Category: Cookout

Stock Your Pantry With These Healthy Staples

When hunger pangs arrive and you head to the kitchen to prepare a meal or a snack, it helps to have healthy foods on hand so that you can fill up without filling out your clothes.

Sugary or fattening foods may be popular snacks, but consuming too many of these items can cause health implications, including weight gain, that could last for years. Although health experts tout certain “super foods” that are essential for the body, there are run-of-the-mill foods that are far less glamorous but pack their own healthy punch and are much more readily available.

When making your next shopping list, be sure to add these items.


* Rice: Starchy rice is a versatile food that can accompany many meals. Whether served as a side dish or on its own or with some broth in a soup, rice can help satisfy hunger and keep the stomach feeling full. Brown rice is a healthier option than processed white rice. Rice is also gentle on the stomach for people who need to consume bland diets due to any gastrointestinal ailments. Another advantage to rice is that it stores well and will not go bad, so you can stock up.

* Low-fat yogurt: Yogurt can be enjoyed as a snack any time of the day. Rich in calcium and healthy probiotics, yogurt can even replace certain ingredients in recipes, including creams and sour cream. As a dessert, yogurt is a better option than more fattening puddings or ice cream. Thicker varieties of yogurt can help you feel fuller, longer.

* Unsalted nuts: An excellent protein-rich snack, nuts can be the go-to food when you need a nutritional pick-me-up. Although they tend to be high in fat, much of the fat content is unsaturated fat that is rich in omega acids necessary for cardiovascular and neurological health. Nuts can be sprinkled on salads or served with cheeses to make meals more satisfying.

* Canned or dried fruits: Fruits that are packed in natural fruit juices are just as healthy as fresh produce. However, they can be stored for longer periods of time without spoiling. Many people do not consume the recommended servings of fruit, and having canned or individually packaged fruit cups available makes it easy to include fruit in your diet. Fruits are full of required vitamins and are a natural fiber source to keep digestion in check. Dried fruits can be added to nuts to make a healthy trail mix. Raisins, for example, are a great source of iron, which helps the blood transport oxygen.

* Beans and legumes: These foods are high in protein as well as fiber, generally in a low-calorie package. Beans and legumes can replace meats as a protein source in many meals when the goal is to reduce caloric and fat intake. Beans can be used to thicken sauces or make foods more hearty, helping to stretch them further.

* Vegetables: Whether fresh or frozen, vegetables are a must-have staple. Vegetables are ripe with vitamins and minerals, and pack a lot of punch with very low calories and fat. People need not worry about filling up on vegetables, and they’re one of the snacks that can be eaten in abundance without worry of racking up a lot of calories. Aim to have half of your plate filled with vegetables at every meal, which will keep you full.

* Lean protein sources: Fish, poultry and lean cuts of meat are often the basis for meals. They can be kept and enjoyed in moderation. Rich cuts of pork and beef may be flavorful but are high in saturated fats.

* Lemons or lemon juice: Rather than seasoning foods with salt and butter, lemon juice is a tasty flavoring that lends itself well to many types of foods. Lemons and limes contain limonene, furocoumarins and vitamin C, all of which help reduce your risk of cancer.

* Cranberry juice: In addition to being an antioxidant, 100 percent cranberry juice helps fight bladder infections by preventing harmful bacteria from growing. The juice can be consumed on its own or diluted to add a splash of flavor to water.

* Figs: Many people underestimate the nutritional value of figs. Figs can be eaten fresh off of the tree. Think about adding mashed figs to batters for healthier breads or even desserts. A good source of potassium and fiber, figs also contain vitamin B6, which produces mood-boosting serotonin, lowering cholesterol and preventing water retention.

There are many healthy and versatile foods that can be stored in the pantry without spoiling. They make for quick snacks and help keep you feeling fuller, longer. HM131804

How to Sneak Fruits & Vegetables Into Any Recipe

Fruits and vegetables are the building blocks of a healthy diet. But many people do not eat the recommended number of servings of produce.That’s especially true among growing children, who can benefit greatly from the vitamins and nutrients fruits and vegetables provide.

According to the latest data from the NPD Group, a market research firm, Americans eat a little more than half a cup of fruit and a cup of vegetables per day. This is less than half of what the government recommends. The data is similar in Canada, where researchers at Concordia University found that Canadian adults ages 30 to 60, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, aren’t consuming the daily recommended levels of fruits and vegetables.

Anyone who eats roughly 2,000 calories per day should strive to consume between two to three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit per day. Produce helps to fight disease because it contains healthy antioxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins. Eating four cups per day may seem difficult, but there are many ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into everyday recipes.


* Substitute pureed fruit, like figs, pears and apples, for oil in recipes for cakes and cookies. This will ensure the baked goods are moist but with a lot less fat.

* Add fresh berries or raisins to breakfast cereals and oatmeal.

* Add cauliflower or squash to boiled potatoes before mashing them to increase the nutritional punch and flavor of mashed potatoes.

* Blend fruits and vegetables to create smoothies for breakfast or lunch on the go.

* Bake hearty muffins or breads with sweet potato or carrots in the batter.

* Mix stewed tomatoes in with your broth soup base to make a vegetable or chicken soup even more nutritious.

* Opt for vegetables piled high atop a slice of pizza in lieu of meats or extra cheese.

* Divide your dinner plate into quadrants, filling half of the plate with vegetables, one quarter with meat and the remainder with a whole grain.

* Replace lettuce on a sandwich or burger with a fresh leaf of spinach. While you’re dressing your sandwich, add a slice of tomato, too.

* Substitute fresh vegetables and fruit slices for chips when serving dips and salsas. Kale chips are growing in popularity.

* Give children a cup of sliced grapes with their lunches as a refreshing and healthy snack.

* Shred vegetables into a hearty “slaw” and top it with a vinaigrette or a typical mayonnaise-based dressing.

* Blend other vegetables into your pasta sauce.

* Use vegetables instead of pasta in traditional dishes. Layer eggplant slices to make a lasagna. Or use a spiral slicer to slice zucchini or carrots when making homemade noodles.

* Fruit salad is often a refreshing snack or dessert. Having fruit already diced in a large bowl makes it more convenient to eat and possibly more enticing to children.

* Make a vegetable roll-up, filling pizza dough with broccoli or spinach and shredded cheese.

* Mix together an avocado, 1/4 cup of cocoa powder and 1/4 cup honey to create a healthy alternative to chocolate pudding.

* Use pureed vegetables to thicken cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese recipes.

* Shred vegetables and add them to beaten eggs for omelets or scrambles. LS148384

Holiday Hosting How-To: Party Pointers from 3 of Napa’s Premier Winemakers

The holiday season is about to hit full swing. This special time of year is synonymous with many things, including gatherings with family and friends.

Each year, holiday hosts face the challenge of setting their seasonal soirées apart from all the other parties guests attend between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Such a challenge is nothing three of Napa Valley’s top winemakers haven’t faced before. Each year, Chimney Rock Winery’s Elizabeth Vianna, Markham Vineyard’s Kimberlee Nicholls and Rutherford Hill’s Marisa Taylor play host to family and friends and each have their own unique take on holiday hosting.

Break free from first-time jitters

It’s common to feel pressure when hosting a holiday get-together for the first time. Many families have traditions that date back several decades, so being tasked with carrying on those traditions can sometimes be daunting. But Taylor, a wine country native and veteran host, notes that honoring family traditions while simultaneously creating a festive and fun atmosphere is nothing to be afraid of.

“People are sometimes intimidated by holiday entertaining,” says Taylor, whose Rutherford Hill Merlot has long been a benchmark for Napa Valley varietals. “But the truth is, just a few small touches can create an ambiance that elevates the whole experience. I think it even makes the food and wine taste better!”

Taylor incorporates family history with her own unique hosting touches by bringing out vintage family photos and heirlooms that guests can pass around her stylishly decorated dinner table.

Let new traditions take root

Another way for hosts to set their holiday parties apart from the masses is to try something new at the dinner table. Each year, Vianna, who presides over the production of the popular Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignons, hosts a special kind of dinner for friends who help her get through the often exhausting harvest season. Dubbed “Friendsgiving,” the celebration takes place at the end of autumn harvest season and includes friends, family and colleagues who contributed to another successful harvest. Vianna even encourages “Friendsgiving” guests to bring a postcard from somewhere around the world to use as a dinner table place card. This simple, yet creative idea inspires interesting conversation at Vianna’s holiday table, and hosts can incorporate their own creative touches to make their parties more memorable and enjoyable. For example, each year, Nicholls, whose award-winning varietals at Markham include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, assembles a graceful tablescape using marble and wood serving trays, vintage tablecloths and a tiered cake stand to create an elegant display guests won’t soon forget.

The more the merrier

Family always make the holiday dinner guest list, but Nicholls notes that holiday hosting is about opening our homes to people, whether those people share our last names or not. Inviting some fresh faces can stimulate engaging conversation and lift the spirits of someone who might not be able to make it home for the holidays.

“I’ve been known to invite people I meet at Markham winery who might not have anywhere else to go for the holidays,” says Nicholls. “Somehow there’s always enough food.”

To enjoy a Napa Valley holiday of your own, Chimney Rock, Markham and Rutherford Hill wineries are offering a chance for two lucky winners to visit Napa Valley complete with airfare, lodging, behind-the-scenes vineyard tours, VIP lunches with scenic views overlooking the Valley and even the chance to blend your own Merlot. Visit the Napa Valley

Holiday Pinterest page at www.pinterest.com/NVHoliday for more information. TF161832

Choose Lighter Fare This Thanksgiving

Statistics indicate the average Thanksgiving dinner exceeds 3,000 calories. That is more calories than a person should eat in an entire day, much less a single meal. Many people admit to indulging on bigger portions and more fattening foods come the holiday season, but choosing some lighter fare this Thanksgiving can make the meal healthier without sacrificing taste.

Although there are staples of Thanksgiving dinner, many low-calorie foods can be included to make the meal healthier. The following are a few healthy substitutions or alterations holiday hosts can make when preparing their Thanksgiving feasts.


* Trim down the turkey. Play up the main course with aromatic seasonings or unexpected flavors. Use garlic, olive oil and basil to add a boost of flavor to turkey without having to rely on butter or salt. Marinate the bird with lemon juice and citrus marmalade for a sweet, yet pungent flavor. Consider omitting the bread stuffing and making a stew of roasted root vegetables instead.

* Opt for turkey breast. White meat of a turkey tends to have less fat and calories than the darker cuts. Serve turkey breasts only, which will not only cut down on calories, but also on the amount of time needed to cook the meal.

* Make homemade cranberry sauce. Taking the time to make your own cranberry sauce means you can control the ingredients. Cut down on the amount of sugar used in the recipe or substitute it with honey or molasses.

* Reduce the number of courses. Thanksgiving dinner often features multiple courses. Extra courses can be expensive, but such massive spreads also lead many people to overeat. Stick to two or three courses, and chances are guests will not miss the extra food.

* Choose whole-grain breads. Sliced whole-grain breads or rolls paired with an olive tapenade will be flavorful and such breads are healthier than white bread and butter.

* Flavor vegetables with herbs. Vegetables grilled or sauteed with fresh herbs may be so flavorful they will not need added dressings that tend to be rich or cream- or butter-based. Have a wide variety of vegetable side dishes available so guests can fill up on healthier fare rather than more calorie-dense items.

* Serve only low- or no-calorie drinks. Beverages can add a substantial amount of calories to Thanksgiving meals. Give guests the option of sparkling water or even diluted cider so they’re not filling up on sugary sodas or other high-calorie beverages.

* Serve fresh fruit for dessert. Create a fresh fruit salad that can be served in lieu of fatty cakes and pastries.

* Include other activities. Do not make the meal the centerpiece of the celebration. Plan activities, such as a game of football in the yard or a walk around the neighborhood. This places a smaller emphasis on eating while giving guests the opportunity to burn off some of their meal.

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How to Host an Eco-Conscious Holiday Event

Many families anticipate holiday gatherings for months. Such gatherings bring together friends and family members who may not see one another much throughout the year.

Food tends to be plentiful at holiday gatherings, so it should come as no surprise that the holiday season generates a good deal of waste. In addition, energy consumption is high during the holiday season. The United States Environmental Protection Agency says household waste generally increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day – equalling about 1 million extra tons of waste. The Worldwatch Institute states that the same period of time generates three times as much food waste as other times of the year.


Making the holiday season more sustainable does not mean families must give up their cherished traditions. Here are several tips to help make your holiday celebrations a bit more eco-friendly.


· Cut down on packaging. When shopping, seek items that are minimally packaged or shop at retailers that offer package-free products. Packaging accounts for a considerable portion of the trash that ends up in landfills. Shopping at local stores and craft fairs can help you avoid too much plastic packaging.

· Decorate with efficient products. Making a home look festive is part of many families’ holiday celebrations. Opt for LED holiday lights, which last longer and use a fraction of the energy of traditional lights. Use soy or beeswax candles and incorporate as many natural items, such as fresh evergreen boughs, branches and berries, as you can find in your decorations.

· Shop smart. Shop at food stores that stock local products so foods do not have to travel great distances to reach your table. Take advantage of local farm stands and other vendors that pop up in the autumn. Remember to bring reusable shopping bags with you on any shopping excursions so you can reduce your reliance on paper and plastic bags.

· Reduce food waste. People often cook extra food for the holidays out of fear of not having enough for guests. But leftovers often end up going to waste. Use planners to determine how much food to cook for the number of guests you will be having. Keep portion sizes healthy by selecting smaller dinner plates and providing foods that are hearty and will fill guests quickly, such as rich proteins and complex carbohydrates. When the meal is done, promptly wrap up leftovers so they don’t spoil.

· Use reusable dishes. Avoid paper and plastic dishes, instead opting for ones that can be used again and again. Take out your fine china or a festively patterned service set to use. Keep the dishwasher empty so that you can load it up with dirty dishes and run a full load to save even more energy.

· Reuse gift wrapping and accessories. Save wrapping paper and other decorative paper products to use as gift wrap at a later date. Keep a container full of bows and ribbons that are still in good condition as well. Gift bags can often be used several times before they begin to exhibit signs of wear and tear. TF15B673

Key to Cooking with Pumpkins

Autumn is ripe with vibrant colors and scenery. One of the more vivid sights this time of year are the bright, orange pumpkins that adorn walkways and front porches of homes and businesses. Not only are pumpkins ideal for decorating, but they’re also great to eat.

Some people who plan to carve jack-o-lanterns mistakenly believe the same type of pumpkin can be used in their favorite recipes. But what carving pumpkins have in visual flair, they usually lack in flavor and substance. Instead, would-be pumpkin cookers should look to other varieties if they plan to serve pumpkin on the menu.

Pumpkins are available from September through December, but they peak in October. Many smaller pumpkins are better and sweeter for cooking. Mini pumpkins, sugar, cheese, and pie pumpkins are varieties commonly used in recipes. The big jack-o-lantern pumpkins have stringy, watery flesh and will provide little to no pulp for cooking.

Select a pumpkin as you would any other type of squash. Look for a firm pumpkin with no bruises or soft spots. The pumpkin also should have a deep orange color. Store pumpkins in a cool, dark area until ready for use to prolong freshness. Wash the exterior of the pumpkin in cool water before cutting to remove any dirt and bacteria on the surface of the pumpkin so it won’t be transferred to the pulp of the pumpkin.

Slice the pumpkin in half and remove the seeds and any stringy material. Rinse and save the seeds for planting or roasting. Put the pumpkin pieces in the microwave to cook or you can steam or bake them until the pulp is soft and the pumpkin falls off of the skin. Cool the pumpkins, then puree the pulp until it’s smooth. You may want to strain the pureed pumpkin with a cheese cloth to remove any excess water before using in a pie recipe. Baked breads may benefit from the extra moisture.

Pumpkins are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin, potassium, copper, manganese, vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. They’re also low in fat and calories. Pumpkin puree can replace the oil in some baking recipes, much as you would use applesauce.


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Authentic Barbecue Flavor Every Time You Grill

When purchasing a new gas grill, informed shoppers usually put “delivering fabulous flavor” at the top of their expectations list. The experts at Broil King agree with this priority, and offer these quick tips to make sure you get authentic barbecue flavor every time.

Where there is smoke, there is flavor

The vaporizer is a key component. As the drippings fall onto the hot surface, they are instantly vaporized, imparting smoky flavor into your food. For maximum effect, look for a vaporizer that covers the entire bottom of the oven and has no flat spots where juices can pool.

Smoking accessories expand flavor range

Using a smoker box with flavored wood chips or wooden grilling planks you can add the smoky flavor.

Grilling Tip

Cook with the lid closed. This allows more smoky flavor to infuse your food and keeps a consistent temperature, for better results.

Steakhouse Sear Marks

The sizzle as the meat hits the grill is one of the sweetest sounds when grilling. A heavy, solid cooking grid will deliver the best heat retention and searing power to lock in juices and flavor. Choose cast iron grids if you are looking for steakhouse searing performance or stainless steel grids for easy maintenance.

Better control means better flavor

The more control you have over the temperature of your grill the better your food will taste. Look for a gas grill that offers infinite heat control, instead of just low, medium and high, allowing you to set your grill to the precise temperature for searing, roasting or slow cooking. Along with temperature control, look for a grill that has at least two burner controls, allowing you to grill with one side off, also known as indirect grilling.

Recipes and more information is available online at www.broilkingbbq.com.


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Tips for Grilling the Perfect Burger

Hamburgers are a staple at backyard barbecues. Though burgers are a relatively simple food, mastering the technique to grill burgers is no small feat, as there is more to great grilled burgers than simply firing up the grill and dropping down a patty.

· Choose fresh ground beef that has a decent percentage of fat. The fat-to-lean meat ratio should be around 20 percent fat to 80 percent meat. Spend a little more to get freshly ground meat that has not been previously frozen.

· Don’t overwork the burgers with a lot of handling. This will warm up the fat in the burger, which causes it to emulsify and could make the meat rubbery.

· Reconsider adding a lot of herbs, spices or add-ins to the burgers, as such items can detract from the flavor of the meat. Extra herbs and spices also may require extra mixing, which can lead overhandling.

· Push a dimple into the top of the burger, which will help prevent the burger from expanding upward and out while cooking and rounding out in the process. The dimple will keep the top of the burger flat, which facilitates easy topping.

· Make sure the grill is hot. Burgers do well with high heat and will cook relatively quickly.

· Resist the urge to push down on the patty with your spatula. This will cause the juices to spill out and may result in a dry, tough burger.

· Let burgers rest before serving. This lets the juices redistribute throughout and makes for a moist and tasty first bite.


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Master Magical Marinades

Grilled foods boast inviting flavors that put many diners on the lookout for second helpings. Quite often the magic behind grilled meals lies in the marinade used to give foods that flavorful kick.

Marinades can be used to enhance the flavor of meats, vegetables and poultry. While marinades add flavor, they also may be responsible for some other benefits in grilled foods.

Marinades add flavor

Defined as a savory acidic sauce in which food is soaked to enrich its flavor, marinades help break down fiber and tenderize certain foods. The base of many marinades include vinegar, lemon juice or wine, and marinades can be enhanced with spices, oil and herbs.

It’s important not to let foods sit in marinades for too long, as any alcohol, acid or salt in the mixture can chemically “cook” the food in a process known as “denaturing.” Adhere to timing recommendations when using store-bought marinades, and keep such guidelines in mind when using homemade marinades as well. Many may tell you to let foods sit no longer than four hours. Marinades with citrus juices may require even less time for flavor to penetrate.

The timing of marinade use also will depend on the foods being marinated. Delicate items, such as seafood, may change with regard to texture or color in a matter of minutes.

It’s important to always marinate foods in the refrigerator. Food left sitting out on a counter – even when it’s in a marinade – invites the growth of bacteria. If a recipe calls for marinating at room temperature, continue to marinate in the refrigerator, but extend the length of time you marinate. This helps to prevent foodborne illnesses.

When marinating, use plastic or glass containers so the marinade does not cause a chemical reaction, which may occur if you marinate foods in metal containers. Discard all marinades for raw meats and poultry when the time comes to cook the foods, as leftover marinades may contain bacteria that makes them unsafe to reuse on other foods.

The nutritional benefits of marinating

In addition to flavor, marinades may improve the nutritional value of grilled foods. In 2008, researchers at Kansas State University discovered that marinating meat in antioxidant-rich spice blends can reduce the risk of forming heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, by more than 80 percent. HCAs are harmful, cancer-causing compounds that form when food chars over an open flame at high temperatures. Marinades must be rich in spices to have any HCA-busting properties.

Marinades are a secret weapon in the creation of tasty, tender and healthy foods. They come in quite handy when grilling, and add an extra dose of flavor when cooking over high heat. TF167209

How Bulk Cooking Can Make Meals Easier

Healthy family meals can get lost in the shuffle of busy schedules. Convenience may win out when parents are short on time, and it’s hard not to be enticed by the ease of fast food or the lure of frozen foods. While these options are certainly fine on occasion, there is a more nutritious solution for time-crunched families.

Planning is a big part of enjoying a homecooked meal, and cooking in bulk can help families enjoy more homecooked meals. By thinking ahead about meals, you can more easily enjoy homecooked dinners than if you were to wait until the last minute to think about what’s for dinner.

If bulk cooking is a foreign concept, the following are some resources to help you along.

· Get started by browsing cookbooks, online recipes or speaking with friends and family members about their favorite meals, especially those that may be popular with younger eaters. Concentrate on a specific meal each day. Dinner is the meal many families hope to share, as breakfast and lunch are often eaten outside of the home. Make a list of the ingredients that go into your family’s favorite meals, selecting recipes that use many of the same ingredients.

· Wait until you have a free schedule and ample time to go to the store to shop for all of your supplies. Have a list on hand and check off each item as you find it. Cooking in bulk also means you can buy in bulk. Very often bulk-size foods are discounted, saving you both time and money. Shop for the staples that are needed for most meals, including fresh herbs, cheese, spices, oil, and whatever flavorings your family finds most appealing. Large bags of rice and potatoes also are handy to have available.

· Take advantage of warehouse club membership fees or manufacturer or store coupon deals on multiple buy specials. Buying jumbo-sized packages of food makes more sense when you intend to cook in bulk.

· Clean out the refrigerator and freezer, as you will need plenty of room to store your ingredients, and later, your prepared meals. Figure out when you will be doing the cooking so you know what will need to be refrigerated or frozen once you return from the supermarket.

· Establish a dedicated cooking day. Many bulk cookers cook on the weekend. You may be able to have a spouse or friend take the children for the day so there will be no interruptions.

· Gather all items that need to be chopped or sliced and set them aside. Leave ample time to chop or slice, which can take a lot of time. Use all of your available cooking resources, such as the grill, stovetop, oven, and slow cooker, at once. Then just drop the ingredients in as necessary.

· Have plenty of freezer-safe storage containers on hand. Divvy up the meals into containers and label clearly. Now each day of the week you have a fast meal that can be heated up in no time. Fresh bread and a salad may be the only other components you need.


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