia seeds and coconut chips.
Nutritional information per serving: 370 calories; 5 g protein; 66 g carbohydrates; 13 g fat (32% calories from fat); 3.5 g saturated fat (9% calories from saturated fat); 200 mg sodium; 10 g fiber.
(Family Features) When the weather is warm and it’s time for a sweet treat, look for seasonal goodies that complement summertime fun. For example, reach for an option like whole-grain, fluffy and crisp popcorn which can be an easy, DIY snack.
Combine sweet and salty flavors to create something delicious to devour like Coconut Popcorn Crunch Pie or delightful Down Home Apple Pie Popcorn.
To better serve a crowd, try these Perfect Picnic Popcorn Squares, Popcorn S’mores or Key Lime Popcorn Clusters at your next family pool party or summertime barbecue with friends.
For more creative, DIY popcorn recipe ideas, visit popcorn.org.
Down Home Apple Pie Popcorn
Yield: 10 cups
- 3 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 8 cups popped popcorn
- 1 cup dried apple chips, broken into large pieces
- 1/4 cup toffee bits
- Heat oven to 300° F. Whisk melted butter with vanilla. Toss brown sugar with cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.
- Toss popcorn with butter mixture. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar mixture. Stir. Transfer to baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Sprinkle apple chips and toffee bits over top. Bake 15 minutes, or until toffee bits start to melt. Cool before serving.
Tip: Add chopped pecans for extra crunch.
Key Lime Popcorn Clusters
Yield: about 32 clusters
- 8 cups popped popcorn
- 4 whole graham crackers, finely chopped, divided
- 1 jar (7 1/2 ounces) marshmallow creme
- 1/4 cup butter or margarine
- 2 tablespoons grated lime peel
- 1 tablespoon key lime juice
- Line 9-inch square pan with foil.
- In large bowl, combine popcorn and all but 2 tablespoons graham cracker pieces.
- In large glass bowl, microwave marshmallow creme and butter on high 1 minute. Stir until butter is melted. Stir in lime peel and lime juice.
- Pour marshmallow mixture over popcorn, mixing thoroughly.
- Using damp hand, firmly press mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle with reserved graham cracker pieces. Refrigerate 2 hours until firm.
- Lift foil from pan. Break popcorn mixture into clusters.
Coconut-Popcorn Crunch Pie
Yield: 12 servings
- 2 quarts popped popcorn, unsalted
- 1 can (4 ounces) flaked coconut, toasted
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 quart vanilla, spumoni or butter pecan ice cream
- fresh fruit, for topping (optional)
- chocolate sauce, for topping (optional)
- In large, buttered bowl, mix popcorn and coconut. In saucepan, combine sugar, syrup, butter, water and salt. Bring to boil over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Continue cooking until syrup reaches hard crack stage (290-295 F).
- Stir in vanilla. Pour syrup in fine stream over popcorn mixture; stir until particles are evenly coated with syrup.
- On buttered, 12-inch pizza pan, spread half of popcorn mixture in thin layer, covering bottom of pan. Mark off into wedge-shaped servings; set aside. Repeat using remaining popcorn mixture; cool.
- Cover one layer with ice cream; top with second popcorn layer. Store in freezer. To serve, cut in wedges. Serve with fruit or chocolate sauce, if desired.
Perfect Picnic Popcorn Squares
Yield: 12 squares
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup reduced-fat peanut butter
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 8 cups air-popped popcorn
- nonstick cooking spray
- In large saucepan, combine corn syrup, sugar, brown sugar and peanut butter.
- Bring to boil over low heat, stirring constantly; boil 2-3 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat.
- In large bowl, combine raisins and popcorn; pour hot mixture over popcorn and toss carefully with wooden spoons until well-coated.
- Spray 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray; press popcorn mixture into pan and cool completely.
- Cut into squares and serve.
Yield: 20 pieces
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 10 cups freshly popped popcorn
- 1 package (10 1/2 ounces) miniature marshmallows
- 2 cups mini graham cookies
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- In medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter and corn syrup.
- Cook over high heat 5 minutes; remove from heat and stir in baking soda.
- In large bowl, combine popcorn and marshmallows.
- Pour sugar mixture over popcorn to coat.
- Gently stir in graham cookies and chocolate chips.
- Spread mixture evenly into greased 15-by-10-inch pan.
- Let cool completely. Break into pieces.
Ballpark Popcorn Crunch (VIDEO)
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3 quarts unsalted popped popcorn
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- Cream together butter and brown sugar till light and fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, toss popcorn and walnuts.
- Add creamed mixture to popcorn and nuts. Combine until coated.
- Spread on a large baking sheet in a single layer.
- Bake at 350-degree oven for 10 minutes or until crisp.
Source: Popcorn Board
Edible, handmade holiday decor perfect for gifting
(Family Features) ’Tis the season to pop up some holiday fun by creating a scenic winter wonderland that tastes as great as it looks.
Gather the kids and make a hands-on family holiday tradition out of crafting festive, edible decorations. Popcorn is the perfect choice to pop up and eat while trimming your popcorn tree and decking out your creations. At 30 calories a cup, whole-grain, freshly popped popcorn offers a nutritious alternative to traditional holiday party nibbles. Popcorn is naturally low in fat and calories, non-GMO, gluten-free, has no artificial additives or preservatives and is sugar-free.
These clever recipes can help you make edible decor or gifts to give to friends, family and co-workers. Find more creative holiday recipes at popcorn.org.
Festive Popcorn Trees
Yield: 10 trees
- 10 cups air-popped popcorn
- 1 bag (10 ounces) miniature marshmallows
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- nonstick cooking spray
- green decorating sugar
- blue decorating sugar
- 1 tube white frosting with decorating tip
- small, colorful candies (such as sprinkles and miniature silver dragees)
- Place popcorn in large bowl.
- Place marshmallows and butter in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.
- Stir in vanilla extract.
- Pour mixture over popcorn in bowl. Toss well to coat popcorn evenly.
- Line baking sheet with foil.
- Spray hands with nonstick cooking spray then scoop up about 1 cup popcorn mixture.
- Shape mixture into cone, keeping base flat to form tree.
- Sprinkle tree with decorating sugars; place tree on baking sheet.
- Make nine additional trees.
- Pipe frosting on trees to make garland then decorate with sprinkles and silver dragees, as desired.
Serving suggestion: Place each tree on sugar cookie and decorate serving tray with shredded coconut to resemble snow.
Notes: For best flavor and color, start recipe with unflavored white popcorn. You can make your own colored sugar by adding food coloring to sugar then stirring in bowl or shaking vigorously in sealed container. Add additional food coloring for more intense tones.
Holiday Popcorn Snowman
Yield: 5 snowmen
- 1 package (1 pound) large marshmallows
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, plus additional
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 10 cups popped popcorn
- sprinkles (optional)
- licorice (optional)
- gum drops (optional)
- cinnamon candies (optional)
- In large saucepan, melt marshmallows and 1/4 cup butter.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
- Let stand 5 minutes.
- Pour over popcorn and stir mixture.
- Butter hands well and form into balls.
- Decorate with sprinkles, licorice, gum drops and cinnamon candies, as desired.
Holiday Wreath Popcorn Treats
Yield: 8 wreaths
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 3 quarts popped popcorn
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
- 3 cups miniature marshmallows
- 3 tablespoons lime gelatin dessert mix
- small red candies
- red fruit leather
- Lightly spray large mixing bowl with nonstick cooking spray and place popcorn inside.
- In medium saucepan over low heat, melt butter. Stir in marshmallows and gelatin dessert mix until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth. Pour over popcorn and mix until coated.
- Spray hands with cooking spray and press firmly to form into 9-inch logs then bend to form wreaths.
- Place wreaths on wax paper. Press candies and jellybeans into wreaths as decorations; cut fruit leather to make ribbon and add.
- Serve immediately or wrap individually in plastic wrap for storage. Add ribbon tie to plastic wrap as decorative closure.
Tip: Soak saucepan before cleaning.
Chocolate Popcorn Reindeer
Yield: 8 reindeer
- 8 cups unsalted, unbuttered popped popcorn
- 2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
- 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate or dark chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons butter or light olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 16 pretzel sticks
- 16 eyeball candies
- 8 red candy-coated chocolate candies
- Place popcorn in large mixing bowl.
- In saucepan set over medium heat, heat marshmallows, chocolate, butter and salt, stirring often until smooth. Toss marshmallow mixture with popcorn until well combined.
- Scoop 3/4 cup popcorn mixture into ball. Repeat with remaining mixture to make eight balls total. Place each ball in paper muffin cup liner.
- Insert pretzel stick on each side of ball to resemble antlers, attach two eyeball candies for eyes and red candy for nose. Let cool completely.
Tip: Eyeball candies can typically be found in baking aisles of supermarkets or bulk food stores.
(Family Features) Fall is perfect for making time for fun before the busy holiday season – go for a fall picnic, visit your local orchard or pumpkin patch, and take advantage of all the flavors fall has to offer. Try these delicious, comforting, no-hassle fall ideas that won’t carve a big chunk out of your budget:
- The great taste of seasonal produce can stand on its own, adding star power to simple recipes. Baked pears or apples are a sweet, festive treat. Slice them in half and fill with walnuts, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake until the sugars caramelize and fruits soften.
- Take on-the-go snacks to the next level by coating almonds or garbanzo beans in your favorite seasonal spices and baking until crispy.
No matter the season, trim time grocery shopping by relying on a one-stop-shop like ALDI. Whether you’re looking for a new pumpkin spice treat or need quality ingredients for your famous chili, you can find it all at wallet-friendly prices.
Find more tips and recipes for a hassle-free fall at ALDI.us.
Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Bowl
Recipe Courtesy of Chef Audrey, ALDI Test Kitchen
- 1/2 cup Baker’s Corner 100% Pure Canned Pumpkin
- 1/2 cup Friendly Farms Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt
- 1/2 frozen banana
- 1/2 cup Friendly Farms Unsweetened Original Almondmilk
- 2 teaspoons Specially Selected 100% Pure Maple Syrup
- 1 teaspoon Stonemill Pumpkin Pie Spice
- SimplyNature Flax Seed
- Southern Grove Chia Seeds
- Baker’s Corner Semi-Sweet Mini Morsels
- Southern Grove Chopped Pecans, toasted
- Apple slices
- SimplyNature Organic Ground Cinnamon
- Blend canned pumpkin, yogurt, banana, milk, syrup and pumpkin pie spice until smooth. Transfer to serving bowl. Top with desired garnishes.
Mini Pumpkin Parfait with Cranberry Caramel
Recipe courtesy of Chef Kates, ALDI Test Kitchen
- 1 package Cafe Bistro Spekulatius Spiced Cookies
- 1/2 cup Countryside Creamery Unsalted Butter, divided
- 1/2 cup packed Baker's Corner Brown Sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup Sweet Harvest Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
- 8 ounces Happy Farms Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese Spread, softened
- 1/4 cup Baker's Corner Powdered Sugar
- 1 cup Baker's Corner 100% Pure Canned Pumpkin
- 8 ounces Friendly Farms Whipped Topping, divided
- Place cookies in food processor and pulse to form fine crumbs.
- In medium saucepan, melt 1/4 cup butter. Add cookie crumbs and stir over medium heat 5 minutes, or until toasted. Remove from heat.
- To make caramel: Bring brown sugar and water to simmer. Cook about 10 minutes, or until color changes to dark amber. Do not stir, but watch closely. Stir in cranberry sauce and remaining butter. Return to simmer and continue stirring until well combined and thickened slightly, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
- Press warm cookie crumbs in bottom of small serving glasses, such as clear shot glasses, espresso cups, small bowls or parfait glasses. Set aside.
- In medium bowl, beat cream cheese and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin and continue mixing to combine. Gently fold in 6 ounces whipped topping.
- To complete assembly, top crumbs with layers of cranberry caramel and pumpkin cream. Repeat layers, including crumbs, 2-3 times depending on glass size. Top each parfait with dollop of remaining whipped topping. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 8 hours.
(Family Features) Nutritious, well-rounded meals are essential for growth and proper brain development. A complete midday meal also helps boost mental and physical power so kids can keep on learning until the afternoon bell rings.
It’s not always easy to find new and appealing ideas to fuel kids’ bodies and minds as they head back to school, but programs for families and educators such as the Power Your Lunchbox Pledge can help.
“Families are looking for ways to start the year on the right foot and the Power Your Lunchbox Pledge offers everything they need in one spot,” said Trish James, vice president of Produce for Kids. “Families want to know their kids are receiving the right brain food to get them through the day. Our registered dietitian-approved meal inspiration, tips and ideas provide the foundation families need for success.”
In addition to kid-tested, lunchbox-friendly recipe ideas, the program provides resources and lesson plans for educators who want to create activities to inspire healthy eating in the classroom. This year’s program also includes a partnership with The World of Eric Carle, allowing students to win copies of his popular collection of children’s books. Additionally, every online pledge results in a $1 donation to Feeding America programs that support families and children.
Look for recipes, tips and ideas on Instagram and Twitter using #PowerYourLunchbox, and learn more about the program at poweryourlunchbox.com.
Banana Sushi Rolls
Recipe courtesy of Produce for Kids
- 1 large (8-inch) whole-wheat tortilla
- 3 tablespoons peanut butter, divided
- 1 banana, peeled
- 1 strawberry, sliced
- 1/2 kiwi, sliced
- 1 tablespoon shredded coconut
- Lay tortilla on flat surface. Spread with half of peanut butter. Place banana on one end of tortilla and roll up. Cut into even slices and place strawberries and kiwi slices on top.
- Microwave remaining peanut butter on high 30 seconds, or until melted, and drizzle over banana sushi. Top with shredded coconut.
Brown Bear Bento Box
Recipe courtesy of Produce for Kids
- 1 tablespoon soy butter
- 3 graham cracker squares
- 3 banana slices
- 9 blueberries
- variety of colorful fruit, chopped
- Spread soy butter on graham crackers. Arrange banana slices and blueberries to create eyes and noses to resemble bear faces. In another container, add colorful fruit, such as raspberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, honeydew, blueberries and blackberries, to create a rainbow fruit salad.
Suggested Side: 1 tablespoon ranch dressing and three mini sweet peppers, sliced into strips.
Source: Produce for Kids
(Family Features) The busy pace of back-to-school schedules can make it feel like nearly every aspect of life has you under a time crunch. Fortunately, when it comes to feeding the family, there are some simple foods you likely already have on hand that can provide easy solutions for snacks and mealtime alike.
A go-to fruit like California grapes is a fresh staple you can depend on because they are always ripe and ready to eat when you buy them. While grapes are indeed ideal for snacking because they hold, store and travel well, this healthy and delicious fruit is also a simple addition to meals throughout the day. Grapes require minimal preparation, so they’re equally easy as a side dish or as a fun way to deliver the fresh produce factor in a wide range of family-friendly recipes, such as these Grape and Ricotta Pita Pizzas.
Tips like these show how you can easily incorporate grapes into every meal:
Breakfast: A cup of creamy yogurt and crunchy granola takes on a sweet note when topped with a handful of grapes. Slice or quarter grapes then mix well for a medley of textures and flavors in every bite.
Morning snack: Pair grapes with cheese and crackers for a sweet and savory snack to keep your energy strong and your hunger in check until lunchtime.
Lunch: A handful of grapes can balance out a sandwich and add some sweet indulgence to the midday meal.
After school: Grapes offer hydration and quick energy so they’re the perfect way to fuel up for after school sports or to lend some extra brain power for study time.
Dinnertime rush: Use grapes for an easy side dish that goes with anything. A quick meal like grilled cheese and grapes brings out the kid in everyone.
Evening snack: Toward the end of the day, cravings can creep up but keeping a bowl of fresh grapes on hand for after dinner snacking helps avoid alternative salty, highly processed choices.
Find more great ideas for enjoying grapes throughout the day at grapesfromcalifornia.com.
Grape and Ricotta Pita Pizzas
- 2 whole-wheat pita pocket breads (about 6 inches in diameter)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, divided
- 1 cup seedless red or black California grapes, thinly sliced or halved
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 6 large or 12 small fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
- Heat oven to 450° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Slice pita pockets in half so each forms two rounds, creating four rounds total. Place pita rounds on baking sheets cut-side up and brush top of each with oil.
- Spread 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese on each pita, leaving about 1/2-inch border around edges then arrange sliced grapes in single layer on top of cheese. Bake until edges are crisped and cheese is warmed, 5-7 minutes.
- In small bowl, stir together honey and lemon juice until honey is dissolved.
- When pizzas are done, drizzle each with about 1/2 teaspoon honey-lemon mixture. Sprinkle basil on top of pizzas. Serve immediately.
(Family Features) Sliced or diced, grilled or blended, there are countless ways to prepare watermelon. With some fruits, half or more is wasted when you throw away the seeds and peel, but you may be surprised to learn that you can use an entire watermelon, including the rind, to make delicious and refreshing dishes.
Most people think of watermelon as a sweet, juicy snack perfect for hot summer days, but with its high water content (92 percent), the fruit is more than just tasty. It’s also an ideal way to keep your body hydrated. What’s more, the ability to use the entire fruit makes watermelon one of the most versatile and value-conscious options in the produce department.
An average watermelon consists of about 70 percent fruit and 30 percent rind. Hollowed out, the rind is an attractive way to serve any number of recipes, but the rind is actually edible, too, and can be stir-fried, stewed or pickled, or even enjoyed raw. This yummy slaw gets its distinctive crunch from the watermelon rind, which is packed with citrulline and arginine, two compounds that may aid in healthy blood flow.
Watermelon is also a flavorful substitute for tomatoes, as shown in this traditional Italian appetizer, and contains higher levels of lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable per serving, according to award-winning nutrition author and registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer.
Additionally, it lends some sweetness to a spicy salsa and a refreshing twist on a summery salad. You can also try blending watermelon with other fresh fruits for a super smoothie or mixing it up with some adult libations (and don’t forget, you can transform the rind into a mini-keg in minutes; just add a pour spout).
Find more ideas for using every bite of fruit, juice and rind at watermelon.org.
Watermelon Caprese Salad with Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
Makes: 6 servings
- 12 slices watermelon cut into rounds or squares, approximately 3 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick, with seeds removed
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 12 slices
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 sprig basil, for garnish
- Place watermelon slices on paper towels and cover with additional paper towels to absorb excess fluid.
- In small saucepan over medium heat, add vinegar and honey. Stir to blend, bring to simmer and reduce heat. Stir occasionally until mixture is reduced by almost half. (Do not let reduce too far or allow to froth.) Set aside to cool slightly.
- On large platter, place watermelon slices and top each with slice of cheese. Add salt and pepper, to taste, then sprinkle basil leaves evenly over top. Drizzle with olive oil, followed by reduced balsamic vinegar. Garnish with sprig of basil.
Tip: Use red and yellow watermelon for an extra pretty presentation.
Watermelon Rind Slaw
Makes: 4 one-cup servings
- 1/4 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
- 1 1/2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 4 cups grated watermelon rind (fruit and green peel removed)
- 1 cup grated carrot
- 1 1/2 cups diced fresh pineapple
- In small bowl, blend Greek yogurt, sour cream, mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, poppy seeds, olive oil, salt and pepper thoroughly. Set aside.
- Place watermelon rind on several layers of paper towels to soak up excess fluid.
- In medium bowl, place dressing, rind, carrot and pineapple, and toss to thoroughly coat.
Watermelon Slice Ice Pops
Makes: 5-15 servings
- 5-15 watermelon slices, cut into triangular wedge shapes, about 1/2 to 1 inch thick, with seeds removed
- 5-15 ice pop sticks
- Insert ice pop stick into rind of each slice.
Optional variation: After inserting sticks, freeze ice pops before serving.
Makes: 3 cups
- 2 cups cubed and seeded watermelon
- 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
- 1 cup raspberry kefir
- 2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
- 2 tablespoons hemp
- 2 tablespoons agave syrup
- ice (optional)
- Place watermelon, raspberries, raspberry kefir, orange juice concentrate, hemp, agave syrup and ice, if desired, in blender and blend until smooth.