Food & Drink

Food & Drink
Food & Drink

SHOP MY FAVES

SHOP MY FAVES
SHOP MY FAVES

STYLE

STYLE
STYLE
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Banana Granola Pops

Tomorrow is National Banana Lovers Day! Bananas are one of my favorite fruits. Whether you eat them plain or bake with them or put them on a peanut butter sandwich, bananas are always tasty and nutritious.

To celebrate the day, we'll be making banana granola pops using one of our favorite granolas, Viki's Banana Walnut Granola. If you love bananas and haven't tried Viki's Banana Walnut Granola, what are you waiting for? It's the best!


Viki's Granola Banana Granola Pops

Ingredients
4 bananas
6 ounces dark chocolate chips or chunks
8 Popsicle sticks

Preparation:

1. Peel, cut bananas in half crosswise and insert Popsicle sticks.  Place on a parchment-lined tray, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for about 3 hours.

2. Place Viki's Banana Walnut Granola into a shallow dish.

3. Melt chocolate in a double boiler over slightly simmering water, over low heat, constantly stirring. Pour the chocolate into a tall glass.

4. Dip each banana into the chocolate and roll in the granola immediately. Place on a parchment-lined tray. Serve immediately or wrap individually in parchment paper or plastic wrap in the freezer.

Best Online Reads


The ten stories from around the web that I'm loving this week:

1. Ten "Italian" dishes that don't exactly exist in Italy via The Local.

2. How complaining rewires your brain for negativity via Tiny Buddha.

3. Striking portraits show what people look like at 7 am versus 7 pm via Yahoo! Beauty.

4. A DIY paint chip calendar that's functional and super cute via Buzzfeed Nifty.

5. What a good diet should be via The Coveteur.

6. Seven things you should never pack when you travel via PureWow.

7. Could antibiotics spur type 1 diabetes in children? via HealthDay.

8. Why overplanning your vacation will make it seem shorter via Science of Us.

9. A drool-worthy hummus bar for your next book club gathering via What's Gaby Cooking.

10. Back to school survival guide to keep you organized and sane via Real Simple.

What We're Reading

A beach vacation isn't complete without a juicy beach read. We are currently spending the week in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and we have come armed with plenty of excellent reading material.

Here's what we are reading while we sink our toes into the sand.

What I'm Reading: All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
A woman who seemingly has it all: a handsome husband, adorable daughter, thriving career, also has a dark secret. Can popping a Vicodin be all that bad? This book follows one woman's spiral down a path of addiction only to find her way back up again.

What Emma's Reading: The Lifeboat Clique by Kathy Parks

This novel has been described as Mean Girls meets The Life of Pi. It's filled with dark humor yet written in a fresh voice which makes for a very compelling and compulsive read. It's a story about surviving the most unthinkable circumstances (isn't that what teenagehood is all about?).

What Harper's Reading: The Babysitter's Club: Kristy's Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier

The Babysitter's Club series follows four girls who navigate the daily trials and tribulations of being babysitters and dealing with their families, school, and more. They are always heartwarming stories with a lesson to be learned.

What are you reading? Leave a comment to let me know!

Tips For Successful Road Trips With Kids

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Summer road trips are the best! You get to spend some quality time with the little ones and visit some awesome places along the way. But one wrong move or a silly mistake can ruin all the fun. Here are a few simple ways to make your road trip enjoyable and unforgettable (in a good way!).

Wear Comfortable Clothes
Anyone traveling on a long journey should be dressed in loose-fitting, comfy clothes, whether you are the driver or a passenger. This doesn't necessarily mean putting the kids in the in their pajamas unless you are planning to travel at night without stopping much.

If your children are anything like my two, they will want to choose their own outfits. Just guide them towards a more comfortable option. My girls like leggings or gym shorts and a t-shirt. Bottoms with a stretchy waistband will make it a lot more comfortable to sit for a long time. It's a good idea to layer items of clothing, so it's easy for them to remove when they are too warm or too cool.

Do Not Forget The Car Seats
Making sure the kids are comfortable sitting in the back is essential for long car trips. If they aren't comfortable, you will definitely know about it a few miles into the trip.

For babies its essentials that you use a car seat for comfort and safety. Its best to pick one that you can use with a stroller, so it's easy to transfer baby from the car to the outside with the minimum of fuss. Read one of the most comprehensive reviews of the Chicco Keyfit 30, to get an idea of the specification that you should be looking for.

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Older kids that are still quite small will need a booster seat. This will allow them to see out the window and makes sure that their lap belt is placed correctly.

Even kids that don't need a car seat at all can appreciate a travel pillow so that they can sleep some of the most boring parts of the journey away.


Pack Snacks
A good supply of snacks and water is a must. It's better to take some healthy travel size items with you so that the kids won't ask for chips and candy at every gas station along the way.

Travel sizes are also good because they are portioned into small calorie amounts. This makes sure the kids are not too full when you do come to stop for a meal.

Bring Distractions
Long road trips = a recipe for quick boredom. A sticker or coloring book works well. Or you can download some movies and favorite TV shows on your mobile device and the let the kids watch those. Books and novels are also a great alternative to movies and coloring books as long as reading the car doesn't cause car sickness.

Fun Snack For Kids: Weather Report Sandwich

If food is fun, kids will eat it. Chances are if you create a tree out of broccoli florets, kids will gobble it up. My girls were never big sandwich eaters until I started to make their sandwiches fun. Cutting them into fun shapes and adorning them with decorations suddenly made sandwiches edible. Go figure!


This super-cute weather-themed snack is healthy and fun. Serve it for lunch or for a snack and watch your kids devour it. 

WEATHER REPORT SANDWICH

Ingredients and preparation:
  • Cut a slice of braided challah bread from the middle of the loaf.
  • Using a cookie cutter, shape a slice of orange cheddar cheese into a circle. Place it partly under the bread. Cut the remaining cheese into small triangles, and place them around the circle as the sun’s rays. 
  • Add blueberries as eyes and as rain falling from the cloud. 
  • Slice off the side of a red apple, then use a straw to punch out two circles of its skin for the cheeks.
  • Add a small piece of fruit leather for the smile.
This recipe appears courtesy of FamilyFun magazine. Pick up the latest edition for more recipes and fun ideas for your family.

Easy Entertaining: 15 Minute Puttanesca Bruschetta Recipe



One of the best ways to travel vicariously to a foreign country is through food. If you can't physically be there, why not at least enjoy the native foods of the country you'd love to visit? For me, the food of Italy is tops. The robust flavors of pasta dishes, salads, and seafood have the power to transport you to Italy in a heartbeat.

Dying to go to Italy? Enter to win this AMAZING 11-day trip to Italy via Mezzetta.

This week I had a few friends over for an impromptu happy hour. I didn't have time to whip up a huge spread, so I opted for something that was quick but would make a last impression...and would be a perfect pairing with a few bottles of rosé. If you are looking for a quick way to savor the flavors of Italy, Puttanesca Bruschetta is the way to go.

This recipe is super easy when using prepared marinara sauce. I use Mezzetta's Whole Garlic & Sweet Basil Marinara. The marinara is super rich, smooth, and makes the perfect base for this bruschetta topping. Mezzetta Marinara Sauce is all natural. It contains no sugar, no paste, and no shortcuts. If you are short on time or just want something easy to snap together pre-dinner, this bruschetta is your go-to!

Are you ready? Here we go! Let's make some puttanesca bruschetta and take a quick trip to Italy!!


PUTTANESCA BRUSCHETTA

Ingredients
  • 1 loaf/baguette of Italian or French bread, sliced on a diagonal into 1/2" thick slices
  • 1 - 16.25 oz. jar Mezzetta Whole Garlic & Sweet Basil Marinara sauce. (I discarded the whole garlic cloves).
  • 1/2 Mezzetta Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers, chopped
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Basil leaves for garnish

Preparation
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil using a pastry brush and place olive oil-side down on a baking sheet. Toast the bread in the oven for 5-6 minutes until edges are golden brown.

3. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat Mezzetta marinara sauce until completely heated through.

4. Add the kalamata olives and capers to the marinara sauce and combine until olives and capers are evenly distributed. Heat on medium low until olives and capers are thoroughly heated, about 5 minutes.

5. Arrange the toasted bread on a platter, olive oil side facing up. This will create a barrier to prevent the bruschetta sauce from making the bread soggy.

6. Top each slice of bread with about 2 tablespoons of bruschetta mixture. Top with one or two fresh basil leaves.

Enjoy!!

Go to Italy! Mezzetta is currently holding a giveaway for an 11-day trip to Italy. See the beautiful sights and taste the wonderful flavors of Italy.

https://ooh.li/fb3b269

Sweepstakes Details: One (1) Grand Prize Winning Entry will be selected. The Grand Prize consists of a trip for Winner and one (1) Guest to attend culinary experiences (including cooking class and farm tour) in the San Marzano region of Italy and explore other cities of Italy. The Grand Prize trip consists of the round trip coach air transportation between the major commercial airport nearest winner’s residence and Rome, Italy, the culinary experience and tour of Italy.

Friday Fresh Picks: Back To School Favorites


If you haven't yet started thinking about what your kids will need to head back to school, it's time to get on the ball. For most of us, the first day has already come and gone or is looming in the very near future. For my girls, the first day is still over 2 weeks away, but we've started shopping and have made a list of a few wants and must-haves.

We're sharing them in today's Friday Fresh Picks.

LOCKER ACCESSORIES
Let's talk locker accessories for a moment. They are HUGE! Emma was never really into them during her middle school years, but Harper already has a list going for next year when she'll go to the middle school. One of our favorite is this dry-erase pocket from Pottery Barn Teen. What a great way to corral essentials and give yourself daily reminders.


If you are going to deck out your locker, a chandelier is the best way to add glitz to it. I love this metallic chandelier from Target.

BACKPACKS
There are tons of backpacks on the market, but I've found that the older my girls are, the more difficult it is to find a backpack that is age appropriate. Now that Emma is moving on to high school, she wants a backpack that is a bit more grown up and less decorated. This backpack from Victoria's Secret is perfect for high schoolers.

For younger girls, Pottery Barn or Pottery Barn Teen have some super cute and affordable choices for backpacks. I just adore this French bulldog puppies backpack. Ahhh! It's just too cute!!


LUNCH BOXES
Back in my elementary school days, the metal lunch boxes with a matching Thermos were the big deal. (Yes, that's how old I am!!). Today, the options are so much cuter and most can be thrown into the washing machine for quick and easy cleanup. I don't know about your kids, but my youngest does a number on her lunch box every year.

This printed lunch box fromVineyard Vines is a bit pricey ($40), but seriously, how cute is it? I love the anchor print.

If you want to stick with a nautical theme, this whale print lunch bag available at Target is super cute. In fact, we bought this one for Harper for this year. I thought it looked very Vineyard Vines-ish but without the hefty price tag.

I've always been a fan of PackIt lunch boxes too. They have the ice packs built right into the lunch bag, and they are super easy to keep clean. They are also available in different sizes and a wide variety of colors and prints.


PENCIL CASES
A pencil case is the one item you can count on to be on the supplies list from the teacher. There are soft ones, hard shell ones, and ones of varying sizes. This paisley-print one from L.L. Bean is a favorite.

 This Chevron print case is functional, colorful, and eye catching!

Thanks for checking out this week's Friday Fresh Picks. Swing by the rest of the FFP gals to see what they are loving this week.
Friday Fresh Picks are hand-picked favorite items, reviews and highlights from the amazing women you see above.

Visit their websites to learn about other amazing picks from this week!


To view all of my Friday Fresh Picks posts, click here.

Best Online Reads



The ten stories from around the web that I am loving this week:

1. Seven ways to mix patterns and prints in your wardrobe via Buzzfeed.

2. Funny tweets from parents who are ready for summer to be over via Babble.

3. What it's like to be celebrity's personal assistant via Refinery 29.

4. The most riskiest and dangerous selfies ever taken via BoredPanda.

5. One hundred years of wedding cakes in 2 minutes via Redbook magazine.

6. Enter to win this amazing, all expense-paid, 11-day trip to Italy via Mezzetta Foods.

7. Easy upgrades for IKEA furniture via Apartment Therapy.

8. The ultimate California Highway 1 road trip via Sunset.

9. Make this refreshing sangria punch before the end of summer via Kraft.

10. Three ways to turn your work space into desk goals via Cosmopolitan.

Must-See: "PARAMOUR" on Broadway

Whenever anyone asks me for recommendations for Broadway shows, I fall silent. Although I love seeing shows on Broadway, it's not one of those things that I do often or regularly. I usually go when a friend suggests we see a show or when a favorite celebrity has a limited engagement appearance in a show.

When I was invited to see Cirque du Soleil's PARAMOUR on Broadway, I was slightly intrigued. Hmmm. Cirque du Soleil + Broadway = ???. I wasn't sure what to expect. Would the show consist primarily of Cirque du Soleil's trademark acrobats and contortionists or would it be filled with the song and dance that makes Broadway famous?

I had seen only one other Cirque du Soleil show, "La Nouba" in the West Side at Disney Springs back in 1999. It was spectacular and awe-inspiring. I was certainly up for seeing another Cirque du Soleil show if it compared to "La Nouba".

Cirque du Soleil Paramour is a terrific summertime evening.
Bring the kids. Or, forget the kids – bring your personal trainer.”

- Cindy Adams, The New York Post

Emma, Harper, and I took a train into Manhattan last week to experience PARAMOUR. It didn't disappoint. The combination of singing and dancing that is typical Broadway combined with acrobatics, flipping, and flying that is typical of Cirque du Soleil were a feast for our eyes. There were moments that took our breath away and others where we held our breath in suspense.


PARAMOUR takes place during the Golden Age of Hollywood and is a tale about a budding young actress who is forced to make a choice between love and her theatrical art. The story is set to eye-popping acrobatics and glorious music and dance that hold you captive for two hours.

When the show first started, I was a bit confused as to how and why it was associated with Cirque du Soleil as it was very heavy on singing and dancing. But soon after the first scene, it was obvious that "Paramour" is most definitely a Cirque du Soleil show. We loved everything from the gymnasts and jugglers to the singers and dancers.

I enjoyed how seamlessly the circus acts were weaved into the show. For us, they provided the real entertainment. The love story was somewhat predictable from the beginning. You could have guessed how it would turn out. So, we were always looking forward to the next acrobatic moves and feats.


If you are in search of a Broadway show that's a bit different from any you've ever seen, get tickets to see PARAMOUR. It's both impressive and exciting and perfect for all ages. Because of the fast past and awesome feats, children will be especially enthralled.

PARAMOUR is currently playing at the Lyric Theatre. For showtimes and ticketing information, visit Ticketmaster.

You can also find more information about PARAMOUR on social media:

Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to see PARAMOUR. All opinions are my own.

Foolproof Ways To Become an Early Bird

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Photo credit
Whether you’re a busy mom or dad, a student, or something else entirely, mornings may not be your friend. Instead, you might well and truly label yourself a night owl, and be of the firm belief that you’ll never be an early bird.

This, however, is simply not true. I was once a night owl, but no longer. I can't say it was entirely easy to make the switch, but now that I have, I feel so much better and get more accomplished in a day's time. A lot of it depends on your own personal habits, and what you have programmed your body to do. As a result, this means that with a little hard work, you can totally turn this around!

Here are a few tips to get started:

Routine is King!
Most of us operate much better when we are in a routine. Establishing a routine is the best way to instruct your body to wake up early. And, the more your body wakes up early, the easier it will become. So, when you set an alarm, stick to it. Don’t rely on the snooze button. In fact, don’t use it at all! Keep the routine going on the weekends. You might know it's your day off work, but your body doesn’t! Lying in for an hour or more will reverse the hard work you’ve been doing training your body clock.

Of course, part of the success of sticking to an early morning wake up call is to get to bed at a reasonable time the following evening.

Get Your Fuel Early
Start your day with breakfast of some kind whether it's solid food or liquid such as a protein drink or smoothie. I'm not usually hungry first thing in the morning, so I like to start with tea. There is no one best way to get nutrition in you early in the day. Do what works for you.? Get your fix before breakfast, or at breakfast, so it gets to work early on. This way, you’ll feel less sluggish and rough first thing.

As an alternative to coffee, I like matcha tea, which has 10X the power of normal green tea. It's green tea in powder form, and you can drink it a variety of ways.  If you're looking for something more along the lines of a protein drink, everyone loves Milo chocolate drinks. They come with nutrients and several vitamins too.

Awake to a Sun Light
It's much easier to be a morning person in the summer months when the sun rises at 5:00 am. However, once fall and winter hit, it's a different ball game. The spring and summer months, I rise naturally with the sun. But in late autumn and winter, you won’t get to experience this. As a result, supplementing with an alternative such as Sun Lights can be beneficial to giving you an easy early start. Sun Lights are also sometimes referred to as SAD lights, as they assist with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Alternatively, there are also alarm clocks that wake you by slowing brightening over the course of an hour or more.

Before long you'll be a morning person and your days as a night owl will be a distant memory.